Chapter 73 Stubb & Flask Kill a Right Whale

        It will be remembered that Captain Ahab took a secret crew aboard the Pequod as stowaways for his unauthorized personal whaleboat . Ishmael and Queequeg thought they saw them, recollecting shadowy figures on Old North Wharf at Nantucket -- but it was Elijah who knew what was going on. His warnings of danger to their souls was scoffed at then, but lately the stowaways emerged from hiding in the after-hold -- five swarthy Parsees from Asia Minor, led by the devil himself, in the person of turbanned, fang-toothed Fedallah.

        In this chapter we find that Fedallah has a commanding influence over Ahab. A ship that simultaneously carries a Sperm Whale's head and a Right Whale's head suspended on either side -- that ship, confides Fedallah mysteriously, can never capsize. Now the Pequod just happens to be carrying the severed head of Stubb's Sperm whale dangling on one side, so we may be sure that Ahab will give the order -- disdainful to the foc'stle hands -- to find and kill a Right Whale. In fact, to Stubb this ignoble Leviathan was a mere "lump of foul lard".

        The Pequod's owners have not commissioned Ahab to hunt Right Whales, whose oil is inferior to Sperm Whale oil. So when Stubb and Flask, in obedience to Ahab, put out in their boats after a Right Whale, we may be sure that there will be much "scuttlebutt" between them -- and among the rest of the crew -- on yet another weird turn of events.

        Well, on cue, a Right Whale presents itself at the wrong place and the wrong time and winds up harpooned, lanced, and dispatched. Stubb wonders what the old man wants with the lump of foul lard, and Flask has the pleasure of recounting the scuttlebutt about a Sperm Whale's head on the starboard side and a Right Whale's head on the larboard side -- just as he overheard it from the hissing, whispering Fedallah.

        Stubb confides to Flask that he is sure that Fedallah is the devil in disguise -- and that if he has the opportunity, he will shove Fedallah overboard some dark night. "Do you believe that cock and bull story, Flask, about his having been stowed away aboard ship? He's the devil I say." "What's the old man have so much to do with him for?" asks Flask. "Striking up a swap or bargain I suppose." "Bargain? -- about what?" "Why, do ye see, the old man is hard bent after the White Whale, and the devil there is trying to come round him, and get him to swap away his silver watch, or his soul, and then he'll surrender Moby Dick."

        And there we have it -- the classical Faustian Bargain. Ahab has sold his soul to the devil in return for revenge on Moby Dick. There ensues considerable speculation between Stubb and Flask as to just how Fedallah hides his tail, and just how many thousands of years old he might be. Stubb blusters loud and long about how he will tear his tail off, but Flask has his doubts about that.

        In due time, the Pequod sported a severed head of a Sperm Whale on her starboard side, and a severed head of a Right Whale on her larboard side, regaining her even keel. No whale-bone from the Right Whale was kept. "The carcases [sic] of both whales had dropped astern; and the head-laden ship not a little resembled a mule carrying a pair of overburdening panniers."

        Melville cannot resist preaching, "Oh ye foolish! throw all these thunderheads overboard [meaning the classical philosophers], and then you will float light and right."

        Meantime, Fedallah's shadow blended with that of Ahab's, and the superstitious crew was convinced that the Parsee was capable of banishing his own shadow.