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Moby Dick: or, the White Whale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 623 pages of information about Moby Dick.

It was a sight to see Queequeg seated over against Tashtego, opposing his filed teeth to the Indian’s; crosswise to them, Daggoo seated on the floor, for a bench would have brought his hearse-plumed head to the low carlines; at every motion of his colossal limbs, making the low cabin framework to shake, as when an African elephant goes passenger in a ship.  But for all this, the great negro was wonderfully abstemious, not to say dainty.  It seemed hardly possible that by such comparatively small mouthfuls he could keep up the vitality diffused through so broad, baronial, and superb a person.  But, doubtless, this noble savage fed strong and drank deep of the abounding element of air; and through his dilated nostrils snuffed in the sublime life of the worlds.  Not by beef or by bread, are giants made or nourished.  But Queequeg, he had a mortal, barbaric smack of the lip in eating—­ an ugly sound enough—­so much so, that the trembling Dough-Boy almost looked to see whether any marks of teeth lurked in his own lean arms.  And when he would hear Tashtego singing out for him to produce himself, that his bones might be picked, the simple-witted Steward all but shattered the crockery hanging round him in the pantry, by his sudden fits of the palsy.  Nor did the whetstone which the harpooneers carried in their pockets, for their lances and other weapons; and with which whetstones, at dinner, they would ostentatiously sharpen their knives; that grating sound did not at all tend to tranquillize poor Dough-Boy.  How could he forget that in his Island days, Queequeg, for one, must certainly have been guilty of some murderous, convivial indiscretion.  Alas!  Dough-Boy! hard fares the white waiter who waits upon cannibals.  Not a napkin should he carry on his arm, but a buckler.  In good time, though, to his great delight, the three salt-sea warriors would rise and depart; to his credulous, fable-mongering ears, all their martial bones jingling in them at every step, like Moorish scimetars in scabbards.

But, though these barbarians dined in the cabin, and nominally lived there; still, being anything but sedentary in their habits, they were scarcely ever in it except at mealtimes, and just before sleeping-time, when they passed through it to their own peculiar quarters.

In this one matter, Ahab seemed no exception to most American whale captains, who, as a set, rather incline to the opinion that by rights the ship’s cabin belongs to them; and that it is by courtesy alone that anybody else is, at any time, permitted there.  So that, in real truth, the mates and harpooneers of the Pequod might more properly be said to have lived out of the cabin than in it.  For when they did enter it, it was something as a streetdoor enters a house; turning inwards for a moment, only to be turned out the next; and, as a permanent thing, residing in the open air.  Nor did they lose much hereby; in the cabin was no companionship; socially, Ahab was inaccessible.  Though nominally included

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