|Newspaper Title||Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931)|
|Trove Title||Mystery of the Red House: An American Story of Thrilling Interest|
Mystery of the Ked House ,
£8 AMERICAN STORY OF THEIL UNG INTEREST.
?Bt Maut E. Brtadt.
(Commenced in the Evening Kews of Sep tender 20 J CHAPTER XXXYIIL— (Continued.)
Here the reading of the paper came to a Eudden end. A startling interruption came from outside. For some minutes they had heard, without heeding:, a hubbub in ihe street a little distance off, hoarse cries, ex
clamations, and, turtner off, tue clang or cne fire alarm But fires were of frequent occur ence They had given it no attention. .Now, however, a red glare, which, had they not been preoccupied, they might^ some time before, hare seen streaming through the closed shutters, increased in brilliancy ; voices and hurrying feet were heard in the Etreet 'just beiow. ? It's fieathcliff's mill blazing away like forty !' cried some one, who was evidently running at the top of his speed. Heatbeliff threw tbe paper on the table, and ran to the window. He threw open the shutters. The blackness of the night was lighted up with a lurid radiance. Dark sky, gloomy houses, and narrow streets glowed in the blood-red, illumination. The factory i wa3 not far off. Hetithclifi: leaned out until I lie could see the front. Red flames were bursting from its windows. He drew back ; lite teeth were set, his eyes gleamed sternly. ' It is the mill Those political guerrillas I have done their work well/ he muttered. The mill had been bis pet. He loved every piece oil machinery it contained. He took pride in the order and perfection of ail the appurtenances, no less than in the sub stantial 3 .'one and brick buildings. He waked to the table and picked up the roll of paper Honor Mcntcalm snatched it from his hand. She was in a high state of excitement. She felt as though her father j was responsible for the incendiary deed that had been done — as though, it affected his honour The instigators of the discontent against HeathcliS were of his clan. She faced Heathcliff with white checks and flashing eyes. I ' Go,' she said ; * try to save your property. I It can be saved ; it mu^t be saved : go.' I He hesitated. He looked across at Nell j Barnes. She was once more breathing in I labored ga3ps ; another convulsion might be I coming on. ' And Jeave you two here in this place I with a dying woman, and with all this up I roar going on about you ? I cannot ' I ' You must,' cried' Honor. The roar of the voices and of the devoar ing flames had grown louder ; tho red glare had increased. ' Go,' she entreated. ' or I will go myself-' I He gave her a look which told her that I he understood and appreciated what she i'elfe I ' I will go,' he said. * I shall send Mrs. I Eetts and her husband to you. They will I be needed.' I They heard him stop in the hall and speak I to the man and his wife. They heai'd Mrs. I Jfot.'s response : I ' As soon as we kin dress, Mr. Heathcliff ;' I and then his tread creaked on the stairs, and I Honor gave way to a single passionate bod. I The uproar outside increased . In spite of I the violent wind,. they could hear the shouts 1 of excited voices, the rattle of engines, the I quick tones of command. The street below I was full of hurrying figures. The light of ; I the burning factory inade every face plainly I visible. Standing at the window, eagerly I 'Hatching and listening, Honor saw a man I run across the street and look back in a wild I kind of way. He was bare-headed, Jiis long I hair was streaming in the wind, hi3 move I ments denoted the wildest excitement It I was Nick Woods He had jnst emerged I from the tenement building, which he had I entered with a sinister design, or rather im I pulse ; his excitement had reached too high I a pitch since the tire besan to allow of his I forming any plan. H13 present actions were I the outcome of fanatic madness I Honor was listening to the sounds that I came from the direction of the fira. I , ' What can be the reason the engines are I not subduing the flames ?' she cried. 'There I mnst be some difficulty about the wafcer I pipes. The tire is no doubt spreading. Tbe I factory is surrounded by wooden buildings * I What she said was confirmed hy those I passing in the street below. The firemen, I assisted by the crowd, were using everv I endeavour to keep the flames from extending I tq the surrounding buildings. A cry from j Kildee brought Honor back to the bed. Nell I Barnes's last struggle had begun. It was I Ions nnd terrible. The two women forgot everything else in their efforts to give what help and ease they could to her in this I ghastly trial. They did not hear, or at least I did not heed, what went on outside. No one came to their assistance. The fire I Beemed to be the one centre of attraction. There was no more water in the pitcher, I and Ivildee went to an adjoining room, a SKy» lighted closet-like apartment,, to look for I Borne. She stumbled over something lying I in a heap upon the floor. She bent down I and found it was a female — dead she thought I at first, until the alcoholic fumes of her I breath reached her. She held the lamp I close to the figure and recognised the face. I It was that of a youns factory girl whom I the superintendent had lately turned away I because, of drunkenness and irregular con duct. Kildee conjectured that the girl had I come into the house in a half -conscious con I dition, found her way into this roomjuistinc I lively, and dropped into a drunken sleep. I She had no time now to think of this.sin I f ill sister. She -jould dp no more than put 1^1 roll cf clothes under her head. All her I attention was demanded by the dying I woman. Honor assUlcd her in silence, and I trith tremulons hands. Death. . was some I thing the general's daughter had rarely «een. I The present experience was a new and dread I fcl one to her, jet ehe did not shrink from I it. . * ' , I Moments went by. There was a sudden I increase in th e commotion outside. The cry I of 'Fire! fire!' was repeated again. There I was a rush of feet overhead and in tbe pas I 6age of the tenement house. ? Some one I threw open the dedr and yelled, * Fire !' I Kildee looked inquiringly at Honor.' I . . ' It is only that another of the bnildings I around the factory has caught* on fire,' said I the elder girl reassuringly. * Probably one I nearer to this house. There is no occasion I «sr present alarm There are several houses I between here and the mill.' I As ehe spoke she rose and shut the door I -that had been flnng open. The noises out I feide grew loader and more confused; the
roaring and crackling sound of flame more audible. The air in the room grew thick with smoke. * The burning house roust be nearer than I thought,' murmured Honor, almost pasp ing in the stilling atmosphere,' The strug gles of the dying woman still continued and still the girls -worked with her, rubbing her with brandy, holding her head up and wiping the froth from her mouth. The roaring of the firs grew louder, the heat, the smoke became unbearable, and the uproar of voices in the street became deafen ing. Kildee ran to tho door and threw it open. She shrieked aloud. The passage was fiilod with thick blinding tmoke Throngh it she saw a sight that struck terror to her soul ; the red glare of flames. She ran back and caught Honor by the arm. ' We are lost,' she cried. * The-house is on fire. All below is in flames,' ' CHAPTER XXXIX. . Eeaihcliff had hurried to the burning factory, but it was too late for his individual exertions io be of any avail. The firemen were there with their engines, but before they arrived tbe flames had gained such headway that they could not be cheeked Heatbclifl: could only look on with folded arms and stern lips while his property was swept to destruction. The red, roaring carnival of fiame went on within the brick walls ; scarlet tongues leaped from every window, floors fell in, one after another, with a deafening crash, until the building was crowned and turretei with triumphant fire. But before this climax was reached, the mayor had ceased to contemplate his burn ing mill. The feoling of ' humanity, so strong in his breast, roused him to the as sistance of others. The flames » ere spread- ing. The wind was whirling the red fire flakes in ev^ry direction, the heat was in tense ; the utmost exertions of the firemen, assisted by the confused, shouting crowd, were insuificient to prevent the tire from being communicated to the shops, dwelling houses and other buildings contiguous to the factory. The two tenement buildings owned by Heathcliff, he believed, were in no immediate danger. They were two blocks away from the scene oi the fire. Honor and Kildee were safe. He threw off his coat, and cheered the workmen by his own personal exertions and courage. He monnted to the roofs of build ings, knocked off burning shingles, helped to envelop the smoking walls in wet blan kets, and when these efforts were nselcs3, he assisted to save the property of the poor tenants and to soothe the terrified women and children. In the midst of the scene of confusion, a terrible cry came to his ears. He had a little sobbing child on one arm, with the other he supported its pale mother, who had been borne out from her sick bed. * Brown Rooat on fire,' shouted a voice. Another and anoiher took up the cry. Heathcliff hastily transferred his charge to others Brovrn Rcost was the name of the tenement houses in which he had left Kildee and Honor Nick Woods, in his mad malignance, and unknown to his accomplices, had fired the building an hour ago, by wrenching off a broken shutter from a window on tbe grotmd -floor — the grocery store — breaking the glass with a blow, anJ throwing in a bag of shavings saturated with coal oil. In the darkness of the alley in which he stood, he did this without discovery Returning ?half-an-hour after to see the progress of his work, he was not satisfied, although smoke was pouring from the broken window, and the dull roar and glare inside told plainly that the flames were at work. Ke feared the alarm would be given before the firs had taken firm hold, and the building be saved. He would quicken the progress cf the des tructive a^eni:. He crept up the stairs that gave exit on the street- The rear of the dark uniighted passage on the second floor was filled with combustible articles The tenants had made it a sort of lumber-room Baby cradles and carriages, a painter's oil can, barrels and boxes empty or partly filled with coal and rubbish ocenpied the space under the staircase which led to the third~floor— that in which the room of Nell Barnes was situated. To saturate those easily kindled articles with oil and apply a lighted match was the work of a second Then with furtive look about him, the in cendiary slunk away. No one discovered the- fire in Brown Boost until it had began to rage fiercely ii* in the lower srory ; until the flames kindled in the rear of the passage had fastened on the woodwork and beguD to eat their way through the staircase of the third story. Attention had been concentrated upon tLe conflagration two blocks away. Every male tenant of the Roost, and the greater number of the women had gone io the scene of the burning factory. Other women were en paged quieting their frightened children. When at length it was discovered that the building was on fire, the alarm ran from room to room with marvellous quickness. In five minutes Brown 'Roost was vacated by every human being — except those who were in No. 27 — a woman in the last agonies of death, two awe-stricken girls who bent over her, paying little heed to the fresh alarm of fire, and the young woman who lay in a drunken stupor on the floor of the little ' dark room ' When Heathcliff reached the Boost the flames were licking their red tongues from every window of the ground floor. A motley throng filled the streets in front of the build ing. He sent his sye swiftly over the crowd . ? ' The women in No 27,' he cried ' Nell Barnes and the women who were with her, are they Eafe ?' „ There was silence for an instant 4. then a loud, hoarse voice shouted : . * I burst open the door and hollered io them that the house was afire. They didn't 'pear to mind.it. They jest looked around. I made sure though they'd save themselves; but—* . Heathcliff was already half, way up the first flight of stairs. A. dozen voices yelled to him: ' You can't get to them . The passage and the stairs are afire.' 2?lame and smoke indeed filled the narrow passage. He burst through them; the stairs were burning, bnt not vet destroyed. Would they bear his weight ? He took no time ts think. Lowering his head, and closing his eyes, he sprang up the steps through the Scorching flames. Dense smoke filled the third story hall He found his way through it to the openiloor of No. 27. Dimly through the smoke'he saw tbe faces of the two girls by the bed. They were scarcefy less ghastly than tho face of the just dead woman, who
sat propped upright with staring eyes and fallen jaw. Horror at the sight of that death-scene, the shock of terror at the sudden realization, of danger, together with the stifling smoke, had. almost deprived Honor of consciousness . Kildee was supporting her half -fainting form and trying to arotisa her to try to escape Honor's white face looked deaihliae to Heathcliff. fTO EE CONTINUED.)