Moby Dick: or, the White Whale eBook

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

Cutting me a green measuring-rod, I once more dived within the skeleton.  From their arrow-slit in the skull, the priests perceived me taking the altitude of the final rib, “How now!” they shouted; “Dar’st thou measure this our god!  That’s for us.”  “Aye, priests—­well, how long do ye make him, then?” But hereupon a fierce contest rose among them, concerning feet and inches; they cracked each other’s sconces with their yard-sticks—­ the great skull echoed—­and seizing that lucky chance, I quickly concluded my own admeasurements.

These admeasurements I now propose to set before you.  But first, be it recorded, that, in this matter, I am not free to utter any fancied measurements I please.  Because there are skeleton authorities you can refer to, to test my accuracy.  There is a Leviathanic Museum, they tell me, in Hull, England, one of the whaling ports of that country, where they have some fine specimens of fin-backs and other whales.  Likewise, I have heard that in the museum of Manchester, in New Hampshire, they have what the proprietors call “the only perfect specimen of a Greenland or River Whale in the United States.”  Moreover, at a place in Yorkshire, England, Burton Constable by name, a certain Sir Clifford Constable has in his possession the skeleton of a Sperm Whale, but of moderate size, by no means of the full-grown magnitude of my friend King Tranquo’s.

In both cases, the stranded whales to which these two skeletons belonged, were originally claimed by their proprietors upon similar grounds.  King Tranquo seizing his because he wanted it; and Sir Clifford, because he was lord of the seignories of those parts.  Sir Clifford’s whale has been articulated throughout; so that, like a great chest of drawers, you can open and shut him, in all his bony cavities—­spread out his ribs like a gigantic fan—­ and swing all day upon his lower jaw.  Locks are to be put upon some of his trap-doors and shutters; and a footman will show round future visitors with a bunch of keys at his side.  Sir Clifford thinks of charging twopence for a peep at the whispering gallery in the spinal column; threepence to hear the echo in the hollow of his cerebellum; and sixpence for the unrivalled view from his forehead.

The skeleton dimensions I shall now proceed to set down are copied verbatim from my right arm, where I had them tattooed; as in my wild wanderings at that period, there was no other secure way of preserving such valuable statistics.  But as I was crowded for space, and wished the other parts of my body to remain a blank page for a poem I was then composing—­ at least, what untattooed parts might remain—­I did not trouble myself with the odd inches; nor, indeed, should inches at all enter into a congenial admeasurement of the whale.

CHAPTER 103

Measurement of The Whale’s Skeleton

In the first place, I wish to lay before you a particular, plain statement, touching the living bulk of this leviathan, whose skeleton we are briefly to exhibit.  Such a statement may prove useful here.

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