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And now that at the proper time and place, after so long and
wide a preliminary cruise, Ahab,—all other whaling waters
swept—seemed to have chased his foe into an ocean-fold, to slay
him the more securely there; now, that he found himself hard
by the very latitude and longitude where his tormenting wound
had been inflicted; now that a vessel had been spoken which
on the very day preceding had actually encountered Moby
Dick;—and now that all his successive meetings with various
ships contrastingly concurred to show the demoniac indifference
with which the white whale tore his hunters, whether


Page 590
sinning or sinned against; now it was that there lurked a
something in the old man's eyes, which it was hardly sufferable
for feeble souls to see. As the unsetting polar star, which
through the livelong, arctic, six months' night sustains its
piercing, steady, central gaze; so Ahab's purpose now fixedly
gleamed down upon the constant midnight of the gloomy crew.
It domineered above them so, that all their bodings, doubts,
misgivings, fears, were fain to hide beneath their souls, and
not sprout forth a single spear or leaf.

In this foreshadowing interval too, all humor, forced or natural,
vanished. Stubb no more strove to raise a smile; Starbuck
no more strove to check one. Alike, joy and sorrow, hope and
fear, seemed ground to finest dust, and powdered, for the time,
in the clamped mortar of Ahab's iron soul. Like machines,
they dumbly moved about the deck, ever conscious that the old
man's despot eye was on them.

But did you deeply scan him in his more secret confidential
hours; when he thought no glance but one was on him; then
you would have seen that even as Ahab's eyes so awed the
crew's, the inscrutable Parsee's glance awed his; or somehow,
at least, in some wild way, at times affected it. Such an added,
gliding strangeness began to invest the thin Fedallah now;
such ceaseless shudderings shook him; that the men looked
dubious at him; half uncertain, as it seemed, whether indeed
he were a mortal substance, or else a tremulous shadow cast
upon the deck by some unseen being's body. And that shadow
was always hovering there. For not by night, even, had Fedallah
ever certainly been known to slumber, or go below. He
would stand still for hours: but never sat or leaned; his wan
but wondrous eyes did plainly say—We two watchmen never

Nor, at any time, by night or day could the mariners now
step upon the deck, unless Ahab was before them; either standing
in his pivot-hole, or exactly pacing the planks between two


Page 591
undeviating limits,—the main-mast and the mizen; or else they
saw him standing in the cabin-scuttle,—his living foot advanced
upon the deck, as if to step; his hat slouched heavily over his
eyes; so that however motionless he stood, however the days
and nights were added on, that he had not swung in his hammock;
yet hidden beneath that slouching hat, they could never
tell unerringly whether, for all this, his eyes were really closed
at times: or whether he was still intently scanning them; no
matter, though he stood so in the scuttle for a whole hour on
the stretch, and the unheeded night-damp gathered in beads of
dew upon that stone-carved coat and hat. The clothes that the
night had wet, the next day's sunshine dried upon him; and
so, day after day, and night after night; he went no more
beneath the planks; whatever he wanted from the cabin that
thing he sent for.

He ate in the same open air; that is, his two only meals,—
breakfast and dinner: supper he never touched; nor reaped
his beard; which darkly grew all gnarled, as unearthed roots
of trees blown over, which still grow idly on at naked base,
though perished in the upper verdure. But though his whole
life was now become one watch on deck; and though the
Parsee's mystic watch was without intermission as his own;
yet these two never seemed to speak—one man to the other—
unless at long intervals some passing unmomentous matter
made it necessary. Though such a potent spell seemed secretly
to join the twain; openly, and to the awe-struck crew, they
seemed pole-like asunder. If by day they chanced to speak
one word; by night, dumb men were both, so far as concerned
the slightest verbal interchange. At times, for longest hours,
without a single hail, they stood far parted in the starlight;
Ahab in his scuttle, the Parsee by the mainmast; but still
fixedly gazing upon each other; as if in the Parsee Ahab saw
his forethrown shadow, in Ahab the Parsee his abandoned substance.


Page 592

And yet, somehow, did Ahab—in his own proper self, as
daily, hourly, and every instant, commandingly revealed to his
subordinates,—Ahab seemed an independent lord; the Parsee
but his slave. Still again both seemed yoked together, and an
unseen tyrant driving them; the lean shade siding the solid
rib. For be this Parsee what he may, all rib and keel was solid

At the first faintest glimmering of the dawn, his iron voice
was heard from aft—“Man the mast-heads!”—and all through
the day, till after sunset and after twilight, the same voice every
hour, at the striking of the helmsman's bell, was heard—
“What d'ye see?—sharp! sharp!”

But when three or four days had slided by, after meeting the
children-seeking Rachel; and no spout had yet been seen;
the monomaniac old man seemed distrustful of his crew's
fidelity; at least, of nearly all except the Pagan harpooneers;
he seemed to doubt, even, whether Stubb and Flask might not
willingly overlook the sight he sought. But if these suspicions
were really his, he sagaciously refrained from verbally expressing
them, however his actions might seem to hint them.

“I will have the first sight of the whale myself,”—he said.
“Aye! Ahab must have the doubloon!” and with his own
hands he rigged a nest of basketed bowlines; and sending a
hand aloft, with a single sheaved block, to secure to the main-mast
head, he received the two ends of the downward-reeved
rope; and attaching one to his basket prepared a pin for the
other end, in order to fasten it at the rail. This done, with that
end yet in his hand and standing beside the pin, he looked round
upon his crew, sweeping from one to the other; pausing his
glance long upon Daggoo, Queequeg, Tashtego; but shunning
Fedallah; and then settling his firm relying eye upon the chief
mate, said,—“Take the rope, sir—I give it into thy hands,
Starbuck.” Then arranging his person in the basket, he gave
the word for them to hoist him to his perch, Starbuck being


Page 593
the one who secured the rope at last; and afterwards stood
near it. And thus, with one hand clinging round the royal
mast, Ahab gazed abroad upon the sea for miles and miles,—
ahead, astern, this side, and that,—within the wide expanded
circle commanded at so great a height.

When in working with his hands at some lofty almost isolated
place in the rigging, which chances to afford no foothold, the
sailor at sea is hoisted up to that spot, and sustained there by
the rope; under these circumstances, its fastened end on deck
is always given in strict charge to some one man who has the
special watch of it. Because in such a wilderness of running
rigging, whose various different relations aloft cannot always be
infallibly discerned by what is seen of them at the deck; and
when the deck-ends of these ropes are being every few minutes
cast down from the fastenings, it would be but a natural fatality,
if, unprovided with a constant watchman, the hoisted sailor
should by some carelessness of the crew be cast adrift and fall
all swooping to the sea. So Ahab's proceedings in this matter
were not unusual; the only strange thing about them seemed
to be, that Starbuck, almost the one only man who had ever
ventured to oppose him with anything in the slightest degree
approaching to decision—one of those too, whose faithfulness on
the look-out he had seemed to doubt somewhat;—it was strange,
that this was the very man he should select for his watchman;
freely giving his whole life into such an otherwise distrusted
person's hands.

Now, the first time Ahab was perched aloft; ere he had
been there ten minutes; one of those red-billed savage sea-hawks
which so often fly incommodiously close round the manned
mast-heads of whalemen in these latitudes; one of these birds
came wheeling and screaming round his head in a maze of untrackably
swift circlings. Then it darted a thousand feet straight
up into the air; then spiralized downwards, and went eddying
again round his head.


Page 594

But with his gaze fixed upon the dim and distant horizon,
Ahab seemed not to mark this wild bird; nor, indeed, would
any one else have marked it much, it being no uncommon circumstance;
only now almost the least heedful eye seemed to
see some sort of cunning meaning in almost every sight.

“Your hat, your hat, sir!” suddenly cried the Sicilian seaman,
who being posted at the mizen-mast-head, stood directly
behind Ahab, though somewhat lower than his level, and with a
deep gulf of air dividing them.

But already the sable wing was before the old man's eyes;
the long hooked bill at his head: with a scream, the black
hawk darted away with his prize.

An eagle flew thrice round Tarquin's head, removing his cap
to replace it, and thereupon Tanaquil, his wife, declared that
Tarquin would be king of Rome. But only by the replacing
of the cap was that omen accounted good. Ahab's hat was
never restored; the wild hawk flew on and on with it; far in
advance of the prow: and at last disappeared; while from the
point of that disappearance, a minute black spot was dimly discerned,
falling from that vast height into the sea.