Moby Dick HTML version

13. Wheelbarrow
Next morning, Monday, after disposing of the embalmed head to a barber, for a block, I
settled my own and comrade's bill; using, however, my comrade's money. The grinning
landlord, as well as the boarders, seemed amazingly tickled at the sudden friendship
which had sprung up between me and Queequeg--especially as Peter Coffin's cock and
bull stories about him had previously so much alarmed me concerning the very person
whom I now companied with.
We borrowed a wheelbarrow, and embarking our things, including my own poor carpet-
bag, and Queequeg's canvas sack and hammock, away we went down to "the Moss,"
the little Nantucket packet schooner moored at the wharf. As we were going along the
people stared; not at Queequeg so much--for they were used to seeing cannibals like
him in their streets,--but at seeing him and me upon such confidential terms. But we
heeded them not, going along wheeling the barrow by turns, and Queequeg now and
then stopping to adjust the sheath on his harpoon barbs. I asked him why he carried
such a troublesome thing with him ashore, and whether all whaling ships did not find
their own harpoons. To this, in substance, he replied, that though what I hinted was true
enough, yet he had a particular affection for his own harpoon, because it was of
assured stuff, well tried in many a mortal combat, and deeply intimate with the hearts of
whales. In short, like many inland reapers and mowers, who go into the farmers'
meadows armed with their own scythes--though in no wise obliged to furnish them--
even so, Queequeg, for his own private reasons, preferred his own harpoon.
Shifting the barrow from my hand to his, he told me a funny story about the first
wheelbarrow he had ever seen. It was in Sag Harbor. The owners of his ship, it seems,
had lent him one, in which to carry his heavy chest to his boarding house. Not to seem
ignorant about the thing--though in truth he was entirely so, concerning the precise way
in which to manage the barrow--Queequeg puts his chest upon it; lashes it fast; and
then shoulders the barrow and marches up the wharf. "Why," said I, "Queequeg, you
might have known better than that, one would think. Didn't the people laugh?"
Upon this, he told me another story. The people of his island of Rokovoko, it seems, at
their wedding feasts express the fragrant water of young cocoanuts into a large stained
calabash like a punchbowl; and this punchbowl always forms the great central ornament
on the braided mat where the feast is held. Now a certain grand merchant ship once
touched at Rokovoko, and its commander--from all accounts, a very stately punctilious
gentleman, at least for a sea captain--this commander was invited to the wedding feast
of Queequeg's sister, a pretty young princess just turned of ten. Well; when all the
wedding guests were assembled at the bride's bamboo cottage, this Captain marches
in, and being assigned the post of honour, placed himself over against the punchbowl,
and between the High Priest and his majesty the King, Queequeg's father. Grace being
said,--for those people have their grace as well as we--though Queequeg told me that
unlike us, who at such times look downwards to our platters, they, on the contrary,
copying the ducks, glance upwards to the great Giver of all feasts--Grace, I say, being