The old blacksmith, Perth, has plenty of other work to do after he finishes his portion of Ahab’s new leg: he’s working constantly on new harpoons and lances and other weapons for the men.
Perth limps slightly, and the men pester him until he tells them his story: one winter night he was traveling on the road and had to take refuge in a barn, and the tips of both his feet were lost to frostbite.
For most of his life, Perth was a well-to-do artisan with a nice family, but he was robbed—by his own alcoholism.
His drinking weakened him until he could manage less and less blacksmithing.
Eventually, he had to sell his house, his wife and two of his three children died, and Perth began to wander the streets.