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Chapter 121: Midnight.--The Forecastle Bulwarks.



"No, Stubb; you may pound that knot there as much as you please, but you
will never pound into me what you were just now saying. And how long
ago is it since you said the very contrary? Didn't you once say that
whatever ship Ahab sails in, that ship should pay something extra on its
insurance policy, just as though it were loaded with powder barrels aft
and boxes of lucifers forward? Stop, now; didn't you say so?"

"Well, suppose I did? What then? I've part changed my flesh since that
time, why not my mind? Besides, supposing we ARE loaded with powder
barrels aft and lucifers forward; how the devil could the lucifers get
afire in this drenching spray here? Why, my little man, you have
pretty red hair, but you couldn't get afire now. Shake yourself; you're
Aquarius, or the water-bearer, Flask; might fill pitchers at your coat
collar. Don't you see, then, that for these extra risks the Marine
Insurance companies have extra guarantees? Here are hydrants, Flask. But
hark, again, and I'll answer ye the other thing. First take your leg off
from the crown of the anchor here, though, so I can pass the rope;
now listen. What's the mighty difference between holding a mast's
lightning-rod in the storm, and standing close by a mast that hasn't
got any lightning-rod at all in a storm? Don't you see, you timber-head,
that no harm can come to the holder of the rod, unless the mast is first
struck? What are you talking about, then? Not one ship in a hundred
carries rods, and Ahab,--aye, man, and all of us,--were in no more
danger then, in my poor opinion, than all the crews in ten thousand
ships now sailing the seas. Why, you King-Post, you, I suppose you would
have every man in the world go about with a small lightning-rod running
up the corner of his hat, like a militia officer's skewered feather,
and trailing behind like his sash. Why don't ye be sensible, Flask? it's
easy to be sensible; why don't ye, then? any man with half an eye can be

"I don't know that, Stubb. You sometimes find it rather hard."

"Yes, when a fellow's soaked through, it's hard to be sensible, that's
a fact. And I am about drenched with this spray. Never mind; catch the
turn there, and pass it. Seems to me we are lashing down these anchors
now as if they were never going to be used again. Tying these two
anchors here, Flask, seems like tying a man's hands behind him. And what
big generous hands they are, to be sure. These are your iron fists,
hey? What a hold they have, too! I wonder, Flask, whether the world is
anchored anywhere; if she is, she swings with an uncommon long cable,
though. There, hammer that knot down, and we've done. So; next to
touching land, lighting on deck is the most satisfactory. I say, just
wring out my jacket skirts, will ye? Thank ye. They laugh at long-togs
so, Flask; but seems to me, a Long tailed coat ought always to be worn
in all storms afloat. The tails tapering down that way, serve to carry
off the water, d'ye see. Same with cocked hats; the cocks form gable-end
eave-troughs, Flask. No more monkey-jackets and tarpaulins for me; I
must mount a swallow-tail, and drive down a beaver; so. Halloa! whew!
there goes my tarpaulin overboard; Lord, Lord, that the winds that come
from heaven should be so unmannerly! This is a nasty night, lad."