Now when I looked about the quarter-deck, for some one having authority, in order to propose myself as a candidate for the voyage, at first I saw nobody; but I could not well overlook a strange sort of tent, or rather wigwam, pitched a little behind the main-mast. It seemed only a temporary erection used in port. It was of a conical shape, some ten feet high; consisting of the long, huge slabs of limber black bone taken from the middle and highest part of the jaws of the right-whale. Planted with their broad ends on the deck, a circle of these slabs laced together, mutually sloped towards each other, and at the apex united in a tufted point, where the loose hairy fibres waved to and fro like the top-knot on some old Pottowottamie Sachem's head. A triangular opening faced towards the bows of the ship, so that the insider commanded a complete view forward.
And half concealed in this queer tenement, I at length found one who by his aspect seemed to have authority; and who, it being noon, and the ship's work suspended, was now enjoying respite from the burden of command. He was seated on an old-fashioned oaken chair, wriggling all over with curious carving; and the bottom of which was formed of a stout interlacing of the same elastic stuff of which the wigwam was constructed.
There was nothing so very particular, perhaps, about the appearance of the elderly man I saw; he was brown and brawny, like most old seamen, and heavily rolled up in blue pilot-cloth, cut in the Quaker style; only there was a fine and almost microscopic net-work of the minutest wrinkles interlacing round eyes, which must have arisen from his continual sailings in many hard gales, and always looking to windward;- for this causes the muscles about the eyes to become pursed together. Such eye-wrinkles are very effectual in a scowl.
"Is this the Captain of the Pequod?" said I, advancing to the door of the tent.
"Supposing it be the captain of the Pequod, what dost thou want of him?" he demanded.
"I was thinking of shipping."
"Thou wast, wast thou? I see thou art no Nantucketer- ever been in a stove boat?"
"No, Sir, I never have."
"Dost know nothing at all about whaling, I dare say- eh?
"Nothing, Sir; but I have no doubt I shall soon learn. I've been several voyages in the merchant service, and I think that-"
"Merchant service be damned. Talk not that lingo to me. Dost see that leg?- I'll take that leg away from thy stern, if ever thou talkest of the merchant service to me again. Marchant service indeed! I suppose now ye feel considerable proud of having served in those marchant ships. But flukes! man, what makes thee want to go a whaling, eh?- it looks a little suspicious, don't it, eh?- Hast not been a pirate, hast thou?- Didst not rob thy last Captain, didst thou?- Dost not think of murdering the officers when thou gettest to sea?"
I protested my innocence of these things. I saw that under the mask of these half humorous innuendoes, this old seaman, as an insulated Quakerish Nantucketer, was full of his insular prejudices, and rather distrustful of all aliens, unless they hailed from Cape Cod or the Vineyard.
"But what takes thee a-whaling? I want to know that before I think of shipping ye."
"Well, sir, I want to see what whaling is. I want to see the world."
"Want to see what whaling is, eh? Have ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab?"
"Who is Captain Ahab, sir?"
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|