“My interview with the captain brought out this account. I left him in good spirits and receiving every comfort. The sight of his face would frighten anyone not prepared to see it.”
To the accounts given by the survivors of the Roraima and the officers of the Etona, it will be well to add the following graphic story told by M. Albert, a planter of the island, the owner of an estate situated only a mile to the northeast of the burning crater of Mont Pelee. His escape from death had in it something of the marvellous. He says:
“Mont Pelee had given warning of the destruction that was to come, but we, who had looked upon the volcano as harmless, did not believe that it would do more than spout fire and steam, as it had done on other occasions. It was a little before eight o’clock on the morning of May 8 that the end came. I was in one of the fields of my estate when the ground trembled under my feet, not as it does when the earth quakes, but as though a terrible struggle was going on within the mountain. A terror came upon me, but I could not explain my fear.
“As I stood still Mont Pelee seemed to shudder, and a moaning sound issued from its crater. It was quite dark, the sun being obscured by ashes and fine volcanic dust. The air was dead about me, so dead that the floating dust seemingly was not disturbed. Then there was a rending, crashing, grinding noise, which I can only describe as sounding as though every bit of machinery in the world had suddenly broken down. It was deafening, and the flash of light that accompanied it was blinding, more so than any lightning I have ever seen.
“It was like a terrible hurricane, and where a fraction of a second before there had been a perfect calm, I felt myself drawn into a vortex and I had to brace myself firmly. It was like a great express train rushing by, and I was drawn by its force. The mysterious force levelled a row of strong trees, tearing them up by the roots and leaving bare a space of ground fifteen yards wide and more than one hundred yards long. Transfixed I stood, not knowing in what direction to flee. I looked toward Mont Pelee, and above its apex there appeared a great black cloud which reached high in the air. It literally fell upon the city of St. Pierre. It moved with a rapidity that made it impossible for anything to escape it. From the cloud came explosions that sounded as though all of the navies of the world were in titanic combat. Lightning played in and out in broad forks, the result being that intense darkness was followed by light that seemed to be of magnifying power.
“That St. Pierre was doomed I knew, but I was prevented from seeing the destruction by a spur of the hill that shut off the view of the city. It is impossible for me to tell how long I stood there inert. Probably it was only a few seconds, but so vivid were my impressions that it now seems as though I stood as a spectator for many minutes. When I recovered possession of my senses I ran to my house and collected the members of the family, all of whom were panic stricken. I hurried them to the seashore, where we boarded a small steamship, in which we made the trip in safety to Fort de France.