“Queequeg,” said I, “let’s go; this fellow has broken loose from somewhere; he’s talking about something and somebody we don’t know.”
“Stop!” cried the stranger. “Ye said true—ye hav’n’t seen Old Thunder yet, have ye?”
“Who’s Old Thunder?” said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness of his manner.
“What! the captain of our ship, the Pequod?”
“Aye, among some of us old sailor chaps, he goes by that name. Ye hav’n’t seen him yet, have ye?”
“No, we hav’n’t. He’s sick they say, but is getting better, and will be all right again before long.”
“All right again before long!” laughed the stranger, with a solemnly derisive sort of laugh. “Look ye; when Captain Ahab is all right, then this left arm of mine will be all right; not before.”
“What do you know about him?”
“What did they tell you about him? Say that!”
“They didn’t tell much of anything about him; only I’ve heard that he’s a good whale-hunter, and a good captain to his crew.”
“That’s true, that’s true—yes, both true enough. But you must jump when he gives an order. Step and growl; growl and go—that’s the word with Captain Ahab. But nothing about that thing that happened to him off Cape Horn, long ago, when he lay like dead for three days and nights; nothing about that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore the altar in Santa?— heard nothing about that, eh? Nothing about the silver calabash he spat into? And nothing about his losing his leg last voyage, according to the prophecy. Didn’t ye hear a word about them matters and something more, eh? No, I don’t think ye did; how could ye? Who knows it? Not all Nantucket, I guess. But hows’ever, mayhap, ye’ve heard tell about the leg, and how he lost it; aye, ye have heard of that, I dare say. Oh, yes, that every one knows a’most—I mean they know he’s only one leg; and that a parmacetti took the other off.”
“My friend,” said I, “what all this gibberish of yours is about, I don’t know, and I don’t much care; for it seems to me that you must be a little damaged in the head. But if you are speaking of Captain Ahab, of that ship there, the Pequod, then let me tell you, that I know all about the loss of his leg.”
“All about it, eh—sure you do? all?
With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like stranger stood a moment, as if in a troubled reverie; then starting a little, turned and said:—“Ye’ve shipped, have ye? Names down on the papers? Well, well, what’s signed, is signed; and what’s to be, will be; and then again, perhaps it won’t be, after all. Any how, it’s all fixed and arranged a’ready; and some sailors or other must go with him, I suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity ’em! Morning to ye, shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye; I’m sorry I stopped ye.”