This is Moby Dick Chapter 34: The Cabin-Table (summary).
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At noon, the pallid Dough-Boy called Captain Ahab, who was currently observing the sun at the quarter-boat, for dinner. Then, Ahab excitedly called Mr. Starbuck for dinner as he was going inside the cabin.
By the time Starbuck supposed that Ahab had already seated, he approached and called Mr. Stubb for dinner, and then Starbuck went into the cabin. Shortly, Stubb lounged at the ropes, slightly shook the main brace to make sure that all is secured; rapidly said ‘Dinner Mr. Flask’, and then also went into the cabin.
Now Flask seemed to feel relieved when they left him alone at the quarter-deck. He winked in all directions as he kicked and struck a hornpipe, pitched his cup dexterously into the mizzen-top, and went down rollicking into the cabin. But upon stepping into the cabin doorway below deck, he took off his smile as he entered King Ahab’s presence.
As you might have noticed, the Captain goes to the cabin first while all his other commanders follow and shows themselves humbly into the cabin-table. Ishmael compared this grandeur “practice” of theirs to king Belshazzar’s1king of Babylon dinner time with his invited guests and also to Caesar’s, who had dined with his friends.
Each of the Pequod’s officers waited to be served. They were like little children to Ahab, yet it seemed like Ahab treated them as equal when they were at the table. Meanwhile, their eyes locked onto Ahab’s knife as he sliced the dish and as he gave the slice of meat on a plate to Starbuck. Upon receiving the plate, Mr. Starbuck started to cut the meat and chewed on the meat quietly.
Everyone was quiet at the table, even though Ahab didn’t forbid them to speak. Suddenly, Stubb choked because of a rat’s noise. Flask could have taken the drumsticks, but instead, he had the shin-bones of the beef. Additionally, he could have helped himself with the butter, but he had decided not to have some of it.
As a result, Mr. Flask was the first one to finish and to return back up to deck, since he didn’t have much to eat at dinner. Next, Mr. Stubb followed upstairs. And finally, Mr. Starbuck ascended the deck, too. Afterwards, Dough-Boy cleaned up the table and called the three harpooneers down to the cabin to have dinner.
In comparison to their three superiors, who were very careful of chewing, these harpooneers chewed up their food freely and filled up their bellies like lords. Their appetites were great, especially Queegqueg’s and Tashtego’s. If Dough-Boy hadn’t skipped about and hopped while serving them, then Tashtego would have darted him at his back with a fork. Queegqueg and Daggoo also tried to bully this poor, pale steward.
After Dough-Boy had given all of their orders, he would go and hide inside his little pantry and then fearfully peep at them through the blinds of his door, until all had finished. Later, Queegqueg sat over against Tashtego. But as for Daggoo, he sat on the floor because his large, heavy would have broken the bench if he sat on it.
Meanwhile, Dough-Boy trembled as if these savages had bitten his arms and picked out his bones. He even shattered the crockery he had on his pantry because he was so scared! Furthermore, seeing them sharpen their knives after dinner made Dough-Boy almost carry a buckler to protect himself because of fear. At last! The three harpooneers left and went back to deck, which was a huge relief for Dough-Boy.
Captain Ahab allows these barbarians to go inside the cabin only during meal times and when passing by as they go to their own quarters at bedtime. So, the crew of the Pequod lived mostly outside of it while Ahab lived mostly in it before and after meal times, alone.
End of Moby Dick Chapter 34: The Cabin-Table (summary)