Burning of the Brooklyn Theatre - novelonlinefull.com
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Burly men and weak women seemed alike powerless in that dense throng, and to aggravate the panic, people at the turn of the stairs kept calling, "Go back! go back! You cannot get out this way." This may have been intended to restrain the crowd above from forcing their way down, but it had a different effect. People madly urged each other forward, men swore and women shrieked, and to heighten the horror of the scene a volume of black smoke burst into the pa.s.sage and rolled along, blinding the eyes and parching the throat. In this dreadful moment, when the horrors of death seemed to stare those people in the face and to overshadow them like a pall, a desperate flight for life began. Women fainted and men fell under foot and were trampled down, and through that writhing, struggling ma.s.s, amid a tumult of cries and shrieks and groans, the lower vestibule was reached.
A lady in front of our hero, pressed and beaten down by the mad crowd, fainted and would have fallen. He caught her in his arms, and now began a desperate struggle. Persons from the gallery and elsewhere had blocked the doors, and there were many behind him in the dress-circle, pushing violently, one even clutching at the head of the unconscious lady as she hung over his shoulder. Slowly they were making for the doors, when the flames from the ceiling seemed to dart down and met the jets from the gaselier. Then there was dreadful yelling and crowding at the doors, men and women struggling desperately for every inch gained. A horrible accident occurred. A lady partly suffocated, like the rest of them, had fallen and could not be lifted, and was evidently trampled to death. But there was no time to think. He pa.s.sed over several forms. Looking behind for an instant he saw there was a frightful panic in the theatre. The gas or something else had exploded, the lights were out, the flames roared and the pieces of wood and plaster fell upon the heads of those at a distance. "Mercy!"
"My G.o.d, save me!" and names of husbands and brothers were shouted.
The heat was intense, for the fire was rapidly closing upon them. Arms were thrown up in an attempt to force a pa.s.sage, as men sometimes do when swimming, and dozens must have been swept under and trodden to death. He had now nearly reached the door. All at once a fearful crash came, as if the gallery or ceiling had fallen. "Murder!" "Help!"
"Help!" seemed to be shouted from a hundred lips. He turned as he felt the fresh air blow upon his face, and saw behind something like a dark wall. He then felt that at least a hundred and fifty people were shut in to certain destruction. But the groaning and yelling continued worse than ever. Beyond this wall he could see bright flames, which seemed to swell and surge in a terrible manner. On gaining the street he found still more excitement; but he had to hurry to the station-house with his unconscious burden. In a moment he was back again at the theatre, exerting himself to the utmost to quiet the people in the lower lobby, and have them leave in an orderly way, so that all might get out safe. But when the audience, in their mad rush to escape from the flames, began to trample on one another, he commanded them to keep back so that he might save those who had fallen. Although the surging crowd was loath to obey, yet his commands were so earnest that he kept them back a sufficient time to pick up about twenty persons who would otherwise have been crushed and killed, and carried them, comparatively unhurt, into the adjoining station-house. After saving these people he returned to the theatre, which was now enveloped in flames. Men, women and children were thrown down and trampled upon, but the brave man rushed in among the frantic crowd, at the imminent risk of his own life, and pulled out a number of bodies, cut, bruised and bleeding. Those who witnessed his actions state that he saved in this way the lives of at least forty persons.
When the firemen arrived, he a.s.sisted them to quell the flames. He remained at the fire throughout the night and all the next day. He was one of the first to discover the dead bodies, and although faint, hungry, and burned and blackened out of human semblance, a.s.sisted in getting out the charred and mangled bodies, and it was not until the last one had been removed that he sought repose.
Conn, or rather Mr. Daly, took an early opportunity of visiting the house of his old employer, Mr. Morgan. Being possessed now of abundant means and letters of introduction from high dignitaries in the Chilian government he had no difficulty in getting an invitation from Mr.
Morgan to tea, with whom he had made a large contract for tools.
Miss Nettie looked more charming than ever, and to the surprise of _pater familias_ recognized his guest as the brave gentleman who rescued her from the burning theatre. It is unnecessary to say that Mr. Morgan was agreeably surprised, and the gallant rescuer being socially and pecuniarily his peer, young, and distinguished-looking, he began to look upon him as a possible son-in-law.
It was not our purpose to tell a love-story, and it is only necessary to add that if there is anything in "signs," Mr. Daly will certainly carry off as a bride the charming Miss Nettie Morgan.