Moby Dick: or, the White Whale eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 623 pages of information about Moby Dick.
the token of wasting anxieties and cares, than it seemed the indication of any bodily blight.  It was merely the condensation of the man.  He was by no means ill-looking; quite the contrary.  His pure tight skin was an excellent fit; and closely wrapped up in it, and embalmed with inner health and strength, like a revivified Egyptian, this Starbuck seemed prepared to endure for long ages to come, and to endure always, as now; for be it Polar snow or torrid sun, like a patent chronometer, his interior vitality was warranted to do well in all climates.  Looking into his eyes, you seemed to see there the yet lingering images of those thousand-fold perils he had calmly confronted through life.  A staid, steadfast man, whose life for the most part was a telling pantomime of action, and not a tame chapter of sounds.  Yet, for all his hardy sobriety and fortitude, there were certain qualities in him which at times affected, and in some cases seemed well nigh to overbalance all the rest.  Uncommonly conscientious for a seaman, and endued with a deep natural reverence, the wild watery loneliness of his life did therefore strongly incline him to superstition; but to that sort of superstition, which in some organizations seems rather to spring, somehow, from intelligence than from ignorance.  Outward portents and inward presentiments were his.  And if at times these things bent the welded iron of his soul, much more did his far-away domestic memories of his young Cape wife and child, tend to bend him still more from the original ruggedness of his nature, and open him still further to those latent influences which, in some honest-hearted men, restrain the gush of dare-devil daring, so often evinced by others in the more perilous vicissitudes of the fishery.  “I will have no man in my boat,” said Starbuck, “who is not afraid of a whale.”  By this, he seemed to mean, not only that the most reliable and useful courage was that which arises from the fair estimation of the encountered peril, but that an utterly fearless man is a far more dangerous comrade than a coward.

“Aye, aye,” said Stubb, the second mate, “Starbuck, there, is as careful a man as you’ll find anywhere in this fishery.”  But we shall ere long see what that word “careful” precisely means when used by a man like Stubb, or almost any other whale hunter.

Starbuck was no crusader after perils; in him courage was not a sentiment; but a thing simply useful to him, and always at hand upon all mortally practical occasions.  Besides, he thought, perhaps, that in this business of whaling, courage was one of the great staple outfits of the ship, like her beef and her bread, and not to be foolishly wasted.  Wherefore he had no fancy for lowering for whales after sun-down; nor for persisting in fighting a fish that too much persisted in fighting him.  For, thought Starbuck, I am here in this critical ocean to kill whales for my living, and not to be killed by them for theirs; and that hundreds of men had been so killed Starbuck well knew.  What doom was his own father’s?  Where, in the bottomless deeps, could he find the torn limbs of his brother?

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