17. The Ramadan
As Queequeg's Ramadan, or Fasting and Humiliation, was to continue all day, I did not
choose to disturb him till towards night-fall; for I cherish the greatest respect towards
everybody's religious obligations, never mind how comical, and could not find it in my
heart to undervalue even a congregation of ants worshipping a toad-stool; or those
other creatures in certain parts of our earth, who with a degree of footmanism quite
unprecedented in other planets, bow down before the torso of a deceased landed
proprietor merely on account of the inordinate possessions yet owned and rented in his
I say, we good Presbyterian Christians should be charitable in these things, and not
fancy ourselves so vastly superior to other mortals, pagans and what not, because of
their half-crazy conceits on these subjects. There was Queequeg, now, certainly
entertaining the most absurd notions about Yojo and his Ramadan;--but what of that?
Queequeg thought he knew what he was about, I suppose; he seemed to be content;
and there let him rest. All our arguing with him would not avail; let him be, I say: and
Heaven have mercy on us all--Presbyterians and Pagans alike--for we are all somehow
dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.
Towards evening, when I felt assured that all his performances and rituals must be over,
I went up to his room and knocked at the door; but no answer. I tried to open it, but it
was fastened inside. "Queequeg," said I softly through the key-hole:--all silent. "I say,
Queequeg! why don't you speak? It's I--Ishmael." But all remained still as before. I
began to grow alarmed. I had allowed him such abundant time; I thought he might have
had an apoplectic fit. I looked through the key-hole; but the door opening into an odd
corner of the room, the key-hole prospect was but a crooked and sinister one. I could
only see part of the foot-board of the bed and a line of the wall, but nothing more. I was
surprised to behold resting against the wall the wooden shaft of Queequeg's harpoon,
which the landlady the evening previous had taken from him, before our mounting to the
chamber. That's strange, thought I; but at any rate, since the harpoon stands yonder,
and he seldom or never goes abroad without it, therefore he must be inside here, and
no possible mistake.
"Queequeg!--Queequeg!"--all still. Something must have happened. Apoplexy! I tried to
burst open the door; but it stubbornly resisted. Running down stairs, I quickly stated my
suspicions to the first person I met--the chamber-maid. "La! la!" she cried, "I thought
something must be the matter. I went to make the bed after breakfast, and the door was
locked; and not a mouse to be heard; and it's been just so silent ever since. But I
thought, may be, you had both gone off and locked your baggage in for safe keeping.
La! la, ma'am!--Mistress! murder! Mrs. Hussey! apoplexy!"--and with these cries, she
ran towards the kitchen, I following.