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Chapter 99 The Doubloon

  • 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,
  • Jenny, Jenny! and get your hoe-cake done!”