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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 100 Leg and Arm.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 100 Leg and Arm. Post by :SEOtop10 Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :2571

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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 100 Leg and Arm.

The Pequod, of Nantucket, Meets the Samuel Enderby, of London.

"Ship, ahoy! Hast seen the White Whale?"

So cried Ahab, once more hailing a ship showing English colours,
bearing down under the stern. Trumpet to mouth, the old man was
standing in his hoisted quarter-boat, his ivory leg plainly revealed
to the stranger captain, who was carelessly reclining in his own
boat's bow. He was a darkly-tanned, burly, good-natured,
fine-looking man, of sixty or thereabouts, dressed in a spacious
roundabout, that hung round him in festoons of blue pilot-cloth; and
one empty arm of this jacket streamed behind him like the broidered
arm of a hussar's surcoat.

"Hast seen the White Whale!"

"See you this?" and withdrawing it from the folds that had hidden
it, he held up a white arm of sperm whale bone, terminating in a
wooden head like a mallet.

"Man my boat!" cried Ahab, impetuously, and tossing about the oars
near him--"Stand by to lower!"

In less than a minute, without quitting his little craft, he and his
crew were dropped to the water, and were soon alongside of the
stranger. But here a curious difficulty presented itself. In the
excitement of the moment, Ahab had forgotten that since the loss of
his leg he had never once stepped on board of any vessel at sea but
his own, and then it was always by an ingenious and very handy
mechanical contrivance peculiar to the Pequod, and a thing not to be
rigged and shipped in any other vessel at a moment's warning. Now,
it is no very easy matter for anybody--except those who are almost
hourly used to it, like whalemen--to clamber up a ship's side from a
boat on the open sea; for the great swells now lift the boat high up
towards the bulwarks, and then instantaneously drop it half way down
to the kelson. So, deprived of one leg, and the strange ship of
course being altogether unsupplied with the kindly invention, Ahab
now found himself abjectly reduced to a clumsy landsman again;
hopelessly eyeing the uncertain changeful height he could hardly hope
to attain.

It has before been hinted, perhaps, that every little untoward
circumstance that befell him, and which indirectly sprang from his
luckless mishap, almost invariably irritated or exasperated Ahab.
And in the present instance, all this was heightened by the sight of
the two officers of the strange ship, leaning over the side, by the
perpendicular ladder of nailed cleets there, and swinging towards him
a pair of tastefully-ornamented man-ropes; for at first they did not
seem to bethink them that a one-legged man must be too much of a
cripple to use their sea bannisters. But this awkwardness only
lasted a minute, because the strange captain, observing at a glance
how affairs stood, cried out, "I see, I see!--avast heaving there!
Jump, boys, and swing over the cutting-tackle."

As good luck would have it, they had had a whale alongside a day or
two previous, and the great tackles were still aloft, and the massive
curved blubber-hook, now clean and dry, was still attached to the
end. This was quickly lowered to Ahab, who at once comprehending it
all, slid his solitary thigh into the curve of the hook (it was like
sitting in the fluke of an anchor, or the crotch of an apple tree),
and then giving the word, held himself fast, and at the same time
also helped to hoist his own weight, by pulling hand-over-hand upon
one of the running parts of the tackle. Soon he was carefully swung
inside the high bulwarks, and gently landed upon the capstan head.
With his ivory arm frankly thrust forth in welcome, the other captain
advanced, and Ahab, putting out his ivory leg, and crossing the ivory
arm (like two sword-fish blades) cried out in his walrus way, "Aye,
aye, hearty! let us shake bones together!--an arm and a leg!--an arm
that never can shrink, d'ye see; and a leg that never can run. Where
did'st thou see the White Whale?--how long ago?"

"The White Whale," said the Englishman, pointing his ivory arm
towards the East, and taking a rueful sight along it, as if it had
been a telescope; "there I saw him, on the Line, last season."

"And he took that arm off, did he?" asked Ahab, now sliding down from
the capstan, and resting on the Englishman's shoulder, as he did so.

"Aye, he was the cause of it, at least; and that leg, too?"

"Spin me the yarn," said Ahab; "how was it?"

"It was the first time in my life that I ever cruised on the Line,"
began the Englishman. "I was ignorant of the White Whale at that
time. Well, one day we lowered for a pod of four or five whales, and
my boat fastened to one of them; a regular circus horse he was, too,
that went milling and milling round so, that my boat's crew could
only trim dish, by sitting all their sterns on the outer gunwale.
Presently up breaches from the bottom of the sea a bouncing great
whale, with a milky-white head and hump, all crows' feet and

"It was he, it was he!" cried Ahab, suddenly letting out his
suspended breath.

"And harpoons sticking in near his starboard fin."

"Aye, aye--they were mine--MY irons," cried Ahab, exultingly--"but

"Give me a chance, then," said the Englishman, good-humoredly.
"Well, this old great-grandfather, with the white head and hump, runs
all afoam into the pod, and goes to snapping furiously at my

"Aye, I see!--wanted to part it; free the fast-fish--an old trick--I
know him."

"How it was exactly," continued the one-armed commander, "I do not
know; but in biting the line, it got foul of his teeth, caught there
somehow; but we didn't know it then; so that when we afterwards
pulled on the line, bounce we came plump on to his hump! instead of
the other whale's; that went off to windward, all fluking. Seeing
how matters stood, and what a noble great whale it was--the noblest
and biggest I ever saw, sir, in my life--I resolved to capture him,
spite of the boiling rage he seemed to be in. And thinking the
hap-hazard line would get loose, or the tooth it was tangled to
might draw (for I have a devil of a boat's crew for a pull on a
whale-line); seeing all this, I say, I jumped into my first mate's
boat--Mr. Mounttop's here (by the way, Captain--Mounttop;
Mounttop--the captain);--as I was saying, I jumped into Mounttop's
boat, which, d'ye see, was gunwale and gunwale with mine, then; and
snatching the first harpoon, let this old great-grandfather have it.
But, Lord, look you, sir--hearts and souls alive, man--the next
instant, in a jiff, I was blind as a bat--both eyes out--all befogged
and bedeadened with black foam--the whale's tail looming straight up
out of it, perpendicular in the air, like a marble steeple. No use
sterning all, then; but as I was groping at midday, with a blinding
sun, all crown-jewels; as I was groping, I say, after the second
iron, to toss it overboard--down comes the tail like a Lima tower,
cutting my boat in two, leaving each half in splinters; and, flukes
first, the white hump backed through the wreck, as though it was all
chips. We all struck out. To escape his terrible flailings, I
seized hold of my harpoon-pole sticking in him, and for a moment
clung to that like a sucking fish. But a combing sea dashed me off,
and at the same instant, the fish, taking one good dart forwards,
went down like a flash; and the barb of that cursed second iron
towing along near me caught me here" (clapping his hand just below
his shoulder); "yes, caught me just here, I say, and bore me down to
Hell's flames, I was thinking; when, when, all of a sudden, thank the
good God, the barb ript its way along the flesh--clear along the
whole length of my arm--came out nigh my wrist, and up I
floated;--and that gentleman there will tell you the rest (by the
way, captain--Dr. Bunger, ship's surgeon: Bunger, my lad,--the
captain). Now, Bunger boy, spin your part of the yarn."

The professional gentleman thus familiarly pointed out, had been all
the time standing near them, with nothing specific visible, to denote
his gentlemanly rank on board. His face was an exceedingly round but
sober one; he was dressed in a faded blue woollen frock or shirt, and
patched trowsers; and had thus far been dividing his attention
between a marlingspike he held in one hand, and a pill-box held in
the other, occasionally casting a critical glance at the ivory limbs
of the two crippled captains. But, at his superior's introduction of
him to Ahab, he politely bowed, and straightway went on to do his
captain's bidding.

"It was a shocking bad wound," began the whale-surgeon; "and, taking
my advice, Captain Boomer here, stood our old Sammy--"

"Samuel Enderby is the name of my ship," interrupted the one-armed
captain, addressing Ahab; "go on, boy."

"Stood our old Sammy off to the northward, to get out of the blazing
hot weather there on the Line. But it was no use--I did all I could;
sat up with him nights; was very severe with him in the matter of

"Oh, very severe!" chimed in the patient himself; then suddenly
altering his voice, "Drinking hot rum toddies with me every night,
till he couldn't see to put on the bandages; and sending me to bed,
half seas over, about three o'clock in the morning. Oh, ye stars! he
sat up with me indeed, and was very severe in my diet. Oh! a great
watcher, and very dietetically severe, is Dr. Bunger. (Bunger, you
dog, laugh out! why don't ye? You know you're a precious jolly
rascal.) But, heave ahead, boy, I'd rather be killed by you than kept
alive by any other man."

"My captain, you must have ere this perceived, respected sir"--said
the imperturbable godly-looking Bunger, slightly bowing to Ahab--"is
apt to be facetious at times; he spins us many clever things of that
sort. But I may as well say--en passant, as the French remark--that
I myself--that is to say, Jack Bunger, late of the reverend
clergy--am a strict total abstinence man; I never drink--"

"Water!" cried the captain; "he never drinks it; it's a sort of fits
to him; fresh water throws him into the hydrophobia; but go on--go on
with the arm story."

"Yes, I may as well," said the surgeon, coolly. "I was about
observing, sir, before Captain Boomer's facetious interruption, that
spite of my best and severest endeavors, the wound kept getting worse
and worse; the truth was, sir, it was as ugly gaping wound as surgeon
ever saw; more than two feet and several inches long. I measured it
with the lead line. In short, it grew black; I knew what was
threatened, and off it came. But I had no hand in shipping that
ivory arm there; that thing is against all rule"--pointing at it with
the marlingspike--"that is the captain's work, not mine; he ordered
the carpenter to make it; he had that club-hammer there put to the
end, to knock some one's brains out with, I suppose, as he tried mine
once. He flies into diabolical passions sometimes. Do ye see this
dent, sir"--removing his hat, and brushing aside his hair, and
exposing a bowl-like cavity in his skull, but which bore not the
slightest scarry trace, or any token of ever having been a
wound--"Well, the captain there will tell you how that came here;
he knows."

"No, I don't," said the captain, "but his mother did; he was born
with it. Oh, you solemn rogue, you--you Bunger! was there ever such
another Bunger in the watery world? Bunger, when you die, you ought
to die in pickle, you dog; you should be preserved to future ages,
you rascal."

"What became of the White Whale?" now cried Ahab, who thus far had
been impatiently listening to this by-play between the two

"Oh!" cried the one-armed captain, "oh, yes! Well; after he sounded,
we didn't see him again for some time; in fact, as I before hinted, I
didn't then know what whale it was that had served me such a trick,
till some time afterwards, when coming back to the Line, we heard
about Moby Dick--as some call him--and then I knew it was he."

"Did'st thou cross his wake again?"


"But could not fasten?"

"Didn't want to try to: ain't one limb enough? What should I do
without this other arm? And I'm thinking Moby Dick doesn't bite so
much as he swallows."

"Well, then," interrupted Bunger, "give him your left arm for bait to
get the right. Do you know, gentlemen"--very gravely and
mathematically bowing to each Captain in succession--"Do you know,
gentlemen, that the digestive organs of the whale are so inscrutably
constructed by Divine Providence, that it is quite impossible for him
to completely digest even a man's arm? And he knows it too. So that
what you take for the White Whale's malice is only his awkwardness.
For he never means to swallow a single limb; he only thinks to
terrify by feints. But sometimes he is like the old juggling fellow,
formerly a patient of mine in Ceylon, that making believe swallow
jack-knives, once upon a time let one drop into him in good earnest,
and there it stayed for a twelvemonth or more; when I gave him an
emetic, and he heaved it up in small tacks, d'ye see. No possible
way for him to digest that jack-knife, and fully incorporate it into
his general bodily system. Yes, Captain Boomer, if you are quick
enough about it, and have a mind to pawn one arm for the sake of the
privilege of giving decent burial to the other, why in that case
the arm is yours; only let the whale have another chance at you
shortly, that's all."

"No, thank ye, Bunger," said the English Captain, "he's welcome to
the arm he has, since I can't help it, and didn't know him then; but
not to another one. No more White Whales for me; I've lowered for
him once, and that has satisfied me. There would be great glory in
killing him, I know that; and there is a ship-load of precious sperm
in him, but, hark ye, he's best let alone; don't you think so,
Captain?"--glancing at the ivory leg.

"He is. But he will still be hunted, for all that. What is best let
alone, that accursed thing is not always what least allures. He's
all a magnet! How long since thou saw'st him last? Which way

"Bless my soul, and curse the foul fiend's," cried Bunger, stoopingly
walking round Ahab, and like a dog, strangely snuffing; "this man's
blood--bring the thermometer!--it's at the boiling point!--his pulse
makes these planks beat!--sir!"--taking a lancet from his pocket, and
drawing near to Ahab's arm.

"Avast!" roared Ahab, dashing him against the bulwarks--"Man the
boat! Which way heading?"

"Good God!" cried the English Captain, to whom the question was put.
"What's the matter? He was heading east, I think.--Is your Captain
crazy?" whispering Fedallah.

But Fedallah, putting a finger on his lip, slid over the bulwarks to
take the boat's steering oar, and Ahab, swinging the cutting-tackle
towards him, commanded the ship's sailors to stand by to lower.

In a moment he was standing in the boat's stern, and the Manilla men
were springing to their oars. In vain the English Captain hailed
him. With back to the stranger ship, and face set like a flint to
his own, Ahab stood upright till alongside of the Pequod.

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Ere the English ship fades from sight, be it set down here, that shehailed from London, and was named after the late Samuel Enderby,merchant of that city, the original of the famous whaling house ofEnderby & Sons; a house which in my poor whaleman's opinion, comesnot far behind the united royal houses of the Tudors and Bourbons, inpoint of real historical interest. How long, prior to the year ofour Lord 1775, this great whaling house was in existence, my numerousfish-documents do not make plain; but in that year (1775) it fittedout the first English ships that ever regularly hunted the

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Ere now it has been related how Ahab was wont to pace hisquarter-deck, taking regular turns at either limit, the binnacle andmainmast; but in the multiplicity of other things requiring narrationit has not been added how that sometimes in these walks, when mostplunged in his mood, he was wont to pause in turn at each spot, andstand there strangely eyeing the particular object before him. Whenhe halted before the binnacle, with his glance fastened on thepointed needle in the compass, that glance shot like a javelin withthe pointed intensity of his purpose; and when resuming his walk heagain paused before