While now the fated Pequod had been so long afloat this voyage, the log an_ine had but very seldom been in use. Owing to a confident reliance upon othe_eans of determining the vessel’s place, some merchantmen, and many whalemen,
especially when cruising, wholly neglect to heave the log; though at the sam_ime, and frequently more for form’s sake than anything else, regularl_utting down upon the customary slate the course steered by the ship, as wel_s the presumed average rate of progression every hour. It had been thus wit_he Pequod. The wooden reel and angular log attached hung, long untouched,
just beneath the railing of the after bulwarks. Rains and spray had damped it;
the sun and wind had warped it; all the elements had combined to rot a thin_hat hung so idly. But heedless of all this, his mood seized Ahab, as h_appened to glance upon the reel, not many hours after the magnet scene, an_e remembered how his quadrant was no more, and recalled his frantic oat_bout the level log and line. The ship was sailing plungingly; astern th_illows rolled in riots.
“Forward, there! Heave the log!”
Two seamen came. The golden-hued Tahitian and the grizzly Manxman. “Take th_eel, one of ye, I’ll heave.”
They went towards the extreme stern, on the ship’s lee side, where the deck,
with the oblique energy of the wind, was now almost dipping into the creamy,
The Manxman took the reel, and holding it high up, by the projecting handle-
ends of the spindle, round which the spool of line revolved, so stood with th_ngular log hanging downwards, till Ahab advanced to him.
Ahab stood before him, and was lightly unwinding some thirty or forty turns t_orm a preliminary hand-coil to toss overboard, when the old Manxman, who wa_ntently eyeing both him and the line, made bold to speak.
“Sir, I mistrust it; this line looks far gone, long heat and wet have spoile_t.”
“‘Twill hold, old gentleman. Long heat and wet, have they spoiled thee? Tho_eem’st to hold. Or, truer perhaps, life holds thee; not thou it.”
“I hold the spool, sir. But just as my captain says. With these grey hairs o_ine ’tis not worth while disputing, ‘specially with a superior, who’ll ne’e_onfess.”
“What’s that? There now’s a patched professor in Queen Nature’s granite-
founded College; but methinks he’s too subservient. Where wert thou born?”
“In the little rocky Isle of Man, sir.”
“Excellent! Thou’st hit the world by that.”
“I know not, sir, but I was born there.”
“In the Isle of Man, hey? Well, the other way, it’s good. Here’s a man fro_an; a man born in once independent Man, and now unmanned of Man; which i_ucked in—by what? Up with the reel! The dead, blind wall butts all inquirin_eads at last. Up with it! So.”
The log was heaved. The loose coils rapidly straightened out in a lon_ragging line astern, and then, instantly, the reel began to whirl. In turn,
jerkingly raised and lowered by the rolling billows, the towing resistance o_he log caused the old reelman to stagger strangely.
Snap! the overstrained line sagged down in one long festoon; the tugging lo_as gone.
“I crush the quadrant, the thunder turns the needles, and now the mad se_arts the log-line. But Ahab can mend all. Haul in here, Tahitian; reel up,
Manxman. And look ye, let the carpenter make another log, and mend thou th_ine. See to it.”
“There he goes now; to him nothing’s happened; but to me, the skewer seem_oosening out of the middle of the world. Haul in, haul in, Tahitian! Thes_ines run whole, and whirling out: come in broken, and dragging slow. Ha, Pip?
come to help; eh, Pip?”
“Pip? whom call ye Pip? Pip jumped from the whaleboat. Pip’s missing. Let’_ee now if ye haven’t fished him up here, fisherman. It drags hard; I gues_e’s holding on. Jerk him, Tahiti! Jerk him off we haul in no cowards here.
Ho! there’s his arm just breaking water. A hatchet! a hatchet! cut it off—w_aul in no cowards here. Captain Ahab! sir, sir! here’s Pip, trying to get o_oard again.”
“Peace, thou crazy loon,” cried the Manxman, seizing him by the arm. “Awa_rom the quarter-deck!”
“The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser,” muttered Ahab, advancing. “Hand_ff from that holiness! Where sayest thou Pip was, boy?
“Astern there, sir, astern! Lo! lo!”
“And who art thou, boy? I see not my reflection in the vacant pupils of th_yes. Oh God! that man should be a thing for immortal souls to sieve through!
Who art thou, boy?”
“Bell-boy, sir; ship’s-crier; ding, dong, ding! Pip! Pip! Pip! One hundre_ounds of clay reward for Pip; five feet high—looks cowardly— quickest know_y that! Ding, dong, ding! Who’s seen Pip the coward?”
“There can be no hearts above the snow-line. Oh, ye frozen heavens! look dow_ere. Ye did beget this luckless child, and have abandoned him, ye creativ_ibertines. Here, boy; Ahab’s cabin shall be Pip’s home henceforth, while Aha_ives. Thou touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords wove_f my heart-strings. Come, let’s down.”
“What’s this? here’s velvet shark-skin,” intently gazing at Ahab’s hand, an_eeling it. “Ah, now, had poor Pip but felt so kind a thing as this, perhap_e had ne’er been lost! This seems to me, sir, as a man-rope; something tha_eak souls may hold by. Oh, sir, let old Perth now come and rivet these tw_ands together; the black one with the white, for I will not let this go.”
“Oh, boy, nor will I thee, unless I should thereby drag thee to worse horror_han are here. Come, then, to my cabin. Lo! ye believers in gods all goodness,
and in man all ill, lo you! see the omniscient gods oblivious of sufferin_an; and man, though idiotic, and knowing not what he does, yet full of th_weet things of love and gratitude. Come! I feel prouder leading thee by th_lack hand, than though I grasped an Emperor’s!”
“There go two daft ones now,” muttered the old Manxman.
“One daft with strength, the other daft with weakness.
But here’s the end of the rotten line—all dripping, too.
Mend it, eh? I think we had best have a new line altogether.