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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMoby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 94 A Squeeze of the Hand.
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Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 94 A Squeeze of the Hand. Post by :BigRhino Category :Long Stories Author :Herman Melville Date :February 2011 Read :1327

Click below to download : Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 94 A Squeeze of the Hand. (Format : PDF)

Moby Dick (or The Whale) - Chapter 94 A Squeeze of the Hand.

That whale of Stubb's, so dearly purchased, was duly brought to the
Pequod's side, where all those cutting and hoisting operations
previously detailed, were regularly gone through, even to the baling
of the Heidelburgh Tun, or Case.

While some were occupied with this latter duty, others were employed
in dragging away the larger tubs, so soon as filled with the sperm;
and when the proper time arrived, this same sperm was carefully
manipulated ere going to the try-works, of which anon.

It had cooled and crystallized to such a degree, that when, with
several others, I sat down before a large Constantine's bath of it, I
found it strangely concreted into lumps, here and there rolling about
in the liquid part. It was our business to squeeze these lumps back
into fluid. A sweet and unctuous duty! No wonder that in old times
this sperm was such a favourite cosmetic. Such a clearer! such a
sweetener! such a softener! such a delicious molifier! After
having my hands in it for only a few minutes, my fingers felt like
eels, and began, as it were, to serpentine and spiralise.

As I sat there at my ease, cross-legged on the deck; after the bitter
exertion at the windlass; under a blue tranquil sky; the ship under
indolent sail, and gliding so serenely along; as I bathed my hands
among those soft, gentle globules of infiltrated tissues, woven
almost within the hour; as they richly broke to my fingers, and
discharged all their opulence, like fully ripe grapes their wine; as
I snuffed up that uncontaminated aroma,--literally and truly, like
the smell of spring violets; I declare to you, that for the time I
lived as in a musky meadow; I forgot all about our horrible oath; in
that inexpressible sperm, I washed my hands and my heart of it; I
almost began to credit the old Paracelsan superstition that sperm is
of rare virtue in allaying the heat of anger; while bathing in that
bath, I felt divinely free from all ill-will, or petulance, or
malice, of any sort whatsoever.

Squeeze! squeeze! squeeze! all the morning long; I squeezed that
sperm till I myself almost melted into it; I squeezed that sperm till
a strange sort of insanity came over me; and I found myself
unwittingly squeezing my co-laborers' hands in it, mistaking their
hands for the gentle globules. Such an abounding, affectionate,
friendly, loving feeling did this avocation beget; that at last I was
continually squeezing their hands, and looking up into their eyes
sentimentally; as much as to say,--Oh! my dear fellow beings, why
should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest
ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us
all squeeze ourselves into each other; let us squeeze ourselves
universally into the very milk and sperm of kindness.

Would that I could keep squeezing that sperm for ever! For now,
since by many prolonged, repeated experiences, I have perceived that
in all cases man must eventually lower, or at least shift, his
conceit of attainable felicity; not placing it anywhere in the
intellect or the fancy; but in the wife, the heart, the bed, the
table, the saddle, the fireside, the country; now that I have
perceived all this, I am ready to squeeze case eternally. In
thoughts of the visions of the night, I saw long rows of angels in
paradise, each with his hands in a jar of spermaceti.

Now, while discoursing of sperm, it behooves to speak of other things
akin to it, in the business of preparing the sperm whale for the
try-works.

First comes white-horse, so called, which is obtained from the
tapering part of the fish, and also from the thicker portions of his
flukes. It is tough with congealed tendons--a wad of muscle--but
still contains some oil. After being severed from the whale, the
white-horse is first cut into portable oblongs ere going to the
mincer. They look much like blocks of Berkshire marble.

Plum-pudding is the term bestowed upon certain fragmentary parts of
the whale's flesh, here and there adhering to the blanket of blubber,
and often participating to a considerable degree in its unctuousness.
It is a most refreshing, convivial, beautiful object to behold. As
its name imports, it is of an exceedingly rich, mottled tint, with a
bestreaked snowy and golden ground, dotted with spots of the deepest
crimson and purple. It is plums of rubies, in pictures of citron.
Spite of reason, it is hard to keep yourself from eating it. I
confess, that once I stole behind the foremast to try it. It tasted
something as I should conceive a royal cutlet from the thigh of Louis
le Gros might have tasted, supposing him to have been killed the
first day after the venison season, and that particular venison
season contemporary with an unusually fine vintage of the vineyards
of Champagne.

There is another substance, and a very singular one, which turns up
in the course of this business, but which I feel it to be very
puzzling adequately to describe. It is called slobgollion; an
appellation original with the whalemen, and even so is the nature of
the substance. It is an ineffably oozy, stringy affair, most
frequently found in the tubs of sperm, after a prolonged squeezing,
and subsequent decanting. I hold it to be the wondrously thin,
ruptured membranes of the case, coalescing.

Gurry, so called, is a term properly belonging to right whalemen, but
sometimes incidentally used by the sperm fishermen. It designates
the dark, glutinous substance which is scraped off the back of the
Greenland or right whale, and much of which covers the decks of those
inferior souls who hunt that ignoble Leviathan.

Nippers. Strictly this word is not indigenous to the whale's
vocabulary. But as applied by whalemen, it becomes so. A whaleman's
nipper is a short firm strip of tendinous stuff cut from the tapering
part of Leviathan's tail: it averages an inch in thickness, and for
the rest, is about the size of the iron part of a hoe. Edgewise
moved along the oily deck, it operates like a leathern squilgee; and
by nameless blandishments, as of magic, allures along with it all
impurities.

But to learn all about these recondite matters, your best way is at
once to descend into the blubber-room, and have a long talk with its
inmates. This place has previously been mentioned as the receptacle
for the blanket-pieces, when stript and hoisted from the whale. When
the proper time arrives for cutting up its contents, this apartment
is a scene of terror to all tyros, especially by night. On one side,
lit by a dull lantern, a space has been left clear for the workmen.
They generally go in pairs,--a pike-and-gaffman and a spade-man.
The whaling-pike is similar to a frigate's boarding-weapon of the
same name. The gaff is something like a boat-hook. With his gaff,
the gaffman hooks on to a sheet of blubber, and strives to hold it
from slipping, as the ship pitches and lurches about. Meanwhile, the
spade-man stands on the sheet itself, perpendicularly chopping it
into the portable horse-pieces. This spade is sharp as hone can make
it; the spademan's feet are shoeless; the thing he stands on will
sometimes irresistibly slide away from him, like a sledge. If he
cuts off one of his own toes, or one of his assistants', would you be
very much astonished? Toes are scarce among veteran blubber-room
men.

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