Queequeg and I had just left the Pequod, and were sauntering away from the water, for the moment each occupied with his own thoughts, when the above words were put to us by a stranger, who, pausing before us, levelled his massive forefinger at the vessel in question. He was but shabbily apparelled in faded jacket and patched trowsers; a rag of a black handkerchief investing his neck. A confluent small-pox had in all directions flowed over his face, and left it like the complicated ribbed bed of a torrent, when the rushing waters have been dried up.
Oh, perhaps you havnt got any, he said quickly. No matter though, I know many chaps that havnt got any,good luck to em; and they are all the better off for it. A soul s a sort of a fifth wheel to a wagon.
That s true, that s trueyes, both true enough. But you must jump when he gives an order. Step and growl; growl and gothat s the word with Captain Ahab. But nothing about that thing that happened to him off Cape Horn, long ago, when he lay like dead for three days and nights; nothing about that deadly skrimmage with the Spaniard afore the altar in Santa?heard nothing about that, eh? Nothing about the silver calabash he spat into? And nothing about his losing his leg last voyage, according to the prophecy. Didnt ye hear a word about them matters and something more, eh? No, I dont think ye did; how could ye? Who knows it? Not all Nantucket, I guess. But howsever, mayhap, ye ve heard tell about the leg, and how he lost it; ay, ye have heard of that, I dare say. Oh yes, that everyone knows amostI mean they know he s only one leg; and that a parmacetti took the other off.
My friend, said I, what all this gibberish of yours is about, I dont know, and I dont much care; for it seems to me that you must be a little damaged in the head. But if you are speaking of Captain Ahab, of that ship there, the Pequod, then let me tell you, that I know all about the loss of his leg.
With finger pointed and eye levelled at the Pequod, the beggar-like stranger stood a moment, as if in a troubled revery; then starting a little, turned and said, Ye ve shipped, have ye? Names down on the papers? Well, well, what s signed, is signed; and what s to be, will be; and then again, perhaps it wont be, after all. Anyhow, it s all fixed and arranged aready; and some sailors or other must go with him, I suppose; as well these as any other men, God pity em! Morning to ye, shipmates, morning; the ineffable heavens bless ye; I m sorry I stopped ye.
And it s said very well, and I like to hear a chap talk up that way; you are just the man for himthe likes of ye. Morning to ye, shipmates, morning! Oh! when ye get there, tell em I ve concluded not to make one of em.
Elijah! thought I, and we walked away, both commenting, after each others fashion, upon this ragged old sailor; and agreed that he was nothing but a humbug, trying to be a bugbear. But we had not gone perhaps above a hundred yards, when chancing to turn a corner, and looking back as I did so, who should be seen but Elijah following us, though at a distance. Somehow, the sight of him struck me so, that I said nothing to Queequeg of his being behind, but passed on with my comrade, anxious to see whether the stranger would turn the same corner that we did. He did; and then it seemed to me that he was dogging us, but with what intent I could not for the life of me imagine. This circumstance, coupled with his ambiguous, half-hinting, half-revealing, shrouded sort of talk, now begat in me all kinds of vague wonderments and half-apprehensions, and all connected with the Pequod; and Captain Ahab; and the leg he had lost; and the Cape Horn fit; and the silver calabash; and what Captain Peleg had said of him, when I left the ship the day previous; and the prediction of the squaw Tistig; and the voyage we had bound ourselves to sail; and a hundred other shadowy things.
I was resolved to satisfy myself whether this ragged Elijah was really dogging us or not, and with that intent crossed the way with Queequeg, and on that side of it retraced our steps. But Elijah passed on, without seeming to notice us. This relieved me; and once more, and finally as it seemed to me, I pronounced him in my heart, a humbug.