Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1927
Page 4 of 12
Originally from the novel Quatre-Vingt Treize
It went on in its destructive work. It had already shattered
four other guns and made two gaps in the side of the ship, fortunately
above the water-line, but where the water would come in, in case of
heavy weather. It rushed frantically against the framework; the strong
timbers withstood the shock; the curved shape of the wood gave them
great power of resistance; but they creaked beneath the blows of this
huge club, beating on all sides at once, with a strange sort of ubiquity.
The percussions of a grain of shot shaken in a bottle are not swifter
or more senseless. The four wheels passed back and forth over the dead
men, cutting them, carving them, slashing them, till the five corpses
were a score of stumps rolling across the deck; the heads of the dead
men seemed to cry out; streams of blood curled over the deck with the
rolling of the vessel; the planks, damaged in several places, began
to gape open. The whole ship was filled with the horrid noise and confusion.
The captain promptly recovered his presence of mind and ordered everything that could check and impede the cannon's mad course to be thrown through the hatchway down on the gun-deck-mattresses, hammocks, spare sails, rolls of cordage, bags belonging to the crew, and bales of counterfeit assignats, of which the corvet carried a large quantity--a characteristic piece of English villainy regarded as legitimate warfare.
But what could these rags do? As nobody dared to go below to dispose of them properly, they were reduced to lint in a few minutes.
There was just sea enough to make the accident as bad as possible. A tempest would have been desirable, for it might have upset the cannon, and with its four wheels once in the air there would be some hope of getting it under control. Meanwhile, the havoc increased.