Moby Dick HTML version

11. Nightgown
We had lain thus in bed, chatting and napping at short intervals, and Queequeg now
and then affectionately throwing his brown tattooed legs over mine, and then drawing
them back; so entirely sociable and free and easy were we; when, at last, by reason of
our confabulations, what little nappishness remained in us altogether departed, and we
felt like getting up again, though day-break was yet some way down the future.
Yes, we became very wakeful; so much so that our recumbent position began to grow
wearisome, and by little and little we found ourselves sitting up; the clothes well tucked
around us, leaning against the head-board with our four knees drawn up close together,
and our two noses bending over them, as if our kneepans were warming-pans. We felt
very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed out of bed-
clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room. The more so, I say, because truly
to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in
this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter
yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you
cannot be said to be comfortable any more. But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed,
the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed, in
the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm. For this
reason a sleeping apartment should never be furnished with a fire, which is one of the
luxurious discomforts of the rich. For the height of this sort of deliciousness is to have
nothing but the blanket between you and your snugness and the cold of the outer air.
Then there you lie like the one warm spark in the heart of an arctic crystal.
We had been sitting in this crouching manner for some time, when all at once I thought I
would open my eyes; for when between sheets, whether by day or by night, and
whether asleep or awake, I have a way of always keeping my eyes shut, in order the
more to concentrate the snugness of being in bed. Because no man can ever feel his
own identity aright except his eyes be closed; as if darkness were indeed the proper
element of our essences, though light be more congenial to our clayey part. Upon
opening my eyes then, and coming out of my own pleasant and self-created darkness
into the imposed and coarse outer gloom of the unilluminated twelve-o'clock-at-night, I
experienced a disagreeable revulsion. Nor did I at all object to the hint from Queequeg
that perhaps it were best to strike a light, seeing that we were so wide awake; and
besides he felt a strong desire to have a few quiet puffs from his Tomahawk. Be it said,
that though I had felt such a strong repugnance to his smoking in the bed the night
before, yet see how elastic our stiff prejudices grow when love once comes to bend
them. For now I liked nothing better than to have Queequeg smoking by me, even in
bed, because he seemed to be full of such serene household joy then. I no more felt
unduly concerned for the landlord's policy of insurance. I was only alive to the
condensed confidential comfortableness of sharing a pipe and a blanket with a real
friend. With our shaggy jackets drawn about our shoulders, we now passed the
Tomahawk from one to the other, till slowly there grew over us a blue hanging tester of
smoke, illuminated by the flame of the new-lit lamp.