Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 106 Ahab's Leg

  • The precipitating manner in which Captain Ahab had quitted the Samuel Enderb_f London, had not been unattended with some small violence to his own person.
  • He had lighted with such energy upon a thwart of his boat that his ivory le_ad received a half-splintering shock. And when after gaining his own deck,
  • and his own pivot-hole there, he so vehemently wheeled round with an urgen_ommand to the steersman (it was, as ever, something about his not steerin_nflexibly enough); then, the already shaken ivory received such an additiona_wist and wrench, that though it still remained entire, and to all appearance_usty, yet Ahab did not deem it entirely trustworthy.
  • And, indeed, it seemed small matter for wonder, that for all his pervading,
  • mad recklessness, Ahab, did at times give careful heed to the condition o_hat dead bone upon which he partly stood. For it had not been very long prio_o the Pequod’s sailing from Nantucket, that he had been found one night lyin_rone upon the ground, and insensible; by some unknown, and seemingl_nexplicable, unimaginable casualty, his ivory limb having been so violentl_isplaced, that it had stake-wise smitten, and all but pierced his groin; no_as it without extreme difficulty that the agonizing wound was entirely cured.
  • Nor, at the time, had it failed to enter his monomaniac mind, that all th_nguish of that then present suffering was but the direct issue of a forme_oe; and he too plainly seemed to see, that as the most poisonous reptile o_he marsh perpetuates his kind as inevitably as the sweetest songster of th_rove; so, equally with every felicity, all miserable events do naturall_eget their like. Yea, more than equally, thought Ahab; since both th_ncestry and posterity of Grief go further than the ancestry and posterity o_oy. For, not to hint of this: that it is an inference from certain canoni_eachings, that while some natural enjoyments here shall have no children bor_o them for the other world, but, on the contrary, shall be followed by th_oy-childlessness of all hell’s despair; whereas, some guilty mortal miserie_hall still fertilely beget to themselves an eternally progressive progeny o_riefs beyond the grave; not at all to hint of this, there still seems a_nequality in the deeper analysis of the thing. For, thought Ahab, while eve_he highest earthly felicities ever have a certain unsignifying pettines_urking in them, but, at bottom, all heartwoes, a mystic significance, and, i_ome men, an archangelic grandeur; so do their diligent tracings-out not beli_he obvious deduction. To trail the genealogies of these high mortal miseries,
  • carries us at last among the sourceless primogenitures of the gods; so that,
  • in the face of all the glad, hay-making suns, and softcymballing, roun_arvest-moons, we must needs give in to this: that the gods themselves are no_or ever glad. The ineffaceable, sad birth-mark in the brow of man, is but th_tamp of sorrow in the signers.
  • Unwittingly here a secret has been divulged, which perhaps might mor_roperly, in set way, have been disclosed before. With many other particular_oncerning Ahab, always had it remained a mystery to some, why it was, tha_or a certain period, both before and after the sailing of the Pequod, he ha_idden himself away with such Grand-Lama-like exclusiveness; and, for that on_nterval, sought speechless refuge, as it were, among the marble senate of th_ead. Captain Peleg’s bruited reason for this thing appeared by no mean_dequate; though, indeed, as touching all Ahab’s deeper part, every revelatio_artook more of significant darkness than of explanatory light. But, in th_nd, it all came out; this one matter did, at least. That direful mishap wa_t the bottom of his temporary recluseness. And not only this, but to tha_ver-contracting, dropping circle ashore, who for any reason, possessed th_rivilege of a less banned approach to him; to that timid circle the abov_inted casualty—remaining, as it did, moodily unaccounted for by Ahab—investe_tself with terrors, not entirely underived from the land of spirits and o_ails. So that, through their zeal for him, they had all conspired, so far a_n them lay, to muffle up the knowledge of this thing from others; and henc_t was, that not till a considerable interval had elapsed, did it transpir_pon the Pequod’s decks.
  • But be all this as it may; let the unseen, ambiguous synod in the air, or th_indictive princes and potentates of fire, have to do or not with earthl_hab, yet, in this present matter of his leg, he took plain practica_rocedures;— he called the carpenter.
  • And when that functionary appeared before him, he bade him without delay se_bout making a new leg, and directed the mates to see him supplied with al_he studs and joists of jaw-ivory (Sperm Whale) which had thus far bee_ccumulated on the voyage, in order that a careful selection of the stoutest,
  • clearest-grained stuff might be secured. This done, the carpenter receive_rders to have the leg completed that night; and to provide all the fitting_or it, independent of those pertaining to the distrusted one in use.
  • Moreover, the ship’s forge was ordered to be hoisted out of its temporar_dleness in the hold; and, to accelerate the affair, the blacksmith wa_ommanded to proceed at once to the forging of whatever iron contrivance_ight be needed.