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Chapter 90: Heads or Tails is a case study of English whaling law. It is exactly as thrilling as it sounds.

Short version: sometimes English lords take whalemen's whales just to be dicks.

Chapter 91: The Pequod Meets the Rose-Bud is far more entertaining, if only because over a hundred years have passed since this book was written.

The Pequod is sailing along when a truly rank smell starts to come in off the sea breeze. Shortly thereafter, they come across the Bouton de Rose, aka the Rose-Bud, a French whaler that has taken one of the whales the crew of the Pequod injured in their last hunting venture. This is a big no-no in whaling etiquette, but seeing as how the whale is rotting in the water (hence the smell), it would seem that the captain and perhaps even the crew of the Rose-Bud have no idea what they're doing.

Which makes this a perfect time for Stubb to jump in and be the delightful douchebag we know and love.

pg. 427-428: "There's a pretty fellow, now," he banteringly laughed, standing in the ship's bows, "there's a jackal for ye! I well know that these Crappoes of Frenchmen are but poor devils in the fishery; sometimes lowering their boat for breakers, mistaking them for Sperm Whale spouts; yes, and sometimes sailing from their port with their hold full of boxes of tallow candles, and cases of snuffers, foreseeing that al the oil they will get won't be enough to dip the Captain's wick into; aye, we all know these things; but look ye, here's a Crappo that is content with our leavings, the drugged whale there, I mean; aye, and is content too with scraping the dry bones of that other precious fish he has there. Poor devil! I say, pass round a hat, some one, and let's make him a present of a little oil for dear charity's sake. For what oil he'll get from that drugged whale there, wouldn't be fit to burn in a jail; no, not in a condemned cell. And as for the other whale, why, I'll agree to get more oil by chopping up and trying out these three masts of ours, than he'll get from that bundle of bones; though, now that I think of it, it may contain something worth a good deal more than oil; yes, ambergris. I wonder now if our old man has thought of that. It's worth trying. Yes, I'm in for it;" and so saying he started for the quarter-deck.

Ambergris, lest we forget, is the super-smelly, super-valuable stuff in a sperm whale's guts.

Stubb goes over to have a talk with the crew of the Rose-Bud. Naturally, Ahab demands that the first question be "white whale yes/no?" (The answer is "no.") After that formality is observed, Stubb can get down to the real business at hand.

pg. 429: He now perceived that the Guernsey-man, who had just got into the chains, and was using a cutting-spade, had slung his nose in a sort of bag.

"What's the matter with your nose, there?" said Stubb. "Broke it?"

"I wish it was broken, or that I didn't have any nose at all!" answered the Guernsey-man, who did not seem to relish the job he was at very much. "But what are you holding
yours for?"

"Oh, nothing! It's a wax nose; I have to hold it on.

ilu Stubb

Further conversation reveals that the captain of the Rose-Bud is brand new to the job and has no idea what he's doing, which is why he's forcing his crew to attempt to squeeze oil from a rotting whale. Stubb decides to be helpful and together, he and the Guernsey-man concoct a plan to convince the captain to let the desiccated corpse go already. Since the captain speaks no English and Stubb speaks no French, the Guernsey-man will act as a translator.

I can't resist reproducing the conversation in full, for this shit is gold and cannot be summarized.

pg. 431-432: "What shall I say to him first?" said he.

"Why," said Stubb, eyeing the velvet vest and the watch and seals, "you may as well begin by telling him that he looks a sort of babyish to me, though I don't pretend to be a judge."

"He says, Monsieur," said the Guernsey-man, in French, turning to his captain, "that only yesterday his ship spoke a vessel, whose captain and chief-mate, with six sailors, had all died of a fever caught from a blasted whale they had brought alongside."

Upon this the captain started, and eagerly desired to know more.

"What now?" said the Guernsey-man to Stubb.

"Why, since he takes it so easy, tell him that now I have eyed him carefully, I'm quite certain that he's no more fit to command a whale-shop than a St. Jago monkey. In fact, tell him from me he's a baboon."

"He vows and declares, Monsieur, that the other whale, the dried one, is far more deadly than the blasted one; in fine, Monsieur, he conjures us, as we value our lives, to cut loose from these fish."

Instantly the captain ran forward, in in a loud voice commanded his crew to desist from hoisting the cutting-tackles, and at once cast loose the cables and chains confining the whales to the ship.

"What now?" said the Guernsey-man, when the captain had returned to them.

"Why, let me see; yes, you may as well tell him now that–that–in fact, tell him I've diddled him, and (aside to himself) perhaps somebody else."

"He says, Monsieur, that he's very happy to have been of any service to us."

Hearing this, the captain vowed they were the grateful parties (meaning himself and mate) and concluded by inviting Stubb down into his cabin to drink a bottle of Bordeaux.

"He wants you to take a glass of wine with him," said the interpreter.

"Thank him heartily; but tell him it's against my principles to drink with the man I've diddled.

Stubb is not a romantic; no one is surprised.

But he's not done. After the Rose-Bud casts off the whale, the Pequod sails between the Frenchmen and the carcass, shielding Stubb from view as he carves open the rotting thing, roots around, and pulls out six handfuls of ambergris, essentially stealing it from the Rose-Bud. Well done, sir. Well done.

Chapter 92: Ambergris is about ambergris. You can read the Wikipedia article for a more succinct explanation. Or you can stick around and hear Ishmael whine about how everyone thinks whalemen are smelly but they're really not, you guys, why does everyone keep saying that, it's so mean!


Last time I was so cruel as to not even leave you a picture to look at after reading all those words. I beg your apology for this and, this time, offer up a photograph as a reward.

[Image description: My friend Josh, a fellow Illustration major and a young cisman descended from Portugese, Irish, and other ethnicities. He's pretty rad. He's also decked out in a rough approximation of Queequeg's face and neck tattoos. In this photo, he is standing in front of the bathroom mirror in my apartment making a face that could be described as "Oh Ishmael, you so wacky!" This is from a reference photoshoot, the proceeds of which will go towards future Moby-Dick related illustrations. Everybody wins!]


For more adventures in Moby-Dick, check out the Moby-Dick, or The Rant tag. Alternatively, you can start from the beginning.
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ambrmerlinus: Portrait of a young white man with a flowing blond mohawk, in profile. (Default)

February 2012

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