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In his pride he carried the old proud name
Thro' his dreams he could hear the English lark,
And winding by ivied hall and lawn,
He could see an English lane.
Where the valleys lay purple and green and sad,
He beheld the deer by a Highland burn,
And the heather that purpled the homeland moors
But the green mound left at the lone portage,
And the night was starred with his glimmering homes, And his prairie with wheat was gold;
And it fell in time, as it ever was,
That the New became the Old.
Its blood was the blood of the home-born sons,
While the new to the morrow fares.
Yet the child shall age as the mother aged
By her lost shall the old home live!
ON THE HOUSETOP.*
BY ROBERT BARR, ATUHOR OF "IN THE MIDST OF ALARMS," ETC., ETC.
ILBERT STRONG awoke suddenly. Something was wrong, of that he was certain; but what the something was, he had but the vaguest idea. His flat was on the seventeenth floor of the tall Zenith Building, near Fifth avenue, and above the seventeenth floor there was nothing but the flat roof. He liked this elevation, for the air was purer than farther below, and the comparative quiet of the situation, high above the turmoil of a New York street, soothed and comforted a literary man.
occupier of flat 68, his own apartment
"Who is that?"
"Miss Colburn, come out as quickly as you can, the house is on fire. I am your neighbour, Gilbert Strong."
There was a shuddering cry from within, then silence. Strong walked to the elevator, and, from futile habit, rang the electric bell. He heard the jingling far below. Some thought came to him of kicking in the door of the elevator, and pulling the wire rope to bring up the car; but through the glass he saw the shaft thick with smoke, and he knew that a breach at the top would but make a roaring furnace of this smoky funnel, while the chances of getting down in the car, even if it came up, were exceedingly remote. As yet the upper hall in which he stood was almost smokeless, although a strong smell of burning pine was in the air.
Gilbert dashed from his bedside to the window, touched the spring blind, and it flew to the ceiling. But one glance out and down was needed to tell a New Yorker what the trouble was. Tearing along the side street with alarm gong a-clang, rushed the fire engines. The lower sections of the houses on the opposite side of the thoroughfare were aglow with the reflected light of a conflagration just begun, and grim apprehensions thrilled the scantily clad frame of young Strong as he realized that the fire was in the first stories of the tall edifice he occupied.
He was paying an exorbitant rent because the Zenith apartment house was fireproof, but somehow this remembrance brought little consolation to him at the moment he stood by the window. "Fireproof" is an elastic term, and to the average New Yorker it merely means that the sky-scraper so designated will occupy a few minutes longer in burning than some others that have not marble stairs, concrete floors and steel frames.
Gilbert Strong dressed himself speedily, yet with more deliberation than a man might be expected to use in similar circumstances. He was thinking, not of himself, but of another-the
*Copyright, 1900, by Robert Barr.
The door of 68 opened and Miss Colburn came out, arrayed with admirable disorder, a loose dressing-gown of fascinating colour and make around her, the abundant black tresses profuse over her shoulders. He had always seen her in fashionable garb, and thought her the most superb woman of her time; but now she seemed adorable, her beauty heightened by the augment
ed roses in her cheek, and the appealing glance of fear in her dark eyes. "Oh, you are not gone! "I was waiting for you." "That is kind of you. We are not in danger, are we? The electric lights are still burning in the hall."
"Yes, that is a good sign. No, we are in no danger; but we may have to go down the fire escape to the street."
"But there are no fire escapes on this building. They said it was fireproof."
They will say anything in New York. I was meaning the wheeled escapes of the fire department, and we must go down some stories yet before we come within their range. Come."
A red lamp indicated the stair. They walked down the marble steps together. Strong noticed that the doors of the flats they passed on the landings were open; a silence as of long desertion hung about the empty rooms and halls. The fire had made further progress than he had surmised at first; perhaps the two occupants of the top floor had been forgotten in the general alarm; and if this were the case, their situation was more serious than he cared to admit even to himself. Two or three flights down the choking smoke began to meet them, growing thicker as they descended. Silently he offered his arm, and she took it gasping.
"I am—I am a coward," she faltered. "I have always had a fear of heights, and yet and yet I took that flat. I thought this house was fireproof. Let us get down, down, down, and quickly. If one has to fall, the distance will be less.'
He smiled grimly. All they could accomplish in descent would make little difference.
66 'You must not be afraid. Don't speak, please, and breathe through your nose. Better hold your sleeve against your face, and breathe through that if you can."
But even as he spoke he saw that their endeavour was hopeless. The girl leaned more and more heavily
against him, then with a moan sank helpless at his feet. He lifted her, passed down the hall to a window and threw it open. The cool air revived her, but a glance through the open window sent her swooning to the floor. They had not yet come down to the level of the opposite roof that covered a ten-story building. Leaving her where she lay, Gilbert went down the hall and opened the window at the other end, the wind blowing through almost clearing the passage of smoke. When he returned she was sitting with her brow pressed against the sill.
"Leave me," she moaned, "and save yourself—if you can.”
"You don't mind being left alone?" "Oh, no." Her face sank in her open hands.
"Then you see you are not a coward after all. My courage would fail if you left me. Give me your hand and spring to your feet. In spite of the open window this smoke is becoming stifling. We must make for the roof." "The roof? No, no."
"Life is impossible here. Come, or I'll carry you.'
She went with him, protesting. "The roof will be worse at the last." "It can not be any worse, and the air will be breathable.'
He assisted her, and there was need of it. The electric lights had gone out, and the stairways were thick with smoke. In the darkness he groped for the ladder that led to the hatchway, ascended, leaving her clinging to the foot of the ladder; he flung up the trapdoor and caught a glimpse of the soothing starlit sky, whose existence he had forgotten as he fought his way from that murky pit.
Can you climb the ladder?"
"I think so, if you help me a little." He reached down a hand, and at last lifted her through the square opening and closed the trap-door. Once on the flat roof she swayed slightly, and covered her eyes with her hands as if to shut out any realization of the dizzy height at which she stood. They seemed to be on a square gravel-covered island far above the earth and un
connected with it, or on a very material cloud floating close under the sky. Miss Colburn was the first to speak.
"How sweet the air is. It is like life. I never seem to have appreciated the pleasure of mere breathing or mere living before. How long-when will the fire-how short a time have we? "I hope our days will be long in the land, Miss Colburn. The fire may be put out; they may shoot a rope over this roof; there are a hundred things between us and disaster. I count strongly on the ingenuity of the fire department, and on the bravery of the men. No soldier faces peril more unflinchingly than a fireman."
The girl came closer to him, something almost like a smile softening the lines that fear had drawn about her lips.
"You are saying that to comfort me. I had a glimpse of your face by the open window down below, and saw that all hope had left you. You know there is no chance for us.
"You are entirely mistaken, Miss Colburn. There are many chances in our favour."
"Then why have you made no attempt to let those in the street know we are here on the roof? How can the fire department do anything for us if it thinks every tenant has escaped?"
"By Jove, you are right. I hadn't thought of that. It isn't despair, it is merely a man's stupidity."
Gilbert walked to the parapet, leaned over and shouted. The air shuddered with the incessant palpitation of the fire engines. He saw standpipes, which he knew to be tall, pouring floods through the shattered windows of the fifth or sixth stories, yet from his height the streams seemed to be on a level of those shot from the pavement. Now and then the shrill whistle of an engine calling for coal pierced the throbbing air. The streets were crawling with human black beetles, inefficiently kept within bounds by the police. How familiar the scene seemed, yet Strong had never witnessed it from this point of view, animated by vivid personal interest. These men so far
"Such is my hope. Of course, I mentioned that merely as a guess. They understand fighting a fire and I don't. I can not tell the exact method they will adopt. Your door is open : may I go down and bring you up a wrap?"
"Oh, no, no. I am really warmly clad. It is awful to think of any one going down into that stifling pit.
"Then let us walk under the stars for a while."
He took her unresisting hand and placed it under his arm. They walked along the flat gravel roof as if they were old friends, she shrinking a little when they approached the parapet, whereon he turned, remembering her formerly expressed fear.
"It is so humiliating to be a coward," she said, seeing he had noticed her shudder.