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In the tumultuous business of cutting-in and attending to a
whale, there is much running backwards and forwards among the
crew. Now hands are wanted here, and then again hands are
wanted there. There is no staying in any one place; for at one
and the same time everything has to be done everywhere. It
is much the same with him who endeavors the description of
the scene. We must now retrace our way a little. It was mentioned
that upon first breaking ground in the whale's back, the
blubber-hook was inserted into the original hole there cut by
the spades of the mates. But how did so clumsy and weighty
a mass as that same hook get fixed in that hole? It was
inserted there by my particular friend Queequeg, whose duty it
was, as harpooneer, to descend upon the monster's back for the
special purpose referred to. But in very many cases, circumstances
require that the harpooneer shall remain on the whale
till the whole flensing or stripping operation is concluded. The
whale, be it observed, lies almost entirely submerged, excepting
the immediate parts operated upon. So down there, some ten
feet below the level of the deck, the poor harpooneer flounders
about, half on the whale and half in the water, as the vast
mass revolves like a tread-mill beneath him. On the occasion
in question, Queequeg figured in the Highland costume—a shirt
and socks—in which to my eyes, at least, he appeared to uncommon
advantage; and no one had a better chance to observe
him, as will presently be seen.

Being the savage's bowsman, that is, the person who pulled


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the bow-oar in his boat (the second one from forward), it was
my cheerful duty to attend upon him while taking that hardscrabble
scramble upon the dead whale's back. You have seen
Italian organ-boys holding a dancing-ape by a long cord.
Just so, from the ship's steep side, did I hold Queequeg down
there in the sea, by what is technically called in the fishery a
monkey-rope, attached to a strong strip of canvas belted round
his waist.

It was a humorously perilous business for both of us. For,
before we proceed further, it must be said that the monkey-rope
was fast at both ends; fast to Queequeg's broad canvas belt,
and fast to my narrow leather one. So that for better or for
worse, we two, for the time, were wedded; and should poor
Queequeg sink to rise no more, then both usage and honor
demanded, that instead of cutting the cord, it should drag me
down in his wake. So, then, an elongated Siamese ligature
united us. Queequeg was my own inseparable twin brother;
nor could I any way get rid of the dangerous liabilities which
the hempen bond entailed.

So strongly and metaphysically did I conceive of my situation
then, that while earnestly watching his motions, I seemed
distinctly to perceive that my own individuality was now
merged in a joint stock company of two: that my free will had
received a mortal wound; and that another's mistake or misfortune
might plunge innocent me into unmerited disaster and
death. Therefore, I saw that here was a sort of interregnum in
Providence; for its even-handed equity never could have sanctioned
so gross an injustice. And yet still further pondering—
while I jerked him now and then from between the whale and
the ship, which would threaten to jam him—still further pondering,
I say, I saw that this situation of mine was the precise
situation of every mortal that breathes; only, in most cases, he,
one way or other, has this Siamese connexion with a plurality
of other mortals. If your banker breaks, you snap; if your


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apothecary by mistake sends you poison in your pills, you die.
True, you may say that, by exceeding caution, you may possibly
escape these and the multitudinous other evil chances of life.
But handle Queequeg's monkey-rope heedfully as I would,
sometimes he jerked it so, that I came very near sliding overboard.
Nor could I possibly forget that, do what I would, I
only had the management of one end of it.[1]

I have hinted that I would often jerk poor Queequeg from
between the whale and the ship—where he would occasionally
fall, from the incessant rolling and swaying of both. But this
was not the only jamming jeopardy he was exposed to. Unappalled
by the massacre made upon them during the night, the
sharks now freshly and more keenly allured by the before pent
blood which began to flow from the carcase—the rabid creatures
swarmed round it like bees in a beehive.

And right in among those sharks was Queequeg; who often
pushed them aside with his floundering feet. A thing altogether
incredible were it not that attracted by such prey as a
dead whale, the otherwise miscellaneously carnivorous shark will
seldom touch a man.

Nevertheless, it may well be believed that since they have
such a ravenous finger in the pie, it is deemed but wise to look
sharp to them. Accordingly, besides the monkey-rope, with
which I now and then jerked the poor fellow from too close a
vicinity to the maw of what seemed a peculiarly ferocious
shark—he was provided with still another protection.
Suspended over the side in one of the stages, Tashtego and
Daggoo continually flourished over his head a couple of keen


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whale-spades, wherewith they slaughtered as many sharks as
they could reach. This procedure of theirs, to be sure, was
very disinterested and benevolent of them. They meant Queequeg's
best happiness, I admit; but in their hasty zeal to befriend
him, and from the circumstance that both he and the
sharks were at times half hidden by the blood-mudded water,
those indiscreet spades of theirs would come nearer amputating
a leg than a tail. But poor Queequeg, I suppose, straining and
gasping there with that great iron hook—poor Queequeg, I
suppose, only prayed to his Yojo, and gave up his life into the
hands of his gods.

Well, well, my dear comrade and twin-brother, thought I, as
I drew in and then slacked off the rope to every swell of the
sea—what matters it, after all? Are you not the precious
image of each and all of us men in this whaling world? That
unsounded ocean you gasp in, is Life; those sharks, your foes;
those spades, your friends; and what between sharks and
spades you are in a sad pickle and peril, poor lad.

But courage! there is good cheer in store for you, Queequeg.
For now, as with blue lips and bloodshot eyes the exhausted
savage at last climbs up the chains and stands all dripping and
involuntarily trembling over the side; the steward advances,
and with a benevolent, consolatory glance hands him—what?
Some hot Cogniac? No! hands him, ye gods! hands him a
cup of tepid ginger and water!

“Ginger? Do I smell ginger?” suspiciously asked Stubb,
coming near. “Yes, this must be ginger,” peering into the as
yet untasted cup. Then standing as if incredulous for a while,
he calmly walked towards the astonished steward slowly saying,
“Ginger? ginger? and will you have the goodness to tell
me, Mr. Dough-Boy, where lies the virtue of ginger? Ginger!
is ginger the sort of fuel you use, Dough-Boy, to kindle a fire
in this shivering cannibal? Ginger!—what the devil is ginger?—sea-coal?—fire-wood?—lucifer


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the devil is ginger, I say, that you offer this
cup to our poor Queequeg here?”

“There is some sneaking Temperance Society movement
about this business,” he suddenly added, now approaching Starbuck,
who had just come from forward. “Will you look at
that kannakin, sir: smell of it, if you please.” Then watching
the mate's countenance, he added: “The steward, Mr.
Starbuck, had the face to offer that calomel and jalap to Queequeg,
there, this instant off the whale. Is the steward an
apothecary, sir? and may I ask whether this is the sort of bitters
by which he blows back the life into a half-drowned man?”

“I trust not,” said Starbuck, “it is poor stuff enough.”

“Aye, aye, steward,” cried Stubb, “we'll teach you to drug a
harpooneer; none of your apothecary's medicine here; you
want to poison us, do ye? You have got out insurances on our
lives and want to murder us all, and pocket the proceeds, do

“It was not me,” cried Dough-Boy, “it was Aunt Charity
that brought the ginger on board; and bade me never give the
harpooneers any spirits, but only this ginger-jub—so she called

“Ginger-jub! you gingerly rascal! take that! and run along
with ye to the lockers, and get something better. I hope I do
no wrong, Mr. Starbuck. It is the captain's orders—grog for
the harpooneer on a whale.”

“Enough,” replied Starbuck, “only don't hit him again,

“Oh, I never hurt when I hit, except when I hit a whale or
something of that sort; and this fellow's a weazel. What were
you about saying, sir?”

“Only this: go down with him, and get what thou wantest

When Stubb reappeared, he came with a dark flask in one
hand, and a sort of tea-caddy in the other. The first contained


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strong spirits, and was handed to Queequeg; the second was
Aunt Charity's gift, and that was freely given to the waves.


The monkey-rope is found in all whalers; but it was only in the
Pequod that the monkey and his holder were ever tied together. This
improvement upon the original usage was introduced by no less a man
than Stubb, in order to afford to the imperilled harpooneer the strongest
possible guarantee for the faithfulness and vigilance of his monkey-rope