Page:Court Royal.djvu/92

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moaned Lazarus, and then half to himself, ‘Guineas are an institution; say pounds when a purchaser asks the price, and when he comes to pay swear to guineas. Will you have this Kidder.?’

‘It is too thin,’ answered the girl. ‘See! The fire is in the upper storey, and in ten minutes will be through the roof. When that gives way we shall be buried under a rain of fire. Hark!’

‘You hear the engine coming,’ said the Jew, ‘and the squealing of the old woman in the garret. Joanna, take the Persian, take everything, but save my house.’

In a brief time Joanna had covered the roof on both sides with carpets and rugs of all sorts and values, and had soused them well with water. The Jew stood in the tank, up to his waist, and filled the pails. The girl drew them up to her by the rope attached to their handles. She was seated astride on the apex of the roof, and poured the contents of the pails over the carpets.

Whilst Joanna and her master were taking these precautions for the protection of the house of the Golden Balls great excitement prevailed below. The street and the quay were crowded; the fire-engine played on the roofs adjoining the burning house. At a window high up stood the deaf old housekeeper, wringing her hands and shrieking for help. The crowd roared, women sobbed. The ladder was fixed, and a fireman mounted to the rescue. The mob was silent, then cheered as the man put his arm round the poor creature, and endeavoured to bring her down. But she was too frightened by the aspect of the depth she had to descend to yield, and she struggled, and cried, and escaped back into the room filled with smoke and twinkling with fire, bewildered, and in her mazed mind unable to decide whether to risk a fall or to perish in flames. The struggle was of engrossing interest to those in the street; neither Joanna nor the Jew wasted a thought on it. They were concerned only with the precious house of the Golden Balls, and were supremely indifferent to the fate of a stupid old woman of seventy-three.

The firemen and the mob had eyes only for the tow and tallow shop, and the rescue of the housekeeper. When, at length, in spite of her resistance, she was carried down the fire-escape, and received unhurt at the bottom, then only did they observe the proceedings on the roof opposite.

A gush of vivid flame rushed up into the air, over the pawn-