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and coatless, he scrambled to the slippery white towers of steel spouted gigantically, footboard. Carelessly he watched a and the water streamed upon the glowterrific race with another engine, and, ing walls. There were streams parallel, unmoved, saw his dashing Seventeen shooting out straight from another win first honors of arrival at the fire. beetling cliff of brick. There were Half-dazed, with unblinking eyes, he streams playing at a dozen angles, peered at the cheerful burning of a store streaked across the smoke. They spat and basement lace factory. Plate glass and hissed on the walls. They curved was rattling on the sidewalk; there was and sprayed like wonderful plumes, and the burst and crash of a rammed door. threw clouds of shining mist into the Mechanically, he knew not how, he flames. They were silver, they were became a part of the rush into the stifling dark gray; they glittered with gold. cloud of smoke, Sheridan, with his set Engines with piercing whistles call for face, again barking his orders with a coal, and the battle is loud in the streets.
There was blind staggering, A fifth alarm has sounded, and every struggling, swaying, man loyally touching hydrant within the radius of a half-mile man. Life grew weak and the fire strong. is in use. The great La France engines He seemed in the presence of the Arch are vehemently humming ; the small Fear of “ Prospice.” Hot, there was the Notts are shaking themselves frantic to fog in the throat and the mist in the raise the water an extra foot. But not a face. A kind of sweetness fell upon gallon is thrown above the eighth floor. him, and he knew no more until, lying The oldest of the throbbing hose is on the sidewalk, there came the after weakened by the enormous pressure and pain, the racking head, the aching of bursts, until the streets are filled with throat and limbs.
giant fans of water. The towers begin Yet all this was skirmish fighting and to dribble ineffectively, and stream after nothing more. But within a week we stream feebly falls to earth. Drenched saw in tremendous battle the slow defeat groups of men, shining in black rubber of the Department and the utter destruc- coats and helmets, are heavily toiling at tion of a thirteen-story"fireproof” the pipes ; yet not an inch is gained. building. A sullen fire on the fifth floor Hook and ladder trucks and-water towers had burned hotly for three hours in the shift positions. An abandoned engine early night. Alarm after alarm was under the blazing cornice of the pile is turned in; twenty engines were pumping, boldly dragged away in retreat by six and still the fire gained. Then of a of the men. The white-coated and redsudden the windows of the sixth floor helmeted salvage corps hurry by. A shone red. They quickly crocked from rumor goes that four men are caught on brown to black, and were not seen again the only corner of the roof that is not yet till vivid cracks of light seamed the glass, `ablaze. Ten minutes more and the which bulged for a second, and then reporters crowd questioning around the shattered by the heat, fell with a jingling rescuer, Hery, of Company Three, crash on the pavement below. Furi- who shot the life-line to the roof from ously the flames curled round the case the dome of the “ Florence." Suddenly, ments, and through the denser smoke appalling in terror, there is a mighty only a newer and a higher line of volley- quaking roar. Heavy quintuple presses ing flames told of the doom of another and a group of safes have plunged from floor. Another excited hour and the vic- roof to sub-cellar, and the certain questorious fire, in sheets, torn and lambent- tion is asked, “How many were killed?” ribboned, had reached the wide eaves. Cylinders of benzine explode like salvos
It was danger so magnificently staged of artillery. There is the dull boom of that it was the rarest of spectacles, gor- a back-draught, and the deafening fall geous in flaring reds. Dyed in the lurid of brick. light, the smoke floated in cumulus The men begin to fall back; the very clouds, or drifted raggedly. Shot with last of them leave the building. But an golden falling stars, it trailed over the instant before the flames, descending, barred silver of the searchlight. Three seize the lower floors, there is a sudden
tumult, and a rushing of ladders down an hour they have hung unnoticed and the street. Three of the Fire Patrol, helpless, clinging like monkeys to the trapped on the stairway of the fourth narrow mesh of the steel. Doctors with story, had climbed out of a window, and their black bags, in overcoats and white retreating from the fire, crawled along trousers, hurry about, and many wounded the narrow ledge to a vertical wire sign are carried away. In the very midst of at the corner, where for a quarter of the battle, company by company, a roll
call is taken, and the missing are known It was the first fifth-alarm fire in a high, by name.
"proof” building. It was a severe trial The great Parker Building burned to and failure of the cleverest weapons that a skeleton of walis, and the Department our science has given for the fight with went down to a heavy defeat. Our own the fearful living spirit of our universe of Seventeen, in the very front of the fight, inert matter, for before this Destroyer lost in everything but life. Three men our best, as well as our worst, in engine were killed that night and forty were and hose was powerless, and New York taken to the hospital. It was near morn thought of the fate of Baltimore and San ing when the battle was over, and a little Francisco. For the moment it seemed procession, rubber-clad and helmeted, a cureless impotence in our new and with pikes and swinging lanterns, entered proud civilization, and man still the idle the great columned doorway to find the sport of these monstrous, shambling, men that were lost. Seven times they brute-like gods of the elements—these struggled up three flights of stairs, only spirits of the original chaos, capricious, to return defeated by the smoke, the kill- all-powerful, and cruelly delighting in ing heat and thudding bricks. Nor did
Nor did their strength. they succeed for three days.
But Cleary, our "bunkie,” heartbroken, again the roll of death was to grow. coughing the smoke out of his lungs as Within another month three more brave he dragged on an overcoat, had a valid fellows died at fires—the lion-hearted" theory of defeat: “It takes the Chief," Deputy Chief, Kruger, miserably drowned he spluttered. “If he'd 'a' been here, in a sub-cellar.
he'd 'a' been lightin' his cigar by now The flaming wonders of that night with that grin o' his, and O'Connor and were in part the woeful gift of political Phillips 'ud be doin' easy sentry go' graft or incompetence. Yet rotten hose on Turkish rugs instead o' lyin' dead in but masked the fact of a worse defeat. that cellar !"