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Chapter NumberVII
Chapter Title
Chapter Url
Full Date1881-05-21
Page Number650
Word Count1312
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)
Trove TitleFacing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines
article text

Facing Death.



BY G.A. HENTY, in the Union Jack.

AITER an earnest thanksgiving by Mr. Brook for their success thus far, the whole party par took of what was a heartier meal than usual, consisting of the whole of the remaining food. Then,

choosing the largest of the drill*, a hole wu driven in the coal 2ft in depth, and in this an unusually heavy charge was plaoed. " We're done for after all," Bill Haden suddenly exclaimed. " Look at the lamp/ Every one present felt their hearts sink at what they saw. A light flame seemed to fill the, whole interior of the lamp. To strike a match to light the fuse would be to cause an instant ex plosion of the gas. The place where they were working being the highest part of the mine, the fiery gas which made its way out of the coal at aM points above the dosed doors had, being; lighter than air, mounted there. "Put the lamps out," J«ok •**& quickly, "the gauze is nearly red hot" In a moment they were In dirknee*. • What is to be done now f Mr. Brook asked' after a pause. There was sflenea for a while—the ease seemed desperate. Brook," J"k *»** ***** »time, "it is agreed, is it not, that all hen will obey my orders f " Yes, certainly, Jack," Mr. Brook answered. "Whatever they are T' " Tea, whatever they am." "Very well," Jack said ; "you wfll all take your ©oats off and soak them in water, then all set to work to beat the gas out of the heading as far as possible. When that is done as far as can be done, all go into the next stall, and lie down at the upper end ; you will be out of the way of the explosion there. Cover your heads with your wet ooats, and, Bill, wrap something wet round those cans of powder." "What then, Jaekt" " That's all," Jack said ;" I will fire the train. If the gas explodes at the match it will light the fuse, so that the wall will blow in anyhow." M No, no," a chorus of voices said; " you must be killed." " I wOl light it, Jack," Bill Haden said; " I am getting on now, it's no great odds about me." " No, Bill," Jaok said. • I am in charge, and it is for me to do it Tou have all promised to obey orders, so set about it at once. Bill, take Mr. Brook up first into the other stall; he won't be able to find his way about in the dark." Without a word Bill did as he was told, Mr. Brook giving one hearty squeeze to the lad's hand as he was led away. The others, accustomed to the darkness from boyhood, proceeded at once to carry out Jack's instructions, wetting their flannel jackets aud then beating the roof with them towards the entrance to the stall; for five minutes they continued this, then Jack said : "Now, lads, off to the stall as quick as you can ; cover your heads well over ; lie down. I will be with you in a minute, or—" or, as Jack knew well, he would be dashed to pieces by the explosion of the gas. He listened until the sound of the last footstep died away—waited a couple of minutes, to allow them to get safely in position at the other end of the next stall—and then, holding the end of the fuse in one hand, and the match in the other, he murmured a prayer, and, stooping to the ground, struck the match. No explosion followed ;he applied it to the fuse, and ran for bis life, down the narrow heading, down the stall, along the horse road, and up the next stall. "It's alight," he said, as he rushed in. A oheer of congratulation and gladness bunt from the men. "Cover your heads dose," Jack said as he threw himself down ; " the explosion is nigh sure to fire the gas. For a minute a silence as of death reigned in the mine ; then there wob a sharp cracking ex plosion, followed —or rather prolonged —by another like thunder, and, while a flash of fire seemed to surround them, filling the air, firing their clothes, and scorching their limbs, the whole mine shook with a deep continuous roaring. The men knew thnt the danger was at an end, threw off the covering from thoir heads, and

?truck oat the fire from their garments. Bom* were badly burned about the legs, bat any word or cry they may have ottered wu drowned la the tremendous roar which continued. It wu the water from the Logan pit rushing into the Vaughan. For five minutes the .'noise was like thunder, then, as the pressure from behind de creased, the sound gradually diminished, until, in another five minutes, all was quiet Then the party rose to their feet The air in the next stall was clear and fresh, for, as the Logan pit had emptied of water, fresh air bad of coarse come down from the surface to take its place. "We can light our lamps again safely now," Bill Haden said. "We shall want our tools, lads, and the powder; there may be some heavy falls in our way, and we may have hard work yet before we get to the abaft, but the roof rook fa strong, so I believe we shall win our way." "It lies to our right," Jack said. " Like oar own, it is at the lower end of the pit, to, as long as we don't mount, we are going right for it" There were, as Haden had anticipated, many heavy falls, but the water had swept passages in them, and it was found more easy to get along than the colliers had expected. Still it was hard work, for men weakened by famine ; and it took them five hoars of labour clearing awaj masses of rock, and floundering through black mod, often 3ft deep, before they made their way to the bottom of the Logan shaft, and saw the light far abovo them—the light they at one time never expected to see again. "What o'clock is it now, urY' Bill Haden asked Mr. Brook, who had from the beginning been the time-keeper of the party. "Twelve o'clock exactly," he replied. ult la four days and an hour since the pit fired." « What day is it, sir? for I have lost all coont of time." "Sunday," Mr. Brook said,after a moment's thought "Itooald not be better," Bill Haden said; "lor there will be thousands of people from all retmd to visit the mine." "How much powder have you, BDIT JAck asked. "Four 201b. cans." " Let us let off 101b, at a time," Jack Mid. 11 Just damp it enough to prevent it from lashing off too unddenly; break up fine some of this damp wood and mix with it,, it wfll add to the •moke" ' In a few minutes the " devil" was reedy, and a light applied; it for UfTa nunuU, sending volumes «l light smoke IptiM shaft • ' "• • • .-' , " Flash off a couple of pounds of dr* powder," Bill Haden said; " there is very little draught ap the shaft, and it will drive the air ap." 4 ' For twenty minutes they continual letjUngyoff "devils" and flashing powder. Then tbef de termined to stop, and allow the abaft te eJsar altogether of the smoke. Presently a small atone fell among thai another—and another, and they knew that ftocae* one bad noticed the smoke. (to *s coMnmnofc) '