The Pequod passes through a large area filled with krill, and this means that right whales are in the vicinity. Although the Pequod’s crew is licensed only to hunt sperm whales, nevertheless Ahab orders that Flask and Stubb each take out a whale-boat and catch the nearest right whale—one that puts up a fight and drags them around the Pequod several times, but which eventually retires and dies.
Although it has not been mentioned until this point, there appear to be a series of different regulations and licenses for whaling vessels, regarding the kinds of whales they can hunt, and where they can hunt them. Presumably, because sperm whales are so valuable, few licensed sperm whale boats even consider hunting right whales.
Stubb and Flask then drag the right whale’s carcass back to the Pequod, and discuss why Ahab would have ordered them to kill this particular whale, which is of little commercial use. Stubb states that Fedallah—the Persian man whom Ahab has invited on board—is actually “the devil” in disguise, and that Fedallah believes it good luck to pair a sperm whale’s head, behind the ship, with a right whale’s. Ishmael notes that the Pequod, dragging these two whale heads, looks like a donkey carrying its twin burdens along the sea.
One of the first explicit mentions of the potential “devilishness” of Fedallah, leader of the “tiger crew.” Fedallah speaks very little in the novel, and when he does, it is exclusively to Ahab. But Fedallah also appears to be the only man to whom Ahab will listen—and this causes some of the men to believe that Fedallah might have some form of supernatural control over their captain. The men are always looking for signs, always interpreting those signs, always trying to penetrate the unknown and never able to.