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Colin of the Ninth Concession
Chapter XXVI - Willie’s Daring Deed


A HERO IN NEW YORK

ONE OF THE MOST THRILLING AND DARING DEEDS
EVER PERFORMED IN THE HISTORY OF THE CITY. A
BEAUTIFUL YOUNG GIRL SAVED FROM AN AWFUL
DOOM BY THE ACT OF A BRAVE YOUTH.

ONE of the most thrilling adventures, and most startling if not miraculous escapes, that it has ever been our duty to chronicle, occurred this morning at the N. Y. C. & W. offices adjoining the station. It appears that a spark from an engine fell among some old papers at the rear of the general offices, and all unseen a fire was started which, before it was discovered, ate its way along the sills, and secured a grip upon the building which it was impossible to stay. Indeed, before it was discovered, the lower floor was in flames, and so rapidly did they spread that the main staircase was ablaze, and all escape shut off in a shorter time than it takes to record it. Most of the employees, however, who were engaged on the second and third floors, were able to escape, either by jumping or by the use of ladders that were brought into hasty requisition.

It was thought that most if not all of the inmates had escaped, when the figure of a young lady was seen at the small attic window of the fifth floor, calling frantically for assistance. "My God!" said a voice in the crowd below, while the man rushed madly about, and would have thrown himself into the flames in an effort to climb the blazing staircase. "That is my daughter!" It was President Rolphe of the N. Y. C. & W. who spoke, and immediately the interest in the terrible drama that was being enacted, deepened.

It seems that the young girl— Helen Rolphe had gone to the office to see her father. He was out at the time, and she loitered about waiting for him. It was while she was waiting that the cry of fire was raised, and when she issued from her father’s office, the flames had mounted the staircase, and were blazing all about her. She did not know the passages in the building, and instead of taking the one which led to the window from which the others were rescued, she took another one which led to a pair of back stairs. As the flames were mounting these rapidly, there was nothing to do but ascend, and before she was aware of her terrible predicament, she was at the attic, with the hissing flames following close in her wake.

It was only when she appeared at the window, calling frantically for help, that the spectators below, including her half-crazed father, realised her awful position. "My daughter! my daughter!" moaned her father. "Can no one save her? Oh, what will her poor mother do! It will kill her!"

The crowd stood awe-stricken and speechless. It looked as though the young girl’s doom was sealed irrevocably, and that no power on earth could save her from the relentless fury of the flames which were rapidly closing about her. The frantic girl seemed to realise the situation, for she was seen to close her eyes and cover them with her hands, as if she contemplated a leap to the stone sidewalk some sixty-five feet below, which meant certain death. The suspense was awful.

Suddenly a young man, not more than nineteen years, but lithe, active, and with a look of determination on his face, sprang from the mute, silent, and awe-stricken crowd, and shouted, "Give me a rope!"

A strong coil of rope was instantly supplied, and throwing it over his head, he rushed to the gable end of the building, where the lightning-rod passed from the ground to the chimney above. He gave it a few hasty jerks, and as it was firm, the fastenings having been built in with the brickwork when the building was erected, he determined to make the attempt. Pausing for an instant, while he raised his eyes aloft to survey the scene, and possibly breathe a silent request for strength in his hazardous venture, the young man seized the lightning-rod and began his perilous ascent. He availed himself of every crevice and niche in the brick wall, which fortunately was rough, in order that he should not put too great a strain on the rod.

The spectators held their breath while the young hero slowly but steadily climbed aloft. There was not one who did not regard the adventure as so extremely hazardous that it was almost tantamount to certain death.

Even if the rod should hold out, and he should reach the roof, would he be in time to save the girl? The flames were slowly but surely encompassing her, and it did not look as if she could hold out many seconds longer.

What suspense could be more awful than that which prevailed during the moments of the young man’s ascent of the last few feet? The rod seemed to loosen and sway slightly, and a cry of horror went up from the crowd below, but the hero kept on his way, and when at last he threw a loop of the rope about the chimney, and, aided by that, swung himself nimbly upon the ridge-board, a great shout of triumph surged up from the multitude beneath, which must have sent a thrill through the young hero’s heart. He could scarcely - have expected to reach the roof when he started to climb, but there he was. There was not an instant to be lost, and fastening the rope securely about the massive chimney, he slid down to the attic window. The smoke had now so completely enveloped it that the crowd below lost sight of the girl, and a cry went up, "Too late! Too late!"

But this cry gave place to a great burst of applause as the young man, who had leaped into the attic through the window, almost instantly reappeared with the girl in his arms, whilst the flames fairly chased him out. It was a perilous task to make his way back to the ridge-board with the extra burden which he had, but he did it. The great concourse beneath held their breath as they watched the daring youth, with pallid face and teeth firmly set, slowly approach the ridge-board with his precious burden.

"He’s reached it! he’s reached it! Thank God, he’s reached it!" went up the cry, as the young man regained the chimney.

It took but a moment to fasten the rope around the semi-conscious form of Helen Rolphe, and when that was done, he passed it twice around the massive chimney to check the draw upon it, and holding it firmly in his hands, he pushed the girl’s form over the gable. In an instant she was dangling unconscious in mid-air. Her body descended slowly but surely towards the ground as her rescuer let the rope slip through his firm grip. To describe the awful suspense of those moments while Helen Rolphe’s form was being lowered, is impossible.

But even when the unconscious girl was safe in her father’s arms, and the half-crazed man was bending over her, talking wildly and incoherently, the suspense was far from over, for the bravest youth in all New York was still in mortal peril.

The fire had advanced rapidly; half the roof had fallen in, and unless the young man was quick, his doom was sealed. Despite the awful ordeal and the frightful strain upon his nerves, he still bore up. Fastening the rope about the chimney, he threw himself over and slid rapidly down. He was not an instant too soon, for the fire had seized the rope and burned it so that it broke when the brave boy was within ten feet of the ground, and he fell helpless and unconscious to the earth.

Cheer upon cheer rent the air, but the youth was all unconscious of the salvos in his honour that went up from a thousand throats. He was carried to a drug store close by, and there, after a few minutes, he recovered consciousness. His first enquiry was for the young girl for whom he had risked his life. When assured of her safety, he seemed satisfied. It was not till some time afterwards that the young hero’s identity was known, for he modestly sought to treat the matter lightly.

His name is William NcNabb, and he is a young Canadian who came here from eastern Ontario about two years ago. He has been employed in the offices of the railway of which Mr. Rolphe, the father of the rescued girl, is president. Curiously enough, Mr. Rolphe had not come in contact with the young employee before.


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