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ers of sparks and the intense heat. Although separated by a long glacis and high bastions from the burning district, the grass on the ramparts burns up like straw. There is plenty of assistance: the roofs are drenched with water, but still the fire gains ground. A heavy shower of rain comes seasonably to aid ; and the barracks are saved, and with them the upper town.
The fire, however, rages more furiously than ever, outside the walls; spreading thence to the water, along the whole northern face, below the batteries and the magazine. This rumor runs through the crowd in a moment, and fills them with dismay. There are two hundred tons of powder in that magazine-should the fire reach it, not one stone upon another, not a living soul, will remain as a record of Quebec. The fire is close under the walls below the magazine—the smoke and flames rise above them, and whirl round and round with the eddying wind. The bright tin roof flashes back the livid light on the soldiers who are toiling about it, piling up wet clay at the doors and windows, tearing down the wooden houses near, pulling up the platforms of the batteries and the planks of the coping, and throwing them over the walls into the fire below. The crisis passes, the magazine is safe.
Now, for nearly a mile in length, and from the battlements to the river, is one mass of flame; the heat and suffocating smell are almost intolerable; the dense black smoke covers everything to leeward, pressing down the clouds upon the hills many
miles away, and drenching them with unexpected rain. Vessels cut their cables, and drift, half on fire, down the river; the streams and wells in the suburbs are baked up dry; churches, hospitals, ship-yards, each but a red wave in the fiery sea. Though it is past eight o'clock in the evening, there is more light than at noon day; but it is a grim illumination, showing the broad St. Law. rence like a stream of blood, and covering the dark and lowering clouds above with an angry glow.
The lower town has taken fire! Here are the banks, the storehouses, the merchants' offices—all the most valuable property in the city. One more effort is made to save it. The flames have now reached the narrow neck between the ramparts and the water, and here there is a hope of stopping their
progress. The general of the troops is on the spot; he orders a house to be blown up. Powder has been kept ready at hand, and a charge is tried ; the building, when it is placed, is torn to pieces by the explosion, but still the flames stalk on. Directions are given to try again, with a heavier charge. Now four stout artillerymen carry a large barrel of gunpowder down to the place; it is covered with wet blankets, and the top secured with clay, for the sparks fall thickly round; then the bugles sound
! the retreat; the staring crowds and busy soldiers fall back from the neighboring streets. None are near the spot but the gunners and their officers; they place the charge in a niche on the lower story of a strong stone house, about the centre of the narrow neck of land ; the fire has already reached the building, and through
; the upper windows, smashing the glass, breaks out clear and strong. The sergeant lights a short fuze in the barrel of gunpowder. The door of the house is burning, but they escape through the window, and run over the blazing beams and torn up streets, for shelter. For a few seconds all eyes are strained upon the spot, and the noises of the crowd sink to silence. Then the earth shudders, and, with a dull booming sound, up, up into the black sky shoots a spout of fire, and from above descends a shower of fiery beams, huge stones, and fragments of the torn roof :-a moment more, and all sink into a dark gap of smoking ruins. The plague was stayed; the greater fire ate up the less; for a few minutes the very wind seemed conquered by the shock.
But in St. Roch's the fire raged still as long as it found food to devour, and a slight change of wind during the night threatened the suburb of St. Vallière, which had hitherto escaped with but little damage. The flames had not quite burned out till noon the following day. In the government fuel yard there was an immense heap of coal, which burned for several weeks, and afforded warmth to some of the shivering unfortunates who had neither home nor roof.
The next was a dismal day in Quebec; crowds of people wandering about for shelter, some with bundles on their backs, containing the little they had saved; others, lying under the walls on beds, with half burnt blankets wetted with the heavy rains, their few household goods strewed round them; others, inquiring
eagerly for some lost mother, wife, or child, whom they are to see
Others, severely burned or injured by falling beams, seeking for aid and advice; and wagons heavily laden, drawn by weary horses, driven hither and thither to find some place of rest.
I met one wretched old man, his hand badly burnt and hastily bound up, returning despairingly and exhausted into the town. His cow—all he possessed in the world—had strayed away in the confusion of the night before. After having sought her in vain all day long through the country round, he sat down on the ruins of his little shed and wept bitterly. He was an Irish emigrant, lately arrived, and had neither wife nor child: they had died at home long since, and here he had no friend; the lone old man was too weak to work, and had laid out the small sum remaining after his voyage in buying the animal now lost, which had since been his support.
But the wealthy and uninjured were not idle; a public meeting was called, and six thousand pounds subscribed on the spot; large stores and public buildings were thrown open for the houseless; a quantity of clothing and blankets were given them ; food was supplied by the commissariat; the medical men, with active benevolence, tended the wounded; the civil and military officers and the poor soldiers gave all they could, in proportion to their means; private charity was unbounded, whole families of wanderers were received into the houses of the rich, while the poor shared their shelter as far as it went, with their now still poorer fellow-citizens. The insurance offices met their engagements, though reduced to the verge of ruin. From the country round, and distant parts of Canada, assistance came freely in: one little rural parish sent a few shillings—all the money they had—and cart-loads of firewood, corn, and home-made cloth, their only wealth.
woeful thing to see the wretched sufferer straying through the smoky ruins, to find the black spot where his happy home had sheltered him a few hours before ; hoping that there, perhaps, he might again meet with some loved one, separated from him in the confusion of that dreadful day. With horror he sees among the still smouldering ashes a blackened trunk, with
scarcely enough of the shape left to show that it once bore God's image.
The air was hot and stilling ; a thick cloud of smoke hung like a shroud over the ruins; from among them rose a heavy, charnel smell, impossible to describe. Many half-consumed human bodies still lay about, and the carcases of great numbers of horses and cattle.
A deep depression fell upon the people of Quebec: superstitious fears took possession of them; they fancied they saw sights and prodigies, and that this calamity was a judgment for some great unknown crime. The Roman Catholic priesthood did not try to abate these terrors. Vague prophetic rumors, whose origin none could trace, went about, that the remainder of the city would soon be destroyed; and, at length, the same day of the following month was said to be the day of doom. The dismal aspect of the place, the universal despondency, and the extent of the loss and suffering, affected many even of the strongest-minded.
On the 28th of June a great part of the population remained during the day in trembling expectation of the fulfilment of these predictions. The day was warm and still, the night came on close and sombre. Nine o'clock passes without an alarm, ten also ; people begin to take courage, but a slight breeze springs up, and the dust creeps along the silent streets. It is eleven.There is no sound but that of the wind, which now whistles past the corners of the houses and among the chimneys, blowing from the north-east—the opposite direction to that whence it came on the 28th of May. Half-past eleven.— The greater part of the inhabitants are sleeping in peace, even the most timid think the danger is now past. It is close on midnight ; some of them go to their windows to take a last look before retiring to rest.
On the north-west part of the Upper Town, stands the church of St. Patrick; the spire is very high, covered with bright tin; on the top is a large ball, surmounted by a cross, both of glittering metal. The night is very dark, and these are invisible in the gloom.
A few minutes before midnight, a slight red flickering light is seen, high in the air; for a second or two it plays about in uncertain forms, then shines out distinctly through the darkness, a fiery
cross up against the black sky. The ball, the spire are soon seen : whence is that lurid light reflected ? A small flame creeps up the side of a wooden house outside the walls, in the suburb of St. John, just where the last fire ended.—The city is on fire !
As the clock strikes twelve, from every tower and steeple in Quebec the bells ring out their panting peal of alarm. With the suddenness of an explosion, the bright, broad flame bursts out simultaneously through three or four roofs, and the wind, now risen to a storm, bears it away on its mission of destruction. In a few minutes the streets are crowded, thousands rush out of the city gates, to stare at the devastation which no human power can avert. Fire !—Fire !-Fire! shouted by crowds wild with terror —the quick, jerking church bells, the rattling of the engines over the streets—soon waken to this night of desolation the people of Quebec.
The gallant soldiers are again at work, vigorously, but in vain. The now furious gale sweeps over everything to leeward, with its fiery breath, bearing with it the black pall of smoke, followed by a stream of flame. The terrified inhabitants make no attempt to stop the destruction : they seize their sick and feeble, and the few things of value they can carry, and hasten up to the glacis of the citadel, and the suburbs of St. Louis. But in the meantime the houses are so close and the streets so narrow, that the fire spreads up the hill, even across the wind; here at least it
be stopped. The artillerymen are ready with their powder barrels; one is placed in a large wooden house at the corner of a street, that, by blowing it up, a gap may be made, to cut off the communication. The retreat is sounded, and the people cleared away as well as the confusion will admit; the flames rapidly approach the building; some straw on the floor has taken fire. The gunners stead. ily trample it out round the powder barrel. Then a strange delay arises—they can get no fire to light the fuzee! For half a mile square, the blaze spreads before them, and they can get no fire ! They cannot approach the flame and live; the wind whirls the smoke and sparks densely on its skirts, and the heat is insufferable. One gunner throws his greatcoat over his head and rushes through the smoke, thrusting the portfire which he bears in his hand at the fire to light it; but he fails, and staggers back half