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And jolly enough were the sights and the sounds that came
bearing down before the wind, some few weeks after Ahab's
harpoon had been welded.

It was a Nantucket ship, the Bachelor, which had just wedged
in her last cask of oil, and bolted down her bursting hatches;
and now, in glad holiday apparel, was joyously, though somewhat
vain-gloriously, sailing round among the widely-separated
ships on the ground, previous to pointing her prow for home.

The three men at her mast-head wore long streamers of narrow
red bunting at their hats; from the stern, a whale-boat
was suspended, bottom down; and hanging captive from the
bowsprit was seen the long lower jaw of the last whale they
had slain. Signals, ensigns, and jacks of all colors were flying
from her rigging, on every side. Sideways lashed in each of
her three basketed tops were two barrels of sperm; above which,
in her top-mast cross-trees, you saw slender breakers of the same
precious fluid; and nailed to her main truck was a brazen

As was afterwards learned, the Bachelor had met with the
most surprising success; all the more wonderful, for that while
cruising in the same seas numerous other vessels had gone
entire months without securing a single fish. Not only had
barrels of beef and bread been given away to make room for
the far more valuable sperm, but additional supplemental casks
had been bartered for, from the ships she had met; and these


Page 547
were stowed along the deck, and in the captain's and officers'
state-rooms. Even the cabin table itself had been knocked into
kindling-wood; and the cabin mess dined off the broad head
of an oil-butt, lashed down to the floor for a centrepiece. In the
forecastle, the sailors had actually caulked and pitched their
chests, and filled them; it was humorously added, that the cook
had clapped a head on his largest boiler, and filled it; that the
steward had plugged his spare coffee-pot and filled it; that the
harpooneers had headed the sockets of their irons and filled
them; that indeed everything was filled with sperm, except the
captain's pantaloons pockets, and those he reserved to thrust
his hands into, in self-complacent testimony of his entire satisfaction.

As this glad ship of good luck bore down upon the moody
Pequod, the barbarian sound of enormous drums came from her
forecastle; and drawing still nearer, a crowd of her men were
seen standing round her huge try-pots, which, covered with the
parchment-like poke or stomach skin of the black fish, gave forth
a loud roar to every stroke of the clenched hands of the crew.
On the quarter-deck, the mates and harpooneers were dancing
with the olive-hued girls who had eloped with them from the
Polynesian Isles; while suspended in an ornamented boat,
firmly secured aloft between the foremast and mainmast, three
Long Island negroes, with glittering fiddle-bows of whale ivory,
were presiding over the hilarious jig. Meanwhile, others of the
ship's company were tumultuously busy at the masonry of the
try-works, from which the huge pots had been removed. You
would have almost thought they were pulling down the cursed
Bastile, such wild cries they raised, as the now useless brick
and mortar were being hurled into the sea.

Lord and master over all this scene, the captain stood erect
on the ship's elevated quarter-deck, so that the whole rejoicing
drama was full before him, and seemed merely contrived for
his own individual diversion.


Page 548

And Ahab, he too was standing on his quarter-deck, shaggy
and black, with a stubborn gloom; and as the two ships crossed
each other's wakes—one all jubilations for things passed, the
other all forebodings as to things to come—their two captains
in themselves impersonated the whole striking contrast of the

“Come aboard, come aboard!” cried the gay Bachelor's commander,
lifting a glass and a bottle in the air.

“Hast seen the White Whale?” gritted Ahab in reply.

“No; only heard of him; but don't believe in him at all,”
said the other good-humoredly. “Come aboard!”

“Thou art too damned jolly. Sail on. Hast lost any

“Not enough to speak of—two islanders, that's all;—but
come aboard, old hearty, come along. I'll soon take that black
from your brow. Come along, will ye (merry's the play); a
full ship and homeward-bound.”

“How wondrous familiar is a fool!” muttered Ahab; then
aloud, “Thou art a full ship and homeward bound, thou sayst;
well, then, call me an empty ship, and outward-bound. So go
thy ways, and I will mine. Forward there! Set all sail, and
keep her to the wind!”

And thus, while the one ship went cheerily before the breeze,
the other stubbornly fought against it; and so the two vessels
parted; the crew of the Pequod looking with grave, lingering
glances towards the receding Bachelor; but the Bachelor's
men never heeding their gaze for the lively revelry they were
in. And as Ahab, leaning over the taffrail, eyed the homeward-bound
craft, he took from his pocket a small vial of sand,
and then looking from the ship to the vial, seemed thereby
bringing two remote associations together, for that vial was filled
with Nantucket soundings.