Moby Dick Chapter 71
The Jeroboam's Story
The ship approaching turns out to be another whaler; the distances and currents between the two are so great, though, that the Pequod can't approach it. A signal is sent out, which the other ship responds to, and by its response, it is shown to be the Jeroboam of Nantucket. The Jeroboam lowers a boat, and the captain rides it over, but refuses to come aboard the Pequod, because of an epidemic on board his own ship.
The small boat keeps pace with the larger one. It holds the captain, named Mayhew, and, among the men pulling the oars, a wild fellow that Stubb had heard mention of from the Town-Ho. The wild looking man, who calls himself Gabriel, believes himself to be a prophet of some kind. The rest of the crew of the Jeroboam is scared of him, and he convinces them to follow him, so Mayhew cannot get rid of him. Gabriel has full run of the ship.
Ahab says he is not afraid of any epidemic, and tells Mayhew to come aboard. Gabriel calls out a warning against it. Ahab asks if they have seen Moby-Dick, and Mayhew tells a story.
It seems when the Jeroboam first left port, and the men heard the stories of Moby-Dick, Gabriel decided that the whale was the Shaker God himself, incarnated in physical form. But when Moby-Dick is sighted by the ship two years later, the captain and his first mate Macey, who is eager to kill Moby-Dick, along with a crew of five men, go after him. They almost succeed, but Moby-Dick manages to kill Macey instead, and the rest of the boat is unharmed. This incident left Gabriel with even greater power among the men, because they believed he had predicted the accident.
Ahab makes it known that he plans on going after Moby-Dick himself. Gabriel shouts out dire warnings. It so happens that the Pequod has a bit of mail for the Jeroboam: a letter to Macey from his wife. Ahab gives it to Mayhew, but before the captain can reach it, Gabriel grabs it, and throws it back onto the Pequod.
"'Nay, keep it thyself,' cried Gabriel to Ahab; 'thou art soon going that way.'" Chapter 71, pg. 269
With that, Gabriel orders the men to row the boat back to the Jeroboam.