|Newspaper Title||Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW : 1896 - 1938)|
|Trove Title||The Clang of the Bell|
THE CLANG OF THE BELL.
(By Fred W. Young, in 'Clnvms.') CHAPTER III.— (Continued.)
These and other vague theories flitted o'er the lad's brain, as he stooped and turned over the prostrate figure. That the man still lived ho t was assured^ for there was a slight twitching of the muscles of the face, and after placing his hand upon the sufferer's heart,,he could distin guish a few faint beats. .-Snatching off his coat he hastily rolled it up and made an extemporised pillow for the poor fellow's head; then feeling he 'was utterly in cap- iilil« nf TRiifl prin n- Fiirtlifiv nssistnnnfi. lin
darted from the room and . sprang up the stone steps leading to the' manager's office, in order to telephone to his father without 'further. delay. . . ? . Half-way up lie paused. Would it. not. be better to ring the fire-bell, and so sum mon the. hands? ?'? But after hasty reflec tion he discarded the idea. No, he would telephone his father first so that a mes senger ' could be sent for a doctor, and having decided upon this course of action, he completed the ascent of the remaining steps in iV'fow bounds: : . ; Somewhat put of breath hp gained the landing; on' one side of which Was the office he was 'making for, and leading from which were various galleries that passed between the immense 80-ton coppers filled with a boiling mixture of fat, soda, and salt; which by means of steam coils were kept at a boiling pitch for days togother. Here, once again iipon that eventful night, he was compelled to pause; for from beneath the closed door of the .office came a bright ray of light. What could it mean? And with beating heart the lad leaned against the door to ascertain whether there were sounds of anyone mov ing inside. ?-.?-. Possibly the occupants of the room,
reckoning upon being secure from inter ruption, had omitted the common precau tion of securing the door, for as Harry leaned against it it uew open, and before he had time to recover his balance, stumbled forward, only to be greeted by a coarse oath and then a shout of triumph as he felt himself seized in a vyce-like grip, and on glancing up recognised his old foes Viney Cross and Jeph Barham. 'The very cub we wanted, mate,' shouted Viney. 'We can now give him what we want.' 'Yes ; after we've made use of him,' laughed his companion, and he pointed significantly to where in the corner of the office a huge safe stood, and in front of which, strewn upon the floor, were a va riety of tools with which the men had evi dently been endeavouriny to break it open. Too well Harry understood the drift of their remarks, for they, as well as he, knew that the following day was pay-day for the hands, and that inside the safe Avas stored a large sum in gold 'and silver ready to be handed out in wages. 'Guess we shan't have much trouble now,' continued Viney. 'Here, chuck us some of they cords. The young varmint is getting troublesome '' as Harry man fully struggled in his roufrh grasp. In less time than it takes to relate, our hero, fight as he would, found him self bound round the arms and legs, after _ which he was flung into a chair whilst' both men stood over him. 'Now look here, you younker,' re marked Viney, as he calmly surveyed his' captive, 'I'll give you one chance to save your skin. We mean getting inside that safe, and neither you nor nobody else won't stop us, but it will save time if you tell us the word wot opens it.' Harry, despite his suroundings, smiled grimly. _ He had no fear of the safe yield ing up its contents to the inexperienced men before him; for it was secured by a letter lock, the combination of which was known only to hos father and to himself, and it was otherwise absolutely burglar proof, unless it could be blown to pieces. 'You want me to give away the word that opens that lock, do you? Then you won't get it,' he said resolutely. 'Won't get it!' roared both men almost in a breath. 'I think we'll soon make you speak, you crowing -bantam,' shouted Barham. 'No, not if you were to treat me like you did poor old Jim downstairs. No, not even- if you kill me,' the lad contimied defiantly. On hearing this reply ? Vjney instantly snatched up a heavy hammer and raised it above his head, as though to strike the lad, when Jeph Barham seized his arm. 'Softly, mate,' he said. 'If we scrunches 'im up he won't be able to blab the se cret.' Then he added in a lower voice. 'You can give 'im a swipe across the nob when we've done with 'im ; if yer likes to pay off old scores. But- — -' and he pulled his companion on one side where he whispered a few words in his ear , words that were received with a hoarse laugh. 'You ain't a going-to tell us the word wot opens that safe,' again demanded Viney, as the two men once more ap proached Harry. 'No,' replied the lad again, as he looked his captors straight in the face. 'Never.' 'We'll see about. that.' chuckled the speaker. 'Here, mate; hoist 'im up,' and instantly the two men seized the bound lad and carried him out on to one of the galleries already described. What their intention was^Harry could not in any way surmise., although he still struggled desperately. Shouting he knew would be useless, for there. was no one to help him, the only man who could have done so being the watchman, whom he well knew was lying wounded and uncon scious below. He was not, however, kept long in sus pense as to the men's intentions, for he was suddenly dropped. on .the floor with a thud, where one of the men held him' down. Then . he heard the clank of a | chain, and the great arm of an iron der rick-crane, used for hoisting loads from the basement to the upper floors, swung over him, whilst the huge iron hook at the end of the chain was '-gradually low ered amidst much clanking of the wind lass, until only ar few inches separated it from his. body. . Then to his intense surprise ;?,'; he was, before he was aware what was going to happen, raised, and the iron ; hook in serted in the cords that bound his arms, and in a second he found Himself dang ling helplessly in mid-air, .as the two men worked at the windlass with a will. Slowly the iron beam that supported him was swung round, till Harry, glanc ing below, realised with a sickening sen sation that ho was exactly over the great iron lid of one of the huge coppers. What could they mean to do with him? And a heavy sweat broke out on the lad's face as ho noticed Viney Cross take up an iron bar and fling back the lid that covered tho boiling mixture, which' instantly belched forth volumes of steam and chok ing fumes. 'You swing \ip- there for a few minutes, my gay young spark, and I'll bet you'll soon want to come down, even at tho price of telling us what we want,' sneered Cross; whilst Jeph Barham, as if to add to the lad's agony, gave him a thrust that set him swinging backwards and forwards as both men burst iato a loud laugh. ? ?''' It is said that in moment's of extreme
peril the brain is often the most clear, and possibly it was so in this instance^ for even as the lad felt himself swinging a ray of hope flashed through his mind. He re membered that just on the other side of the tank ran the steel rope that, passing through all the floors, was attached to the clanging firebell overhead. Could he but swing far enough to reach and grasp it, a feat that was quite pos sible, for though his arms were bound his hands were free. Keeping his mouth tightly closed, so as to inhale as little of one fumes as possible, he, by means of throwing back his legs, managed to gradually increase the pendu lum-like swing of the chain. The heat was intense, whilst the noxious steam en veloped him like a cloud. Still at each struggle he neared the goal, then swayed backwards, only with renewed impetus to get inch by inch nearer the longed-for steel rope. 'Had about enough of it, mate?' shouted Jeph from below, but the only answer was a tremendous kick out from the lad's legs, a swifter swing forward than previously, and then two things hap pened. The knots of the rope that bound his arms slipped, but at the same instant his hands gripped the long-sought-for bell-line. Instantly a sullen boom rang out above the heads of all, and then, as naturally his weight brought the rope downwards, he found himself seated on one of the wooden rafters, safe and above the heads of his late adversaries. His head was swimming, and owing to contact with the steam he could scarcely see. But still he clung to the rope and pulled for his life as clang succeeded clang in rapid succession. For several seconds the two scoundrels below him stood as though turned into stone, then breaking out into a valume of curses, one of them, in his impotent fury, hurled a heavy spanner at the courageous boy. Then as they more fully realised their position, they dashed down the stairs with the intention of making their escape before' the arrival of the hands which they knew the bell would summon. They were, however, too late, for as they darted through the door they had hastily flung open, they literally fell into the arms of the foremost workers' hurry ing to the spot. There was a violent struggle, which was, however, of but. brief duration, and at its conclusion Viney Cross and Jeph Barham found themselves in the hands of stern-faced men who had not the least intention of letting them go until they were lodged in a place of per fect security. Whilst this scene was being enacted outside the building, others rushed into the factory, to find Harry more dead than alive, still frantically hauling at the bell rope, but strong arms soon helped him down and tenderly bore him in a semi conscious state to his home. * * * * ? 'All's well that ends well' is an old proverb, and so it proved in this instance, for aided by youth and strength' Harry in a / week's time was able to appear and give evidence against his late assailants. His testimony being backed up . by Jim, the night watchman, who, with head swathed in . bandages, was accommodated with a seat in the court, and where it came out in the evidence how the prisoners had, whilst in the chalk cuttings, discovered a spot where the roofing had fallen away, and by creeping through this space had been enabled to gain access to the works. , 'Well, my boy,' remarked Mr. jj'ield to his son at the conclusion of the trial, 'your two friends certainly won't be able to do any more mischief for; a good- many years to come. Thanks to you.' .. 'Not to me, dad,' laughed the boy. 'Why, what else upon earth ' brought about their capture?' 'Why, the clang of the bell, dad.' (Concluded.)