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Page 485



Ship, ahoy! Hast seen the White Whale?”

So cried Ahab, once more hailing a ship showing English
colors, bearing down under the stern. Trumpet to mouth, the
old man was standing in his hoisted quarter-boat, his ivory leg
plainly revealed to the stranger captain, who was carelessly
reclining in his own boat's bow. He was a darkly-tanned, burly,
good-natured, fine-looking man, of sixty or thereabouts, dressed
in a spacious roundabout, that hung round him in festoons of
blue pilot-cloth; and one empty arm of this jacket streamed
behind him like the broidered arm of a huzzar's surcoat.

“Hast seen the White Whale?”

“See you this?” and withdrawing it from the folds that had
hidden it, he held up a white arm of sperm whale bone, terminating
in a wooden head like a mallet.

“Man my boat!” cried Ahab, impetuously, and tossing about
the oars near him—“Stand by to lower!”

In less than a minute, without quitting his little craft, he and
his crew were dropped to the water, and were soon alongside
of the stranger. But here a curious difficulty presented itself.
In the excitement of the moment, Ahab had forgotten that since
the loss of his leg he had never once stepped on board of any
vessel at sea but his own, and then it was always by an ingenious
and very handy mechanical contrivance peculiar to the
Pequod, and a thing not to be rigged and shipped in any other


Page 486
vessel at a moment's warning. Now, it is no very easy matter
for anybody—except those who are almost hourly used to it,
like whalemen—to clamber up a ship's side from a boat on the
open sea; for the great swells now lift the boat high up towards
the bulwarks, and then instantaneously drop it half way down
to the kelson. So, deprived of one leg, and the strange ship
of course being altogether unsupplied with the kindly invention,
Ahab now found himself abjectly reduced to a clumsy landsman
again; hopelessly eyeing the uncertain changeful height he
could hardly hope to attain.

It has before been hinted, perhaps, that every little untoward
circumstance that befel him, and which indirectly sprang from
his luckless mishap, almost invariably irritated or exasperated
Ahab. And in the present instance, all this was heightened
by the sight of the two officers of the strange ship, leaning over
the side, by the perpendicular ladder of nailed cleets there, and
swinging towards him a pair of tastefully-ornamented man-ropes;
for at first they did not seem to bethink them that a
one-legged man must be too much of a cripple to use their sea
bannisters. But this awkwardness only lasted a minute, because
the strange captain, observing at a glance how affairs
stood, cried out, “I see, I see!—avast heaving there! Jump,
boys, and swing over the cutting-tackle.”

As good luck would have it, they had had a whale alongside
a day or two previous, and the great tackles were still aloft, and
the massive curved blubber-hook, now clean and dry, was still
attached to the end. This was quickly lowered to Ahab, who
at once comprehending it all, slid his solitary thigh into the
curve of the hook (it was like sitting in the fluke of an anchor,
or the crotch of an apple tree), and then giving the word, held
himself fast, and at the same time also helped to hoist his own
weight, by pulling hand-over-hand upon one of the running
parts of the tackle. Soon he was carefully swung inside the
high bulwarks, and gently landed upon the capstan head.


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With his ivory arm frankly thrust forth in welcome, the other
captain advanced, and Ahab, putting out his ivory leg, and
crossing the ivory arm (like two sword-fish blades) cried out in
his walrus way, “Aye, aye, hearty! let us shake bones together!
—an arm and a leg!—an arm that never can shrink, d'ye see;
and a leg that never can run. Where did'st thou see the
White Whale?—how long ago?”

“The White Whale,” said the Englishman, pointing his
ivory arm towards the East, and taking a rueful sight along it,
as if it had been a telescope; “There I saw him, on the Line,
last season.”

“And he took that arm off, did he?” asked Ahab, now sliding
down from the capstan, and resting on the Englishman's
shoulder, as he did so.

“Aye, he was the cause of it, at least; and that leg, too?”

“Spin me the yarn,” said Ahab; “how was it?”

“It was the first time in my life that I ever cruised on the
Line,” began the Englishman. “I was ignorant of the White
Whale at that time. Well, one day we lowered for a pod of
four or five whales, and my boat fastened to one of them; a
regular circus horse he was, too, that went milling and milling
round so, that my boat's crew could only trim dish, by sitting
all their sterns on the outer gunwale. Presently up breaches
from the bottom of the sea a bouncing great whale, with a
milky-white head and hump, all crows' feet and wrinkles.”

“It was he, it was he!” cried Ahab, suddenly letting out his
suspended breath.

“And harpoons sticking in near his starboard fin.”

“Aye, aye—they were mine—my irons,” cried Ahab, exultingly—“but

“Give me a chance, then,” said the Englishman, good-humoredly.
“Well, this old great-grandfather, with the white
head and hump, runs all afoam into the pod, and goes to
snapping furiously at my fast-line.”


Page 488

“Aye, I see!—wanted to part it; free the fast-fish—an old
trick—I know him.”

“How it was exactly,” continued the one-armed commander,
“I do not know; but in biting the line, it got foul of his teeth,
caught there somehow; but we didn't know it then; so that
when we afterwards pulled on the line, bounce we came
plump on to his hump! instead of the other whale's that went
off to windward, all fluking. Seeing how matters stood, and
what a noble great whale it was—the noblest and biggest I
ever saw, sir, in my life—I resolved to capture him, spite of the
boiling rage he seemed to be in. And thinking the hap-hazard
line would get loose, or the tooth it was tangled to might draw
(for I have a devil of a boat's crew for a pull on a whale-line);
seeing all this, I say, I jumped into my first mate's boat—Mr.
Mounttop's here (by the way, Captain—Mounttop; Mounttop
—the captain);—as I was saying, I jumped into Mounttop's
boat, which, d'ye see, was gunwale and gunwale with mine,
then; and snatching the first harpoon, let this old great-grandfather
have it. But, Lord, look you, sir—hearts and souls alive,
man—the next instant, in a jiff, I was blind as a bat—both
eyes out—all befogged and bedeadened with black foam—the
whale's tail looming straight up out of it, perpendicular in the
air, like a marble steeple. No use sterning all, then; but as I
was groping at midday, with a blinding sun, all crown-jewels;
as I was groping, I say, after the second iron, to toss it overboard—down
comes the tail like a Lima tower, cutting my boat
in two, leaving each half in splinters; and, flukes first, the white
hump backed through the wreck, as though it was all chips.
We all struck out. To escape his terrible flailings, I seized
hold of my harpoon-pole sticking in him, and for a moment
clung to that like a sucking fish. But a combing sea dashed me
off, and at the same instant, the fish, taking one good dart forwards,
went down like a flash; and the barb of that cursed
second iron towing along near me caught me here” (clapping


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his hand just below his shoulder); “yes, caught me just here,
I say, and bore me down to Hell's flames, I was thinking; when,
when, all of a sudden, thank the good God, the barb ript its
way along the flesh—clear along the whole length of my arm
—came out nigh my wrist, and up I floated;—and that gentleman
there will tell you the rest (by the way, captain—Dr.
Bunger, ship's surgeon: Bunger, my lad,—the captain). Now,
Bunger boy, spin your part of the yarn.”

The professional gentleman thus familiarly pointed out, had
been all the time standing near them, with nothing specific
visible, to denote his gentlemanly rank on board. His face was
an exceedingly round but sober one; he was dressed in a faded
blue woollen frock or shirt, and patched trowsers; and had thus
far been dividing his attention between a marlingspike he held
in one hand, and a pill-box held in the other, occasionally casting
a critical glance at the ivory limbs of the two crippled
captains. But, at his superior's introduction of him to Ahab,
he politely bowed, and straightway went on to do his captain's

“It was a shocking had wound,” began the whale-surgeon;
“and, taking my advice, Captain Boomer here, stood our old

“Samuel Enderby is the name of my ship,” interrupted the
one-armed captain, addressing Ahab; “go on, boy.”

“Stood our old Sammy off to the northward, to get out of
the blazing hot weather there on the Line. But it was no use
—I did all I could; sat up with him nights; was very severe
with him in the matter of diet—”

“Oh, very severe!” chimed in the patient himself; then
suddenly altering his voice, “Drinking hot rum toddies with me
every night, till he couldn't see to put on the bandages; and
sending me to bed, half seas over, about three o'clock in the
morning. Oh, ye stars! he sat up with me indeed, and was
very severe in my diet. Oh! a great watcher, and very dietetically


Page 490
severe, is Dr. Bunger. (Bunger, you dog, laugh out!
why don't ye? You know you're a precious jolly rascal.) But,
heave ahead, boy, I'd rather be killed by you than kept alive
by any other man.”

“My captain, you must have ere this perceived, respected
sir”—said the imperturbable godly-looking Bunger, slightly bowing
to Ahab—“is apt to be facetious at times; he spins us
many clever things of that sort. But I may as well say—en
passant, as the French remark—that I myself—that is to say,
Jack Bunger, late of the reverend clergy—am a strict total
abstinence man; I never drink—”

“Water!” cried the captain; “he never drinks it; it's a sort
of fits to him; fresh water throws him into the hydrophobia;
but go on—go on with the arm story.”

“Yes, I may as well,” said the surgeon, coolly. “I was about
observing, sir, before Captain Boomer's facetious interruption,
that spite of my best and severest endeavors, the wound kept
getting worse and worse; the truth was, sir, it was as ugly
gaping wound as surgeon ever saw; more than two feet and
several inches long. I measured it with the lead line. In short,
it grew black; I knew what was threatened, and off it came.
But I had no hand in shipping that ivory arm there; that
thing is against all rule”—pointing at it with the marlingspike
—“that is the captain's work, not mine; he ordered the carpenter
to make it; he had that club-hammer there put to the
end, to knock some one's brains out with, I suppose, as he tried
mine once. He flies into diabolical passions sometimes. Do
ye see this dent, sir”—removing his hat, and brushing aside his
hair, and exposing a bowl-like cavity in his skull, but which
bore not the slightest scarry trace, or any token of ever having
been a wound—“Well, the captain there will tell you how that
came here; he knows.”

“No, I don't,” said the captain, “but his mother did; he
was born with it. Oh, you solemn rogue, you—you Bunger!


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was there ever such another Bunger in the watery world?
Bunger, when you die, you ought to die in pickle, you dog;
you should be preserved to future ages, you rascal.”

“What became of the White Whale?” now cried Ahab, who
thus far had been impatiently listening to this bye-play between
the two Englishmen.

“Oh!” cried the one-armed captain, “Oh, yes! Well; after
he sounded, we didn't see him again for some time; in fact, as
I before hinted, I didn't then know what whale it was that had
served me such a trick, till some time afterwards, when coming
back to the Line, we heard about Moby Dick—as some call
him—and then I knew it was he.”

“Did'st thou cross his wake again?”


“But could not fasten?”

“Didn't want to try to: ain't one limb enough? What
should I do without this other arm? And I'm thinking Moby
Dick doesn't bite so much as he swallows.”

“Well, then,” interrupted Bunger, “give him your left arm
for bait to get the right. Do you know, gentlemen”—very
gravely and mathematically bowing to each Captain in succession—“Do
you know, gentlemen, that the digestive organs of
the whale are so inscrutably constructed by Divine Providence,
that it is quite impossible for him to completely digest even
a man's arm? And he knows it too. So that what you take
for the White Whale's malice is only his awkwardness. For he
never means to swallow a single limb; he only thinks to terrify
by feints. But sometimes he is like the old juggling fellow,
formerly a patient of mine in Ceylon, that making believe swallow
jack-knives, once upon a time let one drop into him in good
earnest, and there it stayed for a twelvemonth or more; when I
gave him an emetic, and he heaved it up in small tacks, d'ye
see. No possible way for him to digest that jack-knife, and
fully incorporate it into his general bodily system. Yes, Captain


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Boomer, if you are quick enough about it, and have a mind
to pawn one arm for the sake of the privilege of giving decent
burial to the other, why in that case the arm is yours; only let
the whale have another chance at you shortly, that's all.”

“No, thank ye, Bunger,” said the English Captain, “he's
welcome to the arm he has, since I can't help it, and didn't
know him then; but not to another one. No more White
Whales for me; I've lowered for him once, and that has satisfied
me. There would be great glory in killing him, I know
that; and there is a ship-load of precious sperm in him, but,
hark ye, he's best let alone; don't you think so, Captain?”—
glancing at the ivory leg.

“He is. But he will still be hunted, for all that. What is
best let alone, that accursed thing is not always what least allures.
He's all a magnet! How long since thou saw'st him last?
Which way heading?”

“Bless my soul, and curse the foul fiend's,” cried Bunger,
stoopingly walking round Ahab, and like a dog, strangely
snuffing; “this man's blood—bring the thermometer!—it's at
the boiling point!—his pulse makes these planks beat!—sir!”—
taking a lancet from his pocket, and drawing near to Ahab's

“Avast!” roared Ahab, dashing him against the bulwarks—
“Man the boat! Which way heading?”

“Good God!” cried the English Captain, to whom the question
was put. “What's the matter? He was heading east, I
think.—Is your Captain crazy?” whispering Fedallah.

But Fedallah, putting a finger on his lip, slid over the bulwarks
to take the boat's steering oar, and Ahab, swinging the
cutting-tackle towards him, commanded the ship's sailors to
stand by to lower.

In a moment he was standing in the boat's stern, and the
Manilla men were springing to their oars. In vain the English
Captain hailed him. With back to the stranger ship, and face


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set like a flint to his own, Ahab stood upright till alongside of
the Pequod.