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accustomed to laugh in battle, trembled now. It would be impossible to describe the universal terror.
20. The captain and lieutenant, although they were both intrepid men, stopped at the head of the stairs and remained mute, pale, hesitating, looking down on the deck. Some one pushed them aside and descended. It was the peasant. When he reached the foot of the ladder, he stood still.
21. The cannon kept on its work of destruction. It dashed itself frantically against the frame-work; the solid tie-beams resisted, but they creaked ominously under the assaults of this terrible club, which seemed endowed with appalling ubiquity, striking on every side at once. The vessel was shattered and the battery was being destroyed. The breaches multiplied and the corvette began to take in water.
The peasant, who had descended to the gun-deck, looked like a form of stone. He stood motionless gazing sternly about upon the devastation. The cannon kept up its horrible fracas. The blows of the waves without responded to the strokes of the cannon within. It was like two hammers alternating. Who will
check this mad monster? Who can seize a flash of lightning or overthrow a thunderbolt? God only can aid in such a dire extremity.
23. Suddenly a man with an iron bar in his hand springs into the midst of this inaccessible circus. This man was the captain of the gun, the author of this catastrophe, the gunner
whose culpable 'negligence had caused the accident. He had seized a handspike in one fist and a tiller's rope with a noose in the other, and had jumped down into the gun-deck.
Then a strange combat began. It was 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. Livid, calm, tragic, rooted in the planks, he waited.
24. At the instant when the gunner approached to challenge the cannon, some chance fluctuation of the waves kept it for a moment immovable, as if stupefied. “Come on," the man said, and it seemed to listen. Suddenly it darted upon him. The gunner avoided the shock.
25. The struggle began- a struggle unheard of before. The fragile matching itself against the invulnerable. The thing of flesh
attacking the brazen brute. A soul against blind force. The whole passed in half-light. It was like the indistinct vision of a miracle.
26. The cannon seemed to have a soul filled with rage and hatred. This blindness appeared to have eyes. The monster had the air of watching the man. There was cunning in this mass and it chose its moment. It became a gigantic insect of metal having a will. Sometimes this colossal grasshopper would strike the low ceiling of the gun-deck, fall back on its four wheels like a tiger upon his four claws, and dart anew on the man, who, supple, agile, adroit, would glide away like a snake from the reach of those lightning-like movements. He avoided the encounters, but the blows which he escaped fell upon the vessel and continued the havoc.
27. An end of broken chain had twisted itself about the screw of the breech-button, and, hanging loose, whirled wildly about the gun and added to the danger of its blows. It was a whip of iron in a fist of brass. Nevertheless the man fought, creeping along the side, bar and rope in hand, but the cannon had the air of understanding and fled as if it perceived a snare.
Formidable, fearless, the man pursued it.
28. Such a duel could not last long. The gun paused and seemed to say, “Come, we must make an end!” It was the crisis, for the cannon seemed to have a furious premeditation. It sprang upon the gunner, but he jumped aside, and with a laugh, cried out, “Try again !” In its fury it rushed back and forth, to right and
left, breaking the vessel and hammering the : carronades. The gunner held his handspike 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.
29. Just at this crisis the peasant, until now immovable, made a spring more rapid than all those wild whirls. He seized a bale, and, at the risk of being crushed, succeeded in throwing it between the wheels of the carronade. The bale had the effect of a plug. A pebble may stop a log, - a tree-branch may turn an avalanche. The gunner, seizing this terrible chance, plunged his iron bar between the spokes of a hind wheel. The cannon was stopped. It staggered. Using the iron-bar as a lever, the gunner rocked it to and fro until the heavy mass with a clang like a falling bell turned over. Rushing forward headlong, he passed the slipping noose of the tiller-rope about the bronze neck of the overthrown monster.
30. The duel was ended. The man had conquered. The ant had subdued the mastodon; the pigmy had taken the thunderbolt pris oner. The marines and sailors clapped their hands. The gunner saluted the peasant, “Sir, you have saved my life,” but he ominously resumed his impassive attitude and did not reply.
Spell and use in sentences: côr vette' měd'i tāte
lar'board căr'ron ade rět ri bū'tion
ũ biqui ty căl'i'ber cyclone
dev as tā'tion făs' cin ate
frā'cas fa năt'i cism sin'is ter
ca tas'tro phe fôr'mi da ble gỹ rā'tions
củl'pa ble su'pēr năt'ur al pro ject'ile
ti tănoic trans forms' screw-nut
stū pe fied mõn'ster mooring-chain
Topical Review. What is a corvette ?-a carronade? What was the aspect of the vessel ? What accident happened? Describe the movements of the carronade? How was it finally brought under control?
LEIGH HUNT (1784-1859).