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Though, consumed with the hot fire of his purpose, Ahab in
all his thoughts and actions ever had in view the ultimate capture


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of Moby Dick; though he seemed ready to sacrifice all
mortal interests to that one passion; nevertheless it may have
been that he was by nature and long habituation far too wedded
to a fiery whaleman's ways, altogether to abandon the collateral
prosecution of the voyage. Or at least if this were otherwise,
there were not wanting other motives much more influential
with him. It would be refining too much, perhaps, even considering
his monomania, to hint that his vindictiveness towards
the White Whale might have possibly extended itself in some
degree to all sperm whales, and that the more monsters he slew
by so much the more he multiplied the chances that each subsequently
encountered whale would prove to be the hated one
he hunted. But if such an hypothesis be indeed exceptionable,
there were still additional considerations which, though not so
strictly according with the wildness of his ruling passion, yet
were by no means incapable of swaying him.

To accomplish his object Ahab must use tools; and of all
tools used in the shadow of the moon, men are most apt to get
out of order. He knew, for example, that however magnetic his
ascendency in some respects was over Starbuck, yet that ascendency
did not cover the complete spiritual man any more
than mere corporeal superiority involves intellectual mastership;
for to the purely spiritual, the intellectual but stand in a sort of
corporeal relation. Starbuck's body and Starbuck's coerced will
were Ahab's, so long as Ahab kept his magnet at Starbuck's
brain; still he knew that for all this the chief mate, in his soul,
abhorred his captain's quest, and could he, would joyfully disintegrate
himself from it, or even frustrate it. It might be that
a long interval would elapse ere the White Whale was seen.
During that long interval Starbuck would ever be apt to fall
into open relapses of rebellion against his captain's leadership,
unless some ordinary, prudential, circumstantial influences were
brought to bear upon him. Not only that, but the subtle insanity
of Ahab respecting Moby Dick was noways more significantly


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manifested than in his superlative sense and shrewdness
in foreseeing that, for the present, the hunt should in some way
be stripped of that strange imaginative impiousness which naturally
invested it; that the full terror of the voyage must be kept
withdrawn into the obscure background (for few men's courage
is proof against protracted meditation unrelieved by action);
that when they stood their long night watches, his officers and
men must have some nearer things to think of than Moby Dick.
For however eagerly and impetuously the savage crew had
hailed the announcement of his quest; yet all sailors of all
sorts are more or less capricious and unreliable—they live in
the varying outer weather, and they inhale its fickleness—and
when retained for any object remote and blank in the pursuit,
however promissory of life and passion in the end, it is
above all things requisite that temporary interests and employments
should intervene and hold them healthily suspended for
the final dash.

Nor was Ahab unmindful of another thing. In times of
strong emotion mankind disdain all base considerations; but such
times are evanescent. The permanent constitutional condition
of the manufactured man, thought Ahab, is sordidness. Granting
that the White Whale fully incites the hearts of this my
savage crew, and playing round their savageness even breeds a certain
generous knight-errantism in them, still, while for the love of
it they give chase to Moby Dick, they must also have food for
their more common, daily appetites. For even the high lifted
and chivalric Crusaders of old times were not content to traverse
two thousand miles of land to fight for their holy sepulchre,
without committing burglaries, picking pockets, and gaining
other pious perquisites by the way. Had they been strictly held
to their one final and romantic object—that final and romantic
object, too many would have turned from in disgust. I will
not strip these men, thought Ahab, of all hopes of cash—aye,
cash. They may scorn cash now; but let some months go by,


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and no perspective promise of it to them, and then this same
quiescent cash all at once mutinying in them, this same cash
would soon cashier Ahab.

Nor was there wanting still another precautionary motive
more related to Ahab personally. Having impulsively, it is
probable, and perhaps somewhat prematurely revealed the prime
but private purpose of the Pequod's voyage, Ahab was now entirely
conscious that, in so doing, he had indirectly laid himself
open to the unanswerable charge of usurpation; and with perfect
impunity, both moral and legal, his crew if so disposed, and to
that end competent, could refuse all further obedience to him,
and even violently wrest from him the command. From even
the barely hinted imputation of usurpation, and the possible
consequences of such a suppressed impression gaining ground,
Ahab must of course have been most anxious to protect himself.
That protection could only consist in his own predominating
brain and heart and hand, backed by a heedful, closely calculating
attention to every minute atmospheric influence which it was
possible for his crew to be subjected to.

For all these reasons then, and others perhaps too analytic to
be verbally developed here, Ahab plainly saw that he must still
in a good degree continue true to the natural, nominal purpose
of the Pequod's voyage; observe all customary usages; and not
only that, but force himself to evince all his well known passionate
interest in the general pursuit of his profession.

Be all this as it may, his voice was now often heard hailing
the three mast-heads and admonishing them to keep a bright
look-out, and not omit reporting even a porpoise. This vigilance
was not long without reward.