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Chapter 11: Nightgown.


We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and
Queequeg now and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs
over mine, and then drawing them back; so entirely sociable and free
and easy were we; when, at last, by reason of our confabulations, what
little nappishness remained in us altogether departed, and we felt like
getting up again, though day-break was yet some way down the future.

Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent position
began to grow wearisome, and by little and little we found ourselves
sitting up; the clothes well tucked around us, leaning against the
head-board with our four knees drawn up close together, and our two
noses bending over them, as if our kneepans were warming-pans. We felt
very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors;
indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the
room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some
small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world
that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If
you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so
a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if,
like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown
of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in the general
consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this
reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which
is one of the luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this
sort of deliciousness is to have nothing but the blanket between you and
your snugness and the cold of the outer air. Then there you lie like the
one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.

We had been sitting in this crouching manner for some time, when all at
once I thought I would open my eyes; for when between sheets, whether
by day or by night, and whether asleep or awake, I have a way of always
keeping my eyes shut, in order the more to concentrate the snugness
of being in bed. Because no man can ever feel his own identity aright
except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper element
of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part. Upon
opening my eyes then, and coming out of my own pleasant and self-created
darkness into the imposed and coarse outer gloom of the unilluminated
twelve-o'clock-at-night, I experienced a disagreeable revulsion. Nor did
I at all object to the hint from Queequeg that perhaps it were best to
strike a light, seeing that we were so wide awake; and besides he felt
a strong desire to have a few quiet puffs from his Tomahawk. Be it said,
that though I had felt such a strong repugnance to his smoking in the
bed the night before, yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when
love once comes to bend them. For now I liked nothing better than to
have Queequeg smoking by me, even in bed, because he seemed to be full
of such serene household joy then. I no more felt unduly concerned for
the landlord's policy of insurance. I was only alive to the condensed
confidential comfortableness of sharing a pipe and a blanket with a real
friend. With our shaggy jackets drawn about our shoulders, we now passed
the Tomahawk from one to the other, till slowly there grew over us a
blue hanging tester of smoke, illuminated by the flame of the new-lit

Whether it was that this undulating tester rolled the savage away to far
distant scenes, I know not, but he now spoke of his native island; and,
eager to hear his history, I begged him to go on and tell it. He gladly
complied. Though at the time I but ill comprehended not a few of his
words, yet subsequent disclosures, when I had become more familiar with
his broken phraseology, now enable me to present the whole story such as
it may prove in the mere skeleton I give.