On the night of April 23d the earth tremor returned with a slight shock, only sufficient to cause a temporary alarm. On the afternoon of the 25th came another and severer one, strong enough to shake down some tottering walls and add another to the list of victims. This was a woman named Annie Whitaker, who was at work in the kitchen of her home at the time. The chimney, which had been weakened by the great shock, now fell, crashing through the roof and fracturing her skull. Thus the earth powers claimed a final human sacrifice before their dread visitation ended.
The Demon of Fire Invades the Stricken City.
The terrors of the earthquake are momentary. One fierce, levelling shock and usually all is over. The torment within the earth has passed on and the awakened forces of the earth’s crust sink into rest again, after having shaken the surface for many leagues. Rarely does the dread agent of ruin leave behind it such a terrible follower to complete its work as was the case in the doomed city of San Francisco. All seemed to lead towards such a carnival of ruin as the earth has rarely seen. The demon of fire followed close upon the heels of the unseen fiend of the earth’s hidden caverns, and ran red-handed through the metropolis of the West, kindling a thousand unhurt buildings, while the horror-stricken people stood aghast in terror, as helpless to combat this new enemy as they were to check the ravages of the earthquake itself.
Why not quench the fire at its start with water? Alas! there was no water, and this expedient was a hopeless one. The iron mains which carried the precious fluid under the city streets were broken or injured so that no quenching streams were to be had. In some cases the engine houses had been so damaged that the fire-fighting apparatus could not be taken out, though even if it had it would have been useless. A sweeping conflagration and not an ounce of water to throw upon it! The situation of the people was a maddening one. They were forced helplessly and hopelessly to gaze upon the destruction of their all, and it is no marvel if many of them grew frantic and lost their reason at the sight. Thousands gathered and looked on in blank and pitiful misery, their strong hands, their iron wills of no avail, while the red-lipped fire devoured the hopes of their lives.
In a dozen, a hundred, places the flames shot up redly. Huge, strong buildings which the earthquake had spared fell an unresisting prey to the flames. The great, iron-bound, towering Spreckles building, a steeple-like structure, of eighteen stories in height, the tallest skyscraper in the city, had resisted the earthquake and remained proudly erect. But now the flames gathered round and assailed it. From both sides came their attack. A broad district near by, containing many large hotels and lodging houses, was being fiercely burnt out, and soon the windows of the lofty building cracked and splintered, the flames shot triumphantly within, and almost in an instant the vast interior was a seething furnace, the wild flames rushing and leaping within until only the blackened walls remained.