Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo
Book I. Malicious Gilliatt.
IX. The Rock, and How Gilliatt Used It.
A WEEK passed.
Although it was in the rainy season, no rain fell-a fact for which Gilliatt felt thankful. But the work he had entered upon surpassed, in appearance at least, the power of human hand or skill. Success appeared so improbable that the attempt seemed like madness.
It is not until a task is fairly grappled with that its difficulties and perils become fully manifest. There is nothing like making a commencement for making evident how difficult it will be to come to the end. Every beginning is a struggle against resistance The first step is an exorable undeceiver. A difficulty which we come to touch pricks like a thorn.
Gilliatt found himself immediately in the presence of obstacles
In order to raise the engine of the Durande from the wreck in which it was three-fourths buried, with any chance of success-in order to accomplish a salvage in such a place and in such a season, it seemed almost necessary to be a legion of men. Gilliatt was alone; a complete apparatus of carpenters' and engineers' tools and implements were wanted. Gilliatt had a saw, a hatched, a chisel and a hammer. He wanted both a good workshop and a good shed; Gilliatt had not a roof to cover him. Provisions, too, were necessary, but he had not even bread.
Any one who could have seen Gilliatt working on the rock during all that first week might have been puzzled to determine the nature of his operations. He seemed to be no longer thinking either of the Durande or the two Douvres. He was busy only among the breakers: he seemed absorbed in saving the smaller parts of the shipwreck. He took advantage of every high tide to strip the reefs of everything which, the shipwreck had distributed among them. He went from rock to rock, picking up whatever the sea had scattered-tatters of sailcloth, pieces of iron, splinters of panels, shattered planking, broken yards-here a beam, there a chain, there a pulley.
At the same time he carefully surveyed all the recesses of the rocks. To his great disappointment none were habitable. He had suffered from the cold in the night, where he lodged between the stones on the summit of the rock, and he would gladly have found some better refuge.
Two of those recesses were somewhat extensive. Although the natural pavement of rock was almost everywhere oblique and uneven, it was possible to stand upright, and even to walk within them. The wind and the rain wandered there at will, but the highest tides did not reach them. They were near the Little Douvre, and were approachable at any time. Gilliatt decided that one should serve him as a storehouse, the other as a forge.
With all the sail, rope-bands, and all the reef-earrings he could collect, he made packages of the fragments of wreck, tying up the wood and iron in bundles, and the canvas in parcels. He lashed all these together carefully. As the rising tide approached these packages, he began to drag them across the reefs to his storehouse. In a hollow of the rocks he had found a top rope, by means of which he had been able to haul even the large pieces of timber. In the same manner he dragged from the sea the numerous portions of chains which he found scattered among the breakers.
Gilliatt worked at these tasks with astonishing activity and tenacity. He accomplished whatever he attempted -nothing could withstand his antlike perseverance.
At the end of the week he had gathered into this granite warehouse of marine stores, and ranged into order, all this miscellaneous and shapeless mass of salvage. There was a corner for the tacks of sails and a corner for sheets. Bow-lines were not mixed with halliards; Carrels were arranged according to their number of holes. The coverings of rope-yarn, unwound from the broken anchorings, were tied in bunches; the dead-eyes without pulleys were separated from the tackle-blocks. Belayingpins, bulls-eyes, preventer-shrouds, down-hauls, snatch-blocks, pendants, kevels trusses, stoppers, sailbooms, if they were not completely damaged by the storm, occupied different compartments. All the cross-beams, timber-work, uprights, stanchions mast heads, binding-strakes, portlids, and clamps were heaped up apart. Wherever it was possible he had fixed the fragments of planks, from the vessel's bottom, one in the other. There was no confusion between reef-points and nippers of the cable, nor of crow's-feet with towlines nor of pulleys of the small with pulleys of the large ropes; nor of fragments from the waist with fragments from the stern. A place had been reserved for a portion of the cat-harpings of the Durande, which had supported the shrouds of the top-mast and the futtock-shrouds. Every portion had its place. The entire wreck was there classed and ticketed. It was a sort of chaos in a store-house.
A stay-sail, fixed by huge stones, served, though torn and damaged, to protect what the rain might have injured.
Shattered as were the bows of the wreck, he had succeeded in saving the two cat-heads with their three pulley-wheels.
He had found the bowsprit too, and had had much trouble in unrolling its gammoning; it was very hard and tight, having been, according to custom, made by the help of the windlass, and in dry weather. Gilliatt, however, persevered until he had detached it, this thick rope promising to be very useful to him.
He had been equally successful in discovering the little anchor, which had become fast in the hollow of a reef, where the receding tide had left it uncovered.
In what had been Tangrouille's cabin he had found a piece of chalk, which he preserved carefully. He reflected that he might have some marks to make.
A fire-bucket and several pails in pretty good condition completed this stock of working materials.
All that remained of the store of coal of the Durande he carried into the warehouse.
In a week this salvage of debris was finished; the rock was swept clean, and the Durande was lightened. Nothing remained now to burden the hull except the machinery.
The portion of the fore-side bulwarks which hung to it did not distress the hull. The mass hung without dragging, being partly sustained by a ledge of rock. It was, however, large and broad, and heavy to drag, and would have encumbered his warehouse too much. This bulwarking looked something like a boat-builder's stocks. Gilliatt left it where it was.
He had been profoundly thoughtful during all this labour. He had sought in vain for the figurehead-the "doll," as the Guernsey folks called it, of the Durande. It was one of the things which the waves had carried away for ever. Gilliatt would have given his hands to find it-if he had not had such peculiar need of them at that time.
At the entrance to the storehouse and outside were two heaps of refuse-a heap of iron good for forging, and a heap of wood good for burning.
Gilliatt was always at work at early dawn. Except his time of sleep, he did not take a moment of repose.
The wild sea birds, flying hither and thither, watched him at his work.