"Who would have thought it, Flask!" cried Stubb; "if I had but one leg you would not catch me in a boat, unless maybe to stop the plug-hole with my timber toe. Oh! he's a wonderful old man!"
"I don't think
it so strange, after all, on that account," said Flask. "If his leg
were off at the hip, now, it would be a different thing. That would
disable him; but he has one knee, and good part of the other left, you
"I don't know that, my little man; I never yet saw him kneel."
whale-wise people it has often been argued whether, considering the
paramount importance of his life to the success of the voyage, it is
right for a whaling captain to jeopardize that life in the active perils
of the chase. So Tamerlane's soldiers often argued with tears in their
eyes, whether that invaluable life of his ought to be carried into the
thickest of the fight.
But with Ahab the question assumed a
modified aspect. Considering that with two legs man is but a hobbling
wight in all times of dancer; considering that the pursuit of whales is
always under great and extraordinary difficulties; that every individual
moment, indeed, then comprises a peril; under these circumstances is it
wise for any maimed man to enter a whale-boat in the hunt? As a general
thing, the joint-owners of the Pequod must have plainly thought not.
well knew that although his friends at home would think little of his
entering a boat in certain comparatively harmless vicissitudes of the
chase, for the sake of being near the scene of action and giving his
orders in person, yet for Captain Ahab to have a boat actually
apportioned to him as a regular headsman in the hunt- above all for Ahab
to be supplied with five extra men, as that same boat's crew, he well
knew that such generous conceits never entered the heads of the owners
of the Pequod. Therefore he had not solicited a boat's crew from them,
nor had he in any way hinted his desires on that head. Nevertheless he
had taken private measures of his own touching all that matter. Until
Cabaco's published discovery, the sailors had little foreseen it, though
to be sure when, after being a little while out of port, all hands had
concluded the customary business of fitting the whaleboats for service;
when some time after this Ahab was now and then found bestirring himself
in the matter of making thole-pins with his own hands for what was
thought to be one of the spare boats, and even solicitously cutting the
small wooden skewers, which when the line is running out are pinned over
the groove in the bow: when all this was observed in him, and
particularly his solicitude in having an extra coat of sheathing in the
bottom of the boat, as if to make it better withstand the pointed
pressure of his ivory limb; and also the anxiety he evinced in exactly
shaping the thigh board, or clumsy cleat, as it is sometimes called, the
horizontal piece in the boat's bow for bracing the knee against in
darting or stabbing at the whale; when it was observed how often he
stood up in that boat with his solitary knee fixed in the semi-circular
depression in the cleat, and with the carpenter's chisel gouged out a
little here and straightened it a little there; all these things, I say,
had awakened much interest and curiosity at the time. But almost
everybody supposed that this particular preparative heedfulness in Ahab
must only be with a view to the ultimate chase of Moby Dick; for he had
already revealed his intention to hunt that mortal monster in person.
But such a supposition did by no means involve the remotest suspicion as
to any boat's crew being assigned to that boat.
Now, with the
subordinate phantoms, what wonder remained soon waned away; for in a
whaler wonders soon wane. Besides, now and then such unaccountable odds
and ends of strange nations come up from the unknown nooks and ash-holes
of the earth to man these floating outlaws of whalers; and the ships
themselves often pick up such queer castaway creatures found tossing
about the open sea on planks, bits of wreck, oars, whaleboats, canoes,
blown-off Japanese junks, and what not; that Beelzebub himself might
climb up the side and step down into the cabin to chat with the captain,
and it would not create any unsubduable excitement in the forecastle.
be all this as it may, certain it is that while the subordinate
phantoms soon found their place among the crew, though still as it were
somehow distinct from them, yet that hair-turbaned Fedallah remained a
muffled mystery to the last. Whence he came in a mannerly world like
this, by what sort of unaccountable tie he soon evinced himself to be
linked with Ahab's peculiar fortunes; nay, so far as to have some sort
of a half-hinted influence; Heaven knows, but it might have been even
authority over him; all this none knew, but one cannot sustain an
indifferent air concerning Fedallah. He was such a creature as
civilized, domestic people in the temperate zone only see in their
dreams, and that but dimly; but the like of whom now and then glide
among the unchanging Asiatic communities, especially the Oriental isles
to the east of the continent- those insulated, immemorial, unalterable
countries, which even in these modern days still preserve much of the
ghostly aboriginalness of earth's primal generations, when the memory of
the first man was a distinct recollection, and all men his descendants,
unknowing whence he came, eyed each other as real phantoms, and asked
of the sun and the moon why they were created and to what end; when
though, according to Genesis, the angels indeed consorted with the
daughters of men, the devils also, add the uncanonical Robbins, indulged
in mundane amours.
Ahab is crazy. The crew is coming to realize this fact. After this first whale encounter, Stubb and Starbuck and Flask discuss their captain's soundness of mind. They already know that he is obsessed with the hunt for the white whale. However, the appearance of Ahab's hidden boat crew has thrown into stark light the evidence: Ahab is more than a little unhinged.
I've had a long day already, and it's only half over. Got up at 4:45 a.m. Started work at 6 am. Eight hours. When I got home, I went for a run. Now, I'm getting ready to head out to family night at my son's school. Then I'm driving my daughter to her dance lesson, maybe. I'll probably get home a little after 8 p.m., brain dead and exhausted.
A lot of people wonder how I'm able to maintain this kind of schedule, especially during the school year. I will admit that I become a little crazy about time during the fall and winter. Obsessed even. I have to. or else I wouldn't be able to work and teach and write and blog and do Poet Laureate stuff. On the flip side, I don't get a whole lot of sleep, though.
This evening, I'm also attempting to finish a writing project that I've been working on for almost two months. I need to get it done, so that I can move on to my second project of the summer. That's my white whale. Two manuscripts done and submitted to publishers by summer's end. That is crazy, I know. However, I'm tired of getting to the middle of August and feeling like a failure.
Anyhow, it's almost time for me to leave. Second half of my day about to begin. White whales on the horizon.
Saint Marty is thankful tonight for his wife who puts up with his insanity.
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