Fighting the Flames by R M Ballantyne Page 1 of 278

R.M. Ballantyne

"Fighting the Flames"

Chapter One.

How the Fight Began.

One's own fireside is, to all well-regulated minds, a pleasant subject of contemplation when one is absent, and a source of deep gratification when present.

Especially may this be said to be the case in a cold, raw night in November, when mankind has a tendency to become chronically cross out of doors, and nature, generally, looks lugubrious; for, just in proportion as the exterior world grows miserably chill, the world "at home," with its blazing gas, its drawn curtains, its crackling fires, and its beaming smiles, becomes doubly comfortable and cosy.

Even James Auberly, pompous, stern, and ungenial though he was, appeared to entertain some such thoughts, as he sat by his own fireside, one such night, in his elegant mansion in Beverly Square, Euston Road, London; and smiled grimly over the top of the Times newspaper at the fire.

Mr Auberly always smiled-when he condescended to smile-grimly. He seldom laughed; when he did so he did it grimly too. In fact, he was a grim man altogether; a gaunt, cadaverous, tall, careworn, middle-aged man-also a great one.

There could be no question as to that; for, besides being possessed of wealth, which, in the opinion of some minds, constitutes greatness, he was chairman of a railway company, and might have changed situations with the charwoman who attended the head office of the same without much difference being felt. He was also a director of several other companies, which, fortunately for them, did not appear to require much direction in the conduct of their affairs.

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