Ere now it has been related how Ahab was wont to pace his quarter-deck, takin_egular turns at either limit, the binnacle and mainmast; but in th_ultiplicity of other things requiring narration it has not been added ho_hat sometimes in these walks, when most plunged in his mood, he was wont t_ause in turn at each spot, and stand there strangely eyeing the particula_bject before him. When he halted before the binnacle, with his glanc_astened on the pointed needle in the compass, that glance shot like a javeli_ith the pointed intensity of his purpose; and when resuming his walk he agai_aused before the mainmast, then, as the same riveted glance fastened upon th_iveted gold coin there, he still wore the same aspect of nailed firmness,
only dashed with a certain wild longing, if not hopefulness.
But one morning, turning to pass the doubloon, he seemed to be newly attracte_y the strange figures and inscriptions stamped on it, as though now for th_irst time beginning to interpret for himself in some monomaniac way whateve_ignificance might lurk in them. And some certain significance lurks in al_hings, else all things are little worth, and the round world itself but a_mpty cipher, except to sell by the cartload, as they do hills about Boston,
to fill up some morass in the Milky Way.
Now this doubloon was of purest, virgin gold, raked somewhere out of the hear_f gorgeous hills, whence, east and west, over golden sands, the head-water_f many a Pactolus flows. And though now nailed amidst all the rustiness o_ron bolts and the verdigris of copper spikes, yet, untouchable and immaculat_o any foulness, it still preserved its Quito glow. Nor, though placed amongs_ ruthless crew and every hour passed by ruthless hands, and through th_ivelong nights shrouded with thick darkness which might cover any pilferin_pproach, nevertheless every sunrise found the doubloon where the sunset las_eft it last. For it was set apart and sanctified to one awe-striking end; an_owever wanton in their sailor ways, one and all, the mariners revered it a_he white whale’s talisman. Sometimes they talked it over in the weary watc_y night, wondering whose it was to be at last, and whether he would ever liv_o spend it.
Now those noble golden coins of South America are as medals of the sun an_ropic token-pieces. Here palms, alpacas, and volcanoes; sun’s disks an_tars, ecliptics, horns-of-plenty, and rich banners waving, are in luxurian_rofusion stamped; so that the precious gold seems almost to derive an adde_reciousness and enhancing glories, by passing through those fancy mints, s_panishly poetic.
It so chanced that the doubloon of the Pequod was a most wealthy example o_hese things. On its round border it bore the letters, Republica del Ecuador:
Quito. So this bright coin came from a country planted in the middle of th_orld, and beneath the great equator, and named after it; and it had been cas_idway up the Andes, in the unwaning clime that knows no autumn. Zoned b_hose letters you saw the likeness of three Andes’ summits; from one a flame;
a tower on another; on the third a crowing cock; while arching over all was _egment of the partitioned zodiac, the signs all marked with their usua_abalistics, and the keystone sun entering the equinoctial point at Libra.
Before this equatorial coin, Ahab, not unobserved by others, was now pausing.
“There’s something ever egotistical in mountain-tops and towers, and all othe_rand and lofty things; look here,— three peaks as proud as Lucifer. The fir_ower, that is Ahab; the volcano, that is Ahab; the courageous, the undaunted,
and victorious fowl, that, too, is Ahab; all are Ahab; and this round gold i_ut the image of the rounder globe, which, like a magician’s glass, to eac_nd every man in turn but mirrors back his own mysterious self. Great pains,
small gains for those who ask the world to solve them; it cannot solve itself.
Methinks now this coined sun wears a ruddy face; but see! aye, he enters th_ign of storms, the equinox! and but six months before he wheeled out of _ormer equinox at Aries! From storm to storm! So be it, then. Born in throes,
‘t is fit that man should live in pains and die in pangs! So be it, then!
Here’s stout stuff for woe to work on. So be it, then.”
“No fairy fingers can have pressed the gold, but devil’s claws must have lef_heir mouldings there since yesterday,” murmured Starbuck to himself, leanin_gainst the bulwarks. “The old man seems to read Belshazzar’s awful writing. _ave never marked the coin inspectingly. He goes below; let me read. A dar_alley between three mighty, heaven-abiding peaks, that almost seem th_rinity, in some faint earthly symbol. So in this vale of Death, God girds u_ound; and over all our gloom, the sun of Righteousness still shines a beaco_nd a hope. If we bend down our eyes, the dark vale shows her mouldy soil; bu_f we lift them, the bright sun meets our glance half way, to cheer. Yet, oh,
the great sun is no fixture; and if, at midnight, we would fain snatch som_weet solace from him, we gaze for him in vain! This coin speaks wisely,
mildly, truly, but still sadly to me. I will quit it, lest Truth shake m_alsely.”
“There now’s the old Mogul,” soliloquized Stubb by the try-works, “he’s bee_wigging it; and there goes Starbuck from the same, and both with faces whic_ should say might be somewhere within nine fathoms long. And all from lookin_t a piece of gold, which did I have it now on Negro Hill or in Corlaer’_ook, I’d not look at it very long ere spending it. Humph! in my poor,
insignificant opinion, I regard this as queer. I have seen doubloons befor_ow in my voyagings; your doubloons of old Spain, your doubloons of Peru, you_oubloons of Chili, your doubloons of Bolivia, your doubloons of Popayan; wit_lenty of gold moidores and pistoles, and joes, and half joes, and quarte_oes. What then should there be in this doubloon of the Equator that is s_illing wonderful? By Golconda! let me read it once. Halloa! here’s signs an_onders truly! That, now, is what old Bowditch in his Epitome calls th_odiac, and what my almanack below calls ditto. I’ll get the almanack; and a_ have heard devils can be raised with Daboll’s arithmetic, I’ll try my han_t raising a meaning out of these queer curvicues here with the Massachusett_alendar. Here’s the book. Let’s see now. Signs and wonders; and the sun, he’_lways among ’em. Hem, hem, hem; here they are— here they go—all alive: Aries,
or the Ram; Taurus, or the Bull and Jimimi! here’s Gemini himself, or th_wins. Well; the sun he wheels among ’em. Aye, here on the coin he’s jus_rossing the threshold between two of twelve sitting-rooms all in a ring.
Book! you lie there; the fact is, you books must know your places. You’ll d_o give us the bare words and facts, but we come in to supply the thoughts.
That’s my small experience, so far as the Massachusetts calendar, an_owditch’s navigator, and Daboll’s arithmetic go. Signs and wonders, eh? Pit_f there is nothing wonderful in signs, and significant in wonders! There’s _lue somewhere; wait a bit; hist—hark! By Jove, I have it! Look you, Doubloon,
your zodiac here is the life of man in one round chapter; and now I’ll read i_ff, straight out of the book. Come, Almanack! To begin: there’s Aries, or th_am— lecherous dog, he begets us; then, Taurus, or the Bull— he bumps us th_irst thing; then Gemini, or the Twins— that is, Virtue and Vice; we try t_each Virtue, when lo! comes Cancer the Crab, and drags us back; and here,
going from Virtue, Leo, a roaring Lion, lies in the path— he gives a fe_ierce bites and surly dabs with his paw; we escape, and hail Virgo, th_irgin! that’s our first love; we marry and think to be happy for aye, whe_op comes Libra, or the Scales—happiness weighed and found wanting; and whil_e are very sad about that, Lord! how we suddenly jump, as Scorpio, or th_corpion, stings us in the rear; we are curing the wound, when whang comes th_rrows all round; Sagittarius, or the Archer, is amusing himself. As we pluc_ut the shafts, stand aside! here’s the battering-ram, Capricornus, or th_oat; full tilt, he comes rushing, and headlong we are tossed; when Aquarius,
or the Waterbearer, pours out his whole deluge and drowns us; and to wind u_ith Pisces, or the Fishes, we sleep. There’s a sermon now, writ in hig_eaven, and the sun goes through it every year, and yet comes out of it al_live and hearty. Jollily he, aloft there, wheels through toil and trouble;
and so, alow here, does jolly Stubb. Oh, jolly’s the word for aye! Adieu,
Doubloon! But stop; here comes little King-Post; dodge round the try-works,
now, and let’s hear what he’ll have to say. There; he’s before it; he’ll ou_ith something presently. So, so; he’s beginning.”
“I see nothing here, but a round thing made of gold, and whoever raises _ertain whale, this round thing belongs to him. So, what’s all this starin_een about? It is worth sixteen dollars, that’s true; and at two cents th_igar, that’s nine hundred and sixty cigars. I won’t smoke dirty pipes lik_tubb, but I like cigars, and here’s nine hundred and sixty of them; so her_oes Flask aloft to spy ’em out.”
“Shall I call that Wise or foolish, now; if it be really wise it has a foolis_ook to it; yet, if it be really foolish, then has it a sort of wiseish loo_o it. But, avast; here comes our old Manxman—the old hearse-driver, he mus_ave been, that is, before he took to the sea. He luffs up before th_oubloon; halloa, and goes round on the other side of the mast; why, there’s _orse-shoe nailed on that side; and now he’s back again; what does that mean?
Hark! he’s muttering— voice like an old worn-out coffee-mill. Prick ears, an_isten!”
“If the White Whale be raised, it must be in a month and a day, when the su_tands in some one of these signs. I’ve studied signs, and know their marks;
they were taught me two score years ago, by the old witch in Copenhagen. Now,
in what sign will the sun then be? The horse-shoe sign; for there it is, righ_pposite the gold. And what’s the horse-shoe sign? The lion is the horse-sho_ign— the roaring and devouring lion. Ship, old ship! my old head shakes t_hink of thee.”
“There’s another rendering now; but still one text. All sorts of men in on_ind of world, you see. Dodge again! here comes Queequeg— all tattooing—look_ike the signs of the Zodiac himself. What says the Cannibal? As I live he’_omparing notes; looking at his thigh bone; thinks the sun is in the thigh, o_n the calf, or in the bowels, I suppose, as the old women talk Surgeon’_stronomy in the back country. And by Jove, he’s found something there in th_icinity of his thigh— I guess it’s Sagittarius, or the Archer. No: he don’_now what to make of the doubloon; he takes it for an old button off som_ing’s trowsers. But, aside again! here comes that ghost-devil, Fedallah; tai_oiled out of sight as usual, oakum in the toes of his pumps as usual. Wha_oes he say, with that look of his? Ah, only makes a sign to the sign and bow_imself; there is a sun on the coin— fire worshipper, depend upon it. Ho! mor_nd more. This way comes Pip— poor boy! would he had died, or I; he’s hal_orrible to me. He too has been watching all of these interpreters mysel_ncluded— and look now, he comes to read, with that unearthly idiot face.
Stand away again and hear him. Hark!”
“I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look.”
“Upon my soul, he’s been studying Murray’s Grammar! Improving his mind, poo_ellow! But what’s that he says now—hist!”
“I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look.”
“Why, he’s getting it by heart—hist! again.”
“I look, you look, he looks; we look, ye look, they look.”
“Well, that’s funny.”
“And I, you, and he; and we, ye, and they, are all bats; and I’m a crow,
especially when I stand a’top of this pine tree here. Caw! caw! caw! caw! caw!
caw! Ain’t I a crow? And where’s the scare-crow? There he stands; two bone_tuck into a pair of old trowsers, and two more poked into the sleeves of a_ld jacket.”
“Wonder if he means me?—complimentary—poor lad!—I could go hang myself. An_ay, for the present, I’ll quit Pip’s vicinity. I can stand the rest, for the_ave plain wits; but he’s too crazy-witty for my sanity. So, so, I leave hi_uttering.”
“Here’s the ship’s navel, this doubloon here, and they are all one fire t_nscrew it. But, unscrew your navel, and what’s the consequence? Then again,
if it stays here, that is ugly, too, for when aught’s nailed to the mast it’_ sign that things grow desperate. Ha! ha! old Ahab! the White Whale; he’l_ail ye! This is a pine tree. My father, in old Tolland county, cut down _ine tree once, and found a silver ring grown over in it; some old darkey’_edding ring. How did it get there? And so they’ll say in the resurrection,
when they come to fish up this old mast, and find a doubloon lodged in it,
with bedded oysters for the shaggy bark. Oh, the gold! the precious, preciou_old!—the green miser’ll hoard ye soon! Hish! hish! God goes ‘mong the world_lackberrying. Cook! ho, cook! and cook us! Jenny! hey, hey, hey, hey, hey,