Ahab's fixation with Moby Dick
© Ilkhi, 2012
An excerpt from Melville's Moby Dick
Ahab and Starbuck in the Cabin
"Who's there?" hearing the footstep at the door, but not turning round to it. "On deck! Begone!"
"Captain Ahab mistakes; it is I. The oil in the hold is leaking, sir. We must up Burtons and break out."
"Up Burtons and break out? Now that we are nearing Japan; 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; if we get it."
"I was speaking of the oil in the hold, sir."
"And I was not speaking or thinking of that at all. Begone! Let it leak! I'm all aleak myself. Aye! leaks in leaks! not only full of leaky casks, but those leaky casks are in a leaky ship; and that's a far worse plight than the Pequod's, man. Yet I don't stop to plug my leak; for who can find it in the deep-loaded hull; or how hope to plug it, even if found, in this life's howling ale? 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 look ye, the only real owner of anything is its commander; and hark ye, my conscience is in this ship's keel.- On deck!"
"Captain Ahab," said the reddening mate, moving further into the cabin, with a daring so strangely respectful and cautious that it almost seemed not only every way seeking to avoid the slightest outward manifestation of itself, but within also seemed more than half distrustful of itself; "A better man than I might well pass over in thee what he would quickly enough resent in a younger man; aye, and in a happier, Captain Ahab."
"Devils! Dost thou then so much as dare to critically think of me?- On deck!"
"Nay, sir, not yet; I do entreat. And I do dare, sir- to be forbearing! Shall we not understand each other better than hitherto, Captain Ahab?"
Ahab seized a loaded musket from the rack (forming part of most South-Sea-men's cabin furniture), 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!"
For an instant in the flashing eyes of the mate, and his fiery cheeks, you would have almost thought that he had really received the blaze of the levelled tube. But, mastering his emotion, he half calmly rose, and as he quitted the cabin, paused for an instant and said: "Thou hast outraged, not insulted me, sir; but for that I ask thee not to beware of Starbuck; thou wouldst but laugh; but let Ahab beware of Ahab; beware of thyself, old man."