In the tumultuous business of cutting-in and attending to a whale, there i_uch running backwards and forwards among the crew. Now hands are wanted here,
and then again hands are wanted there. There is no staying in any one place;
for at one and the same time everything has to be done everywhere. It is muc_he same with him who endeavors the description of the scene. We must no_etrace our way a little. It was mentioned that upon first breaking ground i_he whale’s back, the blubber-hook was inserted into the original hole ther_ut by the spades of the mates. But how did so clumsy and weighty a mass a_hat same hook get fixed in that hole? It was inserted there by my particula_riend Queequeg, whose duty it was, as harpooneer, to descend upon th_onster’s back for the special purpose referred to. But in very many cases,
circumstances require that the harpooneer shall remain on the whale till th_hole tensing or stripping operation is concluded. The whale, be it observed,
lies almost entirely submerged, excepting the immediate parts operated upon.
So down there, some ten feet below the level of the deck, the poor harpoonee_lounders about, half on the whale and half in the water, as the vast mas_evolves like a tread-mill beneath him. On the occasion in question, Queeque_igured in the Highland costume— a shirt and socks—in which to my eyes, a_east, he appeared to uncommon advantage; and no one had a better chance t_bserve him, as will presently be seen.
Being the savage’s bowsman, that is, the person who pulled the bow-oar in hi_oat (the second one from forward), it was my cheerful duty to attend upon hi_hile taking that hard-scrabble scramble upon the dead whale’s back. You hav_een Italian organ-boys holding a dancing-ape by a long cord. Just so, fro_he ship’s steep side, did I hold Queequeg down there in the sea, by what i_echnically called in the fishery a monkey-rope, attached to a strong strip o_anvas belted round his waist.
It was a humorously perilous business for both of us. For, before we procee_urther, it must be said that the monkey-rope was fast at both ends; fast t_ueequeg’s broad canvas belt, and fast to my narrow leather one. So that fo_etter or for worse, we two, for the time, were wedded; and should poo_ueequeg sink to rise no more, then both usage and honor demanded, tha_nstead of cutting the cord, it should drag me down in his wake. So, then, a_longated Siamese ligature united us. Queequeg was my own inseparable twi_rother; nor could I any way get rid of the dangerous liabilities which th_empen bond entailed.
So strongly and metaphysically did I conceive of my situation then, that whil_arnestly watching his motions, I seemed distinctly to perceive that my ow_ndividuality was now merged in a joint stock company of two; that my fre_ill had received a mortal wound; and that another’s mistake or misfortun_ight plunge innocent me into unmerited disaster and death. Therefore, I sa_hat here was a sort of interregnum in Providence; for its even-handed equit_ever could have so gross an injustice. And yet still further pondering—whil_ jerked him now and then from between the whale and ship, which woul_hreaten to jam him—still further pondering, I say, I saw that this situatio_f mine was the precise situation of every mortal that breathes; only, in mos_ases, he, one way or other, has this Siamese connexion with a plurality o_ther mortals. If your banker breaks, you snap; if your apothecary by mistak_ends you poison in your pills, you die. True, you may say that, by exceedin_aution, you may possibly escape these and the multitudinous other evi_hances of life. But handle Queequeg’s monkey-rope heedfully as I would,
sometimes he jerked it so, that I came very near sliding overboard. Nor coul_ possibly forget that, do what I would, I only had the management of one en_f it.[](footnotes.xml#footnote_14)
I have hinted that I would often jerk poor Queequeg from between the whale an_he ship—where he would occasionally fall, from the incessant rolling an_waying of both. But this was not the only jamming jeopardy he was exposed to.
Unappalled by the massacre made upon them during the night, the sharks no_reshly and more keenly allured by the before pent blood which began to flo_rom the carcass—the rabid creatures swarmed round it like bees in a beehive.
And right in among those sharks was Queequeg; who often pushed them aside wit_is floundering feet. A thing altogether incredible were it not that attracte_y such prey as a dead whale, the otherwise miscellaneously carnivorous shar_ill seldom touch a man.
Nevertheless, it may well be believed that since they have such a ravenou_inger in the pie, it is deemed but wise to look sharp to them. Accordingly,
besides the monkey-rope, with which I now and then jerked the poor fellow fro_oo close a vicinity to the maw of what seemed a peculiarly ferocious shark—h_as provided with still another protection. Suspended over the side in one o_he stages, Tashtego and Daggoo continually flourished over his head a coupl_f keen whale-spades, wherewith they slaughtered as many sharks as they coul_each. This procedure of theirs, to be sure, was very disinterested an_enevolent of them. They meant Queequeg’s best happiness, I admit; but i_heir hasty zeal to befriend him, and from the circumstance that both he an_he sharks were at times half hidden by the blood-muddled water, thos_ndiscreet spades of theirs would come nearer amputating a leg than a tall.
But poor Queequeg, I suppose, straining and gasping there with that great iro_ook—poor Queequeg, I suppose, only prayed to his Yojo, and gave up his lif_nto the hands of his gods.
Well, well, my dear comrade and twin-brother, thought I, as I drew in and the_lacked off the rope to every swell of the sea— what matters it, after all?
Are you not the precious image of each and all of us men in this whalin_orld? That unsounded ocean you gasp in, is Life; those sharks, your foes;
those spades, your friends; and what between sharks and spades you are in _ad pickle and peril, poor lad.
But courage! there is good cheer in store for you, Queequeg. For now, as wit_lue lips and blood-shot eyes the exhausted savage at last climbs up th_hains and stands all dripping and involuntarily trembling over the side; th_teward advances, and with a benevolent, consolatory glance hands him—what?
Some hot Cognac? No! hands him, ye gods! hands him a cup of tepid ginger an_ater!
“Ginger? Do I smell ginger?” suspiciously asked Stubb, coming near. “Yes, thi_ust be ginger,” peering into the as yet untasted cup. Then standing as i_ncredulous for a while, he calmly walked towards the astonished stewar_lowly saying, “Ginger? ginger? and will you have the goodness to tell me, Mr.
Dough-Boy, where lies the virtue of ginger? Ginger! is ginger the sort of fue_ou use, Dough-boy, to kindle a fire in this shivering cannibal? Ginger!—wha_he devil is ginger?— sea-coal? firewood?—lucife_atches?—tinder?—gunpowder?—what the devil is ginger, I say, that you offe_his cup to our poor Queequeg here.”
“There is some sneaking Temperance Society movement about this business,” h_uddenly added, now approaching Starbuck, who had just come from forward.
“Will you look at that kannakin, sir; smell of it, if you please.” The_atching the mate’s countenance, he added, “The steward, Mr. Starbuck, had th_ace to offer that calomel and jalap to Queequeg, there, this instant off th_hale. Is the steward an apothecary, sir? and may I ask whether this is th_ort of bitters by which he blows back the life into a half-drowned man?”
“I trust not,” said Starbuck, “it is poor stuff enough.”
“Aye, aye, steward,” cried Stubb, “we’ll teach you to drug it harpooneer; non_f your apothecary’s medicine here; you want to poison us, do ye? You have go_ut insurances on our lives and want to give way with their oars, and pocke_he proceeds, do ye?”
“It was not me,” cried Dough-Boy, “it was Aunt Charity that brought the ginge_n board; and bade me never give the harpooneers any spirits, but only thi_inger-jub—so she called it.”
“Ginger-jub! you gingerly rascal! take that! and run along with ye to th_ockers, and get something better. I hope I do no wrong, Mr. Starbuck. It i_he captain’s orders— grog for the harpooneer on a whale.”
“Enough,” replied Starbuck, “only don’t hit him again, but-”
“Oh, I never hurt when I hit, except when I hit a whale or something of tha_ort; and this fellow’s a weazel. What were you about saying, sir?”
“Only this: go down with him, and get what thou wantest thyself.”
When Stubb reappeared, he came with a dark flask in one hand, and a sort o_ea-caddy in the other. The first contained strong spirits, and was handed t_ueequeg; the second was Aunt Charity’s gift, and that was freely given to th_aves.