“He goes off in a huff. The whole he can endure; at the parts he baulks. Now I don’t like this. I make a leg for Captain Ahab, and he wears it like a gentleman; but I make a bandbox for Queequeg, and he won’t put his head into it. Are all my pains to go for nothing with that coffin? And now I’m ordered to make a life-buoy of it. It’s like turning an old coat; going to bring the flesh on the other side now. I don’t like this cobbling sort of business—I don’t like it at all; it’s undignified; it’s not my place. Let tinkers’ brats do tinkerings; we are their betters. I like to take in hand none but clean, virgin, fair-and-square mathematical jobs, something that regularly begins at the beginning, and is at the middle when midway, and comes to an end at the conclusion; not a cobbler’s job, that’s at an end in the middle, and at the beginning at the end. It’s the old woman’s tricks to be giving cobbling jobs.
Lord! what an affection all old women have for tinkers. I know an old woman of sixty-five who ran away with a bald-headed young tinker once. And that’s the reason I never would work for lonely widow old women ashore, when I kept my job-shop in the Vineyard; they might have taken it into their lonely old heads to run off with me. But heigh-ho! there are no caps at sea but snow-caps. Let me see. Nail down the lid; caulk the seams; pay over the same with pitch; batten them down tight, and hang it with the snap-spring over the ship’s stern. Were ever such things done before with a coffin? Some superstitious old carpenters, now, would be tied up in the rigging, ere they would do the job. But I’m made of knotty Aroostook hemlock; I don’t budge. Cruppered with a coffin! Sailing about with a grave-yard tray! But never mind. We workers in woods make bridal-bedsteads and card-tables, as well as coffins and hearses. We work by the month, or by the job, or by the profit; not for us to ask the why and wherefore of our work, unless it be too confounded cobbling, and then we stash it if we can. Hem! I’ll do the job, now, tenderly. I’ll have me—let’s see—how many in the ship’s company, all told? But I’ve forgotten. Any way, I’ll have me thirty separate, Turk’s-headed life-lines, each three feet long hanging all round to the coffin. Then, if the hull go down, there’ll be thirty lively fellows all fighting for one coffin, a sight not seen very often beneath the sun! Come hammer, caulking-iron, pitch-pot, and marling-spike! Let’s to it.”
THE COFFIN LAID UPON TWO LINE-TUBS, BETWEEN THE VICE-BENCH AND THE OPEN HATCHWAY; THE CARPENTER CAULKING 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, AND 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 else.”