Sometimes this ironical verbiage brings the blood to my face, and I am tempted to seize this cynical banterer by the throat and choke the life out of him. They would kill me afterwards. Still, what would that matter! Would it not be better to end in this way than to spend years and years amid these infernal and infamous surroundings? However, while there is life there is hope, I reflect, and this thought restrains me.
I have scarcely set eyes upon Thomas Roch since the Ebba went away. He shuts himself up in his laboratory and works unceasingly. If he utilizes all the substances placed at his disposition there will be enough to blow up Back Cup and the whole Bermudan archipelago with it!
I cling to the hope that he will never consent to give up the secret of his deflagrator, and that Engineer Serko’s efforts to acquire it will remain futile.
September 3.—To-day I have been able to witness with my own eyes the power of Roch’s explosive, and also the manner in which the fulgurator is employed.
During the morning the men began to pierce the passage through the wall of the cavern at the spot fixed upon by Engineer Serko, who superintended the work in person. The work began at the base, where the rock is as hard as granite. To have continued it with pickaxes would have entailed long and arduous labor, inasmuch as the wall at this place is not less than from twenty to thirty yards in thickness, but thanks to Roch’s fulgurator the passage will be completed easily and rapidly.
I may well be astonished at what I have seen. The pickaxes hardly made any impression on the rock, but its disaggregation was effected with really remarkable facility by means of the fulgurator.
A few grains of this explosive shattered the rocky mass and reduced it to almost impalpable powder that one’s breath could disperse as easily as vapor. The explosion produced an excavation measuring fully a cubic yard. It was accompanied by a sharp detonation that may be compared to the report of a cannon.
The first charge used, although a very small one, a mere pinch, blew the men in every direction, and two of them were seriously injured. Engineer Serko himself was projected several yards, and sustained some rather severe contusions.
Here is how this substance, whose bursting force surpasses anything hitherto conceived, is employed.
A small hole about an inch and a half in length is pierced obliquely in the rock. A few grains of the explosive are then inserted, but no wad is used.
Then Thomas Roch steps forward. In his hand is a little glass phial containing a bluish, oily liquid that congeals almost as soon as it comes in contact with the air. He pours one drop on the entrance of the hole, and draws back, but not with undue haste. It takes a certain time—about thirty-five seconds, I reckon—before the combination of the fulgurator and deflagrator is effected. But when the explosion does take place its power of disaggregation is such—I repeat—that it may be regarded as unlimited. It is at any rate a thousand times superior to that of any known explosive.