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before 5
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Chapter 64: Stubb's Supper.


Stubb's whale had been killed some distance from the ship. It was
a calm; so, forming a tandem of three boats, we commenced the slow
business of towing the trophy to the Pequod. And now, as we eighteen men
with our thirty-six arms, and one hundred and eighty thumbs and fingers,
slowly toiled hour after hour upon that inert, sluggish corpse in the
sea; and it seemed hardly to budge at all, except at long intervals;
good evidence was hereby furnished of the enormousness of the mass we
moved. For, upon the great canal of Hang-Ho, or whatever they call
it, in China, four or five laborers on the foot-path will draw a bulky
freighted junk at the rate of a mile an hour; but this grand argosy we
towed heavily forged along, as if laden with pig-lead in bulk.

Darkness came on; but three lights up and down in the Pequod's
main-rigging dimly guided our way; till drawing nearer we saw Ahab
dropping one of several more lanterns over the bulwarks. Vacantly eyeing
the heaving whale for a moment, he issued the usual orders for securing
it for the night, and then handing his lantern to a seaman, went his way
into the cabin, and did not come forward again until morning.

Though, in overseeing the pursuit of this whale, Captain Ahab had
evinced his customary activity, to call it so; yet now that the creature
was dead, some vague dissatisfaction, or impatience, or despair, seemed
working in him; as if the sight of that dead body reminded him that
Moby Dick was yet to be slain; and though a thousand other whales were
brought to his ship, all that would not one jot advance his grand,
monomaniac object. Very soon you would have thought from the sound on
the Pequod's decks, that all hands were preparing to cast anchor in
the deep; for heavy chains are being dragged along the deck, and thrust
rattling out of the port-holes. But by those clanking links, the vast
corpse itself, not the ship, is to be moored. Tied by the head to the
stern, and by the tail to the bows, the whale now lies with its black
hull close to the vessel's and seen through the darkness of the night,
which obscured the spars and rigging aloft, the two--ship and whale,
seemed yoked together like colossal bullocks, whereof one reclines while
the other remains standing.*

*A little item may as well be related here. The strongest and most
reliable hold which the ship has upon the whale when moored alongside,
is by the flukes or tail; and as from its greater density that part
is relatively heavier than any other (excepting the side-fins), its
flexibility even in death, causes it to sink low beneath the surface; so
that with the hand you cannot get at it from the boat, in order to
put the chain round it. But this difficulty is ingeniously overcome: a
small, strong line is prepared with a wooden float at its outer end, and
a weight in its middle, while the other end is secured to the ship. By
adroit management the wooden float is made to rise on the other side
of the mass, so that now having girdled the whale, the chain is readily
made to follow suit; and being slipped along the body, is at last locked
fast round the smallest part of the tail, at the point of junction with
its broad flukes or lobes.

If moody Ahab was now all quiescence, at least so far as could be known
on deck, Stubb, his second mate, flushed with conquest, betrayed an
unusual but still good-natured excitement. Such an unwonted bustle was
he in that the staid Starbuck, his official superior, quietly resigned
to him for the time the sole management of affairs. One small, helping
cause of all this liveliness in Stubb, was soon made strangely manifest.
Stubb was a high liver; he was somewhat intemperately fond of the whale
as a flavorish thing to his palate.

"A steak, a steak, ere I sleep! You, Daggoo! overboard you go, and cut
me one from his small!"

Here be it known, that though these wild fishermen do not, as a general
thing, and according to the great military maxim, make the enemy defray
the current expenses of the war (at least before realizing the proceeds
of the voyage), yet now and then you find some of these Nantucketers
who have a genuine relish for that particular part of the Sperm Whale
designated by Stubb; comprising the tapering extremity of the body.

About midnight that steak was cut and cooked; and lighted by two
lanterns of sperm oil, Stubb stoutly stood up to his spermaceti supper
at the capstan-head, as if that capstan were a sideboard. Nor was Stubb
the only banqueter on whale's flesh that night. Mingling their mumblings
with his own mastications, thousands on thousands of sharks, swarming
round the dead leviathan, smackingly feasted on its fatness. The few
sleepers below in their bunks were often startled by the sharp slapping
of their tails against the hull, within a few inches of the sleepers'
hearts. Peering over the side you could just see them (as before you
heard them) wallowing in the sullen, black waters, and turning over on
their backs as they scooped out huge globular pieces of the whale of the
bigness of a human head. This particular feat of the shark seems all
but miraculous. How at such an apparently unassailable surface, they
contrive to gouge out such symmetrical mouthfuls, remains a part of the
universal problem of all things. The mark they thus leave on the whale,
may best be likened to the hollow made by a carpenter in countersinking
for a screw.

Though amid all the smoking horror and diabolism of a sea-fight, sharks
will be seen longingly gazing up to the ship's decks, like hungry dogs
round a table where red meat is being carved, ready to bolt down
every killed man that is tossed to them; and though, while the valiant
butchers over the deck-table are thus cannibally carving each other's
live meat with carving-knives all gilded and tasselled, the sharks,
also, with their jewel-hilted mouths, are quarrelsomely carving away
under the table at the dead meat; and though, were you to turn the whole
affair upside down, it would still be pretty much the same thing, that
is to say, a shocking sharkish business enough for all parties; and
though sharks also are the invariable outriders of all slave ships
crossing the Atlantic, systematically trotting alongside, to be handy in
case a parcel is to be carried anywhere, or a dead slave to be decently
buried; and though one or two other like instances might be set down,
touching the set terms, places, and occasions, when sharks do most
socially congregate, and most hilariously feast; yet is there no
conceivable time or occasion when you will find them in such countless
numbers, and in gayer or more jovial spirits, than around a dead sperm
whale, moored by night to a whaleship at sea. If you have never
seen that sight, then suspend your decision about the propriety of
devil-worship, and the expediency of conciliating the devil.

But, as yet, Stubb heeded not the mumblings of the banquet that was
going on so nigh him, no more than the sharks heeded the smacking of his
own epicurean lips.

"Cook, cook!--where's that old Fleece?" he cried at length, widening
his legs still further, as if to form a more secure base for his supper;
and, at the same time darting his fork into the dish, as if stabbing
with his lance; "cook, you cook!--sail this way, cook!"

The old black, not in any very high glee at having been previously
roused from his warm hammock at a most unseasonable hour, came shambling
along from his galley, for, like many old blacks, there was something
the matter with his knee-pans, which he did not keep well scoured like
his other pans; this old Fleece, as they called him, came shuffling and
limping along, assisting his step with his tongs, which, after a clumsy
fashion, were made of straightened iron hoops; this old Ebony floundered
along, and in obedience to the word of command, came to a dead stop on
the opposite side of Stubb's sideboard; when, with both hands folded
before him, and resting on his two-legged cane, he bowed his arched back
still further over, at the same time sideways inclining his head, so as
to bring his best ear into play.

"Cook," said Stubb, rapidly lifting a rather reddish morsel to his
mouth, "don't you think this steak is rather overdone? You've been
beating this steak too much, cook; it's too tender. Don't I always say
that to be good, a whale-steak must be tough? There are those sharks
now over the side, don't you see they prefer it tough and rare? What a
shindy they are kicking up! Cook, go and talk to 'em; tell 'em they are
welcome to help themselves civilly, and in moderation, but they must
keep quiet. Blast me, if I can hear my own voice. Away, cook, and
deliver my message. Here, take this lantern," snatching one from his
sideboard; "now then, go and preach to 'em!"

Sullenly taking the offered lantern, old Fleece limped across the deck
to the bulwarks; and then, with one hand dropping his light low over the
sea, so as to get a good view of his congregation, with the other hand
he solemnly flourished his tongs, and leaning far over the side in a
mumbling voice began addressing the sharks, while Stubb, softly crawling
behind, overheard all that was said.

"Fellow-critters: I'se ordered here to say dat you must stop dat dam
noise dare. You hear? Stop dat dam smackin' ob de lips! Massa Stubb say
dat you can fill your dam bellies up to de hatchings, but by Gor! you
must stop dat dam racket!"

"Cook," here interposed Stubb, accompanying the word with a sudden slap
on the shoulder,--"Cook! why, damn your eyes, you mustn't swear that way
when you're preaching. That's no way to convert sinners, cook!"

"Who dat? Den preach to him yourself," sullenly turning to go.

"No, cook; go on, go on."

"Well, den, Belubed fellow-critters:"--

"Right!" exclaimed Stubb, approvingly, "coax 'em to it; try that," and
Fleece continued.

"Do you is all sharks, and by natur wery woracious, yet I zay to you,
fellow-critters, dat dat woraciousness--'top dat dam slappin' ob de
tail! How you tink to hear, spose you keep up such a dam slappin' and
bitin' dare?"

"Cook," cried Stubb, collaring him, "I won't have that swearing. Talk to
'em gentlemanly."

Once more the sermon proceeded.

"Your woraciousness, fellow-critters, I don't blame ye so much for; dat
is natur, and can't be helped; but to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de
pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den
you be angel; for all angel is not'ing more dan de shark well goberned.
Now, look here, bred'ren, just try wonst to be cibil, a helping
yourselbs from dat whale. Don't be tearin' de blubber out your
neighbour's mout, I say. Is not one shark dood right as toder to dat
whale? And, by Gor, none on you has de right to dat whale; dat whale
belong to some one else. I know some o' you has berry brig mout, brigger
dan oders; but den de brig mouts sometimes has de small bellies; so dat
de brigness of de mout is not to swaller wid, but to bit off de blubber
for de small fry ob sharks, dat can't get into de scrouge to help

"Well done, old Fleece!" cried Stubb, "that's Christianity; go on."

"No use goin' on; de dam willains will keep a scougin' and slappin' each
oder, Massa Stubb; dey don't hear one word; no use a-preaching to
such dam g'uttons as you call 'em, till dare bellies is full, and dare
bellies is bottomless; and when dey do get 'em full, dey wont hear you
den; for den dey sink in the sea, go fast to sleep on de coral, and
can't hear noting at all, no more, for eber and eber."

"Upon my soul, I am about of the same opinion; so give the benediction,
Fleece, and I'll away to my supper."

Upon this, Fleece, holding both hands over the fishy mob, raised his
shrill voice, and cried--

"Cussed fellow-critters! Kick up de damndest row as ever you can; fill
your dam bellies 'till dey bust--and den die."

"Now, cook," said Stubb, resuming his supper at the capstan; "stand
just where you stood before, there, over against me, and pay particular

"All 'dention," said Fleece, again stooping over upon his tongs in the
desired position.

"Well," said Stubb, helping himself freely meanwhile; "I shall now go
back to the subject of this steak. In the first place, how old are you,

"What dat do wid de 'teak," said the old black, testily.

"Silence! How old are you, cook?"

"'Bout ninety, dey say," he gloomily muttered.

"And you have lived in this world hard upon one hundred years, cook,
and don't know yet how to cook a whale-steak?" rapidly bolting another
mouthful at the last word, so that morsel seemed a continuation of the
question. "Where were you born, cook?"

"'Hind de hatchway, in ferry-boat, goin' ober de Roanoke."

"Born in a ferry-boat! That's queer, too. But I want to know what
country you were born in, cook!"

"Didn't I say de Roanoke country?" he cried sharply.

"No, you didn't, cook; but I'll tell you what I'm coming to, cook.
You must go home and be born over again; you don't know how to cook a
whale-steak yet."

"Bress my soul, if I cook noder one," he growled, angrily, turning round
to depart.

"Come back here, cook;--here, hand me those tongs;--now take that bit of
steak there, and tell me if you think that steak cooked as it should be?
Take it, I say"--holding the tongs towards him--"take it, and taste it."

Faintly smacking his withered lips over it for a moment, the old negro
muttered, "Best cooked 'teak I eber taste; joosy, berry joosy."

"Cook," said Stubb, squaring himself once more; "do you belong to the

"Passed one once in Cape-Down," said the old man sullenly.

"And you have once in your life passed a holy church in Cape-Town, where
you doubtless overheard a holy parson addressing his hearers as his
beloved fellow-creatures, have you, cook! And yet you come here, and
tell me such a dreadful lie as you did just now, eh?" said Stubb. "Where
do you expect to go to, cook?"

"Go to bed berry soon," he mumbled, half-turning as he spoke.

"Avast! heave to! I mean when you die, cook. It's an awful question. Now
what's your answer?"

"When dis old brack man dies," said the negro slowly, changing his whole
air and demeanor, "he hisself won't go nowhere; but some bressed angel
will come and fetch him."

"Fetch him? How? In a coach and four, as they fetched Elijah? And fetch
him where?"

"Up dere," said Fleece, holding his tongs straight over his head, and
keeping it there very solemnly.

"So, then, you expect to go up into our main-top, do you, cook, when you
are dead? But don't you know the higher you climb, the colder it gets?
Main-top, eh?"

"Didn't say dat t'all," said Fleece, again in the sulks.

"You said up there, didn't you? and now look yourself, and see where
your tongs are pointing. But, perhaps you expect to get into heaven by
crawling through the lubber's hole, cook; but, no, no, cook, you don't
get there, except you go the regular way, round by the rigging. It's a
ticklish business, but must be done, or else it's no go. But none of
us are in heaven yet. Drop your tongs, cook, and hear my orders. Do ye
hear? Hold your hat in one hand, and clap t'other a'top of your heart,
when I'm giving my orders, cook. What! that your heart, there?--that's
your gizzard! Aloft! aloft!--that's it--now you have it. Hold it there
now, and pay attention."

"All 'dention," said the old black, with both hands placed as desired,
vainly wriggling his grizzled head, as if to get both ears in front at
one and the same time.

"Well then, cook, you see this whale-steak of yours was so very bad,
that I have put it out of sight as soon as possible; you see that, don't
you? Well, for the future, when you cook another whale-steak for my
private table here, the capstan, I'll tell you what to do so as not to
spoil it by overdoing. Hold the steak in one hand, and show a live coal
to it with the other; that done, dish it; d'ye hear? And now to-morrow,
cook, when we are cutting in the fish, be sure you stand by to get
the tips of his fins; have them put in pickle. As for the ends of the
flukes, have them soused, cook. There, now ye may go."

But Fleece had hardly got three paces off, when he was recalled.

"Cook, give me cutlets for supper to-morrow night in the mid-watch.
D'ye hear? away you sail, then.--Halloa! stop! make a bow before you
go.--Avast heaving again! Whale-balls for breakfast--don't forget."

"Wish, by gor! whale eat him, 'stead of him eat whale. I'm bressed if
he ain't more of shark dan Massa Shark hisself," muttered the old man,
limping away; with which sage ejaculation he went to his hammock.