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ahab 24
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man 12
sir 11
long 11
over 10
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men 9
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soon 7
crew 7
spout 7
time 7
she 7
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starbuck 7
ship 6
leeward 6
aloft 6
deck 6
sails 6
same 6
nor 6
eyes 6

Chapter 133: The Chase--First Day.


That night, in the mid-watch, when the old man--as his wont at
intervals--stepped forth from the scuttle in which he leaned, and went
to his pivot-hole, he suddenly thrust out his face fiercely, snuffing
up the sea air as a sagacious ship's dog will, in drawing nigh to
some barbarous isle. He declared that a whale must be near. Soon that
peculiar odor, sometimes to a great distance given forth by the
living sperm whale, was palpable to all the watch; nor was any mariner
surprised when, after inspecting the compass, and then the dog-vane, and
then ascertaining the precise bearing of the odor as nearly as possible,
Ahab rapidly ordered the ship's course to be slightly altered, and the
sail to be shortened.

The acute policy dictating these movements was sufficiently vindicated
at daybreak, by the sight of a long sleek on the sea directly and
lengthwise ahead, smooth as oil, and resembling in the pleated watery
wrinkles bordering it, the polished metallic-like marks of some swift
tide-rip, at the mouth of a deep, rapid stream.

"Man the mast-heads! Call all hands!"

Thundering with the butts of three clubbed handspikes on the forecastle
deck, Daggoo roused the sleepers with such judgment claps that they
seemed to exhale from the scuttle, so instantaneously did they appear
with their clothes in their hands.

"What d'ye see?" cried Ahab, flattening his face to the sky.

"Nothing, nothing sir!" was the sound hailing down in reply.

"T'gallant sails!--stunsails! alow and aloft, and on both sides!"

All sail being set, he now cast loose the life-line, reserved for
swaying him to the main royal-mast head; and in a few moments they were
hoisting him thither, when, while but two thirds of the way aloft,
and while peering ahead through the horizontal vacancy between the
main-top-sail and top-gallant-sail, he raised a gull-like cry in the
air. "There she blows!--there she blows! A hump like a snow-hill! It is
Moby Dick!"

Fired by the cry which seemed simultaneously taken up by the three
look-outs, the men on deck rushed to the rigging to behold the famous
whale they had so long been pursuing. Ahab had now gained his final
perch, some feet above the other look-outs, Tashtego standing just
beneath him on the cap of the top-gallant-mast, so that the Indian's
head was almost on a level with Ahab's heel. From this height the whale
was now seen some mile or so ahead, at every roll of the sea revealing
his high sparkling hump, and regularly jetting his silent spout into the
air. To the credulous mariners it seemed the same silent spout they had
so long ago beheld in the moonlit Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

"And did none of ye see it before?" cried Ahab, hailing the perched men
all around him.

"I saw him almost that same instant, sir, that Captain Ahab did, and I
cried out," said Tashtego.

"Not the same instant; not the same--no, the doubloon is mine, Fate
reserved the doubloon for me. I only; none of ye could have raised the
White Whale first. There she blows!--there she blows!--there she blows!
There again!--there again!" he cried, in long-drawn, lingering, methodic
tones, attuned to the gradual prolongings of the whale's visible jets.
"He's going to sound! In stunsails! Down top-gallant-sails! Stand by
three boats. Mr. Starbuck, remember, stay on board, and keep the ship.
Helm there! Luff, luff a point! So; steady, man, steady! There go
flukes! No, no; only black water! All ready the boats there? Stand by,
stand by! Lower me, Mr. Starbuck; lower, lower,--quick, quicker!" and he
slid through the air to the deck.

"He is heading straight to leeward, sir," cried Stubb, "right away from
us; cannot have seen the ship yet."

"Be dumb, man! Stand by the braces! Hard down the helm!--brace up!
Shiver her!--shiver her!--So; well that! Boats, boats!"

Soon all the boats but Starbuck's were dropped; all the boat-sails
set--all the paddles plying; with rippling swiftness, shooting to
leeward; and Ahab heading the onset. A pale, death-glimmer lit up
Fedallah's sunken eyes; a hideous motion gnawed his mouth.

Like noiseless nautilus shells, their light prows sped through the sea;
but only slowly they neared the foe. As they neared him, the ocean grew
still more smooth; seemed drawing a carpet over its waves; seemed a
noon-meadow, so serenely it spread. At length the breathless hunter came
so nigh his seemingly unsuspecting prey, that his entire dazzling hump
was distinctly visible, sliding along the sea as if an isolated thing,
and continually set in a revolving ring of finest, fleecy, greenish
foam. He saw the vast, involved wrinkles of the slightly projecting head
beyond. Before it, far out on the soft Turkish-rugged waters, went
the glistening white shadow from his broad, milky forehead, a musical
rippling playfully accompanying the shade; and behind, the blue waters
interchangeably flowed over into the moving valley of his steady wake;
and on either hand bright bubbles arose and danced by his side. But
these were broken again by the light toes of hundreds of gay fowl softly
feathering the sea, alternate with their fitful flight; and like to
some flag-staff rising from the painted hull of an argosy, the tall but
shattered pole of a recent lance projected from the white whale's back;
and at intervals one of the cloud of soft-toed fowls hovering, and
to and fro skimming like a canopy over the fish, silently perched and
rocked on this pole, the long tail feathers streaming like pennons.

A gentle joyousness--a mighty mildness of repose in swiftness, invested
the gliding whale. Not the white bull Jupiter swimming away with
ravished Europa clinging to his graceful horns; his lovely, leering
eyes sideways intent upon the maid; with smooth bewitching fleetness,
rippling straight for the nuptial bower in Crete; not Jove, not that
great majesty Supreme! did surpass the glorified White Whale as he so
divinely swam.

On each soft side--coincident with the parted swell, that but once
leaving him, then flowed so wide away--on each bright side, the whale
shed off enticings. No wonder there had been some among the hunters who
namelessly transported and allured by all this serenity, had ventured
to assail it; but had fatally found that quietude but the vesture of
tornadoes. Yet calm, enticing calm, oh, whale! thou glidest on, to all
who for the first time eye thee, no matter how many in that same way
thou may'st have bejuggled and destroyed before.

And thus, through the serene tranquillities of the tropical sea, among
waves whose hand-clappings were suspended by exceeding rapture, Moby
Dick moved on, still withholding from sight the full terrors of his
submerged trunk, entirely hiding the wrenched hideousness of his jaw.
But soon the fore part of him slowly rose from the water; for an instant
his whole marbleized body formed a high arch, like Virginia's Natural
Bridge, and warningly waving his bannered flukes in the air, the
grand god revealed himself, sounded, and went out of sight. Hoveringly
halting, and dipping on the wing, the white sea-fowls longingly lingered
over the agitated pool that he left.

With oars apeak, and paddles down, the sheets of their sails adrift, the
three boats now stilly floated, awaiting Moby Dick's reappearance.

"An hour," said Ahab, standing rooted in his boat's stern; and he gazed
beyond the whale's place, towards the dim blue spaces and wide wooing
vacancies to leeward. It was only an instant; for again his eyes seemed
whirling round in his head as he swept the watery circle. The breeze now
freshened; the sea began to swell.

"The birds!--the birds!" cried Tashtego.

In long Indian file, as when herons take wing, the white birds were
now all flying towards Ahab's boat; and when within a few yards began
fluttering over the water there, wheeling round and round, with joyous,
expectant cries. Their vision was keener than man's; Ahab could discover
no sign in the sea. But suddenly as he peered down and down into its
depths, he profoundly saw a white living spot no bigger than a white
weasel, with wonderful celerity uprising, and magnifying as it rose,
till it turned, and then there were plainly revealed two long crooked
rows of white, glistening teeth, floating up from the undiscoverable
bottom. It was Moby Dick's open mouth and scrolled jaw; his vast,
shadowed bulk still half blending with the blue of the sea. The
glittering mouth yawned beneath the boat like an open-doored marble
tomb; and giving one sidelong sweep with his steering oar, Ahab whirled
the craft aside from this tremendous apparition. Then, calling upon
Fedallah to change places with him, went forward to the bows, and
seizing Perth's harpoon, commanded his crew to grasp their oars and
stand by to stern.

Now, by reason of this timely spinning round the boat upon its axis, its
bow, by anticipation, was made to face the whale's head while yet
under water. But as if perceiving this stratagem, Moby Dick, with that
malicious intelligence ascribed to him, sidelingly transplanted himself,
as it were, in an instant, shooting his pleated head lengthwise beneath
the boat.

Through and through; through every plank and each rib, it thrilled for
an instant, the whale obliquely lying on his back, in the manner of
a biting shark, slowly and feelingly taking its bows full within his
mouth, so that the long, narrow, scrolled lower jaw curled high up into
the open air, and one of the teeth caught in a row-lock. The bluish
pearl-white of the inside of the jaw was within six inches of Ahab's
head, and reached higher than that. In this attitude the White Whale
now shook the slight cedar as a mildly cruel cat her mouse. With
unastonished eyes Fedallah gazed, and crossed his arms; but the
tiger-yellow crew were tumbling over each other's heads to gain the
uttermost stern.

And now, while both elastic gunwales were springing in and out, as the
whale dallied with the doomed craft in this devilish way; and from his
body being submerged beneath the boat, he could not be darted at from
the bows, for the bows were almost inside of him, as it were; and
while the other boats involuntarily paused, as before a quick crisis
impossible to withstand, then it was that monomaniac Ahab, furious with
this tantalizing vicinity of his foe, which placed him all alive and
helpless in the very jaws he hated; frenzied with all this, he seized
the long bone with his naked hands, and wildly strove to wrench it from
its gripe. As now he thus vainly strove, the jaw slipped from him; the
frail gunwales bent in, collapsed, and snapped, as both jaws, like an
enormous shears, sliding further aft, bit the craft completely in twain,
and locked themselves fast again in the sea, midway between the two
floating wrecks. These floated aside, the broken ends drooping, the crew
at the stern-wreck clinging to the gunwales, and striving to hold fast
to the oars to lash them across.

At that preluding moment, ere the boat was yet snapped, Ahab, the first
to perceive the whale's intent, by the crafty upraising of his head, a
movement that loosed his hold for the time; at that moment his hand
had made one final effort to push the boat out of the bite. But only
slipping further into the whale's mouth, and tilting over sideways as it
slipped, the boat had shaken off his hold on the jaw; spilled him out of
it, as he leaned to the push; and so he fell flat-faced upon the sea.

Ripplingly withdrawing from his prey, Moby Dick now lay at a little
distance, vertically thrusting his oblong white head up and down in the
billows; and at the same time slowly revolving his whole spindled body;
so that when his vast wrinkled forehead rose--some twenty or more feet
out of the water--the now rising swells, with all their confluent waves,
dazzlingly broke against it; vindictively tossing their shivered spray
still higher into the air.* So, in a gale, the but half baffled Channel
billows only recoil from the base of the Eddystone, triumphantly to
overleap its summit with their scud.

*This motion is peculiar to the sperm whale. It receives its designation
(pitchpoling) from its being likened to that preliminary up-and-down
poise of the whale-lance, in the exercise called pitchpoling, previously
described. By this motion the whale must best and most comprehensively
view whatever objects may be encircling him.

But soon resuming his horizontal attitude, Moby Dick swam swiftly round
and round the wrecked crew; sideways churning the water in his vengeful
wake, as if lashing himself up to still another and more deadly assault.
The sight of the splintered boat seemed to madden him, as the blood of
grapes and mulberries cast before Antiochus's elephants in the book
of Maccabees. Meanwhile Ahab half smothered in the foam of the whale's
insolent tail, and too much of a cripple to swim,--though he could still
keep afloat, even in the heart of such a whirlpool as that; helpless
Ahab's head was seen, like a tossed bubble which the least chance shock
might burst. From the boat's fragmentary stern, Fedallah incuriously and
mildly eyed him; the clinging crew, at the other drifting end, could not
succor him; more than enough was it for them to look to themselves.
For so revolvingly appalling was the White Whale's aspect, and so
planetarily swift the ever-contracting circles he made, that he seemed
horizontally swooping upon them. And though the other boats, unharmed,
still hovered hard by; still they dared not pull into the eddy to
strike, lest that should be the signal for the instant destruction of
the jeopardized castaways, Ahab and all; nor in that case could they
themselves hope to escape. With straining eyes, then, they remained on
the outer edge of the direful zone, whose centre had now become the old
man's head.

Meantime, from the beginning all this had been descried from the ship's
mast heads; and squaring her yards, she had borne down upon the scene;
and was now so nigh, that Ahab in the water hailed her!--"Sail on
the"--but that moment a breaking sea dashed on him from Moby Dick, and
whelmed him for the time. But struggling out of it again, and chancing
to rise on a towering crest, he shouted,--"Sail on the whale!--Drive him

The Pequod's prows were pointed; and breaking up the charmed circle, she
effectually parted the white whale from his victim. As he sullenly swam
off, the boats flew to the rescue.

Dragged into Stubb's boat with blood-shot, blinded eyes, the white brine
caking in his wrinkles; the long tension of Ahab's bodily strength did
crack, and helplessly he yielded to his body's doom: for a time, lying
all crushed in the bottom of Stubb's boat, like one trodden under foot
of herds of elephants. Far inland, nameless wails came from him, as
desolate sounds from out ravines.

But this intensity of his physical prostration did but so much the more
abbreviate it. In an instant's compass, great hearts sometimes condense
to one deep pang, the sum total of those shallow pains kindly diffused
through feebler men's whole lives. And so, such hearts, though summary
in each one suffering; still, if the gods decree it, in their
life-time aggregate a whole age of woe, wholly made up of instantaneous
intensities; for even in their pointless centres, those noble natures
contain the entire circumferences of inferior souls.

"The harpoon," said Ahab, half way rising, and draggingly leaning on one
bended arm--"is it safe?"

"Aye, sir, for it was not darted; this is it," said Stubb, showing it.

"Lay it before me;--any missing men?"

"One, two, three, four, five;--there were five oars, sir, and here are
five men."

"That's good.--Help me, man; I wish to stand. So, so, I see him! there!
there! going to leeward still; what a leaping spout!--Hands off from me!
The eternal sap runs up in Ahab's bones again! Set the sail; out oars;
the helm!"

It is often the case that when a boat is stove, its crew, being picked
up by another boat, help to work that second boat; and the chase is thus
continued with what is called double-banked oars. It was thus now. But
the added power of the boat did not equal the added power of the whale,
for he seemed to have treble-banked his every fin; swimming with a
velocity which plainly showed, that if now, under these circumstances,
pushed on, the chase would prove an indefinitely prolonged, if not a
hopeless one; nor could any crew endure for so long a period, such an
unintermitted, intense straining at the oar; a thing barely tolerable
only in some one brief vicissitude. The ship itself, then, as it
sometimes happens, offered the most promising intermediate means of
overtaking the chase. Accordingly, the boats now made for her, and were
soon swayed up to their cranes--the two parts of the wrecked boat having
been previously secured by her--and then hoisting everything to her
side, and stacking her canvas high up, and sideways outstretching it
with stun-sails, like the double-jointed wings of an albatross; the
Pequod bore down in the leeward wake of Moby-Dick. At the well known,
methodic intervals, the whale's glittering spout was regularly announced
from the manned mast-heads; and when he would be reported as just gone
down, Ahab would take the time, and then pacing the deck, binnacle-watch
in hand, so soon as the last second of the allotted hour expired, his
voice was heard.--"Whose is the doubloon now? D'ye see him?" and if the
reply was, No, sir! straightway he commanded them to lift him to his
perch. In this way the day wore on; Ahab, now aloft and motionless;
anon, unrestingly pacing the planks.

As he was thus walking, uttering no sound, except to hail the men aloft,
or to bid them hoist a sail still higher, or to spread one to a still
greater breadth--thus to and fro pacing, beneath his slouched hat, at
every turn he passed his own wrecked boat, which had been dropped upon
the quarter-deck, and lay there reversed; broken bow to shattered stern.
At last he paused before it; and as in an already over-clouded sky fresh
troops of clouds will sometimes sail across, so over the old man's face
there now stole some such added gloom as this.

Stubb saw him pause; and perhaps intending, not vainly, though, to
evince his own unabated fortitude, and thus keep up a valiant place in
his Captain's mind, he advanced, and eyeing the wreck exclaimed--"The
thistle the ass refused; it pricked his mouth too keenly, sir; ha! ha!"

"What soulless thing is this that laughs before a wreck? Man, man! did
I not know thee brave as fearless fire (and as mechanical) I could swear
thou wert a poltroon. Groan nor laugh should be heard before a wreck."

"Aye, sir," said Starbuck drawing near, "'tis a solemn sight; an omen,
and an ill one."

"Omen? omen?--the dictionary! If the gods think to speak outright to
man, they will honourably speak outright; not shake their heads, and
give an old wives' darkling hint.--Begone! Ye two are the opposite poles
of one thing; Starbuck is Stubb reversed, and Stubb is Starbuck; and
ye two are all mankind; and Ahab stands alone among the millions of
the peopled earth, nor gods nor men his neighbors! Cold, cold--I
shiver!--How now? Aloft there! D'ye see him? Sing out for every spout,
though he spout ten times a second!"

The day was nearly done; only the hem of his golden robe was rustling.
Soon, it was almost dark, but the look-out men still remained unset.

"Can't see the spout now, sir;--too dark"--cried a voice from the air.

"How heading when last seen?"

"As before, sir,--straight to leeward."

"Good! he will travel slower now 'tis night. Down royals and top-gallant
stun-sails, Mr. Starbuck. We must not run over him before morning; he's
making a passage now, and may heave-to a while. Helm there! keep her
full before the wind!--Aloft! come down!--Mr. Stubb, send a fresh hand
to the fore-mast head, and see it manned till morning."--Then advancing
towards the doubloon in the main-mast--"Men, this gold is mine, for I
earned it; but I shall let it abide here till the White Whale is dead;
and then, whosoever of ye first raises him, upon the day he shall be
killed, this gold is that man's; and if on that day I shall again raise
him, then, ten times its sum shall be divided among all of ye! Away
now!--the deck is thine, sir!"

And so saying, he placed himself half way within the scuttle, and
slouching his hat, stood there till dawn, except when at intervals
rousing himself to see how the night wore on.