Besides, it is an understood thing that the addition of gunpowder renders picrate far more effective in blasting such rocks as this, as then the violence of the picrate prepares the way for the powder which, slower in its action, will complete the disseverment of the basalt."
Falsten is not a great talker, but what he does say is al- ways very much to the point. His good advice was imme- diately followed; the two substances were mixed together, and after a match had been introduced the compound was rammed closely into the hole.
Notwithstanding that the Chancellor was at a distance from the rocks that insured her from any danger of being injured by the explosion, it was thought advisable that the passengers and crew should take refuge in the grotto at the extremity of the reef, and even Mr. Kear, in spite of his many objections, was forced to leave the ship. Falsten, as soon as he had set fire to the match, joined us in our retreat.
The train was to burn for ten minutes, and at the end of that time the explosion took place; the report, on account of the depth of the mine, being muffled, and much less noisy than we had expected. But the operation had been perfectly successful. Before we reached the ridge we could see that the basalt had been literally reduced to powder, and that a little channel, already being filled by the rising tide, had been cut right through the obstacle. A loud hurrah rang through the air; our prison-doors were opened, and we were prison- ers no more.
At high tide the Chancellor weighed anchor and floated out into the sea, but she was not in a condition to sail until she had been ballasted; and for the next twenty-four hours the crew were busily employed in taking up blocks of stone, and such of the bales of cotton as had sustained the least amount of injury.
In the course of the day, M. Letourneur, Andre, Miss Herbey, and I took a farewell walk round the reef, and Andre, with artistic skill, carved on the wall of the grotto the word Chancellor -- the designation of Ham Rock, which we had given to the reef -- and the date of our running aground. Then we bade adieu to the scene of our three weeks' sojourn, where we had passed days that to some at least of our party will be reckoned as far from being the least happy of their lives.
At high tide this morning, the 24th, with low, top, and gallant sails all set, the Chancellor started on her onward way, and two hours later the last peak of Ham Rock had vanished below the horizon.
CHAPTER XXII A NEW DANGER
NOVEMBER 24 to December1. -- Here we were then once more at sea, and although on board a ship of which the stability was very questionable, we had hopes, if the wind continued favorable, of reaching the coast of Guiana in the course of a few days.
Our way was southwest and consequently with the wind, and although Curtis would not crowd on all sail lest the extra speed should have a tendency to spring the leak afresh, the Chancellor made a progress that was quite satisfactory. Life on board began to fall back into its former routine; the feeling of insecurity and the consciousness that we were merely retracing our path doing much, however, to destroy the animated intercourse that would otherwise go on be- tween passenger and passenger.
The first few days passed without any incident worth re- cording, then on the 29th, the wind shifted to the north, and it became necessary to brace the yards, trim the sails, and take a starboard tack. This made the ship lurch very much on one side, and as Curtis felt that she was laboring far too heavily, he clewed up the top-gallants, prudently reckoning that, under the circumstances, caution was far more impor- tant than speed.
The night came on dark and foggy. The breeze fresh- ened considerably, and, unfortunately for us, hailed from the northwest. Although we carried no topsails at all, the ship seemed to heel over more than ever. Most of the passengers had retired to their cabins, but all the crew remained on deck, while Curtis never quitted his post upon the poop.