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Page 106


A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard the
Pequod. Not only were the old sails being mended, but new
sails were coming on board, and bolts of canvas, and coils of
rigging; in short, everything betokened that the ship's preparations
were hurrying to a close. Captain Peleg seldom or never
went ashore, but sat in his wigwam keeping a sharp look-out
upon the hands: Bildad did all the purchasing and providing at
the stores; and the men employed in the hold and on the rigging
were working till long after night-fall.

On the day following Queequeg's signing the articles, word
was given at all the inns where the ship's company were stopping,
that their chests must be on board before night, for there
was no telling how soon the vessel might be sailing. So
Queequeg and I got down our traps, resolving, however, to
sleep ashore till the last. But it seems they always give very
long notice in these cases, and the ship did not sail for several
days. But no wonder; there was a good deal to be done, and
there is no telling how many things to be thought of, before
the Pequod was fully equipped.

Every one knows what a multitude of things—beds, saucepans,
knives and forks, shovels and tongs, napkins, nut-crackers,
and what not, are indispensable to the business of housekeeping.
Just so with whaling, which necessitates a three-years'
housekeeping upon the wide ocean, far from all grocers, costermongers,
doctors, bakers, and bankers. And though this also
holds true of merchant vessels, yet not by any means to the
same extent as with whalemen. For besides the great length
of the whaling voyage, the numerous articles peculiar to the


Page 107
prosecution of the fishery, and the impossibility of replacing them
at the remote harbors usually frequented, it must be remembered,
that of all ships, whaling vessels are the most exposed to accidents
of all kinds, and especially to the destruction and loss of
the very things upon which the success of the voyage most
depends. Hence, the spare boats, spare spars, and spare lines
and harpoons, and spare everythings, almost, but a spare Captain
and duplicate ship.

At the period of our arrival at the Island, the heaviest storage
of the Pequod had been almost completed; comprising her
beef, bread, water, fuel, and iron hoops and staves. But, as before
hinted, for some time there was a continual fetching and carrying
on board of divers odds and ends of things, both large and small.

Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was
Captain Bildad's sister, a lean old lady of a most determined
and indefatigable spirit, but withal very kindhearted, who seemed
resolved that, if she could help it, nothing should be found wanting
in the Pequod, after once fairly getting to sea. At one time
she would come on board with a jar of pickles for the steward's
pantry; another time with a bunch of quills for the chief mate's
desk, where he kept his log; a third time with a roll of flannel
for the small of some one's rheumatic back. Never did any
woman better deserve her name, which was Charity—Aunt
Charity, as everybody called her. And like a sister of charity
did this charitable Aunt Charity bustle about hither and thither,
ready to turn her hand and heart to anything that promised to
yield safety, comfort, and consolation to all on board a ship in
which her beloved brother Bildad was concerned, and in which
she herself owned a score or two of well-saved dollars.

But it was startling to see this excellent hearted Quakeress
coming on board, as she did the last day, with a long oil-ladle
in one hand, and a still longer whaling lance in the other. Nor
was Bildad himself nor Captain Peleg at all backward. As for
Bildad, he carried about with him a long list of the articles


Page 108
needed, and at every fresh arrival, down went his mark opposite
that article upon the paper. Every once and a while Peleg came
hobbling out of his whalebone den, roaring at the men down
the hatchways, roaring up to the riggers at the mast-head, and
then concluded by roaring back into his wigwam.

During these days of preparation, Queequeg and I often visited
the craft, and as often I asked about Captain Ahab, and how
he was, and when he was going to come on board his ship. To
these questions they would answer, that he was getting better
and better, and was expected aboard every day; meantime, the
two Captains, Peleg and Bildad, could attend to everything
necessary to fit the vessel for the voyage. If I had been downright
honest with myself, I would have seen very plainly in my heart
that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a
voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be
the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the
open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes
happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly
strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And
much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to
think nothing.

At last it was given out that some time next day the ship
would certainly sail. So next morning, Queequeg and I took a
very early start.