The captain has since often expressed a dissatisfaction that he had no share in the honours of that day, which he emphatically called bear-skin day. He has also been very desirous of knowing by what art I destroyed so many thousands, without fatigue or danger to myself; indeed, he is so ambitious of dividing the glory with me, that we have actually quarrelled about it, and we are not now upon speaking terms. He boldly asserts I had no merit in deceiving the bears, because I was covered with one of their skins; nay, he declares there is not, in his opinion, in Europe, so complete a bear naturally as himself among the human species.
He is now a noble peer, and I am too well acquainted with good manners to dispute so delicate a point with his lordship.
Our Baron excels Baron Tott beyond all comparison, yet fails in part of his attempt—Gets into disgrace with the Grand Seignior, who orders his head to be cut off—Escapes, and gets on board a vessel, in which he is carried to Venice—Baron Tott’s origin, with some account of that great man’s parents—Pope Ganganelli’s amour—His Holiness fond of shell-fish.
Baron de Tott, in his Memoirs, makes as great a parade of a single act as many travellers whose whole lives have been spent in seeing the different parts of the globe; for my part, if I had been blown from Europe to Asia from the mouth of a cannon, I should have boasted less of it afterwards than he has done of only firing off a Turkish piece of ordnance. What he says of this wonderful gun, as near as my memory will serve me, is this:—“The Turks had placed below the castle, and near the city, on the banks of Simois, a celebrated river, an enormous piece of ordnance cast in brass, which would carry a marble ball of eleven hundred pounds weight. I was inclined,” says Tott, “to fire it, but I was willing first to judge of its effect; the crowd about me trembled at this proposal, as they asserted it would overthrow not only the castle, but the city also; at length their fears in part subsided, and I was permitted to discharge it. It required not less than three hundred and thirty pounds’ weight of powder, and the ball weighed, as before mentioned, eleven hundredweight. When the engineer brought the priming, the crowds who were about me retreated back as fast as they could; nay, it was with the utmost difficulty I persuaded the Pacha, who came on purpose, there was no danger: even the engineer who was to discharge it by my direction was considerably alarmed. I took my stand on some stone-work behind the cannon, gave the signal, and felt a shock like that of earthquake! At the distance of three hundred fathom the ball burst into three pieces; the fragments crossed the strait, rebounded on the opposite mountain, and left the surface of the water all in a foam through the whole breadth of the channel.”
This, gentlemen, is, as near as I can recollect, Baron Tott’s account of the largest cannon in the known world. Now, when I was there not long since, the anecdote of Tott’s firing this tremendous piece was mentioned as a proof of that gentleman’s extraordinary courage.