University of Virginia Library

Search this document 




I quickly followed suit, and descending into the bar-room
accosted the grinning landlord very pleasantly. I cherished no
malice towards him, though he had been skylarking with me not
a little in the matter of my bedfellow.

However, a good laugh is a mighty good thing, and rather
too scarce a good thing; the more's the pity. So, if any one


Page 33
man, in his own proper person, afford stuff for a good joke to
anybody, let him not be backward, but let him cheerfully allow
himself to spend and be spent in that way. And the man that
has anything bountifully laughable about him, be sure there is
more in that man than you perhaps think for.

The bar-room was now full of the boarders who had been
dropping in the night previous, and whom I had not as yet had
a good look at. They were nearly all whalemen; chief mates,
and second mates, and third mates, and sea carpenters, and sea
coopers, and sea blacksmiths, and harpooneers, and ship keepers;
a brown and brawny company, with bosky beards; an
unshorn, shaggy set, all wearing monkey jackets for morning

You could pretty plainly tell how long each one had been
ashore. This young fellow's healthy cheek is like a sun-toasted
pear in hue, and would seem to smell almost as musky; he cannot
have been three days landed from his Indian voyage. That
man next him looks a few shades lighter; you might say a
touch of satin wood is in him. In the complexion of a third
still lingers a tropic tawn, but slightly bleached withal; he
doubtless has tarried whole weeks ashore. But who could show
a cheek like Queequeg? which, barred with various tints, seemed
like the Andes' western slope, to show forth in one array, contrasting
climates, zone by zone.

“Grub, ho!” now cried the landlord, flinging open a door,
and in we went to breakfast.

They say that men who have seen the world, thereby become
quite at ease in manner, quite self-possessed in company. Not
always, though: Ledyard, the great New England traveller, and
Mungo Park, the Scotch one; of all men, they possessed the
least assurance in the parlor. But perhaps the mere crossing of
Siberia in a sledge drawn by dogs as Ledyard did, or the taking
a long solitary walk on an empty stomach, in the negro heart
of Africa, which was the sum of poor Mungo's performances—


Page 34
this kind of travel, I say, may not be the very best mode of
attaining a high social polish. Still, for the most part, that sort
of thing is to be had anywhere.

These reflections just here are occasioned by the circumstance
that after we were all seated at the table, and I was preparing
to hear some good stories about whaling; to my no small surprise,
nearly every man maintained a profound silence. And
not only that, but they looked embarrassed. Yes, here were a
set of sea-dogs, many of whom without the slightest bashfulness
had boarded great whales on the high seas—entire strangers to
them—and duelled them dead without winking; and yet, here
they sat at a social breakfast table—all of the same calling, all of
kindred tastes—looking round as sheepishly at each other as
though they had never been out of sight of some sheepfold
among the Green Mountains. A curious sight; these bashful
bears, these timid warrior whalemen!

But as for Queenqueg—why, Queequeg sat there among
them—at the head of the table, too, it so chanced; as cool as
an icicle. To be sure I cannot say much for his breeding. His
greatest admirer could not have cordially justified his bringing
his harpoon into breakfast with him, and using it there without
ceremony; reaching over the table with it, to the imminent
jeopardy of many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks towards
him. But that was certainly very coolly done by him, and every
one knows that in most people's estimation, to do anything
coolly is to do it genteelly.

We will not speak of all Queequeg's peculiarities here; how
he eschewed coffee and hot rolls, and applied his undivided
attention to beefsteaks, done rare. Enough, that when breakfast
was over he withdrew like the rest into the public room,
lighted his tomahawk-pipe, and was sitting there quietly digesting
and smoking with his inseparable hat on, when I sallied
out for a stroll.