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Chapter 72 The Monkey-Rope

  • 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.[[14]](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.