Chapter 127 The Deck

        The coffin laid upon two line-tubs, between the vise-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.

        "What's here?"

        "Life-buoy, sir. Mr. Starbuck's orders."

        "Art thou not 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."

        "Then tell me, art thou not an arrant, 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 a jack-of-all-trades."

        "But I do not mean anything by it, sir. I do as I do."

        "The gods again. Dost thou never sing working about a coffin? The grave-digger in the play sings." [Ahab's been reading Hamlet!]

        "The grave-digger must have sung because there was no music in his spade, sir. But the caulking mallet is full of it. Hark to it."

        "Aye, and that's because the lid there's a sounding-board; there's naught beneath. And yet, a coffin with a body in it rings pretty much the same, Carpenter."

        "Faith, sir---"

        "Faith? What's that?"

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

        "Art thou a silk-worm? Dost thou spin thy own shroud out of thyself?"

        Ahab leaves after badgering the poor Carpenter.

        After that equatorial squall, the Carpenter thinks that Ahab is cut by some sort of Equator himself, right in his middle.

Ahab to himself.

        "A life-buoy of a coffin! Can it be that in some spiritual sense the coffin is, after all, but an immortality-preserver! Will ye never have done Carpenter, with that accursed sound? [Note that the sound of hammering on board a ship has been known to infuriate bull whales into ramming the ship with their battering-ram heads.] I go below; let me not see that thing here when I return again. Now, then, Pip, we'll talk this over."

        Ahab has found a kindred spirit in Pip. Both are unhinged by the buffets of fate and fortune. Strange bedfellows, indeed -- as were Ishmael and Queequeg. Melville has created a powerful symbolism as well: a coffin that serves as a life-preserver. There s a suggestion of resurrection in all of this, but for whom?