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The phantoms, for so they then seemed, were flitting on the
other side of the deck, and, with a noiseless celerity, were


Page 241
casting loose the tackles and bands of the boat which swung
there. This boat had always been deemed one of the spare
boats, though technically called the captain's, on account of its
hanging from the starboard quarter. The figure that now stood
by its bows was tall and swart, with one white tooth evilly protruding
from its steel-like lips. A rumpled Chinese jacket of
black cotton funereally invested him, with wide black trowsers of
the same dark stuff. But strangely crowning this ebonness was a
glistening white plaited turban, the living hair braided and coiled
round and round upon his head. Less swart in aspect, the
companions of this figure were of that vivid, tiger-yellow complexion
peculiar to some of the aboriginal natives of the Manillas;—a
race notorious for a certain diabolism of subtilty, and
by some honest white mariners supposed to be the paid spies
and secret confidential agents on the water of the devil, their
lord, whose counting-room they suppose to be elsewhere.

While yet the wondering ship's company were gazing upon
these strangers, Ahab cried out to the white-turbaned old man
at their head, “All ready there, Fedallah?”

“Ready,” was the half-hissed reply.

“Lower away then; d'ye hear?” shouting across the deck.
“Lower away there, I say.”

Such was the thunder of his voice, that spite of their amazement
the men sprang over the rail; the sheaves whirled round
in the blocks; with a wallow, the three boats dropped into the
sea; while, with a dexterous, off-handed daring, unknown in
any other vocation, the sailors, goat-like, leaped down the rolling
ship's side into the tossed boats below.

Hardly had they pulled out from under the ship's lee, when
a fourth keel, coming from the windward side, pulled round
under the stern, and showed the five strangers rowing Ahab,
who, standing erect in the stern, loudly hailed Starbuck, Stubb,
and Flask, to spread themselves widely, so as to cover a large expanse
of water. But with all their eyes again riveted upon the


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swart Fedallah and his crew, the inmates of the other boats
obeyed not the command.

“Captain Ahab?—” said Starbuck.

“Spread yourselves,” cried Ahab; “give way, all four boats.
Thou, Flask, pull out more to leeward!”

“Aye, aye, sir,” cheerily cried little King-Post, sweeping
round his great steering oar. “Lay back!” addressing his crew.
“There!—there!—there again! There she blows right ahead,
boys!—lay back!”

“Never heed yonder yellow boys, Archy.”

“Oh, I don't mind 'em, sir,' said Archy; “I knew it all
before now. Didn't I hear 'em in the hold? And didn't I tell
Cabaco here of it? What say ye, Cabaco? They are stowaways,
Mr. Flask.”

“Pull, pull, my fine hearts-alive; pull, my children; pull, my
little ones,” drawlingly and soothingly sighed Stubb to his crew,
some of whom still showed signs of uneasiness. “Why don't
you break your backbones, my boys? What is it you stare at?
Those chaps in yonder boat? Tut! They are only five
more hands come to help us—never mind from where—the
more the merrier. Pull, then, do pull; never mind the brimstone—devils
are good fellows enough. So, so; there you are
now; that's the stroke for a thousand pounds; that's the stroke
to sweep the stakes! Hurrah for the gold cup of sperm oil,
my heroes! Three cheers, men—all hearts alive! Easy, easy;
don't be in a hurry—don't be in a hurry. Why don't you
snap your oars, you rascals? Bite something, you dogs! So,
so, so, then;—softly, softly! That's it—that's it! long and
strong. Give way there, give way! The devil fetch ye, ye
ragamuffin rapscallions; ye are all asleep. Stop snoring, ye
sleepers, and pull. Pull, will ye? pull, can't ye? pull, won't
ye? Why in the name of gudgeons and ginger-cakes don't ye
pull?—pull and break something! pull, and start your eyes
out! Here!” whipping out the sharp knife from his girdle;


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“every mother's son of ye draw his knife, and pull with the
blade between his teeth. That's it—that's it. Now ye do
something; that looks like it, my steel-bits. Start her—start
her, my silver-spoons! Start her, marling-spikes!”

Stubb's exordium to his crew is given here at large, because
he had rather a peculiar way of talking to them in general, and
especially in inculcating the religion of rowing. But you must
not suppose from this specimen of his sermonizings that he ever
flew into downright passions with his congregation. Not at
all; and therein consisted his chief peculiarity. He would say
the most terrific things to his crew, in a tone so strangely compounded
of fun and fury, and the fury seemed so calculated
merely as a spice to the fun, that no oarsman could hear such
queer invocations without pulling for dear life, and yet pulling for
the mere joke of the thing. Besides he all the time looked so
easy and indolent himself, so loungingly managed his steeringoar,
and so broadly gaped—open-mouthed at times—that the
mere sight of such a yawning commander, by sheer force of
contrast, acted like a charm upon the crew. Then again, Stubb
was one of those odd sort of humorists, whose jollity is sometimes
so curiously ambiguous, as to put all inferiors on their
guard in the matter of obeying them.

In obedience to a sign from Ahab, Starbuck was now pulling
obliquely across Stubb's bow; and when for a minute or so the
two boats were pretty near to each other, Stubb hailed the

“Mr. Starbuck! larboard boat there, ahoy! a word with ye,
sir, if ye please!”

“Halloa!” returned Starbuck, turning round not a single inch
as he spoke; still earnestly but whisperingly urging his crew;
his face set like a flint from Stubb's.

“What think ye of those yellow boys, sir!”

“Smuggled on board, somehow, before the ship sailed.
(Strong, strong, boys!”) in a whisper to his crew, then speaking


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out loud again: “A sad business, Mr. Stubb! (seethe her,
seethe her, my lads!) but never mind, Mr. Stubb, all for the
best. Let all your crew pull strong, come what will. (Spring,
my men, spring!) There's hogsheads of sperm ahead, Mr.
Stubb, and that's what ye came for. (Pull, my boys!) Sperm,
sperm's the play! This at least is duty; duty and profit hand
in hand!”

“Aye, aye, I thought as much,” soliloquized Stubb, when
the boats diverged, “as soon as I clapt eye on 'em, I thought
so. Aye, and that's what he went into the after hold for, so
often, as Dough-Boy long suspected. They were hidden down
there. The White Whale's at the bottom of it. Well, well,
so be it! Can't be helped! All right! Give way, men! It
ain't the White Whale to-day! Give way!”

Now the advent of these outlandish strangers at such a critical
instant as the lowering of the boats from the deck, this had
not unreasonably awakened a sort of superstitious amazement
in some of the ship's company; but Archy's fancied discovery
having some time previous got abroad among them, though
indeed not credited then, this had in some small measure prepared
them for the event. It took off the extreme edge of their
wonder; and so what with all this and Stubb's confident way
of accounting for their appearance, they were for the time freed
from superstitious surmisings; though the affair still left abundant
room for all manner of wild conjectures as to dark Ahab's
precise agency in the matter from the beginning. For me, I
silently recalled the mysterious shadows I had seen creeping on
board the Pequod during the dim Nantucket dawn, as well as
the enigmatical hintings of the unaccountable Elijah.

Meantime, Ahab, out of hearing of his officers, having sided
the furthest to windward, was still ranging ahead of the other
boats; a circumstance bespeaking how potent a crew was pulling
him. Those tiger yellow creatures of his seemed all steel and
whalebone; like five trip-hammers they rose and fell with regular


Page 245
strokes of strength, which periodically started the boat along
the water like a horizontal burst boiler out of a Mississippi
steamer. As for Fedallah, who was seen pulling the harpooneer
oar, he had thrown aside his black jacket, and displayed his naked
chest with the whole part of his body above the gunwale,
clearly cut against the alternating depressions of the watery
horizon; while at the other end of the boat Ahab, with one arm,
like a fencer's, thrown half backward into the air, as if to counterbalance
any tendency to trip; Ahab was seen steadily managing
his steering oar as in a thousand boat lowerings ere
the White Whale had torn him. All at once the outstretched
arm gave a peculiar motion and then remained fixed,
while the boat's five oars were seen simultaneously peaked.
Boat and crew sat motionless on the sea. Instantly the three
spread boats in the rear paused on their way. The whales had
irregularly settled bodily down into the blue, thus giving no distantly
discernible token of the movement, though from his closer
vicinity Ahab had observed it.

“Every man look out along his oars!” cried Starbuck. “Thou,
Queequeg, stand up!”

Nimbly springing up on the triangular raised box in the bow,
the savage stood erect there, and with intensely eager eyes gazed
off towards the spot where the chase had last been descried.
Likewise upon the extreme stern of the boat where it was also
triangularly platformed level with the gunwale, Starbuck himself
was seen coolly and adroitly balancing himself to the jerking
tossings of his chip of a craft, and silently eyeing the vast blue
eye of the sea.

Not very far distant Flask's boat was also lying breathlessly
still; its commander recklessly standing upon the top of the
loggerhead, a stout sort of post rooted in the keel, and rising
some two feet above the level of the stern platform. It is used
for catching turns with the whale line. Its top is not more
spacious than the palm of a man's hand, and standing upon


Page 246
such a base as that, Flask seemed perched at the mast-head of
some ship which had sunk to all but her trucks. But little
King-Post was small and short, and at the same time little King-Post
was full of a large and tall ambition, so that this loggerhead
stand-point of his did by no means satisfy King-Post.

“I can't see three seas off; tip us up an oar there, and let me
on to that.”

Upon this, Daggoo, with either hand upon the gunwale to
steady his way, swiftly slid aft, and then erecting himself volunteered
his lofty shoulders for a pedestal.

“Good a mast-head as any, sir. Will you mount?”

“That I will, and thank ye very much, my fine fellow; only
I wish you fifty feet taller.”

Whereupon planting his feet firmly against two opposite
planks of the boat, the gigantic negro, stooping a little, presented
his flat palm to Flask's foot, and then putting Flask's hand
on his hearse-plumed head and bidding him spring as he himself
should toss, with one dexterous fling landed the little man
high and dry on his shoulders. And here was Flask now standing,
Daggoo with one lifted arm furnishing him with a breastband
to lean against and steady himself by.

At any time it is a strange sight to the tyro to see with what
wondrous habitude of unconscious skill the whaleman will maintain
an erect posture in his boat, even when pitched about by
the most riotously perverse and cross-running seas. Still more
strange to see him giddily perched upon the loggerhead itself,
under such circumstances. But the sight of little Flask mounted
upon gigantic Daggoo was yet more curious; for sustaining
himself with a cool, indifferent, easy, unthought of, barbaric majesty,
the noble negro to every roll of the sea harmoniously rolled
his fine form. On his broad back, flaxen-haired Flask seemed a
snow-flake. The bearer looked nobler than the rider. Though
truly vivacious, tumultuous, ostentatious little Flask would now
and then stamp with impatience; but not one added heave did


Page 247
he thereby give to the negro's lordly chest. So have I seen
Passion and Vanity stamping the living magnanimous earth,
but the earth did not alter her tides and her seasons for that.

Meanwhile Stubb, the third mate, betrayed no such far-gazing
solicitudes. The whales might have made one of their regular
soundings, not a temporary dive from mere fright; and if that
were the case, Stubb, as his wont in such cases, it seems, was
resolved to solace the languishing interval with his pipe. He
withdrew it from his hatband, where he always wore it aslant
like a feather. He loaded it, and rammed home the loading
with his thumb-end; but hardly had he ignited his match
across the rough sand-paper of his hand, when Tashtego, his
harpooneer, whose eyes had been setting to windward like two
fixed stars, suddenly dropped like light from his erect attitude
to his seat, crying out in a quick phrensy of hurry, “Down, down
all, and give way!—there they are!”

To a landsman, no whale, nor any sign of a herring, would
have been visible at that moment; nothing but a troubled bit
of greenish white water, and thin scattered puffs of vapor
hovering over it, and suffusingly blowing off to leeward, like the
confused scud from white rolling billows. The air around
suddenly vibrated and tingled, as it were, like the air over
intensely heated plates of iron. Beneath this atmospheric
waving and curling, and partially beneath a thin layer of water,
also, the whales were swimming. Seen in advance of all the
other indications, the puffs of vapor they spouted, seemed their
forerunning couriers and detached flying outriders.

All four boats were now in keen pursuit of that one spot of
troubled water and air. But it bade far to outstrip them; it
flew on and on, as a mass of interblending bubbles borne down
a rapid stream from the hills.

“Pull, pull, my good boys,” said Starbuck, in the lowest
possible but intensest concentrated whisper to his men; while
the sharp fixed glance from his eyes darted straight ahead of


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the bow, almost seemed as two visible needles in two unerring
binnacle compasses. He did not say much to his crew, though,
nor did his crew say anything to him. Only the silence of the
boat was at intervals startlingly pierced by one of his peculiar
whispers, now harsh with command, now soft with entreaty.

How different the loud little King-Post. “Sing out and say
something, my hearties. Roar and pull, my thunderbolts!
Beach me, beach me on their black backs, boys; only do that
for me, and I'll sign over to you my Martha's Vineyard plantation,
boys; including wife and children, boys. Lay me on—lay
me on! O Lord, Lord! but I shall go stark, staring mad:
See! see that white water!” And so shouting, he pulled his hat
from his head, and stamped up and down on it; then picking
it up, flirted it far off upon the sea; and finally fell to rearing
and plunging in the boat's stern like a crazed colt from the

“Look at that chap now,” philosophically drawled Stubb,
who, with his unlighted short pipe, mechanically retained
between his teeth, at a short distance, followed after—“He's got
fits, that Flask has. Fits? yes, give him fits—that's the very
word—pitch fits into 'em. Merrily, merrily, hearts-alive. Pudding
for supper, you know;—merry's the word. Pull, babes
—pull, sucklings—pull, all. But what the devil are you hurrying
about? Softly, softly, and steadily, my men. Only pull,
and keep pulling; nothing more. Crack all your backbones,
and bite your knives in two—that's all. Take it easy—why
don't ye take it easy, I say, and burst all your livers and

But what it was that inscrutable Ahab said to that tiger-yellow
crew of his—these were words best omitted here; for
you live under the blessed light of the evangelical land. Only
the infidel sharks in the audacious seas may give ear to such
words, when, with tornado brow, and eyes of red murder, and
foam-glued lips, Ahab leaped after his prey.


Page 249

Meanwhile, all the boats tore on. The repeated specific allusions
of Flask to “that whale,” as he called the fictitious
monster which he declared to be incessantly tantalizing his
boat's bow with its tail—these allusions of his were at times
so vivid and life-like, that they would cause some one or two of
his men to snatch a fearful look over the shoulder. But this
was against all rule; for the oarsmen must put out their eyes,
and ram a skewer through their necks; usage pronouncing that
they must have no organs but ears, and no limbs but arms, in
these critical moments.

It was a sight full of quick wonder and awe! The vast
swells of the omnipotent sea; the surging, hollow roar they
made, as they rolled along the eight gunwales, like gigantic
bowls in a boundless bowling-green; the brief suspended agony
of the boat, as it would tip for an instant on the knife-like edge
of the sharper waves, that almost seemed threatening to cut
it in two; the sudden profound dip into the watery glens and
hollows; the keen spurrings and goadings to gain the top of the
opposite hill; the headlong, sled-like slide down its other
side;—all these, with the cries of the headsmen and harpooneers,
and the shuddering gasps of the oarsmen, with the
wondrous sight of the ivory Pequod bearing down upon her
boats with outstretched sails, like a wild hen after her screaming
brood;—all this was thrilling. Not the raw recruit, marching
from the bosom of his wife into the fever heat of his first battle;
not the dead man's ghost encountering the first unknown
phantom in the other world;—neither of these can feel stranger
and stronger emotions than that man does, who for the first
time finds himself pulling into the charmed, churned circle of
the hunted sperm whale.

The dancing white water made by the chase was now becoming
more and more visible, owing to the increasing darkness of
the dun cloud-shadows flung upon the sea. The jets of vapor
no longer blended, but tilted everywhere to right and left; the


Page 250
whales seemed separating their wakes. The boats were pulled
more apart; Starbuck giving chase to three whales running
dead to leeward. Our sail was now set, and, with the still
rising wind, we rushed along; the boat going with such madness
through the water, that the lee oars could scarcely be
worked rapidly enough to escape being torn from the row-locks.

Soon we were running through a suffusing wide veil of mist;
neither ship nor boat to be seen.

“Give way, men,” whispered Starbuck, drawing still further
aft the sheet of his sail; “there is time to kill a fish yet before
the squall comes. There's white water again!—close to!

Soon after, two cries in quick succession on each side of us
denoted that the other boats had got fast; but hardly were
they overheard, when with a lightning-like hurtling whisper
Starbuck said: “Stand up!” and Queequeg, harpoon in hand,
sprang to his feet.

Though not one of the oarsmen was then facing the life and
death peril so close to them ahead, yet with their eyes on the
intense countenance of the mate in the stern of the boat, they
knew that the imminent instant had come; they heard, too, an
enormous wallowing sound as of fifty elephants stirring in their
litter. Meanwhile the boat was still booming through the mist,
the waves curling and hissing around us like the erected crests
of enraged serpents.

“That's his hump. There, there, give it to him!” whispered

A short rushing sound leaped out of the boat; it was the
darted iron of Queequeg. Then all in one welded commotion
came an invisible push from astern, while forward the boat
seemed striking on a ledge; the sail collapsed and exploded; a
gush of scalding vapor shot up near by; something rolled and
tumbled like an earthquake beneath us. The whole crew were
half suffocated as they were tossed helter-skelter into the white


Page 251
curdling cream of the squall. Squall, whale, and harpoon had
all blended together; and the whale, merely grazed by the iron,

Though completely swamped, the boat was nearly unharmed.
Swimming round it we picked up the floating oars, and lashing
them across the gunwale, tumbled back to our places. There
we sat up to our knees in the sea, the water covering every rib
and plank, so that to our downward gazing eyes the suspended
craft seemed a coral boat grown up to us from the bottom of
the ocean.

The wind increased to a howl; the waves dashed their bucklers
together; the whole squall roared, forked, and crackled around
us like a white fire upon the prairie, in which, unconsumed, we
were burning; immortal in these jaws of death! In vain we
hailed the other boats; as well roar to the live coals down the
chimney of a flaming furnace as hail those boats in that storm.
Meanwhile the driving scud, rack, and mist, grew darker with the
shadows of night; no sign of the ship could be seen. The rising
sea forbade all attempts to bale out the boat. The oars
were useless as propellers, performing now the office of life-preservers.
So, cutting the lashing of the waterproof match keg,
after many failures Starbuck contrived to ignite the lamp in the
lantern; then stretching it on a waif pole, handed it to Queequeg
as the standard-bearer of this forlorn hope. There, then,
he sat, holding up that imbecile cancle in the heart of that almighty
forlornness. There, then, he sat, the sign and symbol
of a man without faith, hopelessly holding up hope in the midst
of despair.

Wet, drenched through, and shivering cold, despairing of
ship or boat, we lifted up our eyes as the dawn came on. The
mist still spread over the sea, the empty lantern lay crushed in
the bottom of the boat. Suddenly Queequeg started to his
feet, hollowing his hand to his ear. We all heard a faint creaking,
as of ropes and yards hitherto muffled by the storm. The


Page 252
sound came nearer and nearer; the thick mists were dimly parted
by a huge, vague form. Affrighted, we all sprang into the
sea as the ship at last loomed into view, bearing right down
upon us within a distance of not much more than its length.

Floating on the waves we saw the abandoned boat, as for one
instant it tossed and gaped beneath the ship's bows like a chip
at the base of a cataract; and then the vast hull rolled over it,
and it was seen no more till it came up weltering astern.
Again we swam for it, were dashed against it by the seas, and
were at last taken up and safely landed on board. Ere the
squall came close to, the other boats had cut loose from their
fish and returned to the ship in good time. The ship had given
us up, but was still cruising, if haply it might light upon some
token of our perishing,—an oar or a lance pole.