ch of our arms and our pickaxes—a beam fast at each end in the ruined wall, with ceiling and flooring all ripped away, and a great gap in the roof above, open to the sky. We attacked the beam at both ends at once. God! how it held—how the brick and mortar of the wall resisted us! We struck, and tugged, and tore. The beam gave at one end—it came down with a lump of brickwork after it. There was a scream from the women all huddled in the doorway to look at us—a shout from the men—two of them down but not hurt. Another tug all together—and the beam was loose at both ends. We raised it, and gave the word to clear the doorway. Now for the work! now for the rush at the door! There is the fire streaming into the sky, streaming brighter than ever to light us! Steady along the churchyard path—steady with the beam for a rush at the door. One, two, three—and off. Out rings the cheering again, irrepressibly. We have shaken it already, the hinges must give if the lock won't. Another run with the beam! One, two, three—and off. It's loose! the stealthy fire darts at us through the crevice all round it. Another, and a last rush! The door falls in with a crash. A great hush of awe, a stillness of breathless expectation, possesses every living soul of us. We look for the body. The scorching heat on our faces drives us back: we see nothing—above, below, all through the room, we see nothing but a sheet of living fire.
"Where is he?" whispered the servant, staring vacantly at the flames.
"He's dust and ashes," said the clerk. "And the books are dust and ashes—and oh, sirs! the church will be dust and ashes soon."
Those were the only two who spoke. When they were silent again, nothing stirred in the stillness but the bubble and the crackle of the flames.
A harsh rattling sound in the distance—then the hollow beat of horses' hoofs at full gallop—then the low roar, the all- predominant tumult of hundreds of human voices clamouring and shouting together. The engine at last.
The people about me all turned from the fire, and ran eagerly to the brow of the hill. The old clerk tried to go with the rest, but his strength was exhausted. I saw him holding by one of the tombstones. "Save the church!" he cried out faintly, as if the firemen could hear him already.
Save the church!