Chapter 30: The Pipe.
When Stubb had departed, Ahab stood for a while leaning over the
bulwarks; and then, as had been usual with him of late, calling a sailor
of the watch, he sent him below for his ivory stool, and also his pipe.
Lighting the pipe at the binnacle lamp and planting the stool on the
weather side of the deck, he sat and smoked.
In old Norse times, the thrones of the sea-loving Danish kings were
fabricated, saith tradition, of the tusks of the narwhale. How could one
look at Ahab then, seated on that tripod of bones, without bethinking
him of the royalty it symbolized? For a Khan of the plank, and a king of
the sea, and a great lord of Leviathans was Ahab.
Some moments passed, during which the thick vapour came from his mouth
in quick and constant puffs, which blew back again into his face. "How
now," he soliloquized at last, withdrawing the tube, "this smoking no
longer soothes. Oh, my pipe! hard must it go with me if thy charm be
gone! Here have I been unconsciously toiling, not pleasuring--aye, and
ignorantly smoking to windward all the while; to windward, and with
such nervous whiffs, as if, like the dying whale, my final jets were the
strongest and fullest of trouble. What business have I with this pipe?
This thing that is meant for sereneness, to send up mild white vapours
among mild white hairs, not among torn iron-grey locks like mine. I'll
smoke no more--"
He tossed the still lighted pipe into the sea. The fire hissed in the
waves; the same instant the ship shot by the bubble the sinking pipe
made. With slouched hat, Ahab lurchingly paced the planks.