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?”
“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,
“Who’s Old Thunder?” said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness of hi_anner.
“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?
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! 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.