Chapter 22 Merry Christmas

        The Pequod is towed away from the wharf, the riggers having been dismissed, and Aunt Charity departs the ship in a whale-boat. Captains Peleg and Bildad issue from the cabin and turn to the chief mate. "Now, Mr. Starbuck, are you sure everything is right? Captain Ahab is all ready -- just spoke to him. Well, call all hands, then. Muster 'em aft here, blast 'em!" "No need of profane words, Peleg," said Bildad. "Away with thee, friend Starbuck, and do our bidding."

        The presence of the Captain was by no means necessary to get the ship under weigh [the anchor is weighed -- lifted up; so "under weigh" not "under way", but "give way" means allow room to pass]. It is the harbor pilot's business to steer the ship clear to deep water, not the Captain's.

        "Aft here, ye sons of bachelors," cried Peleg. "Mr. Starbuck, drive 'em aft. Strike the tent there!" -- the order well known to be the next thing to heaving up the anchor. "Man the capstan! Blood and thunder! -- jump!" -- and the crew sprang for the handspikes.

        Bildad, like Peleg, was a licensed pilot of the port of Nantucket -- to save the pilot-fee. He watched for the anchor, singing a dismal hymn, while the hands at the windlass "roared forth some sort of chorus about the girls in Booble Alley, with hearty good will" -- despite Bildad's prohibition of profane songs on the Pequod, particularly in getting under weigh.

        Ishmael pauses on his hand spike, and gets a swift kick -- his first -- from Peleg. "Spring, thou sheep-head! Spring, Quohog! Spring all of ye, I say!"

        At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a short, cold Christmas as the short northern day merged into night, and we found ourselves broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing spray cased us in ice. [Note the symbolism of the ship's departure on Christmas Day -- as if to suggest a portentous birthday.] Finally the ship "gained such an offing" [got far enough out into deep, safe water] that the two pilots were no longer needed, and they made ready to leave the Pequod for the sailboat that had been following them for that purpose.

        Both Captains Bildad and Peleg became teary-eyed at the prospect of leaving their ship (in which they had thousands of hard-earned dollars invested) -- a ship bound on so long and perilous a voyage beyond the stormy capes. But at last, Peleg turned to his comrade -- "Captain Bildad -- come old shipmate, we must go. Back the mainyard there! Boat ahoy! Luck to ye, Starbuck -- luck to ye, Mr. Stubb -- luck to ye Mr. Flask -- goodbye and good luck to ye all -- and this day three years I'll have a hot supper smoking for ye in old Nantucket!" Last was Bildad: "God bless ye. Be careful in the hunt, ye mates; don't stave the boats needlessly, ye harpooneers. Don't whale it too much a' Lord's days, men, but don't miss a fair chance, either. Be careful with the butter -- 20 cents the pound..."

        "We gave three heavy-hearted cheers, and blindly plunged like Fate into the lone Atlantic."