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(As told at the Golden Inn.)

The Cape of Good Hope, and all the watery region round
about there, is much like some noted four corners of a great
highway, where you meet more travellers than in any other part.

It was not very long after speaking the Goney that another
homeward-bound whaleman, the Town-Ho,[1] was encountered.
She was manned almost wholly by Polynesians. In the short gam
that ensued she gave us strong news of Moby Dick. To some
the general interest in the White Whale was now wildly heightened


Page 270
by a circumstance of the Town-Ho's story, which seemed
obscurely to involve with the whale a certain wondrous, inverted
visitation of one of those so called judgments of God which
at times are said to overtake some men. This latter circumstance,
with its own particular accompaniments, forming what
may be called the secret part of the tragedy about to be narrated,
never reached the ears of Captain Ahab or his mates.
For that secret part of the story was unknown to the captain of
the Town-Ho himself. It was the private property of three
confederate white seamen of that ship, one of whom, it seems,
communicated it to Tashtego with Romish injunctions of secresy,
but the following night Tashtego rambled in his sleep, and revealed
so much of it in that way, that when he was wakened
he could not well withhold the rest. Nevertheless, so potent an
influence did this thing have on those seamen in the Pequod
who came to the full knowledge of it, and by such a strange
delicacy, to call it so, were they governed in this matter, that
they kept the secret among themselves so that it never transpired
abaft the Pequod's main-mast. Interweaving in its proper
place this darker thread with the story as publicly narrated on
the ship, the whole of this strange affair I now proceed to put
on lasting record.

For my humor's sake, I shall preserve the style in which I
once narrated it at Lima, to a lounging circle of my Spanish
friends, one saint's eve, smoking upon the thick-gilt tiled piazza
of the Golden Inn. Of those fine cavaliers, the young Dons,
Pedro and Sebastian, were on the closer terms with me; and
hence the interluding questions they occasionally put, and which
are duly answered at the time.

“Some two years prior to my first learning the events which
I am about rehearsing to you, gentlemen, the Town-Ho, Sperm
Whaler of Nantucket, was cruising in your Pacific here, not very
many days' sail eastward from the eaves of this good Golden
Inn. She was somewhere to the northward of the Line. One


Page 271
morning upon handling the pumps, according to daily usage, it
was observed that she made more water in her hold than common.
They supposed a sword-fish had stabbed her, gentlemen.
But the captain, having some unusual reason for believing that
rare good luck awaited him in those latitudes; and therefore
being very averse to quit them, and the leak not being then
considered at all dangerous, though, indeed, they could not find
it after searching the hold as low down as was possible in rather
heavy weather, the ship still continued her cruisings, the mariners
working at the pumps at wide and easy intervals; but
no good luck came; more days went by, and not only was the
leak yet undiscovered, but it sensibly increased. So much so,
that now taking some alarm, the captain, making all sail, stood
away for the nearest harbor among the islands, there to have
his hull hove out and repaired.

“Though no small passage was before her, yet, if the commonest
chance favored, he did not at all fear that his ship would
founder by the way, because his pumps were of the best, and
being periodically relieved at them, those six-and-thirty men of
his could easily keep the ship free; never mind if the leak should
double on her. In truth, well nigh the whole of this passage
being attended by very prosperous breezes, the Town-Ho had
all but certainly arrived in perfect safety at her port without
the occurrence of the least fatality, had it not been for the brutal
overbearing of Radney, the mate, a Vineyarder, and the bitterly
provoked vengeance of Steelkilt, a Lakeman and desperado
from Buffalo.”

“ `Lakeman!—Buffalo! Pray, what is a Lakeman, and where
is Buffalo?' said Don Sebastian, rising in his swinging mat of

“On the eastern shore of our Lake Erie, Don; but—I crave your
courtesy—may be, you shall soon hear further of all that. Now,
gentlemen, in square-sail brigs and three-masted ships, well nigh
as large and stout as any that ever sailed out of your old Callao to


Page 272
far Manilla; this Lakeman, in the land-locked heart of our America,
had yet been nurtured by all those agrarian freebooting impressions
popularly connected with the open ocean. For in their
interflowing aggregate, those grand fresh-water seas of ours,
—Erie, and Ontario, and Huron, and Superior, and Michigan,—
possess an ocean-like expansiveness, with many of the ocean's noblest
traits; with many of its rimmed varieties of races and of
climes. They contain round archipelagoes of romantic isles,
even as the Polynesian waters do; in large part, are shored by
two great contrasting nations, as the Atlantic is; they furnish
long maritime approaches to our numerous territorial colonies
from the East, dotted all round their banks; here and there are
frowned upon by batteries, and by the goat-like craggy guns of
lofty Mackinaw; they have heard the fleet thunderings of naval
victories; at intervals, they yield their beaches to wild barbarians,
whose red painted faces flash from out their peltry wigwams;
for leagues and leagues are flanked by ancient and
unentered forests, where the gaunt pines stand like serried lines
of kings in Gothie genealogies; those same woods harboring
wild Afric beasts of prey, and silken creatures whose exported
furs give robes to Tartar Emperors; they mirror the paved
capitals of Buffalo and Cleveland, as well as Winnebago
villages; they flaot alike the full-rigged merchant ship, the
armed cruiser of the State, the steamer, and the beech canoe;
they are swept by Borean and dismasting blasts as direful as any
that lash the salted wave; they know what shipwrecks are, for
out of sight of land, however inland, they have drowned full
many a midnight ship with all its shrieking crew. Thus, gentlemen,
though an inlander, Steelkilt was wild-ocean born, and
wild-ocean nurtured; as much of an audacious mariner as any.
And for Radney, though in his infancy he may have laid him
down on the lone Nantucket beach, to nurse at his maternal sea;
though in after life he had long followed our austere Atlantic
and your contemplative Pacific; yet was he quite as vengeful


Page 273
and full of social quarrel as the backwoods seaman, fresh
from the latitudes of buck-horn handled Bowie-knives. Yet
was this Nantucketer a man with some good-hearted traits; and
this Lakeman, a mariner, who though a sort of devil indeed,
might yet by inflexible firmness, only tempered by that common
decency of human recognition which is the meanest slave's
right; thus treated, this Steelkilt had long been retained harmless
and docile. At all events, he had proved so thus far; but
Radney was doomed and made mad, and Steelkilt—but, gentlemen,
you shall hear.

“It was not more than a day or two at the furthest after pointing
her prow for her island haven, that the Town-Ho's leak
seemed again increasing, but only so as to require an hour or
more at the pumps every day. You must know that in a settled
and civilized ocean like our Atlantic, for example, some
skippers think little of pumping their whole way across it;
though of a still, sleepy night, should the officer of the deck happen
to forget his duty in that respect, the probability would be that
he and his shipmates would never again remember it, on account
of all hands gently subsiding to the bottom. Nor in the
solitary and savage seas far from you to the westward, gentlemen,
is it altogether unusual for ships to keep clanging at their
pump-handles in full chorus even for a voyage of considerable
length; that is, if it lie along a tolerably accessible coast, or if
any other reasonable retreat is afforded them. It is only when
a leaky vessel is in some very out of the way part of those
waters, some really laudless latitude, that her captain begins to
feel a little anxious.

“Much this way had it been with the Town-Ho; so when her
leak was found gaining once more, there was in truth some small
concern manifested by several of her company; especially by
Radney the mate. He commanded the upper sails to be well
hoisted, sheeted home anew, and every way expanded to the
breeze. Now this Radney, I suppose, was as little of a coward,


Page 274
and as little inclined to any sort of nervous apprehensiveness
touching his own person as any fearless, unthinking creature on
land or on sea that you can conveniently imagine, gentlemen.
Therefore when he betrayed this solicitude about the safety of the
ship, some of the seamen declared that it was only on account
of his being a part owner in her. So when they were working
that evening at the pumps, there was on this head no small
gamesomeness slily going on among them, as they stood with
their feet continually overflowed by the rippling clear water;
clear as any mountain spring, gentlemen—that bubbling from
the pumps ran across the deck, and poured itself out in steady
spouts at the lee scupper-holes.

“Now, as you well know, it is not seldom the case in this conventional
world of ours—watery or otherwise; that when a
person placed in command over his fellow-men finds one of
them to be very significantly his superior in general pride of
manhood, straightway against that man he conceives an unconquerable
dislike and bitterness; and if he have a chance he
will pull down and pulverize that subaltern's tower, and make
a little heap of dust of it. Be this conceit of mine as it may,
gentlemen, at all events Steelkilt was a tall and noble animal
with a head like a Roman, and a flowing golden beard like the
tasseled housings of your last viceroy's snorting charger; and a
brain, and a heart, and a soul in him, gentlemen, which had made
Steelkilt Charlemagne, had he been born son to Charlemagne's
father. But Radney, the mate, was ugly as a mule; yet as
hardy, as stubborn, as malicious. He did not love Steelkilt,
and Steelkilt knew it.

“Espying the mate drawing near as he was toiling at the pump
with the rest, the Lakeman affected not to notice him, but unawed,
went on with his gay banterings.

“ `Aye, aye, my merry lads, it's a lively leak this; hold a
cannikin, one of ye, and let's have a taste. By the Lord, it's
worth bottling! I tell ye what, men, old Rad's investment


Page 275
must go for it! he had best cut away his part of the hull and
tow it home. The fact is, boys, that sword-fish only began the
job; he's come back again with a gang of ship-carpenters,
saw-fish, and file-fish, and what not; and the whole posse of
'em are now hard at work cutting and slashing at the bottom;
making improvements, I suppose. If old Rad were here now,
I'd tell him to jump overboard and scatter 'em. They're playing
the devil with his estate, I can tell him. But he's a simple
old soul,—Rad, and a beauty too. Boys, they say the rest of
his property is invested in looking-glasses. I wonder if he'd
give a poor devil like me the model of his nose.”

“`Damn your eyes! what's that pump stopping for?' roared
Radney, pretending not to have heard the sailors' talk. `Thunder
away at it!'

“`Aye, aye, sir,' said Steelkilt, merry as a cricket. `Lively,
boys, lively, now!' And with that the pump clanged like
fifty fire-engines; the men tossed their hats off to it, and ere
long that peculiar gasping of the lungs was heard which denotes
the fullest tension of life's utmost energies.

“Quitting the pump at last, with the rest of his band, the
Lakeman went forward all panting, and sat himself down on
the windlass; his face fiery red, his eyes bloodshot, and wiping
the profuse sweat from his brow. Now what cozening fiend
it was, gentlemen, that possessed Radney to meddle with such a
man in that corporeally exasperated state, I know not; but so it
happened. Intolerably striding along the deck, the mate commanded
him to get a broom and sweep down the planks, and
also a shovel, and remove some offensive matters consequent
upon allowing a pig to run at large.

“Now, gentlemen, sweeping a ship's deck at sea is a piece of
household work which in all times but raging gales is regularly
attended to every evening; it has been known to be done in the
case of ships actually foundering at the time. Such, gentlemen,
is the inflexibility of sea-usages and the instinctive love of neatness


Page 276
in seamen; some of whom would not willingly drown without
first washing their faces. But in all vessels this broom business
is the prescriptive province of the boys, if boys there be aboard.
Besides, it was the stronger men in the Town-Ho that had been
divided into gangs, taking turns at the pumps; and being the
most athletic seaman of them all, Steelkilt had been regularly
assigned captain of one of the gangs; consequently he should
have been freed from any trivial business not connected with
truly nautical duties, such being the case with his comrades.
I mention all these particulars so that you may understand exactly
how this affair stood between the two men.

“But there was more than this: the order about the
shovel was almost as plainly meant to sting and insult Steelkilt,
as though Radney had spat in his face. Any man who has
gone sailor in a whale-ship will understand this; and all this
and doubtless much more, the Lakeman fully comprehended
when the mate uttered his command. But as he sat still for a
moment, and as he steadfastly looked into the mate's malignant
eye and perceived the stacks of powder-casks heaped up in him
and the slow-match silently burning along towards them; as he
instinctively saw all this, that strange forbearance and unwillingness
to stir up the deeper passionateness in any already ireful
being—a repugnance most felt, when felt at all, by really valiant
men even when aggrieved—this nameless phantom feeling, gentlemen,
stole over Steelkilt.

“Therefore, in his ordinary tone, only a little broken by the
bodily exhaustion he was temporarily in, he answered him
saying that sweeping the deck was not his business, and he
would not do it. And then, without at all alluding to the shovel,
he pointed to three lads as the customary sweepers; who, not
being billeted at the pumps, had done little or nothing all day.
To this, Radney replied with an oath, in a most domineering and
outrageous manner unconditionally reiterating his command;
meanwhile advancing upon the still seated Lakeman, with an


Page 277
uplifted cooper's club hammer which he had snatched from a
cask near by.

“Heated and irritated as he was by his spasmodic toil at the
pumps, for all his first nameless feeling of forbearance the
sweating Steelkilt could but ill brook this bearing in the mate;
but somehow still smothering the conflagration within him,
without speaking he remained doggedly rooted to his seat, till
at last the incensed Radney shook the hammer within a few
inches of his face, furiously commanding him to do his bidding.

“Steelkilt rose, and slowly retreating round the windlass, steadily
followed by the mate with his menacing hammer, deliberately
repeated his intention not to obey. Seeing, however, that his
forbearance had not the slightest effect, by an awful and unspeakable
intimation with his twisted hand he warned off the
foolish and infatuated man; but it was to no purpose. And in
this way the two went once slowly round the windlass; when,
resolved at last no longer to retreat, bethinking him that he
had now forborne as much as comported with his humor, the
Lakeman paused on the hatches and thus spoke to the officer:

“`Mr. Radney, I will not obey you. Take that hammer away,
or look to yourself.' But the predestinated mate coming still
closer to him, where the Lakeman stood fixed, now shook the
heavy hammer within an inch of his teeth; meanwhile repeating
a string of insufferable maledictions. Retreating not the
thousandth part of an inch; stabbing him in the eye with the
unflinching poniard of his glance, Steelkilt, clenching his right
hand behind him and creepingly drawing it back, told his persecutor
that if the hammer but grazed his cheek he (Steelkilt)
would murder him. But, gentlemen, the fool had been branded
for the slaughter by the gods. Immediately the hammer
touched the cheek; the next instant the lower jaw of the mate
was stove in his head; he fell on the hatch spouting blood like
a whale.

“Ere the cry could go aft Steelkilt was shaking one of the


Page 278
backstays leading far aloft to where two of his comrades were
standing their mast-heads. They were both Canallers.

“`Canallers!' cried Don Pedro. “`We have seen many whale-ships
in our harbors, but never heard of your Canallers. Pardon:
who and what are they?'

“`Canallers, Don, are the boatmen belonging to our grand
Erie Canal. You must have heard of it.'

“`Nay, Senor; hereabouts in this dull, warm, most lazy, and
hereditary land, we know but little of your vigorous North.'

“`Aye? Well then, Don, refill my cup. Your chicha's very
fine; and ere proceeding further I will tell ye what our Canallers
are; for such information may throw side-light upon my

“For three hundred and sixty miles, gentlemen, through the
entire breadth of the state of New York; through numerous
populous cities and most thriving villages; through long, dismal,
uninhabited swamps, and affluent, cultivated fields, unrivalled for
fertility; by billiard-room and bar-room; through the holy-of-holies
of great forests; on Roman arches over Indian rivers;
through sun and shade; by happy hearts or broken; through
all the wide contrasting scenery of those noble Mohawk counties;
and especially, by rows of snow-white chapels, whose
spires stand almost like milestones, flows one continual stream
of Venetianly corrupt and often lawless life. There's your true
Ashantee, gentlemen; there howl your pagans; where you
ever find them, next door to you; under the long-flung shadow,
and the snug patronizing lee of churches. For by some curious
fatality, as it is often noted of your metropolitan freebooters
that they ever encamp around the halls of justice, so sinners,
gentlemen, most abound in holiest vicinities.

“`Is that a friar passing?' said Don Pedro, looking downwards
into the crowded plazza, with humorous concern.

“`Well for our northern friend, Dame Isabella's Inquisition
wanes in Lima,' laughed Don Sebastian. `Proceed, Senor.'


Page 279

“`A moment! Pardon!' cried another of the company.
“`In the name of all us Limeese, I but desire to express to you,
sir sailor, that we have by no means overlooked your delicacy
in not substituting present Lima for distant Venice in your corrupt
comparison. Oh! do not bow and look surprised; you
know the proverb all along this coast—“Corrupt as Lima.” It
but bears out your saying, too; churches more plentiful than
billiard-tables, and for ever open—and “Corrupt as Lima.” So,
too, Venice; I have been there; the holy city of the blessed
evangelist, St. Mark!—St. Dominic, purge it! Your cup!
Thanks: here I refill; now, you pour out again.'

“Freely depicted in his own vocation, gentlemen, the Canaller
would make a fine dramatic hero, so abundantly and picturesquely
wicked is he. Like Mark Antony, for days and days
along his green-turfed, flowery Nile, he indolently floats, openly
toying with his red-cheeked Cleopatra, ripening his apricot
thigh upon the sunny deck. But ashore, all this effeminacy is
dashed. The brigandish guise which the Canaller so proudly
sports; his slouched and gaily-ribboned hat betoken his grand
features. A terror to the smiling innocence of the villages
through which he floats; his swart visage and bold swagger
are not unshunned in cities. Once a vagabond on his own
canal, I have received good turns from one of these Canallers; I
thank him heartily; would fain be not ungrateful; but it is often
one of the prime redeeming qualities of your man of violence,
that at times he has as stiff an arm to back a poor stranger in
a strait, as to plunder a wealthy one. In sum, gentlemen, what
the wildness of this canal life is, is emphatically evinced by this;
that our wild whale-fishery contains so many of its most finished
graduates, and that scarce any race of mankind, except Sydney
men, are so much distrusted by our whaling captains. Nor
does it at all diminish the curiousness of this matter, that to
many thousands of our rural boys and young men born along
its line, the probationary life of the Grand Canal furnishes the


Page 280
sole transition between quietly reaping in a Christian corn-field,
and recklessly ploughing the waters of the most barbaric seas.”

“`I see! I see!' impetuously exclaimed Don Pedro, spilling
his chicha upon his silvery ruffles. `No need to travel! The
world's one Lima. I had thought, now, that at your temperate
North the generations were cold and holy as the hills.—But the

“I left off, gentlemen, where the Lakeman shook the backstay.
Hardly had he done so, when he was surrounded by the
three junior mates and the four harpooneers, who all crowded
him to the deck. But sliding down the ropes like baleful comets,
the two Canallers rushed into the uproar, and sought to drag
their man out of it towards the forecastle. Others of the sailors
joined with them in this attempt, and a twisted turmoil ensued;
while standing out of harm's way, the valiant captain danced
up and down with a whale-pike, calling upon his officers to
manhandle that atrocious scoundrel, and smoke him along to
the quarter-deck. At intervals, he ran close up to the revolving
border of the confusion, and prying into the heart of it with his
pike, sought to prick out the object of his resentment. But
Steelkilt and his desperadoes were too much for them all; they
succeeded in gaining the forecastle deck, where, hastily slewing
about three or four large casks in a line with the windlass,
these sea-Parisians entrenched themselves behind the barricade.”

“`Come out of that, ye pirates!' roared the captain, now
menacing them with a pistol in each hand, just brought to him
by the steward. `Come out of that, ye cut-throats!'

“Steelkilt leaped on the barricade, and striding up and down
there, defied the worst the pistols could do; but gave the captain
to understand distinctly, that his (Steelkilt's) death would
be the signal for a murderous mutiny on the part of all hands.
Fearing in his heart lest this might prove but too true, the captain
a little desisted, but still commanded the insurgents instantly
to return to their duty.


Page 281

“`Will you promise not to touch us, if we do?' demanded
their ringleader.

“`Turn to! turn to!—I make no promise;—to your duty!
Do you want to sink the ship, by knocking off at a time like
this? Turn to!' and he once more raised a pistol.

“`Sink the ship?' cried Steelkilt. `Aye, let her sink. Not
a man of us turns to, unless you swear not to raise a rope-yarn
against us. What say ye, men?” turning to his comrades. A
fierce cheer was their response.

“The Lakeman now patrolled the barricade, all the while
keeping his eye on the Captain, and jerking out such sentences
as these:—`It's not our fault; we didn't want it; I told him
to take his hammer away; it was boy's business; he might
have known me before this; I told him not to prick the buffalo;
I believe I have broken a finger here against his cursed jaw;
ain't those mincing knives down in the forecastle there, men?
look to those handspikes, my hearties. Captain, by God, look
to yourself; say the word; don't be a fool; forget it all; we
are ready to turn to; treat us decently, and we're your men;
but we won't be flogged.'

“`Turn to! I make no promises, turn to, I say!'

“`Look ye, now,' cried the Lakeman, flinging out his arm
towards him, `there are a few of us here (and I am one of
them) who have shipped for the cruise, d'ye see; now as you
well know, sir, we can claim our discharge as soon as the anchor
is down; so we don't want a row; it's not our interest; we
want to be peaceable; we are ready to work, but we won't be

“`Turn to!' roared the Captain.

“Steelkilt glanced round him a moment, and then said:—`I
tell you what it is now, Captain, rather than kill ye, and be
hung for such a shabby rascal, we won't lift a hand against ye
unless ye attack us; but till you say the word about not flogging
us, we don't do a hand's turn.'


Page 282

“`Down into the forecastle then, down with ye, I'll keep ye
there till ye're sick of it. Down ye go.'

“`Shall we?' cried the ringleader to his men. Most of them
were against it; but at length, in obedience to Steelkilt, they
preceded him down into their dark den, growlingly disappearing,
like bears into a cave.

“As the Lakeman's bare head was just level with the planks,
the Captain and his posse leaped the barricade, and rapidly
drawing over the slide of the scuttle, planted their group of hands
upon it, and loudly called for the steward to bring the heavy
brass padlock belonging to the companion-way. Then opening
the slide a little, the Captain whispered something down the
crack, closed it, and turned the key upon them—ten in number—leaving
on deck some twenty or more, who thus far had
remained neutral.

“All night a wide-awake watch was kept by all the officers, forward
and aft, especially about the forecastle scuttle and fore hatchway;
at which last place it was feared the insurgents might
emerge, after breaking through the bulkhead below. But the
hours of darkness passed in peace; the men who still remained
at their duty toiling hard at the pumps, whose clinking and
clanking at intervals through the dreary night dismally resounded
through the ship.

“At sunrise the Captain went forward, and knocking on the
deck, summoned the prisoners to work; but with a yell they refused.
Water was then lowered down to them, and a couple
of handfuls of biscuit were tossed after it; when again turning
the key upon them and pocketing it, the Captain returned to the
quarter-deck. Twice every day for three days this was repeated;
but on the fourth morning a confused wrangling, and then a
scuffling was heard, as the customary summons was delivered;
and suddenly four men burst up from the forecastle, saying they
were ready to turn to. The fetid closeness of the air, and a
famishing diet, united perhaps to some fears of ultimate retribution,


Page 283
had constrained them to surrender at discretion. Emboldened
by this, the Captain reiterated his demand to the rest, but
Steelkilt shouted up to him a terrific hint to stop his babbling
and betake himself where he belonged. On the fifth morning
three others of the mutineers bolted up into the air from the
desperate arms below that sought to restrain them. Only three
were left.

“`Better turn to, now?' said the Captain with a heartless

“`Shut us up again, will ye!' cried Steelkilt.

“`Oh! certainly,' said the Captain, and the key clicked.

“It was at this point, gentlemen, that enraged by the defection
of seven of his former associates, and stung by the mocking
voice that had last hailed him, and maddened by his long
entombment in a place as black as the bowels of despair; it
was then that Steelkilt proposed to the two Canallers, thus far
apparently of one mind with him, to burst out of their hole at
the next summoning of the garrison; and armed with their
keen mincing knives (long, crescentic, heavy implements with
a handle at each end) run a muck from the bowsprit to the
taffrail; and if by any devilishness of desperation possible, seize
the ship. For himself, he would do this, he said, whether they
joined him or not. That was the last night he should spend in
that den. But the scheme met with no opposition on the part of
the other two; they swore they were ready for that, or for any
other mad thing, for anything in short but a surrender. And
what was more, they each insisted upon being the first man on
deck, when the time to make the rush should come. But to
this their leader as fiercely objected, reserving that priority for
himself; particularly as his two comrades would not yield, the
one to the other, in the matter; and both of them could not be
first, for the ladder would but admit one man at a time. And
here, gentlemen, the foul play of these miscreants must come


Page 284

“Upon hearing the frantic project of their leader, each in his
own separate soul had suddenly lighted, it would seem, upon
the same piece of treachery, namely: to be foremost in breaking
out, in order to be the first of the three, though the last of
the ten, to surrender; and thereby secure whatever small chance
of pardon such conduct might merit. But when Steelkilt made
known his determination still to lead them to the last, they in
some way, by some subtle chemistry of villany, mixed their before
secret treacheries together; and when their leader fell into
a doze, verbally opened their souls to each other in three
sentences; and bound the sleeper with cords, and gagged
him with cords; and shrieked out for the Captain at midnight.

“Thinking murder at hand, and smelling in the dark for the
blood, he and all his armed mates and harpooneers rushed for
the forecastle. In a few minutes the scuttle was opened, and,
bound hand and foot, the still struggling ringleader was shoved
up into the air by his perfidious allies, who at once claimed the
honor of securing a man who had been fully ripe for murder.
But all these were collared, and dragged along the deck like
dead cattle; and, side by side, were seized up into the mizen
rigging, like three quarters of meat, and there they hung till
morning. `Damn ye,' cried the Captain, pacing to and fro
before them, `the vultures would not touch ye, ye villains!'

“At sunrise he summoned all hands; and separating those
who had rebelled from those who had taken no part in the
mutiny, he told the former that he had a good mind to flog
them all round—thought, upon the whole, he would do so—
he ought to—justice demanded it; but for the present, considering
their timely surrender; he would let them go with a
reprimand, which he accordingly administered in the vernacular.

“`But as for you, ye carrion rogues,' turning to the three
men in the rigging—`for you, I mean to mince ye up for the


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try-pots;' and, seizing a rope, he applied it with all his might
to the backs of the two traitors, till they yelled no more, but
lifelessly hung their heads sideways, as the two crucified thieves
are drawn.

“`My wrist is sprained with ye!' he cried, at last; `but
there is still rope enough left for you, my fine bantam, that
wouldn't give up. Take that gag from his mouth, and let us
hear what he can say for himself.'

“For a moment the exhausted mutineer made a tremulous
motion of his cramped jaws, and then painfully twisting round
his head, said in a sort of hiss, `What I say is this—and mind
it well—if you flog me, I murder you!'

“`Say ye so? then see how ye frighten me'—and the Captain
drew off with the rope to strike.

“`Best not,' hissed the Lakeman.

“`But I must,'—and the rope was once more drawn back for
the stroke.

`Steelkilt here hissed out something, inaudible to all but the
Captain; who, to the amazement of all hands, started back,
paced the deck rapidly two or three times, and then suddenly
throwing down his rope, said, `I won't do it—let him go—cut
him down: d'ye hear?'

But as the junior mates were hurrying to execute the order,
a pale man, with a bandaged head, arrested them—Radney the
chief mate. Ever since the blow, he had lain in his berth; but
that morning, hearing the tumult on the deck, he had crept
out, and thus far had watched the whole scene. Such was the
state of his mouth, that he could hardly speak; but mumbling
something about his being willing and able to do what the
captain dared not attempt, he snatched the rope and advanced
to his pinioned foe.

“`You are a coward!' hissed the Lakeman.

“`So I am, but take that.' The mate was in the very act of
striking, when another hiss stayed his uplifted arm. He paused:


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and then pausing no more, made good his word, spite of Steelkilt's
threat, whatever that might have been. The three men
were then cut down, all hands were turned to, and, sullenly
worked by the moody seamen, the iron pumps clanged as before.

“Just after dark that day, when one watch had retired below,
a clamor was heard in the forecastle; and the two trembling
traitors running up, besieged the cabin door, saying they durst
not consort with the crew. Entreaties, cuffs, and kicks could
not drive them back, so at their own instance they were put
down in the ship's run for salvation. Still, no sign of mutiny
reappeared among the rest. On the contrary, it seemed, that
mainly at Steelkilt's instigation, they had resolved to maintain
the strictest peacefulness, obey all orders to the last, and, when
the ship reached port, desert her in a body. But in order to
insure the speediest end to the voyage, they all agreed to another
thing—namely, not to sing out for whales, in case any
should be discovered. For, spite of her leak, and spite of all
her other perils, the Town-Ho still maintained her mast-heads,
and her captain was just as willing to lower for a fish that
moment, as on the day his craft first struck the cruising ground;
and Radney the mate was quite as ready to change his berth
for a boat, and with his bandaged mouth seek to gag in death
the vital jaw of the whale.

“But though the Lakeman had induced the seamen to adopt
this sort of passiveness in their conduct, he kept his own counsel
(at least till all was over) concerning his own proper and
private revenge upon the man who had stung him in the ventricles
of his heart. He was in Radney the chief mate's watch;
and as if the infatuated man sought to run more than half way
to meet his doom, after the scene at the rigging, he insisted,
against the express counsel of the captain, upon resuming the
head of his watch at night. Upon this, and one or two other
circumstances, Steelkilt systematically built the plan of his


Page 287

“During the night, Radney had an unseamanlike way of sitting
on the bulwarks of the quarter-deck, and leaning his arm upon
the gunwale of the boat which was hoisted up there, a little
above the ship's side. In this attitude, it was well known, he
sometimes dozed. There was a considerable vacancy between
the boat and the ship, and down between this was the sea.
Steelkilt calculated his time, and found that his next trick at the
helm would come round at two o'clock, in the morning of the
third day from that in which he had been betrayed. At his
leisure, he employed the interval in braiding something very
carefully in his watches below.

“`What are you making there?' said a shipmate.

“`What do you think? what does it look like?'

“`Like a lanyard for your bag; but it's an odd one, seems to

“`Yes, rather oddish,' said the Lakeman, holding it at arm's
length before him; “but I think it will answer. Shipmate, I
haven't enough twine,—have you any?'

“But there was none in the forecastle.

“`Then I must get some from old Rad;' and he rose to go aft.

“`You don't mean to go a begging to him!' said a sailor.

“`Why not? Do you think he won't do me a turn, when it's
to help himself in the end, shipmate?' and going to the mate,
he looked at him quietly, and asked him for some twine to
mend his hammock. It was given him—neither twine nor lanyard
were seen again; but the next night an iron ball, closely
netted, partly rolled from the pocket of the Lakeman's monkey
jacket, as he was tucking the coat into his hammock for a pillow.
Twenty-four hours after, his trick at the silent helm—
nigh to the man who was apt to doze over the grave always
ready dug to the seaman's hand—that fatal hour was then to
come; and in the fore-ordaining soul of Steelkilt, the mate was
already stark and stretched as a corpse, with his forehead crushed


Page 288

“But, gentlemen, a fool saved the would-be murderer from the
bloody deed he had planned. Yet complete revenge he had,
and without being the avenger. For by a mysterious fatality,
Heaven itself seemed to step in to take out of his hands into its
own the damning thing he would have done.

“It was just between daybreak and sunrise of the morning of
the second day, when they were washing down the decks, that
a stupid Teneriffe man, drawing water in the main-chains, all at
once shouted out, `There she rolls! there she rolls!' Jesu,
what a whale! It was Moby Dick.

“`Moby Dick!' cried Don Sebastian; `St. Dominic! Sir
sailor, but do whales have christenings? Whom call you Moby

“`A very white, and famous, and most deadly immortal
monster, Don;—but that would be too long a story.'

“`How? how?' cried all the young Spaniards, crowding.

“`Nay, Dons, Dons—nay nay! I cannot rehearse that now,
Let me get more into the air, Sirs.'

“`The chicha! the chicha!' cried Don Pedro; `our vigorous
friend looks faint;—fill up up his empty glass!'

“No need, gentlemen; one moment, and I proceed.—Now.
gentlemen, so suddenly perceiving the snowy whale within fifty
yards of the ship—forgetful of the compact among the crew—
in the excitement of the moment, the Teneriffe man had instinctively
and involuntarily lifted his voice for the monster,
though for some little time past it had been plainly beheld
from the three sullen mast-heads. All was now a phrensy. `The
White Whale—the White Whale!' was the cry from captain,
mates, and harpooneers, who, undeterred by fearful rumors, were
all anxious to capture so famous and precious a fish; while the
dogged crew eyed askance, and with curses, the appalling
beauty of the vast milky mass, that lit up by a horizontal
spangling sun, shifted and glistened like a living opal in the
blue morning sea. Gentlemen, a strange fatality pervades the


Page 289
whole career of these events, as if verily mapped out before the
world itself was charted. The mutineer was the bowsman of
the mate, and when fast to a fish, it was his duty to sit next
him, while Radney stood up with his lance in the prow, and
haul in or slacken the line, at the word of command. Moreover,
when the four boats were lowered, the mate's got the start;
and none howled more fiercely with delight than did Steelkilt,
as he strained at his oar. After a stiff pull, their harpooneer
got fast, and, spear in hand, Radney sprang to the bow. He
was always a furious man, it seems, in a boat. And now his
bandaged cry was, to beach him on the whale's topmost back.
Nothing loath, his bowsman hauled him up and up, through a
blinding foam that blent two whitenesses together; till of a
sudden the boat struck as against a sunken ledge, and keeling
over, spilled out the standing mate. That instant, as he fell on
the whale's slippery back, the boat righted, and was dashed
aside by the swell, while Radney was tossed over into the sea,
on the other flank of the whale. He struck out through the
spray, and, for an instant, was dimly seen through that veil,
wildly seeking to remove himself from the eye of Moby Dick.
But the whale rushed round in a sudden maelstrom; seized
the swimmer between his jaws; and rearing high up with him,
plunged headlong again, and went down.

“Meantime, at the first tap of the boat's bottom, the Lakeman
had slackened the line, so as to drop astern from the whirlpool;
calmly looking on, he thought his own thoughts. But
a sudden, terrific, downward jerking of the boat, quickly
brought his knife to the line. He cut it; and the whale was
free. But, at some distance, Moby Dick rose again, with some
tatters of Radney's red woollen shirt, caught in the teeth that
had destroyed him. All four boats gave chase again; but the
whale eluded them, and finally wholly disappeared.

“In good time, the Town-Ho reached her port—a savage,
solitary place—where no civilized creature resided. There,


Page 290
headed by the Lakeman, all but five or six of the foremast-men
deliberately deserted among the palms; eventually, as it turned
out, seizing a large double war-canoe of the savages, and setting
sail for some other harbor.

“The ship's company being reduced to but a handful, the
captain called upon the Islanders to assist him in the laborious
business of heaving down the ship to stop the leak. But to
such unresting vigilance over their dangerous allies was this
small band of whites necessitated, both by night and by day,
and so extreme was the hard work they underwent, that upon
the vessel being ready again for sea, they were in such a weakened
condition that the captain durst not put off with them in
so heavy a vessel. After taking counsel with his officers, he
anchored the ship as far off shore as possible; loaded and ran
out his two cannon from the bows; stacked his muskets on the
poop; and warning the Islanders not to approach the ship at
their peril, took one man with him, and setting the sail of his
best whaleboat, steered straight before the wind for Tahiti, five
hundred miles distant, to procure a reinforcement to his crew.

“On the fourth day of the sail, a large canoe was descried,
which seemed to have touched at a low isle of corals. He
steered away from it; but the savage craft bore down on him;
and soon the voice of Steelkilt hailed him to heave to, or he
would run him under water. The captain presented a pistol.
With one foot on each prow of the yoked war-canoes, the
Lakeman laughed him to scorn; assuring him that if the pistol
so much as clicked in the lock, he would bury him in bubbles
and foam.

“`What do you want of me?' cried the captain.

“`Where are you bound? and for what are you bound?'
demanded Steelkilt; `no lies.'

“`I am bound to Tahiti for more men.'

“`Very good. Let me board you a moment—I come in
peace.' With that he leaped from the canoe, swam to the


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boat; and climbing the gunwale, stood face to face with the

“`Cross your arms, sir; throw back your head. Now, repeat
after me. As soon as Steelkilt leaves me, I swear to beach this
boat on yonder island, and remain there six days. If I do not,
may lightnings strike me!'

“`A pretty scholar,' laughed the Lakeman. `Adios, Senor!'
and leaping into the sea, he swam back to his comrades.

“Watching the boat till it was fairly beached, and drawn up
to the roots of the cocoa-nut trees, Steelkilt made sail again,
and in due time arrived at Tahiti, his own place of destination.
There, luck befriended him; two ships were about to sail for
France, and were providentially in want of precisely that number
of men which the sailor headed. They embarked; and so
for ever got the start of their former captain, had he been at all
minded to work them legal retribution.

“Some ten days after the French ships sailed, the whale-boat
arrived, and the captain was forced to enlist some of the more
civilized Tahitians, who had been somewhat used to the sea.
Chartering a small native schooner, he returned with them to
his vessel; and finding all right there, again resumed his

“Where Steelkilt now is, gentlemen, none know; but upon
the island of Nantucket, the widow of Radney still turns to the
sea which refuses to give up its dead; still in dreams sees the
awful white whale that destroyed him. * * * *

“`Are you through?' said Don Sebastian, quietly.

“`I am, Don.'

“`Then I entreat you, tell me if to the best of your own convictions,
this your story is in substance really true? It is so
passing wonderful! Did you get it from an unquestionable
source? Bear with me if I seem to press.'

“`Also bear with all of us, sir sailor; for we all join in Don
Sebastian's suit,' cried the company, with exceeding interest.


Page 292

“`Is there a copy of the Holy Evangelists in the Golden Inn,

“`Nay,' said Don Sebastian; `but I know a worthy priest
near by, who will quickly procure one for me. I go for it; but
are you well advised? this may grow too serious.'

“`Will you be so good as to bring the priest also, Don?'

“`Though there are no Auto-da-Fés in Lima now,' said one
of the company to another; `I fear our sailor friend runs risk
of the archiepiscopacy. Let us withdraw more out of the moonlight.
I see no need of this.'

“`Excuse me for running after you, Don Sebastian; but may
I also beg that you will be particular in procuring the largest
sized Evangelists you can.'

“`This is the priest, he brings you the Evangelists,' said
Don Sebastian, gravely, returning with a tall and solemn figure.

“`Let me remove my hat. Now, venerable priest, further into
the light, and hold the Holy Book before me that I may touch

“`So help me Heaven, and on my honor the story I have told
ye, gentlemen, is in substance and its great items, true. I know
it to be true; it happened on this ball; I trod the ship; I knew
the crew; I have seen and talked with Steelkilt since the death
of Radney.”'


The ancient whale-cry upon first sighting a whale from the mast-head,
still used by whalemen in hunting the famous Gallipagos terrapin.