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Chapter 115 The Pequod Meets The Bachelor

  • And jolly enough were the sights and the sounds that came bearing down befor_he wind, some few weeks after Ahab’s harpoon had been welded.
  • It was a Nantucket ship, the Bachelor, which had just wedged in her last cas_f oil, and bolted down her bursting hatches; and now, in glad holida_pparel, was joyously, though somewhat vain-gloriously, sailing round amon_he widely-separated ships on the ground, previous to pointing her prow fo_ome.
  • The three men at her mast-head wore long streamers of narrow red bunting a_heir hats; from the stern, a whale-boat was suspended, bottom down; an_anging captive from the bowsprit was seen the long lower jaw of the las_hale they had slain. Signals, ensigns, and jacks of all colors were flyin_rom her rigging, on every side. Sideways lashed in each of her three baskete_ops were two barrels of sperm; above which, in her top-mast cross-trees, yo_aw slender breakers of the same precious fluid; and nailed to her main truc_as a brazen lamp.
  • As was afterwards learned, the Bachelor had met with the most surprisin_uccess; all the more wonderful, for that while cruising in the same sea_umerous other vessels had gone entire months without securing a single fish.
  • Not only had barrels of beef and bread been given away to make room for th_ar more valuable sperm, but additional supplemental casks had been bartere_or, from the ships she had met; and these were stowed along the deck, and i_he captain’s and officers’ state-rooms. Even the cabin table itself had bee_nocked into kindling-wood; and the cabin mess dined off the broad head of a_il-butt, lashed down to the floor for a centrepiece. In the forecastle, th_ailors had actually caulked and pitched their chests, and filled them; it wa_umorously added, that the cook had clapped a head on his largest boiler, an_illed it; that the steward had plugged his spare coffee-pot and filled it;
  • that the harpooneers had headed the sockets of their irons and filled them;
  • that indeed everything was filled with sperm, except the captain’s pantaloon_ockets, and those he reserved to thrust his hands into, in self-complacen_estimony of his entire satisfaction.
  • As this glad ship of good luck bore down upon the moody Pequod, the barbaria_ound of enormous drums came from her forecastle; and drawing still nearer, _rowd of her men were seen standing round her huge try-pots, which, covere_ith the parchment-like poke or stomach skin of the black fish, gave forth _oud roar to every stroke of the clenched hands of the crew. On the quarter-
  • deck, the mates and harpooneers were dancing with the olive-hued girls who ha_loped with them from the Polynesian Isles; while suspended in an ornamente_oat, firmly secured aloft between the foremast and mainmast, three Lon_sland negroes, with glittering fiddle-bows of whale ivory, were presidin_ver the hilarious jig. Meanwhile, others of the ship’s company wer_umultuously busy at the masonry of the try-works, from which the huge pot_ad been removed. You would have almost thought they were pulling down th_ursed Bastille, such wild cries they raised, as the now useless brick an_ortar were being hurled into the sea.
  • Lord and master over all this scene, the captain stood erect on the ship’_levated quarter-deck, so that the whole rejoicing drama was full before him,
  • and seemed merely contrived for his own individual diversion.
  • And Ahab, he too was standing on his quarter-deck, shaggy and black, with _tubborn gloom; and as the two ships crossed each other’s wakes— one al_ubilations for things passed, the other all forebodings as to things t_ome—their two captains in themselves impersonated the whole striking contras_f the scene.
  • “Come aboard, come aboard!” cried the gay Bachelor’s commander, lifting _lass and a bottle in the air.
  • “Hast seen the White Whale?” gritted Ahab in reply.
  • “No; only heard of him; but don’t believe in him at all,” said the other good-
  • humoredly. “Come aboard!”
  • “Thou art too damned jolly. Sail on. Hast lost any men?”
  • “Not enough to speak of—two islanders, that’s all;—but come aboard, ol_earty, come along. I’ll soon take that black from your brow. Come along, wil_e (merry’s the play); a full ship and homeward-bound.”
  • “How wondrous familiar is a fool!” muttered Ahab; then aloud, “Thou art a ful_hip and homeward bound, thou sayest; well, then, call me an empty ship, an_utward-bound. So go thy ways, and I will mine. Forward there! Set all sail,
  • and keep her to the wind!”
  • And thus, while the one ship went cheerily before the breeze, the othe_tubbornly fought against it; and so the two vessels parted; the crew of th_equod looking with grave, lingering glances towards the receding Bachelor;
  • but the Bachelor’s men never heeding their gaze for the lively revelry the_ere in. And as Ahab, leaning over the taffrail, eyed the homewardbound craft,
  • he took from his pocket a small vial of sand, and then looking from the shi_o the vial, seemed thereby bringing two remote associations together, fo_hat vial was filled with Nantucket soundings.