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Moby Dick

12. Biographical
Queequeg was a native of Rokovoko, an island far away to the West and South. It is not
down in any map; true places never are.
When a new-hatched savage running wild about his native woodlands in a grass clout,
followed by the nibbling goats, as if he were a green sapling; even then, in Queequeg's
ambitious soul, lurked a strong desire to see something more of Christendom than a
specimen whaler or two. His father was a High Chief, a King; his uncle a High Priest;
and on the maternal side he boasted aunts who were the wives of unconquerable
warriors. There was excellent blood in his veins--royal stuff; though sadly vitiated, I fear,
by the cannibal propensity he nourished in his untutored youth.
A Sag Harbor ship visited his father's bay, and Queequeg sought a passage to Christian
lands. But the ship, having her full complement of seamen, spurned his suit; and not all
the King his father's influence could prevail. But Queequeg vowed a vow. Alone in his
canoe, he paddled off to a distant strait, which he knew the ship must pass through
when she quitted the island. On one side was a coral reef; on the other a low tongue of
land, covered with mangrove thickets that grew out into the water. Hiding his canoe, still
afloat, among these thickets, with its prow seaward, he sat down in the stern, paddle
low in hand; and when the ship was gliding by, like a flash he darted out; gained her
side; with one backward dash of his foot capsized and sank his canoe; climbed up the
chains; and throwing himself at full length upon the deck, grappled a ring-bolt there, and
swore not to let it go, though hacked in pieces.
In vain the captain threatened to throw him overboard; suspended a cutlass over his
naked wrists; Queequeg was the son of a King, and Queequeg budged not. Struck by
his desperate dauntlessness, and his wild desire to visit Christendom, the captain at last
relented, and told him he might make himself at home. But this fine young savage--this
sea Prince of Wales, never saw the Captain's cabin. They put him down among the
sailors, and made a whaleman of him. But like Czar Peter content to toil in the shipyards
of foreign cities, Queequeg disdained no seeming ignominy, if thereby he might happily
gain the power of enlightening his untutored countrymen. For at bottom--so he told me--
he was actuated by a profound desire to learn among the Christians, the arts whereby
to make his people still happier than they were; and more than that, still better than they
were. But, alas! the practices of whalemen soon convinced him that even Christians
could be both miserable and wicked; infinitely more so, than all his father's heathens.
Arrived at last in old Sag Harbor; and seeing what the sailors did there; and then going
on to Nantucket, and seeing how they spent their wages in that place also, poor
Queequeg gave it up for lost. Thought he, it's a wicked world in all meridians; I'll die a
pagan.
 
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