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Chapter 8 The Pulpit

  • I had not been seated very long ere a man of a certain venerable robustnes_ntered; immediately as the storm-pelted door flew back upon admitting him, _uick regardful eyeing of him by all the congregation, sufficiently atteste_hat this fine old man was the chaplain. Yes, it was the famous Father Mapple,
  • so called by the whalemen, among whom he was a very great favorite. He ha_een a sailor and a harpooneer in his youth, but for many years past ha_edicated his life to the ministry. At the time I now write of, Father Mappl_as in the hardy winter of a healthy old age; that sort of old age which seem_erging into a second flowering youth, for among all the fissures of hi_rinkles, there shone certain mild gleams of a newly developing bloom— th_pring verdure peeping forth even beneath February’s snow. No one havin_reviously heard his history, could for the first time behold Father Mappl_ithout the utmost interest, because there were certain engrafted clerica_eculiarities about him, imputable to that adventurous maritime life he ha_ed. When he entered I observed that he carried no umbrella, and certainly ha_ot come in his carriage, for his tarpaulin hat ran down with melting sleet,
  • and his great pilot cloth jacket seemed almost to drag him to the floor wit_he weight of the water it had absorbed. However, hat and coat and overshoe_ere one by one removed, and hung up in a little space in an adjacent corner;
  • when, arrayed in a decent suit, he quietly approached the pulpit.
  • Like most old fashioned pulpits, it was a very lofty one, and since a regula_tairs to such a height would, by its long angle with the floor, seriousl_ontract the already small area of the chapel, the architect, it seemed, ha_cted upon the hint of Father Mapple, and finished the pulpit without _tairs, substituting a perpendicular side ladder, like those used in mountin_ ship from a boat at sea. The wife of a whaling captain had provided th_hapel with a handsome pair of red worsted man-ropes for this ladder, which,
  • being itself nicely headed, and stained with a mahogany color, the whol_ontrivance, considering what manner of chapel it was, seemed by no means i_ad taste. Halting for an instant at the foot of the ladder, and with bot_ands grasping the ornamental knobs of the man-ropes, Father Mapple cast _ook upwards, and then with a truly sailor-like but still reverentia_exterity, hand over hand, mounted the steps as if ascending the main-top o_is vessel.
  • The perpendicular parts of this side ladder, as is usually the case wit_winging ones, were of cloth-covered rope, only the rounds were of wood, s_hat at every step there was a joint. At my first glimpse of the pulpit, i_ad not escaped me that however convenient for a ship, these joints in th_resent instance seemed unnecessary. For I was not prepared to see Fathe_apple after gaining the height, slowly turn round, and stooping over th_ulpit, deliberately drag up the ladder step by step, till the whole wa_eposited within, leaving him impregnable in his little Quebec.
  • I pondered some time without fully comprehending the reason for this. Fathe_apple enjoyed such a wide reputation for sincerity and sanctity, that I coul_ot suspect him of courting notoriety by any mere tricks of the stage. No,
  • thought I, there must be some sober reason for this thing; furthermore, i_ust symbolize something unseen. Can it be, then, that by that act of physica_solation, he signifies his spiritual withdrawal for the time, from al_utward worldly ties and connexions? Yes, for replenished with the meat an_ine of the word, to the faithful man of God, this pulpit, I see, is a self-
  • containing stronghold—a lofty Ehrenbreitstein, with a perennial well of wate_ithin the walls.
  • But the side ladder was not the only strange feature of the place, borrowe_rom the chaplain’s former sea-farings. Between the marble cenotaphs on eithe_and of the pulpit, the wall which formed its back was adorned with a larg_ainting representing a gallant ship beating against a terrible storm off _ee coast of black rocks and snowy breakers. But high above the flying scu_nd dark-rolling clouds, there floated a little isle of sunlight, from whic_eamed forth an angel’s face; and this bright face shed a distant spot o_adiance upon the ship’s tossed deck, something like that silver plate no_nserted into the Victory’s plank where Nelson fell. “Ah, noble ship,” th_ngel seemed to say, “beat on, beat on, thou noble ship, and bear a hard_elm; for lo! the sun is breaking through; the clouds are rolling off—
  • serenest azure is at hand.”
  • Nor was the pulpit itself without a trace of the same sea-taste that ha_chieved the ladder and the picture. Its panelled front was in the likeness o_ ship’s bluff bows, and the Holy Bible rested on a projecting piece of scrol_ork, fashioned after a ship’s fiddle-headed beak.
  • What could be more full of meaning?—for the pulpit is ever this earth’_oremost part; all the rest comes in its rear; the pulpit leads the world.
  • From thence it is the storm of God’s quick wrath is first descried, and th_ow must bear the earliest brunt. From thence it is the God of breezes fair o_oul is first invoked for favorable winds. Yes, the world’s a ship on it_assage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.