During the course of their conversation, the old man noticed a piece of timber propped up against the wall. He tapped it with his walking stick and said, "That's the stuff for my coffin."
Like many younger men confronted with morbid talk from the elderly, the carpenter dismissed the notion. Awkwardly, he shifted the discussion onto the plank itself, which was amongst many other similar pieces, arguing that it was nothing special. Plus there were plenty more here of much greater quality.
The old man was having none of it. "That's for my coffin right enough." He insisted, the tip of his stick touching a distinctive knot in the woodwork. "Just the stuff."
By and by, their brew supped, the gentleman left and the carpenter got on with his work. Days passed before he ever contemplated that timber again, and then it was only to fetch it for his workbench, in order to work it as part of a table.
But as soon as his plane touched the first rough edge, a loud knocking startled him into stopping.
Thinking it was someone at the front door requesting entrance, he called, "Come on with you. It's open." Nothing. "Come on." No-one. He checked outside, there was nobody even close by in the street. He attempted to work again. The knocking came as soon as he set tool to plank. It happened three times in all, before the carpenter noticed that knot in the timber and realized it was the old man's coffin wood.
Slightly spooked, he set it aside, out in the yard beyond the workshop. It wasn't like there was anything special about it. He just picked up the next plank for the table.
Within days, the news came along with a commission. The old man was dead, would he make the coffin? The carpenter was saddened, but started immediately on the big job of making his friend's final resting place. He reached for some wood and realized with shock that the timber in his hand bore that same distinctive knotwork.
His apprentice had found the plank aside and, thinking it dropped or misplaced, he'd returned the plank to where it should be stored. It was therefore the topmost piece of timber, when the carpenter came to create the coffin.
Needless to say that this time there was no knocking, as the timber was used for the purpose bestowed by the man it was destined to keep.