Moby Dick HTML version

10. A Bosom Friend
Returning to the Spouter-Inn from the Chapel, I found Queequeg there quite alone; he
having left the Chapel before the benediction some time. He was sitting on a bench
before the fire, with his feet on the stove hearth, and in one hand was holding close up
to his face that little negro idol of his; peering hard into its face, and with a jack-knife
gently whittling away at its nose, meanwhile humming to himself in his heathenish way.
But being now interrupted, he put up the image; and pretty soon, going to the table, took
up a large book there, and placing it on his lap began counting the pages with deliberate
regularity; at every fiftieth page--as I fancied--stopping a moment, looking vacantly
around him, and giving utterance to a long-drawn gurgling whistle of astonishment. He
would then begin again at the next fifty; seeming to commence at number one each
time, as though he could not count more than fifty, and it was only by such a large
number of fifties being found together, that his astonishment at the multitude of pages
was excited.
With much interest I sat watching him. Savage though he was, and hideously marred
about the face--at least to my taste--his countenance yet had a something in it which
was by no means disagreeable. You cannot hide the soul. Through all his unearthly
tattooings, I thought I saw the traces of a simple honest heart; and in his large, deep
eyes, fiery black and bold, there seemed tokens of a spirit that would dare a thousand
devils. And besides all this, there was a certain lofty bearing about the Pagan, which
even his uncouthness could not altogether maim. He looked like a man who had never
cringed and never had had a creditor. Whether it was, too, that his head being shaved,
his forehead was drawn out in freer and brighter relief, and looked more expansive than
it otherwise would, this I will not venture to decide; but certain it was his head was
phrenologically an excellent one. It may seem ridiculous, but it reminded me of General
Washington's head, as seen in the popular busts of him. It had the same long regularly
graded retreating slope from above the brows, which were likewise very projecting, like
two long promontories thickly wooded on top. Queequeg was George Washington
cannibalistically developed.
Whilst I was thus closely scanning him, half-pretending meanwhile to be looking out at
the storm from the casement, he never heeded my presence, never troubled himself
with so much as a single glance; but appeared wholly occupied with counting the pages
of the marvellous book. Considering how sociably we had been sleeping together the
night previous, and especially considering the affectionate arm I had found thrown over
me upon waking in the morning, I thought this indifference of his very strange. But
savages are strange beings; at times you do not know exactly how to take them. At first
they are overawing; their calm self-collectedness of simplicity seems a Socratic wisdom.
I had noticed also that Queequeg never consorted at all, or but very little, with the other
seamen in the inn. He made no advances whatever; appeared to have no desire to
enlarge the circle of his acquaintances. All this struck me as mighty singular; yet, upon
second thoughts, there was something almost sublime in it. Here was a man some