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I stuffed a shirt or two into my old carpet-bag, tucked it
under my arm, and started for Cape Horn and the Pacific.
Quitting the good city of old Manhatto, I duly arrived in New
Bedford. It was on a Saturday night in December. Much
was I disappointed upon learning that the little packet for
Nantucket had already sailed, and that no way of reaching that
place would offer, till the following Monday.

As most young candidates for the pains and penalties of
whaling stop at this same New Bedford, thence to embark on
their voyage, it may as well be related that I, for one, had no
idea of so doing. For my mind was made up to sail in no
other than a Nantucket craft, because there was a fine, boisterous
something about everything connected with that famous old
island, which amazingly pleased me. Besides though New
Bedford has of late been gradually monopolizing the business
of whaling, and though in this matter poor old Nantucket is
now much behind her, yet Nantucket was her great original—


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the Tyre of this Carthage;—the place where the first dead
American whale was stranded. Where else but from Nantucket
did those aboriginal whalemen, the Red-Men, first sally out in
canoes to give chase to the Leviathan? And where but from
Nantucket, too, did that first adventurous little sloop put forth,
partly laden with imported cobble-stones—so goes the story—
to throw at the whales, in order to discover when they were
nigh enough to risk a harpoon from the bowsprit?

Now having a night, a day, and still another night following
before me in New Bedford, ere I could embark for my destined
port, it became a matter of concernment where I was to eat
and sleep meanwhile. It was a very dubious-looking, nay, a
very dark and dismal night, bitingly cold and cheerless. I knew
no one in the place. With anxious grapnels I had sounded
my pocket, and only brought up a few pieces of silver,—So,
wherever you go, Ishmael, said I to myself, as I stood in the
middle of a dreary street shouldering my bag, and comparing
the gloom towards the north with the darkness towards the
south—wherever in your wisdom you may conclude to lodge
for the night, my dear Ishmael, be sure to inquire the price,
and don't be too particular.

With halting steps I paced the streets, and passed the sign of
“The Crossed Harpoons”—but it looked too expensive and
jolly there. Further on, from the bright red windows of the
“Sword-Fish Inn,” there came such fervent rays, that it seemed
to have melted the packed snow and ice from before the house,
for everywhere else the congealed frost lay ten inches thick in a
hard, asphaltic pavement,—rather weary for me, when I struck
my foot against the flinty projections, because from hard,
remorseless service the soles of my boots were in a most
miserable plight. Too expensive and jolly, again thought I,
pausing one moment to watch the broad glare in the street, and
hear the sounds of the tinkling glasses within. But go on,
Ishmael, said I at last; don't you hear? get away from before


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the door; your patched boots are stopping the way. So on I
went. I now by instinct followed the streets that took me
waterward, for there, doubtless, were the cheapest, if not the
cheeriest inns.

Such dreary streets! blocks of blackness, not houses, on
either hand, and here and there a candle, like a candle moving
about in a tomb. At this hour of the night, of the last day
of the week, that quarter of the town proved all but deserted.
But presently I came to a smoky light proceeding from a low,
wide building, the door of which stood invitingly open. It had
a careless look, as if it were meant for the uses of the public;
so, entering, the first thing I did was to stumble over an ashbox
in the porch. Ha! thought I, ha, as the flying particles
almost choked me, are these ashes from that destroyed city,
Gomorrah? But “The Crossed Harpoons,” and “The Sword-Fish?”—this,
then, must needs be the sign of “The Trap.”
However, I picked myself up and hearing a loud voice within,
pushed on and opened a second, interior door.

It seemed the great Black Parliament sitting in Tophet. A
hundred black faces turned round in their rows to peer; and
beyond, a black Angel of Doom was beating a book in a
pulpit. It was a negro church; and the preacher's text was
about the blackness of darkness, and the weeping and wailing
and teeth-gnashing there. Ha, Ishmael, muttered I, backing
out, Wretched entertainment at the sign of “The Trap!”

Moving on, I at last came to a dim sort of light not far from
the docks, and heard a forlorn creaking in the air; and looking
up, saw a swinging sign over the door with a white painting
upon it, faintly representing a tall straight jet of misty spray,
and these words underneath—“The Spouter-Inn:—Peter Coffin.”

Coffin?—Spouter?—Rather ominous in that particular connexion,
thought I. But it is a common name in Nantucket,
they say, and I suppose this Peter here is an emigrant from there.
As the light looked so dim, and the place, for the time, looked


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quiet enough, and the dilapidated little wooden house itself looked
as if it might have been carted here from the ruins of some burnt
district, and as the swinging sign had a poverty-stricken sort of
creak to it, I thought that here was the very spot for cheap
lodgings, and the best of pea coffee.

It was a queer sort of place—a gable-ended old house, one
side palsied as it were, and leaning over sadly. It stood on a
sharp bleak corner, where that tempestuous wind Euroclydon
kept up a worse howling than ever it did about poor Paul's
tossed craft. Euroclydon, nevertheless, is a mighty pleasant
zephyr to any one in-doors, with his feet on the hob quietly
toasting for bed. “In judging of that tempestuous wind called
Euroclydon,” says an old writer—of whose works I possess the
only copy extant—“it maketh a marvellous difference, whether
thou lookest out at it from a glass window where the frost is all
on the outside, or whether thou observest it from that sashless
window, where the frost is on both sides, and of which the
wight Death is the only glazier.” True enough, thought I, as
this passage occurred to my mind—old black-letter, thou reasonest
well. Yes, these eyes are windows, and this body of mine
is the house. What a pity they didn't stop up the chinks and
the crannies though, and thrust in a little lint here and there.
But it's too late to make any improvements now. The universe
is finished; the copestone is on, and the chips were carted off
a million years ago. Poor Lazarus there, chattering his teeth
against the curbstone for his pillow, and shaking off his tatters
with his shiverings, he might plug up both ears with rags, and
put a corn-cob into his mouth, and yet that would not keep out
the tempestuous Euroclydon. Euroclydon! says old Dives, in
his red silken wrapper—(he had a redder one afterwards) pooh,
pooh! What a fine frosty night; how Orion glitters; what
northern lights! Let them talk of their oriental summer climes
of everlasting conservatories; give me the privilege of making
my own summer with my own coals.


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But what thinks Lazarus? Can he warm his blue hands by
holding them up to the grand northern lights? Would not
Lazarus rather be in Sumatra than here? Would he not far
rather lay him down lengthwise along the line of the equator;
yea, ye gods! go down to the fiery pit itself, in order to keep
out this frost?

Now, that Lazarus should lie stranded there on the curbstone
before the door of Dives, this is more wonderful than that an
iceberg should be moored to one of the Moluccas. Yet Dives
himself, he too lives like a Czar in an ice palace made of frozen
sighs, and being a president of a temperance society, he only
drinks the tepid tears of orphans.

But no more of this blubbering now, we are going a-whaling,
and there is plenty of that yet to come. Let us scrape the ice
from our frosted feet, and see what sort of a place this “Spouter”
may be.