Chapter 131: The Pequod Meets The Delight.
The intense Pequod sailed on; the rolling waves and days went by; the
life-buoy-coffin still lightly swung; and another ship, most miserably
misnamed the Delight, was descried. As she drew nigh, all eyes were
fixed upon her broad beams, called shears, which, in some whaling-ships,
cross the quarter-deck at the height of eight or nine feet; serving to
carry the spare, unrigged, or disabled boats.
Upon the stranger's shears were beheld the shattered, white ribs, and
some few splintered planks, of what had once been a whale-boat; but you
now saw through this wreck, as plainly as you see through the peeled,
half-unhinged, and bleaching skeleton of a horse.
"Hast seen the White Whale?"
"Look!" replied the hollow-cheeked captain from his taffrail; and with
his trumpet he pointed to the wreck.
"Hast killed him?"
"The harpoon is not yet forged that ever will do that," answered the
other, sadly glancing upon a rounded hammock on the deck, whose gathered
sides some noiseless sailors were busy in sewing together.
"Not forged!" and snatching Perth's levelled iron from the crotch, Ahab
held it out, exclaiming--"Look ye, Nantucketer; here in this hand I hold
his death! Tempered in blood, and tempered by lightning are these barbs;
and I swear to temper them triply in that hot place behind the fin,
where the White Whale most feels his accursed life!"
"Then God keep thee, old man--see'st thou that"--pointing to the
hammock--"I bury but one of five stout men, who were alive only
yesterday; but were dead ere night. Only THAT one I bury; the rest were
buried before they died; you sail upon their tomb." Then turning to his
crew--"Are ye ready there? place the plank then on the rail, and
lift the body; so, then--Oh! God"--advancing towards the hammock with
uplifted hands--"may the resurrection and the life--"
"Brace forward! Up helm!" cried Ahab like lightning to his men.
But the suddenly started Pequod was not quick enough to escape the sound
of the splash that the corpse soon made as it struck the sea; not so
quick, indeed, but that some of the flying bubbles might have sprinkled
her hull with their ghostly baptism.
As Ahab now glided from the dejected Delight, the strange life-buoy
hanging at the Pequod's stern came into conspicuous relief.
"Ha! yonder! look yonder, men!" cried a foreboding voice in her wake.
"In vain, oh, ye strangers, ye fly our sad burial; ye but turn us your
taffrail to show us your coffin!"