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Chapter 20 All Astir

  • A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard the Pequod. Not onl_ere the old sails being mended, but new sails were coming on board, and bolt_f canvas, and coils of rigging; in short, everything betokened that th_hip’s preparations were hurrying to a close. Captain Peleg seldom or neve_ent ashore, but sat in his wigwam keeping a sharp look-out upon the hands:
  • Bildad did all the purchasing and providing at the stores; and the me_mployed in the hold and on the rigging were working till long after night-
  • fall.
  • On the day following Queequeg’s signing the articles, word was given at al_he inns where the ship’s company were stopping, that their chests must be o_oard before night, for there was no telling how soon the vessel might b_ailing. So Queequeg and I got down our traps, resolving, however, to slee_shore till the last. But it seems they always give very long notice in thes_ases, and the ship did not sail for several days. But no wonder; there was _ood deal to be done, and there is no telling how many things to be though_f, before the Pequod was fully equipped.
  • Every one knows what a multitude of things—beds, sauce-pans, knives and forks,
  • shovels and tongs, napkins, nut-crackers, and what not, are indispensable t_he business of housekeeping. Just so with whaling, which necessitates _hree-years’ housekeeping upon the wide ocean, far from all grocers,
  • costermongers, doctors, bakers, and bankers. And though this also holds tru_f merchant vessels, yet not by any means to the same extent as with whalemen.
  • For besides the great length of the whaling voyage, the numerous article_eculiar to the prosecution of the fishery, and the impossibility of replacin_hem at the remote harbors usually frequented, it must be remembered, that o_ll ships, whaling vessels are the most exposed to accidents of all kinds, an_specially to the destruction and loss of the very things upon which th_uccess of the voyage most depends. Hence, the spare boats, spare spars, an_pare lines and harpoons, and spare everythings, almost, but a spare Captai_nd duplicate ship.
  • At the period of our arrival at the Island, the heaviest storage of the Pequo_ad been almost completed; comprising her beef, bread, water, fuel, and iro_oops and staves. But, as before hinted, for some time there was a continua_etching and carrying on board of divers odds and ends of things, both larg_nd small.
  • Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was Captain Bildad’_ister, a lean old lady of a most determined and indefatigable spirit, bu_ithal very kindhearted, who seemed resolved that, if she could help it,
  • nothing should be found wanting in the Pequod, after once fairly getting t_ea. At one time she would come on board with a jar of pickles for th_teward’s pantry; another time with a bunch of quills for the chief mate’_esk, where he kept his log; a third time with a roll of flannel for the smal_f some one’s rheumatic back. Never did any woman better deserve her name,
  • which was Charity—Aunt Charity, as everybody called her. And like a sister o_harity did this charitable Aunt Charity bustle about hither and thither,
  • ready to turn her hand and heart to anything that promised to yield safety,
  • comfort, and consolation to all on board a ship in which her beloved brothe_ildad was concerned, and in which she herself owned a score or two of well-
  • saved dollars.
  • But it was startling to see this excellent hearted Quakeress coming on board,
  • as she did the last day, with a long oil-ladle in one hand, and a still longe_haling lance in the other. Nor was Bildad himself nor Captain Peleg at al_ackward. As for Bildad, he carried about with him a long list of the article_eeded, and at every fresh arrival, down went his mark opposite that articl_pon the paper. Every once in a while Peleg came hobbling out of his whalebon_en, roaring at the men down the hatchways, roaring up to the riggers at th_ast-head, and then concluded by roaring back into his wigwam.
  • During these days of preparation, Queequeg and I often visited the craft, an_s often I asked about Captain Ahab, and how he was, and when he was going t_ome on board his ship. To these questions they would answer, that he wa_etting better and better, and was expected aboard every day; meantime, th_wo Captains, Peleg and Bildad, could attend to everything necessary to fi_he vessel for the voyage. If I had been downright honest with myself, I woul_ave seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committe_his way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who wa_o be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon th_pen sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if h_e already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up hi_uspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I sai_othing, and tried to think nothing.
  • At last it was given out that some time next day the ship would certainl_ail. So next morning, Queequeg and I took a very early start.