Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 4 The Counterpane

  • Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg’s arm thrown over m_n the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost thought I had bee_is wife. The counterpane was of patchwork, full of odd little parti-colore_quares and triangles; and this arm of his tattooed all over with a_nterminable Cretan labyrinth of a figure, no two parts of which were of on_recise shade— owing I suppose to his keeping his arm at sea unmethodically i_un and shade, his shirt sleeves irregularly rolled up at various times— thi_ame arm of his, I say, looked for all the world like a strip of that sam_atchwork quilt. Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke,
  • I could hardly tell it from the quilt, they so blended their hues together;
  • and it was only by the sense of weight and pressure that I could tell tha_ueequeg was hugging me.
  • My sensations were strange. Let me try to explain them. When I was a child, _ell remember a somewhat similar circumstance that befell me; whether it was _eality or a dream, I never could entirely settle. The circumstance was this.
  • I had been cutting up some caper or other— I think it was trying to crawl u_he chimney, as I had seen a little sweep do a few days previous; and m_tepmother who, somehow or other, was all the time whipping me, or sending m_o bed supperless,— my mother dragged me by the legs out of the chimney an_acked me off to bed, though it was only two o’clock in the afternoon of th_1st June, the longest day in the year in our hemisphere. I felt dreadfully.
  • But there was no help for it, so up stairs I went to my little room in th_hird floor, undressed myself as slowly as possible so as to kill time, an_ith a bitter sigh got between the sheets.
  • I lay there dismally calculating that sixteen entire hours must elapse befor_ could hope for a resurrection. Sixteen hours in bed! the small of my bac_ched to think of it. And it was so light too; the sun shining in at th_indow, and a great rattling of coaches in the streets, and the sound of ga_oices all over the house. I felt worse and worse— at last I got up, dressed,
  • and softly going down in my stockinged feet, sought out my stepmother, an_uddenly threw myself at her feet, beseeching her as a particular favor t_ive me a good slippering for my misbehaviour: anything indeed but condemnin_e to lie abed such an unendurable length of time. But she was the best an_ost conscientious of stepmothers, and back I had to go to my room. Fo_everal hours I lay there broad awake, feeling a great deal worse than I hav_ver done since, even from the greatest subsequent misfortunes. At last I mus_ave fallen into a troubled nightmare of a doze; and slowly waking fro_t—half steeped in dreams—I opened my eyes, and the before sunlit room was no_rapped in outer darkness. Instantly I felt a shock running through all m_rame; nothing was to be seen, and nothing was to be heard; but a supernatura_and seemed placed in mine. My arm hung over the counterpane, and th_ameless, unimaginable, silent form or phantom, to which the hand belonged,
  • seemed closely seated by my bed-side. For what seemed ages piled on ages, _ay there, frozen with the most awful fears, not daring to drag away my hand;
  • yet ever thinking that if I could but stir it one single inch, the horri_pell would be broken. I knew not how this consciousness at last glided awa_rom me; but waking in the morning, I shudderingly remembered it all, and fo_ays and weeks and months afterwards I lost myself in confounding attempts t_xplain the mystery. Nay, to this very hour, I often puzzle myself with it.
  • Now, take away the awful fear, and my sensations at feeling the supernatura_and in mine were very similar, in their strangeness, to those which _xperienced on waking up and seeing Queequeg’s pagan arm thrown round me. Bu_t length all the past night’s events soberly recurred, one by one, in fixe_eality, and then I lay only alive to the comical predicament. For though _ried to move his arm— unlock his bridegroom clasp—yet, sleeping as he was, h_till hugged me tightly, as though naught but death should part us twain. _ow strove to rouse him—“Queequeg!”—but his only answer was a snore. I the_olled over, my neck feeling as if it were in a horse-collar; and suddenl_elt a slight scratch. Throwing aside the counterpane, there lay the tomahaw_leeping by the savage’s side, as if it were a hatchet-faced baby. A prett_ickle, truly, thought I; abed here in a strange house in the broad day, wit_ cannibal and a tomahawk! “Queequeg!—in the name of goodness, Queequeg,
  • wake!” At length, by dint of much wriggling, and loud and incessan_xpostulations upon the unbecomingness of his hugging a fellow male in tha_atrimonial sort of style, I succeeded in extracting a grunt; and presently,
  • he drew back his arm, shook himself all over like a Newfoundland dog just fro_he water, and sat up in bed, stiff as a pike-staff, looking at me, an_ubbing his eyes as if he did not altogether remember how I came to be there,
  • though a dim consciousness of knowing something about me seemed slowly dawnin_ver him. Meanwhile, I lay quietly eyeing him, having no serious misgiving_ow, and bent upon narrowly observing so curious a creature. When, at last,
  • his mind seemed made up touching the character of his bedfellow, and h_ecame, as it were, reconciled to the fact; he jumped out upon the floor, an_y certain signs and sounds gave me to understand that, if it pleased me, h_ould dress first and then leave me to dress afterwards, leaving the whol_partment to myself. Thinks I, Queequeg, under the circumstances, this is _ery civilized overture; but, the truth is, these savages have an innate sens_f delicacy, say what you will; it is marvellous how essentially polite the_re. I pay this particular compliment to Queequeg, because he treated me wit_o much civility and consideration, while I was guilty of great rudeness;
  • staring at him from the bed, and watching all his toilette motions; for th_ime my curiosity getting the better of my breeding. Nevertheless, a man lik_ueequeg you don’t see every day, he and his ways were well worth unusua_egarding.
  • He commenced dressing at top by donning his beaver hat, a very tall one, b_he by, and then—still minus his trowsers— he hunted up his boots. What unde_he heavens he did it for, I cannot tell, but his next movement was to crus_imself— boots in hand, and hat on—under the bed; when, from sundry violen_aspings and strainings, I inferred he was hard at work booting himself;
  • though by no law of propriety that I ever heard of, is any man required to b_rivate when putting on his boots. But Queequeg, do you see, was a creature i_he transition state— neither caterpillar nor butterfly. He was just enoug_ivilized to show off his outlandishness in the strangest possible manner. Hi_ducation was not yet completed. He was an undergraduate. If he had not been _mall degree civilized, he very probably would not have troubled himself wit_oots at all; but then, if he had not been still a savage, he never would hav_reamt of getting under the bed to put them on. At last, he emerged with hi_at very much dented and crushed down over his eyes, and began creaking an_imping about the room, as if, not being much accustomed to boots, his pair o_amp, wrinkled cowhide ones— probably not made to order either—rather pinche_nd tormented him at the first go off of a bitter cold morning.
  • Seeing, now, that there were no curtains to the window, and that the stree_eing very narrow, the house opposite commanded a plain view into the room,
  • and observing more and more the indecorous figure that Queequeg made, stavin_bout with little else but his hat and boots on; I begged him as well as _ould, to accelerate his toilet somewhat, and particularly to get into hi_antaloons as soon as possible. He complied, and then proceeded to was_imself. At that time in the morning any Christian would have washed his face;
  • but Queequeg, to my amazement, contented himself with restricting hi_blutions to his chest, arms, and hands. He then donned his waistcoat, an_aking up a piece of hard soap on the wash-stand centre table, dipped it int_ater and commenced lathering his face. I was watching to see where he kep_is razor, when lo and behold, he takes the harpoon from the bed corner, slip_ut the long wooden stock, unsheathes the head, whets it a little on his boot,
  • and striding up to the bit of mirror against the wall, begins a vigorou_craping, or rather harpooning of his cheeks. Thinks I, Queequeg, this i_sing Rogers’s best cutlery with a vengeance. Afterwards I wondered the les_t this operation when I came to know of what fine steel the head of a harpoo_s made, and how exceedingly sharp the long straight edges are always kept.
  • The rest of his toilet was soon achieved, and he proudly marched out of th_oom, wrapped up in his great pilot monkey jacket, and sporting his harpoo_ike a marshal’s baton.