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The Civilized, Chapter 35 - English Translation of Les Civilisés


The parting revenge.

The torpedo had struck the battleship abeam her midship boiler rooms, below the armored belt - twelve feet below the water line.

A simple and precise trigger like the alarm of a clock: the hammer was cocked and sprang back and slammed into the fulminate detonator, the fulminate burned and lit the explosive charge on fire - 75 kilograms of guncotton which blew up underneath the ship, like a mine underneath a rock. It didn't make much noise, because of the layers of water above which muffled the explosion.

A hole was pierced through the ship's metal hull, punched through like a cookie cutter - a hole four meters high, and seven meters wide. The pulverized metal simply disappeared, and the sea surged in.

Inside, there was the double hull - a rampart of watertight appartments, organized just like a beehive's cells. Everything was crushed and flew to pieces, the internal bulkhead smashed like paper, unraveling and making a second hole, a jagged slash through the bottom of the sheep into the coal holds arranged around the boilers like a black belt. The sea rushed through and drowned the coal.

The third bulkhead was there, which separated the boilers from the coal bunkers. Here it was the living heart of the ship, and the bulkhead enveloped the heart like a protective rib cage. And yet it took bended and broke, nothing more than a little tear, but at the heart of the ship, a pin's stab was worth an ax's blow.

And once more the sea billowed it, with the chuckling rush of a fountain.

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The middle portside boiler room. Eight boilers were laid out next to a central axis hall where the pulverized coal was piled out. Twenty six half-naked men worked bitterly, brandishing their heavy shovels, and hurling coal into the flaming mouths of the boilers. Lamps hung from above with their electric whiteness contrasting against the blood red glow of the flames. A steel ladder ran directly up to the door, a closed trap, screwed shut.

The black gang had heard the explosion. The shock of it had sent them staggering over like a stack of cards. They hauled themselves upright, bruised and battered, and they saw the water - the deadly water, that poured forth from the wall. And in the enclosed engine rooms, where they couldn't escape, they would die like dogs sown into a sack and thrown into the river, in a scene of heartrenching horror.

The men, all together, scrambled up to the latter - as if it was possible to escape from this trap that would take ten minutes to manage to claw its way out of! Already the water was rising to their knees. And the head of the black gang, maddened with his grotesquely vain responsibility, had cried, "to your posts!" shooting down with his revolver anyone who dried to flee, anybody. Faced with this, knowing the disaster, realizing his complete powerlessness, and terrified of the atrocious horrible agony of drowning in this horrible deep compartment within the belly of the ship, he shot himself with his final shot. The water was rising up to the chests, and suddenly, it drowned the eight boilers. Whistles to drown out any train drowned out the cries, drowning out the screams of men who burned with indescribable agony as jets of boiling water clawed at the pile of flesh pathetically tangled at the base of the latter.

A monstrous brawl, all of these human beasts who had been transformed as if by a wand's tap into ferocious beasts who clawed and beat, smashed and hit, bit and slashed for the right to die a step higher than the others. The water was already covering the first heads. Some of the men knew how to swim, but others, who didn't, died at the bottom, with frantic death throws, reaching for the trashing surface. At the last ladder step, underneath the closed trapdoor, the man who would die the last hung onto the wheel of the opening and shook them desperately, but in the horrific panic that gripped him the doomed man got it wrong and he turned the lever the wrong way.

And then, as the water lapped up at the last inches to the top, a burly quarter master with ginger hair, with all of his strength concentrated in his dying grip, stabbed brutally with his knife anyone in his way on the ladder, and reached over the rigid hands until he managed to grab himself as well the unmovable door. But the water rose faster than him, and he gave up, vanquished, and dropped the red knife, and his big brutal face fell onto his bleeding chest...

It was over, the boiler room was drowned.

French Text

English Chapters

  1. Chapter 1
  2. Chapter 2
  3. Chapter 3
  4. Chapter 4
  5. Chapter 5
  6. Chapter 6
  7. Chapter 7
  8. Chapter 8
  9. Chapter 9
  10. Chapter 10
  11. Chapter 11
  12. Chapter 12
  13. Chapter 13
  14. Chapter 14
  15. Chapter 15
  16. Chapter 16
  17. Chapter 17
  18. Chapter 18
  19. Chapter 19
  20. Chapter 20
  21. Chapter 21
  22. Chapter 22
  23. Chapter 23
  24. Chapter 24
  25. Chapter 25
  26. Chapter 26
  27. Chapter 27
  28. Chapter 28
  29. Chapter 29
  30. Chapter 30
  31. Chapter 31
  32. Chapter 32
  33. Chapter 33
  34. Chapter 34
  35. Chapter 35
  36. Chapter 36

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