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A Little Picture Post by :Sandro_Forani Category :Short Stories Author :Jacob A. Riis Date :October 2011 Read :2228

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A Little Picture

The fire-bells rang on the Bowery in the small hours of the morning. One of the old dwelling-houses that remain from the day when the "Bouwerie" was yet remembered as an avenue of beer-gardens and pleasure resorts was burning. Down in the street stormed the firemen, coupling hose and dragging it to the front. Upstairs in the peak of the roof, in the broken skylight, hung a man, old, feeble, and gasping for breath, struggling vainly to get out. He had piled chairs upon tables, and climbed up where he could grasp the edge, but his strength had given out when one more effort would have freed him. He felt himself sinking back. Over him was the sky, reddened now by the fire that raged below. Through the hole the pent-up smoke in the building found vent and rushed in a black and stifling cloud.

"Air, air!" gasped the old man. "O God, water!"

There was a swishing sound, a splash, and the copious spray of a stream sent over the house from the street fell upon his upturned face. It beat back the smoke. Strength and hope returned. He took another grip on the rafter just as he would have let go.

"Oh, that I might be reached yet and saved from this awful death!" he prayed. "Help, O God, help!"

An answering cry came over the adjoining roof. He had been heard, and the firemen, who did not dream that any one was in the burning building, had him in a minute. He had been asleep in the store when the fire aroused him and drove him, blinded and bewildered, to the attic, where he was trapped.

Safe in the street, the old man fell upon his knees.

"I prayed for water, and it came; I prayed for freedom, and was saved. The God of my fathers be praised!" he said, and bowed his head in thanksgiving.

(The end)
Jacob A. Riis's short story: Little Picture

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