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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 47 The Mat-Maker.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 47 The Mat-Maker. Post by :Joe_Coon Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :1193

Click below to download : Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 47 The Mat-Maker. (Format : PDF)

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 47 The Mat-Maker.

It was a cloudy, sultry afternoon; the seamen were lazily lounging
about the decks, or vacantly gazing over into the lead-coloured
waters. Queequeg and I were mildly employed weaving what is called a
sword-mat, for an additional lashing to our boat. So still and
subdued and yet somehow preluding was all the scene, and such an
incantation of reverie lurked in the air, that each silent sailor
seemed resolved into his own invisible self.

I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat. As I
kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the
long yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as
Queequeg, standing sideways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword
between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly
and unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a
dreaminess did there then reign all over the ship and all over the
sea, only broken by the intermitting dull sound of the sword, that it
seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle
mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates. There lay the
fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning,
unchanging vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of
the crosswise interblending of other threads with its own. This warp
seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own
shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads.
Meantime, Queequeg's impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting
the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the
case might be; and by this difference in the concluding blow
producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the
completed fabric; this savage's sword, thought I, which thus finally
shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword
must be chance--aye, chance, free will, and necessity--nowise
incompatible--all interweavingly working together. The straight warp
of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course--its every
alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still
free to ply her shuttle between given threads; and chance, though
restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and
sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed
to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring
blow at events.


Thus we were weaving and weaving away when I started at a sound so
strange, long drawn, and musically wild and unearthly, that the ball
of free will dropped from my hand, and I stood gazing up at the
clouds whence that voice dropped like a wing. High aloft in the
cross-trees was that mad Gay-Header, Tashtego. His body was reaching
eagerly forward, his hand stretched out like a wand, and at brief
sudden intervals he continued his cries. To be sure the same sound
was that very moment perhaps being heard all over the seas, from
hundreds of whalemen's look-outs perched as high in the air; but from
few of those lungs could that accustomed old cry have derived such a
marvellous cadence as from Tashtego the Indian's.

As he stood hovering over you half suspended in air, so wildly and
eagerly peering towards the horizon, you would have thought him some
prophet or seer beholding the shadows of Fate, and by those wild
cries announcing their coming.

"There she blows! there! there! there! she blows! she blows!"

"Where-away?"

"On the lee-beam, about two miles off! a school of them!"

Instantly all was commotion.

The Sperm Whale blows as a clock ticks, with the same undeviating and
reliable uniformity. And thereby whalemen distinguish this fish from
other tribes of his genus.

"There go flukes!" was now the cry from Tashtego; and the whales
disappeared.

"Quick, steward!" cried Ahab. "Time! time!"

Dough-Boy hurried below, glanced at the watch, and reported the exact
minute to Ahab.

The ship was now kept away from the wind, and she went gently rolling
before it. Tashtego reporting that the whales had gone down heading
to leeward, we confidently looked to see them again directly in
advance of our bows. For that singular craft at times evinced by the
Sperm Whale when, sounding with his head in one direction, he
nevertheless, while concealed beneath the surface, mills round, and
swiftly swims off in the opposite quarter--this deceitfulness of his
could not now be in action; for there was no reason to suppose that
the fish seen by Tashtego had been in any way alarmed, or indeed knew
at all of our vicinity. One of the men selected for
shipkeepers--that is, those not appointed to the boats, by this time
relieved the Indian at the main-mast head. The sailors at the fore
and mizzen had come down; the line tubs were fixed in their places;
the cranes were thrust out; the mainyard was backed, and the three
boats swung over the sea like three samphire baskets over high
cliffs. Outside of the bulwarks their eager crews with one hand
clung to the rail, while one foot was expectantly poised on the
gunwale. So look the long line of man-of-war's men about to throw
themselves on board an enemy's ship.

But at this critical instant a sudden exclamation was heard that took
every eye from the whale. With a start all glared at dark Ahab, who
was surrounded by five dusky phantoms that seemed fresh formed out of
air.

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