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- The Young Firemen of Lakeville - 5/29 -
"And I owe my wet blanket to you, so we're even. But let's get on dry ground."
The cow-yard, with the natural wetness that always existed there, to which had been added many gallons of fluid from the bucket brigade, was now a miniature swamp.
The boys, followed by an admiring throng, made their way to the front of the barn. All work at attempting to save it had now ceased. Nothing more could be done, and, as all the cattle and horses had been saved, as well as some of the wagons and machinery, it might be said that all that was possible had been accomplished.
"Got to let her burn now," said the constable. "How'd it start, Mr. Stimson?"
"Tramps must have sot it, I guess. Fust I knowed I woke up, an' see th' blaze. Then I sent my boy Tom out to yell."
"Yes, I heard him," replied the constable. "He yelled good and proper. I got right after the bucket brigade." "That's what you did."
"Well, the bucket brigade might as well have stayed in bed for all the good it did," remarked Cole Bishop, who had recovered his usual calmness. "You'd ought to had a couple of force-pumps like mine."
"Oh, you boys clear out," advised the constable. "First thing you know you'll git hurt."
"Huh! I guess if it hadn't been for some of us boys, there'd be a bigger loss than there is," retorted Cole.
"That's so," agreed Mr. Stimson. "Bert and Vincent saved me several hundred dollars by getting out them horses."
"Any of 'em hurt?"
"The bay mare's a little lame, from jumpin', an' the roan gelding is scratched on the fore quarter. But, land! that's nothin'. They'll be all right in a day or two."
"Pretty heavy loss, ain't it, neighbor Stimson?" asked Mr. Peter Appelby, who lived next to the man whose barn was now but a mass of glowing embers.
"Yes, 'tis, but I got insurance. I'm glad it wasn't the house."
"Guess you kin be. Land! but it did go quick! I never see such a fierce fire. I sure thought them two boys would be burned to death," remarked Nate Jackford, another neighbor.
"So did I," admitted Mr. Stimson. "It's been a terrible night."
"But it might have been worse."
There was nothing more that could be done. The horses and cows were taken in charge by several neighbors, who agreed to keep them until Mr. Stimson could build a temporary barn. Then, as there was little more to see, for the barn was now completely consumed, the crowd began dispersing.
"Lakeville ought to have a fire department," said Bert, as he walked home with his chums.
"Yep. They need some force-pumps like mine," agreed Cole. "I got a hose rigged up on it, an' if our house got afire, I could put it out as easy as pie."
"Yes, it's a good pump of yours," admitted Vincent, "but what we need here is a regular pumping engine, and some lines of hose. If we'd had 'em to-night we might have saved the barn."
"The Selectmen of Lakeville are too stingy to appropriate any money for a fire department," said Bert. "I remember once, years ago, when my father was alive, he proposed it, but nothing ever came of it."
"This is a miserly town, anyhow," added Cole. "They never have any Fourth of July celebration."
"That's right," agreed his chums.
Little was talked of in the village the next day but the fire at the barn. Bert and Vincent were praised on all sides, and when Bert appeared in the streets, with one hand bandaged up, where it had been slightly burned, he was congratulated by nearly every one who met him, until he blushed like a girl.
"If Constable Stickler had given the alarm a little earlier, so's the bucket brigade could have got there quicker, we could have saved the barn," said Moses Sagger, the owner of the only butcher shop in town. He was a member of the brigade.
"That bucket brigade could never have put out that fire, Moses," said Peter Appelby. "There wasn't water enough."
"Yes, there was. Didn't we put out the fire at Sim Rockford's, one day, about two years ago?"
"Yes, but that was only his henhouse, when his wife put a charcoal fire in it to keep the hens warm so's they'd lay more. That wasn't much of a blaze. Besides, it was in the daytime, and we had the brook to get water from."
"Well, the bucket brigade's good enough for Lakeville," declared the butcher. "What's the use of talking? I've seen it do good work."
"Well, maybe once in a while. But it can't handle a big fire. We need a regular department, that's what we do."
"What, and increase the taxes to pay for it? I guess not much!" exclaimed Mr. Sagger. "I pay too high taxes now. The bucket brigade is good enough."
"That's the kind of men that keeps Lakeville from growing," thought Mr. Appelby, as he walked off. "He's too miserly to want to pay a few dollars extra each year to support a regular fire department. But we'll have to have one some day."
That day was nearer than Mr. Appelby supposed.
BERT HAS A PLAN
Lakeville was a typical New England village. It was of fair size, and was located on Green Lake, hence the name. There was also a small river which emptied into the lake, and which ran around one edge of the town. Altogether it was a very nice place, but, like many other towns, the principal citizens lacked a progressive spirit.
The town was governed by ten men, called the Selectmen, who were elected each year, and who formed a sort of council. Then there was a mayor. At the time this story opens Mr. Appelby was mayor, and Moses Sagger was chairman of the Selectmen. Mr. Sagger had an ambition to be mayor the next year, and he was working to that end.
"Well, Herbert," said Mrs. Dare to her son at dinner the day following the fire, "I hope you don't get up to go to any more midnight alarms."
"Because I was worried to death about you. I knew you would get hurt, and, sure enough, you did."
"Oh, this burn? That doesn't amount to much. I'm glad I went, for I helped Mr. Stimson save something from the fire."
"Yes, I heard about it. All the neighbors are talking about you. You certainly take after your father, and I am quite proud, though I can't get over how frightened I felt."
"I'm sorry you feel that way, mother, for I was thinking of a plan that might save the village from any more such fires, and I might have to take part in it"
"What do you mean, Herbert?"
"Well, I think the village ought to have a fire department, a volunteer one at least, and I was thinking of organizing it."
"Well, Herbert, you know your poor father used to say the same thing, but he never could get any one to agree with him. The men don't seem to take an interest in such a matter, though I should think they would."
"I wasn't thinking of taking in the men, mother."
"Not take in the men? Whom would you have, then?"
"The boys--my chums."
"What! your friends--the boys you play ball with?"
"Yes. I think we could organize as good a fire department as if we had the men, and I'm sure we could get out quicker on alarms, and could beat the bucket brigade all to pieces."
"I'm afraid that's too big an undertaking for you boys, Herbert. Maybe the men will get together, now, and do something, after this barn fire. Perhaps they'll organize a department."
"I don't believe so. I heard that Mr. Appelby and Mr. Sagger were talking about it, and Sagger and his crowd object to spending the money."
"That's another point, Herbert. You'd have to have money to run a department."
"Not much. You see we boys would serve without pay, and all we'd need would be an engine."
"But engines, even the kind worked by hand-pumps, cost money."
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