At day-break, the three mast-heads were punctually manned afresh.
“D’ye see him?” cried Ahab after allowing a little space for the light t_pread.
“See nothing, sir.”
“Turn up all hands and make sail! he travels faster than I thought for;— th_op-gallant sails!—aye, they should have been kept on her all night. But n_atter—’tis but resting for the rush.”
Here be it said, that this pertinacious pursuit of one particular whale, continued through day into night, and through night into day, is a thing by n_eans unprecedented in the South sea fishery. For such is the wonderful skill, prescience of experience, and invincible confidence acquired by some grea_atural geniuses among the Nantucket commanders; that from the simpl_bservation of a whale when last descried, they will, under certain give_ircumstances, pretty accurately foretell both the direction in which he wil_ontinue to swim for a time, while out of sight, as well as his probable rat_f progression during that period. And, in these cases, somewhat as a pilot, when about losing sight of a coast, whose general trending he well knows, an_hich he desires shortly to return to again, but at some further point; lik_s this pilot stands by his compass, and takes the precise bearing of the cap_t present visible, in order the more certainly to hit aright the remote, unseen headland, eventually to be visited: so does the fisherman, at hi_ompass, with the whale; for after being chased, and diligently marked, through several hours of daylight, then, when night obscures the fish, th_reature’s future wake through the darkness is almost as established to th_agacious mind of the hunter, as the pilot’s coast is to him. So that to thi_unter’s wondrous skill, the proverbial evanescence of a thing writ in water, a wake, is to all desired purposes well nigh as reliable as the steadfas_and. And as the mighty iron Leviathan of the modern railway is so familiarl_nown in its every pace, that, with watches in their hands, men time his rat_s doctors that of a baby’s pulse; and lightly say of it, the up train or th_own train will reach such or such a spot, at such or such an hour; even so, almost, there are occasions when these Nantucketers time that other Leviatha_f the deep, according to the observed humor of his speed; and say t_hemselves, so many hours hence this whale will have gone two hundred miles, will have about reached this or that degree of latitude or longitude. But t_ender this acuteness at all successful in the end, the wind and the sea mus_e the whaleman’s allies; for of what present avail to the becalmed or wind- bound mariner is the skill that assures him he is exactly ninety-three league_nd a quarter from his port? Inferable from these statements, are man_ollateral subtile matters touching the chase of whales.
The ship tore on; leaving such a furrow in the sea as when a cannonball, missent, becomes a plough-share and turns up the level field.
“By salt and hemp!” cried Stubb, “but this swift motion of the deck creeps u_ne’s legs and tingles at the heart. This ship and I are two brav_ellows!—Ha, ha! Some one take me up, and launch me, spine-wise, on th_ea,—for by live-oaks! my spine’s a keel. Ha, ha! we go the gait that leave_o dust behind!”
“There she blows—she blows!—she blows!—right ahead!” was now the mast-hea_ry.
“Aye, aye!” cried Stubb, “I knew it—ye can’t escape—blow on and split you_pout, O whale! the mad fiend himself is after ye! blow your trump— bliste_our lungs!—Ahab will dam off your blood, as a miller shuts his watergate upo_he stream!”
And Stubb did but speak out for well nigh all that crew. The frenzies of th_hase had by this time worked them bubblingly up, like old wine worked anew.
Whatever pale fears and forebodings some of them might have felt before; thes_ere not only now kept out of sight through the growing awe of Ahab, but the_ere broken up, and on all sides routed, as timid prairie hares that scatte_efore the bounding bison. The hand of Fate had snatched all their souls; an_y the stirring perils of the previous day; the rack of the past night’_uspense; the fixed, unfearing, blind, reckless way in which their wild craf_ent plunging towards its flying mark; by all these things, their hearts wer_owled along. The wind that made great bellies of their sails, and rushed th_essel on by arms invisible as irresistible; this seemed the symbol of tha_nseen agency which so enslaved them to the race.
They were one man, not thirty. For as the one ship that held them all; thoug_t was put together of all contrasting things—oak, and maple, and pine wood; iron, and pitch, and hemp—yet all these ran into each other in the on_oncrete hull, which shot on its way, both balanced and directed by the lon_entral keel; even so, all the individualities of the crew, this man’s valor, that man’s fear; guilt and guiltiness, all varieties were welded into oneness, and were all directed to that fatal goal which Ahab their one lord and kee_id point to.
The rigging lived. The mast-heads, like the tops of tall palms, wer_utspreadingly tufted with arms and legs. Clinging to a spar with one hand, some reached forth the other with impatient wavings; others, shading thei_yes from the vivid sunlight, sat far out on the rocking yards; all the spar_n full bearing of mortals, ready and ripe for their fate. Ah! how they stil_trove through that infinite blueness to seek out the thing that might destro_hem!
“Why sing ye not out for him, if ye see him?” cried Ahab, when, after th_apse of some minutes since the first cry, no more had been heard. “Sway m_p, men; ye have been deceived; not Moby Dick casts one odd jet that way, an_hen disappears.”
It was even so; in their headlong eagerness, the men had mistaken some othe_hing for the whale-spout, as the event itself soon proved; for hardly ha_hab reached his perch; hardly was the rope belayed to its pin on deck, whe_e struck the key-note to an orchestra, that made the air vibrate as with th_ombined discharge of rifles. The triumphant halloo of thirty buckskin lung_as heard, as— much nearer to the ship than the place of the imaginary jet, less than a mile ahead—Moby Dick bodily burst into view! For not by any cal_nd indolent spoutings; not by the peaceable gush of that mystic fountain i_is head, did the White Whale now reveal his vicinity; but by the far mor_ondrous phenomenon of breaching. Rising with his utmost velocity from th_urthest depths, the Sperm Whale thus booms his entire bulk into the pur_lement of air, and piling up a mountain of dazzling foam, shows his place t_he distance of seven miles and more. In those moments, the torn, enrage_aves he shakes off, seem his mane; in some cases, this breaching is his ac_f defiance.
“There she breaches! there she breaches!” was the cry, as in his immeasurabl_ravadoes the White Whale tossed himself salmon-like to Heaven. So suddenl_een in the blue plain of the sea, and relieved against the still bluer margi_f the sky, the spray that he raised, for the moment, intolerably glittere_nd glared like a glacier; and stood there gradually fading and fading awa_rom its first sparkling intensity, to the dim mistiness of an advancin_hower in a vale.
“Aye, breach your last to the sun, Moby Dick!” cried Ahab, “thy hour and th_arpoon are at hand!—Down! down all of ye, but one man at the fore. Th_oats!—stand by!”
Unmindful of the tedious rope-ladders of the shrouds, the men, like shootin_tars, slid to the deck, by the isolated backstays and halyards; while Ahab, less dartingly, but still rapidly was dropped from his perch.
“Lower away,” he cried, so soon as he had reached his boat—a spare one, rigge_he afternoon previous. “Mr. Starbuck, the ship is thine— keep away from th_oats, but keep near them. Lower, all!”
As if to strike a quick terror into them, by this time being the firs_ssailant himself, Moby Dick had turned, and was now coming for the thre_rews. Ahab’s boat was central; and cheering his men, he told them he woul_ake the whale head-and-head,— that is, pull straight up to his forehead,—_ot uncommon thing; for when within a certain limit, such a course exclude_he coming onset from the whale’s sidelong vision. But ere that close limi_as gained, and while yet all three boats were plain as the ship’s three mast_o his eye; the White Whale churning himself into furious speed, almost in a_nstant as it were, rushing among the boats with open jaws, and a lashin_ail, offered appalling battle on every side; and heedless of the irons darte_t him from every boat, seemed only intent on annihilating each separate plan_f which those boats were made. But skilfully manoeuvred, incessantly wheelin_ike trained chargers in the field; the boats for a while eluded him; though, at times, but by a plank’s breadth; while all the time, Ahab’s unearthl_logan tore every other cry but his to shreds.
But at last in his untraceable evolutions, the White Whale so crossed an_ecrossed, and in a thousand ways entangled the slack of the three lines no_ast to him, that they foreshortened, and, of themselves, warped the devote_oats towards the planted irons in him; though now for a moment the whale dre_side a little, as if to rally for a more tremendous charge. Seizing tha_pportunity, Ahab first paid out more line; and then was rapidly hauling an_erking in upon it again— hoping that way to disencumber it of som_narls—when lo!— a sight more savage than the embattled teeth of sharks!
Caught and twisted—corkscrewed in the mazes of the line, loose harpoons an_ances, with all their bristling barbs and points, came flashing and drippin_p to the chocks in the bows of Ahab’s boat. Only one thing could be done.
Seizing the boat-knife, he critically reached within—through—and then, without—the rays of steel; dragged in the line beyond, passed it, inboard, t_he bowsman, and then, twice sundering the rope near the chocks—dropped th_ntercepted fagot of steel into the sea; and was all fast again. That instant, the White Whale made a sudden rush among the remaining tangles of the othe_ines; by so doing, irresistibly dragged the more involved boats of Stubb an_lask towards his flukes; dashed them together like two rolling husks on _urf-beaten beach, and then, diving down into the sea, disappeared in _oiling maelstrom, in which, for a space, the odorous cedar chips of th_recks danced round and round, like the grated nutmeg in a swiftly stirre_owl of punch.
While the two crews were yet circling in the waters, reaching out after th_evolving line-tubs, oars, and other floating furniture, while aslope littl_lask bobbed up and down like an empty vial, twitching his legs upwards t_scape the dreaded jaws of sharks; and Stubb was lustily singing out for som_ne to ladle him up; and while the old man’s line—now parting—admitted of hi_ulling into the creamy pool to rescue whom he could;— in that wil_imultaneousness of a thousand concreted perils,— Ahab’s yet unstricken boa_eemed drawn up towards Heaven by invisible wires,—as, arrow-like, shootin_erpendicularly from the sea, the White Whale dashed his broad forehea_gainst its bottom, and sent it turning over and over, into the air; till i_ell again— gunwale downwards—and Ahab and his men struggled out from unde_t, like seals from a sea-side cave.
The first uprising momentum of the whale—modifying its direction as he struc_he surface—involuntarily launched him along it, to a little distance from th_entre of the destruction he had made; and with his back to it, he now lay fo_ moment slowly feeling with his flukes from side to side; and whenever _tray oar, bit of plank, the least chip or crumb of the boats touched hi_kin, his tail swiftly drew back, and came sideways smiting the sea. But soon, as if satisfied that his work for that time was done, he pushed his pleate_orehead through the ocean, and trailing after him the intertangled lines, continued his leeward way at a traveller’s methodic pace.
As before, the attentive ship having descried the whole fight, again cam_earing down to the rescue, and dropping a boat, picked up the floatin_ariners, tubs, oars, and whatever else could be caught at, and safely lande_hem on her decks. Some sprained shoulders, wrists, and ankles; livi_ontusions; wrenched harpoons and lances; inextricable intricacies of rope; shattered oars and planks; all these were there; but no fatal or even seriou_ll seemed to have befallen any one. As with Fedallah the day before, so Aha_as now found grimly clinging to his boat’s broken half, which afforded _omparatively easy float; nor did it so exhaust him as the previous day’_ishap.
But when he was helped to the deck, all eyes were fastened upon him; a_nstead of standing by himself he still half-hung upon the shoulder o_tarbuck, who had thus far been the foremost to assist him. His ivory leg ha_een snapped off, leaving but one short sharp splinter.
“Aye, aye, Starbuck, ’tis sweet to lean sometimes, be the leaner who he will; and would old Ahab had leaned oftener than he has.”
“The ferrule has not stood, sir,” said the carpenter, now coming up; I pu_ood work into that leg.”
“But no bones broken, sir, I hope,” said Stubb with true concern.
“Aye! and all splintered to pieces, Stubb!—d’ye see it.— But even with _roken bone, old Ahab is untouched; and I account no living bone of mine on_ot more me, than this dead one that’s lost. Nor white whale, nor man, no_iend, can so much as graze old Ahab in his own proper and inaccessible being.
Can any lead touch yonder floor, any mast scrape yonder roof?— Aloft there!
“Dead to leeward, sir.”
“Up helm, then; pile on the sail again, ship keepers! down the rest of th_pare boats and rig them—Mr. Starbuck away, and muster the boat’s crews.”
“Let me first help thee towards the bulwarks, sir.”
“Oh, oh, oh! how this splinter gores me now! Accursed fate! that th_nconquerable captain in the soul should have such a craven mate!”
“My body, man, not thee. Give me something for a cane—there, that shivere_ance will do. Muster the men. Surely I have not seen him yet. By heaven i_annot be!—missing?—quick! call them all.”
The old man’s hinted thought was true. Upon mustering the company, the Parse_as not there.
“The Parsee!” cried Stubb—“he must have been caught in-”
“The black vomit wrench thee!—run all of ye above, alow, cabin, forecastle—find him—not gone—not gone!”
But quickly they returned to him with the tidings that the Parsee was nowher_o be found.
“Aye, sir,” said Stubb—“caught among the tangles of your line— I thought I sa_im dragging under.”
“My line! my line? Gone?—gone? What means that little word?— What death-knel_ings in it, that old Ahab shakes as if he were the belfry. The harpoon, too!—toss over the litter there,— d’ye see it?—the forged iron, men, the whit_hale’s—no, no, no,— blistered fool; this hand did dart it!—’tis in th_ish!—Aloft there! Keep him nailed-Quick!—all hands to the rigging of th_oats— collect the oars—harpooneers! the irons, the irons!—hoist the royal_igher—a pull on all the sheets!—helm there! steady, steady for your life!
I’ll ten times girdle the unmeasured globe; yea and dive straight through it, but I’ll slay him yet!
“Great God! but for one single instant show thyself,” cried Starbuck; “never, never wilt thou capture him, old man— In Jesus’ name no more of this, that’_orse than devil’s madness. Two days chased; twice stove to splinters; th_ery leg once more snatched from under thee; thy evil shadow gone—all goo_ngels mobbing thee with warnings:—what more wouldst thou have?— Shall we kee_hasing this murderous fish till he swamps the last man? Shall we be dragge_y him to the bottom of the sea? Shall we be towed by him to the inferna_orld? Oh, oh,— Impiety and blasphemy to hunt him more!”
“Starbuck, of late I’ve felt strangely moved to thee; ever since that hour w_oth saw—thou know’st what, in one another’s eyes. But in this matter of th_hale, be the front of thy face to me as the palm of this hand—a lipless, unfeatured blank. Ahab is for ever Ahab, man. This whole act’s immutabl_ecreed. ‘Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocea_olled. Fool! I am the Fates’ lieutenant; I act under orders. Look thou, underling! that thou obeyest mine.—Stand round men, men. Ye see an old man cu_own to the stump; leaning on a shivered lance; propped up on a lonely foot.
‘Tis Ahab—his body’s part; but Ahab’s soul’s a centipede, that moves upon _undred legs. I feel strained, half-stranded, as ropes that tow dismaste_rigates in a gale; and I may look so. But ere I break, yell hear me crack; and till ye hear that, know that Ahab’s hawser tows his purpose yet. Believ_e, men, in the things called omens? Then laugh aloud, and cry encore! For er_hey drown, drowning things will twice rise to the surface; then rise again, to sink for evermore. So with Moby Dick—two days he’s floated—to-morrow wil_e the third. Aye, men, he’ll rise once more,—but only to spout his last! D’y_eel brave men, brave?”
“As fearless fire,” cried Stubb.
“And as mechanical,” muttered Ahab. Then as the men went forward, he muttere_n: “The things called omens! And yesterday I talked the same to Starbuc_here, concerning my broken boat. Oh! how valiantly I seek to drive out o_thers’ hearts what’s clinched so fast in mine!— The Parsee—the Parsee!—gone, gone? and he was to go before:— but still was to be seen again ere I coul_erish—How’s that?— There’s a riddle now might baffle all the lawyers backe_y the ghosts of the whole line of judges:—like a hawk’s beak it pecks m_rain. I’ll, I’ll solve it, though!”
When dusk descended, the whale was still in sight to leeward.
So once more the sail was shortened, and everything passed nearly as on th_revious night; only, the sound of hammers, and the hum of the grindstone wa_eard till nearly daylight, as the men toiled by lanterns in the complete an_areful rigging of the spare boats and sharpening their fresh weapons for th_orrow. Meantime, of the broken keel of Ahab’s wrecked craft the carpente_ade him another leg; while still as on the night before, slouched Ahab stoo_ixed within his scuttle; his hid, heliotrope glance anticipatingly gon_ackward on its dial; sat due eastward for the earliest sun.