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.