19. The Prophet
"Shipmates, have ye shipped in that ship?"
Queequeg and I had just left the Pequod, and were sauntering away from the water, for
the moment each occupied with his own thoughts, when the above words were put to us
by a stranger, who, pausing before us, levelled his massive forefinger at the vessel in
question. He was but shabbily apparelled in faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag of
a black handkerchief investing his neck. A confluent small-pox had in all directions
flowed over his face, and left it like the complicated ribbed bed of a torrent, when the
rushing waters have been dried up.
"Have ye shipped in her?" he repeated.
"You mean the ship Pequod, I suppose," said I, trying to gain a little more time for an
uninterrupted look at him.
"Aye, the Pequod--that ship there," he said, drawing back his whole arm, and then
rapidly shoving it straight out from him, with the fixed bayonet of his pointed finger
darted full at the object.
"Yes," said I, "we have just signed the articles."
"Anything down there about your souls?"
"Oh, perhaps you hav'n't got any," he said quickly. "No matter though, I know many
chaps that hav'n't got any,--good luck to 'em; and they are all the better off for it. A
soul's a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon."
"What are you jabbering about, shipmate?" said I.
"HE'S got enough, though, to make up for all deficiencies of that sort in other chaps,"
abruptly said the stranger, placing a nervous emphasis upon the word HE.
"Queequeg," said I, "let's go; this fellow has broken loose from somewhere; he's talking
about something and somebody we don't know."
"Stop!" cried the stranger. "Ye said true--ye hav'n't seen Old Thunder yet, have ye?"
"Who's Old Thunder?" said I, again riveted with the insane earnestness of his manner.