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way enough to steer.' As the creature approached, he somewhat abated his frenzied speed, and, at the distance of a cable's length, changed his course to a sharp angle with our own.
“Here he comes!' I exclaimed. Stand up, harpooner! Don't be hasty do n't be flurried. Hold your iron higher — firmer. Now!' I shouted, as I brought our bows within a boat's length of the immense mass which was wallowing heavily by. Now ! - give it to him solid !'
• But the leviathan plunged on, unharmed. The young harpooner, though ordinarily as fearless as a lion, had imbibed a sort of superstitious dread of Mocha Dick, from the exaggerated stories of that prodigy, which he had heard from his comrades. He regarded him, as he had heard him described in many a tough yarn during the middle watch, rather as some ferocious fiend of the deep, than a regular-built, legitimate whale! Judge then of his trepidation, on beholding a creature, answering the wildest dreams of his fancy, and sufficiently formidable, without any superadded terrors, bearing down upon him with thrashing flukes and distended jaws ! He stood erect, it cannot be denied. He planted his foot — he grasped the coil — he poised his weapon. But his knee shook, and his sinewy arm wavered. The shaft was hurled, but with unsteady aim. It just grazed the back of the monster, glanced off
, and darted into the sea beyond. A second, still more abortive, fell short of the mark. The giant animal swept on for a few rods, and then, as if in contempt of our fruitless and childish attempt to injure him, flapped a storm of spray in our faces with his broad tail, and dashed far down into the depths of the ocean, leaving our little skiff among the waters where he sank, to spin and duck in the whirlpool.
'Never shall I forget the choking sensation of disappointment which came over me at that moment. My glance fell on the har. pooner. “Clumsy lubber!' I vociferated,' in a voice hoarse with passion; 'you a whaleman! You are only fit to spear eels! Cowardly spawn! Curse me, if you are not afraid of a whale ! • The poor
fellow, mortified at his failure, was slowly and thoughtfully hauling in his irons. No sooner had he heard me stigmatize him as “afraid of a whale,' than he bounded upon his thwart, as if bitten by a serpent. He stood before me for a moment, with a glow. ing cheek and flashing eye; then, dropping the iron he had just drawn in, without uttering a word, he turned half round, and sprang head-foremost into the sea. The tub-oarsman, who was re-coiling the line in the after part of the boat, saw his design just in season to grasp him by the heel, as he made his spring. But he was not to be dragged on board again without a struggle. Having now become more calm, I endeavored to soothe his wounded pride with kind and flattering words ; for I knew him to be a noble-hearted fellow, and was truly sorry that my hasty reproaches should have touched so fine a spirit so deeply.
Night being now at hand, the captain's signal was set for our return to the vessel ; and we were soon assembled on her deck, discussing the mischances of the day, and speculating on the prospect of better luck on the morrow.
• We were at breakfast next morning, when the watch at the fore
top-gallant head sung out merrily, • There she breaches !' In an instant every one was on his feet. • Where away ? cried the skipper, rushing from the cabin, and upsetting in his course the steward, who was returning from the caboose with a replenished biggin of hot coffee. “Not loud but deep' were the grumblings and groans of that functionary, as he rubbed his scalded shins, and danced about in agony; but had they been far louder, they would have been drowned in the tumult of vociferation which answered the announcement from the mast-head.
“Where away ? repeated the captain, as he gained the deck. " Three points off the leeward bow.' "How far ?'
“About a league, Sir ; heads same as we do. There she blows !' added the man, as he came slowly down the shrouds, with his eyes fixed intently upon the spouting herd. “Keep her off two points! Steady! — steady, as she goes !'
Steady it is, Sir,' answered the helmsman.
Weather braces, a small pull. Loose to’-gallant-s'ls! Bear a band, my boys! Who knows but we may tickle their ribs at this rising ?
• The captain had gone aloft, and was giving these orders from the main-to'-gallant-cross-trees. “There she top-tails! there she blows !' added he, as, after taking a long look at the sporting shoal, he glided down the back stay. “Sperm whale, and a thundering big school of ’em!' was his reply to the rapid and eager inquiries of the men. the lines in the boats,' he continued; get in the craft; swing the cranes!'
By this time the fish had gone down, and every eye was strained to catch the first intimation of their reappearance.
" There she spouts !' screamed a young greenhorn in the main chains, close by; a mighty big whale, Sir!'
• We 'll know that better at the trying out, my son,' said the third mate, drily.
“Back the main-top-s'l!' was now the command. The ship had little headway at the time, and in a few minutes we were as motionless as if lying at anchor.
“Lower away, all hands!' And in a twinkling, and together, the starboard, larboard, and waist-boats struck the water. Each officer leaped into his own; the crews arranged themselves at their respective stations; the boat-steerers began to adjust their ' craft;' and we left the ship's side in company; the captain, in laconic phrase, bidding us to get up and get fast,' as quickly as possible.
‘Away we dashed, in the direction of our prey, who were frolicking, if such a term can be applied to their unwieldly motions, on the surface of the waves. Occasionally, a huge, shapeless body would flounce out of its proper element, and fall back with a heavy splash; the effort forming about as ludicrous a caricature of agility, as would the attempt of some over-fed alderman to execute the Highland fling.
We were within a hundred rods of the herd, when, as if from a common impulse, or upon some preconcerted signal, they all suddenly disappeared. Follow me!' I shouted, waving my hand to the men in the other boats; • I see their track under water; they swim
fast, but we 'll be among them when they rise. Lay back,' I continued, addressing myself to my own crew, 'back to the thwarts ! Spring hard! We'll be in the thick of 'em when they come up; only pull !!
* And they did pull, manfully. After rowing for about a mile, I ordered them to lie.' The oars were peaked, and we rose to look out for the first ‘noddle-head' that should break water. It was at this time a dead calm. Not a single cloud was passing over the deep blue of the heavens, to vary their boundless transparency, or shadow for a moment the gleaming ocean which they spanned. Within a short distance lay our noble ship, with her idle canvass hanging in drooping festoons from her yards; while she seemed resting on her inverted image, which, distinct and beautiful as its original, was glassed in the smooth expanse beneath. No sound disturbed the general silence, save our own heavy breathings, the low gurgle of the water against the side of the boat, or the noise of flapping wings, as the albatross wheeled sleepily along through the stagnant atmosphere We had remained quiet for about five minutes, when some dark object was descried ahead, moving on the surface of the sea. It proved to be a small . calf,' playing in the sunshine.
"Pull and strike it,' said I to the third mate; "it may bring up the old one
- perhaps the whole school.' * And so it did, with a vengeance! The sucker was transpierced, after a short pursuit; but hardly had it made its first agonized plunge, when an enormous cow-whale rose close beside her wounded offspring. Her first endeavor was to take it under her fin, in order to bear it away; and nothing could be more striking than the maternal tenderness she manifested in her exertions to accomplish this object. But the poor thing was dying, and while she vainly tried to induce it to accompany her, it rolled over, and floated dead at her side. Perceiving it to be beyond the reach of her caresses, she turned to wreak her vengeance on its slayers, and made directly for the boat, crashing her vast jaws the while, in a paroxysm of rage. Ordering his boatsteerer aft, the mate sprang forward, cut the line loose from the calf, and then snatched from the crotch the remaining iron, which he plunged with his gathered strength into the body of the mother, as the boat sheered off to avoid her onset. I saw that the work was well done, but had no time to mark the issue; for at that instant, a whale breached' at the distance of about a mile from us, on the starboard quarter. The glimpse I caught of the animal in his descent, convinced me that I once more beheld my old acquaintance, Mocha Dick. That falling mass was white as a snow-drift!
One might have supposed the recognition mutual, for no sooner was his vast square head lifted from the sea, than he charged down upon us, scattering the billows into spray as he advanced, and leaving a wake of foam a rod in width, from the violent lashing of his flukes.
" He's making for the bloody water!' cried the men, as he cleft his way toward the very spot where the calf had been killed. “Here, harpooner, steer the boat, and let me dart !' I exclaimed, as I leaped into the bows. May the 'Goneys' eat me, if he dodges us this time, though he were Beelzebub himself! Pull for the red water !!!
· As I spoke, the fury of the animal seemed suddenly to die away.
He paused in his career, and lay passive on the waves, with his arching back thrown up like the ridge of a mountain. "The old sog's lying to ! I cried, exultingly. Spring, boys! spring now, and we have him! All my clothes, tobacco, every thing I've got, shall be yours, only lay me ʼlongside that whale before another boat comes up! My grimky! what a hump! Only look at the irons in his back! No, do n't look — PULL! Now, boys, if you care about seeing your sweethearts and wives in old Nantuck! if you love Yankee-land love me — pull ahead, wont ye? Now then, to the thwarts ! Lay back, my boys! I feel ye, my hearties! Give her the touch! Only five seas off! Not five seas off! One minute - half a minute more! Softly
no noise! Softly with your oars ! That will do * And as the words were uttered, I raised the harpoon above my head, took a rapid but no less certain aim, and sent it, hissing, deep into his thick white side!
• Stern all! for your lives!' I shouted; for at the instant the steel quivered in his body, the wounded leviathan plunged his head beneath the surface, and whirling around with great velocity, smote the sea violently, with fin and fluke, in a convulsion of rage and pain.'
• Our little boat flew dancing back from the seething vortex around him, just in season to escape being overwhelmed or crushed. He now started to run. For a short time, the line rasped, smoking, through the chocks. A few turns round the loggerhead then secured it; and with oars a-peak, and bows tilted to the sea, we went leaping onward in the wake of the tethered monster. Vain were all his struggles to break from our hold. The strands were too strong, the barbed iron too deeply fleshed, to give way. So that whether he essayed to dive or breach, or dash madly forward, the frantic creature still felt that he was held in check. At one moment, in impotent rage, he reared his immense blunt head, covered with barnacles, high above the surge; while his jaws fell together with a crash that almost made me shiver; then the upper outline of his vast form was dimly seen, gliding amidst showers of sparkling spray; while streaks of crimson on the white surf that boiled in his track, told that the shaft had been driven home.
* By this time, the whole 'school' was about us; and spouts from a hundred spiracles, with a roar that almost deafened us, were raining on every side; while in the midst of a vast surface of chafing sea, might be seen the black shapes of the rampant herd, tossing and plunging, like a legion of maddened demons. The second and third mates were in the very centre of this appalling commotion.
* At length, Dick began to lessen his impetuous speed. Now, my boys,' cried I,'haul me on; wet the line, you second oarsman, as it comes in. Haul away, ship-mates ! — why the devil do n't you
haul ? Leeward side – leeward! I tell you! Do n't you know how to approach a whale ?'
The boat brought fairly up upon his broadside as I spoke, and I gave him the lance just under the shoulder blade. At this moment, just as the boat's head was laid off; and I was straitening for a second lunge, my lance, which I had · boned' in the first, a piercing cry from the boat-steerer drew my attention quickly aft, and I saw the waistboat, or more properly a fragment of it, falling through the air, and
underneath, the dusky forms of the struggling crew, grasping at the oars, or clinging to portions of the wreck; while a pair of Aukes, descending in the midst of the confusion, fully accounted for the catastrophe. The boat had been struck and shattered by a whale !
"Good heaven !' I exclaimed, with impatience, and in a tone which I fear showed me rather mortified at the interruption, than touched with proper feeling for the sufferers ; 'good heavens ! — had n't they sense enough to keep out of the red water! And I must lose this glorious prize, through their infernal stupidity! This was the first outbreak of my selfishness. ""But we must not see them drown, boys,'I added, upon
the instant; 'cut the line !' The order had barely passed my lips, when I caught sight of the captain, who had seen the accident from the quarter-deck, bearing down with oar and sail to the rescue.
• Hold on!' I thundered, just as the knife's edge touched the line; for the glory of old Nantuck, hold on ! The captain will pick them up, and Mocha Dick will be ours, after all !'
• This affair occurred in half the interval I have occupied in the relation. In the mean time, with the exception of a slight shudder, which once or twice shook his ponderous frame, Dick lay perfectly quiet upon the water. But suddenly, as though goaded into exertion by some fiercer pang, he started from his lethargy with apparently augmented power. Making a leap toward the boat, he darted
perpendicularly downward, hurling the after oarsman, who was helmsman at the time, ten feet over the quarter, as he struck the long steering-oar in his descent. The unfortunate seaman fell, with his head forward, just upon the flukes of the whale, as he vanished, and was drawn down by suction of the closing waters, as if he had been a feather. After being carried to a great depth, as we inferred from the time he remained below the surface, he came up, panting and exhausted, and was dragged on board, amidst the hearty congratulations of his comrades.
* By this time two hundred fathoms of line had been carried spinning through the chocks, with an impetus that gave back in steam the water cast upon it. Still the gigantic creature bored his
downward, with undiminished speed. Coil after coil went over, and was swallowed up. There remained but three flakes in the tub!
“Cut!' I shouted; 'cut quick, or he'll take us down!' But as I spoke, the hissing line flew with trebled velocity through the smoking wood, jerking the knife he was in the act of applying to the beated strands out of the hand of the boat-steerer. The boat rose on end, and her bows were buried in an instant; a hurried ejaculation, at once shriek and prayer, rose to the lips of the bravest, when, unexpected mercy! the whizzing cord lost its tension, and our light bark, half filled with water, fell heavily back on her keel. A tear was in every eye, and I believe every heart bounded with gratitude, at this unlooked-for deliverance.
Overpowered by his wounds, and exhausted by his exertions and the enormous pressure of the water above him, the immense creature was compelled to turn once more upward, for a fresh supply of air. And upward he came, indeed ; shooting twenty feet of his gigantic length above the waves, by the impulse of his ascent. He was not