“Spilett! Neb!” cried the engineer. “You are not wounded?”
“No,” answered the reporter, “a few bruises only from the ricochet! But that cursed brig has entered the channel!”
“Yes,” replied Pencroft, “and in ten minutes she will have anchored before Granite House!”
“Have you formed any plan, Cyrus?” asked the reporter.
“We must take refuge in Granite House while there is still time, and the convicts cannot see us.”
“That is, my opinion, too,” replied Gideon Spilett, “but once shut up—”
“We must be guided by circumstances,” said the engineer.
“Let us be off, then, and make haste!” said the reporter.
“Would you not wish, captain, that Ayrton and I should remain here?” asked the sailor.
“What would be the use of that, Pencroft?” replied Harding. “No. We will not separate!”
There was not a moment to be lost. The colonists left the Chimneys. A bend of the cliff prevented them from being seen by those in the brig, but two or three reports, and the crash of bullets on the rock, told them that the “Speedy” was at no great distance.
To spring into the lift, hoist themselves up to the door of Granite House, where Top and Jup had been shut up since the evening before, to rush into the large room, was the work of a minute only.
It was quite time, for the settlers, through the branches, could see the “Speedy,” surrounded with smoke, gliding up the channel. The firing was incessant, and shot from the four guns struck blindly, both on the Mercy post, although it was not occupied, and on the Chimneys. The rocks were splintered, and cheers accompanied each discharge. However, they were hoping that Granite House would be spared, thanks to Harding’s precaution of concealing the windows when a shot, piercing the door, penetrated into the passage.
“We are discovered!” exclaimed Pencroft.
The colonists had not, perhaps, been seen, but it was certain that Bob Harvey had thought proper to send a ball through the suspected foliage which concealed that part of the cliff. Soon he redoubled his attack, when another ball having torn away the leafy screen, disclosed a gaping aperture in the granite.
The colonists’ situation was desperate. Their retreat was discovered. They could not oppose any obstacle to these missiles, nor protect the stone, which flew in splinters around them. There was nothing to be done but to take refuge in the upper passage of Granite House, and leave their dwelling to be devastated, when a deep roar was heard, followed by frightful cries!
Cyrus Harding and his companions rushed to one of the windows—
The brig, irresistibly raised on a sort of water-spout, had just split in two, and in less than ten seconds she was swallowed up with all her criminal crew!
“She has blown up!” cried Herbert.