20. All Astir
A day or two passed, and there was great activity aboard the Pequod. Not only were the
old sails being mended, but new sails were coming on board, and bolts of canvas, and
coils of rigging; in short, everything betokened that the ship's preparations were hurrying
to a close. Captain Peleg seldom or never went ashore, but sat in his wigwam keeping a
sharp look-out upon the hands: Bildad did all the purchasing and providing at the stores;
and the men employed in the hold and on the rigging were working till long after night-
On the day following Queequeg's signing the articles, word was given at all the inns
where the ship's company were stopping, that their chests must be on board before
night, for there was no telling how soon the vessel might be sailing. So Queequeg and I
got down our traps, resolving, however, to sleep ashore till the last. But it seems they
always give very long notice in these cases, and the ship did not sail for several days.
But no wonder; there was a good deal to be done, and there is no telling how many
things to be thought of, before the Pequod was fully equipped.
Every one knows what a multitude of things--beds, sauce-pans, knives and forks,
shovels and tongs, napkins, nut-crackers, and what not, are indispensable to the
business of housekeeping. Just so with whaling, which necessitates a three-years'
housekeeping upon the wide ocean, far from all grocers, costermongers, doctors,
bakers, and bankers. And though this also holds true of merchant vessels, yet not by
any means to the same extent as with whalemen. For besides the great length of the
whaling voyage, the numerous articles peculiar to the prosecution of the fishery, and the
impossibility of replacing them at the remote harbors usually frequented, it must be
remembered, that of all ships, whaling vessels are the most exposed to accidents of all
kinds, and especially to the destruction and loss of the very things upon which the
success of the voyage most depends. Hence, the spare boats, spare spars, and spare
lines and harpoons, and spare everythings, almost, but a spare Captain and duplicate
At the period of our arrival at the Island, the heaviest storage of the Pequod had been
almost completed; comprising her beef, bread, water, fuel, and iron hoops and staves.
But, as before hinted, for some time there was a continual fetching and carrying on
board of divers odds and ends of things, both large and small.
Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was Captain Bildad's sister, a lean
old lady of a most determined and indefatigable spirit, but withal very kindhearted, who
seemed resolved that, if SHE could help it, nothing should be found wanting in the
Pequod, after once fairly getting to sea. At one time she would come on board with a jar
of pickles for the steward's pantry; another time with a bunch of quills for the chief
mate's desk, where he kept his log; a third time with a roll of flannel for the small of
some one's rheumatic back. Never did any woman better deserve her name, which was