16 The Ship
In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my surprise and no small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand, that he had been diligently consulting Yojo—the name of his black little god—and Yojo had told him two or three times over, and strongly insisted upon it everyway, that instead of our going together among the whaling-fleet in harbor, and in concert selecting our craft; instead of this, I say, Yojo earnestly enjoined that the selection of the ship should rest wholly with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed befriending us; and, in order to do so, had already pitched upon a vessel, which, if left to myself, I, Ishmael, should infallibly light upon, for all the world as though it had turned out by chance; and in that vessel I must immediately ship myself, for the present irrespective of Queequeg.
I have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg placed great confidence in the excellence of Yojo’s judgment and surprising forecast of things; and cherished Yojo with considerable esteem, as a rather good sort of god, who perhaps meant well enough upon the whole, but in all cases did not succeed in his benevolent designs.
Now, this plan of Queequeg’s, or rather Yojo’s, touching the selection of our craft; I did not like that plan at all. I had not a little relied upon Queequeg’s sagacity to point out the whaler best fitted to carry us and our fortunes securely. But as all my remonstrances produced no effect upon Queequeg, I was obliged to acquiesce; and accordingly prepared to set about this business with a determined rushing sort of energy and vigor, that should quickly settle that trifling little affair. Next morning early, leaving Queequeg shut up with Yojo in our little bedroom—for it seemed that it was some sort of Lent or RamadanLent or Ramadan: religious observances similar to Quequeg’s. Lent, the forty day period (exluding Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to Easter, is for Christians a time of prayer and dietary restrictions, During Ramadan, ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims fast each day until sundown., or day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer with Queequeg and Yojo that day; how it was I never could find out, for, though I applied myself to it several times, I never could master his liturgies and XXXIX ArticlesREVISION NARRATIVE: I never could master his liturgies and XXXIX Articles // The Articles of Religion are thirty-nine statements of faith, established by parliament, to which Anglican congregants and priests subscribe. Melville's British editors revised the sentence to read “I never could master his religion,” a revision that amounts to a religious expurgation. The edition also starts the paragraph for this sentence with "Next morning early...." To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin.—leaving Queequeg, then, fasting on his tomahawk pipe, and Yojo warming himself at his sacrificial fire of shavings, I sallied out among the shippingthe shipping: The ships in port and belonging to that port. These ships are apparently docked, but later in the chapter the Pequod is swinging to her anchor.. After much prolonged sauntering and many random inquiries, I learnt that there were three ships up for three-years’ voyages—The Devil-dam, the Tit-bit, and the PequodDevil-dam, Tit-bit, and Pequod: The first two ship names derive from a salacious passage in Rabelais (see Bryant, Melville: A Half Known Life, 2.741). The Pequod is named after the Mashantucket Pequot tribal nation, an Algonquin people of Connecticut. Although "Pequot" means “destroyer,” the nation was nearly annihilated in the Pequot War of 1636-1638. Contrary to Ishmael's remarks, it was never "extinct" and still exists today.. Devil-Dam, I do not know the origin of; Tit-bit is obvious; Pequod, you will no doubt remember, was the name of a celebrated tribe of Massachusetts Indians, now extinct as the ancient MedesMedes: The Median kingdom in Persia (present-day Iran) lasted from about 728 to 550 BCE.. I peered and pryed about the Devil-Dam; from her, hopped over to the Tit-bit; and, finally, going on board the Pequod, looked around her for a moment, and then decided that this was the very ship for us.
You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for aught I know;—square-toed luggerssquare-toed luggers, ... junks . . . galliots: types of old-fashioned sailing vessels.; mountainous Japanese junks; butter-box galliots, and what not; but take my word for it, you never saw such a rare old craft as this same rare old Pequod. She was a ship of the old school, rather small if anything; with an old fashioned claw-footed look about her. Long seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms of all four oceans, her old hull’s complexion was darkened like a French grenadier’s, who has alike fought in Egypt and SiberiaEgypt and Siberia: Napoleon and his army never reached Siberia in his 1812 invasion of Russia, though he had invaded Egypt in 1798. A grenadier is a grenade-carrying foot soldier.. Her venerable bows looked bearded. Her masts—cut somewhere on the coast of Japan, where her original ones were lost overboard in a gale—her masts stood stiffly up like the spines of the three old kings of Colognethree old kings of Cologne: The Magi, who brought gifts to the newborn Jesus. According to tradition, their bones are enshrined at the Cologne Cathedral, which Melville visited in his 1849 trip to Prussia.. Her ancient decks were worn and wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped flag-stone in Canterbury Cathedral where Becket bledBecket bled: Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Becket (1118-1170) was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral and later canonized. Melville visited there in 1849.. But to all these her old antiquities, were added new and marvellous features, pertaining to the wild business that for more than half a century she had followed. Old Captain PelegPeleg: Since in Hebrew the name means “division” or “part” (see Genesis 10.25, 11.16)—as in the dividing of people into nations—Peleg's involvement in determining the lays (or portion of profits assigned to whalers) is appropriate., many years her chief-mate, before he commanded another vessel of his own, and now a retired seaman, and one of the principal owners of the Pequod,—this old Peleg, during the term of his chief-mateship, had built upon her original grotesqueness, and inlaid it, all over, with a quaintness both of material and device, unmatched by anything except it be Thorkill-HakeThorkill-Hake’s carved buckler or bedstead: Properly “Thorkell-Hákr,” eleventh-century fighter in the Icelandic Njalssaga, whose deeds were carved on his bed and footstool. Melville’s source for Thorkell’s story in the then-untranslated saga is unknown.’s carved buckler or bedstead. She was apparelled like any barbaric Ethiopian emperor, his neck heavy with pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of trophies. A cannibal of a craft, trickingtricking: ornamenting. herself forth in the chasedchased: grooved, engraved. bones of her enemies. All round, her unpanelled, open bulwarksopen bulwarks: railings around the ship above the deck, although in Ch. 51 the bulwarks are solid walls as on most whaling vessels. were garnished like one continuous jaw, with the long sharp teeth of the sperm whale, inserted there for pinspins: belaying pins, to which ropes are temporarily secured. , to fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran not through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled over sheavessheaves: wheels or rollers within blocks; the combination is a pulley. of sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her reverend helmhelm: steering position. , she sported there a tillertiller: steering lever attached to the rudder.; and that tiller was in one mass, curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of her hereditary foe. The helmsman who steered by that tiller in a tempest, felt like the Tartar, when he holds back his fiery steed by clutching its jaw. A noble craft, but somehow a most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.
Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one having authority, in order to propose myself as a candidate for the voyage, at first I saw nobody; but I could not well overlook a strange sort of tent, or rather wigwam, pitched a little behind the main-mast. It seemed only a temporary erection used in port. It was of a conical shape, some ten feet high; consisting of the long, huge slabs of limber black bonelimber black bone . . . right-whale: Baleen, also called “whalebone,” the fibrous plates with which this toothless whale strains its food from sea water. taken from the middle and highest part of the jaws of the right-whale. Planted with their broad ends on the deck, a circle of these slabs laced together, mutually sloped towards each other, and at the apex united in a tufted point, where the loose hairy fibres waved to and fro like the top-knot on some old Pottowottamie Sachem’s headtop-knot on some old Pottowottamie Sachem’s head: distinctive scalp-lock on a chief of the Potawotomi tribe, originally from New York State but removed to a Kansas reservation by the 1840s.. A triangular opening faced towards the bows of the ship, so that the insider commanded a complete view forward.
And half concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found one who by his aspect seemed to have authority; and who, it being noon, and the ship’s work suspended, was now enjoying respite from the burden of command. He was seated on an old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all over with curious carving; and the bottom of which was formed of a stout interlacing of the same elastic stuff of which the wigwam was constructed.
There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the appearance of the elderly man I saw; he was brown and brawny, like most old seamen, and heavily rolled up in blue pilot-cloth, cut in the Quaker styleQuaker style: Plain and square-cut. Blue was a common color for seamen, though Quakers usually wore brown.; only there was a fine and almost microscopic net-work of the minutest wrinkles interlacing round his eyes, which must have arisen from his continual sailings in many hard gales, and always looking to windward;—for this causes the muscles about the eyes to become pursed together. Such eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a scowl.
“Is this the Captain of the Pequod?” said I, advancing to the door of the tent.
“Supposing it be the Captain of the Pequod, what dost thou want of him?” he demanded.
“I was thinking of shipping.”
“Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer—ever been in a stove boat?”
“No, Sir, I never have”
“Dost know nothing at all about whaling, I dare say—eh?”
“Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn. I’ve been several voyages in the merchant service, and I think that—”
“Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me.
Dost see that leg?—I’ll take that leg away from thy stern, if ever thou talkest of the marchant service to me again. Marchant service indeed! I suppose now ye feel considerable proud of having served in those marchant ships. But flukes! man, what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?—it looks a little suspicious, don’t it, eh?—Hast not been a pirate, hast thou?—Didst not rob thy last Captain, didst thou?—Dost not think of murdering the officers when thou gettest to sea?”
I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under the mask of these half humorous inuendoes, this old seaman, as an insulated Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his insular prejudices, and rather distrustful of all aliens, unless they hailed from Cape Cod or the VineyardCape Cod or the Vineyard: Fishhook shaped, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, named for the once-plentiful codfish, extends into the Atlantic Ocean from the U.S. mainland; Martha's Vineyard, an Atlantic island south of the base of the Cape and west of Nantucket..
“But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that before I think of shipping ye.”
“Well, sir, I want to see what whaling is. I want to see the world.”
“Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab?”
“Who is Captain Ahab, sir?”
“Aye, aye, I thought so. Captain Ahab is the Captain of this ship.”
“I am mistaken then. I thought I was speaking to the Captain himself.”
“Thou art speaking to Captain Peleg—that’s who ye are speaking to, young man. It belongs to me and Captain BildadBildad: One of Job’s pious friends chastised by God in the Book of Job. to see the Pequod fitted out for the voyage, and supplied with all her needs, including crew. We are part owners and agents. But as I was going to say, if thou wantest to know what whaling is, as thou tellest ye do, I can put ye in a way of finding it out before ye bind yourself to it, past backing out. Clap eye on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find that he has only one leg.”
“What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?”
“Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured, chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacettyparmacetty: sperm whale, from spermaceti. that ever chipped a boat!—ah, ah!”
I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little touched at the hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but said as calmly as I could, “What you say is no doubt true enough, sir; but how could I know there was any peculiar ferocity in that particular whale, though indeed I might have inferred as much from the simple fact of the accident.”
“Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of softthy lungs are a sort of soft: you have a meek way of speaking., d’ye see; thou dost not talk shark a bitthou dost not talk shark a bit: you do not speak straightforwardly (as would a shark).. Sure, ye’ve been to sea before now; sure of that?”
“Sir,” said I, “I thought I told you that I had been four voyages in the merchant—”
“Hard down out of that!Hard down out of that!: “Stay away from that subject!” Mind what I said about the marchant service—don’t aggravate me—I won’t have it. But let us understand each other. I have given thee a hint about what whaling is; do ye yet feel inclined for it?”
“I do, sir.”
“Very good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon down a live whale’s throat, and then jump after it? Answer, quick!”
“I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so; not to be got rid of, that is; which I don’t take to be the fact.”
“Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling, to find out by experience what whaling is, but ye also want to go in order to see the world? Was not that what ye said? I thought so. Well then, just step forward there, and take a peep over the weather-bowweather-bow: side of the bow on which the wind is blowing., and then back to me and tell me what ye see there.”
For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request, not knowing exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in earnest. But concentrating all his crow’s feet into one scowl, Captain Peleg started me on the errand.
Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived that the ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide, was now obliquely pointing towards the open ocean. The prospect was unlimited, but exceedingly monotonous and forbidding; not the slightest variety that I could see.
“Well, what’s the report?” said Peleg when I came back; “what did ye see?”
“Not much,” I replied—“nothing but water; considerable horizon though, and there’s a squallsquall: sudden storm. coming up, I think.”
“Well, what dost thou think then of seeing the world? Do ye wish to go round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh? Can’t ye see the world where you stand?”
I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I would; and the Pequod was as good a ship as any—I thought the best—and all this I now repeated to Peleg. Seeing me so determined, he expressed his willingness to ship me.
“And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off,” he added—“come along with ye.” And so saying, he led the way below deck into the cabin.
Seated on the transomtransom: crossbeam in the stern, used as a seat. was what seemed to me a most uncommon and surprising figure. It turned out to be Captain Bildad, who along with Captain Peleg was one of the largest owners of the vessel; the other shares, as is sometimes the case in these ports, being held by a crowd of old annuitantsannuitants . . . chancery wards: people living on fixed annual income; chancery wards are under court guardianship.; widows, fatherless children, and chancery wards; each owning about the value of a timber head, or a foot of plank, or a nail or two in the ship. People in Nantucket invest their money in whaling vessels, the same way that you do yours in approved state stocks bringing in good interest.
Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers, was a Quaker, the island having been originally settled by that sect; and to this day its inhabitants in general retain in an uncommon measure the peculiarities of the Quaker, only variously and anomalously modified by things altogether alien and heterogeneous. For some of these same Quakers are the most sanguinarysanguinary: bloodthirsty. of all sailors and whale-hunters. They are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeanceQuakers with a vengeance: A play on words: members of the Religious Society of Friends, known as Quakers because they were said to tremble in awe of God’s word, are pacifists by creed, and thus should not be given to fighting or revenge..
So that there are instances among them of men, who, named with Scripture names—a singularly common fashion on the island—and in childhood naturally imbibing the stately dramatic thee and thou of the Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious, daring, and boundless adventure of their subsequent lives, strangely blend with these unoutgrown peculiarities, a thousand bold dashes of character, not unworthy a Scandinavian sea-king, or a poetical Pagan Roman. And when these things unite in a man of greatly superior natural force, with a globular brain and a ponderous heart; who has also by the stillness and seclusion of many long night-watches in the remotest waters, and beneath constellations never seen here at the north, been led to think untraditionally and independently; receiving all nature’s sweet or savage impressions fresh from her own virgin, voluntary, and confiding breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some help from accidental advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty language—that man makes one in a whole nation’s census—a mighty pageant creature, formed for noble tragedies. Nor will it at all detract from him, dramatically regarded, if either by birth or other circumstances, he have what seems a half wilful over-ruling morbidnessmorbidness: unhealthy preoccupation with unwholesome matters. at the bottom of his nature. For all men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness. Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but disease. But, as yet we have not to do with such an one, but with quite another; and still a man, who, if indeed peculiar, it only results again from another phase of the Quaker, modified by individual circumstances.
Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired whaleman. But unlike Captain Peleg—who cared not a rushrush: reed; hence “cared not at all.” for what are called serious things, and indeed deemed those self-same serious things the veriest of all trifles—Captain Bildad had not only been originally educated according to the strictest sect of Nantucket Quakerism, but all his subsequent ocean life, and the sight of many unclad, lovely island creatures, round the Hornthe Horn: South America's Cape Horn.—all that had not moved this native born Quaker one single jot, had not so much as altered one angle of his vest. Still, for all this immutableness, was there some lack of common consistency about worthy Captain Bildad. Though refusing, from conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land invaders, yet himself had illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific; and though a sworn foe to human bloodshed, yet had he in his straight-bodied coat, spilled tuns upon tunstuns: huge barrels holding 252 gallons. of leviathan gore. How now in the contemplative evening of his days, the pious Bildad reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do not know; but it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably he had long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man’s religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another. This world pays dividends. Rising from a little cabin-boy in short clothes of the drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a broad shad-bellied waistcoatshad-bellied waistcoat: a cutaway coat with tails, generally formal wear so a bit pretentious for a harpooneer; also common among Quaker men attending Sunday meeting.; from that becoming boat-headerboat-header: commander of a whaleboat, usually a mate, who kills the harpooned whale., chief-mate, and captain, and finally a ship-owner; Bildad, as I hinted before, had concluded his adventurous career by wholly retiring from active life at the goodly age of sixty, and dedicating his remaining days to the quiet receiving of his well-earned income.
Now Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being an incorrigible old hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter, hard task-master. They told me in Nantucket, though it certainly seems a curious story, that when he sailed the old Categutold Categut whaleman: A whaleship apparently named for the Kattegat Strait between Denmark and Sweden. whaleman, his crew, upon arriving home, were mostly all carried ashore to the hospital, sore exhausted and worn out. For a pious man, especially for a Quaker, he was certainly rather hard-hearted, to say the least. He never used to swear, though, at his men, they said; but somehow he got an inordinate quantity of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them. When Bildad was a chief-mate, to have his drab-colored eye intently looking at you, made you feel completely nervous, till you could clutch something—a hammer or a marling-spikemarling-spike: pointed steel tool used in splicing rope., and go to work like mad, at something or other, never mind what. Indolence and idleness perished from before him. His own person was the exact embodiment of his utilitarian character. On his long, gaunt body, he carried no spare flesh, no superfluous beard, his chin having a soft, economical nap to it, like the worn nap of his broad-brimmed hat.
Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom when I followed Captain Peleg down into the cabin. The space between the decks was small; and there, bolt-upright, sat old Bildad, who always sat so, and never leaned, and this to save his coat tails. His broad-brimbroad-brim: hat generally worn by Quaker men. was placed beside him; his legs were stiffly crossed; his drab vesture was buttoned up to his chin; and spectacles on nose, he seemed absorbed in reading from a ponderous volume.
“Bildad,” cried Captain Peleg, “at it again, Bildad, eh? Ye have been studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty years, to my certain knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad?”
As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate, Bildad, without noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked up, and seeing me, glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg.
“He says he’s our man, Bildad,” said Peleg, “he wants to ship.”
“Dost thee?” said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning round to me.
“I dost,” said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.
“What do ye think of him, Bildad?” said Peleg.
“He’ll do,” said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling away atspelling away at: reading. his book in a mumbling tone quite audible.
I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially as Peleg, his friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer. But I said nothing, only looking round me sharply. Peleg now threw open a chest, and drawing forth the ship’s articles, placed pen and ink before him, and seated himself at a little table. I began to think it was high time to settle with myself at what terms I would be willing to engage for the voyage. I was already aware that in the whaling business they paid no wages; but all hands, including the captain, received certain shares of the profits called lays, and that these lays were proportioned to the degree of importance pertaining to the respective duties of the ship’s company. I was also aware that being a green hand at whaling, my own lay would not be very large; but considering that I was used to the sea, could steer a ship, splice a ropesplice a rope: weaving together the ends of two ropes., and all that, I made no doubt that from all I had heard I should be offered at least the 275th lay275th lay: Ishmael’s share would be 0.36 percent of the voyage’s profit.—that is, the 275th part of the clear nett proceeds of the voyage, whatever that might eventually amount to. And though the 275th lay was what they call a rather long lay, yet it was better than nothing; and if we had a lucky voyage, might pretty nearly pay for the clothing I would wear out on it, not to speak of my three years’ beef and board, for which I would not have to pay one stiverstiver: small Dutch coin..
It might be thought that this was a poor way to accumulate a princely fortune—and so it was, a very poor way indeed. But I am one of those that never take on about princely fortunes, and am quite content if the world is ready to board and lodge me, while I am putting up at this grim sign of the Thunder Cloudputting up at this grim sign of the Thunder Cloud: living at this threatening inn called the Earth.. Upon the whole, I thought that the 275th lay would be about the fair thing, but would not have been surprised had I been offered the 200th, considering I was of a broad-shouldered make.
But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a little distrustful about receiving a generous share of the profits was this: Ashore, I had heard something of both Captain Peleg and his unaccountable old crony Bildad; how that they being the principal proprietors of the Pequod, therefore the other and more inconsi-derable and scattered owners, left nearly the whole management of the ship’s affairs to these two. And I did not know but what the stingy old Bildad might have a mighty deal to say about shipping hands, especially as I now found him on board the Pequod, quite at home there in the cabin, and reading his Bible as if at his own fireside. Now while Peleg was vainly trying to mend a pen with his jack-knife, old Bildad, to my no small surprise, considering that he was such an interested party in these proceedings; Bildad never heeded us, but went on mumbling to himself out of his book, “Lay not up“‘Lay not up . . . where moth—’”: “Stingy” Bildad’s selective muttering of scripture reveals him to be perhaps stingy, perhaps conscientious, perhaps self-serving, and Melville’s comic treatment of the stern figure brings out his apparent hypocrisies. The full passage from which he draws is “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19–21). In quoting Jesus, Bildad deletes the biblical passage’s reference to “thieves,” perhaps avoiding allusion to his own thievery in offering Ishmael the absurd 777th lay; his subsequent focus on widows, orphans, and Peleg’s “conscience” might also be self-serving. for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth—”
“Well, Captain Bildad,” interrupted Peleg, “what d’ye say, what lay shall we give this young man?”
“Thou knowest best,” was the sepulchral reply, “the seven hundred and seventy-seventhseven hundred and seventy-seventh: Punning biblical allusion to Lamech, who lived 777 years (Genesis 5.31). wouldn’t be too much, would it?—‘where moth and rust do corrupt, but lay—’”
Lay, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred and seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are determined that I, for one, shall not lay up many lays here below, where moth and rust do corrupt. It was an exceedingly long lay that, indeed; and though from the magnitude of the figure it might at first deceive a landsman, yet the slightest consideration will show that though seven hundred and seventy-seven is a pretty large number, yet, when you come to make a teenth of it, you will then see, I say, that the seven hundred and seventy-seventh part of a farthingfarthing: British coin worth one-fourth of a penny. is a good deal less than seven hundred and seventy-seven gold doubloonsdoubloons: Spanish gold coins weighing one ounce and worth 16 silver dollars.; and so I thought at the time.
“Why, blast your eyes, Bildad,” cried Peleg, “thou dost not want to swindle this young man! he must have more than that.”
“Seven hundred and seventy-seventh,” again said Bildad, without lifting his eyes; and then went on mumbling—“for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
“I am going to put him down for the three hundredth,” said Peleg, “do ye hear that, Bildad! The three hundredth lay, I say.”
Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly towards him said, “Captain Peleg, thou hast a generous heart; but thou must consider the duty thou owest to the other owners of this ship—widows and orphans, many of them—and that if we too abundantly reward the labors of this young man, we may be taking the bread from those widows and those orphans. The seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay, Captain Peleg.”
“Thou Bildad!” roared Peleg, starting up and clattering about the cabin.
“Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed thy advice in these matters, I would afore now had a conscience to lug about that would be heavy enough to founder the largest ship that ever sailed round Cape Horn.”
“Captain Peleg,” said Bildad steadily, “thy conscience may be drawing ten inches of water, or ten fathoms, I can’t tell; but as thou art still an impenitent mandrawing ten inches of water, or ten fathoms . . . impenitent man: “Drawing” refers to how much water a vessel needs to float; here, 10 inches implies innocence, while 60 feet implies a guilty conscience. Impenitent means unrepentant, and more generally, resistant to God’s will. Revivalist preachers of the day urged listeners to renounce their “impenitent state” and seek salvation. Although Quakerism, like other Protestant denominations, had its own range of adherents, some of them fundamentalist, they did not require public announcements of faith. Documents on faith and practice in the New York and the New England Yearly Meetings of the Society of Friends (Quakers) do not mention “impenitence” as a barrier to membership in a meeting, although members might be “disowned” if their unspiritual behavior persisted. By calling Peleg an “impenitent man,” Bildad is asserting his opinion that as a Quaker, Peleg is excessively secular and profane., Captain Peleg, I greatly fear lest thy conscience be but a leaky one; and will in the end sink thee foundering down to the fiery pit, Captain Peleg.”
“Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural bearing, ye insult me. It’s an all-fired outrage to tell any human creature that he’s bound to hell. Flukes and flames! Bildad, say that again to me, and start my soul-boltsstart my soul-bolts: “upon my soul,” or “I’ll be damned,” without blasphemy. , but I’ll—I’ll—yes, I’ll swallow a live goat with all his hair and horns on. Out of the cabin, ye cantingcanting: using religious jargon. , drab-colored son of a wooden gunson of a wooden gun: Wives of British naval officers bearing children gave birth below deck between cannon, giving rise to the mildly derogatory term "son of a gun." Melville extends the conceit with a Quaker application to accommodate the banter between the presumably pacifist (and generally silent in worship) Quaker shipmen Peleg and Bildad: a "wooden gun" is a dummy cannon, usually a black-painted log, designed to deceive the enemy and generally called a "Quaker gun" because it cannot be fired and is therefore silent. In having one Quaker call another Quaker "a son of a wooden gun," Melville comes close to the comic tautology of a Quaker being the son of a Quaker; it is a joke just among friends.—a straight wake with yea straight wake with ye!: “Get out of here!”!”
As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with a marvellous oblique, sliding celerity, Bildad for that time eluded him.
Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal and responsible owners of the ship, and feeling half a mind to give up all idea of sailing in a vessel so questionably owned and temporarily commanded, I stepped aside from the door to give egress to Bildad, who, I made no doubt, was all eagerness to vanish from before the awakened wrath of Peleg. But to my astonishment, he sat down again on the transom very quietly, and seemed to have not the slightest intention of withdrawing. He seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg and his ways. As for Peleg, after letting off his rage as he had, there seemed no more left in him, and he, too, sat down like a lamb, though he twitched a little as if still nervously agitated. “Whew!” he whistled at last—“the squall’s gone off to leewardto leeward: downwind; that is, “I’m calm again.”, I think. Bildad, thou used to be good at sharpening a lance, mend that pen, will ye. My jack-knife here needs the grindstone. That’s he; thank yeThat’s he; thank ye, Bildad.: Both the American and British editions print “That’s he.” However, the editors of the NN Moby-Dick (and Mansfield and Vincent before them) speculate that the words are a corruption based on a mis-transcription of Melville’s handwriting, and since “the context makes clear” (NN 792) that Melville intends Peleg to repeat himself, they change “That’s he” to “Thank ye.” However, the context also indicates that Peleg has asked Bildad to sharpen his quill, and may be saying “That’s he” (meaning something like “That’s it”) upon receiving the sharpened quill from his partner. Finding no compelling reason to emend the text, MEL retains the American and British version., Bildad. Now then, my young man, Ishmael’s thy name, didn’t ye say? Well then, down ye go here, Ishmael, for the three hundredth lay.”
“Captain Peleg,” said I, “I have a friend with me who wants to ship too—shall I bring him down to-morrow?”
“To be sure,” said Peleg. “Fetch him along, and we’ll look at him.”
“What lay does he want REVISION NARRATIVE: "What lay does he want?” // The British edition italicizes “he” to indicate Bildad’s emphasis of the word, and the NN Moby-Dick also italicizes. Melville certainly made this revision on the proof sheets he sent to England, either to fulfill his original intention or to add the emphasis as a new thought while proofreading. In keeping with its principle of not mixing stages of revision, MEL retains the unitalicized original. To compare American and British pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin.?" groaned Bildad, glancing up from the book in which he had again been burying himself.
“Oh! never thee mind about that, Bildad,” said Peleg. “Has he ever whaled it any?” turning to me.
“Killed more whales than I can count, Captain Peleg.”
“Well, bring him along then.”
And, after signing the papers, off I went; nothing doubting but that I had done a good morning’s work, and that the Pequod was the identical ship that Yojo had provided to carry Queequeg and me round the Cape.
But I had not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me that the captain with whom I was to sail yet remained unseen by me; though indeed, in many cases, a whale-ship will be completely fitted out, and receive all her crew on board, ere the captain makes himself visible by arriving to take command; for sometimes these voyages are so prolonged, and the shore inter-vals at home so exceedingly brief, that if the captain have a family, or any absorbing concernment of that sort, he does not trouble himself much about his ship in port, but leaves her to the owners till all is ready for sea. However, it is always as well to have a look at him before irrevocably committing yourself into his hands. Turning back I accosted Captain Peleg, inquiring where Captain Ahab was to be found.
“And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It’s all right enough; thou art shipped.”
“Yes, but I should like to see him.”
“But I don’t think thou wilt be able to at present. I don’t know exactly what’s the matter with him; but he keeps close inside the house; a sort of sick, and yet he don’t look so. In fact, he ain’t sick; but no, he isn’t well either. Any how, young man, he won’t always see me, so I don’t suppose he will thee. He’s a queer man, Captain Ahab—so some think—but a good one. Oh, thou’lt like him well enough; no fear, no fear. He’s a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab; doesn’t speak much; but, when he does speak, then you may well listen. Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab’s above the common; Ahab’s been in colleges, as well as ’mong the cannibals; been used to deeper wonders than the waves; fixed his fiery lance in mightier, stranger foes than whales. His lance! aye, the keenest and the surest that, out of all our isle! Oh! he ain’t Captain Bildad; no, and he ain’t Captain Peleg; he’s Ahab, boy; and Ahab of oldAhab of old . . . blood: Ishmael is correct. Melville took many hints for his Ahab from the story of the wicked king of Israel in 1 Kings 16–22., thou knowest, was a crowned king!”
“And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain, the dogs, did they not lick his blood?”
“Come hither to me—hither, hither,” said Peleg, with a significance in his eye that almost startled me. “Look ye, lad; never say that on board the Pequod. Never say it anywhere. Captain Ahab did not name himself. ’Twas a foolish, ignorant whim of his crazy, widowed mother, who died when he was only a twelvemonth old. And yet the old squaw Tistig, at Gay-headGay-head: western tip of Martha’s Vineyard, also home to Tashtego., said that the name would somehow prove prophetic. And, perhaps, other fools like her may tell thee the same. I wish to warn thee. It’s a lie. I know Captain Ahab well; I’ve sailed with him as mate years ago; I know what he is—a good man—not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a swearing good man—something like me—only there’s a good deal more of him. Aye, aye, I know that he was never very jolly; and I know that on the passage home, he was a little out of his mind for a spell; but it was the sharp shooting pains in his bleeding stump that brought that about, as any one might see. I know, too, that ever since he lost his leg last voyage by that accursed whale, he’s been a kind of moody—desperate moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all pass off. And once for all, let me tell thee and assure thee, young man, it’s better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing bad one. So good-bye to thee—and wrong not Captain Ahab, because he happens to have a wicked name. Besides, my boy, he has a wife—not three voyages wedded—a sweet, resigned girl. Think of that; by that sweet girl that old man has a child: hold ye then there can be any utter, hopeless harm in Ahab? No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if he be, Ahab has his humanitieshumanities: humane characteristics.!”
As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had been incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me with a certain wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him. And somehow, at the time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for him, but for I don’t know what, unless it was the cruel loss of his leg. And yet I also felt a strange awe of him; but that sort of awe, which I cannot at all describe, was not exactly awe; I do not know what it was. But I felt it; and it did not disincline me towards him; though I felt impatience at what seemed like mystery in him, so imperfectly as he was known to me thenso imperfectly as he was known to me then: Ishmael narrates his tale retrospectively, growing in understanding as he tells it. Thus, his use of the word “then” reminds him and us that, at least as far as his understanding of Ahab is concerned, he has come to know this mysterious man less imperfectly.. However, my thoughts were at length carried in other directions, so that for the present dark Ahab slipped my mind.