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idol 3
book 3

Chapter 10: A Bosom Friend.

	


Returning to the Spouter-Inn from the Chapel, I found Queequeg there
quite alone; he having left the Chapel before the benediction some time.
He was sitting on a bench before the fire, with his feet on the stove
hearth, and in one hand was holding close up to his face that little
negro idol of his; peering hard into its face, and with a jack-knife
gently whittling away at its nose, meanwhile humming to himself in his
heathenish way.

But being now interrupted, he put up the image; and pretty soon, going
to the table, took up a large book there, and placing it on his lap
began counting the pages with deliberate regularity; at every fiftieth
page--as I fancied--stopping a moment, looking vacantly around him, and
giving utterance to a long-drawn gurgling whistle of astonishment. He
would then begin again at the next fifty; seeming to commence at number
one each time, as though he could not count more than fifty, and it was
only by such a large number of fifties being found together, that his
astonishment at the multitude of pages was excited.

With much interest I sat watching him. Savage though he was, and
hideously marred about the face--at least to my taste--his countenance
yet had a something in it which was by no means disagreeable. You cannot
hide the soul. Through all his unearthly tattooings, I thought I saw
the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep eyes,
fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a
thousand devils. And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing
about the Pagan, which even his uncouthness could not altogether maim.
He looked like a man who had never cringed and never had had a creditor.
Whether it was, too, that his head being shaved, his forehead was drawn
out in freer and brighter relief, and looked more expansive than it
otherwise would, this I will not venture to decide; but certain it was
his head was phrenologically an excellent one. It may seem ridiculous,
but it reminded me of General Washington's head, as seen in the popular
busts of him. It had the same long regularly graded retreating slope
from above the brows, which were likewise very projecting, like two
long promontories thickly wooded on top. Queequeg was George Washington
cannibalistically developed.

Whilst I was thus closely scanning him, half-pretending meanwhile to be
looking out at the storm from the casement, he never heeded my presence,
never troubled himself with so much as a single glance; but appeared
wholly occupied with counting the pages of the marvellous book.
Considering how sociably we had been sleeping together the night
previous, and especially considering the affectionate arm I had found
thrown over me upon waking in the morning, I thought this indifference
of his very strange. But savages are strange beings; at times you do not
know exactly how to take them. At first they are overawing; their calm
self-collectedness of simplicity seems a Socratic wisdom. I had noticed
also that Queequeg never consorted at all, or but very little, with the
other seamen in the inn. He made no advances whatever; appeared to have
no desire to enlarge the circle of his acquaintances. All this struck
me as mighty singular; yet, upon second thoughts, there was something
almost sublime in it. Here was a man some twenty thousand miles from
home, by the way of Cape Horn, that is--which was the only way he could
get there--thrown among people as strange to him as though he were in
the planet Jupiter; and yet he seemed entirely at his ease; preserving
the utmost serenity; content with his own companionship; always equal to
himself. Surely this was a touch of fine philosophy; though no doubt he
had never heard there was such a thing as that. But, perhaps, to be
true philosophers, we mortals should not be conscious of so living or
so striving. So soon as I hear that such or such a man gives himself
out for a philosopher, I conclude that, like the dyspeptic old woman, he
must have "broken his digester."

As I sat there in that now lonely room; the fire burning low, in that
mild stage when, after its first intensity has warmed the air, it then
only glows to be looked at; the evening shades and phantoms gathering
round the casements, and peering in upon us silent, solitary twain;
the storm booming without in solemn swells; I began to be sensible of
strange feelings. I felt a melting in me. No more my splintered heart
and maddened hand were turned against the wolfish world. This soothing
savage had redeemed it. There he sat, his very indifference speaking a
nature in which there lurked no civilized hypocrisies and bland deceits.
Wild he was; a very sight of sights to see; yet I began to feel myself
mysteriously drawn towards him. And those same things that would have
repelled most others, they were the very magnets that thus drew me. I'll
try a pagan friend, thought I, since Christian kindness has proved but
hollow courtesy. I drew my bench near him, and made some friendly signs
and hints, doing my best to talk with him meanwhile. At first he little
noticed these advances; but presently, upon my referring to his last
night's hospitalities, he made out to ask me whether we were again to be
bedfellows. I told him yes; whereat I thought he looked pleased, perhaps
a little complimented.

We then turned over the book together, and I endeavored to explain to
him the purpose of the printing, and the meaning of the few pictures
that were in it. Thus I soon engaged his interest; and from that we went
to jabbering the best we could about the various outer sights to be seen
in this famous town. Soon I proposed a social smoke; and, producing
his pouch and tomahawk, he quietly offered me a puff. And then we sat
exchanging puffs from that wild pipe of his, and keeping it regularly
passing between us.

If there yet lurked any ice of indifference towards me in the Pagan's
breast, this pleasant, genial smoke we had, soon thawed it out, and left
us cronies. He seemed to take to me quite as naturally and unbiddenly as
I to him; and when our smoke was over, he pressed his forehead against
mine, clasped me round the waist, and said that henceforth we were
married; meaning, in his country's phrase, that we were bosom friends;
he would gladly die for me, if need should be. In a countryman, this
sudden flame of friendship would have seemed far too premature, a thing
to be much distrusted; but in this simple savage those old rules would
not apply.

After supper, and another social chat and smoke, we went to our room
together. He made me a present of his embalmed head; took out his
enormous tobacco wallet, and groping under the tobacco, drew out
some thirty dollars in silver; then spreading them on the table, and
mechanically dividing them into two equal portions, pushed one of them
towards me, and said it was mine. I was going to remonstrate; but he
silenced me by pouring them into my trowsers' pockets. I let them stay.
He then went about his evening prayers, took out his idol, and removed
the paper fireboard. By certain signs and symptoms, I thought he seemed
anxious for me to join him; but well knowing what was to follow, I
deliberated a moment whether, in case he invited me, I would comply or
otherwise.

I was a good Christian; born and bred in the bosom of the infallible
Presbyterian Church. How then could I unite with this wild idolator in
worshipping his piece of wood? But what is worship? thought I. Do
you suppose now, Ishmael, that the magnanimous God of heaven and
earth--pagans and all included--can possibly be jealous of an
insignificant bit of black wood? Impossible! But what is worship?--to do
the will of God--THAT is worship. And what is the will of God?--to do to
my fellow man what I would have my fellow man to do to me--THAT is the
will of God. Now, Queequeg is my fellow man. And what do I wish that
this Queequeg would do to me? Why, unite with me in my particular
Presbyterian form of worship. Consequently, I must then unite with him
in his; ergo, I must turn idolator. So I kindled the shavings; helped
prop up the innocent little idol; offered him burnt biscuit with
Queequeg; salamed before him twice or thrice; kissed his nose; and that
done, we undressed and went to bed, at peace with our own consciences
and all the world. But we did not go to sleep without some little chat.

How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential
disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very
bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie
and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts'
honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg--a cosy, loving pair.