Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 94 A Squeeze of the Hand

  • That whale of Stubb’s, so dearly purchased, was duly brought to the Pequod’_ide, where all those cutting and hoisting operations previously detailed,
  • were regularly gone through, even to the baling of the Heidelburgh Tun, o_ase.
  • While some were occupied with this latter duty, others were employed i_ragging away the larger tubs, so soon as filled with the sperm; and when th_roper time arrived, this same sperm was carefully manipulated ere going t_he try-works, of which anon.
  • It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that when, with severa_thers, I sat down before a large Constantine’s bath of it, I found i_trangely concreted into lumps, here and there rolling about in the liqui_art. It was our business to squeeze these lumps back into fluid. A sweet an_nctuous duty! No wonder that in old times this sperm was such a favorit_osmetic. Such a clearer! such a sweetener! such a softener; such a deliciou_ollifier! After having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my fingers fel_ike eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and spiralize.
  • As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter exertio_t the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under indolent sail, an_liding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands among those soft, gentl_lobules of infiltrated tissues, woven almost within the hour; as they richl_roke to my fingers, and discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grape_heir wine; as. I snuffed up that uncontaminated aroma,— literally and truly,
  • like the smell of spring violets; I declare to you, that for the time I live_s in a musky meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in tha_nexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I almost began t_redit the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is of rare virtue i_llaying the heat of anger; while bathing in that bath, I felt divinely fre_rom all ill-will, or petulance, or malice, of any sort whatsoever.
  • Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that sperm till _yself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till a strange sort o_nsanity came over me; and I found myself unwittingly squeezing my co-
  • laborers’ hands in it, mistaking their hands for the gentle globules. Such a_bounding, affectionate, friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget;
  • that at last I was continually squeezing their hands, and looking up int_heir eyes sentimentally; as much as to say,—Oh! my dear fellow beings, wh_hould we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-
  • humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeez_urselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves universally into the ver_ilk and sperm of kindness.
  • Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever! For now, since by man_rolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that in all cases man mus_ventually lower, or at least shift, his conceit of attainable felicity; no_lacing it anywhere in the intellect or the fancy; but in the wife, the heart,
  • the bed, the table, the saddle, the fire-side; the country; now that I hav_erceived all this, I am ready to squeeze case eternally. In thoughts of th_isions of the night, I saw long rows of angels in paradise, each with hi_ands in a jar of spermaceti.
  • Now, while discoursing of sperm it behooves to speak of other things akin t_t, in the business of preparing the sperm whale for the try-works.
  • First comes white-horse, so called, which is obtained from the tapering par_f the fish, and also from the thicker portions of his flukes. It is toug_ith congealed tendons—a wad of muscle—but still contains some oil. Afte_eing severed from the whale, the white-horse is first cut into portabl_blongs ere going to the mincer. They look much like blocks of Berkshir_arble.
  • Plum-pudding is the term bestowed upon certain fragmentary parts of th_hale’s flesh, here and there adhering to the blanket of blubber, and ofte_articipating to a considerable degree in its unctuousness. It is a mos_efreshing, convivial, beautiful object to behold. As its name imports, it i_f an exceedingly rich, mottled tint, with a bestreaked snowy and golde_round, dotted with spots of the deepest crimson and purple. It is plums o_ubies, in pictures of citron. Spite of reason, it is hard to keep yoursel_rom eating it. I confess, that once I stole behind the foremast to try it. I_asted something as I should conceive a royal cutlet from the thigh of Loui_e Gros might have tasted, supposing him to have been killed the first da_fter the venison season, and that particular venison season contemporary wit_n unusually fine vintage of the vineyards of Champagne.
  • There is another substance, and a very singular one, which turns up in th_ourse of this business, but which I feel it to be very puzzling adequately t_escribe. It is called slobgollion; an appellation original with the whalemen,
  • and even so is the nature of the substance. It is an ineffably oozy, string_ffair, most frequently found in the tubs of sperm, after a prolonge_queezing, and subsequent decanting. I hold it to be the wondrously thin,
  • ruptured membranes of the case, coalescing.
  • Gurry, so called, is a term properly belonging to right whalemen, bu_ometimes incidentally used by the sperm fishermen. It designates the dark,
  • glutinous substance which is scraped off the back of the Greenland or righ_hale, and much of which covers the decks of those inferior souls who hun_hat ignoble Leviathan.
  • Nippers. Strictly this word is not indigenous to the whale’s vocabulary. Bu_s applied by whalemen, it becomes so. A whaleman’s nipper is a short fir_trip of tendinous stuff cut from the tapering part of Leviathan’s tail: i_verages an inch in thickness, and for the rest, is about the size of the iro_art of a hoe. Edgewise moved along the oily deck, it operates like a leather_quilgee; and by nameless blandishments, as of magic, allures along with i_ll impurities.
  • But to learn all about these recondite matters, your best way is at once t_escend into the blubber-room, and have a long talk with its inmates. Thi_lace has previously been mentioned as the receptacle for the blanket-pieces,
  • when stript and hoisted from the whale. When the proper time arrives fo_utting up its contents, this apartment is a scene of terror to all tyros,
  • especially by night. On one side, lit by a dull lantern, a space has been lef_lear for the workmen. They generally go in pairs,—a pike-and-gaffman and _pade-man. The whaling-pike is similar to a frigate’s boarding-weapon of th_ame name. The gaff is something like a boat-hook. With his gaff, the gaffma_ooks on to a sheet of blubber, and strives to hold it from slipping, as th_hip pitches and lurches about. Meanwhile, the spade-man stands on the shee_tself, perpendicularly chopping it into the portable horse-pieces. This spad_s sharp as hone can make it; the spademan’s feet are shoeless; the thing h_tands on will sometimes irresistibly slide away from him, like a sledge. I_e cuts off one of his own toes, or one of his assistants’, would you be ver_uch astonished? Toes are scarce among veteran blubber-room men.