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- The World For Sale, Volume 3. - 10/14 -
to the point where it could deal with any ordinary fire. The work it had to do at St. Michael's was critical. If the church could not be saved, then the wooden houses by which it was surrounded would be swept away, and the whole town would be ablaze; for though it was Autumn, everything was dry, and the wind was sufficient to fan and spread the flames.
Lebanon took command of the whole situation, and for the first time in the history of the two towns men worked together under one control like brothers. The red-shirted river-driver from Manitou and the lawyer's clerk from Lebanon; the Presbyterian minister and a Christian brother of the Catholic school; a Salvation Army captain and a black-headed Catholic shantyman; the President of the Order of Good Templars and a switchman member of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament slaved together on the hand-engine, to supplement the work of the two splendid engines of the Lebanon fire-brigade; or else they climbed the roofs of houses, side by side, to throw on the burning shingles the buckets of water handed up to them.
For some time it seemed as though the church could not be saved. The fire had made good headway with the flooring, and had also made progress in the chancel and the altar. Skill and organization, combined with good luck, conquered, however. Though a portion of the roof was destroyed and the chancel gutted, the church was not beyond repair, and a few thousand dollars would put it right. There was danger, however, among the smaller houses surrounding the church, and there men from both towns worked with great gallantry. By one of those accidents which make fatality, a small wooden house some distance away, with a roof as dry as wool, caught fire from a flying cinder. As everybody had fled from their own homes and shops to the church, this fire was not noticed until it had made headway. Then it was that the cries of Madame Thibadeau, who was confined to her bed in the house opposite, were heard, and the crowd poured down towards the burning building. It was Gautry's "caboose." Gautry himself had been among the crowd at the church.
As Gautry came reeling and plunging down the street, someone shouted, "Is there anyone in the house, Gautry?"
Gautry was speechless with drink. He threw his hands up in the air with a gesture of maudlin despair, and shouted something which no one understood. The crowd gathered like magic in the wide street before the house--the one wide street in Manitou--from the roof and upper windows of which flames were bursting. Far up the street was heard the noisy approach of the fire-engine, which now would be able to do little more than save adjoining buildings. Gautry, reeling, mumbling and whining, gestured and wept.
A man shook him roughly by the shoulder. "Brace up, get steady, you damned old geezer! Is there any body in the house? Do you hear? Is there anybody in the house?" he roared.
Madame Thibadeau, who had dragged herself from her bed, was now at the window of the house opposite. Seeing Fleda Druse passing beneath, she called to her.
"Ma'mselle, Felix Marchand is in Gautry's house--drunk!" she cried. "He'll burn to death--but yes, burn to death."
In agitation Fleda hastened to where the stranger stood shaking old Gautry.
"There's a man asleep inside the house," she said to the stranger, and then all at once she realized who he was. It was Dennis Doane, whose wife was staying in Gabriel Druse's home: it was the husband of Marchand's victim.
"A man in there, is there?" exclaimed Dennis. "Well, he's got to be saved." He made a rush for the door. Men called to him to come back, that the roof would fall in. In the smoking doorway he looked back. "What floor?" he shouted.
From the window opposite, her fat old face lighted by the blazing roof, Madame Thibadeau called out, "Second floor! It's the second floor!"
In an instant Dennis was lost in the smoke and flame.
One, two, three minutes passed. A fire-engine arrived; in a moment the hose was paid out to the river near by, and as a fireman seized the nozzle to train the water upon the building the roof fell in with a crash. At that instant Dennis stumbled out of the house, blind with smoke, his clothes aflame, carrying a man in his arms. A score of hands caught them, coats smothered Dennis's burning clothes, and the man he had rescued was carried across the street and laid upon the pavement.
"Great glory, it's Marchand! It's Felix Marchand!" someone shouted.
"Is he dead?" asked another.
"Dead drunk," was the comment of Osterhaut, who had helped to carry him across the street.
At that moment Ingolby appeared on the scene. "What's all this?" he asked. Then he recognized Marchand. "He's been playing with fire again," he added sarcastically, and there was a look of contempt on his face.
As he said it, Dennis broke through the crowd and made for Marchand. Stooping over, he looked into Marchand's face.
"Hell and damnation--you!" he growled. "I risked my life to save you!"
With a sudden access of rage his hand suddenly went to his hip-pocket, but another hand was quicker. It was that of Fleda Druse.
"No--no," she said, her fingers on his wrist. "You have had your revenge. For the rest of his life he will have to bear his punishment --that you have saved him. Leave him alone. It was to be. It is fate."
Dennis Doane was not a man of great thinking capacity. If he got a matter into his head it stayed there till it was dislodged, and dislodging was a real business with him.
"If you want her to live with you again, you had better let this be as it is," whispered Fleda, for the crowd were surging round and cheering the new hero. "Just escaped the roof falling in," said one.
"Got the strength of two, for a drunk man weighs twice as heavy as a sober one!" exclaimed another admiringly.
"Marchand's game is up on the Sagalac," declared a third decisively.
The excitement was so great, however, that only a very few of them knew what they were saying, and fewer still knew that Dennis Doane had risked his life to save the man he had been stalking for weeks past. Marchand had been lying on his face in the smoke-filled room when Dennis broke into it, and he had been carried down the stairs without his face being seen at all.
To Dennis it was as though he had been made a fool of by Fate or Providence, or whatever controlled the destinies of men; as though the dangerous episode had been arranged to trap him into this situation.
Ingolby drew near and laid a hand upon Dennis's arm. Fleda's hand was on the other arm.
"You can't kill a man and save him too," said Ingolby quietly, and holding the abashed blue eyes of Dennis. "There were two ways to punish him; taking away his life at great cost, or giving it him at great cost. If you'd taken away his life, the cost would probably have been your own life; in giving him his life you only risked your own; you had a chance to save it. You're a bit scorched-hair, eyebrows, moustache, clothes too, but he'll have brimstone inside him. Come along. Your wife would rather have it this way; and so will you, to-morrow. Come along."
Dennis suddenly swung round with a gesture of fury. "He spoiled her- treated her like dirt!" he cried huskily.
With savage purpose he made a movement towards where Marchand had lain; but Marchand was gone. With foresight Ingolby had quickly and quietly accomplished that while Dennis's back was turned.
"You'd be treating her like a brute if you went to prison for killing Marchand," urged Ingolby. "Give her a chance. She's fretting her heart out."
"She wants to go back to Elk Mountain with you," pleaded Fleda gently. "She couldn't do that if the law took hold of you."
"Ain't there to be any punishment for men like him?" demanded Dennis, stubbornly yet helplessly. "Why didn't I let him burn! I'd have been willing to burn myself to have seen him sizzling. Ain't men like that to be punished at all?"
"When he knows who has saved him, he'll sizzle inside for the rest of his life," remarked Ingolby. "Don't think he hasn't got a heart. He's done wrong and gone wrong; he has belonged to the sewer, but he isn't all bad, and maybe this is the turning-point. Drink'll make a man do anything."
"His kind are never sorry for what they do," commented Dennis bitterly. "They're sorry for what comes from what they do, but not for the doing of it. I can't think the thing out. It makes me sick. I was hunting for him to kill him; I was watching this town like a lynx, and I've been and gone and saved his body from Hell on earth."
"Well, perhaps you've saved his soul from Hell below," said Fleda. "Ah, come! Your face and hands are burned, your hair is scorched--your clothes need mending. Arabella is waiting for you. Come home with me to Arabella."
With sudden resolve Dennis squared his shoulders. "All right," he said. "This thing's too much for me. I can't get the hang of it. I've lost my head."
"No, I won't come, I can't come now," said Ingolby, in response to an inquiring look from Fleda.
"Not now, but before sundown, please."
As Fleda and Dennis disappeared, Ingolby looked back towards the fire. "How good it is to see again even a sight like that," he said. "Nothing that the eyes see is so horrible as the pictures that come to the mind when the eyes don't see. As Dennis said, I can't get the hang of it, but I'll try--I'll try."
The burning of Gautry's tavern had been conquered, though not before it was a shell; and the houses on either side had been saved. Lebanon had shown itself masterful in organization, but it had also shown that that which makes enemies is not so deep or great a thing as that which makes friends. Jealous, envious, narrow and bitter Manitou had been, but she now saw Lebanon in a new light. It was a strange truth that if Lebanon had saved the whole town of Manitou, it would not have been the same to
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