Chapter 18 His Mark

        As the odd couple approaches the Pequod, the voices of Captains Peleg and Bildad are heard warning that no cannibals are allowed aboard "unless they show their papers". The meaning of this became plain when Captain Bildad says to Queequeg, "Son of darkness, art thou at present in communion with any Christian church?" [Religion again!]

        Ishmael says that Queequeg is a member of the First Congregational Church -- "I mean, sir, the same ancient Catholic Church to which you and I, and Captain Peleg there, and Queequeg here, and every mother's son and soul of us belong, the great and everlasting First Congregation of the whole worshipping world; we all belong to that . . ."

        To that, says Peleg, "Young man, you'd better ship for a missionary, instead of a foremast hand. I never heard a better sermon -- why Father Mapple himself couldn't beat it, and he's reckoned something. Come aboard. By the great anchor, what a harpoon he's got there! looks like good stuff that; and he handles it about right. I say, Quohog, or whatever your name is, did you ever stand in the head of a whale-boat? did you ever strike a fish?" Queequeg jumped into one of the whaleboats and cried out, "Cap'ain, you see him small drop tar on water dere? well, spose him one whale eye, well, den!" and taking sharp aim at it, he darted the iron right over old Bildad's broad brim, clean across the ship's decks, and struck the glistening tar spot out of sight. "Now," said Queequeg, "why dad whale dead." ***

        "Quick, Bildad," said Peleg, "get the ship's papers, we must have Hedgehog there in one of our boats. Look ye, Quohog, we'll give ye the 90th lay -- and that's more than ever was given a harpooneer yet out of Nantucket. I say, Quohog, blast ye! dost thou sign the name or make thy mark?" Queequeg copied upon the paper a "queer round figure" which was tattooed upon his arm. [Printers substitute a cross for Melville's manuscript "queer round figure" which is lost.]

        Bildad feels obligated to preach true religion to the newly-shipped cannibal, saying, "Son of darkness, I feel concerned for the souls of the crew if thou still clingest to thy Pagan ways. I beseech thee, remain not for aye a Belial bondsman [worshipper of Satan]. Steer clear of the fiery pit!" [The reader will learn that Bildad would have protected the souls of his crew better by preaching that sermon to Captain Ahab, not Queequeg.]

        "Avast there, Bildad, avast now spoiling our harpooneer," cried Peleg. "Pious harpooneers never make good voyagers. They get frightened about their souls in case they get sent to Davey Jones" [drown at sea]. "Peleg," said Bildad. "Tell me, when this same Pequod here had her three masts overboard in that typhoon off Japan, when thou went mate with Captain Ahab, didst thou not think of Death and Judgment then?"

        "No! no time to think about Death and Judgment then. Life was what Captain Ahab and I was thinking of; -- how to save all hands." Bildad said no more.

***Queequeg says this "quietly hauling in the line". WHAT LINE?! Melville has never mentioned, in all his references to Queequeg's harpoon, a coil of line sufficient to retrieve the harpoon cast some 60 feet into the water! Return to text