With hands and lamphooks they began to dig into the soil. The task was difficult, for the airshaft in which we had taken refuge was on a considerable slope and very slippery. And we knew that it meant death if we made a false step. A resting place was made, and we were able to stop and take note of each other.
It is well enough known, that in the year 1450, one of the natives of the island of Candia, who have never been men of much character, made a sort of mine, or airshaft, or rather perhaps a burrow, like those constructed by rabbits, down which he went and got quite under the church, stealing out gems, money, &c. to a vast amount; but being discovered by the treachery of his companion, was caught and hanged between the two columns that face the sea on the Piazzetta.
"Sure, the lawyer guy kicked in with the balance of the ten thousand, and I am now busily engaged in putting it where it will do the most good. Moved? Well, I should hope so, dear. Instead of existing in a two-by-four hallroom, with an airshaft exposure, where you have to open the door to think, I am now residing in a real suite. Maybe you think I don't keep Estelle that's my maid on the job.
The bed, whereon of nights Corporal Speck reposed with a bucking bronco of an eight-year-old grandson for a bedmate, was jammed close against the plastering, under the one small window set diagonally in a jog in the wall, and opening out upon an airshaft, like a chimney.
"I ran down cellar, and, crawled part way up the airshaft back of the furnace," said "Dodd." And that was the last that was ever said about the affair by either teacher or pupil. For a few months after the event just narrated "Dodd" went to school to Mr. Bright, and during the whole time he deported himself as a good and faithful student should.
My teeth were chattering from the cold, and the drip from the airshaft did not help matters much. While I was sitting bemoaning my fate, and wishing for the fireside at home, the fellow next to me, who was writing a letter, looked up and innocently asked, "Say, Yank, how do you spell 'conflagration'?" I looked at him in contempt, and answered that I did not know.
Of his eight dollars a week he saved four. He rented an airshaft bedroom in the flat of a Jewish sweatshop worker for one dollar and seventy-five cents a week. It was occupied daytimes by a cook in an all-night restaurant, who had taken a bath in 1900 when at Coney Island on an excursion of the Pip O'Gilligan Association.
The water was up to my waist. The professor led us to the nearest airshaft. Two miners refused to enter, saying that we were throwing ourselves into a blind alley. They continued along the gallery and we never saw them again. Then came a deafening noise. A rush of water, a splintering of wood, explosions of compressed air, a dreadful roaring which terrified us. "It's the deluge," shrieked one.
Landed them four stories high and dry in a strictly modern apartment of three dark, square bedrooms, a square dining-room ventilated by an airshaft, and a square pocket of a kitchen that looked out upon a zigzag of fire-escape.
The flames smolder in the walls and then burst through in unexpected places, and the smoke sucks up the airshaft and mushrooms on your top floor; then the deadly back draft comes and the fatal firedamp, and when the firemen arrive you are a ruined tenement. Except the German, the French, the Belgian, the Austrian and the Italian cigar, the English cigar is the worst cigar I ever saw.