Looking for some retreat, he perceived he was standing near an unfinished building. Tearing off the boards that were nailed across the window, he vaulted into the room, knocking off his hat, which fell upon the pavement behind him. Scarcely had he groped his way to the staircase of the dwelling when he heard the footsteps of his pursuers.
“He can’t have got through,” exclaimed one of them, “the street is closed up at the end; he must be up here somewhere.”
Lighting one of their torches, they began to look around them, and soon discovered the hat lying beneath the window.
“He’s in here, boys; we’ve tree’d the ’coon,” laughingly exclaimed one of the ruffians. “Let’s after him.”
Tearing off the remainder of the boards, one or two entered, opened the door from the inside, and gave admission to the rest.
Mr. Ellis mounted to the second story, followed by his pursuers; on he went, until he reached the attic, from which a ladder led to the roof. Ascending this, he drew it up after him, and found himself on the roof of a house that was entirely isolated.
The whole extent of the danger flashed upon him at once. Here he was completely hemmed in, without the smallest chance for escape. He approached the edge and looked over, but could discover nothing near enough to reach by a leap.
“I must sell my life dearly,” he said. “God be my helper now—He is all I have to rely upon.” And as he spoke, the great drops of sweat fell from his forehead. Espying a sheet of lead upon the roof, he rolled it into a club of tolerable thickness, and waited the approach of his pursuers.
“He’s gone on the roof,” he heard one of them exclaim, “and pulled the ladder up after him.” Just then, a head emerged from the trap-door, the owner of which, perceiving Mr. Ellis, set up a shout of triumph.
“We’ve got him! we’ve got him!—here he is!” which cries were answered by the exultant voices of his comrades below.
An attempt was now made by one of them to gain the roof; but he immediately received a blow from Mr. Ellis that knocked him senseless into the arms of his companions. Another attempted the same feat, and met a similar fate.
This caused a parley as to the best mode of proceeding, which resulted in the simultaneous appearance of three of the rioters at the opening. Nothing daunted, Mr. Ellis attacked them with such fierceness and energy that they were forced to descend, muttering the direst curses. In a few moments another head appeared, at which Mr. Ellis aimed a blow of great force; and the club descended upon a hat placed upon a stick. Not meeting the resistance expected, it flew from his hand, and he was thrown forward, nearly falling down the doorway.
With a shout of triumph, they seized his arm, and held him firmly, until one or two of them mounted the roof.
“Throw him over! throw him over!” exclaimed some of the fiercest of the crowd. One or two of the more merciful endeavoured to interfere against killing him outright; but the frenzy of the majority triumphed, and they determined to cast him into the street below.