Yes, a mighty change had come over the fish. All alive to his jeopardy, he was going “head out”; that part obliquely projecting from the mad yeast which he brewed.*
*It will be seen in some other place of what a very light substance the entire interior of the sperm whale’s enormous head consists. Though apparently the most massive, it is by far the most buoyant part about him. So that with ease he elevates it in the air, and invariably does so when going at his utmost speed. Besides, such is the breadth of the upper part of the front of his head, and such the tapering cut-water formation of the lower part, that by obliquely elevating his head, he thereby may be said to transform himself from a bluff-bowed sluggish galliot into a sharppointed New York pilot-boat.
“Start her, start her, my men! Don’t hurry yourselves; take plenty of time—but start her; start her like thunder-claps, that’s all,” cried Stubb, spluttering out the smoke as he spoke. “Start her, now; give ’em the long and strong stroke, Tashtego. Start her, Tash, my boy—start her, all; but keep cool, keep cool—cucum
bers is the word—easy, easy—only start her like grim death and grinning devils, and raise the buried dead perpendicular out of their graves, boys—that’s all. Start her!”
“Woo-hoo! Wa-hee!” screamed the Gay-Header in reply, raisin
g some old war-whoop to the skies; as every oarsman in the strained boat involuntarily bounced forward with the one tremendous leading stroke which the eager Indian gave.
But his wild screams were answered by others quite as wild. “Kee-hee! Kee-hee!” yelled Daggoo, straining forwards and backwards on his seat, like a pacing tiger in his cage.
“Ka-la! Koo-loo!” howled Queequeg, as if smacking his lips over a
mouthful of Grenadier’s steak. And thus with oars and yells the keels cut the sea. Meanwhile, Stubb retaining his place in the va
n, still encouraged his men to the onset, all the while puffing the smoke from his mouth. Like desperadoes they tugged and they strained, till the welcome cry was heard—”Stand up, Tashtego!—give it to him!” The harpoon was hurled. “Stern all!” The oarsmen backed water; the same moment something went hot and hissing along every one of their wrists. It was the magical line. An instant before, Stubb had swiftly caught two additional turns with it round the loggerhead, whence, by reason of its increased rapid circlings, a hempen blue smoke now jetted up and mingled with the steady fumes from his pipe. As the line passed round and round the loggerhead; so also, just before reaching that point, it blisteringly passed through and through both of Stubb’s hands, from which the hand-cloths, or squares of quilted canvas sometimes worn at these times, had accidentally dropped. It was like holding an enemy’s sharp two-edged sword by the blade, and that enemy all the time striving to wrest it out of your clutch.