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- The Young Firemen of Lakeville - 2/29 -
alarms and conflagrations.
"It certainly looks like a big fire," thought the boy, as he broke into a run down the street. He soon caught up with the crowd hastening to the blaze.
"Hello, Bert!" shouted a lad to him. "Going to help put the fire out?"
"If they need me, Vincent. I see you have your bucket."
"Yep," replied Vincent Templer, one of Bert's chums. "It's dad's. He belongs to the bucket brigade, but he's away from home, and I took it."
"I wish I had one."
"Oh, I guess they'll have plenty at the barn."
"They'll need 'em, for it looks as if it was pretty well on fire."
The reflection of the blaze was now so bright that objects in the street could be plainly seen, and faces easily distinguished at a considerable distance.
"There's Cole Bishop!" said Bert to his chum, pointing to another lad, who was running along, evidently much out of breath, as he was quite fat.
"Hello, Cole!" called Bert.
"Hello--Bert! Goin'--to--the--fire?" came from Cole, with a puff between each word.
"Naw, we're goin' to a Sunday school picnic," replied Vincent, who was something of a joker.
"Humph! Funny--ain't--you!" remarked Cole.
The boys continued to speed on toward the burning barn, which was one of the buildings belonging to Anderson Stimson, a farmer, and located just on the edge of the village. The crowd had increased, and several score of people were on their way to the conflagration.
"They'll--have--a--hot--time--putting--out--that--fire," spoke Cole, with labored breath. "They--only--got--buckets."
"That's all they've had in Lakeville since the time it was founded by Christopher Columbus," remarked Vincent. "It's a good thing we don't have many fires."
"If I had my force pump I could show--show--'em--how--to--squirt-- water," said Cole, who had begun the first part of the sentence very fast, but who had to slow down on the last section. He was almost completely out of breath.
"Why didn't you bring it along?" asked Bert.
That argument was, of course, unanswerable. Cole Bishop was a lad quite fond of mechanics, and was usually engaged in making some new kind of machinery. His force pump was his latest effort, and he was quite proud of it.
"Say! I should think it was burning!" suddenly exclaimed Bert, as he and his chums turned a corner of the street and came in full view of the blazing barn. The structure seemed enveloped in flames, great tongues of fire leaping high in the air, and a black pall of smoke hovering like an immense cloud above it. "They can't save that!"
"Guess not!" added Vincent. "What good are buckets in a blaze like that? You can't get near enough to throw the water on."
"Wish--I--had--my--force--pump," panted Cole.
By this time the boys had joined the crowd that was already at the scene of the fire. The heat could be felt some distance away.
"Come on, everybody with buckets!" cried Constable Stickler, who sometimes assumed charge of the bucket brigade. "Form a line from the horse trough to the barn. Pass the full buckets up one side and the empty ones down the other. Let the boys pass the empty buckets an' the men the full ones."
"Let's form two lines for full buckets," proposed another man.
"We'll need three," put in a third individual.
"Who's runnin' this here fire, I'd like to know?" inquired the constable indignantly. "Git to work now."
"Yes, I guess they'd better, or there won't be any barn to save," spoke Bert.
The flames were crackling furiously. The crowd was constantly increasing, and nearly every man had a bucket or pail. Some had brought their wives' dishpans, as they could not find their pails in the darkness and confusion.
"Come on, Bert, let's get in line," suggested Vincent.
"Yes--let--me--git--to--a--place--where--I--can--rest," begged Cole.
"Here, I'll help," added John Boll, another of Bert's chums.
"I'd rather pass the full buckets," said Tom Donnell.
"Now then, everybody begin to pass," cried the constable, who had his men in some kind of shape. There were three lines extending from the burning barn to the horse trough, some distance away. The trough was fed by a pipe, running from a spring, and there was plenty of water.
"Dip an' pass," cried the constable, and the word went along the lines. Men standing near the trough dipped their pails in, handed them to the person standing next, and so, from hand to hand went the dripping buckets of water. At last the pail reached the end of the line, and the man nearest the blaze proceeded to throw on the quenching fluid.
But here a new difficulty presented itself. The blaze was so hot that no person could approach close enough to make the water effective. The whole front of the barn was in flames.
"This ain't going to be no good!" exclaimed one of the men on the end of a line up which the full buckets traveled. He tried to throw the water on the flames, but, approaching as close as he dared, he could not come within ten feet of the fire.
"I should say not," agreed his companion.
"Hey! What's the matter?" called the constable. "Why don't you throw the water on the flames, instead of on the ground?"
"Let's see you do it," was the angry answer.
"We'll have to go around to the back, and throw the water on there," was the advice of a tall, lanky farmer.
"What good'll that do?"
"Wa'al, we can't do no good here."
"That's so," was the general agreement.
The lines began to shift, to get out of the heat of the blaze. Meanwhile, those at the trough, not understanding what was going on, continued to pass up the full buckets, but as no one gathered up the empty ones to pass back, the waiting line of boys had nothing to do. Several began to leave, to get in a position where they could view the blaze better.
"Here, where are you boys going?" demanded Constable Stickler, who was running back and forth, not knowing what to do.
"There isn't anything for us to do," replied Bert. "We can't save that barn with buckets. We'd better help get some of the machinery and cattle out."
"That's right," added Vincent, and several men agreed with this.
"You--ought to have my force pump," spluttered Cole Bishop, who had now recovered his breath.
"Pass up the buckets! Pass the buckets!" was the cry that now came from the line of men, that had been extended to reach around to the rear of the barn, where, for the time being, there was no fire. "Pass the buckets!"
"Yes, pass the buckets!" shouted the constable. "Here, boys, come back to your places!" For a number of the boys had left, and there were long gaps in the line.
"Can't something be done to save the barn?" cried Mr. Stimson, who had been rushing back and forth, mainly engaged in carrying out some valuable harness from the blazing structure.
"We're tryin' to," replied the constable.
"Are all the cattle out?" asked Bert.
"Cattle? Land, no; I forgot all about them!" exclaimed the farmer. "I was busy taking my valuable harness out, and saving some of my deeds and mortgages in the house. I'm afraid that'll go next!"
"The house is in no danger as long as the wind keeps this way," said Bert, "but the cattle are. How many are in the barn?"
"Five horses and six cows. The cows are in the lower part. They're in no danger yet, but I guess the horses are done for. I forgot all about 'em!"
At that moment a shrill cry, almost like a human being in agony, rose above the crackle of the flames.
"Those are the horses!" cried Bert. "Come on! We'll try to save 'em!"
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