It was past midnight when the veteran chambermaid was awakened by the sound of crackling wood and the smell of stifling smoke. To spring out of bed was the work of a moment, the aged limbs obedient to her call; then all her faculties alert, she thrust her hand into a hidden recess of the mattress, and clutching a bulky package from its depths, made her way out into the corridor, where the smoke was still thicker, on down the stairs from the servants’ dormitory to the floor below. Staggering to the manager’s door she pounded with all her strength till those within were aroused; and dizzy from fright and half-suffocation, she ran to the fire alarm, banging the gong till doors flew open right and left, and the halls were alive with people. The cry of “Fire!” on all sides now added to the din. More alarms were turned in till ample help was at hand. While the hotel manager’s orders were being obeyed, and the guests were deserting their rooms for greater safety in the lobby below, Treesa was struggling to get back to the servant’s floor, whence now issued screams of terror, as, for the first time, the flames were seen creeping in close proximity to the maid’s quarters. In vain the firemen, who were now cutting holes in the floor to insert the hose, tried to intercept her. Bent upon serving her fellow-servants, she disappeared through the blinding smoke Crawling flat upon her face up the stairs to avoid the onset of the fumes, the girl reached the glass door that imprisoned the terrified creatures, burst it through with one powerful blow, and forced them out upon the fire escape, where now, too, the firemen’s ladders were seen manned by the helmeted brigade. All bruised and bleeding from the splintered glass, and still clutching fast the rescued package, Treesa turned to retrace her steps, her only thought now being to save the parlor floor and its treasures. Again she eluded those who would have guarded her from danger, and made a hurried dash for the stairway, when a sudden rush of flame, now fanned by the air, blinded her, and she fell to the landing, dropping the bulk of her holdings, where the fire greedily licked it to destruction.
Tender hands lifted her and conveyed her, crushed and unconscious, to a temporary couch, where it was found, when the surgeon came, that her hip was dislocated. To the mistress alone would she unloose what her bleeding hand still held, as she whispered, “Put it away, safe—Masses for me soul—Father Clement.”
But Treesa did not die. The morning papers rang with her heroism, but none then knew that she had lost the hoarded earnings of a life-time; that the one package saved represented but a small proportion of her treasure. She was taken to a hospital, and, fortunately for her peace of mind, the house was closed for repairs. During the weeks of building, the old bones were mending. The sufferer counted the days with jealous watching. When an agony of fear seized upon her lest she might never go back, only the mistress or the kindly priest had power to quiet her, She was promised over and over again that she should not be supplanted.