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- The Young Firemen of Lakeville - 20/29 -
"Why nearly every resident has written to some friend, tellin' of the new engines an' fire department, an' the pussons has writ back, askin' how we done it. I know, 'cause lots of 'em writ on postal cards, an' I read 'em. I read all th' postals you know," he went on, as if that was his privilege, "only now there's gittin' to be so much mail, I don't half finish with 'em, 'fore some pusson comes in an' takes 'em away. But business is certainly improvin' wonderful."
"And the taxes will go up likewise," added Mr. Sagger with a scowl.
"Not on account of the fire department," declared the mayor. "That hasn't cost the town a cent. Mr. Bergman footed the bills."
"But it will in time. He ain't going to live forever."
"Well, the town ought to be glad to pay 'em in a few years. More folks will come to live here if we have good protection from fire, and if the village gets bigger the taxes will be less."
"Well, I ain't going to pay any more," declared the miserly butcher.
Preparations for the picnic went on rapidly. Tillman's grove was on the edge of the lake, about three miles from Lakeville, and social gatherings were frequently held there in the summer time.
It was planned that the new fire department would parade through the town, hauling the chemical engines with them, go out to the grounds and there take part in a competitive drill which Mr. Bergman had arranged with the assistance of Bert and Vincent, and the chiefs of some nearby departments.
In order that there would be protection to Lakeville, in case a fire should occur during the picnic, Constable Stickler was to be left on guard part of the day, and a man would relieve him at a certain hour, so that the old official might see part of the fun. In case of a fire, a messenger was to be dispatched on horseback, to summon the department.
It was also planned to have the old hand engine in the parade, some of the smaller boys begging for the privilege of hauling this, a request which was quickly granted by Bert and his chums.
"Going to parade, Moses?" asked Mr. Appelby of the butcher, the evening before the day of the picnic.
"Parade? Not much! I wouldn't be seen with them whipper-snappers of boys."
"Well, those boys are all right, let me tell you. If it hadn't been for Herbert Dare and his crowd, Lakeville wouldn't have a fine fire department to-day, and your shop would be down to the ground. And another thing, insurance is less. I renewed mine to-day, and the agent said he could give me a lower rate, as the risk of loss from fire was less now that we had two good chemical engines."
"If we had enlarged the bucket brigade it would have done just as well, and saved a lot of money," declared the butcher.
"Oh, nonsense. You're an old fossil, Moses. Why Lakeville amounts to something to-day. Jamesville folks can't laugh at us any longer for not having an engine. I'm proud to live in Lakeville, and I didn't use to be. Guess I'll run for mayor again."
"I thought you said you wasn't going to," said Mr. Sagger quickly, as he knew he was pretty sure of the nomination, if the genial Mr. Appelby, whom everyone liked, did not enter the contest.
"Well, I've changed my mind. It's an honor to be mayor of a town with a good fire department."
Mr. Sagger said nothing, but he thought much.
No one could have wished for a better day than that of the parade and picnic. It was a trifle warm, but it would be cool in the grove near the lake. The boys were up early, attired in their new uniforms, and after an early breakfast headed for one or the other of the two engine quarters.
The two machines were polished so one could see his face in them. There had been but one fire since they arrived, and that was a small one in an old shed. The engine in Cole's barn had been used to put out the blaze, and the quick manner in which it accomplished the task showed the boys of what sort of work the chemical was capable.
The other machine was as untried as the day it came off the train, but it was known to be in good working order. It was planned to have a drill between the two Lakeville companies, to see which could quickest get to a fire from a certain spot, and the one which won in that contest, would enter another in which would compete the departments from Jamesville, Weedsport and Northville Centre. A prize of a silver trumpet had been offered by Mr. Bergman for the company doing the best and quickest work.
At last all was in readiness for the parade. Mr. Bergman had engaged a band, and, to the thrilling strains of a lively march, the two chemical companies, with their machines, and the younger boys, in charge of the old hand engine, stepped out, and began a tour of the town.
How proud the lads were in their gay uniforms! It was the first time they had all been together, and the bright sunshine illuminating their ranks, and reflecting from the polished surfaces of the engines, made a picturesque scene.
Herbert Dare led his company in front, and behind him came fifteen boys, dragging on the long rope. In the rear of the engine came five other lads, armed with axes and long hooks, which were part of the new equipment.
In the second division was Vincent and his company, while at the rear brought up the smaller boys with the hand engine. Altogether it made a fine showing for Lakeville.
After marching through the principal streets of the town, and being admired by the throngs that gathered, the young firemen set off for the picnic ground. Thither, also, went most of the inhabitants of Lakeville, for it was a chance that might never come again, and everyone who could, took advantage of it.
"Whew! But it's hot!" exclaimed Cole, who was marching along beside Bert, no particular formation being maintained on the road to the grounds.
"You'll be cooler pretty soon," consoled the young chief. "I wonder if we can beat those fellows?" he added, referring to the members of the other fire companies.
"I'm not afraid of the Northville Centre bunch," declared Cole, "but Jamesville is a different proposition. The chief there is a hustler, and I understand they are pretty quick. They've had lots of practice."
"So have we."
"But not with the chemical engines."
"Oh, well, I guess we can make out pretty well. Thank goodness, there's the grove. I'm almost melted."
The boys found a goodly crowd already assembled. The Jamesville fire department had arrived, and they greeted the Lakeville boys with cheers. Soon after this the Weedsport and Northville Centre contingents arrived.
Mr. Bergman had named a committee to see after the sports and games, and the members of this soon had things going. There were running races, walking matches, jumping contests, wheelbarrow and bag races, and tied-leg races, wherein two men, with their inner legs strapped together, did almost everything but run.
But what everyone was anxiously looking forward to were the fire drills. Though the boys of Lakeville took part in the other games, winning some of the contests, they waited with impatience for the main items on the program.
Very realistic contests had been arranged. In a big field, adjoining the grove, Mr. Bergman had caused to be erected six small sheds, constructed of old lumber, and filled with empty packing boxes. To make the fire burn more fiercely kerosene oil had been poured over the boxes.
The idea was to let the two companies of Lakeville have a chance first to see what they could do in the way of putting out a fire. They were to start from the same place, race toward the burning shacks, and the company which first put out the blaze was to be declared the winner. Then a four-cornered contest, among the Jamesville, Weedsport and Northville Centre firemen, and the winner of the Lakeville event, would strive for the honor of carrying home the silver trumpet.
When all was in readiness, with the two divisions of the Lakeville boys lined up at their respective machines, Mr. Bergman set fire to two of the shacks. In an instant they were enveloped in flames. Waiting until the fire was at its height, Mr. Bergman gave the word to start.
"Now, boys!" cried Bert to his men. "Show 'em how we do it!"
"Run! Run!" yelled Vincent, to his lads, "We want the chance to compete in the finals!"
With a rumble of the big wheels over the rough ground, the two chemical engines were hauled toward the blazes.
WINNING THE TRUMPET
Bert gave his lads the order to halt, when the engine was about fifty feet away from the burning shacks.
"Run out the hose!" he called to Tom Donnell. "The rest of you stand ready with the hooks, and, as soon as Tom has got her pretty near out, pull the boards apart so he can get out the last spark."
Quickly was the hose unreeled. Bert stood near the engine, ready to swing the lever and turn the valve wheel that would send the hot
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