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Newspaper Page Text
think of my Mina," he said.
Old Stiefel's wife had died two
years before, and his only daugh
ter had been killed in a railroad
accident a year later. He lived
absolutely alone, for at fifty one
does not often make new friends.
"What I'm afraid of," he con
tinued, munching his luncheon,
"is that rotten old Smith build
ing's going to fall. Yes, fellers,
them foundations is rotten rot
ten, fellers. I've been down and
I've seen them. Some swindling
contractor must have set them
down on the mud of the river bed.
There ain't one inch of concrete
under 'em, fellers. And if that old
building falls" he paused im
pressively "I tell you, from the
way them foundations is twisted,
she falls plumb into the East
river, like a house of cards. But
don't you say nothing to Bill."
Miss Elizabeth always waved a
welcoming hand to "Pop" Stiefel.
He would have died for her. She
had whispered to him, before
anybody else was told, the secret
of her engagement to Allien, and
had told him he was to consider
himself a privileged guest at the
little bungalow which was being
built for them on Long Island.
She reminded "Pop" more than
ever of of Mina. He went away,
wiping the tears out of his eyes.
Soft-hearted and stout of soul,
Stiefel was exaggeratedly Ger-.
man, from his bluchers to his
spectacles and his thatch of iron
He had gone down in the cais
son. Under several pressures of
atmosphere the men were push
ing the great shield forward,
scooping out the soft cheese-like
clay of the river bank and send
ing up the debris. When the
gang's hour was ended old Stie
fel remained down alone. He
wanted to inspect those Smith
building foundations again. He
had been worrying about them.
Three months remained before
the old, condemned building was
to be closed. Of course it was
not likely that within three
months they would give way.
They must have been rotten for
fifty years; three months made
Suddenly Stiefel became con
scious that something abnormal
was happening. In fact, the air
pressure had been slightly low
ered and a little silt was drifting
in. That in itself was not of the
greatest consequence. Probably
there was a leaky valve some
where which lowered the atmos
phere tension. It had happened
before and meant only a few
hours' work lost. But this was
something different. It was no
leaky valvehe saw that now
buta sudden influx of quicksandt
probably propelled by the sudden
releasing of the pressure of the
dead weight of clay that had con
fined it in its original limits. And
it was flowing not from the south,
as it shotild have flowed, but from
the west from immediately be
neath the Smith building.
"Pop" Stiefel knew what that
meant. The rotten foundations
would simply be swept away.
The building, resting on nothing,
would collagse as surely, as a