Chapter 91, “The Pequod Meets the Rose Bud”
A week after the Pequod leaves the “grand armada” of whales, it runs into a French ship, Bouton de Rose (Rose Bud). There is a terrible stench because there are two dead whales tied to it. The French ship did not get the whales by hunting. One was a carcass found dead on the sea already, and the other Stubb recognizes as one the Pequod left a week before as a “loose-fish.”
Although the Pequod quickly finds out the Rose Bud has not seen Moby Dick, Stubb goes aboard anyway. The captain does not speak English, but an English sailor translates, or rather, takes Stubb’s direct insults to the Frenchman for his bungling, and turns them into warnings to get rid of the carcasses before they cause disease.
Chapter 92, “Ambergris”
The captain immediately cuts loose the whales, and Stubb gets in his boat. He however, fails to tell the captain about ambergris, the precious aromatic and waxy substance found in a rotting whale’s bowels. He digs into the loose-fish and recovers some handfuls of ambergris to take back to the Pequod; it is whale gold.
Analysis Chapters 91 and 92
Once again there is difficulty with communication during a gam because of a language barrier, and again, it is an encounter with clumsy foreigners who do not know the whaling business. Stubb is the conniving Yankee who manages to pull the wool over the Frenchman’s eyes to get the ambergris. True, he retrieves it from the whale that had been harpooned by the Pequod, so there is some justice in his action, but legally the whale belonged to the Rose Bud.
Ambergris, the precious substance used in perfumes and soaps, ironically is found in a rotting whale’s bowels, and Ishmael as usual sermonizes on this odd fact, citing St. Paul in Corinthians that we are born in sin but raised in glory.