Chapter 914457

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Chapter NumberVII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article914457
Full Date1881-05-25
Page Number6
Corrections0
Word Count1337
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933)
Trove TitleFacing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines
article text

Facing Death.

A TALE OF THE COAL MINES.

By G. A. Henty, in the Union Jack.

Chapter VII.

ArTER an earnest thauksgiving by Mr. Brook for their success thua far, the whole party par took of what wob a heartier meal than usual, con si8tiug of tho whole of the remoiuiug food. Thou, choosing tlio largest of the drills, a bolo was driven in the coal 2ft. in depth, and in this un unusually heavy charge waa placed.

" We're done for after all," Bill Haden Buddenly exclaimed. " Look at the lump."

Every one present felt their hearts oink at what thoy Baw. A light flame aoemcd to fill tho whole interior of tho lamp. To strike a match to light the fuse would be to causa nn instant ex- plosion of the gas. The place whoro they wero working being the highest part of the mine, the fiery goa which made its way out of tho coal at all pointa above the-closed doora had, being lighter than air, mounted there.

"Put the lamps out," Jack said quickly, "the gauzo ia uoarly red hot." In a moment they wore

in diirkncsa.

" What ia to be done now ?" Mr. Brook asked after n piuiae.

There waa silence for a while-tho case seemed desperate.

" Mr. Brook," Jack said after a time, " it ia agreed, is it not, that all hero will obey my

orders ?"

" Yea, certainly, Jack," Mr. Brook ausweied. " Whatevor they aro ?"

" Yes, whatover thoy aro."

" Very well," Jack said ; " you will all take your coats off and soak thom, iu water, then all act to work to beat the gas out of the heading aa far as possible. When that is done as far as can be done, all go into the next «tall, and lie dowu at the upper end ; you will bo out of the way of the explosion there. Cover your heads with your wet coat», and, Bill, wrap somothing wet round those cana of powder."

" What then, J.iek ?"

" That's all," Jack Baid ; " I will fire the train. If the gas explodea at the match it will light tho fuse, bo that the wall will blow in anyhow."

" No, no," a chorus of voices said ; " you must

bo killed."

" I will light it, Ja.k," Bill Hadon said ; " I am getting ou now, it'a no great odds about me."

" No, Bill," Jack Baid, " I am in charge, and it is for me to do it. You have all promised to obey orders, ao act about it at once. Bill, tako Mr. Brook up first into the other stall ; ho won't be able to find his way about in the dark."

Without a word Bill did aa ha waa told, Mr. Brook giviug one hearty squeeze to the lad's hand aa he waa led away. The othera, accustomed to the darkness from boyhood, proceeded at once to carry out Jack's iustiuctioua, wetting their flannel jackets and then beating the roof with them towards tho outrance to the stall ; for five minutes they continued this, then Jack said :

" Now, lads, off to the stall aa quick aa you can ; cover your heada well over ; lie down. I will bo with you in a rniuute, or-." or, na Jack know well, ho 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-aud then, holding the end of the fuse in one hand, and the match in the other, he murmured a prayer, and, Btooping to the ground, struck the match. No explosion followed ; ho applied it to the fuse, and ran for bia life, down the narrow heading, down the stall, along the horse road, and up the uext stall. " It's alight," he said, as ho rushed in.

A cheor of congratulation and gladness burst from the men. " Cover your heads close," Jack said as he threw himself down ; " the explosion ia nigh Biiro to fire the gas.

For a minute a silenco as of death reigned in tho mino ; then there waa u sharp cracking ox ploaion, followed - or rather prolonged - by another Uko thunder, and, while a Mash of fire seemed to surround them, filling the air, firing their clothes, and scorching their limbs, tho whole mine shook with a deep continuous roaring. The men know that tho danger was at an end, threw off tho oovering from their heada, and atruok out the ure from their garments. Some were badly burned about the legs, but any word or cry they may havo uttered was drowned in the tremendous roar whieh contained. It waB the water from the Logan pit rushing into the Vaughan. For five miuutca thcuoiao was like thunder, then, na the pressure from behind de- creased, thoaound gradually diminished, until, in nuother five minutflB, all was quiet. Then the party rose to their feet. The air in the uext stall wau clear and fresh, for, aa the Logan pit had emptied of water, fresh air had of courao como down from the surface to take üb place.

" Wo can light our lamps again safely now," Bill Haden said. " We shall want our tools, lads,

and the powder ; thoro may bo some heavy falls iu our way, and wo may have hard work yet beforo we get to the shaft, but the roof rock is strong, so 1 believe we shall win our way."

"It lies to our right," Jack said. " Like our own, it ia at the lower end of the pit, sojas long aa wo don't mount, we nie going right for it."

Thoro weie, aa Huden had anticipated, many heavy falls, but tho water had swept passages in them, and it waa found more easy to get along than the colliers had expected. Still it was hard work, for men weakened by fumino ; and it took them five hours of labour clearing away maasea of rock, and floundering through black mud, often 3ft. deep, beforo thoy mado their way to tho bottom of tho Lognu shaft, and saw the light far above them-the light they at one time never expected to seo agniu.

" What o'clock is it now, sir ?" Bill Haden aaked Mr. Brook, who had from the beginning been the time-keeper of the party.

" Twelve o'clock exactly," he replied. " It ia four days aud an hour aiuce the pit fired."

" What day ia it, sir? for I have lost all count

of time."

"Sunday," Mr. Brook said, after a moment's

thought.

"It could not be hotter," Bill Haden said ; "for there will be thousauds of people from all round

to visit the mine."

" How much powder have you, Bill ?" Jack

aaked,

"Four 201b. cana."

"Let us let off 101b, at a time," Jack aaid. " Just damp it euuugk to prevent it from flashing off too (?uddenly ; break up fiuo Borne of ' thiß damp wood and mix .with it, it will add to the

smoke."

In a few minutes the " devil" waa ready, and a light applied ; it blazed furiously for half a minuto, sending volumes of light smoke up the

shaft.

"Flash off a couple of pounds of dry powder," Bill Haden Buid ; " there is very little draught up the shaft, and it will drive the air up."

For twenty minutes they continued lotting off "devita" and flashing powder. Thou they de- termined to stop, and allow the shaft to clear altogether of the smoke.

Pieaently a small stone fell among them another-and another, and they knew that some-

one had noticed the smoke.

(TO HU COKTINOFD.)