"the dying colonel trying to discuss Moby Dick with him"
"Moby Dick" is a reference to the 1851 novel (and the white whale therein) by Herman Melville about the relentless pursuit of a white whale by the obsessed Captain Ahab. Disdained and neglected in its time, it is now regarded as one of the prime contenders for The Great American Novel and an honored landmark in world literature. It is incorrectly identified here; like the book in which it is mentioned, the title should be hyphenated, as Moby-Dick
The illustration at right comes from an 1892 edition of the book, published by C.H. Simonds Co.