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Page 75


In bed we concocted our plans for the morrow. But to my
surprise and no small concern, Queequeg now gave me to understand,
that he had been diligently consulting Yojo—the name
of his black little god—and Yojo had told him two or three
times over, and strongly insisted upon it everyway, that instead
of our going together among the whaling-fleet in harbor, and
in concert selecting our craft; instead of this, I say, Yojo
earnestly enjoined that the selection of the ship should rest
wholly with me, inasmuch as Yojo purposed befriending us;
and, in order to do so, had already pitched upon a vessel,
which, if left to myself, I, Ishmael, should infallibly light upon,
for all the world as though it had turned out by chance; and
in that vessel I must immediately ship myself, for the present
irrespective of Queequeg.

I have forgotten to mention that, in many things, Queequeg
placed great confidence in the excellence of Yojo's judgment
and surprising forecast of things; and cherished Yojo with considerable
esteem, as a rather good sort of god, who perhaps meant
well enough upon the whole, but in all cases did not succeed in
his benevolent designs.

Now, this plan of Queequeg's, or rather Yojo's, touching the selection
of our craft; I did not like that plan at all. I had not a
little relied upon Queequeg's sagacity to point out the whaler
best fitted to carry us and our fortunes securely. But as all my
remonstrances produced no effect upon Queequeg, I was obliged
to acquiesce; and accordingly prepared to set about this business
with a determined rushing sort of energy and vigor, that should


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quickly settle that trifling little affair. Next morning early,
leaving Queequeg shut up with Yojo in our little bedroom—for
it seemed that it was some sort of Lent or Ramadan, or day of
fasting, humiliation, and prayer with Queequeg and Yojo that
day; how it was I never could find out, for, though I applied
myself to it several times, I never could master his liturgies and
XXXIX Articles—leaving Queequeg, then, fasting on his
tomahawk pipe, and Yojo warming himself at his sacrificial fire
of shavings, I sallied out among the shipping. After much
prolonged sauntering and many random inquiries, I learnt that
there were three ships up for three-years' voyages—The Devildam,
the Tit-bit, and the Pequod. Devil-Dam, I do not know
the origin of; Tit-bit is obvious; Pequod, you will no doubt
remember, was the name of a celebrated tribe of Massachusetts
Indians, now extinct as the ancient Medes. I peered and pryed
about the Devil-Dam; from her, hopped over to the Tit-bit; and,
finally, going on board the Pequod, looked around her for a
moment, and then decided that this was the very ship for us.

You may have seen many a quaint craft in your day, for
aught I know;—square-toed luggers; mountainous Japanese
junks; butter-box galliots, and what not; but take my word for
it, you never saw such a rare old craft as this same rare old
Pequod. She was a ship of the old school, rather small if anything;
with an old fashioned claw-footed look about her. Long
seasoned and weather-stained in the typhoons and calms of all
four oceans, her old hull's complexion was darkened like a French
grenadier's, who has alike fought in Egypt and Siberia. Her venerable
bows looked bearded. Her masts—cut somewhere on the
coast of Japan, where her original ones were lost overboard in
a gale—her masts stood stiffly up like the spines of the
three old kings of Cologne. Her ancient decks were worn and
wrinkled, like the pilgrim-worshipped flag-stone in Canterbury
Cathedral where Beckett bled. But to all these her old antiquities,
were added new and marvellous features, pertaining to


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the wild business that for more than half a century she had
followed. Old Captain Peleg, many years her chief-mate, before
he commanded another vessel of his own, and now a retired
seaman, and one of the principal owners of the Pequod,—this
old Peleg, during the term of his chief-mateship, had built
upon her original grotesqueness, and inlaid it, all over, with a
quaintness both of material and device, unmatched by anything
except it be Thorkill-Hake's carved buckler or bedstead. She
was apparelled like any barbarie Ethiopian emperor, his neck
heavy with pendants of polished ivory. She was a thing of
trophies. A cannibal of a craft, tricking herself forth in the
chased bones of her enemies. All round, her unpanelled, open
bulwarks were garnished like one continuous jaw, with the long
sharp teeth of the sperm whale, inserted there for pins, to
fasten her old hempen thews and tendons to. Those thews ran
not through base blocks of land wood, but deftly travelled
over sheaves of sea-ivory. Scorning a turnstile wheel at her
reverend helm, she sported there a tiller; and that tiller was in
one mass, curiously carved from the long narrow lower jaw of
her hereditary foe. The helmsman who steered by that tiller
in a tempest, felt like the Tartar, when he holds back his fiery
steed by clutching its jaw. A noble craft, but somehow a most
melancholy! All noble things are touched with that.

Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one
having authority, in order to propose myself as a candidate for
the voyage, at first I saw nobody; but I could not well overlook
a strange sort of tent, or rather wigwam, pitched a little
behind the main-mast. It seemed only a temporary erection
used in port. It was of a conical shape, some ten feet high;
consisting of the long, huge slabs of limber black bone taken
from the middle and highest part of the jaws of the right-whale.
Planted with their broad ends on the deck, a circle of
these slabs laced together, mutually sloped towards each other,
and at the apex united in a tufted point, where the loose hairy


Page 78
fibres waved to and fro like the top-knot on some old Pottowottamie
Sachem's head. A traingular opening faced towards the
bows of the ship, so that the insider commanded a complete
view forward.

And half concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found
one who by his aspect seemed to have authority; and who, it
being noon, and the ship's work suspended, was now enjoying
respite from the burden of command. He was seated on
an old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all over with curious
carving; and the bottom of which was formed of a stout
interlacing of the same elastic stuff of which the wigwam was

There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the
appearance of the elderly man I saw; he was brown and
brawny, like most old seamen, and heavily rolled up in blue
pilot-cloth, cut in the Quaker style; only there was a fine and
almost microscopic net-work of the minutest wrinkles interlacing
round his eyes, which must have arisen from his continual sailings
in many hard gales, and always looking to windward;—
for this causes the muscles about the eyes to become pursed
together. Such eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a scowl.

“Is this the Captain of the Pequod?” said I, advancing to
the door of the tent.

“Supposing it be the Captain of the Pequod, what dost thou
want of him?” he demanded.

“I was thinking of shipping.”

“Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer—
ever been in a stove boat?”

“No, Sir, I never have”

“Dost know nothing at all about whaling, I dare say—eh?”

“Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn.
I've been several voyages in the merchant service, and I think

“Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me.


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Dost see that leg?—I'll take that leg away from thy stern, if
ever thou talkest of the marchant service to me again. Marchant
service indeed! I suppose now ye feel considerable
proud of having served in those marchant ships. But flukes!
man, what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?—it looks a
little suspicious, don't it, eh?—Hast not been a pirate, hast
thou?—Didst not rob thy last Captain, didst thou?—Dost not
think of murdering the officers when thou gettest to sea?”

I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under
the mask of these half humorous inuendoes, this old seaman,
as an insulated Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his insular
prejudices, and rather distrustful of all aliens, unless they hailed
from Cape Cod or the Vineyard.

“But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that before
I think of shipping ye.”

“Well, sir, I want to see what whaling is. I want to see the

“Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have ye clapped eye
on Captain Ahab?”

“Who is Captain Ahab, sir?”

“Aye, aye, I thought so. Captain Ahab is the Captain of
this ship.”

“I am mistaken then. I thought I was speaking to the
Captain himself.”

“Thou art speaking to Captain Peleg—that's who ye are
speaking to, young man. It belongs to me and Captain Bildad
to see the Pequod fitted out for the voyage, and supplied with
all her needs, including crew. We are part owners and agents.
But as I was going to say, if thou wantest to know what whaling
is, as thou tellest ye do, I can put ye in a way of finding it
out before ye bind yourself to it, past backing out. Clap eye
on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find that he has
only one leg.”

“What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?”


Page 80

“Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was
devoured, chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty
that ever chipped a boat!—ah, ah!”

I was a little alarmed by his energy, perhaps also a little
touched at the hearty grief in his concluding exclamation, but
said as calmly as I could, “What you say is no doubt true
enough, sir; but how could I know there was any peculiar
ferocity in that particular whale, though indeed I might have
inferred as much from the simple fact of the accident.”

“Look ye now, young man, thy lungs are a sort of soft, d'ye
see; thou dost not talk shark a bit. Sure, ye've been to sea
before now; sure of that?”

“Sir,” said I, “I thought I told you that I had been four
voyages in the merchant—”

“Hard down out of that! Mind what I said about the marchant
service—don't aggravate me—I won't have it. But let
us understand each other. I have given thee a hint about what
whaling is; do ye yet feel inclined for it?”

“I do, sir.”

“Very good. Now, art thou the man to pitch a harpoon
down a live whale's throat, and then jump after it? Answer,

“I am, sir, if it should be positively indispensable to do so;
not to be got rid of, that is; which I don't take to be the fact.”

“Good again. Now then, thou not only wantest to go a-whaling,
to find out by experience what whaling is, but ye also
want to go in order to see the world? Was not that what ye
said? I thought so. Well then, just step forward there, and
take a peep over the weather-bow, and then back to me and
tell me what ye see there.”

For a moment I stood a little puzzled by this curious request,
not knowing exactly how to take it, whether humorously or in
earnest. But concentrating all his crow's feet into one scowl,
Captain Peleg started me on the errand.


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Going forward and glancing over the weather bow, I perceived
that the ship swinging to her anchor with the flood-tide,
was now obliquely pointing towards the open ocean. The
prospect was unlimited, but exceedingly monotonous and forbidding;
not the slightest variety that I could see.

“Well, what's the report?” said Peleg when I came back;
“what did ye see?”

“Not much,” I replied—“nothing but water; considerable
horizon though, and there's a squall coming up, I think.”

“Well, what dost thou think then of seeing the world? Do
ye wish to go round Cape Horn to see any more of it, eh?
Can't ye see the world where you stand?”

I was a little staggered, but go a-whaling I must, and I
would; and the Pequod was as good a ship as any—I thought
the best—and all this I now repeated to Peleg. Seeing me so
determined, he expressed his willingness to ship me.

“And thou mayest as well sign the papers right off,” he
added—“come along with ye.” And so saying, he led the way
below deck into the cabin.

Seated on the transom was what seemed to me a most
uncommon and surprising figure. It turned out to be Captain
Bildad, who along with Captain Peleg was one of the largest
owners of the vessel; the other shares, as is sometimes the case
in these ports, being held by a crowd of old annuitants;
widows, fatherless children, and chancery wards; each owning
about the value of a timber head, or a foot of plank, or a nail
or two in the ship. People in Nantucket invest their money in
whaling vessels, the same way that you do yours in approved
state stocks bringing in good interest.

Now, Bildad, like Peleg, and indeed many other Nantucketers,
was a Quaker, the island having been originally settled by
that sect; and to this day its inhabitants in general retain in
an uncommon measure the peculiarities of the Quaker, only
variously and anomalously modified by things altogether alien


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and heterogeneous. For some of these same Quakers are the
most sanguinary of all sailors and whale-hunters. They are
fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance.

So that there are instances among them of men, who, named
with Scripture names—a singularly common fashion on the
island—and in childhood naturally imbibing the stately dramatic
thee and thou of the Quaker idiom; still, from the audacious,
daring, and boundless adventure of their subsequent lives,
strangely blend with these unoutgrown peculiarities, a thousand
bold dashes of character, not unworthy a Scandinavian sea-king,
or a poetical Pagan Roman. And when these things unite in a
man of greatly superior natural force, with a globular brain
and a ponderous heart; who has also by the stillness and seclusion
of many long night-watches in the remotest waters, and
beneath constellations never seen here at the north, been led to
think untraditionally and independently; receiving all nature's
sweet or savage impressions fresh from her own virgin voluntary
and confiding breast, and thereby chiefly, but with some help
from accidental advantages, to learn a bold and nervous lofty
language—that man makes one in a whole nation's census—a
mighty pageant creature, formed for noble tragedies. Nor will
it at all detract from him, dramatically regarded, if either by
birth or other circumstances, he have what seems a half wilful
over-ruling morbidness at the bottom of his nature. For all
men tragically great are made so through a certain morbidness.
Be sure of this, O young ambition, all mortal greatness is but
disease. But, as yet we have not to do with such an one, but
with quite another; and still a man, who, if indeed peculiar, it
only results again from another phase of the Quaker, modified
by individual circumstances.

Like Captain Peleg, Captain Bildad was a well-to-do, retired
whaleman. But unlike Captain Peleg—who cared not a rush
for what are called serious things, and indeed deemed those
self-same serious things the veriest of all trifles—Captain Bildad


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had not only been originally educated according to the strictest
sect of Nantucket Quakerism, but all his subsequent ocean life,
and the sight of many unclad, lovely island creatures, round the
Horn—all that had not moved this native born Quaker one
single jot, had not so much as altered one angle of his vest.
Still, for all this immutableness, was there some lack of common
consistency about worthy Captain Peleg. Though refusing, from
conscientious scruples, to bear arms against land invaders, yet
himself had illimitably invaded the Atlantic and Pacific; and
though a sworn foe to human bloodshed, yet had he in his straightbodied
coat, spilled tuns upon tuns of leviathan gore. How
now in the contemplative evening of his days, the pious Bildad
reconciled these things in the reminiscence, I do not know; but
it did not seem to concern him much, and very probably he had
long since come to the sage and sensible conclusion that a man's
religion is one thing, and this practical world quite another.
This world pays dividends. Rising from a little cabin-boy in
short clothes of the drabbest drab, to a harpooneer in a broad
shad-bellied waistcoat; from that becoming boat-header, chief-mate,
and captain, and finally a ship-owner; Bildad, as I
hinted before, had concluded his adventurous career by wholly
retiring from active life at the goodly age of sixty, and dedicating
his remaining days to the quiet receiving of his well-earned

Now Bildad, I am sorry to say, had the reputation of being
an incorrigible old hunks, and in his sea-going days, a bitter,
hard task-master. They told me in Nantucket, though it certainly
seems a curious story, that when he sailed the old Categut
whaleman, his crew, upon arriving home, were mostly all carried
ashore to the hospital, sore exhausted and worn out. For
a pious man, especially for a Quaker, he was certainly rather
hard-hearted, to say the least. He never used to swear, though,
at his men, they said; but somehow he got an inordinate quantity
of cruel, unmitigated hard work out of them. When


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Bildad was a chief-mate, to have his drab-colored eye intently
looking at you, made you feel completely nervous, till you could
clutch something—a hammer or a marling-spike, and go to
work like mad, at something or other, never mind what. Indolence
and idleness perished from before him. His own person
was the exact embodiment of his utilitarian character. On his
long, gaunt body, he carried no spare flesh, no superfluous
beard, his chin having a soft, economical nap to it, like the worn
nap of his broad-brimmed hat.

Such, then, was the person that I saw seated on the transom
when I followed Captain Peleg down into the cabin. The space
between the decks was small; and there, bolt-upright, sat old
Bildad, who always sat so, and never leaned, and this to save his
coat tails. His broad-brim was placed beside him; his legs
were stiffly crossed; his drab vesture was buttoned up to
his chin; and spectacles on nose, he seemed absorbed in reading
from a ponderous volume.

“Bildad,” cried Captain Peleg, “at it again, Bildad, eh?
Ye have been studying those Scriptures, now, for the last thirty
years, to my certain knowledge. How far ye got, Bildad?”

As if long habituated to such profane talk from his old shipmate,
Bildad, without noticing his present irreverence, quietly looked
up, and seeing me, glanced again inquiringly towards Peleg.

“He says he's our man, Bildad,” said Peleg, “he wants
to ship.”

“Dost thee?” said Bildad, in a hollow tone, and turning
round to me.

“I dost,” said I unconsciously, he was so intense a Quaker.

“What do ye think of him, Bildad?” said Peleg.

“He'll do,” said Bildad, eyeing me, and then went on spelling
away at his book in a mumbling tone quite audible.

I thought him the queerest old Quaker I ever saw, especially
as Peleg, his friend and old shipmate, seemed such a blusterer.
But I said nothing, only looking round me sharply.


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Peleg now threw open a chest, and drawing forth the ship's
articles, placed pen and ink before him, and seated himself at a
little table. I began to think it was high time to settle with
myself at what terms I would be willing to engage for the voyage.
I was already aware that in the whaling business they paid
no wages; but all hands, including the captain, received certain
shares of the profits called lays, and that these lays were proportioned
to the degree of importance pertaining to the respective
duties of the ship's company. I was also aware that being
a green hand at whaling, my own lay would not be very large;
but considering that I was used to the sea, could steer a ship,
splice a rope, and all that, I made no doubt that from all I had
heard I should be offered at least the 275th lay—that is, the
275th part of the clear nett proceeds of the voyage, whatever
that might eventually amount to. And though the 275th lay
was what they call a rather long lay, yet it was better than
nothing; and if we had a lucky voyage, might pretty nearly
pay for the clothing I would wear out on it, not to speak of my
three years' beef and board, for which I would not have to pay
one stiver.

It might be thought that this was a poor way to accumulate
a princely fortune—and so it was, a very poor way indeed.
But I am one of those that never take on about princely fortunes,
and am quite content if the world is ready to board and
lodge me, while I am putting up at this grim sign of the
Thunder Cloud. Upon the whole, I thought that the 275th
lay would be about the fair thing, but would not have been
surprised had I been offered the 200th, considering I was of a
broad-shouldered make.

But one thing, nevertheless, that made me a little distrustful
about receiving a generous share of the profits was this:
Ashore, I had heard something of both Captain Peleg and his
unaccountable old crony Bildad; how that they being the principal
proprietors of the Pequod, therefore the other and more inconsiderable


Page 86
and scattered owners, left nearly the whole management
of the ship's affairs to these two. And I did not know but what
the stingy old Bildad might have a mighty deal to say about
shipping hands, especially as I now found him on board the
Pequod, quite at home there in the cabin, and reading his Bible
as if at his own fireside. Now while Peleg was vainly trying
to mend a pen with his jack-knife, old Bildad, to my no small
surprise, considering that he was such an interested party in
these proceedings; Bildad never heeded us, but went on
mumbling to himself out of his book, “Lay not up for
yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth—”

“Well, Captain Bildad,” interrupted Peleg, “what d'ye say,
what lay shall we give this young man?”

“Thou knowest best,” was the sepulchral reply, “the seven
hundred and seventy-seventh wouldn't be too much, would it?—
`where moth and rust do corrupt, but lay—”'

Lay, indeed, thought I, and such a lay! the seven hundred
and seventy-seventh! Well, old Bildad, you are determined
that I, for one, shall not lay up many lays here below, where
moth and rust do corrupt. It was an exceedingly long lay
that, indeed; and though from the magnitude of the figure it
might at first deceive a landsman, yet the slightest consideration
will show that though seven hundred and seventy-seven is a
pretty large number, yet, when you come to make a teenth of
it, you will then see, I say, that the seven hundred and seventy-seventh
part of a farthing is a good deal less than seven
hundred and seventy-seven gold doubloons; and so I thought at
the time.

“Why, blast your eyes, Bildad,” cried Peleg, “thou dost not
want to swindle this young man! he must have more than

“Seven hundred and seventy-seventh,” again said Bildad,
without lifting his eyes; and then went on mumbling—“for
where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”


Page 87

“I am going to put him down for the three hundredth,”
said Peleg, “do ye hear that, Bildad! The three hundredth
lay, I say.”

Bildad laid down his book, and turning solemnly towards him
said, “Captain Peleg, thou hast a generous heart; but thou
must consider the duty thou owest to the other owners of this
ship—widows and orphans, many of them—and that if we too
abundantly reward the labors of this young man, we may be
taking the bread from those widows and those orphans. The
seven hundred and seventy-seventh lay, Captain Peleg.”

“Thou Bildad!” roared Peleg, starting up and clattering
about the cabin. “Blast ye, Captain Bildad, if I had followed
thy advice in these matters, I would afore now had a conscience
to lug about that would be heavy enough to founder the largest
ship that ever sailed round Cape Horn.”

“Captain Peleg,” said Bildad steadily, “thy conscience may
be drawing ten inches of water, or ten fathoms, I can't tell;
but as thou art still an impenitent man, Captain Peleg, I greatly
fear lest thy conscience be but a leaky one; and will in the
end sink thee foundering down to the fiery pit, Captain Peleg.”

“Fiery pit! fiery pit! ye insult me, man; past all natural
bearing, ye insult me. It's an all-fired outrage to tell any
human creature that he's bound to hell. Flukes and flames!
Bildad, say that again to me, and start my soul-bolts, but
I'll—I'll—yes, I'll swallow a live goat with all his hair and
horns on. Out of the cabin, ye canting, drab-colored son of a
wooden gun—a straight wake with ye!”

As he thundered out this he made a rush at Bildad, but with
a marvellous oblique, sliding celerity, Bildad for that time
eluded him.

Alarmed at this terrible outburst between the two principal
and responsible owners of the ship, and feeling half a mind to
give up all idea of sailing in a vessel so questionably owned and
temporarily commanded, I stepped aside from the door to give


Page 88
egress to Bildad, who, I made no doubt, was all eagerness to
vanish from before the awakened wrath of Peleg. But to my
astonishment, he sat down again on the transom very quietly,
and seemed to have not the slightest intention of withdrawing.
He seemed quite used to impenitent Peleg and his ways. As
for Peleg, after letting off his rage as he had, there seemed no
more left in him, and he, too, sat down like a lamb, though he
twitched a little as if still nervously agitated. “Whew!” he
whistled at last—“the squall's gone off to leeward, I think.
Bildad, thou used to be good at sharpening a lance, mend that
pen, will ye. My jack-knife here needs the grindstone. That's
he; thank ye, Bildad. Now then, my young man, Ishmael's
thy name, didn't ye say? Well then, down ye go here,
Ishmael, for the three hundredth lay.”

“Captain Peleg,” said I, “I have a friend with me who
wants to ship too—shall I bring him down to-morrow?”

“To be sure,” said Peleg. “Fetch him along, and we'll
look at him.”

“What lay does he want?” groaned Bildad, glancing up
from the book in which he had again been burying himself.

“Oh! never thee mind about that, Bildad,” said Peleg.
“Has he ever whaled it any?” turning to me.

“Killed more whales than I can count, Captain Peleg.”

“Well, bring him along then.”

And, after signing the papers, off I went; nothing doubting
but that I had done a good morning's work, and that the
Pequod was the identical ship that Yojo had provided to carry
Queequeg and me round the Cape.

But I had not proceeded far, when I began to bethink me
that the captain with whom I was to sail yet remained unseen
by me; though indeed, in many cases, a whale-ship will be
completely fitted out, and receive all her crew on board, ere the
captain makes himself visible by arriving to take command; for
sometimes these voyages are so prolonged, and the shore intervals


Page 89
at home so exceedingly brief, that if the captain have a
family, or any absorbing concernment of that sort, he does not
trouble himself much about his ship in port, but leaves her
to the owners till all is ready for sea. However, it is always as
well to have a look at him before irrevocably committing yourself
into his hands. Turning back I accosted Captain Peleg,
inquiring where Captain Ahab was to be found.

“And what dost thou want of Captain Ahab? It's all right
enough; thou art shipped.”

“Yes, but I should like to see him.”

“But I don't think thou wilt be able to at present. I don't
know exactly what's the matter with him; but he keeps close
inside the house; a sort of sick, and yet he don't look so. In
fact, he ain't sick; but no, he isn't well either. Any how,
young man, he won't always see me, so I don't suppose he will
thee. He's a queer man, Captain Ahab—so some think—but
a good one. Oh, thou'lt like him well enough; no fear, no
fear. He's a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab;
doesn't speak much; but, when he does speak, then you may
well listen. Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab's above the common;
Ahab's been in colleges, as well as 'mong the cannibals;
been used to deeper wonders than the waves; fixed his fiery
lauce in mightier, stranger foes than whales. His lance! aye,
the keenest and the surest that out of all our isle! Oh! he
ain't Captain Bildad; no, and he ain't Captain Peleg; he's
boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned

“And a very vile one. When that wicked king was slain,
the dogs, did they not lick his blood?”

“Come hither to me—hither, hither,” said Peleg, with a
significance in his eye that almost startled me. “Look ye, lad;
never say that on board the Pequod. Never say it anywhere.
Captain Ahab did not name himself. 'Twas a foolish, ignorant
whim of his crazy, widowed mother, who died when he was only


Page 90
a twelvemonth old. And yet the old squaw Tistig, at Gayhead,
said that the name would somehow prove prophetic.
And, perhaps, other fools like her may tell thee the same. I
wish to warn thee. It's a lie. I know Captain Ahab well;
I've sailed with him as mate years ago; I know what he is—
a good man—not a pious, good man, like Bildad, but a
swearing good man—something like me—only there's a good
deal more of him. Aye, aye, I know that he was never very
jolly; and I know that on the passage home, he was a little
out of his mind for a spell; but it was the sharp shooting pains
in his bleeding stump that brought that about, as any one
might see. I know, too, that ever since he lost his leg last
voyage by that accursed whale, he's been a kind of moody—
desperate moody, and savage sometimes; but that will all pass
off. And once for all, let me tell thee and assure thee, young
man, it's better to sail with a moody good captain than a laughing
bad one. So good-bye to thee—and wrong not Captain
Ahab, because he happens to have a wicked name. Besides,
my boy, he has a wife—not three voyages wedded—a sweet,
resigned girl. Think of that; by that sweet girl that old man
has a child: hold ye then there can be any utter, hopeless
harm in Ahab? No, no, my lad; stricken, blasted, if he be,
Ahab has his humanities!”

As I walked away, I was full of thoughtfulness; what had
been incidentally revealed to me of Captain Ahab, filled me
with a certain wild vagueness of painfulness concerning him.
And somehow, at the time, I felt a sympathy and a sorrow for
him, but for I don't know what, unless it was the cruel loss of
his leg. And yet I also felt a strange awe of him; but that
sort of awe, which I cannot at all describe, was not exactly awe;
I do not know what it was. But I felt it; and it did not disincline
me towards him; though I felt impatience at what seemed
like mystery in him, so imperfectly as he was known to me then.
However, my thoughts were at length carried in other directions,
so that for the present dark Ahab slipped my mind.