The gentleman did not say a word, but pointed to the burning building. “Impossible!” cried Mr. Morris. “Is there no mistake? Your beautiful young wife, Montague. Can it be so?” Mr. Morris was trembling from head to foot.
“It is true,” said Mr. Montague, quietly. “Give me the boy.” Charlie had fainted again, and his father took him in his arms, and turned away.
“Montague!” cried Mr. Morris, “my heart is sore for you. Can I do nothing?”
“No, thank you,” said the gentleman, without turning around; but there was more anguish in his voice than in Mr. Morris’s, and though I am only a dog, I knew that his heart was breaking.
* * * * *
BILLY AND THE ITALIAN
Mr. Morris stayed no longer. He followed Mr. Montague along the sidewalk a little way, and then exchanged a few hurried words with some men who were standing near, and hastened home through streets that seemed dark and dull after the splendor of the fire. Though it was still the middle of the night, Mrs. Morris was up and dressed and waiting for him. She opened the hall door with one hand and held a candle in the other. I felt frightened and miserable, and didn’t want to leave Mr. Morris, so I crept in after him.
“Don’t make a noise,” said Mrs. Morris. “Laura and the boys are sleeping, and I thought it better not to wake them. It has been a terrible fire, hasn’t it? Was it the hotel?” Mr. Morris threw himself into a chair and covered his face with his hands.
“Speak to me, William!” said Mrs. Morris, in a startled tone. “You are not hurt, are you?” and she put her candle on the table and came and sat down beside him.
He dropped his hands from his face, and tears were running down his cheeks. “Ten lives lost,” he said; “among them Mrs. Montague.”
Mrs. Morris looked horrified, and gave a little cry, “William, it can’t be so!”
It seemed as if Mr. Morris could not sit still. He got up and walked to and fro on the floor. “It was an awful scene, Margaret. I never wish to look upon the like again. Do you remember how I protested against the building of that deathtrap? Look at the wide, open streets around it, and yet they persisted in running it up to the sky. God will require an account of those deaths at the hands of the men who put up that building. It is terrible—this disregard of human lives. To think of that delicate woman and her death agony.” He threw himself in a chair and buried his face in his hands.
“Where was she? How did it happen? Was her husband saved, and Charlie?” said Mrs. Morris, in a broken voice.
“Yes; Charlie and Mr. Montague are safe. Charlie will recover from it. Montague’s life is done. You know his love for his wife. Oh, Margaret! when will men cease to be fools? What does the Lord think of them when they say, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the other poor creatures burned to death—their lives are as precious in his sight as Mrs. Montague’s.”