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- The Young Firemen of Lakeville - 10/29 -


fix some of the pump valves. They didn't work just right to-night. Why--hello! You're all wet!" he added, as he came close to his chum, and saw that his clothes were dripping water.

"Yes-er-I-cr-I got in the brook," replied Bert, not caring to tell about the tramp just yet.

"I should say you did get in. Some of the fellows must have left the buckets too close to the edge. But, come on, let's haul the engine back."

Most of the crowd had now dispersed, a few members of the bucket brigade lingering to further examine the engine, while some of them made slighting remarks about it. The boys paid no attention to them, but, taking hold of the long rope, pulled the machine through the main street of the village. The lads found their new fire department increased largely as they advanced, for not a youngster in town, whether or not he had before this taken an interest in the organization, but who was now glad to get hold of the rope and pull.

"Guess we could organize two companies with this crowd," remarked Cole, looking at the throng.

"Yes. We'll have to get together to-morrow or next day and elect officers. Then we'll have to arrange some sort of a plan for answering alarms."

The engine was run into Cole's barn, and the boys crowded around for another observation of it. They actually seemed to hate to leave it to go home to bed. "Say, I guess it isn't going to run away," remarked John Boll, at length. "It'll be here tomorrow and the next day. I'm going home."

This started the boys to moving, and soon Cole shut up the barn, taking extra good care to see that the doors were locked.

"Maybe some members of that jealous bucket brigade might take a notion to run our engine off," he said to himself.

But no such calamity happened, and the machine was safe in the barn in the morning when Cole overhauled the valves and fixed them. Bert and some of his chums called around after breakfast, and they talked fires and engine to their hearts' content.

In the next few days several meetings were held, and the Boys' Volunteer Fire Department of Lakeville was formally organized. Because of his part in starting it, Herbert was unanimously elected captain. There was a little contest as to who should be the lieutenant, but the honor went to Vincent in recognition of his good work at the Stimson barn fire.

Of course, Cole was made engineer, chief mechanic and everything else that pertained to the actual operation of the engine. He was about the only boy who could qualify, for only he could take the pumps apart and get them together again. Tom Donnell was made chief of the "bucket corps," as the boys decided to call that part of the fire-fighting force whose duty it was to keep the engine tank filled with water. The other boys, to the number of a score or more, were made ordinary firemen, to help haul the engine, pass the buckets or work the handles.

There was some dispute as to who would be in charge of the hose, at the nozzle ends, during a fire, and, to get around this, as it was considered a post of honor, Bert decided the boys could take turns. There was something fascinating about directing a stream of water upon a blaze, and it is no wonder that every boy but Cole wanted the place. That is, excepting Bert, and he had all he could take care of with his duties as captain.

It was decided to keep the engine permanently in Cole's barn, as that was near the centre of the village.

"We ought to have some sort of an alarm bell," suggested John Boll. "We can't always depend on Constable Stickler."

"That's so," admitted Bert. "I wonder if we couldn't get permission to have the church bell rung?"

This seemed a good idea, and Bert and Cole interviewed the minister on the subject. He readily agreed to let the bell on the edifice be rung whenever there was a fire, and it was arranged that a long rope would hang from the belfry to the ground outside, where it could be reached by the constable and pulled to give an alarm. Mr. Stickler was delighted with his new office and increased duties.

"I'll have a regular signal system," he explained to the boys, after studying over the matter at some length. He had lost all his antipathy to the engine, and now favored the new fire department more than he did the bucket brigade. "I'll ring the bell once when there's a fire in the northern part of the town," he said; "twice when it's in the east, three times when it's in the south, and four strokes when the blaze is on the west side."

The boys were pleased with this plan, and also delighted that the old constable took such an interest in their work. As for the members of the bucket brigade, they, for the most part, sneered whenever the new department was mentioned.

"Wait 'till they get up against a real fire," said Moses Sagger. "Then we'll see what good their old second-hand engine is. They'll have to depend on the bucket brigade then."

The matter of paying the remaining forty dollars due on the engine worried Bert and his chums not a little, until Cole's father suggested that they charge a small sum weekly for each boy who belonged. As every youth in town was anxious for the honor, it was figured that they could collect at least a dollar a week in this way, since they charged each boy five cents, and there were over twenty. Then, too, at Mr. Bishop's suggestion, they decided to ask a donation from every person whose property they helped save from the flames.

Mr. Kimball, whose haystack was partly saved, heard about this, and sent the boys five dollars. Mr. Stimson, in view of the good work of Bert and Vincent, sent the new department ten dollars, so they began to see their way clear, especially as the Jamesville authorities voted to give the boys as long as they needed to pay for the engine.

For a week or more after the haystack fire there was no occasion to use the engine. It had been put in good shape by Cole, and parts of it had been given a fresh coat of paint, until it looked almost as good as new. Constable Stickler had practiced sending the signals, and the bell could be heard by the boys living in the farthest part of the town. As soon as members of the new fire department heard the signal they were to dress quickly, and hurry to Cole's barn. Thus, with the constable on the watch to detect the first sign of a blaze, the boys were ready to tackle the biggest kind of a conflagration.

One pleasant summer day, Bert and several of his chums were out in a rowboat on the lake. They frequently spent much time on the water, for there was good fishing in it and in the river which flowed into the lake, and they also had much fun swimming.

"Let's row over toward the big cove and have a dip," proposed Bert, who, with Tom Donnell, was at the oars. "It's getting too hot out here in the sun."

All agreed, and soon they were in a secluded part of the sheet of water. Big Cove, as it was locally called, was a sort of bay, almost out of sight from the main part of the lake. To reach it the boys had to row around a point, which extended for quite a distance out into the water. On this point was a boathouse, which was part of the property on which stood an old and what at one time had been a handsome residence. This was on a bluff, overlooking the lake, and was known as the Stockton mansion.

As the rowboat turned this point the boys were surprised to see a small motor craft shoot out from the boathouse.

"Look at that!" exclaimed Bert. "I didn't know there was one of those gasolene jiggers on the lake."

"Me either," added Tom. "Must be a new one. Wonder who's in it?"

"Must be somebody from the Stockton house," said Vincent; "though I didn't know anybody was living there now."

"Yes, there's somebody in it," added John Boll, "but I never knew they had a boat."

"Look out!" suddenly exclaimed Bert. "It's coming right for us!"

Sure enough the motor boat was headed straight for the rowing craft, and it was coming on at top speed. No one could be seen in it, though the engine could be heard puffing.

"It's running away!" cried Tom. "Let's catch it!"

"Let's get out of the way, you mean," called Bert. "Do you want to be sunk in the deepest part of the lake? Pull on your left oar, Tom! Pull! Pull!"

The motor boat was now almost upon the other craft.

CHAPTER IX

A NARROW ESCAPE

"Give a yell!" suggested Vincent.

"What for?" panted Bert, as he struggled with the oars, trying to swing the boat out of danger. "There's nobody aboard to steer the boat out of the way."

But Vincent yelled anyhow, and, to the surprise of the boys, a figure suddenly showed itself in the motor boat. It was that of a man, and he had been lying down in the craft, adjusting some of the machinery while the engine was running.

His sudden exclamation, as he sat up on hearing Vincent's yell, showed that he was not aware how close he was to a collision. He jumped to his feet, leaped forward to the wheel, and with a few quick turns sent his boat to one side.

And it was only just in time, for the freeboard of his craft grazed the extended oars that Tom and Bert had thrust out to dip in the water, in order to further swing their boat around.


The Young Firemen of Lakeville - 10/29

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