.. < chapter cxxv 6 THE LOG AND LINE >
While now the fated Pequod had been
so long afloat this voyage, the log and line had but very seldom been in use.
Owing to a confident reliance upon other means of determining the vessel's
place, some merchantmen, and many whalemen, especially when cruising,
wholly neglect to heave the log; though at the same time, and frequently more
for form's sake than anything else, regularly putting down upon the customary
slate the course steered by the ship, as well as the presumed average rate of
progression every hour. It had been thus with the Pequod. The wooden reel
and angular log attached hung, long untouched, just beneath the railing of
the after bulwarks. Rains and spray had damped it; the sun and wind had
warped it; all the elements had combined to rot a thing that hung so idly.
But heedless of all this, his mood seized Ahab, as he happened to glance
upon the reel, not many hours after the magnet scene, and he remembered how
his quadrant was no more, and recalled his frantic oath about the level log
and line. The ship was sailing plungingly; astern the billows rolled in
riots. Forward, there! Heave the log! Two seamen came. The golden-hued
Tahitian and the grizzly Manxman. Take the reel, one of ye, I'll heave.
They went towards the extreme stern, on the ship's lee side, where the deck,
with the oblique energy of the wind, was now almost dipping into the creamy,
sidelong-rushing sea. The Manxman took the reel, and holding it high up, by
the projecting handle-ends of the spindle, round which the spool
of line revolved, so stood with the angular log hanging downwards, till Ahab
advanced to him. Ahab stood before him, and was lightly unwinding some thirty
or forty turns to form a preliminary hand-coil to toss overboard, when the
old Manxman, who was intently eyeing both him and the line, made bold to
speak. Sir, I mistrust it; this line looks far gone, long heat and wet
have spoiled it. 'Twill hold, old gentleman. Long heat and wet, have they
spoiled thee? Thou seem'st to hold. Or, truer perhaps, life holds thee; not
thou it. I hold the spool, sir. But just as my captain says. With these
grey hairs of mine 'tis not worth while disputing, 'specially with a
superior, who'll ne'er confess. What's that? There now's a patched
professor in Queen Nature's granite-founded College; but methinks he's too
subservient. Where wert thou born? In the little rocky Isle of Man, sir.
Excellent! Thou'st hit the world by that. I know not, sir, but I was born
there. In the Isle of Man, hey? Well, the other way, it's good. Here's a
man from Man; a man born in once independent Man, and now unmanned of Man;
which is sucked in --by what? Up with the reel! The dead, blind wall butts
all inquiring heads at last. Up with it! So. The log was heaved. The
loose coils rapidly straightened out in a long dragging line astern, and
then, instantly, the reel began to whirl. In turn, jerkingly raised and
lowered by the rolling billows, the towing resistance of the log caused the
old reelman to stagger strangely. Hold hard! Snap! the overstrained line
sagged down in one long festoon; the tugging log was gone. I crush the
quadrant, the thunder turns the needles, and now the mad sea parts the
log-line. But Ahab can mend all. Haul in here, Tahitian; reel up, Manxman.
And look ye, let the carpenter make another log, and mend thou the line. See
There he goes now; to him nothing's happened; but to me, the skewer seems
loosening out of the middle of the world. Haul in, haul in, Tahitian! These
lines run whole, and whirling out: come in broken, and dragging slow. Ha,
Pip? come to help; eh, Pip? Pip? whom call ye Pip? Pip jumped from the
whale-boat. pip's missing. let's see now if ye haven't fished him up here,
fisherman. It drags hard; I guess he's holding on. Jerk him, Tahiti! Jerk
him off; we haul in no cowards here. Ho! there's his arm just breaking
water. A hatchet! a hatchet! cut it off -- we haul in no cowards here.
Captain Ahab! sir, sir! here's Pip, trying to get on board again. Peace,
thou crazy loon, cried the Manxman, seizing him by the arm. Away from the
quarter-deck! The greater idiot ever scolds the lesser, muttered Ahab,
advancing. Hands off from that holiness! Where sayest thou Pip was, boy?
Astern there, sir, astern! Lo, lo! And who art thou, boy? I see not my
reflection in the vacant pupils of thy eyes. Oh God! that man should be a
thing for immortal souls to sieve through! Who art thou, boy? Bell-boy,
sir; ship's-crier; ding, dong, ding! Pip! Pip! Pip! One hundred pounds
of clay reward for Pip; five feet high-- looks cowardly --quickest known by
that! Ding, dong, ding! Who's seen Pip the coward? There can be no hearts
above the snow-line. Oh, ye frozen heavens! look down here. Ye did beget
this luckless child, and have abandoned him, ye creative libertines. Here,
boy; Ahab's cabin shall be Pip's home henceforth, while Ahab lives. Thou
touchest my inmost centre, boy; thou art tied to me by cords woven of my
heart-strings. Come, let's down. What's this? here's velvet shark-skin,
intently gazing at Ahab's hand, and feeling it. Ah, now, had poor Pip but
felt so kind a thing as this, perhaps he had ne'er been lost! This seems to
me, sir, as a man-rope; something that weak souls may hold by. Oh, sir, let
old Perth now come and rivet these two hands together; the black one with the
white, for I will not let this go.
Oh, boy, nor will I thee, unless I should thereby drag thee to worse horrors
than are here. come, then, to my cabin. Lo! ye believers in gods all
goodness, and in man all ill, lo you! see the omniscient gods oblivious of
suffering man; and man, though idiotic, and knowing not what he does, yet
full of the sweet things of love and gratitude. Come! I feel prouder leading
thee by thy black hand, than though I grasped an Emperor's! There go two
daft ones now, muttered the old Manxman. One daft with strength, the other
daft with weakness. But here's the end of the rotten line --all dripping, too.
Mend it, eh? I think we had best have a new line altogether. I'll see Mr.
Stubb about it.