Chapter 109 Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin

        A confrontation develops between the captain and the first mate. Ahab's obsession with Moby Dick collides with a whaleship captain's responsibilities. This time Ahab prudently chooses to defer his vengeance and gives in to Starbuck. The dialog between the two should dispel the notion, held by some critics, that Melville "doesn't know how to make his characters talk."

        "Who's there? On deck! Begone!" snapped Captain Ahab, poring over his charts, tracing the Pequod's progress from the China Sea into the Pacific Ocean between Formosa [modern Taiwan] and the Bashee Isles [the Philippines].

        He was interrupted by Starbuck. "The oil in the hold is leaking , sir. We must up Burtons [hoist the tackle] and break out [lift all the barrels of whale oil out of the hold]."

        Ahab, of course will have none of this; he's after Moby Dick -- not oil. "Heave-to here for a week to tinker a parcel of old hoops?"

        "Either do that, sir, or waste in one day more oil than we may make good in a year. What we come twenty thousand miles to get is worth saving, sir."

        "So it is, so it is; [Ahab's thinking of revenge on the White Whale] if we get it."

        "I was speaking of the oil in the hold, sir." [Starbuck's wise to the old dissembler.]

        "And I was not speaking or thinking of that at all. Begone! Let it leak! I'm all aleak myself. Yet I don t stop to plug my leak. Starbuck! I'll not have the Burtons hoisted."

        "What will the owners say, sir?"

        "Let the owners stand on Nantucket beach and outyell the Typhoons. What cares Ahab? Owners, owners? Thou art always prating to me, Starbuck, about those miserly owners, as if the owners were my conscience. But hark ye, the only real owner of anything is its commander. -- On deck!"

        "'Captain Ahab,' said the reddening mate, 'a better man than I might well pass over in thee what he would quickly enough resent in a younger and happier Captain Ahab.'"

        "Dost thou then so much as dare to critically think of me? -- On deck!"

        "'Nay, sir, not yet.' Ahab seized a loaded musket from the rack and pointing it towards Starbuck exclaimed, 'There is one God that is Lord over the earth, and one Captain that is lord over the Pequod. -- ON DECK!'

        "Mastering his emotion, Starbuck half calmly rose, and as he quitted the cabin, paused for an instant and said, 'Thou hast outraged, not insulted me, sir; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man.'"

        After this, Ahab thought things over by himself. Crazed in his desire to chase and kill Moby Dick, yet he was sane enough to realize that he would best "beware of himself" -- best keep up the appearance of trying to bring a full cargo of oil back to Nantucket. At least give the appearance of having that as priority over his vengeful intentions. Swallowing his pride, Ahab goes up on deck.

        "'Thou art but too good a fellow, Starbuck,' he said lowly to the mate; then raising his voice to the crew: 'Furl the t'gallant sails, and close-reef the top-sails, fore and aft; back the main-yard; up Burtons, and break out in the main-hold.'"

        And so, Ahab gives in to responsibility. His quest for Moby Dick is delayed.