Moby Dick HTML version

4. The Counterpane
Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg's arm thrown over me in
the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost thought I had been his wife.
The counterpane was of patchwork, full of odd little parti-coloured squares and
triangles; and this arm of his tattooed all over with an interminable Cretan labyrinth of a
figure, no two parts of which were of one precise shade--owing I suppose to his keeping
his arm at sea unmethodically in sun and shade, his shirt sleeves irregularly rolled up at
various times--this same arm of his, I say, looked for all the world like a strip of that
same patchwork quilt. Indeed, partly lying on it as the arm did when I first awoke, I could
hardly tell it from the quilt, they so blended their hues together; and it was only by the
sense of weight and pressure that I could tell that Queequeg was hugging me.
My sensations were strange. Let me try to explain them. When I was a child, I well
remember a somewhat similar circumstance that befell me; whether it was a reality or a
dream, I never could entirely settle. The circumstance was this. I had been cutting up
some caper or other--I think it was trying to crawl up the chimney, as I had seen a little
sweep do a few days previous; and my stepmother who, somehow or other, was all the
time whipping me, or sending me to bed supperless,--my mother dragged me by the
legs out of the chimney and packed me off to bed, though it was only two o'clock in the
afternoon of the 21st June, the longest day in the year in our hemisphere. I felt
dreadfully. But there was no help for it, so up stairs I went to my little room in the third
floor, undressed myself as slowly as possible so as to kill time, and with a bitter sigh got
between the sheets.
I lay there dismally calculating that sixteen entire hours must elapse before I could hope
for a resurrection. Sixteen hours in bed! the small of my back ached to think of it. And it
was so light too; the sun shining in at the window, and a great rattling of coaches in the
streets, and the sound of gay voices all over the house. I felt worse and worse--at last I
got up, dressed, and softly going down in my stockinged feet, sought out my
stepmother, and suddenly threw myself at her feet, beseeching her as a particular
favour to give me a good slippering for my misbehaviour; anything indeed but
condemning me to lie abed such an unendurable length of time. But she was the best
and most conscientious of stepmothers, and back I had to go to my room. For several
hours I lay there broad awake, feeling a great deal worse than I have ever done since,
even from the greatest subsequent misfortunes. At last I must have fallen into a troubled
nightmare of a doze; and slowly waking from it--half steeped in dreams--I opened my
eyes, and the before sun-lit room was now wrapped in outer darkness. Instantly I felt a
shock running through all my frame; nothing was to be seen, and nothing was to be
heard; but a supernatural hand seemed placed in mine. My arm hung over the
counterpane, and the nameless, unimaginable, silent form or phantom, to which the
hand belonged, seemed closely seated by my bed-side. For what seemed ages piled on
ages, I lay there, frozen with the most awful fears, not daring to drag away my hand; yet
ever thinking that if I could but stir it one single inch, the horrid spell would be broken. I
knew not how this consciousness at last glided away from me; but waking in the