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Chapter 88: Schools and Schoolmasters.

	


The previous chapter gave account of an immense body or herd of Sperm
Whales, and there was also then given the probable cause inducing those
vast aggregations.

Now, though such great bodies are at times encountered, yet, as must
have been seen, even at the present day, small detached bands are
occasionally observed, embracing from twenty to fifty individuals each.
Such bands are known as schools. They generally are of two sorts; those
composed almost entirely of females, and those mustering none but young
vigorous males, or bulls, as they are familiarly designated.

In cavalier attendance upon the school of females, you invariably see a
male of full grown magnitude, but not old; who, upon any alarm, evinces
his gallantry by falling in the rear and covering the flight of his
ladies. In truth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman, swimming about
over the watery world, surroundingly accompanied by all the solaces
and endearments of the harem. The contrast between this Ottoman and
his concubines is striking; because, while he is always of the largest
leviathanic proportions, the ladies, even at full growth, are not
more than one-third of the bulk of an average-sized male. They are
comparatively delicate, indeed; I dare say, not to exceed half a dozen
yards round the waist. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied, that upon the
whole they are hereditarily entitled to EMBONPOINT.

It is very curious to watch this harem and its lord in their indolent
ramblings. Like fashionables, they are for ever on the move in leisurely
search of variety. You meet them on the Line in time for the full flower
of the Equatorial feeding season, having just returned, perhaps, from
spending the summer in the Northern seas, and so cheating summer of all
unpleasant weariness and warmth. By the time they have lounged up and
down the promenade of the Equator awhile, they start for the Oriental
waters in anticipation of the cool season there, and so evade the other
excessive temperature of the year.

When serenely advancing on one of these journeys, if any strange
suspicious sights are seen, my lord whale keeps a wary eye on his
interesting family. Should any unwarrantably pert young Leviathan coming
that way, presume to draw confidentially close to one of the ladies,
with what prodigious fury the Bashaw assails him, and chases him away!
High times, indeed, if unprincipled young rakes like him are to be
permitted to invade the sanctity of domestic bliss; though do what the
Bashaw will, he cannot keep the most notorious Lothario out of his bed;
for, alas! all fish bed in common. As ashore, the ladies often cause the
most terrible duels among their rival admirers; just so with the whales,
who sometimes come to deadly battle, and all for love. They fence with
their long lower jaws, sometimes locking them together, and so striving
for the supremacy like elks that warringly interweave their antlers. Not
a few are captured having the deep scars of these encounters,--furrowed
heads, broken teeth, scolloped fins; and in some instances, wrenched and
dislocated mouths.

But supposing the invader of domestic bliss to betake himself away at
the first rush of the harem's lord, then is it very diverting to watch
that lord. Gently he insinuates his vast bulk among them again and
revels there awhile, still in tantalizing vicinity to young Lothario,
like pious Solomon devoutly worshipping among his thousand concubines.
Granting other whales to be in sight, the fishermen will seldom give
chase to one of these Grand Turks; for these Grand Turks are too lavish
of their strength, and hence their unctuousness is small. As for the
sons and the daughters they beget, why, those sons and daughters must
take care of themselves; at least, with only the maternal help. For
like certain other omnivorous roving lovers that might be named, my Lord
Whale has no taste for the nursery, however much for the bower; and so,
being a great traveller, he leaves his anonymous babies all over the
world; every baby an exotic. In good time, nevertheless, as the ardour
of youth declines; as years and dumps increase; as reflection lends
her solemn pauses; in short, as a general lassitude overtakes the sated
Turk; then a love of ease and virtue supplants the love for maidens; our
Ottoman enters upon the impotent, repentant, admonitory stage of life,
forswears, disbands the harem, and grown to an exemplary, sulky old
soul, goes about all alone among the meridians and parallels saying his
prayers, and warning each young Leviathan from his amorous errors.

Now, as the harem of whales is called by the fishermen a school, so
is the lord and master of that school technically known as the
schoolmaster. It is therefore not in strict character, however admirably
satirical, that after going to school himself, he should then go abroad
inculcating not what he learned there, but the folly of it. His title,
schoolmaster, would very naturally seem derived from the name bestowed
upon the harem itself, but some have surmised that the man who first
thus entitled this sort of Ottoman whale, must have read the memoirs of
Vidocq, and informed himself what sort of a country-schoolmaster that
famous Frenchman was in his younger days, and what was the nature of
those occult lessons he inculcated into some of his pupils.

The same secludedness and isolation to which the schoolmaster whale
betakes himself in his advancing years, is true of all aged Sperm
Whales. Almost universally, a lone whale--as a solitary Leviathan is
called--proves an ancient one. Like venerable moss-bearded Daniel Boone,
he will have no one near him but Nature herself; and her he takes to
wife in the wilderness of waters, and the best of wives she is, though
she keeps so many moody secrets.

The schools composing none but young and vigorous males, previously
mentioned, offer a strong contrast to the harem schools. For while
those female whales are characteristically timid, the young males, or
forty-barrel-bulls, as they call them, are by far the most pugnacious
of all Leviathans, and proverbially the most dangerous to encounter;
excepting those wondrous grey-headed, grizzled whales, sometimes met,
and these will fight you like grim fiends exasperated by a penal gout.

The Forty-barrel-bull schools are larger than the harem schools. Like
a mob of young collegians, they are full of fight, fun, and wickedness,
tumbling round the world at such a reckless, rollicking rate, that no
prudent underwriter would insure them any more than he would a riotous
lad at Yale or Harvard. They soon relinquish this turbulence though,
and when about three-fourths grown, break up, and separately go about in
quest of settlements, that is, harems.

Another point of difference between the male and female schools is
still more characteristic of the sexes. Say you strike a
Forty-barrel-bull--poor devil! all his comrades quit him. But strike
a member of the harem school, and her companions swim around her with
every token of concern, sometimes lingering so near her and so long, as
themselves to fall a prey.