Chapter 16 The Ship

        Queequeg's little idol, Yojo, had decided that it was up to Ishmael to select a Nantucket whaleship. Queequeg remains in the room with Yojo to observe his "Ramadan", his religious holiday. Ishmael goes to the wharves and infallibly picks out the ill-fated ship Pequod. "Pequod was the name of a celebrated tribe of Massachusetts Indians, now extinct . . ."

        "You never saw such a rare, quaint craft as the Pequod . . . her ancient decks were worn and wrinkled . . . a cannibal of a craft whose open bulwarks were garnished with the long sharp teeth of the sperm whale. A noble craft, but most melancholy! All noble things are touched with that." In a sort of wigwam on the Pequod's deck sat -- not the last Nantucket Indian -- but old Quaker Captain Peleg. "I see thou art no Nantucketer," says he, "ever been in a stove boat?" Full of Quakerish insular prejudices and distrustful of aliens, he asks, "Didst not rob thy last Captain didst thou? Have ye clapped eye on Captain Ahab? He is Captain of this ship. Thou wilt find he has only one leg -- it was chewed off by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a boat! -- ah, ah!"

        Satisfied that Ishmael is determined to "go a-whaling", Captain Peleg takes him before the other owner of the Pequod, Captain Bildad. [Nantucketers owned shares in whaling vessels -- widows and fatherless children, as well as wealthy Main-Street shipowners such as the Joseph Starbucks and the Zenas Coffins -- here represented by Scripture-named Peleg and Bildad. "They are fighting Quakers; they are Quakers with a vengeance." Melville is incorrect, however, to say that the island was originally settled by Quakers. The original settlers in 1659 had no formal church on the island for fifty years.]

        Tough old Quaker in Broad-brimmed hat and coat-tails, former harpooneer, boat-header, chief-mate, and finally Captain, Bildad the skin-flint, wealthy Nantucket shipowner, pretends to dicker with Peleg concerning what Ishmael is to be paid. [All hands received shares of the profits called lays. Being a "green hand", Ishmael expects at least the 275th lay, that is the 275th part of the clear net proceeds of the voyage.] Bildad only mumbles the scriptural "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth . . ." Mockingly, Peleg demands to know what lay to offer Ishmael, and gets "the 777th lay wouldn't be too much would it?"

        After a comical, fake, slap-stick argument, the shrewd Quakers get Ishmael to settle for the 300th lay, whereupon he signs papers and promises to bring Queequeg to sign also. Then Ishmael asks about Captain Ahab. "Mark ye, be forewarned; Ahab's above the common; fixed his lance in stranger foes than whales; he's Ahab of old, boy!" To which Ishmael replies, "The dogs, did they not lick Ahab's blood when that wicked king of old was slain?" "Wrong not Captain Ahab for his wicked name. 'Twas a foolish whim of his crazy, widowed mother -- and yet the old squaw Tistig said that name would somehow prove prophetic." Ishmael leaves the ship in "strange awe" of the unseen Captain Ahab.