Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 81 The Pequod Meets The Virgin

  • The predestinated day arrived, and we duly met the ship
  • Jungfrau, Derick De Deer, master, of Bremen.
  • At one time the greatest whaling people in the world, the Dutch and German_re now among the least; but here and there at very wide intervals of latitud_nd longitude, you still occasionally meet with their flag in the Pacific.
  • For some reason, the Jungfrau seemed quite eager to pay her respects. Whil_et some distance from the Pequod, she rounded to, and dropping a boat, he_aptain was impelled towards us, impatiently standing in the bows instead o_he stern.
  • “What has he in his hand there?” cried Starbuck, pointing to somethin_avingly held by the German. “Impossible!—a lamp-feeder!”
  • “Not that,” said Stubb, “no, no, it’s a coffee-pot, Mr. Starbuck; he’s comin_ff to make us our coffee, is the Yarman; don’t you see that big tin can ther_longside of him?—that’s his boiling water. Oh! he’s all right, is th_arman.”
  • “Go along with you,” cried Flask, “it’s a lamp-feeder and an oil-can. He’s ou_f oil, and has come a-begging.”
  • However curious it may seem for an oil-ship to be borrowing oil on the whale- ground, and however much it may invertedly contradict the old proverb abou_arrying coals to Newcastle, yet sometimes such a thing really happens; and i_he present case Captain Derick De Deer did indubitably conduct a lamp-feede_s Flask did declare.
  • As he mounted the deck, Ahab abruptly accosted him, without at all heedin_hat he had in his hand; but in his broken lingo, the German soon evinced hi_omplete ignorance of the White Whale; immediately turning the conversation t_is lamp-feeder and oil can, with some remarks touching his having to tur_nto his hammock at night in profound darkness—his last drop of Bremen oi_eing gone, and not a single flying-fish yet captured to supply th_eficiency; concluding by hinting that his ship was indeed what in the Fisher_s technically called a clean one (that is, an empty one), well deserving th_ame of Jungfrau or the Virgin.
  • His necessities supplied, Derick departed; but he had not gained his ship’_ide, when whales were almost simultaneously raised from the mast-heads o_oth vessels; and so eager for the chase was Derick, that without pausing t_ut his oil-can and lamp-feeder aboard, he slewed round his boat and mad_fter the leviathan lamp-feeders.
  • Now, the game having risen to leeward, he and the other three German boat_hat soon followed him, had considerably the start of the Pequod’s keels.
  • There were eight whales, an average pod. Aware of their danger, they wer_oing all abreast with great speed straight before the wind, rubbing thei_lanks as closely as so many spans of horses in harness. They left a great, wide wake, as though continually unrolling a great wide parchment upon th_ea.
  • Full in this rapid wake, and many fathoms in the rear, swam a huge, humped ol_ull, which by his comparatively slow progress, as well as by the unusua_ellowish incrustations over-growing him, seemed afflicted with the jaundice, or some other infirmity. Whether this whale belonged to the pod in advance, seemed questionable; for it is not customary for such venerable leviathans t_e at all social. Nevertheless, he stuck to their wake, though indeed thei_ack water must have retarded him, because the white-bone or swell at hi_road muzzle was a dashed one, like the swell formed when two hostile current_eet. His spout was short, slow, and laborious; coming forth with a chokin_ort of gush, and spending itself in torn shreds, followed by strang_ubterranean commotions in him, which seemed to have egress at his othe_uried extremity, causing the waters behind him to upbubble.
  • “Who’s got some paregoric?” said Stubb, “he has the stomach-ache, I’m afraid.
  • Lord, think of having half an acre of stomach-ache! Adverse winds are holdin_ad Christmas in him, boys. It’s the first foul wind I ever knew to blow fro_stern; but look, did ever whale yaw so before? it must be, he’s lost hi_iller.”
  • As an overladen Indiaman bearing down the Hindostan coast with a deck load o_rightened horses, careens, buries, rolls, and wallows on her way; so did thi_ld whale heave his aged bulk, and now and then partly turning over on hi_umbrous rib-ends, expose the cause of his devious wake in the unnatural stum_f his starboard fin. Whether he had lost that fin in battle, or had been bor_ithout it, it were hard to say.
  • “Only wait a bit, old chap, and I’ll give ye a sling for that wounded arm,” cried cruel Flask, pointing to the whale-line near him.
  • “Mind he don’t sling thee with it,” cried Starbuck. “Give way, or the Germa_ill have him.”
  • With one intent all the combined rival boats were pointed for this one fish, because not only was he the largest, and therefore the most valuable whale, but he was nearest to them, and the other whales were going with such grea_elocity, moreover, as almost to defy pursuit for the time. At this juncture, the Pequod’s keels had shot by the three German boats last lowered; but fro_he great start he had had, Derick’s boat still led the chase, though ever_oment neared by his foreign rivals. The only thing they feared, was, tha_rom being already so nigh to his mark, he would be enabled to dart his iro_efore they could completely overtake and pass him. As for Derick, he seeme_uite confident that this would be the case, and occasionally with a deridin_esture shook his lamp-feeder at the other boats.
  • “The ungracious and ungrateful dog!” cried Starbuck; “he mocks and dares m_ith the very poor-box I filled for him not five minutes ago!”— Then in hi_ld intense whisper—“give way, greyhounds! Dog to it!”
  • “I tell ye what it is, men”—cried Stubb to his crew—It’s against my religio_o get mad; but I’d like to eat that villainous Yarman—Pull— won’t ye? Are y_oing to let that rascal beat ye? Do ye love brandy? A hogshead of brandy, then, to the best man. Come, why don’t some of ye burst a blood-vessel? Who’_hat been dropping an anchor overboard— we don’t budge an inch—we’re becalmed.
  • Halloo, here’s grass growing in the boat’s bottom—and by the Lord, the mas_here’s budding. This won’t do, boys. Look at that Yarman! The short and lon_f it is, men, will ye spit fire or not?”
  • “Oh! see the suds he makes!” cried Flask, dancing up and down—“What a hump—Oh, do pile on the beef—lays like a log! Oh! my lads, do spring—slap-jacks an_uahogs for supper, you know, my lads— baked clams and muffins—oh, do, do, spring,—he’s a hundred barreler— don’t lose him now—don’t oh, don’t!—see tha_arman—Oh, won’t ye pull for your duff, my lads—such a sog! such a sogger!
  • Don’t ye love sperm? There goes three thousand dollars, men!—a bank!—a whol_ank! The bank of England!—Oh, do, do, do!—What’s that Yarman about now?”
  • At this moment Derick was in the act of pitching his lamp-feeder at th_dvancing boats, and also his oil-can; perhaps with the double view o_etarding his rivals’ way, and at the same time economically accelerating hi_wn by the momentary impetus of the backward toss.
  • “The unmannerly Dutch dogger!” cried Stubb. “Pull now, men, like fift_housand line-of-battle-ship loads of red-haired devils. What d’ye say, Tashtego; are you the man to snap your spine in two-and-twenty pieces for th_onor of old Gayhead? What d’ye say?”
  • “I say, pull like god-dam,”—cried the Indian.
  • Fiercely, but evenly incited by the taunts of the German, the Pequod’s thre_oats now began ranging almost abreast; and, so disposed, momentarily neare_im. In that fine, loose, chivalrous attitude of the headsman when drawin_ear to his prey, the three mates stood up proudly, occasionally backing th_fter oarsman with an exhilarating cry of, “There she slides, now! Hurrah fo_he white-ash breeze! Down with the Yarman! Sail over him!”
  • But so decided an original start had Derick had, that spite of all thei_allantry, he would have proved the victor in this race, had not a righteou_udgment descended upon him in a crab which caught the blade of his midshi_arsman. While this clumsy lubber was striving to free his white-ash, an_hile, in consequence, Derick’s boat was nigh to capsizing, and he thunderin_way at his men in a mighty rage;—that was a good time for Starbuck, Stubb, and Flask. With a shout, they took a mortal start forwards, and slantingl_anged up on the German’s quarter. An instant more, and all four boats wer_iagonically in the whale’s immediate wake, while stretching from them, o_oth sides, was the foaming swell that he made.
  • It was a terrific, most pitiable, and maddening sight. The whale was now goin_ead out, and sending his spout before him in a continual tormented jet; whil_is one poor fin beat his side in an agony of fright. Now to this hand, now t_hat, he yawed in his faltering flight, and still at every billow that h_roke, he spasmodically sank in the sea, or sideways rolled towards the sk_is one beating fin. So have I seen a bird with clipped wing, makin_ffrighted broken circles in the air, vainly striving to escape the piratica_awks. But the bird has a voice, and with plaintive cries will make known he_ear; but the fear of this vast dumb brute of the sea, was chained up an_nchanted in him; he had no voice, save that choking respiration through hi_piracle, and this made the sight of him unspeakably pitiable; while still, i_is amazing bulk, portcullis jaw, and omnipotent tail, there was enough t_ppal the stoutest man who so pitied.
  • Seeing now that but a very few moments more would give the Pequod’s boats th_dvantage, and rather than be thus foiled of his game, Derick chose to hazar_hat to him must have seemed a most unusually long dart, ere the last chanc_ould for ever escape.
  • But no sooner did his harpooneer stand up for the stroke, than all thre_igers—Queequeg, Tashtego, Daggoo—instinctively sprang to their feet, an_tanding in a diagonal row, simultaneously pointed their barbs; and darte_ver the head of the German harpooneer, their three Nantucket irons entere_he whale. Blinding vapors of foam and white-fire! The three boats, in th_irst fury of the whale’s headlong rush, bumped the German’s aside with suc_orce, that both Derick and his baffled harpooneer were spilled out, an_ailed over by the three flying keels.
  • “Don’t be afraid, my butter-boxes,” cried Stubb, casting a passing glance upo_hem as he shot by; “ye’ll be picked up presently— all right—I saw some shark_stern—St. Bernard’s dogs, you know— relieve distressed travellers. Hurrah!
  • this is the way to sail now. Every keel a sunbeam! Hurrah!—Here we go lik_hree tin kettles at the tail of a mad cougar! This puts me in mind o_astening to an elephant in a tilbury on a plain— makes the wheelspokes fly, boys, when you fasten to him that way; and there’s danger of being pitched ou_oo, when you strike a hill. Hurrah! this is the way a fellow feels when he’_oing to Davy Jones—all a rush down an endless inclined plane! Hurrah! thi_hale carries the everlasting mail!”
  • But the monster’s run was a brief one. Giving a sudden gasp, he tumultuousl_ounded. With a grating rush, the three lines flew round the loggerheads wit_uch a force as to gouge deep grooves in them; while so fearful were th_arpooneers that this rapid sounding would soon exhaust the lines, that usin_ll their dexterous might, they caught repeated smoking turns with the rope t_old on; till at last—owing to the perpendicular strain from the lead-line_hocks of the boats, whence the three ropes went straight down into th_lue—the gunwales of the bows were almost even with the water, while the thre_terns tilted high in the air. And the whale soon ceasing to sound, for som_ime they remained in that attitude, fearful of expending more line, thoug_he position was a little ticklish. But though boats have been taken down an_ost in this way, yet it is this “holding on,” as it is called; this hookin_p by the sharp barbs of his live flesh from the back; this it is that ofte_orments the Leviathan into soon rising again to meet the sharp lance of hi_oes. Yet not to speak of the peril of the thing, it is to be doubted whethe_his course is always the best; for it is but reasonable to presume, that th_onger the stricken whale stays under water, the more he is exhausted.
  • Because, owing to the enormous surface of him— in a full grown sperm whal_omething less than 2000 square feet— the pressure of the water is immense. W_ll know what an astonishing atmospheric weight we ourselves stand up under; even here, above-ground, in the air; how vast, then, the burden of a whale, bearing on his back a column of two hundred fathoms of ocean! It must at leas_qual the weight of fifty atmospheres. One whaleman has estimated it at th_eight of twenty line-of-battle ships, with all their guns, and stores, an_en on board.
  • As the three boats lay there on that gently rolling sea, gazing down into it_ternal blue noon; and as not a single groan or cry of any sort, nay, not s_uch as a ripple or a bubble came up from its depths; what landsman would hav_hought, that beneath all that silence and placidity, the utmost monster o_he seas was writhing and wrenching in agony! Not eight inches o_erpendicular rope were visible at the bows. Seems it credible that by thre_uch thin threads the great Leviathan was suspended like the big weight to a_ight day clock. Suspended? and to what? To three bits of board. Is this th_reature of whom it was once so triumphantly said—“Canst thou fill his ski_ith barbed irons? or his head with fish-spears? The sword of him that layet_t him cannot hold, the spear, the dart, nor the habergeon: he esteemeth iro_s straw; the arrow cannot make him flee; darts are counted as stubble; h_augheth at the shaking of a spear!” This the creature? this he? Oh! tha_nfulfilments should follow the prophets. For with the strength of a thousan_highs in his tail, Leviathan had run his head under the mountains of the sea, to hide him from the Pequod’s fishspears!
  • In that sloping afternoon sunlight, the shadows that the three boats sent dow_eneath the surface, must have been long enough and broad enough to shade hal_erxes’ army. Who can tell how appalling to the wounded whale must have bee_uch huge phantoms flitting over his head!
  • “Stand by, men; he stirs,” cried Starbuck, as the three lines suddenl_ibrated in the water, distinctly conducting upwards to them, as by magneti_ires, the life and death throbs of the whale, so that every oarsman felt the_n his seat. The next moment, relieved in a great part from the downwar_train at the bows, the boats gave a sudden bounce upwards, as a smal_cefield will, when a dense herd of white bears are scared from it into th_ea.
  • “Haul in! Haul in!” cried Starbuck again; “he’s rising.”
  • The lines, of which, hardly an instant before, not one hand’s breadth coul_ave been gained, were now in long quick coils flung back all dripping int_he boats, and soon the whale broke water within two ship’s length of th_unters.
  • His motions plainly denoted his extreme exhaustion. In most land animals ther_re certain valves or flood-gates in many of their veins, whereby whe_ounded, the blood is in some degree at least instantly shut off in certai_irections. Not so with the whale; one of whose peculiarities it is, to hav_n entire non-valvular structure of the blood-vessels, so that when pierce_ven by so small a point as a harpoon, a deadly drain is at once begun upo_is whole arterial system; and when this is heightened by the extraordinar_ressure of water at a great distance below the surface, his life may be sai_o pour from him in incessant streams. Yet so vast is the quantity of blood i_im, and so distant and numerous its interior fountains, that he will kee_hus bleeding and bleeding for a considerable period; even as in a drought _iver will flow, whose source is in the well-springs of far-off an_ndiscernible hills. Even now, when the boats pulled upon this whale, an_erilously drew over his swaying flukes, and the lances were darted into him, they were followed by steady jets from the new made wound, which kep_ontinually playing, while the natural spout-hole in his head was only a_ntervals, however rapid, sending its affrighted moisture into the air. Fro_his last vent no blood yet came, because no vital part of him had thus fa_een struck. His life, as they significantly call it, was untouched.
  • As the boats now more closely surrounded him, the whole upper part of hi_orm, with much of it that is ordinarily submerged, was plainly revealed. Hi_yes, or rather the places where his eyes had been, were beheld. As strang_isgrown masses gather in the knot-holes of the noblest oaks when prostrate, so from the points which the whale’s eyes had once occupied, now protrude_lind bulbs, horribly pitiable to see. But pity there was none. For all hi_ld age, and his one arm, and his blind eyes, he must die the death and b_urdered, in order to light the gay bridals and other merry-makings of men, and also to illuminate the solemn churches that preach unconditiona_noffensiveness by all to all. Still rolling in his blood, at last h_artially disclosed a strangely discolored bunch or protuberance, the size o_ bushel, low down on the flank.
  • “A nice spot,” cried Flask; “just let me prick him there once.”
  • “Avast!” cried Starbuck, “there’s no need of that!”
  • But humane Starbuck was too late. At the instant of the dart an ulcerous je_hot from this cruel wound, and goaded by it into more than sufferabl_nguish, the whale now spouting thick blood, with swift fury blindly darted a_he craft, bespattering them and their glorying crews all over with showers o_ore, capsizing Flask’s boat and marring the bows. It was his death stroke.
  • For, by this time, so spent was he by loss of blood, that he helplessly rolle_way from the wreck he had made; lay panting on his side, impotently flappe_ith his stumped fin, then over and over slowly revolved like a waning world; turned up the white secrets of his belly; lay like a log, and died. It wa_ost piteous, that last expiring spout. As when by unseen hands the water i_radually drawn off from some mighty fountain, and with half-stifle_elancholy gurglings the spray-column lowers and lowers to the ground— so th_ast long dying spout of the whale.
  • Soon, while the crews were awaiting the arrival of the ship, the body showe_ymptoms of sinking with all its treasures unrifled. Immediately, b_tarbuck’s orders, lines were secured to it at different points, so that er_ong every boat was a buoy; the sunken whale being suspended a few inche_eneath them by the cords. By very heedful management, when the ship dre_igh, the whale was transferred to her side, and was strongly secured there b_he stiffest fluke-chains, for it was plain that unless artificially upheld, the body would at once sink to the bottom.
  • It so chanced that almost upon first cutting into him with the spade, th_ntire length of a corroded harpoon was found imbedded in his flesh, on th_ower part of the bunch before described. But as the stumps of harpoons ar_requently found in the dead bodies of captured whales, with the fles_erfectly healed around them, and no prominence of any kind to denote thei_lace; therefore, there must needs have been some other unknown reason in th_resent case fully to account for the ulceration alluded to. But still mor_urious was the fact of a lance-head of stone being found in him, not far fro_he buried iron, the flesh perfectly firm about it. Who had darted that ston_ance? And when? It might have been darted by some Nor’ West Indian lon_efore America was discovered.
  • What other marvels might have been rummaged out of this monstrous cabine_here is no telling. But a sudden stop was put to further discoveries, by th_hip’s being unprecedentedly dragged over sideways to the sea, owing to th_ody’s immensely increasing tendency to sink. However, Starbuck, who had th_rdering of affairs, hung on to it to the last; hung on to it so resolutely, indeed, that when at length the ship would have been capsized, if stil_ersisting in locking arms with the body; then, when the command was given t_reak clear from it, such was the immovable strain upon the timber-heads t_hich the fluke-chains and cables were fastened, that it was impossible t_ast them off. Meantime everything in the Pequod was aslant. To cross to th_ther side of the deck was like walking up the steep gabled roof of a house.
  • The ship groaned and gasped. Many of the ivory inlayings of her bulwarks an_abins were started from their places, by the unnatural dislocation. In vai_andspikes and crows were brought to bear upon the immovable fluke-chains, t_ry them adrift from the timberheads; and so low had the whale now settle_hat the submerged ends could not be at all approached, while every momen_hole tons of ponderosity seemed added to the sinking bulk, and the shi_eemed on the point of going over.
  • “Hold on, hold on, won’t ye?” cried Stubb to the body, “don’t be in such _evil of a hurry to sink! By thunder, men, we must do something or go for it.
  • No use prying there; avast, I say with your handspikes, and run one of ye fo_ prayer book and a pen-knife, and cut the big chains.”
  • “Knife? Aye, aye,” cried Queequeg, and seizing the carpenter’s heavy hatchet, he leaned out of a porthole, and steel to iron, began slashing at the larges_luke-chains. But a few strokes, full of sparks, were given, when th_xceeding strain effected the rest. With a terrific snap, every fastening wen_drift; the ship righted, the carcase sank.
  • Now, this occasional inevitable sinking of the recently killed Sperm Whale i_ very curious thing; nor has any fisherman yet adequately accounted for it.
  • Usually the dead Sperm Whale floats with great buoyancy, with its side o_elly considerably elevated above the surface. If the only whales that thu_ank were old, meagre, and broken-hearted creatures, their pads of lar_iminished and all their bones heavy and rheumatic; then you might with som_eason assert that this sinking is caused by an uncommon specific gravity i_he fish so sinking, consequent upon this absence of buoyant matter in him.
  • But it is not so. For young whales, in the highest health, and swelling wit_oble aspirations, prematurely cut off in the warm flush and May of life, wit_ll their panting lard about them! even these brawny, buoyant heroes d_ometimes sink.
  • Be it said, however, that the Sperm Whale is far less liable to this acciden_han any other species. Where one of that sort go down, twenty Right Whale_o. This difference in the species is no doubt imputable in no small degree t_he greater quantity of bone in the Right Whale; his Venetian blinds alon_ometimes weighing more than a ton; from this incumbrance the Sperm Whale i_holly free. But there are instances where, after the lapse of many hours o_everal days, the sunken whale again rises, more buoyant than in life. But th_eason of this is obvious. Gases are generated in him; he swells to _rodigious magnitude; becomes a sort of animal balloon. A line-of-battle shi_ould hardly keep him under then. In the Shore Whaling, on soundings, amon_he Bays of New Zealand, when a Right Whale gives token of sinking, the_asten buoys to him, with plenty of rope; so that when the body has gone down, they know where to look for it when it shall have ascended again.
  • It was not long after the sinking of the body that a cry was heard from th_equod’s mast-heads, announcing that the Jungfrau was again lowering he_oats; though the only spout in sight was that of a Fin-Back, belonging to th_pecies of uncapturable whales, because of its incredible power of swimming.
  • Nevertheless, the Fin-Back’s spout is so similar to the Sperm Whale’s, that b_nskilful fishermen it is often mistaken for it. And consequently Derick an_ll his host were now in valiant chase of this unnearable brute. The Virgi_rowding all sail, made after her four young keels, and thus they al_isappeared far to leeward, still in bold, hopeful chase.
  • Oh! many are the Fin-Backs, and many are the Dericks, my friend.