Moby Dick: or, the White Whale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 623 pages of information about Moby Dick.
of the two ships, this standing captain is all alive to the importance of sustaining his dignity by maintaining his legs.  Nor is this any very easy matter; for in his rear is the immense projecting steering oar hitting him now and then in the small of his back, the after-oar reciprocating by rapping his knees in front.  He is thus completely wedged before and behind, and can only expand himself sideways by settling down on his stretched legs; but a sudden, violent pitch of the boat will often go far to topple him, because length of foundation is nothing without corresponding breadth.  Merely make a spread angle of two poles, and you cannot stand them up.  Then, again, it would never do in plain sight of the world’s riveted eyes, it would never do, I say, for this straddling captain to be seen steadying himself the slightest particle by catching hold of anything with his hands; indeed, as token of his entire, buoyant self-command, he generally carries his hands in his trowsers’ pockets; but perhaps being generally very large, heavy hands, he carries them there for ballast.  Nevertheless there have occurred instances, well authenticated ones too, where the captain has been known for an uncommonly critical moment or two, in a sudden squall say—­to seize hold of the nearest oarsman’s hair, and hold on there like grim death.

CHAPTER 54

The Town-Ho’s Story

(As told at the Golden Inn)

The Cape of Good Hope, and all the watery region round about there, is much like some noted four corners of a great highway, where you meet more travellers than in any other part.

It was not very long after speaking the Goney that another homeward-bound whaleman, the Town-Ho,* was encountered.  She was manned almost wholly by Polynesians.  In the short gam that ensued she gave us strong news of Moby Dick.  To some the general interest in the White Whale was now wildly heightened by a circumstance of the Town-Ho’s story, which seemed obscurely to involve with the whale a certain wondrous, inverted visitation of one of those so called judgments of God which at times are said to overtake some men.  This latter circumstance, with its own particular accompaniments, forming what may be called the secret part of the tragedy about to be narrated, never reached the ears of Captain Ahab or his mates.  For that secret part of the story was unknown to the captain of the Town-Ho himself.  It was the private property of three confederate white seamen of that ship, one of whom, it seems, communicated it to Tashtego with Romish injunctions of secrecy, but the following night Tashtego rambled in his sleep, and revealed so much of it in that way, that when he was wakened he could not well withhold the rest.  Nevertheless, so potent an influence did this thing have on those seamen in the Pequod who came to the full knowledge of it, and by such a strange delicacy, to call it so, were they governed in this matter, that they kept the secret among themselves so that it never transpired abaft the Pequod’s main-mast.  Interweaving in its proper place this darker thread with the story as publicly narrated on the ship, the whole of this strange affair I now proceed to put on lasting record.

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Moby Dick: or, the White Whale from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.