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From the ship's bows, nearly all the seamen now hung inactive; hammers,
bits of plank, lances, and harpoons, mechanically retained in their
hands, just as they had darted from their various employments; all
their enchanted eyes intent upon the whale, which from side to side
strangely vibrating his predestinating head, sent a broad band of
overspreading semicircular foam before him as he rushed. Retribution,
swift vengeance, eternal malice were in his whole aspect, and spite of
all that mortal man could do, the solid white buttress of his forehead
smote the ship's starboard bow, till men and timbers reeled. Some fell
flat upon their faces. Like dislodged trucks, the heads of the
harpooners aloft shook on their bull-like necks. Through the breach,
they heard the waters pour, as mountain torrents down a flume.

"The ship! The hearse! - the second hearse!" cried Ahab from the boat;
"its wood could only be American!"

Diving beneath the settling ship, the whale ran quivering along its
keel; but turning under water, swiftly shot to the surface again, far
off the other bow, but within a few yards of Ahab's boat, where, for a
time, he lay quiescent.

"I turn my body from the sun. What ho, Tashtego! let me hear thy
hammer. Oh! ye three unsurrendered spires of mine; thou uncracked
keel; and only god-bullied hull; thou firm deck, and haughty helm, and
Pole-pointed prow, - death-glorious ship! must ye then perish, and
without me? Am I cut off from the last fond pride of meanest
shipwrecked captains? Oh, lonely death on lonely life! Oh, now I feel
my topmost greatness lies in my topmost grief. Ho, ho! from all your
furthest bounds, pour ye now in, ye bold billows of my whole fore-gone
life, and top this one piled comber of my death! Towards thee I roll,
thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with
thee; from hell's heart I stab at thee; for hate's sake I spit my last
breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool!
and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still
chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! _Thus_, I give
up the spear!"

The harpoon was darted; the stricken whale flew forward; with igniting
velocity the line ran through the groove; - ran foul. Ahab stooped to
clear it; he did clear it! but the flying turn caught him round the
neck, and voicelessly as Turkish mutes bowstring their victim, he was
shot out of the boat, ere the crew knew he was gone. Next instant, the
heavy eye-splice in the rope's final end flew out of the stark-empty
tub, knocked down an oarsmen, and smiting the sea, disappeared in its
depths.

For an instant, the tranced boat's crew stood still; then turned. "The
ship! Great God, where is the ship?" Soon they through dim,
bewildering mediums saw her sidelong fading phantom, as in the gaseous
_Fata Morgana_; only the uppermost masts out of water; while fixed by
infatuation, or fidelity, or fate, to their once lofty perches, the
pagan harpooners still maintained their sinking lookouts on the sea.
And now, concentric circles seized the lone boat itself, and all its
crew, and each floating oar, and every lance-pole, and spinning,
animate and inanimate, all round and round in one vortex, carried the
smallest chip of the _Pequod_ out of sight.

But as the last whelmings intermixingly poured themselves over the
sunken head of the Indian at the mainmast, leaving a few inches of the
erect spar yet visible, together with long streaming yards of the flag,
which calmly undulated, with ironical coincidings, over the destroying
billows they almost touched; - at that instant, a red arm and a hammer
hovered backwardly uplifted in the open air, in the act of nailing the
flag faster and yet faster to the subsiding spar. A sky-hawk that
tauntingly had followed the main-truck downwards from its natural home
among the stars, pecking at the flag, and incommoding Tashtego there;
this bird now chanced to intercept its broad fluttering wing between
the hammer and the wood; and simultaneously feeling that ethereal
thrill, the submerged savage beneath, in his death-gasp, kept his
hammer frozen there; and so the bird of heaven, with arch-angelic
shrieks, and his imperial beak thrust upwards, and his whole captive
form folded in the flag of Ahab, went down with his ship, which, like
Satan, would not sink to hell till she had dragged a living part of
heaven along with her, and helmeted herself with it.

Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen
white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the
great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago.



[1] This motion is peculiar to the sperm whale. It receives its
designation (pitchpoling) from its being likened to that preliminary
up-and-down poise of the whale-lance, in the exercise called
pitchpoling previously described. By this motion the whale must best
and most comprehensively view whatever objects may be encircling him.




THE CORVETTE _CLAYMORE_

From "Ninety-three," BY VICTOR HUGO


The corvette, instead of sailing south, in the direction of St.
Catherine, headed to the north, then, veering towards the west, had
boldly entered that arm of the sea between Sark and Jersey called the
Passage of the Deroute. There was then no lighthouse at any point on
either coast. It had been a clear sunset; the night was darker than
summer nights usually are; it was moonlight, but large clouds, rather
of the equinox than of the solstice overspread the sky, and, judging by
appearances, the moon would not be visible until she reached the
horizon at the moment of setting. A few clouds hung low near the
surface of the sea and covered it with vapor.

All this darkness was favorable. Gacquoil, the pilot, intended to
leave Jersey on the left, Guernsey on the right, and by boldly sailing
between Hanois and Dover, to reach some bay on the coast near St. Malo,
a longer but safer route than the one through Minqulers; for the French
coaster had standing orders to keep an unusually sharp lookout between
St. Hélier and Granville.

If the wind were favorable, and nothing happened, by dint of setting
all sail Gacquoil hoped to reach the coast of France at daybreak.

All went well. The corvette had just passed Gros Nez. Towards nine
o'clock the weather looked sullen, as the sailors express it, both wind
and sea rising; but the wind was favorable, and the sea was rough, yet
not heavy, the waves now and then dashing over the bow of the corvette.
"The peasant" whom Lord Balcarras had called general, and whom the
Prince de La Tour d'Auvergne had addressed as cousin, was a good
sailor, and paced the deck of the corvette with calm dignity. He did
not seem to notice that she rocked considerably. From time to time he
took out of his waistcoat pocket a cake of chocolate, and breaking off
a piece, munched it. Though his hair was gray, his teeth were sound.

He spoke to no one, except that from time to time he made a few concise
remarks in an undertone to the captain, who listened to him
deferentially, apparently regarding his passenger as the commander,
rather than himself. Unobserved in the fog, and skilfully piloted, the
_Claymore_ coasted along the steep shore to the north of Jersey,
hugging the land to avoid the formidable reef of Pierres-de-Leeq, which
lies in the middle of the strait between Jersey and Sark. Gacquoil, at
the helm, sighting in turn Grève de Leeq, Gros Nez, and Plérmont,
making the corvette glide in among those chains of reefs, felt his way
along to a certain extent but with the self-confidence of one familiar
with the ways of the sea.

The corvette had no light forward, fearing to betray its passage
through these guarded waters. They congratulated themselves on the
fog. The Grande Etape was reached; the mist was so dense that the
lofty outlines of the Pinnacle were scarcely visible. They heard it
strike ten from the belfry of Saint-Ouen, - a sign that the wind was
still aft. All was going well; the sea grew rougher, because they were
drawing near La Corbière.

A little after ten, the Count Boisberthelot and the Chevalier de la
Vieuville escorted the man in the peasant garb to the door of his
cabin, which was the captain's own room. As he was about to enter, he
remarked, lowering his voice: -

"You understand the importance of keeping the secret, gentlemen.
Silence up to the moment of explosion. You are the only ones here who
know my name."

"We will carry it to the grave," replied Boisberthelot.

"And for my part, I would not reveal it were I face to face with
death," remarked the old man.

And he entered his stateroom.

The commander and the first officer returned on deck, and began to pace
up and down side by side, talking as they walked. The theme was
evidently their passenger; and this was the substance of the
conversation which the wind wafted through the darkness. Boisberthelot
grumbled half audibly to La Vieuville, -

"It remains to be seen whether or no he is a leader."

La Vieuville replied, -

"Meanwhile he is a prince."

"Almost."

"A nobleman in France, but a prince in Brittany."

"Like the Trémouilles and the Rohans."

"With whom he is connected."

Boisberthelot resumed, -

"In France and in the carriages of the king he is a marquis, - as I am a
count, and you a chevalier."

"The carriages are far away!" exclaimed Vieuville. "We are living in
the time of the tumbril."

A silence ensued.

Boisberthelot went on, -

"For lack of a French prince we take one from Brittany."

"For lack of thrushes - No: since an eagle is not to be found, we take a
crow."

"I should prefer a vulture," remarked Boisberthelot.

La Vieuville replied, -

"Yes, indeed, with a beak and talons."

"We shall see."

"Yes," replied Vieuville, "it is time there was a leader. I agree with
Tinténiac, - a leader and gunpowder! See here, commander, I know nearly
all the possible and impossible leaders, - those of yesterday, those of
to-day, and those of to-morrow. Not one of them has the head required
for war. In this cursed Vendée a general is needed who would be a
lawyer as well as a leader. He must harass the enemy, dispute every
bush, ditch, and stone; he must force unlucky quarrels upon him, and
take advantage of everything; vigilant and pitiless, he must watch
incessantly, slaughter freely, and make examples. Now, in this army of
peasants there are heroes, but no captains. D'Elbée is a nonentity,
Lescure an invalid; Bonchamps is merciful, - he is kind, and that
implies folly; La Rochejaquelein is a superb sub-lieutenant; Silz is an
officer good for the open field, but not suited for a war that needs a
man of expedients; Cathelineau is a simple teamster; Stofflet is a
crafty game-keeper; Bérard is inefficient; Boulainvillers is absurd;
Charette is horrible. I make no mention of Gaston the barber.
Mordemonbleu! what is the use of opposing revolution, and what is the
difference between ourselves and the republicans, if we set barbers
over the heads of noblemen! The fact is, that this beastly revolution
has contaminated all of us."

"It is the itch of France."

"It is the itch of the Tiers état," rejoined Boisberthelot. "England
alone can help us."

"And she will, captain, undoubtedly."

"Meanwhile it is an ugly state of affairs."

"Yes, - rustics everywhere. A monarchy that has Stofflet, the
game-keeper of M. de Maulevrier, for a commander has no reason to envy
a republic whose minister is Pache, the son of the Duke de Castries'
porter. What men this Vendean war brings face to face. - on one side
Santerre the brewer; on the other Gaston the hairdresser!"

"My dear La Vieuville, I feel some respect for this Gaston. He behaved
well in his command of Guéménée. He had three hundred Blues neatly
shot after making them dig their own graves."

"Well enough done; but I could have done quite as well as he."

"Pardieu, to be sure; and I too."

"The great feats of war," said Vieuville, "require noble blood in those
who perform them. These are matters for knights, and not for
hairdressers."

"But yet there are estimable men in this 'Third Estate,'" rejoined
Vieuville. "Take that watchmaker, Joly, for instance. He was formerly
a sergeant in a Flanders regiment; he becomes a Vendean chief and
commander of a coast band. He has a son, a republican; and while the
father serves in the ranks of the Whites, the son serves in those of
the Blues. An encounter, a battle: the father captures the son and
blows out his brains."

"He did well," said La Vieuville.

"A royalist Brutus," answered Boisberthelot. "Nevertheless, it is
unendurable to be under the command of a Coquereau, a Jean-Jean, a
Moulin, a Focart, a Bouju, a Chouppes!"

"My dear chevalier, the opposite party is quite as indignant. We are
crowded with plebeians; they have an excess of nobles. Do you think
the sansculottes like to be commanded by the Count de Canclaux, the
Viscount de Miranda, the Viscount de Beauharnais, the Count de Valence,
the Marquis de Custine, and the Duke de Biron?"

"What a combination!"

"And the Duke de Chartres!"

"Son of Egalité. By the way, when will he be king?"

"Never!"

"He aspires to the throne, and his very crimes serve to promote his
interests."

"And his vices will injure his cause," said Boisberthelot.

Then, after another pause, he continued, -

"Nevertheless, he was anxious to be reconciled. He came to see the
king. I was at Versailles when some one spit on his back."

"From the top of the grand staircase?"

"Yes."

"I am glad of it."

"We called him Bourbon le Bourbeaux."

"He is bald-headed; he has pimples; he is a regicide. Poh!"

And La Vieuville added: -

"I was with him at Ouessant."

"On the _Saint Esprit_?"

"Yes."

"Had he obeyed Admiral d'Orvillier's signal to keep to the windward, he
would have prevented the English from passing."

"True."

"Was he really hidden in the bottom of the hold?"

"No; but we must say so all the same."

And La Vieuville burst out laughing.

Boisberthelot continued: -

"Fools are plentiful. Look here, I have known this Boulainvilliers of
whom you were speaking; I knew him well. At first the peasants were
armed with pikes; would you believe it, he took it into his head to
form them into pike-men. He wanted to drill them in crossing pikes and
repelling a charge. He dreamed of transforming these barbarians into
regular soldiers. He undertook to teach them how to round in the
corners of their squares, and to mass battalions with hollow squares.
He jabbered the antiquated military dialect to them; he called the
chief of a squad a _cap d'escade_, - which was what corporals under
Louis XIV, were called. He persisted in forming a regiment of all
those poachers. He had regular companies whose sergeants ranged
themselves in a circle every evening, and, receiving the sign and
countersign from the colonel's sergeant, repeated it in a whisper to
the lieutenant's sergeant, who repeated it to his next neighbor, who in
his turn transmitted it to the next man, and so on from ear to ear
until it reached the last man. He cashiered an officer for not
standing bareheaded to receive the watchword from the sergeant. You
may imagine how he succeeded. This simpleton could not understand that
peasants have to be led peasant fashion, and that it is impossible to
transform rustics into soldiers. Yes, I have known Boulainvilliers."

They walked along a few steps, each one engrossed in his own thoughts.

Then the conversation was resumed: -

"By the way, has the report of Dampierre's death been confirmed?"

"Yes, commander."

"Before Condé?"

"At the camp of Pamars; he was hit by a cannonball."

Boisberthelot sighed.

"Count Dampierre, - another of our men, who took sides with them."

"May he prosper wherever he may be!" said Vieuville.

"And the ladies, - where are they?"

"At Trieste."

"Still there?"

"Yes."

"Ah, this republic!" exclaimed La Vieuville. "What havoc from so
slight a cause! To think that this revolution was the result of a
deficit of only a few millions!"

"Insignificant beginnings are not always to be trusted."

"Everything goes wrong," replied La Vieuville.

"Yes; La Rouarie is dead. Du Dresnay is an idiot. What wretched
leaders are all those bishops, - this Coucy, bishop of La Rochelle;
Beaupoll Saint-Aulaire, bishop of Poitiers; Mercy, bishop of Luzon, a
lover of Madame de l'Eschasserie - - "

"Whose name is Servanteau, you know, commander. Eschasserie is the
name of an estate."

"And that false bishop of Agra, who is a cure of I know not what!"

"Of Dol. His name is Guillot de Folleville. But then he is brave, and
knows how to fight."

"Priests when one needs soldiers! bishops who are no bishops at all!
generals who are no generals!"

La Vieuville interrupted Boisberthelot.

"Have you the _Moniteur_ in your stateroom, commander?"

"Yes."

"What are they giving now in Paris?"

"'Adele and Pauline' and 'La Caverne.'"

"I should like to see that."

"You may. We shall be in Paris in a month."

Boisberthelot thought a moment, and then added:

"At the latest, - so Mr. Windham told Lord Hood."

"Then, commander, I take it affairs are not going so very badly?"

"All would go well, provided that the Breton war were well managed."

De Vieuville shook his head.

"Commander," he said, "are we to land the marines?"

"Certainly, if the coast is friendly, but not otherwise. In some cases
war must force the gates; in others it can slip through them. Civil
war must always keep a false key in its pocket. We will do all we can;
but one must have a chief."

And Boisberthelot added thoughtfully, -

"What do you think of the Chevalier de Dieuzie, La Vieuville?"

"Do you mean the younger?"

"Yes."

"For a commander?"

"Yes."

"He is only good for a pitched battle in the open field. It is only
the peasant who knows the underbrush."

"In that case, you may as well resign yourself to Generals Stofflet and
Cathelineau."

La Vieuville mediated for a moment; then he said, -

"What we need is a prince, - a French prince, a prince of the blood, a
real prince."

"How can that be? He who says 'prince' - - "

"Says 'coward.' I know it, commander. But we need him for the
impression he would produce upon the herd."

"My dear chevalier, the princes don't care to come."

"We will do without them."

Boisberthelot pressed his hand mechanically against his forehead, as if
striving to evoke an idea. He resumed, -

"Then let us try this general."

"He is a great nobleman."

"Do you think he will do?"

"If he is one of the right sort," said La Vieuville.

"You mean relentless?" said Boisberthelot.

The count and the chevalier looked at each other.

"Monsieur Boisberthelot, you have defined the meaning of the word.
Relentless, - yes, that's what we need. This is a war that shows no
mercy. The blood-thirsty are in the ascendant. The regicides have
beheaded Louis XVI; we will quarter the regicides. Yes, the general we
need is General Relentless. In Anjou and Upper Poitou the leaders play
the magnanimous; they trifle with generosity, and they are always
defeated. In the Marais and the country of Retz, where the leaders are
ferocious, everything goes bravely forward. It is because Charette is
fierce that he stands his ground against Parrein, - hyena pitted against
hyena."

Boisberthelot had no time to answer. Vieuville's words were suddenly
cut short by a desperate cry, and at the same instant they heard a
noise unlike all other sounds. This cry and the unusual sounds came
from the interior of the vessel.

The captain and the lieutenant rushed to the gun-deck, but were unable
to enter. All the gunners came running up, beside themselves with
terror.

A frightful thing had just happened.

One of the carronades of the battery, a twenty-four pound cannon, had
become loose.

This is perhaps the most dreadful thing that can take place at sea.
Nothing more terrible can happen to a man-of-war under full sail.

A cannon that breaks loose from its fastenings is suddenly transformed
into a supernatural beast. It is a monster developed from a machine.
This mass runs along on its wheels as easily as a billiard ball; it
rolls with the rolling, pitches with the pitching, comes and goes,
stops, seems to meditate, begins anew, darts like an arrow from one end
of the ship to the other, whirls around, turns aside, evades, rears,
hits out, crushes, kills, exterminates. It is a ram battering a wall
at its own pleasure. Moreover, the battering-ram is iron, the wall is
wood. It is matter set free; one might say that this eternal slave is
wreaking its vengeance; it would seem as though the evil in what we
call inanimate objects had found vent and suddenly burst forth; it has
the air of having lost its patience, and of taking a mysterious, dull
revenge; nothing is so inexorable as the rage of the inanimate. The
mad mass leaps like a panther; it has the weight of an elephant, the
agility of a mouse, the obstinacy of the axe; it takes one by surprise,
like the surge of the sea; it flashes like lightning; it is deaf as the
tomb; it weighs ten thousand pounds, and it bounds like a child's ball;
it whirls as it advances, and the circles it describes are intersected
by right angles. And what help is there? How can it be overcome? A
calm succeeds the tempest, a cyclone passes over, a wind dies away, we
replace the broken mass, we check the leak, we extinguish the fire; but
what is to be done with this enormous bronze beast? How can it be
subdued? You can reason with a mastiff, take a bull by surprise,
fascinate a snake, frighten a tiger, mollify a lion; but there is no
resource with the monster known as a loosened gun. You cannot kill
it, - it is already dead; and yet it lives. It breathes a sinister life
bestowed on it by the Infinite. The plank beneath sways it to and fro;
it is moved by the ship; the sea lifts the ship, and the wind keeps the
sea in motion. This destroyer is a toy. Its terrible vitality is fed
by the ship, the waves, and the wind, each lending its aid. What is to
be done with this complication? How fetter this monstrous mechanism of
shipwreck? How foresee its coming and goings, its recoils, its halts,
its shocks? Any one of those blows may stave in the side of the
vessel. How can one guard against these terrible gyrations? One has
to do with a projectile that reflects, that has ideas, and changes its
direction at any moment. How can one arrest an object in its course,
whose onslaught must be avoided? The dreadful cannon rushes about,
advances, recedes, strikes to right and to left, flies here and there,
baffles their attempts at capture, sweeps away obstacles, crushing men
like flies.

The extreme danger of the situation comes from the unsteadiness of the
deck. How is one to cope with the caprices of an inclined plane? The
ship had within its depths, so to speak, imprisoned lightning
struggling for escape; something like the rumbling of thunder during an
earthquake. In an instant the crew was on its feet. It was the chief
gunner's fault, who had neglected to fasten the screw-nut of the
breeching chain, and had not thoroughly chocked the four trucks of the
carronade, which allowed play to the frame and the bottom of the
gun-carriage, thereby disarranging the two platforms and parting the
breeching. The lashings were broken, so that the gun was no longer
firm on its carriage. The stationary breeching which prevents the
recoil was not in use at that time. As a wave struck the ship's side
the cannon, insufficiently secured, had receded, and having broken its
chain, began to wander threateningly over the deck. In order to get an
idea of this strange sliding, fancy a drop of water sliding down a pane
of glass.

When the fastening broke, the gunners were in the battery, singly and
in groups, clearing the ship for action. The carronade, thrown forward
by the pitching, dashed into a group of men, killing four of them at
the first blow; then, hurled back by the rolling, it cut in two an
unfortunate fifth man, and struck and dismounted one of the guns of the
larboard battery. Hence the cry of distress which had been heard. All
the men rushed to the ladder. The gun-deck was empty in the twinkling
of an eye.

The monstrous gun was left to itself. It was its own mistress, and
mistress of the ship. It could do with it whatsoever it wished. This
crew, accustomed to laugh in battle, now trembled. It would be


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