Hist! Did you hear that noise, Cabaco?”
It was the middle-watchthe middle-watch . . . scuttle-butt: Sometime during the midnight to 4 AM watch, the men stand in a line to convey buckets of water from the large barrels of drinking water in the middle of the ship to the small cask of water for daily use, kept on deck near the rail around the stern.: a fair moonlight; the seamen were standing in a cordon, extending from one of the fresh-water butts in the waist, to the scuttle-butt near the taffrail. In this manner, they passed the buckets to fill the scuttle-buttscuttle-butt: cask from which sailors drew their daily ration of water. Standing, for the most part, on the hallowed precincts of the quarter-deck, they were careful not to speak or rustle their feet. From hand to hand, the buckets went in the deepest silence, only broken by the occasional flap of a sail, and the steady hum of the unceasingly advancing keel.
It was in the midst of this repose, that Archy, one of the cordon, whose post was near the after-hatches, whispered to his neighbor, a CholoCholo: Archy’s shipmate Cabaco is a cholo, the Latin American term for an individual of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage., the words above.
“Hist! did you hear that noise, CabacoCabaco: The sailor of mixed Spanish and indigenous heritage takes his name from the Spanish and Portuguese "cavaco," a nautical usage meaning a small remnant block of wood left on the deck after the ship's carpenter has cut it from a longer piece of lumber. Cabaco's recalcitrance in heeding Archy's reports of noise coming from the hold suggests he is something of a blockhead, as his name implies. Melville’s four years at sea brought him in close contact with Spanish and Portuguese speakers.?”
“Take the bucket, will ye, Archy? what noise d’ye mean?”
“There it is again—under the hatches—don’t you hear it—a cough—it sounded like a cough.”
“Cough be damned! Pass along that return bucket.”
“There again—there it is!—it sounds like two or three sleepers turning over, now!”
“CarambaCaramba!: In Spanish, a mild interjection of surprise.! have done, shipmate, will ye? It’s the three soaked biscuits ye eat for supper turning over inside of ye—nothing else. Look to the bucket!”
“Say what ye will, shipmate; I’ve sharp ears.”
“Aye, you are the chap, ain’t ye, that heard the hum of the old Quakeressthe old Quakeress: The reference recalls Aunt Charity, Bildad’s sister (see Ch. 20).’s knitting-needles fifty miles at sea from Nantucket; you’re the chap.”
“Grin away; we’ll see what turns up. Hark ye, Cabaco, there is somebody down in the after-hold that has not yet been seen on deck; and I suspect our old Mogul knows something of it too. I heard Stubb tell Flask, one morning watch, that there was something of that sort in the wind.”
“Tish! the bucket!”