“Nothing! and noon at hand! The doubloon goes a-begging! See the sun! Aye, aye, it must be so. I’ve over-sailed him. How, got the start? Aye, he’s chasing me now; not I, him— that’s bad; I might have known it, too. Fool! the lines— the harpoons he’s towing. Aye, aye, I have run him by last night. About! about! Come down, all of ye, but the regular look outs! Man the braces!”
Steering as she had done, the wind had been somewhat on the Pequod’s quarter, so that now being pointed in the reverse direction, the braced ship sailed hard upon the breeze as she rechurned the cream in her own white wake.
“Against the wind he now steers for the open jaw,” murmured Starbuck to himself, as he coiled the new-hauled main-brace upon the rail. “God keep us, but already my bones feel damp within me, and from the inside wet my flesh. I misdoubt me that I disobey my God in obeying him!”
“Stand by to sway me up!” cried Ahab, advancing to the hempen basket. “We should meet him soon.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” and straightway Starbuck did Ahab’s bidding, and once more Ahab swung on high.
A whole hour now passed; gold-beaten out to ages. Time itself now held long breaths with keen suspense. But at last, some three points off the weather bow, Ahab descried the spout again, and instantly from the three mast-heads three shrieks went up as if the tongues of fire had voiced it.
“Forehead to forehead I meet thee, this third time, Moby Dick! On deck there!—brace sharper up; crowd her into the wind’s eye. He’s too far off to lower yet, Mr. Starbuck. The sails shake! Stand over that helmsman with a top-maul! So, so; he travels fast, and I must down. But let me have one more good round look aloft here at the sea; there’s time for that. An old, old sight, and yet somehow so young; aye, and not changed a wink since I first saw it, a boy, from the sand-hills of Nantucket! The same—the same!— the same to Noah as to me. There’s a soft shower to leeward. Such lovely leewardings! They must lead somewhere— to something else than common land, more palmy than the palms. Leeward! the white whale goes that way; look to windward, then; the better if the bitterer quarter. But good bye, good bye, old mast-head! What’s this?—green? aye, tiny mosses in these warped cracks. No such green weather stains on Ahab’s head! There’s the difference now between man’s old age and matter’s. But aye, old mast, we both grow old together; sound in our hulls, though are we not, my ship? Aye, minus a leg, that’s all. By heaven this dead wood has the better of my live flesh every way. I can’t compare with it; and I’ve known some ships made of dead trees outlast the lives of men made of the most vital stuff of vital fathers. What’s that he said? he should still go before me, my pilot; and yet to be seen again? But where? Will I have eyes at the bottom of the