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(Carpenter standing before his vice-bench, and by the light of
two lanterns busily filing the ivory joist for the leg, which
joist is firmly fixed in the vice. Slabs of ivory, leather
straps, pads, screws, and various tools of all sorts lying
about the bench. Forward, the red flame of the forge is
seen, where the blacksmith is at work.

Drat the file, and drat the bone! That is hard which should
be soft, and that is soft which should be hard. So we go, who
file old jaws and shinbones. Let's try another. Aye, now,
this works better (sneezes). Halloa, this bone dust is (sneezes)
—why it's (sneezes)—yes it's (sneezes)—bless my soul, it won't
let me speak! This is what an old fellow gets now for working
in dead lumber. Saw a live tree, and you don't get this dust;
amputate a live bone, and you don't get it (sneezes). Come,
come, you old Smut, there, bear a hand, and let's have that
ferule and buckle-screw; I'll be ready for them presently.
Lucky now (sneezes) there's no knee-joint to make; that might
puzzle a little; but a mere shinbone—why it's easy as making
hop-poles; only I should like to put a good finish on. Time,
time; if I but only had the time, I could turn him out as neat


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a leg now as ever (sneezes) scraped to a lady in a parlor. Those
buckskin legs and calves of legs I've seen in shop windows
wouldn't compare at all. They soak water, they do; and of
course get rheumatic, and have to be doctored (sneezes) with
washes and lotions, just like live legs. There; before I saw it
off, now, I must call his old Mogulship, and see whether the
length will be all right; too short, if anything, I guess. Ha!
that's the heel; we are in luck; here he comes, or it's somebody
else, that's certain.

Ahab (advancing).

(During the ensuing scene, the carpenter continues sneezing at

Well, manmaker!

Just in time, sir. If the captain pleases, I will now mark the
length. Let me measure, sir.

Measured for a leg! good. Well, it's not the first time.
About it! There; keep thy finger on it. This is a cogent
vice thou hast here, carpenter; let me feel its grip once. So,
so; it does pinch some.

Oh, sir, it will break bones—beware, beware!

No fear; I like a good grip; I like to feel something in this
slippery world that can hold, man. What's Prometheus about
there?—the blacksmith, I mean—what's he about?

He must be forging the buckle-screw, sir, now.

Right. It's a partnership; he supplies the muscle part.
He makes a fierce red flame there!

Aye, sir; he must have the white heat for this kind of fine

Um-m. So he must. I do deem it now a most meaning
thing, that that old Greek, Prometheus, who made men, they
say, should have been a blacksmith, and animated them with
fire; for what's made in fire must properly belong to fire;
and so hell's probable. How the soot flies! This must be the
remainder the Greek made the Africans of. Carpenter, when


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he's through with that buckle, tell him to forge a pair of steel
shoulder blades; there's a pedlar aboard with a crushing pack.


Hold; while Prometheus is about it, I'll order a complete
man after a desirable pattern. Imprimis, fifty feet high in his
socks; then, chest modelled after the Thames Tunnel; then,
legs with roots to 'em, to stay in one place; then, arms three
feet through the wrist; no heart at all, brass forehead, and
about a quarter of an acre of fine brains; and let me see—shall
I order eyes to see outwards? No, but put a sky-light on top
of his head to illuminate inwards. There, take the order, and

Now, what's he speaking about, and who's he speaking to, I
should like to know? Shall I keep standing here? (aside.)

'Tis but indifferent architecture to make a blind dome; here's
one. No, no, no; I must have a lantern.

Ho, ho! That's it, hey? Here are two, sir; one will serve
my turn.

What art thou thrusting that thief-catcher into my face for,
man? Thrusted light is worse than presented pistols.

I thought, sir, that you spoke to carpenter.

Carpenter? why that's—but no;—a very tidy, and, I may
say, an extremely gentlemanlike sort of business thou art in here,
carpenter;—or would'st thou rather work in clay?

Sir?—Clay? clay, sir? That's mud; we leave clay to
ditchers, sir.

The fellow's impious! What art thou sneezing about?

Bone is rather dusty, sir.

Take the hint, then; and when thou art dead, never bury
thyself under living people's noses.

Sir?—oh! ah!—I guess so;—yes—oh, dear!

Look ye, carpenter, I dare say thou callest thyself a right
good workmanlike workman, eh? Well, then, will it speak
thoroughly well for thy work, if, when I come to mount this leg


Page 524
thou makest, I shall nevertheless feel another leg in the same
identical place with it; that is, carpenter, my old lost leg; the
flesh and blood one, I mean. Canst thou not drive that old
Adam away?

Truly, sir, I begin to understand somewhat now. Yes, I
have heard something curious on that score, sir; how that a
dismasted man never entirely loses the feeling of his old spar,
but it will be still pricking him at times. May I humbly ask
if it be really so, sir?

It is, man. Look, put thy live leg here in the place where
mine once was; so, now, here is only one distinct leg to the eye,
yet two to the soul. Where thou feelest tingling life; there,
exactly there, there to a hair, do I. Is't a riddle?

I should humbly call it a poser, sir.

Hist, then. How dost thou know that some entire, living,
thinking thing may not be invisibly and uninterpenetratingly
standing precisely where thou now standest; aye, and standing
there in thy spite? In thy most solitary hours, then, dost thou
not fear eavesdroppers? Hold, don't speak! And if I still
feel the smart of my crushed leg, though it be now so long dissolved;
then, why mayst not thou, carpenter, feel the fiery pains
of hell for ever, and without a body? Hah!

Good Lord! Truly, sir, if it comes to that, I must calculate
over again; I think I didn't carry a small figure, sir.

Look ye, pudding-heads should never grant premises.—How
long before the leg is done?

Perhaps an hour, sir.

Bungle away at it then, and bring it to me (turns to go).
Oh, Life! Here I am, proud as Greek god, and yet standing
debtor to this blockhead for a bone to stand on! Cursed be
that mortal inter-indebtedness which will not do away with
ledgers. I would be free as air; and I'm down in the whole
world's books. I am so rich, I could have given bid for bid
with the wealthiest Prætorians at the auction of the Roman


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empire (which was the world's); and yet I owe for the flesh
in the tongue I brag with. By heavens! I'll get a crucible, and
into it, and dissolve myself down to one small, compendious
vertebra. So.

CARPENTER (resuming his work).

Well, well, well! Stubb knows him best of all, and Stubb
always says he's queer; says nothing but that one sufficient
little word queer; he's queer, says Stubb; he's queer—queer,
queer; and keeps dinning it into Mr. Starbuck all the time—queer,
sir—queer, queer, very queer. And here's his leg! Yes, now
that I think of it, here's his bedfellow! has a stick of whale's
jaw-bone for a wife! And this is his leg; he'll stand on this.
What was that now about one leg standing in three places, and
all three places standing in one hell—how was that? Oh! I
don't wonder he looked so scornful at me! I'm a sort of
strange-thoughted sometimes, they say; but that's only hap-hazard-like.
Then, a short, little old body like me, should
never undertake to wade out into deep waters with tall, heron-built
captains; the water chucks you under the chin pretty
quick, and there's a great cry for life-boats. And here's the
heron's leg! long and slim, sure enough! Now, for most folks
one pair of legs lasts a lifetime, and that must be because they
use them mercifully, as a tender-hearted old lady uses her rolypoly
old coach-horses. But Ahab; oh he's a hard driver.
Look, driven one leg to death, and spavined the other for life,
and now wears out bone legs by the cord. Halloa, there, you
Smut! bear a hand there with those screws, and let's finish it
before the resurrection fellow comes a-calling with his horn for
all legs, true or false, as brewery-men go round collecting old
beer barrels, to fill 'em up again. What a leg this is! It
looks like a real live leg, filed down to nothing but the core;
he'll be standing on this to-morrow; he'll be taking altitudes
on it. Halloa! I almost forgot the little oval slate, smoothed


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ivory, where he figures up the latitude. So, so; chisel, file, and
sand-paper, now!