Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo
Book II. The Labour.
GILLIATT had a notion.
Since the time of the carpenter-mason of Salbris, who in the sixteenth century, in the dark ages of science-long before Amontons had discovered the first law of electricity, or Lahire the second, or Coulomb the third-without other helper than a child, his son, with ill-fashioned tools, in the chamber of the great clock of La Charite-sur-Loire, resolved at one stroke five or six problems in statics and dynamics inextricably intervolved like the wheels in a block of carts and wagons-since the time of that grand and marvellous achievement of the poor workman, who found means, without breaking a single piece of wire, without throwing one of the teeth of the wheels out of gear to lower in one piece, by a marvellous simplification, from the second story of the clock-tower to the first, that massive monitor of the hours, made all of iron and brass, "large as the room in which the man watches at night from the tower," with its motion, its cylinders, its barrels, its drum, its hooks, and its weights, the barrel of its spring steelvared, its horizontal pendulum, the holdfasts of its escapement, its reels of large and small chains, its stone weights, one of which weighed five hundred pounds, its bells, its peals, its jacks that strike the hours-since the days, I say, of the man who accomplished this miracle, and of whom posterity knows not even the name, nothing that could be compared with the project which Gilliatt was meditating had ever been attempted.
The ponderousness, the delicacy, the involvement of the difficulties were not less in the machinery of the Durande than in the clock of La Charite-sur-Loire.
The untaught mechanic had his helpmate-his son; Gilliatt was alone.
A crowd gathered together from Meung-sur-Loire, from Nevers, and even from Orleans, able at time of need to assist the mason of Salbris, and to encourage him with their friendly voices. Gilliatt had around him no voices but those of the wind, no crowd but the assemblage of waves.
There is nothing more remarkable than the timidity of ignorance, unless it be its temerity. When ignorance becomes daring, she has sometimes a sort of compass within herself-the intuition of the truth, clearer oftentimes in a simple mind than in a learned brain.
Ignorance invites to an attempt. It is a state of wonderment, which. with its concomitant curiosity, forms a power. Knowledge often enough disconcerts and makes overcautious. Gama, had he known what lay before him, would have recoiled before the Cape of Storms. If Columbus had been a great geographer, he might have failed to discover America.
The second successful climber of Mont Plane was the savant Saussure, the first the goatherd Balmat.
These instances, 1 admit, are exceptions, which detract nothing from science, which remains the rule. The ignorant man may discover, it is the learned who invent.
The sloop was still at anchor in the creek of "The Man" rock, where the sea left it in peace. Gilliatt, as will be remembered, had arranged everything for maintaining constant communication with it. He visited the sloop and measured her beam carefully in several parts, but particularly her midship frame. Then he returned to the Durande and measured the diameter of the floor of the engine-room. This diameter, of course, without the paddles, was two feet less than the broadest part of the deck of his bark. The machinery, therefore, might be put aboard the sloop.
But how could it be got there?