Page:Marietta, or the Two Students.djvu/51

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THE TWO STUDENTS.

45

covered, and the fire was kindled evidently for her destruction.

Through the long hours of that day, had she hoped for succour through the agency of Levator and Eugene; but in vain. No one came to her aid, and to leave her prison, was impossible without assistance.

The loneliness and silence of her situation were favorable to reflection, and not without a salutary influence upon the erring girl. She thought long and deeply of what she had been, and then of what she was. She wept, the betrayed and sinful one wept tears of heart-felt repentance. The work of reformation had commenced. With deep humiliation she confessed to Him who was best acquainted with her frailties, soliciting mercy and pardon. It was now dark, and she shuddered when she thought of passing the night where she then was. It was eight o'clock. Weary with watching, and exhausted for want of food, she was endeavoring to sleep, when the strong, suffocating fumes of smoke reached her, and caused her to start with terror. A horrible suspicion crossed her mind—they had fired the building for the purpose of destroying her. Then she strove to banish the idea as being too diabolical in its nature to be true. Meanwhile the smoke kept increasing, and rolling up in large black masses, filled the wretched attic, and threatened erelong to suffocate her. The house was on fire, she could no longer doubt, and she shrieked loudly, frantically for assistance. But who was there to hear her cries? No one, no mortal ear. They only arose with startling clearness to the slated roof of that old dwelling, and then settled down, waking a thousand echoes, not one of which could avail her. Thicker, heavier the dark volumes of smoke came curling upward, accompanied by an ominous crackling sound, the import of which could not be mistaken. The air grew hot and oppressive; it was with difficulty she could breathe it. Believing her time had come, and escape beyond human possibility, she abandoned herself to her fate, while the low, crackling noise she had heard, increased to a roaring, rushing sound, and she saw the flames darting up, communicating with fearful rapidity from room to room, chamber to chamber, and spreading in all directions. Suffocated and blinded as she was, she could no longer remain in one position, but ran shrieking about the narrow limits of her prison like a maniac. To respire much longer without fresh air was impossible, and in a distracted manner she searched to find some rent or seam in the tiling over her head, through which she might inhale a draught of fresh air. To her joy she is successful, and putting her mouth to it she breathes more freely. The flames mounted to the roof, and she now heard the destructive element over her head, while the excessive heat caused her frequently to change her position, and shrink into the smallest possible space. How horrible must be the emotions of that person, who hemmed in by the flames upon all sides, with no hope of escape, awaits her doom—a death of exquisite torture. We can hardly conceive of a situation more awful, and so wholly fraught with agonizing suspense and keen living horror. A human being we verily believe, could not by any ingenious, hellish device, be placed in a more fearful condition. The roar of cannon would be music to the roaring of the malicious element; and the rush of armed thousands to mortal combat mere pastime to the lightning rush of the approaching flames. Cecil's strength was fast failing, and fear and torture were doing their work upon her. The roof was now one liquid sheet of fire, darting along the rafters, thrusting its forked tongues through every fissure, licking up every thing that was combustible in its passage. The burning timbers with the fabric they supported would soon fall, and offering up an audible, fervent prayer, she prepared to die. At that dreadful moment, she fancied she heard a voice calling loudly her name. With a glimmering of hope she listened. Again she heard it, and this time distinctly it pronounced her name. 'Twas Eugene, he was in the next chamber below. Rushing to the aperture where the stairs had been, she shrieked for help.

"Thank God, I have found you," exclaimed Eugene. "Here be quick, when I throw you the end of this rope, make it fast, and let yourself down by it to me. In heaven's name be quick, the roof will fall in a moment."