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Moby Dick

7. The Chapel
In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman's Chapel, and few are the moody
fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who fail to make a Sunday visit
to the spot. I am sure that I did not.
Returning from my first morning stroll, I again sallied out upon this special errand. The
sky had changed from clear, sunny cold, to driving sleet and mist. Wrapping myself in
my shaggy jacket of the cloth called bearskin, I fought my way against the stubborn
storm. Entering, I found a small scattered congregation of sailors, and sailors' wives and
widows. A muffled silence reigned, only broken at times by the shrieks of the storm.
Each silent worshipper seemed purposely sitting apart from the other, as if each silent
grief were insular and incommunicable. The chaplain had not yet arrived; and there
these silent islands of men and women sat steadfastly eyeing several marble tablets,
with black borders, masoned into the wall on either side the pulpit. Three of them ran
something like the following, but I do not pretend to quote:--
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JOHN TALBOT, Who, at the age of eighteen, was lost
overboard, Near the Isle of Desolation, off Patagonia, November 1st, 1836. THIS
TABLET Is erected to his Memory BY HIS SISTER. _____________
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF ROBERT LONG, WILLIS ELLERY, NATHAN
COLEMAN, WALTER CANNY, SETH MACY, AND SAMUEL GLEIG, Forming one of
the boats' crews OF THE SHIP ELIZA Who were towed out of sight by a Whale, On the
Off-shore Ground in the PACIFIC, December 31st, 1839. THIS MARBLE Is here placed
by their surviving SHIPMATES. _____________
SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF The late CAPTAIN EZEKIEL HARDY, Who in the
bows of his boat was killed by a Sperm Whale on the coast of Japan, AUGUST 3d,
1833. THIS TABLET Is erected to his Memory BY HIS WIDOW.
Shaking off the sleet from my ice-glazed hat and jacket, I seated myself near the door,
and turning sideways was surprised to see Queequeg near me. Affected by the
solemnity of the scene, there was a wondering gaze of incredulous curiosity in his
countenance. This savage was the only person present who seemed to notice my
entrance; because he was the only one who could not read, and, therefore, was not
reading those frigid inscriptions on the wall. Whether any of the relatives of the seamen
whose names appeared there were now among the congregation, I knew not; but so
many are the unrecorded accidents in the fishery, and so plainly did several women
present wear the countenance if not the trappings of some unceasing grief, that I feel
sure that here before me were assembled those, in whose unhealing hearts the sight of
those bleak tablets sympathetically caused the old wounds to bleed afresh.
 
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