Title Thumbnail

Lady Athlyne

Bram Stoker

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
On the forenoon of a day in February, 1899, the White Star S. S. Cryptic forced her way from Pier No. 48 out into the Hudson River through a mass of floating ice, which made a moving carpet over the whole river from Poughkeepsie to Sandy Hook. It was little wonder that the hearts of the outwardbound passengers were cheered with hope; outside on the wide ocean there must be somewhere clear skies and blue water, and perchance here and there a slant of sunshine. Come what might, however, it must be better than what they were leaving behind them in New York. For three whole weeks the great city had been beleaguered by cold; held besieged in the icy grip of a blizzard which, moving from northwest to south, had begun on the last day of January to devastate the central North American States. In one place, Breckenridge in Colorado, there fell in five days—and this on the top of an accumulation of six feet of snow—an additional forty-five inches. In the track swept by the cold wave, a thousand miles wide, record low temperatures were effected, ranging from 15° below zero in Indiana to 54° below at White River on the northern shore of Lake Superior. In New York city the temperature had sunk to 6.2° below zero, the lowest ever recorded, and an extraordinary temperature for a city almost entirely surrounded by tidal currents. The city itself was in a helpless condition, paralyzed and impotent. The snow fell so fast that even the great snow-ploughs driven by the electric current on the tram lines could not keep the avenues clear. And the cold was so great that the street-clearing operations—in which eight thousand men with four thousand carts dumping some fifty thousand tons of snow daily into the river were concerned—had to be suspended. Neither men nor horses could endure the work. The “dead boat” which takes periodically the city’s unclaimed corpses to Potter’s Field on Hart’s Island was twice beaten back and nearly wrecked; it carried on the later voyage 161 corpses. Before its ghastly traffic could be resumed there were in the city mortuaries over a thousand bodies waiting sepulture. The “Scientific editor” of one of the great New York dailies computed that the blanket of snow which lay on the twenty-two square miles of Manhattan Island would form a solid wall a thousand feet high up the whole sixty feet width of Broadway in the two and a half miles between the Battery and Union Square, weighing some two and a half million tons. Needless to say the streets were almost impassable. In the chief thoroughfares were narrow passages heaped high with piled-up snow now nearly compact to ice. In places where the falling snow had drifted it reached to the level of, and sometimes above, the first floor windows.