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Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?”

Queequeg and I had just left the Pequod, and were
sauntering away from the water, for the moment each occupied
with his own thoughts, when the above words were put to us
by a stranger, who, pausing before us, levelled his massive forefinger
at the vessel in question. He was but shabbily apparelled
in faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag of a black
handkerchief investing his neck. A confluent small-pox had
in all directions flowed over his face, and left it like the
complicated ribbed bed of a torrent, when the rushing waters
have been dried up.

“Have ye shipped in her?” he repeated.

“You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose,” said I, trying to
gain a little more time for an uninterrupted look at him.

“Aye, the Pequod—that ship there,” he said, drawing back
his whole arm, and then rapidly shoving it straight out from
him, with the fixed bayonet of his pointed finger darted full at
the object.

“Yes,” said I, “we have just signed the articles.”

“Anything down there about your souls?”

“About what?”

“Oh, perhaps you hav'n't got any,” he said quickly. “No


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matter though, I know many chaps that hav'n't got any,—good
luck to 'em; and they are all the better off for it. A soul's a
sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon.”

“What are you jabbering about, shipmate?” said I.

He's got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies of
that sort in other chaps,” abruptly said the stranger, placing a
nervous emphasis upon the word he.

“Queequeg,” said I, “let's go; this fellow has broken loose
from somewhere; he's talking about something and somebody
we don't know.”

“Stop!” cried the stranger. “Ye said true—ye hav'n't seen
Old Thunder yet, have ye?”

“Who's Old Thunder?” said I, again riveted with the insane
earnestness of his manner.

“Captain Ahab.”

“What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?”

“Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that
name. Ye hav'n't seen him yet, have ye?”

“No, we hav'n't. He's sick they say, but is getting better,
and will be all right again before long.”

“All right again before long!” laughed the stranger, with a
solemnly derisive sort of laugh. “Look ye; when captain
Ahab is all right, then this left arm of mine will be all right;
not before.”

“What do you know about him?”

“What did they tell you about him? Say that!”

“They didn't tell much of anything about him; only I've
heard that he's a good whale-hunter, and a good captain to his

“That's true, that's true—yes, both true enough. But you
must jump when he gives an order. Step and growl; growl
and go—that's the word with Captain Ahab. But nothing
about that thing that happened to him off Cape Horn, long
ago, when he lay like dead for three days and nights;
nothing about that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore


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the altar in Santa?—heard nothing about that, eh? Nothing
about the silver calabash he spat into? And nothing about his
losing his leg last voyage, according to the prophecy. Didn't ye
hear a word about them matters and something more, eh? No,
I don't think ye did; how could ye? Who knows it? Not
all Nantucket, I guess. But hows'ever, mayhap, ye've heard
tell about the leg, and how he lost it; aye, ye have heard of
that, I dare say. Oh yes, that every one knows a'most—I
mean they know he's only one leg; and that a parmacetti took
the other off.”

“My friend,” said I, “what all this gibberish of yours is about,
I don't know, and I don't much care; for it seems to me that
you must be a little damaged in the head. But if you are
speaking of Captain Ahab, of that ship there, the Pequod, then
let me tell you, that I know all about the loss of his leg.”

All about it, eh—sure you do?—all?”

“Pretty sure.”

With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the
beggar-like stranger stood a moment, as if in a troubled reverie;
then starting a little, turned and said:—“Ye've shipped, have
ye? Names down on the papers? Well, well, what's signed,
is signed; and what's to be, will be; and then again, perhaps
it wont be, after all. Any how, it's all fixed and arranged
a'ready; and some sailors or other must go with him, I
suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity 'em!
Morning to ye, shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless
ye; I'm sorry I stopped ye.”

“Look here, friend,” said I, “if you have anything important
to tell us, out with it; but if you are only trying to bamboozle
us, you are mistaken in your game; that's all I have to

“And it's said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up
that way; you are just the man for him—the likes of ye.
Morning to ye, shipmates, morning! Oh! when ye get there,
tell 'em I've concluded not to make one of 'em.”


Page 105

“Ah, my dear fellow, you can't fool us that way—you can't
fool us. It is the easiest thing in the world for a man to look
as if he had a great secret in him.”

“Morning to ye, shipmates, morning.”

“Morning it is,” said I. “Come along, Queequeg, let's
leave this crazy man. But stop, tell me your name, will you?


Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting,
after each other's fashion, upon this ragged old sailor;
and agreed that he was nothing but a humbug, trying to be a
bugbear. But we had not gone perhaps above a hundred
yards, when chancing to turn a corner, and looking back as I
did so, who should be seen but Elijah following us, though at a
distance. Somehow, the sight of him struck me so, that I said
nothing to Queequeg of his being behind, but passed on with
my comrade, anxious to see whether the stranger would turn
the same corner that we did. He did; and then it seemed
to me that he was dogging us, but with what intent I could
not for the life of me imagine. This circumstance, coupled with
his ambiguous, half-hinting, half-revealing, shrouded sort of
talk, now begat in me all kinds of vague wonderments and half-apprehensions,
and all connected with the Pequod; and Captain
Ahab; and the leg he had lost; and the Cape Horn fit;
and the silver calabash; and what Captain Peleg had said of
him, when I left the ship the day previous; and the prediction
of the squaw Tistig; and the voyage we had bound ourselves
to sail; and a hundred other shadowy things.

I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this ragged Elijah
was really dogging us or not, and with that intent crossed the
way with Queequeg, and on that side of it retraced our steps.
But Elijah passed on, without seeming to notice us. This
relieved me; and once more, and finally as it seemed to me, I
pronounced him in my heart, a humbug.