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Chapter 93: The Castaway.

	


It was but some few days after encountering the Frenchman, that a most
significant event befell the most insignificant of the Pequod's crew; an
event most lamentable; and which ended in providing the sometimes
madly merry and predestinated craft with a living and ever accompanying
prophecy of whatever shattered sequel might prove her own.

Now, in the whale ship, it is not every one that goes in the boats. Some
few hands are reserved called ship-keepers, whose province it is to work
the vessel while the boats are pursuing the whale. As a general thing,
these ship-keepers are as hardy fellows as the men comprising the boats'
crews. But if there happen to be an unduly slender, clumsy, or timorous
wight in the ship, that wight is certain to be made a ship-keeper. It
was so in the Pequod with the little negro Pippin by nick-name, Pip by
abbreviation. Poor Pip! ye have heard of him before; ye must remember
his tambourine on that dramatic midnight, so gloomy-jolly.

In outer aspect, Pip and Dough-Boy made a match, like a black pony and a
white one, of equal developments, though of dissimilar colour, driven in
one eccentric span. But while hapless Dough-Boy was by nature dull and
torpid in his intellects, Pip, though over tender-hearted, was at bottom
very bright, with that pleasant, genial, jolly brightness peculiar to
his tribe; a tribe, which ever enjoy all holidays and festivities with
finer, freer relish than any other race. For blacks, the year's calendar
should show naught but three hundred and sixty-five Fourth of Julys and
New Year's Days. Nor smile so, while I write that this little black was
brilliant, for even blackness has its brilliancy; behold yon lustrous
ebony, panelled in king's cabinets. But Pip loved life, and all life's
peaceable securities; so that the panic-striking business in which he
had somehow unaccountably become entrapped, had most sadly blurred his
brightness; though, as ere long will be seen, what was thus temporarily
subdued in him, in the end was destined to be luridly illumined by
strange wild fires, that fictitiously showed him off to ten times the
natural lustre with which in his native Tolland County in Connecticut,
he had once enlivened many a fiddler's frolic on the green; and at
melodious even-tide, with his gay ha-ha! had turned the round horizon
into one star-belled tambourine. So, though in the clear air of day,
suspended against a blue-veined neck, the pure-watered diamond drop
will healthful glow; yet, when the cunning jeweller would show you
the diamond in its most impressive lustre, he lays it against a gloomy
ground, and then lights it up, not by the sun, but by some unnatural
gases. Then come out those fiery effulgences, infernally superb; then
the evil-blazing diamond, once the divinest symbol of the crystal skies,
looks like some crown-jewel stolen from the King of Hell. But let us to
the story.

It came to pass, that in the ambergris affair Stubb's after-oarsman
chanced so to sprain his hand, as for a time to become quite maimed;
and, temporarily, Pip was put into his place.

The first time Stubb lowered with him, Pip evinced much nervousness;
but happily, for that time, escaped close contact with the whale; and
therefore came off not altogether discreditably; though Stubb observing
him, took care, afterwards, to exhort him to cherish his courageousness
to the utmost, for he might often find it needful.

Now upon the second lowering, the boat paddled upon the whale; and as
the fish received the darted iron, it gave its customary rap, which
happened, in this instance, to be right under poor Pip's seat. The
involuntary consternation of the moment caused him to leap, paddle in
hand, out of the boat; and in such a way, that part of the slack whale
line coming against his chest, he breasted it overboard with him, so as
to become entangled in it, when at last plumping into the water. That
instant the stricken whale started on a fierce run, the line swiftly
straightened; and presto! poor Pip came all foaming up to the chocks
of the boat, remorselessly dragged there by the line, which had taken
several turns around his chest and neck.

Tashtego stood in the bows. He was full of the fire of the hunt. He
hated Pip for a poltroon. Snatching the boat-knife from its sheath,
he suspended its sharp edge over the line, and turning towards Stubb,
exclaimed interrogatively, "Cut?" Meantime Pip's blue, choked face
plainly looked, Do, for God's sake! All passed in a flash. In less than
half a minute, this entire thing happened.

"Damn him, cut!" roared Stubb; and so the whale was lost and Pip was
saved.

So soon as he recovered himself, the poor little negro was assailed
by yells and execrations from the crew. Tranquilly permitting these
irregular cursings to evaporate, Stubb then in a plain, business-like,
but still half humorous manner, cursed Pip officially; and that done,
unofficially gave him much wholesome advice. The substance was, Never
jump from a boat, Pip, except--but all the rest was indefinite, as the
soundest advice ever is. Now, in general, STICK TO THE BOAT, is your
true motto in whaling; but cases will sometimes happen when LEAP FROM
THE BOAT, is still better. Moreover, as if perceiving at last that if he
should give undiluted conscientious advice to Pip, he would be leaving
him too wide a margin to jump in for the future; Stubb suddenly dropped
all advice, and concluded with a peremptory command, "Stick to the boat,
Pip, or by the Lord, I won't pick you up if you jump; mind that. We
can't afford to lose whales by the likes of you; a whale would sell for
thirty times what you would, Pip, in Alabama. Bear that in mind, and
don't jump any more." Hereby perhaps Stubb indirectly hinted, that
though man loved his fellow, yet man is a money-making animal, which
propensity too often interferes with his benevolence.

But we are all in the hands of the Gods; and Pip jumped again. It was
under very similar circumstances to the first performance; but this time
he did not breast out the line; and hence, when the whale started to
run, Pip was left behind on the sea, like a hurried traveller's trunk.
Alas! Stubb was but too true to his word. It was a beautiful, bounteous,
blue day; the spangled sea calm and cool, and flatly stretching away,
all round, to the horizon, like gold-beater's skin hammered out to the
extremest. Bobbing up and down in that sea, Pip's ebon head showed
like a head of cloves. No boat-knife was lifted when he fell so rapidly
astern. Stubb's inexorable back was turned upon him; and the whale was
winged. In three minutes, a whole mile of shoreless ocean was between
Pip and Stubb. Out from the centre of the sea, poor Pip turned his
crisp, curling, black head to the sun, another lonely castaway, though
the loftiest and the brightest.

Now, in calm weather, to swim in the open ocean is as easy to the
practised swimmer as to ride in a spring-carriage ashore. But the awful
lonesomeness is intolerable. The intense concentration of self in the
middle of such a heartless immensity, my God! who can tell it? Mark, how
when sailors in a dead calm bathe in the open sea--mark how closely they
hug their ship and only coast along her sides.

But had Stubb really abandoned the poor little negro to his fate? No; he
did not mean to, at least. Because there were two boats in his wake,
and he supposed, no doubt, that they would of course come up to Pip very
quickly, and pick him up; though, indeed, such considerations towards
oarsmen jeopardized through their own timidity, is not always manifested
by the hunters in all similar instances; and such instances not
unfrequently occur; almost invariably in the fishery, a coward, so
called, is marked with the same ruthless detestation peculiar to
military navies and armies.

But it so happened, that those boats, without seeing Pip, suddenly
spying whales close to them on one side, turned, and gave chase; and
Stubb's boat was now so far away, and he and all his crew so intent
upon his fish, that Pip's ringed horizon began to expand around him
miserably. By the merest chance the ship itself at last rescued him; but
from that hour the little negro went about the deck an idiot; such, at
least, they said he was. The sea had jeeringly kept his finite body
up, but drowned the infinite of his soul. Not drowned entirely, though.
Rather carried down alive to wondrous depths, where strange shapes of
the unwarped primal world glided to and fro before his passive eyes;
and the miser-merman, Wisdom, revealed his hoarded heaps; and among the
joyous, heartless, ever-juvenile eternities, Pip saw the multitudinous,
God-omnipresent, coral insects, that out of the firmament of waters
heaved the colossal orbs. He saw God's foot upon the treadle of the
loom, and spoke it; and therefore his shipmates called him mad. So man's
insanity is heaven's sense; and wandering from all mortal reason, man
comes at last to that celestial thought, which, to reason, is absurd and
frantic; and weal or woe, feels then uncompromised, indifferent as his
God.

For the rest, blame not Stubb too hardly. The thing is common in that
fishery; and in the sequel of the narrative, it will then be seen what
like abandonment befell myself.