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It is noon; and Dough-Boy, the steward, thrusting his
pale loaf-of-bread face from the cabin-scuttle, announces dinner


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to his lord and master; who, sitting in the lee quarter-boat, has
just been taking an observation of the sun; and is now mutely
reckoning the latitude on the smooth, medallion-shaped tablet,
reserved for that daily purpose on the upper part of his ivory
leg. From his complete inattention to the tidings, you would
think that moody Ahab had not heard his menial. But presently,
catching hold of the mizen shrouds, he swings himself
to the deck, and in an even, unexhilarated voice, saying,
“Dinner, Mr. Starbuck,” disappears into the cabin.

When the last echo of his sultan's step has died away, and
Starbuck, the first Emir, has every reason to suppose that he
is seated, then Starbuck rouses from his quietude, takes a few
turns along the planks, and, after a grave peep into the binnacle,
says, with some touch of pleasantness, “Dinner, Mr. Stubb,”
and descends the scuttle. The second Emir lounges about the
rigging awhile, and then slightly shaking the main brace, to see
whether it be all right with that important rope, he likewise takes
up the old burden, and with a rapid “Dinner, Mr. Flask,” follows
after his predecessors.

But the third Emir, now seeing himself all alone on the
quarter-deck, seems to feel relieved from some curious restraint;
for, tipping all sorts of knowing winks in all sorts of directions,
and kicking off his shoes, he strikes into a sharp but noiseless
squall of a hornpipe right over the Grand Turk's head; and
then, by a dexterous sleight, pitching his cap up into the mizentop
for a shelf, he goes down rollicking, so far at least as he
remains visible from the deck, reversing all other processions,
by bringing up the rear with music. But ere stepping into the
cabin doorway below, he pauses, ships a new face altogether,
and, then, independent, hilarious little Flask enters King Ahab's
presence, in the character of Abjectus, or the Slave.

It is not the least among the strange things bred by the
intense artificialness of sea-usages, that while in the open air
of the deck some officers will, upon provocation, bear themselves


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boldly and defyingly enough towards their commander; yet,
ten to one, let those very officers the next moment go down to
their customary dinner in that same commander's cabin, and
straightway their inoffensive, not to say deprecatory and humble
air towards him, as he sits at the head of the table; this is marvellous,
sometimes most comical. Wherefore this difference? A
problem? Perhaps not. To have been Belshazzar, King of
Babylon; and to have been Belshazzar, not haughtily but courteously,
therein certainly must have been some touch of mundane
grandeur. But he who in the rightly regal and intelligent
spirit presides over his own private dinner-table of invited
guests, that man's unchallenged power and dominion of individual
influence for the time; that man's royalty of state
transcends Belshazzar's, for Belshazzar was not the greatest.
Who has but once dined his friends, has tasted what it is to
be Cæsar. It is a witchery of social ezarship which there is no
withstanding. Now, if to this consideration you superadd the
official supremacy of a ship-master, then, by inference, you will
derive the cause of that peculiarity of sea-life just mentioned.

Over his ivory-inlaid table, Ahab presided like a mute,
maned sea-lion on the white coral beach, surrounded by his warlike
but still deferential cubs. In his own proper turn, each
officer waited to be served. They were as little children before
Ahab; and yet, in Ahab, there seemed not to lurk the smallest
social arrogance. With one mind, their intent eyes all fastened
upon the old man's knife, as he carved the chief dish before
him. I do not suppose that for the world they would have profaned
that moment with the slightest observation, even upon so
neutral a topic as the weather. No! And when reaching out
his knife and fork, between which the slice of beef was locked,
Ahab thereby motioned Starbuck's plate towards him, the
mate received his meat as though receiving alms; and cut it
tenderly; and a little started if, perchance, the knife grazed
against the plate; and chewed it noiselessly; and swallowed it,


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not without circumspection. For, like the Coronation banquet
at Frankfort, where the German Emperor profoundly dines with
the seven Imperial Electors, so these cabin meals were somehow
solemn meals, eaten in awful silence; and yet at table old Ahab
forbade not conversation; only he himself was dumb. What a
relief it was to choking Stubb, when a rat made a sudden racket
in the hold below. And poor little Flask, he was the youngest
son, and little boy of this weary family party. His were the shinbones
of the saline beef; his would have been the drumsticks.
For Flask to have presumed to help himself, this must have seemed
to him tantamount to larceny in the first degree. Had he
helped himself at that table, doubtless, never more would he have
been able to hold his head up in this honest world; nevertheless,
strange to say, Ahab never forbade him. And had Flask
helped himself, the chances were Ahab had never so much
as noticed it. Least of all, did Flask presume to help himself
to butter. Whether he thought the owners of the ship denied
it to him, on account of its clotting his clear, sunny complexion;
or whether he deemed that, on so long a voyage in such
marketless waters, butter was at a premium, and therefore was
not for him, a subaltern; however it was, Flask, alas! was a
butterless man!

Another thing. Flask was the last person down at the dinner,
and Flask is the first man up. Consider! For hereby
Flask's dinner was badly jammed in point of time. Starbuck
and Stubb both had the start of him; and yet they also have
the privilege of lounging in the rear. If Stubb even, who is
but a peg higher than Flask, happens to have but a small
appetite, and soon shows symptoms of concluding his repast,
then Flask must bestir himself, he will not get more than three
mouthfuls that day; for it is against holy usage for Stubb to
precede Flask to the deck. Therefore it was that Flask once
admitted in private, that ever since he had arisen to the dignity
of an officer, from that moment he had never known what


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it was to be otherwise than hungry, more or less. For what
he ate did not so much relieve his hunger, as keep it immortal
in him. Peace and satisfaction, thought Flask, have
for ever departed from my stomach. I am an officer; but, how
I wish I could fist a bit of old-fashioned beef in the forecastle,
as I used to when I was before the mast. There's the fruits of
promotion now; there's the vanity of glory: there's the
insanity of life! Besides, if it were so that any mere sailor of
the Pequod had a grudge against Flask in Flask's official capacity,
all that sailor had to do, in order to obtain ample
vengeance, was to go aft at dinner-time, and get a peep at
Flask through the cabin sky-light, sitting silly and dumfoundered
before awful Ahab.

Now, Ahab and his three mates formed what may be called
the first table in the Pequod's cabin. After their departure,
taking place in inverted order to their arrival, the canvas cloth
was cleared, or rather was restored to some hurried order by
the pallid steward. And then the three harpooneers were
bidden to the feast, they being its residuary legatees. They
made a sort of temporary servants' hall of the high and mighty

In strange contrast to the hardly tolerable constraint and
nameless invisible domineerings of the captain's table, was the
entire care-free license and ease, the almost frantic democracy
of those inferior fellows the harpooneers. While their masters,
the mates, seemed afraid of the sound of the hinges of their
own jaws, the harpooneers chewed their food with such a
relish that there was a report to it. They dined like lords;
they filled their bellies like Indian ships all day loading with
spices. Such portentous appetites had Queequeg and
Tashtego, that to fill out the vacancies made by the previous
repast, often the pale Dough-Boy was fain to bring on a great
baron of salt-junk, seemingly quarried out of the solid ox.
And if he were not lively about it, if he did not go with a nimble


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hop-skip-and-jump, then Tashtego had an ungentlemanly
way of accelerating him by darting a fork at his back, harpoonwise.
And once Daggoo, seized with a sudden humor,
assisted Dough-Boy's memory by snatching him up bodily, and
thrusting his head into a great empty wooden trencher, while
Tashtego, knife in hand, began laying out the circle preliminary
to scalping him. He was naturally a very nervous,
shuddering sort of little fellow, this bread-faced steward; the
progeny of a bankrupt baker and a hospital nurse. And what
with the standing spectacle of the black terrific Ahab, and the
periodical tumultuous visitations of these three savages, Dough-Boy's
whole life was one continual lip-quiver. Commonly,
after seeing the harpooneers furnished with all things they
demanded, he would escape from their clutches into his little
pantry adjoining, and fearfully peep out at them through
the blinds of its door, till all was over.

It was a sight to see Queequeg seated over against Tashtego,
opposing his filed teeth to the Indian's: crosswise to them,
Daggoo seated on the floor, for a bench would have brought
his hearse-plumed head to the low carlines; at every motion
of his colossal limbs, making the low cabin framework to shake,
as when an African elephant goes passenger in a ship. But for
all this, the great negro was wonderfully abstemious, not to say
dainty. It seemed hardly possible that by such comparatively
small mouthfuls he could keep up the vitality diffused through
so broad, baronial, and superb a person. But, doubtless, this
noble savage fed strong and drank deep of the abounding element
of air; and through his dilated nostrils snuffed in the sublime
life of the worlds. Not by beef or by bread, are giants
made or nourished. But Queequeg, he had a mortal, barbaric
smack of the lip in eating—an ugly sound enough—so much
so, that the trembling Dough-Boy almost looked to see whether
any marks of teeth lurked in his own lean arms. And when
he would hear Tashtego singing out for him to produce himself,


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that his bones might be picked, the simple-witted Steward all
but shattered the crockery hanging round him in the pantry, by
his sudden fits of the palsy. Nor did the whetstone which the
harpooneers carried in their pockets, for their lances and other
weapons; and with which whetstones, at dinner, they would
ostentatiously sharpen their knives; that grating sound did not
at all tend to tranquillize poor Dough-Boy. How could he forget
that in his Island days, Queequeg, for one, must certainly
have been guilty of some murderous, convivial indiscretions.
Alas! Dough-Boy! hard fares the white waiter who waits upon
cannibals. Not a napkin should he carry on his arm, but a
buckler. In good time, though, to his great delight, the three
salt-sea warriors would rise and depart; to his credulous, fable-mongering
ears, all their martial bones jingling in them at every
step, like Moorish scimetars in scabbards.

But, though these barbarians dined in the cabin, and nominally
lived there; still, being anything but sedentary in their
habits, they were scarcely ever in it except at meal-times, and
just before sleeping-time, when they passed through it to their
own peculiar quarters.

In this one matter, Ahab seemed no exception to most American
whale captains, who, as a set, rather incline to the opinion
that by rights the ship's cabin belongs to them; and that
it is by courtesy alone that anybody else is, at any time, permitted
there. So that, in real truth, the mates and harpooneers
of the Pequod might more properly be said to have lived out
of the cabin than in it. For when they did enter it, it was
something as a street-door enters a house; turning inwards for
a moment, only to be turned out the next; and, as a permanent
thing, residing in the open air. Nor did they lose much hereby;
in the cabin was no companionship; socially, Ahab was inaccessible.
Though nominally included in the census of Christendom,
he was still an alien to it. He lived in the world, as the
last of the Grisly Bears lived in settled Missouri. And as when


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Spring and Summer had departed, that wild Logan of the
woods, burying himself in the hollow of a tree, lived out the
winter there, sucking his own paws; so, in his inclement, howling
old age, Ahab's soul, shut up in the caved trunk of his body,
there fed upon the sullen paws of its gloom!