twisted in and out of the planks with every pitch of the vessel. The ceiling, damaged in several places, began to gape. The whole ship was filled with the awful tumult.

The captain promptly recovered his composure, and at his order the sailors threw down into the deck everything which could deaden and check the mad rush of the gun,-mattresses, hammocks, spare sails, coils of rope, extra equipments, and the bales of false assignats, or counterfeit money, of which the corvette carried a whole cargo—an infamous deception which the English considered a fair trick in war. But what could these rags avail? No one dared descend to arrange them in any useful fashion, and in a few instants they were mere heaps of lint.

There was just sea enough to render an accident as complete as possible. A tempest would have been desirable, it might have thrown the gun upside down; and the four wheels once in the air, the monster could have been mastered. But the devastation increased.

There were gashes and even fractures in the masts, which, imbedded in the woodwork of the keel, pierce the decks of ships like great round pillars. The mizzen-mast was cracked, and the main-mast itself was injured under the convulsive blows of the gun. The battery was being destroyed. Ten pieces out of the thirty were disabled; the breaches multiplied in the side, and the corvette began to take in water.

Each bound of the liberated carronade menaced the destruction of the vessel. A few minutes more and ship

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wreck would be inevitable. ... The waves beat against the ship; their blows from without responded to the strokes of the cannon. It was like two hammers alternating


Suddenly, into the midst of this sort of inaccessible circus, where the escaped cannon leaped and bounded, there sprang a man with an iron bar in his hand. It was the author of this catastrophe,—the gunner whose culpable negligence had caused the accident, the captain of the gun. Having been the means of bringing about the misfortune, he desired to repair it. He had caught up a handspike in one fist, a tiller-rope with a slippingnoose in the other, and jumped down into the gun-deck.

Then a strange combat began, a titanic strife,—the struggle of the gun against the gunner, a battle between matter and intelligence, a duel between the inanimate and the human. The man was posted in an angle, the bar and rope in his two fists; backed against one of the riders, settled firmly on his legs as on two pillars of steel, livid, calm, tragic, rooted as it were in the planks, he waited for the cannon to pass near him. The gunner knew his piece, and it seemed to him that she must recognize her master. He had lived a long while with her. How many times he had thrust his hand between her jaws! It was his tame monster. He began to address it as he might have done his dog. “Come!” said he. Perhaps he loved it. He seemed to wish that it would turn toward him. But to come toward him would be to spring upon him. Then he would be lost. How avoid its crush? There was the question. All stared in terrified silence. Not a breast respired freely. . . . Beneath them, the blind sea directed the battle.

At the instant when, accepting this awful hand-to-hand contest, the gunner approached to challenge the cannon, some chance fluctuation of the waves kept it for a moment immovable, as if suddenly stupefied. “Come on!” the man said to it. It seemed to listen. Suddenly it darted upon him. The gunner avoided the shock.

The struggle began, struggle unheard of, the fragile matching itself against the invulnerable, the thing of flesh attacking the brazen brute; on the one side blind force, on the other a soul. ...

.. A soul,—strange thing; but you would have said that the cannon had one also,a soul filled with rage and hatred. The blindness appeared to have eyes. The monster had the air of watching the man. There was—one might have fancied so at least-cunning in this mass. It also chose its moment. It became some gigantic insect of metal, having, or seeming to have, the will of a demon. Sometimes this colossal grasshopper would strike the low ceiling of the gun-deck, then fall back on its four wheels like a tiger upon its four claws, and dart anew on the man. He, supple, agile, adroit, would glide away like a snake from the reach of these lightning-like movements. He avoided the encounters; but the blows which he escaped fell upon the vessel and continued the havoc.

An end of broken chain remained attached to the carronade. This chain had twisted itself, one could not tell how, about the screw of the breech-button. One extremity of the chain was fastened to the carriage. The other, hanging loose, whirled wildly about the gun and added to the danger of its blows. The screw held it like a clinched hand, and the chain multiplying the strokes of the battering-ram by its strokes of a thong made a fearful whirlwind about the cannon, a whip of iron in a fist of brass. This chain complicated the battle.


Nevertheless, the man fought. Sometimes, even, it was the man who attacked the cannon. He crept along the side, bar and rope in hand, and the cannon had the air of understanding, and fled as if it perceived a snare. The man pursued it, formidable, fearless.

Such a duel could not last long. The gun seemed suddenly to say to itself, “Come, we must make an end!” and it paused. One felt the approach of the crisis. The cannon, as if in suspense, appeared to have, or had, because it seemed to all a sentient being,—a furious premeditation. It sprang unexpectedly upon the gunner. He jumped aside, let it pass, and cried out with a laugh, "Try again!” The gun, as if in a fury, broke' a carronade to larboard; then, seized anew by the invisible sling which held it, was flung to starboard toward the man, but he escaped.

Three carronades gave way under the blows of the gun; then, as if blind and no longer conscious of what it was doing, it turned its back on the man, rolled from the stern to the bow, bruising the stem and making a breach in the plankings of the prow. ...

The gunner, who had taken refuge at the foot of the stairs, a few steps from an old man, held his hand-spike in rest. The cannon seemed to perceive him, and, without taking the trouble to turn itself, backed upon him with the quickness of an axe-stroke. The gunner, if driven back against the side, was lost. The crew uttered a simultaneous cry.

But the old passenger, until now immovable, made a spring more rapid than all those wild whirls. He seized a bale of the false assignats, and at the risk of being crushed, succeeded in flinging it between the wheels of the carronade. This maneuvre, decisive and dangerous, could not have been executed with more adroitness and precision by a man trained to all the exercises set down in a manual of sea gunnery. The bale had the effect of a plug. A pebble may stop a log, a tree-branch turn an

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