Chapter 20 All Astir

        In preparation for a whaling voyage that might extend to four year's duration, there was a flurry of activity in fitting out the Pequod with "a multitude of things -- beds, saucepans, knives and forks, shovels and tongs, napkins, nut-crackers, and what not . . ."

        "It must be remembered, that of all ships, whaling vessels are the most exposed to accidents of all kinds, and especially to the destruction and loss of the very things upon which the success of the voyage most depends. Hence, the spare boats, spare spars, and spare lines and harpoons, and spare everythings but a spare Captain and duplicate ship. For some time there was a continual fetching and carrying on board of divers odds and ends of things, both large and small.

        "Chief among those who did this fetching and carrying was Captain Bildad's sister, Aunt Charity. Never did a woman better deserve her name. She would turn her hand and heart to anything that promised to yield safety, comfort, and consolation to all on board a ship in which her beloved brother Bildad was concerned, and in which she herself owned a score or two of well-saved dollars. But it was startling to see this excellent hearted Quakeress coming on board, as she did the last day, with a long oil-ladle in one hand, and a still longer whaling lance in the other.

        "As for Bildad, he carried about with him a long list of the articles needed, and at every fresh arrival, down went his mark opposite that article upon the paper. Every once and a while Peleg came hobbling out of his whale-bone den, roaring at the men down the hatchways, roaring up to the riggers at the mast-head, and then concluded by roaring back into his wigwam." [Naming the ship for a massacred New England Indian tribe, and putting a white man in a wigwam -- a typical Indian shelter -- on its deck reveals how important to the author is his observation that the white man has not only displaced the red man from his native land -- but has unashamedly adopted some of the Indian's ways of coping with the harsh life in the New World. The art and craft of whaling is, of course, one of those adopted ways, taken to its extreme by consequence of superior technology -- and by a greed seemingly peculiar to the inheritors of the European colonial invasions.]

        "During these days of preparation, Queequeg and I [Ishmael] often visited the craft, and as often I asked about Captain Ahab, and how he was, and when he was going to come on board his ship. To these questions they would answer that he was getting better and better [word was that Ahab was "sick"] -- and he was expected on board almost any day now. Ishmael becomes unsettled to think he has signed for so long a voyage without laying eyes on the man who would be his "dictator". Melville inserts the observation that if a man suspects something is wrong, but is already involved in the matter, ''he insensibly strives [like Ishmael] to cover up his suspicions even from himself." Recalls Ishmael, "I said nothing, and tried to think nothing." The ship was to sail on the morrow.