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At the rate that the flood had taken to progress from Cookham Bridge to Taplow, I felt sure it would be upon me before I reached Upton, or Ditton Park at the outside. It is true the speed of the advance might slacken somewhat as the lava cooled; and strange to say, so rapidly do realities come to be accepted in one's mind, that I caught myself thinking this thought in the most natural manner, as if I had all my life long been accustomed to the ways of fissure-eruptions.

But on the other hand, the lava might well out faster and hotter than before, as I had already seen it do more than once; and I had no certainty even that it would not rise to the level of the hills on which I was standing. You who read this narrative nowadays take it for granted, of course, that the extent and height of the inundation was bound to be exactly what you know it to have been; we at the time could not guess how high it might rise and how large an area of the country it might overwhelm and devastate. Was it to stop at the Chilterns, or to go north to Birmingham, York, and Scotland?

Still, in my trembling anxiety to warn my wife and children, I debated with myself whether I should venture down into the valley, and hurry along the main road with a wild burst for London. I thought of Ethel, alone in our little home at Bayswater, and almost made up my mind to risk it. At that moment, I became aware that the road to London was already crowded with carriages, carts, and cycles, all dashing at a mad pace unanimously towards London. Suddenly a fresh wave turned the corner by Taplow and Maidenhead Bridge, and began to gain upon them visibly.

It was an awful sight. I cannot pretend to describe it. The poor creatures on the road, men and animals alike, rushed wildly, despairingly on; the fire took them from behind, and, one by one, before the actual sea reached them, I saw them shrivel and melt away in the fierce white heat of the advancing inundation. I could not look at it any longer. I certainly could not descend and court instant death. I felt that my one chance was to strike across the downs, by Stoke Poges and Uxbridge, and then try the line of northern heights to London. Oh, how fiercely I pedalled!

At Farnham Royal where again nobody seemed to be aware what had happened a rural policeman tried to stop me for frantic riding. I tripped him up, and rode on.

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Experience had taught me it was no use telling those who had not seen it of the disaster. A little beyond, at the entrance to a fine park, a gatekeeper attempted to shut a gate in my face, exclaiming that the road was private. I saw it was the only practicable way without descending to the valley, and I made up my mind this was no time for trifling. I am a man of peace, but I lifted my fist and planted it between his eyes.

Other Fiction Allen, Grant: The Thames Valley Catastrophe. V1. 3 Feb - MobileRead Forums

Then, before he could recover from his astonishment, I had mounted again and ridden on across the park, while he ran after me in vain, screaming to the men in the pleasure-grounds to stop me. But I would not be stopped; and I emerged on the road once more at Stoke Poges. Near Galley Hill, after a long and furious ride, I reached the descent to Uxbridge.

Was it possible to descend? I glanced across, once more by pure instinct, for I had never visited the spot before, towards where I felt the Thames must run. A great white cloud hung over it. I saw what that cloud must mean: it was the steam of the river, where the lava sucked it up and made it seethe and boil suddenly. I had not noticed this white fleece of steam at Cookham, though I did not guess why till afterwards. In the narrow valley where the Thames ran between hills, the lava flowed over it all at once, bottling the steam beneath; and it is this imprisoned steam that gave rise in time to the subsequent series of appalling earthquakes, to supply forecasts of which is now the chief duty of the Seismologer Royal; whereas, in the open plain, the basalt advanced more gradually and in a thinner stream, and therefore turned the whole mass of water into white cloud as soon as it reached each bend of the river.

At the time, however, I had no leisure to think out all this. I only knew by such indirect signs that the flood was still advancing, and, therefore, that it would be impossible for me to proceed towards London by the direct route via Uxbridge and Hanwell. If I meant to reach town as we called it familiarly , I must descend to the valley at once, pass through Uxbridge streets as fast as I could, make a dash across the plain, by what I afterwards knew to be Hillingdon I saw it then as a nameless village , and aim at a house-crowned hill which I only learned later was Harrow, but which I felt sure would enable me to descend upon London by Hampstead or Highgate.

I am no strategist; but in a second, in that extremity, I picked out these points, feeling dimly sure they would lead me home to Ethel and the children. The town of Uxbridge whose place you can still find marked on many maps lay in the valley of a small river, a confluent of the Thames. Up this valley it was certain that the lava-stream must flow; and, indeed, at the present day, the basin around is completely filled by one of the solidest and most forbidding masses of black basalt in the country.

Still, I made up my mind to descend and cut across the low-lying ground towards Harrow. If I failed, I felt, after all, I was but one unit more in what I now began to realize as a prodigious national calamity. I was just coasting down the hill, with Uxbridge lying snug and unconscious in the glen below me, when a slight and unimportant accident occurred which almost rendered impossible my further progress. It was past the middle of August; the hedges were being cut; and this particular lane, bordered by a high thorn fence, was strewn with the mangled branches of the may-bushes.

At any other time, I should have remembered the danger and avoided them; that day, hurrying down hill for dear life and for Ethel, I forgot to notice them. The consequence was, I was pulled up suddenly by finding my front wheel deflated; this untimely misfortune almost unmanned me. I dismounted and examined the tyre; it had received a bad puncture. I tried inflating again, in hopes the hole might be small enough to make that precaution sufficient. But it was quite useless.

I found I must submit to stop and doctor up the puncture. Fortunately, I had the necessary apparatus in my wallet. I think it was the weirdest episode of all that weird ride--this sense of stopping impatiently, while the fiery flood still surged on towards London, in order to go through all the fiddling and troublesome little details of mending a pneumatic tyre.

The moment and the operation seemed so sadly out of harmony. A countryman passed by on a cart, obviously suspecting nothing; that was another point which added horror to the occasion--that so near the catastrophe, so very few people were even aware what was taking place beside them.

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Indeed, as is well known, I was one of the very few who saw the eruption during its course, and yet managed to escape from it. Elsewhere, those who tried to run before it, either to escape themselves or to warn others of the danger, were overtaken by the lava before they could reach a place of safety. I attribute this mainly to the fact that most of them continued along the high roads in the valley, or fled instinctively for shelter towards their homes, instead of making at once for the heights and the uplands.

I glanced up at him, and hesitated. Should I warn him of his doom, or was it useless? Flames of fire are flowing down it, as from a great burning mountain. You will be cut off by the eruption. He stared at me blankly, and burst into a meaningless laugh. I'm going to Uxbridge. It was hours, I feel sure, before I had patched up that puncture, though I did it by the watch in four and a half minutes. As soon as I had blown out my tyre again I mounted once more, and rode at a breakneck pace to Uxbridge. I passed down the straggling main street of the suburban town, crying aloud as I went, "Run, run, to the downs!

A flood of lava is rushing up the valley! To the hills, for your lives! All the Thames bank is blazing! A quarter of an hour later, there was no such place in the world as Uxbridge. I followed the main road through the village which I have since identified as Hillingdon; then I diverged to the left, partly by roads and partly by field paths of whose exact course I am still uncertain, towards the hill at Harrow. When I reached the town, I did not strive to rouse the people, partly because my past experience had taught me the futility of the attempt, and partly because I rightly judged that they were safe from the inundation; for as it never quite covered the dome of St.

Paul's, part of which still protrudes from the sea of basalt, it did not reach the level of the northern heights of London. I rode on through Harrow without one word to any body. I did not desire to be stopped or harassed as an escaped lunatic. From Harrow I made my way tortuously along the rising ground, by the light of nature, through Wembley Park, to Willesden. At Willesden, for the first time, I found to a certainty that London was threatened. Great crowds of people in the profoundest excitement stood watching a dense cloud of smoke and steam that spread rapidly over the direction of Shepherd's Bush and Hammersmith.

They were speculating as to its meaning, but laughed incredulously when I told them what it portended. A few minutes later, the smoke spread ominously towards Kensington and Paddington. That settled my fate. It was clearly impossible to descend into London; and indeed, the heat now began to be unendurable. It drove us all back, almost physically. I thought I must abandon all hope. I should never even know what had become of Ethel and the children. My first impulse was to lie down and await the fire-flood.

Yet the sense of the greatness of the catastrophe seemed somehow to blunt one's own private grief. I was beside myself with fear for my darlings; but I realized that I was but one among hundreds of thousands of fathers in the same position. What was happening at that moment in the great city of five million souls we did not know, we shall never know; but we may conjecture that the end was mercifully too swift to entail much needless suffering.

All at once, a gleam of hope struck me. It was my father's birthday. Was it not just possible that Ethel might have taken the children up to Hampstead to wish their grandpa many happy returns of the day? With a wild determination not to give up all for lost, I turned my front wheel in the direction of Hampstead Hill, still skirting the high ground as far as possible. My heart was on fire within me. A restless anxiety urged me to ride my hardest. As all along the route, I was still just a minute or two in front of the catastrophe.

People were beginning to be aware that something was taking place; more than once as I passed they asked me eagerly where the fire was. It was impossible for me to believe by this time that they knew nothing of an event in whose midst I seemed to have been living for months; how could I realize that all the things which had happened since I started from Cookham Bridge so long ago were really compressed into the space of a single morning? As I approached Windmill Hill, a terrible sinking seized me.

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I seemed to totter on the brink of a precipice. Could Ethel be safe? Should I ever again see little Bertie and the baby? I pedalled on as if automatically; for all life had gone out of me. I felt my hip-joint moving dry in its socket. I held my breath; my heart stood still. It was a ghastly moment. At my father's door I drew up, and opened the garden gate. I hardly dared to go in. H G Wells. Frankenstein Dreams. Michael Sims. Loose Leaves. John D. The Affair of the Captive Mothers.

Freitzke's Turn. Jack Vance. The Country of the Blind and other Selected Stories.

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Various Authors. Big Game Fishing - Shark Fishing. A Night in the Snow. Reverend Edmund Donald Carr. Sea Fishing from Land and Pier. John Bickerdyke. William Dean Howells. The Purple Cloud. M P Shiel. The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson. Gerald Lascelles. Norfolk Island.

The Thames Valley Catastrophe by Grant Allen

John Arthur Barry. The Body-Snatcher. John Oxenham. The Submarine Boat. Clifford Ashdown. Vailima Letters. The Terror of Blue John Gap. The Man Who Ate the Zoo. Richard Girling. JM Barrie. The Aran Islands. Gothic Tales. The Bravoes of Market Drayton. The Maracot Deep Salmon Fishing. Bromley Davenport. The Lost Special. Letters from England. Birds in the Calendar.

Grant Allen - The Thames Valley Catastrophe

Book of Nonsense. Edward Lear. Few and Short - Some Fishing Stories. The Temple. Elizabeth Gaskell. Cox's Fragmenta. Simon Murphy. Graham Balcombe. Island Landfalls. Scotch Loch-Fishing. Black Palmer. My First Book. Jerome K. The Thames Valley Catastrophe. Grant Allan. Thames Trout Fishing. Wilkie Collins. Stories Of Lough Guir. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.

Even at the distance which I had now attained from the central mass, indeed, the heat was intolerable. Yet, strange to say, I saw few or no people flying as yet from the inundation. The fact is, the eruption came upon us so suddenly, so utterly without warning or premonitory symptoms for I deny the earthquake shocks , that whole towns must have been destroyed before the inhabitants were aware that anything out of the common was happening.

It is a sort of alleviation to the general horror to remember that a large proportion of the victims must have died without even knowing it; one second, they were laughing, talking, bargaining; the next, they were asphyxiated or reduced to ashes as you have seen a small fly disappear in an incandescent gas flame. This, however, is what I learned afterward. At that moment, I was only aware of a frantic pace uphill, over a rough, stony road, and with my pedals working as I had never before worked them; while behind me, I saw purgatory let loose, striving hard to overtake me.

I just knew that a sea of fire was filling the valley from end to end, and that its heat scorched my face as I urged on my bicycle in abject terror. Get A Copy. Kindle Edition , 29 pages. Published September 5th by Evergreen Review, Inc. More Details Original Title. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

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Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Aug 29, Emma rated it really liked it. A novella about a massive volcanic event in the Thames valley: the narrator escapes on his bicycle, pedalling to London with an all-consuming wall of fire just minutes behind him. The juxtaposition of the peaceful countryside he passes through with the coming disaster is quite surreal, and well-described.

I just wished this story was longer. Apr 20, Colin Gerber rated it really liked it Shelves: science-fiction. An interesting story about a catastrophic event and how it affected on man. The story flowed well and was enjoyable to read. May 14, Marts Thinker rated it really liked it. Strange and unexpected disaster in the Thames Valley Jan 25, Lucy rated it it was amazing. I defy anyone to read this unmoved in some way. Nightmares tonight, I think. Julie rated it it was amazing May 12, Hyperion rated it liked it Feb 12, Rebecca McCaffrey rated it it was ok Jun 20, Tefanie rated it it was ok Sep 13,