Dangerous Days HTML version

Chapter 42
It was not until dawn that the full extent of the disaster was revealed. All night, by
the flames from the sheds in the yard, which were of wood and still burning,
rescue parties had worked frantically. Two of the long buildings, nearest to the
fuse department, had collapsed entirely. Above the piles of fallen masonry might
be seen, here and there, the black mass of some machine or lathe, and it was
there the search parties were laboring. Luckily the fuse department had not gone
double turn, and the night shift in the machine-shop was not a full one.
The fuse department was a roaring furnace, and repeated calls had brought in
most of the fire companies of the city. Running back and forth in the light of the
flames were the firemen and such volunteer rescuers as had been allowed
through the police cordon. Outside that line of ropes and men were gathered a
tragic crowd, begging, imploring to be allowed through to search for some
beloved body. Now and then a fresh explosion made the mob recoil, only to
press close again, importuning, tragic, hopeless.
The casualty list ran high. All night long ambulances stood in a row along the
street, backed up to the curb and waiting, and ever so often a silent group, in
broken step, carried out some quiet covered thing that would never move again.
With the dawn Graham found his father. He had thrown off his coat and in his
shirt-sleeves was, with other rescuers, digging in the ruins. Graham himself had
been working. He was nauseated, weary, and unutterably wretched, for he had
seen the night superintendent and had heard of his father's message.
"Klein!" he said. "You don't mean Herman Klein?"
"That was what he said. I was to find him and hold him until he got here. But I
couldn't find him. He may have got out. There's no way of telling now."
Waves of fresh nausea swept over Graham. He sat down on a pile of bricks and
wiped his forehead, clammy with sweat.
"I hope to God he was burned alive," muttered the other man, surveying the
scene. His eyes were reddened with smoke from the fire, his clothing torn.
"I was knocked down myself," he said. "I was out in the yard looking for Klein,
and I guess I lay there quite a while. If I hadn't gone out?" He shrugged his
"How many women were on the night shift?"
"Not a lot. Twenty, perhaps. If I had my way I'd take every German in the country
and boil 'em in oil. I didn't want Klein back, but he was a good workman. Well,
he's done a good job now."
It was after that that Graham saw his father, a strange, wild-eyed Clayton who
drove his pick with a sort of mad strength, and at the same time gave orders in
an unfamiliar voice. Graham, himself a disordered figure, watched him for a
moment. He was divided between fear and resolution. Some place in that
debacle there lay his own responsibility. He was still bewildered, but the fact that
Anna's father had done the thing was ominous.