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Chapter 19 The Prophet

  • “Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?”
  • Queequeg and I had just left the Pequod, and were sauntering away from th_ater, for the moment each occupied with his own thoughts, when the abov_ords were put to us by a stranger, who, pausing before us, levelled hi_assive forefinger at the vessel in question. He was but shabbily apparelle_n faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag of a black handkerchief investin_is neck. A confluent smallpox had in all directions flowed over his face, an_eft it like the complicated ribbed bed of a torrent, when the rushing water_ave been dried up.
  • “Have ye shipped in her?” he repeated.
  • “You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose,” said I, trying to gain a little mor_ime for an uninterrupted look at him.
  • “Aye, the Pequod—that ship there,” he said, drawing back his whole arm an_hen rapidly shoving it straight out from him-, with the fixed bayonet of hi_ointed finger darted full at the object.
  • “Yes,” said I, “we have just signed the articles.”
  • “Anything down there about your souls?”
  • “About what?”
  • “Oh, perhaps you hav’n’t got any,” he said quickly. “No matter though, I kno_any chaps that hav’n’t got any,— good luck to ’em; and they are all th_etter off for it. A soul’s a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon.”
  • “What are you jabbering about, shipmate?” said I.
  • “He’s got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies of that sort i_ther chaps,” abruptly said the stranger, placing a nervous emphasis upon th_ord he.
  • “Queequeg,” said I, “let’s go; this fellow has broken loose from somewhere;
  • he’s talking about something and somebody we don’t know.”
  • “Stop!” cried the stranger. “Ye said true—ye hav’n’t seen Old Thunder yet,
  • have ye?”
  • “Who’s Old Thunder?” said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness of hi_anner.
  • “Captain Ahab.”
  • “What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?”
  • “Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that name. Ye hav’n’t see_im yet, have ye?”
  • “No, we hav’n’t. He’s sick they say, but is getting better, and will be al_ight again before long.”
  • “All right again before long!” laughed the stranger, with a solemnly derisiv_ort of laugh. “Look ye; when Captain Ahab is all right, then this left arm o_ine will be all right; not before.”
  • “What do you know about him?”
  • “What did they tell you about him? Say that!”
  • “They didn’t tell much of anything about him; only I’ve heard that he’s a goo_hale-hunter, and a good captain to his crew.”
  • “That’s true, that’s true—yes, both true enough. But you must jump when h_ives an order. Step and growl; growl and go—that’s the word with Captai_hab. But nothing about that thing that happened to him off Cape Horn, lon_go, when he lay like dead for three days and nights; nothing about tha_eadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore the altar in Santa?— heard nothin_bout that, eh? Nothing about the silver calabash he spat into? And nothin_bout his losing his leg last voyage, according to the prophecy. Didn’t y_ear a word about them matters and something more, eh? No, I don’t think y_id; how could ye? Who knows it? Not all Nantucket, I guess. But hows’ever,
  • mayhap, ye’ve heard tell about the leg, and how he lost it; aye, ye have hear_f that, I dare say. Oh, yes, that every one knows a’most—I mean they kno_e’s only one leg; and that a parmacetti took the other off.”
  • “My friend,” said I, “what all this gibberish of yours is about, I don’t know,
  • and I don’t much care; for it seems to me that you must be a little damaged i_he head. But if you are speaking of Captain Ahab, of that ship there, th_equod, then let me tell you, that I know all about the loss of his leg.”
  • “All about it, eh—sure you do? all?
  • “Pretty sure.”
  • With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like strange_tood a moment, as if in a troubled reverie; then starting a little, turne_nd said:—“Ye’ve shipped, have ye? Names down on the papers? Well, well,
  • what’s signed, is signed; and what’s to be, will be; and then again, perhap_t won’t be, after all. Any how, it’s all fixed and arranged a’ready; and som_ailors or other must go with him, I suppose; as well these as any other men,
  • God pity ’em! Morning to ye, shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bles_e; I’m sorry I stopped ye.”
  • “Look here, friend,” said I, “if you have anything important to tell us, ou_ith it; but if you are only trying to bamboozle us, you are mistaken in you_ame; that’s all I have to say.”
  • “And it’s said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up that way; you ar_ust the man for him—the likes of ye. Morning to ye, shipmates, morning! Oh!
  • when ye get there, tell ’em I’ve concluded not to make one of ’em.”
  • “Ah, my dear fellow, you can’t fool us that way—you can’t fool us. It is th_asiest thing in the world for a man to look as if he had a great secret i_im.”
  • “Morning to ye, shipmates, morning.”
  • “Morning it is,” said I. “Come along, Queequeg, let’s leave this crazy man.
  • But stop, tell me your name, will you?”
  • “Elijah.”
  • Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting, after each other’_ashion, upon this ragged old sailor; and agreed that he was nothing but _umbug, trying to be a bugbear. But we had not gone perhaps above a hundre_ards, when chancing to turn a corner, and looking back as I did so, wh_hould be seen but Elijah following us, though at a distance. Somehow, th_ight of him struck me so, that I said nothing to Queequeg of his bein_ehind, but passed on with my comrade, anxious to see whether the strange_ould turn the same corner that we did. He did; and then it seemed to me tha_e was dogging us, but with what intent I could not for the life of m_magine. This circumstance, coupled with his ambiguous, half-hinting, half-
  • revealing, shrouded sort of talk, now begat in me all kinds of vagu_onderments and half-apprehensions, and all connected with the Pequod; an_aptain Ahab; and the leg he had lost; and the Cape Horn fit; and the silve_alabash; and what Captain Peleg had said of him, when I left the ship the da_revious; and the prediction of the squaw Tistig; and the voyage we had boun_urselves to sail; and a hundred other shadowy things.
  • I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this ragged Elijah was really doggin_s or not, and with that intent crossed the way with Queequeg, and on tha_ide of it retraced our steps. But Elijah passed on, without seeming to notic_s. This relieved me; and once more, and finally as it seemed to me, _ronounced him in my heart, a humbug.