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.. < chapter xci 2 THE PEQUOD MEETS THE ROSE-BUD >

In vain it was to rake
for Ambergriese in the paunch of this Leviathan, insufferable fetor denying
not inquiry. Sir T. Browne, V. E. It was a week or two after the last
whaling scene recounted, and when we were slowly sailing over a sleepy,
vapory, mid-day sea, that the many noses on the Pequod's deck proved more
vigilant discoverers than the three pairs of eyes aloft. A peculiar and not
very pleasant smell was smelt in the sea. I will bet something now, said
Stubb, that somewhere hereabouts are some of those drugged whales we tickled
the other day. I thought they would keel up before long. Presently, the
vapors in advance slid aside; and there in the distance lay a ship, whose
furled sails betokened that some sort of whale must be alongside. As we
glided nearer, the stranger showed French colors from his peak; and by the
eddying cloud of vulture sea-fowl that circled, and hovered, and swooped
around him, it was plain that the whale alongside must be what the fishermen
call a blasted whale, that is, a whale that has died unmolested on the sea,
and so floated an unappropriated corpse. It may well be conceived, what an
unsavory odor such a mass must exhale; worse than an Assyrian city in the
plague, when the living are incompetent to bury the departed. So intolerable
indeed is it regarded by some, that no cupidity could persuade them to moor
alongside of it. Yet are there those who will still do it; notwithstanding
the fact that the oil obtained from such subjects is of a very inferior
quality, and by no means of the nature of attar-of-rose. Coming still nearer
with the expiring breeze, we saw that the Frenchman had a second whale
alongside; and this second whale seemed even more of a nosegay than the
first. In truth, it turned out to be one of those problematical whales that

to dry up and die with a sort of prodigious dyspepsia, or indigestion;
leaving their defunct bodies almost entirely bankrupt of anything like oil.
Nevertheless, in the proper place we shall see that no knowing fisherman will
ever turn up his nose at such a whale as this, however much he may shun
blasted whales in general. The Pequod had now swept so nigh to the stranger,
that Stubb vowed he recognized his cutting spade-pole entangled in the lines
that were knotted round the tail of one of these whales. 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 boats 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 all 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 for it; and
so saying he started for the quarter-deck. By this time the faint air had
become a complete calm; so that whether or no, the Pequod was now fairly
entrapped in the smell, with no hope of escaping except by its breezing up
again. Issuing from the cabin, Stubb now called his boat's crew, and pulled
off for the stranger. Drawing across her bow, he perceived that in accordance
with the fanciful French taste, the upper part of her stem-piece was carved in
the likeness of a

huge drooping stalk, was painted green, and for thorns had copper spikes
projecting from it here and there; the whole terminating in a symmetrical
folded bulb of a bright red color. Upon her head boards, in large gilt
letters, he read Bouton de Rose, --Rose-button, or Rose-bud; and this was
the romantic name of this aromatic ship. Though Stubb did not understand the

Bouton part of the inscription, yet the word rose, and the bulbous
figure-head put together, sufficiently explained the whole to him. A wooden
rose-bud, eh? he cried with his hand to his nose, that will do very well;
but how like all creation it smells! Now in order to hold direct
communication with the people on deck, he had to pull round the bows to the
starboard side, and thus come close to the blasted whale; and so talk over
it. Arrived then at this spot, with one hand still to his nose, he bawled
-- Bouton-de-Rose, ahoy! are there any of you Bouton-de-Roses that speak
English? Yes, rejoined a Guernsey-man from the bulwarks, who turned out
to be the chief-mate. Well, then, my Bouton-de-Rose-bud, have you seen the
White Whale? What whale? The White Whale --a Sperm Whale --Moby Dick,
have ye seen him? Never heard of such a whale. Cachalot Blanche! White
Whale --no. Very good, then; good bye now, and I'll call again in a
minute. Then rapidly pulling back towards the Pequod, and seeing Ahab
leaning over the quarter-deck rail awaiting his report, he moulded his two
hands into a trumpet and shouted -- No, Sir! No! Upon which Ahab retired,
and Stubb returned to the Frenchman. 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. Fine day, aint it? Air rather gardenny, I should say; throw us
a bunch of posies, will ye, Bouton-de-Rose? What in the devil's name do you
want here? roared the Guernsey-man, flying into a sudden passion. Oh!
keep cool--cool? yes, that's the word; why don't you pack those whales in ice
while you're working at 'em? But joking aside, though; do you know,
Rose-bud, that it's all nonsense trying to get any oil out of such whales? As
for that dried up one, there, he hasn't a gill in his whole carcase. I
know that well enough; but, d'ye see, the Captain here won't believe it;
this is his first voyage; he was a Cologne manufacturer before. But come
aboard, and mayhap he'll believe you, if he won't me; and so I'll get out of
this dirty scrape. Anything to oblige ye, my sweet and pleasant fellow,
rejoined Stubb, and with that he soon mounted to the deck. There a queer
scene presented itself. The sailors, in tasselled caps of red worsted, were
getting the heavy tackles in readiness for the whales. But they worked rather
slow and talked very fast, and seemed in anything but a good humor. All
their noses upwardly projected from their faces like so many jib-booms. Now
and then pairs of them would drop their work, and run up to the mast-head to
get some fresh air. Some thinking they would catch the plague, dipped oakum
in coal-tar, and at intervals held it to their nostrils. Others having
broken the stems of their pipes almost short off at the bowl, were vigorously

puffing tobacco-smoke, so that it constantly filled their olfactories.
Stubb was struck by a shower of outcries and anathemas proceeding from the
Captain's round-house abaft; and looking in that direction saw a fiery face
thrust from behind the door, which was held ajar from within. This was the
tormented surgeon, who, after in vain remonstrating against the proceedings of
the day, had betaken himself to the Captain's round-house ( cabinet he
called it) to avoid the pest; but still, could not help yelling out his
entreaties and indignations at times.

Marking all this, Stubb argued well for his scheme, and turning to the
Guernsey-man had a little chat with him, during which the stranger mate
expressed his detestation of his Captain as a conceited ignoramus, who had
brought them all into so unsavory and unprofitable a pickle. Sounding him
carefully, Stubb further perceived that the Guernsey-man had not the
slightest suspicion concerning the ambergris. He therefore held his peace on
that head, but otherwise was quite frank and confidential with him, so that
the two quickly concocted a little plan for both circumventing and satirizing
the Captain, without his at all dreaming of distrusting their sincerity.
According to this little plan of theirs, the Guernsey-man, under cover of an
interpreter's office, was to tell the Captain what he pleased, but as coming
from Stubb; and as for Stubb, he was to utter any nonsense that should come
uppermost in him during the interview. By this time their destined victim
appeared from his cabin. He was a small and dark, but rather delicate looking
man for a sea-captain, with large whiskers and moustache, however; and wore
a red cotton velvet vest with watch-seals at his side. To this gentleman,
Stubb was now politely introduced by the Guernsey-man, who at once
ostentatiously put on the aspect of interpreting between them. 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-ship 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, and 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 that 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. In fact, tell him
I must go. He says, Monsieur, that his principles won't admit of his
drinking; but that if Monsieur wants to live another day to drink, then
Monsieur had best drop all four boats, and pull the ship away from these
whales, for it's so calm they won't drift. By this time Stubb was over the
side, and getting into his boat, hailed the Guernsey-man to this effect,
--that having a long tow-line in his boat, he would do what he could to help
them, by pulling out the lighter whale of the two from the ship's side. While
the Frenchman's boats, then, were engaged in towing the ship one way, Stubb
benevolently towed away at his whale the other way, ostentatiously slacking
out a most unusually long tow-line. Presently a breeze sprang up; Stubb
feigned to cast off from the whale; hoisting his boats, the Frenchman soon
increased his distance, while the Pequod slid in between him and Stubb's
whale. Whereupon Stubb quickly pulled to the floating body,

and hailing the pequod to give notice of his intentions, at once proceeded to
reap the fruit of his unrighteous cunning. Seizing his sharp boat-spade, he
commenced an excavation in the body, a little behind the side fin. You would
almost have thought he was digging a cellar there in the sea; and when at
length his spade struck against the gaunt ribs, it was like turning up old
Roman tiles and pottery buried in fat English loam. His boat's crew were all
in high excitement, eagerly helping their chief, and looking as anxious as
gold-hunters. And all the time numberless fowls were diving, and ducking, and
screaming, and yelling, and fighting around them. Stubb was beginning to look
disappointed, especially as the horrible nosegay increased, when suddenly
from out the very heart of this plague, there stole a faint stream of
perfume, which flowed through the tide of bad smells without being absorbed
by it, as one river will flow into and then along with another, without at
all blending with it for a time. I have it, I have it, cried Stubb, with
delight, striking something in the subterranean regions, a purse! a
purse! Dropping his spade, he thrust both hands in, and drew out handfuls
of something that looked like ripe Windsor soap, or rich mottled old cheese;
very unctuous and savory withal. You might easily dent it with your thumb;
it is of a hue between yellow and ash color. And this, good friends, is
ambergris, worth a gold guinea an ounce to any druggist. Some six handfuls
were obtained; but more was unavoidably lost in the sea, and still more,
perhaps, might have been secured were it not for impatient Ahab's loud command
to Stubb to desist, and come on board, else the ship would bid them good