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Chapter 27: Knights and Squires.


Stubb was the second mate. He was a native of Cape Cod; and hence,
according to local usage, was called a Cape-Cod-man. A happy-go-lucky;
neither craven nor valiant; taking perils as they came with an
indifferent air; and while engaged in the most imminent crisis of the
chase, toiling away, calm and collected as a journeyman joiner engaged
for the year. Good-humored, easy, and careless, he presided over his
whale-boat as if the most deadly encounter were but a dinner, and his
crew all invited guests. He was as particular about the comfortable
arrangement of his part of the boat, as an old stage-driver is about the
snugness of his box. When close to the whale, in the very death-lock of
the fight, he handled his unpitying lance coolly and off-handedly, as
a whistling tinker his hammer. He would hum over his old rigadig tunes
while flank and flank with the most exasperated monster. Long usage had,
for this Stubb, converted the jaws of death into an easy chair. What he
thought of death itself, there is no telling. Whether he ever thought of
it at all, might be a question; but, if he ever did chance to cast his
mind that way after a comfortable dinner, no doubt, like a good sailor,
he took it to be a sort of call of the watch to tumble aloft, and bestir
themselves there, about something which he would find out when he obeyed
the order, and not sooner.

What, perhaps, with other things, made Stubb such an easy-going,
unfearing man, so cheerily trudging off with the burden of life in a
world full of grave pedlars, all bowed to the ground with their packs;
what helped to bring about that almost impious good-humor of his; that
thing must have been his pipe. For, like his nose, his short, black
little pipe was one of the regular features of his face. You would
almost as soon have expected him to turn out of his bunk without his
nose as without his pipe. He kept a whole row of pipes there ready
loaded, stuck in a rack, within easy reach of his hand; and, whenever he
turned in, he smoked them all out in succession, lighting one from
the other to the end of the chapter; then loading them again to be in
readiness anew. For, when Stubb dressed, instead of first putting his
legs into his trowsers, he put his pipe into his mouth.

I say this continual smoking must have been one cause, at least, of his
peculiar disposition; for every one knows that this earthly air, whether
ashore or afloat, is terribly infected with the nameless miseries of
the numberless mortals who have died exhaling it; and as in time of the
cholera, some people go about with a camphorated handkerchief to their
mouths; so, likewise, against all mortal tribulations, Stubb's tobacco
smoke might have operated as a sort of disinfecting agent.

The third mate was Flask, a native of Tisbury, in Martha's Vineyard. A
short, stout, ruddy young fellow, very pugnacious concerning whales,
who somehow seemed to think that the great leviathans had personally
and hereditarily affronted him; and therefore it was a sort of point of
honour with him, to destroy them whenever encountered. So utterly lost
was he to all sense of reverence for the many marvels of their majestic
bulk and mystic ways; and so dead to anything like an apprehension of
any possible danger from encountering them; that in his poor opinion,
the wondrous whale was but a species of magnified mouse, or at least
water-rat, requiring only a little circumvention and some small
application of time and trouble in order to kill and boil. This
ignorant, unconscious fearlessness of his made him a little waggish in
the matter of whales; he followed these fish for the fun of it; and a
three years' voyage round Cape Horn was only a jolly joke that lasted
that length of time. As a carpenter's nails are divided into wrought
nails and cut nails; so mankind may be similarly divided. Little Flask
was one of the wrought ones; made to clinch tight and last long. They
called him King-Post on board of the Pequod; because, in form, he could
be well likened to the short, square timber known by that name in Arctic
whalers; and which by the means of many radiating side timbers inserted
into it, serves to brace the ship against the icy concussions of those
battering seas.

Now these three mates--Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask, were momentous
men. They it was who by universal prescription commanded three of the
Pequod's boats as headsmen. In that grand order of battle in which
Captain Ahab would probably marshal his forces to descend on the whales,
these three headsmen were as captains of companies. Or, being armed with
their long keen whaling spears, they were as a picked trio of lancers;
even as the harpooneers were flingers of javelins.

And since in this famous fishery, each mate or headsman, like a Gothic
Knight of old, is always accompanied by his boat-steerer or harpooneer,
who in certain conjunctures provides him with a fresh lance, when
the former one has been badly twisted, or elbowed in the assault; and
moreover, as there generally subsists between the two, a close intimacy
and friendliness; it is therefore but meet, that in this place we set
down who the Pequod's harpooneers were, and to what headsman each of
them belonged.

First of all was Queequeg, whom Starbuck, the chief mate, had selected
for his squire. But Queequeg is already known.

Next was Tashtego, an unmixed Indian from Gay Head, the most westerly
promontory of Martha's Vineyard, where there still exists the last
remnant of a village of red men, which has long supplied the neighboring
island of Nantucket with many of her most daring harpooneers. In the
fishery, they usually go by the generic name of Gay-Headers. Tashtego's
long, lean, sable hair, his high cheek bones, and black rounding
eyes--for an Indian, Oriental in their largeness, but Antarctic in their
glittering expression--all this sufficiently proclaimed him an inheritor
of the unvitiated blood of those proud warrior hunters, who, in quest
of the great New England moose, had scoured, bow in hand, the aboriginal
forests of the main. But no longer snuffing in the trail of the wild
beasts of the woodland, Tashtego now hunted in the wake of the great
whales of the sea; the unerring harpoon of the son fitly replacing the
infallible arrow of the sires. To look at the tawny brawn of his lithe
snaky limbs, you would almost have credited the superstitions of some of
the earlier Puritans, and half-believed this wild Indian to be a son
of the Prince of the Powers of the Air. Tashtego was Stubb the second
mate's squire.

Third among the harpooneers was Daggoo, a gigantic, coal-black
negro-savage, with a lion-like tread--an Ahasuerus to behold. Suspended
from his ears were two golden hoops, so large that the sailors called
them ring-bolts, and would talk of securing the top-sail halyards to
them. In his youth Daggoo had voluntarily shipped on board of a whaler,
lying in a lonely bay on his native coast. And never having been
anywhere in the world but in Africa, Nantucket, and the pagan harbors
most frequented by whalemen; and having now led for many years the bold
life of the fishery in the ships of owners uncommonly heedful of what
manner of men they shipped; Daggoo retained all his barbaric virtues,
and erect as a giraffe, moved about the decks in all the pomp of six
feet five in his socks. There was a corporeal humility in looking up at
him; and a white man standing before him seemed a white flag come to
beg truce of a fortress. Curious to tell, this imperial negro, Ahasuerus
Daggoo, was the Squire of little Flask, who looked like a chess-man
beside him. As for the residue of the Pequod's company, be it said, that
at the present day not one in two of the many thousand men before the
mast employed in the American whale fishery, are Americans born, though
pretty nearly all the officers are. Herein it is the same with the
American whale fishery as with the American army and military and
merchant navies, and the engineering forces employed in the construction
of the American Canals and Railroads. The same, I say, because in all
these cases the native American liberally provides the brains, the rest
of the world as generously supplying the muscles. No small number of
these whaling seamen belong to the Azores, where the outward bound
Nantucket whalers frequently touch to augment their crews from the hardy
peasants of those rocky shores. In like manner, the Greenland whalers
sailing out of Hull or London, put in at the Shetland Islands, to
receive the full complement of their crew. Upon the passage homewards,
they drop them there again. How it is, there is no telling, but
Islanders seem to make the best whalemen. They were nearly all Islanders
in the Pequod, ISOLATOES too, I call such, not acknowledging the common
continent of men, but each ISOLATO living on a separate continent of his
own. Yet now, federated along one keel, what a set these Isolatoes were!
An Anacharsis Clootz deputation from all the isles of the sea, and all
the ends of the earth, accompanying Old Ahab in the Pequod to lay the
world's grievances before that bar from which not very many of them ever
come back. Black Little Pip--he never did--oh, no! he went before. Poor
Alabama boy! On the grim Pequod's forecastle, ye shall ere long see him,
beating his tambourine; prelusive of the eternal time, when sent for,
to the great quarter-deck on high, he was bid strike in with angels, and
beat his tambourine in glory; called a coward here, hailed a hero there!