Chapter 16: The Ship.
In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my surprise and
no small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand, that he had been
diligently consulting Yojo--the name of his black little god--and Yojo
had told him two or three times over, and strongly insisted upon it
everyway, that instead of our going together among the whaling-fleet in
harbor, and in concert selecting our craft; instead of this, I say, Yojo
earnestly enjoined that the selection of the ship should rest wholly
with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed befriending us; and, in order to
do so, had already pitched upon a vessel, which, if left to myself, I,
Ishmael, should infallibly light upon, for all the world as though it
had turned out by chance; and in that vessel I must immediately ship
myself, for the present irrespective of Queequeg.
I have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg placed great
confidence in the excellence of Yojo's judgment and surprising forecast
of things; and cherished Yojo with considerable esteem, as a rather good
sort of god, who perhaps meant well enough upon the whole, but in all
cases did not succeed in his benevolent designs.
Now, this plan of Queequeg's, or rather Yojo's, touching the selection
of our craft; I did not like that plan at all. I had not a little relied
upon Queequeg's sagacity to point out the whaler best fitted to carry
us and our fortunes securely. But as all my remonstrances produced
no effect upon Queequeg, I was obliged to acquiesce; and accordingly
prepared to set about this business with a determined rushing sort
of energy and vigor, that should quickly settle that trifling little
affair. Next morning early, leaving Queequeg shut up with Yojo in our
little bedroom--for it seemed that it was some sort of Lent or Ramadan,
or day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer with Queequeg and Yojo that
day; HOW it was I never could find out, for, though I applied myself
to it several times, I never could master his liturgies and XXXIX
Articles--leaving Queequeg, then, fasting on his tomahawk pipe, and Yojo
warming himself at his sacrificial fire of shavings, I sallied out among
the shipping. After much prolonged sauntering and many random inquiries,
I learnt that there were three ships up for three-years' voyages--The
Devil-dam, the Tit-bit, and the Pequod. DEVIL-DAM, I do not know the
origin of; TIT-BIT is obvious; PEQUOD, you will no doubt remember, was
the name of a celebrated tribe of Massachusetts Indians; now extinct
as the ancient Medes. I peered and pryed about the Devil-dam; from her,
hopped over to the Tit-bit; and finally, going on board the Pequod,
looked around her for a moment, and then decided that this was the very
ship for us.
You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I
know;--square-toed luggers; mountainous Japanese junks; butter-box
galliots, and what not; but take my word for it, you never saw such a
rare old craft as this same rare old Pequod. She was a ship of the old
school, rather small if anything; with an old-fashioned claw-footed look
about her. Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms
of all four oceans, her old hull's complexion was darkened like a French
grenadier's, who has alike fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her venerable
bows looked bearded. Her masts--cut somewhere on the coast of Japan,
where her original ones were lost overboard in a gale--her masts stood
stiffly up like the spines of the three old kings of Cologne. Her
ancient decks were worn and wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped
flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where Becket bled. But to all these
her old antiquities, were added new and marvellous features, pertaining
to the wild business that for more than half a century she had followed.
Old Captain Peleg, many years her chief-mate, before he commanded
another vessel of his own, and now a retired seaman, and one of the
principal owners of the Pequod,--this old Peleg, during the term of his
chief-mateship, had built upon her original grotesqueness, and inlaid
it, all over, with a quaintness both of material and device, unmatched
by anything except it be Thorkill-Hake's carved buckler or bedstead. She
was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck heavy with
pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of
a craft, tricking herself forth in the chased bones of her enemies. All
round, her unpanelled, open bulwarks were garnished like one continuous
jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the sperm whale, inserted there for
pins, to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran not
through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled over sheaves of
sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helm, she sported
there a tiller; and that tiller was in one mass, curiously carved
from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe. The helmsman who
steered by that tiller in a tempest, felt like the Tartar, when he holds
back his fiery steed by clutching its jaw. A noble craft, but somehow a
most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.
Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one having authority,
in order to propose myself as a candidate for the voyage, at first I saw
nobody; but I could not well overlook a strange sort of tent, or
rather wigwam, pitched a little behind the main-mast. It seemed only
a temporary erection used in port. It was of a conical shape, some ten
feet high; consisting of the long, huge slabs of limber black bone taken
from the middle and highest part of the jaws of the right-whale.
Planted with their broad ends on the deck, a circle of these slabs laced
together, mutually sloped towards each other, and at the apex united in
a tufted point, where the loose hairy fibres waved to and fro like the
top-knot on some old Pottowottamie Sachem's head. A triangular opening
faced towards the bows of the ship, so that the insider commanded a
complete view forward.
And half concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found one who
by his aspect seemed to have authority; and who, it being noon, and
the ship's work suspended, was now enjoying respite from the burden of
command. He was seated on an old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all
over with curious carving; and the bottom of which was formed of a
stout interlacing of the same elastic stuff of which the wigwam was
There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the appearance of
the elderly man I saw; he was brown and brawny, like most old seamen,
and heavily rolled up in blue pilot-cloth, cut in the Quaker style;
only there was a fine and almost microscopic net-work of the minutest
wrinkles interlacing round his eyes, which must have arisen from
his continual sailings in many hard gales, and always looking to
windward;--for this causes the muscles about the eyes to become pursed
together. Such eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a scowl.
"Is this the Captain of the Pequod?" said I, advancing to the door of
"Supposing it be the captain of the Pequod, what dost thou want of him?"
"I was thinking of shipping."
"Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer--ever been in a
"No, Sir, I never have."
"Dost know nothing at all about whaling, I dare say--eh?
"Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn. I've been several
voyages in the merchant service, and I think that--"
"Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me. Dost see that
leg?--I'll take that leg away from thy stern, if ever thou talkest of
the marchant service to me again. Marchant service indeed! I suppose now
ye feel considerable proud of having served in those marchant ships.
But flukes! man, what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?--it looks
a little suspicious, don't it, eh?--Hast not been a pirate, hast
thou?--Didst not rob thy last Captain, didst thou?--Dost not think of
murdering the officers when thou gettest to sea?"
I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under the mask
of these half humorous innuendoes, this old seaman, as an insulated
Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his insular prejudices, and rather
distrustful of all aliens, unless they hailed from Cape Cod or the
"But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that before I think of
"Well, sir, I want to see what whaling is. I want to see the world."
"Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab?"
"Who is Captain Ahab, sir?"
"Aye, aye, I thought so. Captain Ahab is the Captain of this ship."
"I am mistaken then. I thought I was speaking to the Captain himself."
"Thou art speaking to Captain Peleg--that's who ye are speaking to,
young man. It belongs to me and Captain Bildad to see the Pequod fitted
out for the voyage, and supplied with all her needs, including crew. We
are part owners and agents. But as I was going to say, if thou wantest
to know what whaling is, as thou tellest ye do, I can put ye in a way of
finding it out before ye bind yourself to it, past backing out. Clap
eye on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find that he has only one
"What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?"
"Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured,
chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a
I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched at
the hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly as I
could, "What you say is no doubt true enough, sir; but how could I know
there was any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale, though indeed
I might have inferred as much from the simple fact of the accident."
"Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of soft, d'ye see; thou
dost not talk shark a bit. SURE, ye've been to sea before now; sure of
"Sir," said I, "I thought I told you that I had been four voyages in the
"Hard down out of that! Mind what I said about the marchant
service--don't aggravate me--I won't have it. But let us understand each
other. I have given thee a hint about what whaling is; do ye yet feel
inclined for it?"
"I do, sir."
"Very good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live whale's
throat, and then jump after it? Answer, quick!"
"I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so; not to be
got rid of, that is; which I don't take to be the fact."
"Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling, to find
out by experience what whaling is, but ye also want to go in order to
see the world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so. Well then, just
step forward there, and take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back
to me and tell me what ye see there."
For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request, not
knowing exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest. But
concentrating all his crow's feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg started
me on the errand.
Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the
ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely
pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but
exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that I
"Well, what's the report?" said Peleg when I came back; "what did ye
"Not much," I replied--"nothing but water; considerable horizon though,
and there's a squall coming up, I think."
"Well, what does thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go
round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can't ye see the world where
I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would; and the
Pequod was as good a ship as any--I thought the best--and all this I now
repeated to Peleg. Seeing me so determined, he expressed his willingness
to ship me.
"And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off," he added--"come
along with ye." And so saying, he led the way below deck into the cabin.
Seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most uncommon and
surprising figure. It turned out to be Captain Bildad, who along with
Captain Peleg was one of the largest owners of the vessel; the other
shares, as is sometimes the case in these ports, being held by a crowd
of old annuitants; widows, fatherless children, and chancery wards; each
owning about the value of a timber head, or a foot of plank, or a nail
or two in the ship. People in Nantucket invest their money in whaling
vessels, the same way that you do yours in approved state stocks
bringing in good interest.
Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers, was a
Quaker, the island having been originally settled by that sect; and to
this day its inhabitants in general retain in an uncommon measure the
peculiarities of the Quaker, only variously and anomalously modified
by things altogether alien and heterogeneous. For some of these same
Quakers are the most sanguinary of all sailors and whale-hunters. They
are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance.
So that there are instances among them of men, who, named with Scripture
names--a singularly common fashion on the island--and in childhood
naturally imbibing the stately dramatic thee and thou of the Quaker
idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless adventure
of their subsequent lives, strangely blend with these unoutgrown
peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of character, not unworthy a
Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan Roman. And when these things
unite in a man of greatly superior natural force, with a globular brain
and a ponderous heart; who has also by the stillness and seclusion
of many long night-watches in the remotest waters, and beneath
constellations never seen here at the north, been led to think
untraditionally and independently; receiving all nature's sweet or
savage impressions fresh from her own virgin voluntary and confiding
breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some help from accidental
advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty language--that man makes
one in a whole nation's census--a mighty pageant creature, formed for
noble tragedies. Nor will it at all detract from him, dramatically
regarded, if either by birth or other circumstances, he have what seems
a half wilful overruling morbidness at the bottom of his nature. For all
men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure
of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but disease. But,
as yet we have not to do with such an one, but with quite another; and
still a man, who, if indeed peculiar, it only results again from another
phase of the Quaker, modified by individual circumstances.
Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired whaleman.
But unlike Captain Peleg--who cared not a rush for what are called
serious things, and indeed deemed those self-same serious things the
veriest of all trifles--Captain Bildad had not only been originally
educated according to the strictest sect of Nantucket Quakerism, but all
his subsequent ocean life, and the sight of many unclad, lovely island
creatures, round the Horn--all that had not moved this native born
Quaker one single jot, had not so much as altered one angle of his
vest. Still, for all this immutableness, was there some lack of
common consistency about worthy Captain Peleg. Though refusing, from
conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land invaders, yet himself
had illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific; and though a sworn foe
to human bloodshed, yet had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled tuns
upon tuns of leviathan gore. How now in the contemplative evening of his
days, the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do
not know; but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably
he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man's
religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another. This
world pays dividends. Rising from a little cabin-boy in short clothes
of the drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a broad shad-bellied waistcoat;
from that becoming boat-header, chief-mate, and captain, and finally a
ship owner; Bildad, as I hinted before, had concluded his adventurous
career by wholly retiring from active life at the goodly age of
sixty, and dedicating his remaining days to the quiet receiving of his
Now, Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being an
incorrigible old hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter, hard
task-master. They told me in Nantucket, though it certainly seems a
curious story, that when he sailed the old Categut whaleman, his crew,
upon arriving home, were mostly all carried ashore to the hospital, sore
exhausted and worn out. For a pious man, especially for a Quaker, he was
certainly rather hard-hearted, to say the least. He never used to swear,
though, at his men, they said; but somehow he got an inordinate
quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them. When Bildad was a
chief-mate, to have his drab-coloured eye intently looking at you, made
you feel completely nervous, till you could clutch something--a hammer
or a marling-spike, and go to work like mad, at something or other,
never mind what. Indolence and idleness perished before him. His own
person was the exact embodiment of his utilitarian character. On his
long, gaunt body, he carried no spare flesh, no superfluous beard,
his chin having a soft, economical nap to it, like the worn nap of his
Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom when I
followed Captain Peleg down into the cabin. The space between the decks
was small; and there, bolt-upright, sat old Bildad, who always sat so,
and never leaned, and this to save his coat tails. His broad-brim was
placed beside him; his legs were stiffly crossed; his drab vesture was
buttoned up to his chin; and spectacles on nose, he seemed absorbed in
reading from a ponderous volume.
"Bildad," cried Captain Peleg, "at it again, Bildad, eh? Ye have been
studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty years, to my certain
knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad?"
As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate,
Bildad, without noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up, and
seeing me, glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg.
"He says he's our man, Bildad," said Peleg, "he wants to ship."
"Dost thee?" said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning round to me.
"I dost," said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.
"What do ye think of him, Bildad?" said Peleg.
"He'll do," said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling away at
his book in a mumbling tone quite audible.
I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as Peleg,
his friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer. But I said
nothing, only looking round me sharply. Peleg now threw open a chest,
and drawing forth the ship's articles, placed pen and ink before him,
and seated himself at a little table. I began to think it was high time
to settle with myself at what terms I would be willing to engage for the
voyage. I was already aware that in the whaling business they paid no
wages; but all hands, including the captain, received certain shares of
the profits called lays, and that these lays were proportioned to the
degree of importance pertaining to the respective duties of the ship's
company. I was also aware that being a green hand at whaling, my own
lay would not be very large; but considering that I was used to the sea,
could steer a ship, splice a rope, and all that, I made no doubt that
from all I had heard I should be offered at least the 275th lay--that
is, the 275th part of the clear net proceeds of the voyage, whatever
that might eventually amount to. And though the 275th lay was what they
call a rather LONG LAY, yet it was better than nothing; and if we had a
lucky voyage, might pretty nearly pay for the clothing I would wear out
on it, not to speak of my three years' beef and board, for which I would
not have to pay one stiver.
It might be thought that this was a poor way to accumulate a princely
fortune--and so it was, a very poor way indeed. But I am one of those
that never take on about princely fortunes, and am quite content if the
world is ready to board and lodge me, while I am putting up at this grim
sign of the Thunder Cloud. Upon the whole, I thought that the 275th lay
would be about the fair thing, but would not have been surprised had I
been offered the 200th, considering I was of a broad-shouldered make.
But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a little distrustful about
receiving a generous share of the profits was this: Ashore, I had heard
something of both Captain Peleg and his unaccountable old crony Bildad;
how that they being the principal proprietors of the Pequod, therefore
the other and more inconsiderable and scattered owners, left nearly the
whole management of the ship's affairs to these two. And I did not know
but what the stingy old Bildad might have a mighty deal to say about
shipping hands, especially as I now found him on board the Pequod,
quite at home there in the cabin, and reading his Bible as if at his
own fireside. Now while Peleg was vainly trying to mend a pen with his
jack-knife, old Bildad, to my no small surprise, considering that he was
such an interested party in these proceedings; Bildad never heeded
us, but went on mumbling to himself out of his book, "LAY not up for
yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth--"
"Well, Captain Bildad," interrupted Peleg, "what d'ye say, what lay
shall we give this young man?"
"Thou knowest best," was the sepulchral reply, "the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh wouldn't be too much, would it?--'where moth and rust do
corrupt, but LAY--'"
LAY, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are determined that I, for one,
shall not LAY up many LAYS here below, where moth and rust do corrupt.
It was an exceedingly LONG LAY that, indeed; and though from the
magnitude of the figure it might at first deceive a landsman, yet
the slightest consideration will show that though seven hundred and
seventy-seven is a pretty large number, yet, when you come to make
a TEENTH of it, you will then see, I say, that the seven hundred and
seventy-seventh part of a farthing is a good deal less than seven
hundred and seventy-seven gold doubloons; and so I thought at the time.
"Why, blast your eyes, Bildad," cried Peleg, "thou dost not want to
swindle this young man! he must have more than that."
"Seven hundred and seventy-seventh," again said Bildad, without lifting
his eyes; and then went on mumbling--"for where your treasure is, there
will your heart be also."
"I am going to put him down for the three hundredth," said Peleg, "do ye
hear that, Bildad! The three hundredth lay, I say."
Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly towards him said,
"Captain Peleg, thou hast a generous heart; but thou must consider the
duty thou owest to the other owners of this ship--widows and orphans,
many of them--and that if we too abundantly reward the labors of this
young man, we may be taking the bread from those widows and those
orphans. The seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay, Captain Peleg."
"Thou Bildad!" roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the
cabin. "Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in these
matters, I would afore now had a conscience to lug about that would be
heavy enough to founder the largest ship that ever sailed round Cape
"Captain Peleg," said Bildad steadily, "thy conscience may be drawing
ten inches of water, or ten fathoms, I can't tell; but as thou art still
an impenitent man, Captain Peleg, I greatly fear lest thy conscience be
but a leaky one; and will in the end sink thee foundering down to the
fiery pit, Captain Peleg."
"Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural bearing, ye
insult me. It's an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature that
he's bound to hell. Flukes and flames! Bildad, say that again to me, and
start my soul-bolts, but I'll--I'll--yes, I'll swallow a live goat with
all his hair and horns on. Out of the cabin, ye canting, drab-coloured
son of a wooden gun--a straight wake with ye!"
As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with a marvellous
oblique, sliding celerity, Bildad for that time eluded him.
Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal and
responsible owners of the ship, and feeling half a mind to give up
all idea of sailing in a vessel so questionably owned and temporarily
commanded, I stepped aside from the door to give egress to Bildad, who,
I made no doubt, was all eagerness to vanish from before the awakened
wrath of Peleg. But to my astonishment, he sat down again on the
transom very quietly, and seemed to have not the slightest intention of
withdrawing. He seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg and his ways. As
for Peleg, after letting off his rage as he had, there seemed no more
left in him, and he, too, sat down like a lamb, though he twitched a
little as if still nervously agitated. "Whew!" he whistled at last--"the
squall's gone off to leeward, I think. Bildad, thou used to be good at
sharpening a lance, mend that pen, will ye. My jack-knife here needs
the grindstone. That's he; thank ye, Bildad. Now then, my young man,
Ishmael's thy name, didn't ye say? Well then, down ye go here, Ishmael,
for the three hundredth lay."
"Captain Peleg," said I, "I have a friend with me who wants to ship
too--shall I bring him down to-morrow?"
"To be sure," said Peleg. "Fetch him along, and we'll look at him."
"What lay does he want?" groaned Bildad, glancing up from the book in
which he had again been burying himself.
"Oh! never thee mind about that, Bildad," said Peleg. "Has he ever
whaled it any?" turning to me.
"Killed more whales than I can count, Captain Peleg."
"Well, bring him along then."
And, after signing the papers, off I went; nothing doubting but that I
had done a good morning's work, and that the Pequod was the identical
ship that Yojo had provided to carry Queequeg and me round the Cape.
But I had not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me that the Captain
with whom I was to sail yet remained unseen by me; though, indeed, in
many cases, a whale-ship will be completely fitted out, and receive all
her crew on board, ere the captain makes himself visible by arriving
to take command; for sometimes these voyages are so prolonged, and the
shore intervals at home so exceedingly brief, that if the captain have
a family, or any absorbing concernment of that sort, he does not trouble
himself much about his ship in port, but leaves her to the owners till
all is ready for sea. However, it is always as well to have a look at
him before irrevocably committing yourself into his hands. Turning back
I accosted Captain Peleg, inquiring where Captain Ahab was to be found.
"And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It's all right enough; thou
"Yes, but I should like to see him."
"But I don't think thou wilt be able to at present. I don't know exactly
what's the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the house; a sort
of sick, and yet he don't look so. In fact, he ain't sick; but no, he
isn't well either. Any how, young man, he won't always see me, so I
don't suppose he will thee. He's a queer man, Captain Ahab--so some
think--but a good one. Oh, thou'lt like him well enough; no fear, no
fear. He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn't speak
much; but, when he does speak, then you may well listen. Mark ye, be
forewarned; Ahab's above the common; Ahab's been in colleges, as well as
'mong the cannibals; been used to deeper wonders than the waves; fixed
his fiery lance in mightier, stranger foes than whales. His lance!
aye, the keenest and the surest that out of all our isle! Oh! he ain't
Captain Bildad; no, and he ain't Captain Peleg; HE'S AHAB, boy; and Ahab
of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king!"
"And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did
they not lick his blood?"
"Come hither to me--hither, hither," said Peleg, with a significance in
his eye that almost startled me. "Look ye, lad; never say that on board
the Pequod. Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name himself.
'Twas a foolish, ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed mother, who died
when he was only a twelvemonth old. And yet the old squaw Tistig, at
Gayhead, said that the name would somehow prove prophetic. And, perhaps,
other fools like her may tell thee the same. I wish to warn thee. It's a
lie. I know Captain Ahab well; I've sailed with him as mate years ago;
I know what he is--a good man--not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but
a swearing good man--something like me--only there's a good deal more of
him. Aye, aye, I know that he was never very jolly; and I know that on
the passage home, he was a little out of his mind for a spell; but it
was the sharp shooting pains in his bleeding stump that brought that
about, as any one might see. I know, too, that ever since he lost
his leg last voyage by that accursed whale, he's been a kind of
moody--desperate moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all pass
off. And once for all, let me tell thee and assure thee, young man, it's
better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one. So
good-bye to thee--and wrong not Captain Ahab, because he happens to
have a wicked name. Besides, my boy, he has a wife--not three voyages
wedded--a sweet, resigned girl. Think of that; by that sweet girl that
old man has a child: hold ye then there can be any utter, hopeless
harm in Ahab? No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if he be, Ahab has his
As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been
incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with a certain
wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him. And somehow, at the time,
I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don't know what,
unless it was the cruel loss of his leg. And yet I also felt a strange
awe of him; but that sort of awe, which I cannot at all describe, was
not exactly awe; I do not know what it was. But I felt it; and it did
not disincline me towards him; though I felt impatience at what seemed
like mystery in him, so imperfectly as he was known to me then. However,
my thoughts were at length carried in other directions, so that for the
present dark Ahab slipped my mind.