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(Enter Ahab: Then, all.)

It was not a great while after the affair of the pipe, that one
morning shortly after breakfast, Ahab, as was his wont, ascended
the cabin-gangway to the deck. There most sea-captains usually
walk at that hour, as country gentlemen, after the same meal,
take a few turns in the garden.

Soon his steady, ivory stride was heard, as to and fro he paced
his old rounds, upon planks so familiar to his tread, that they
were all over dented, like geological stones, with the peculiar


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mark of his walk. Did you fixedly gaze, too, upon that ribbed
and dented brow; there also, you would see still stranger foot-prints—the
foot-prints of his one unsleeping, ever-pacing thought.

But on the occasion in question, those dents looked deeper, even
as his nervous step that morning left a deeper mark. And, so
full of his thought was Ahab, that at every uniform turn that
he made, now at the main-mast and now at the binnacle, you
could almost see that thought turn in him as he turned, and
pace in him as he paced; so completely possessing him, indeed,
that it all but seemed the inward mould of every outer movement.

“D'ye mark him, Flask?” whispered Stubb; “the chick
that's in him pecks the shell. T'will soon be out.”

The hours wore on;—Ahab now shut up within his cabin;
anon, pacing the deck, with the same intense bigotry of purpose
in his aspect.

It drew near the close of day. Suddenly he came to a halt
by the bulwarks, and inserting his bone leg into the auger-hole
there, and with one hand grasping a shroud, he ordered Starbuck
to send everybody aft.

“Sir!” said the mate, astonished at an order seldom or never
given on ship-board except in some extraordinary case.

“Send everybody aft,” repeated Ahab. “Mast-heads, there!
come down!”

When the entire ship's company were assembled, and with
curious and not wholly unapprehensive faces, were eyeing him,
for he looked not unlike the weather horizon when a storm is
coming up, Ahab, after rapidly glancing over the bulwarks,
and then darting his eyes among the crew, started from his stand-point;
and as though not a soul were nigh him resumed his
heavy turns upon the deck. With bent head and half-slouched
hat he continued to pace, unmindful of the wondering whispering
among the men; till Stubb cautiously whispered to Flask,
that Ahab must have summoned them there for the purpose of


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witnessing a pedestrian feat. But this did not last long. Vehemently
pausing, he cried:—

“What do ye do when ye see a whale, men?”

“Sing out for him!” was the impulsive rejoinder from a score
of clubbed voices.

“Good!” cried Ahab, with a wild approval in his tones; observing
the hearty animation into which his unexpected question
had so magnetically thrown them.

“And what do ye next, men?”

“Lower away, and after him!”

“And what tune is it ye pull to, men?”

“A dead whale or a stove boat!”

More and more strangely and fiercely glad and approving,
grew the countenance of the old man at every shout; while the
mariners began to gaze curiously at each other, as if marvelling
how it was that they themselves became so excited at such
seemingly purposeless questions.

But, they were all eagerness again, as Ahab, now half-revolving
in his pivot-hole, with one hand reaching high up a shroud,
and tightly, almost convulsively grasping it, addressed them

“All ye mast-headers have before now heard me give orders
about a white whale. Look ye! d'ye see this Spanish ounce
of gold?”—holding up a broad bright coin to the sun—“it is
a sixteen dollar piece, men. D'ye see it? Mr. Starbuck, hand
me yon top-maul.”

While the mate was getting the hammer, Ahab, without
speaking, was slowly rubbing the gold piece against the skirts
of his jacket, as if to heighten its lustre, and without using any
words was meanwhile lowly humming to himself, producing a
sound so strangely muffled and inarticulate that it seemed the
mechanical humming of the wheels of his vitality in him.

Receiving the top-maul from Starbuck, he advanced towards
the main-mast with the hammer uplifted in one hand, exhibiting


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the gold with the other, and with a high raised voice
exclaiming: “Whosoever of ye raises me a white-headed whale
with a wrinkled brow and a crooked jaw; whosoever of ye
raises me that white-headed whale, with three holes punctured in
his starboard fluke—look ye, whosoever of ye raises me that
same white whale, he shall have this gold ounce, my boys!”

“Huzza! huzza!” cried the seamen, as with swinging tarpaulins
they hailed the act of nailing the gold to the mast.

“It's a white whale, I say,” resumed Ahab, as he threw down
the top-maul; “a white whale. Skin your eyes for him, men;
look sharp for white water; if ye see but a bubble, sing out.”

All this while Tashtego, Daggoo, and Queequeg had looked
on with even more intense interest and surprise than the rest,
and at the mention of the wrinkled brow and crooked jaw they
had started as if each was separately touched by some specific

“Captain Ahab,” said Tashtego, “that white whale must be
the same that some call Moby Dick.”

“Moby Dick?” shouted Ahab. “Do ye know the white
whale then, Tash?”

“Does he fan-tail a little curious, sir, before he goes down?”
said the Gay-Header deliberately.

“And has he a curious spout, too,” said Daggoo, “very
bushy, even for a parmacetty, and mighty quick, Captain

“And he have one, two, tree—oh! good many iron in him
hide, too, Captain,” cried Queequeg disjointedly, “all twisketee
be-twisk, like him—him—” faltering hard for a word, and
screwing his hand round and round as though uncorking a bottle—“like

“Corkscrew!” cried Ahab, “aye, Queequeg, the harpoons lie
all twisted and wrenched in him; aye, Daggoo, his spout is a
big one, like a whole shock of wheat, and white as a pile of our
Nantucket wool after the great annual sheep-shearing; aye,


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Tashtego, and he fan-tails like a split jib in a squall. Death
and devils! men, it is Moby Dick ye have seen—Moby Dick
—Moby Dick!”

“Captain Ahab,” said Starbuck, who, with Stubb and Flask,
had thus far been eyeing his superior with increasing surprise,
but at last seemed struck with a thought which somewhat
explained all the wonder. “Captain Ahab, I have heard of
Moby Dick—but it was not Moby Dick that took off thy leg?”

“Who told thee that?” cried Ahab; then pausing, “Aye,
Starbuck; aye, my hearties all round; it was Moby Dick that
dismasted me; Moby Dick that brought me to this dead stump
I stand on now. Aye, aye,” he shouted with a terrific, loud, animal
sob, like that of a heart-stricken moose; “Aye, aye! it was
that accursed white whale that razeed me; made a poor pegging
lubber of me for ever and a day!” Then tossing both arms, with
measureless imprecations he shouted out: “Aye, aye! and I'll
chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round
the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition's flames before I
give him up. And this is what ye have shipped for, men! to
chase that white whale on both sides of land, and over all sides
of earth, till he spouts black blood and rolls fin out. What say
ye, men, will ye splice hands on it, now? I think ye do look

“Aye, aye!” shouted the harpooneers and seamen, running
closer to the excited old man: “A sharp eye for the White
Whale; a sharp lance for Moby Dick!”

“God bless ye,” he seemed to half sob and half shout.
“God bless ye, men. Steward! go draw the great measure of
grog. But what's this long face about, Mr. Starbuck; wilt
thou not chase the white whale? art not game for Moby

“I am game for his crooked jaw, and for the jaws of Death
too, Captain Ahab, if it fairly comes in the way of the business
we follow; but I came here to hunt whales, not my commander's


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vengeance. How many barrels will thy vengeance yield
thee even if thou gettest it, Captain Ahab? it will not fetch thee
much in our Nantucket market.”

“Nantucket market! Hoot! But come closer, Starbuck;
thou requirest a little lower layer. If money's to be the
measurer, man, and the accountants have computed their great
counting-house the globe, by girdling it with guineas, one to
every three parts of an inch; then, let me tell thee, that my
vengeance will fetch a great premium here!

“He smites his chest,” whispered Stubb, “what's that for?
methinks it rings most vast, but hollow.”

“Vengeance on a dumb brute!” cried Starbuck, “that simply
smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged
with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous.”

“Hark ye yet again,—the little lower layer. All visible objects,
man, are but as pasteboard masks. But in each event—
in the living act, the undoubted deed—there, some unknown
but still reasoning thing puts forth the mouldings of its features
from behind the unreasoning mask. If man will strike, strike
through the mask! How can the prisoner reach outside except
by thrusting through the wall? To me, the white whale is
that wall, shoved near to me. Sometimes I think there's
naught beyond. But 'tis enough. He tasks me; he heaps me;
I see in him outrageous strength, with an inscrutable malice
sinewing it. That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate; and
be the white whale agent, or be the white whale principal, I will
wreak that hate upon him. Talk not to me of blasphemy,
man; I'd strike the sun if it insuited me. For could the sun do
that, then could I do the other; since there is ever a sort of fair
play herein, jealousy presiding over all creations. But not my
master, man, is even that fair play. Who's over me? Truth
hath no confines. Take off thine eye! more intolerable than
fiends' glarings is a doltish stare! So, so; thou reddenest and
palest; my heat has melted thee to anger-glow. But look ye,


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Starbuck, what is said in heat, that thing unsays itself. There
are men from whom warm words are small indignity. I meant
not to incense thee. Let it go. Look! see yonder Turkish
cheeks of spotted tawn—living, breathing pictures painted by
the sun. The Pagan leopards—the unrecking and unworshipping
things, that live; and seek, and give no reasons for the
torrid life they feel! The crew, man, the crew! Are they
not one and all with Ahab, in this matter of the whale? See
Stubb! he laughs! See yonder Chilian! he snorts to think of it.
Stand up amid the general hurricane, thy one tost sapling cannot,
Starbuck! And what is it? Reckon it. 'Tis but to help
strike a fin; no wondrous feat for Starbuck. What is it more?
From this one poor hunt, then, the best lance out of all
Nantucket, surely he will not hang back, when every foremasthand
has clutched a whetstone? Ah! constrainings seize thee;
I see! the billow lifts thee! Speak, but speak!—Aye, aye! thy
silence, then, that voices thee. (Aside) Something shot from
my dilated nostrils, he has inhaled it in his lungs. Starbuck
now is mine, cannot oppose me now, without rebellion.”

“God keep me!—keep us all!” murmured Starbuck, lowly.

But in his joy at the enchanted, tacit acquiescence of the
mate, Ahab did not hear his foreboding invocation; nor yet the
low laugh from the hold; nor yet the presaging vibrations of
the winds in the cordage; nor yet the hollow flap of the sails
against the masts, as for a moment their hearts sank in. For
again Starbuck's downcast eyes lighted up with the stubbornness
of life; the subterranean laugl died away; the winds blew on;
the sails filled out; the ship heaved and rolled as before. Ah,
ye admonitions and warnings! why stay ye not when ye come?
But rather are ye predictions than warnings, ye shadows! Yet
not so much predictions from without, as verifications of the
foregoing things within. For with little external to constrain
us, the innermost necessities in our being, these still drive us on.

“The measure! the measure!” cried Ahab.


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Receiving the brimming pewter, and turning to the harpooneers,
he ordered them to produce their weapons. Then
ranging them before him near the capstan, with their harpoons
in their hands, while his three mates stood at his side with their
lances, and the rest of the ship's company formed a circle round
the group; he stood for an instant searchingly eyeing every
man of his crew. But those wild eyes met his, as the bloodshot
eyes of the prairie wolves meet the eye of their leader, ere he
rushes on at their head in the trail of the bison; but, alas!
only to fall into the hidden snare of the Indian.

“Drink and pass!” he cried, handing the heavy charged
flagon to the nearest seaman. “The crew alone now drink.
Round with it, round! Short draughts—long swallows, men;
'tis hot as Satan's hoof. So, so; it goes round excellently. It
spiralizes in ye; forks out at the serpent-snapping eye. Well
done; almost drained. That way it went, this way it comes.
Hand it me—here's a hollow! Men, ye seem the years; so
brimming life is gulped and gone. Steward, refill!

“Attend now, my braves. I have mustered ye all round this
capstan; and ye mates, flank me with your lances; and ye
harpooneers, stand there with your irons; and ye, stout mariners,
ring me in, that I may in some sort revive a noble custom
of my fisherman fathers before me. O men, you will yet see
that— Ha! boy, come back? bad pennies come not sooner.
Hand it me. Why, now, this pewter had run brimming again,
wer't not thou St. Vitus' imp—away, thou ague!

“Advance, ye mates! Cross your lances full before me.
Well done! Let me touch the axis.” So saying, with extended
arm, he grasped the three level, radiating lances at their crossed
centre; while so doing, suddenly and nervously twitched them;
meanwhile, glancing intently from Starbuck to Stubb; from
Stubb to Flask. It seemed as though, by some nameless,
interior volition, he would fain have shocked into them the same
fiery emotion accumulated within the Leyden jar of his own


Page 184
magnetic life. The three mates quailed before his strong, sustained,
and mystic aspect. Stubb and Flask looked sideways
from him; the honest eye of Starbuck fell downright.

“In vain!” cried Ahab; “but, maybe, 'tis well. For did ye
three but once take the fall-forced shock, then mine own electric
thing, that had perhaps expired from out me. Perchance, too,
it would have dropped ye dead. Perchance ye need it not.
Down lances! And now, ye mates, I do appoint ye three cup-bearers
to my three pagan kinsmen there—yon three most
honorable gentlemen and noblemen, my valiant harpooneers.
Disdain the task? What, when the great Pope washes the feet
of beggars, using his tiara for ewer? Oh, my sweet cardinals!
your own condescension, that shall bend ye to it. I do not
order ye; ye will it. Cut your seizings and draw the poles, ye

Silently obeying the order, the three harpooneers now stood
with the detached iron part of their harpoons, some three feet
long, held, barbs up, before him.

“Stab me not with that keen steel! Cant them; cant them
over! know ye not the goblet end? Turn up the socket! So,
so; now, ye cup-bearers, advance. The irons! take them; hold
them while I fill!” Forthwith, slowly going from one officer
to the other, he brimmed the harpoon sockets with the fiery
waters from the pewter.

“Now, three to three, ye stand. Commend the murderous
chalices! Bestow them, ye who are now made parties to this
indissoluble league. Ha! Starbuck! but the deed is done!
Yon ratifying sun now waits to sit upon it. Drink, ye harpooneers!
drink and swear, ye men that man the deathful
whaleboat's bow—Death to Moby Dick! God hunt us all, if
we do not hunt Moby Dick to his death!” The long, barbed
steel goblets were lifted; and to cries and maledictions against
the white whale, the spirits were simultaneously quaffed down
with a hiss. Starbuck paled, and turned, and shivered. Once


Page 185
more, and finally, the replenished pewter went the rounds
among the frantic crew; when, waving his free hand to them,
they all dispersed; and Ahab retired within his cabin.