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Chapter 88 Schools and Schoolmasters

  • The previous chapter gave account of an immense body or herd of Sperm Whales,
  • and there was also then given the probable cause inducing those vas_ggregations.
  • Now, though such great bodies are at times encountered, yet, as must have bee_een, even at the present day, small detached bands are occasionally observed,
  • embracing from twenty to fifty individuals each. Such bands are known a_chools. They generally are of two sorts; those composed almost entirely o_emales, and those mustering none but young vigorous males, or bulls as the_re familiarly designated.
  • In cavalier attendance upon the school of females, you invariably see a mal_f full grown magnitude, but not old; who, upon any alarm, evinces hi_allantry by falling in the rear and covering the flight of his ladies. I_ruth, this gentleman is a luxurious Ottoman, swimming about over the water_orld, surroundingly accompanied by all the solaces and endearments of th_arem. The contrast between this Ottoman and his concubines is striking;
  • because, while he is always of the largest leviathanic proportions, th_adies, even at full growth, are not more than one-third of the bulk of a_verage-sized male. They are comparatively delicate, indeed; I dare say, no_o exceed half a dozen yards round the waist. Nevertheless, it cannot b_enied, that upon the whole they are hereditarily entitled to en bon point.
  • It is very curious to watch this harem and its lord in their indolen_amblings. Like fashionables, they are for ever on the move in leisurel_earch of variety. You meet them on the Line in time for the full flower o_he Equatorial feeding season, having just returned, perhaps, from spendin_he summer in the Northern seas, and so cheating summer of all unpleasan_eariness and warmth. By the time they have lounged up and down the promenad_f the Equator awhile, they start for the Oriental waters in anticipation o_he cool season there, and so evade the other excessive temperature of th_ear.
  • When serenely advancing on one of these journeys, if any strange suspiciou_ights are seen, my lord whale keeps a wary eye on his interesting family.
  • Should any unwarrantably pert young Leviathan coming that way, presume to dra_onfidentially close to one of the ladies, with what prodigious fury th_ashaw assails him, and chases him away! High times, indeed, if unprinciple_oung rakes like him are to be permitted to invade the sanctity of domesti_liss; though do what the Bashaw will, he cannot keep the most notoriou_othario out of his bed; for alas! all fish bed in common. As ashore, th_adies often cause the most terrible duels among their rival admirers; just s_ith the whales, who sometimes come to deadly battle, and all for love. The_ence with their long lower jaws, sometimes locking them together, and s_triving for the supremacy like elks that warringly interweave their antlers.
  • Not a few are captured having the deep scars of these encounters,— furrowe_eads, broken teeth, scolloped fins; and in some instances, wrenched an_islocated mouths.
  • But supposing the invader of domestic bliss to betake himself away at th_irst rush of the harem’s lord, then is it very diverting to watch that lord.
  • Gently he insinuates his vast bulk among them again and revels there awhile,
  • still in tantalizing vicinity to young Lothario, like pious Solomon devoutl_orshipping among his thousand concubines. Granting other whales to be i_ight, the fisherman will seldom give chase to one of these Grand Turks; fo_hese Grand Turks are too lavish of their strength, and hence thei_nctuousness is small. As for the sons and the daughters they beget, why,
  • those sons and daughters must take care of themselves; at least, with only th_aternal help. For like certain other omnivorous roving lovers that might b_amed, my Lord Whale has no taste for the nursery, however much for the bower;
  • and so, being a great traveller, he leaves his anonymous babies all over th_orld; every baby an exotic. In good time, nevertheless, as the ardor of yout_eclines; as years and dumps increase; as reflection lends her solemn pauses;
  • in short, as a general lassitude overtakes the sated Turk; then a love of eas_nd virtue supplants the love for maidens; our Ottoman enters upon th_mpotent, repentant, admonitory stage of life, forswears, disbands the harem,
  • and grown to an exemplary, sulky old soul, goes about all alone among th_eridians and parallels saying his prayers, and warning each young Leviatha_rom his amorous errors.
  • Now, as the harem of whales is called by the fishermen a school, so is th_ord and master of that school technically known as the schoolmaster. It i_herefore not in strict character, however admirably satirical, that afte_oing to school himself, he should then go abroad inculcating not what h_earned there, but the folly of it. His title, schoolmaster, would ver_aturally seem derived from the name bestowed upon the harem itself, but som_ave surmised that the man who first thus entitled this sort of Ottoman whale,
  • must have read the memoirs of Vidocq, and informed himself what sort of _ountry-schoolmaster that famous Frenchman was in his younger days, and wha_as the nature of those occult lessons he inculcated into some of his pupils.
  • The same secludedness and isolation to which the schoolmaster whale betake_imself in his advancing years, is true of all aged Sperm Whales. Almos_niversally, a lone whale— as a solitary Leviathan is called—proves an ancien_ne. Like venerable moss-bearded Daniel Boone, he will have no one near hi_ut Nature herself; and her he takes to wife in the wilderness of waters, an_he best of wives she is, though she keeps so many moody secrets.
  • The schools composing none but young and vigorous males, previously mentioned,
  • offer a strong contrast to the harem schools. For while those female whale_re characteristically timid, the young males, or forty-barrel-bulls, as the_all them, are by far the most pugnacious of all Leviathans, and proverbiall_he most dangerous to encounter; excepting those wondrous grey-headed,
  • grizzled whales, sometimes met, and these will fight you like grim fiend_xasperated by a penal gout.
  • The Forty-barrel-bull schools are larger than the harem schools. Like a mob o_oung collegians, they are full of fight, fun, and wickedness, tumbling roun_he world at such a reckless, rollicking rate, that no prudent underwrite_ould insure them any more than he would a riotous lad at Yale or Harvard.
  • They soon relinquish this turbulence though, and when about three-fourth_rown, break up, and separately go about in quest of settlements, that is,
  • harems.
  • Another point of difference between the male and female schools is still mor_haracteristic of the sexes. Say you strike a Forty-barrel-bull—poor devil!
  • all his comrades quit him. But strike a member of the harem school, and he_ompanions swim around her with every token of concern, sometimes lingering s_ear her and so long, as themselves to fall a prey.