To my eager enquiries, he replied,—
“That before Mr. Leighton awoke, their sleeping apartment was filled with smoke, with which the flames were already beginning to mingle. He bore his wife from the apartment; and, with her in his arms, hastened to awake Birdie, whose room adjoined their own. She hastily threw on a portion of her clothing, and prepared to accompany her father and mother in their descent from the chambers. She had fainted from terror, while crossing the upper hall; and it was not till Mr. Leighton reached the open air with his wife in his arms, that he missed Birdie from his side. On leaving her apartment, he had besought her to keep close by him, as her mother required all his attention. The agony of Mr. and Mrs. Leighton, when, upon reaching the open air, they found Birdie to be not with them, may be better imagined than described. Mrs. Leighton became well-nigh frantic, and was almost forcibly conveyed to the house of a neighbor. As soon as Mr. Leighton was relieved from the care of his wife, he rushed toward the burning building, saying that he would either rescue Birdie or perish with her. But, ere he reached the entrance, a man issued from the house, bearing Birdie in his arms. The brave man had rushed up the burning staircase, and reached the spot where Birdie still lay, in a state of insensibility. Hastily enveloping her person in a thick, heavy shawl, which he had taken with him for the purpose, he rushed with her down the perilous staircase, and reached the open air in safety, his clothing only being singed by the flames. Never,” said my uncle, “did I hear such a shout of joy as went up from the assembled multitude when the man who rescued Birdie came from the house, bearing her in safety to her father. Mr. Leighton fell on his knees and fervently thanked God for sparing the life of his child. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘I am content that my dwelling should burn.’ He grasped the hand of her rescuer, and said, with much emotion,—’Words are too poor to express my gratitude; but, if my life is spared, you shall be rewarded.’ ’I want no reward,’ said the noble man, ‘for having done my duty.’ He was a laboring man, and had a large family dependent upon his daily earnings. Quite a large sum of money was soon raised among the assembled crowd, which he would not accept, till compelled to do so by the thankful multitude.”
In conclusion, my uncle said,—
“Consciousness returned to Birdie soon after she was conveyed into the open air, and she was speedily conveyed to her anxious mother. The rescue of Birdie from so dreadful a death was to me a matter of deep and heartfelt thankfulness.”
Previous to the burning of Mr. Leighton’s dwelling his pecuniary affairs, according to common report, had become very much embarrassed; and this event seemed the finishing stroke to his ill-fortune. They were unable to save anything from their dwelling, being thankful to escape with their lives. He still continued his business; but, it was said, his liabilities were heavier than he was able to meet. He rented a moderate-sized house, and removed thither with his family. Those who visited them said it was but plainly furnished. Their servants, with one or two exceptions, had all been dismissed.