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The coffin laid upon two line-tubs, between the vice-bench and
the open hatchway; the Carpenter calking its seams; the
string of twisted oakum slowly unwinding from a large roll
of it placed in the bosom of his frock.—Ahab comes slowly
from the cabin-gangway, aud hears Pip following him.

Back, lad; I will be with ye again presently. He goes!
Not this hand complies with my humor more genially than that
boy.—Middle aisle of a church! What's here?”

“Life-buoy, sir. Mr. Starbuck's orders. Oh, look, sir! Beware
the hatchway!”

“Thank ye, man. Thy coffin lies handy to the vault.”

“Sir? The hatchway? oh! So it does, sir, so it does.”

“Art not thou the leg-maker? Look, did not this stump
come from thy shop?”

“I believe it did, sir; does the ferrule stand, sir?”

“Well enough. But art thou not also the undertaker?”

“Aye, sir; I patched up this thing here as a coffin for Queequeg;
but they've set me now to turning it into something

“Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling,
monopolizing, heathenish old scamp, to be one day
making legs, and the next day coffins to clap them in, and yet
again life-buoys out of those same coffins? Thou art as unprincipled
as the gods, and as much of a jack-of-all-trades.”


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“But I do not mean anything, sir. I do as I do.”

“The gods again. Hark ye, dost thou not ever sing working
about a coffin? The Titans, they say, hummed snatches when
chipping out the craters for volcanoes; and the grave-digger in
the play sings, spade in hand. Dost thou never?”

“Sing, sir? Do I sing? Oh, I'm indifferent enough, sir,
for that; but the reason why the grave-digger made music
must have been because there was none in his spade, sir. But
the calking mallet is full of it. Hark to it.”

“Aye, and that's because the lid there's a sounding-board;
and what in all things makes the sounding-board is this—
there's naught beneath. And yet, a coffin with a body in it
rings pretty much the same, Carpenter. Hast thou ever helped
carry a bier, and heard the coffin knock against the church-yard
gate, going in?”

“Faith, sir, I've —”

“Faith? What's that?”

“Why, faith, sir, it's only a sort of exclamation-like—that's
all, sir.”

“Um, um; go on.”

“I was about to say, sir, that —”

“Art thou a silk-worm? Dost thou spin thy own shroud
out of thyself? Look at thy bosom! Despatch! and get
these traps out of sight.”

“He goes aft. That was sudden, now; but squalls come
sudden in hot latitudes. I've heard that the Isle of Albemarle,
one of the Gallipagos, is cut by the Equator right in the middle.
Seems to me some sort of Equator cuts you old man, too, right
in his middle. He's always under the Line—fiery hot, I tell ye!
He's looking this way—come, oakum; quick. Here we go
again. This wooden mallet is the cork, and I'm the professor
of musical glasses—tap, tap!”

(Ahab to himself.)

“There's a sight! There's a sound! The greyheaded woodpecker


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tapping the hollow tree! Blind and dumb might well
be envied now. See! that thing rests on two line-tubs, full of
tow-lines. A most malicious wag, that fellow. Rat-tat! So
man's seconds tick! Oh! how immaterial are all materials!
What things real are there, but imponderable thoughts? Here
now's the very dreaded symbol of grim death, by a mere hap,
made the expressive sign of the help and hope of most
endangered life. A life-buoy of a coffin! Does it go further?
Can it be that in some spiritual sense the coffin is, after all, but
an immortality-preserver! I'll think of that. But no. So far
gone am I in the dark side of earth, that its other side, the
theoretic bright one, seems but uncertain twilight to me. Will
ye never have done, Carpenter, with that accursed sound? I
go below; let me not see that thing here when I return again.
Now, then, Pip, we'll talk this over; I do suck most wondrous
philosophies from thee! Some unknown conduits from the
unknown worlds must empty into thee!”