In her astonishment she actually dropped her knitting-work on the floor and rushed out of the room crying, “Fire!” though there was not a spark of fire to be seen.
The “boyoes” were Nate and Jimmy. Nate had said to Jimmy just as they started on the race:—
“You won’t dare follow where I lead;” and Jimmy, stung by the defiant tone, had answered:—
“Poh, yes, I will! Who’s afraid?” never once suspecting that Nate was going to climb the ridge-pole of a house!
The house was a small cabin painted green, but there were people living in it, and nothing could be ruder than to storm it in this way, as both boys knew.
“Why, Nate why, Nate, what are you doing?”
“Ho, needn’t come if you’re scared,” retorted Nate.
“Who said I was scared? But I’m not your ‘caddy,’ I won’t go another step,” gasped Jimmy.
Still he did not stop climbing. Hadn’t Nate “stumped” him; and hadn’t he “taken the stump,” agreeing to follow his lead? Besides, Nate was already on the roof, and it was necessary to catch him at once.
Jimmy reached the roof easily enough and darted toward Nate with both arms out-stretched. But by that time Nate had turned around and begun to slide down another ridge-pole, shouting:—
“Here, my caddy, here I am; catch me, caddy!”
It was most exasperating. Jimmy saw that he had been outwitted. On the solid earth, running a fair race, the chances were that he could have beaten Nate. But was this a fair race?
“No, I’ll leave it out to anybody if it’s fair! Nate Pollard is the meanest boy in California,” thought angry Jimmy, as he started to follow his leader down the ridge-pole.
At this moment something hit him just below the knee and held him fast. In his haste he had not stopped to notice that the chimney was of the very sort he had just described to Lucy—built of tiles and held on to the roof by wires. He was caught in these wires; and whenever he tried to move he found he was actually pulling the chimney after him! Nate, safely landed on the ground, called back to him in triumph:—
“Hello, Jimmy-cum-jim! Hello, my caddy! Where are you? Why don’t you come along?”
Jimmy was coming as fast as he could. He lay face downward, sliding along toward the edge of the roof, and carrying with him that most undesirable chimney! What would become of him if he should fall head-first with the chimney on his back?
It was a rough scramble; but he managed to turn over before he reached the ground—so that he landed on his feet. The chimney landed near him, a wreck. Jimmy was unhurt except for a few scratches. But oh, it was dreadful to hear himself laughed at, not only by that mischievous Nate, but by half a dozen other boys and a few grown people, who had collected on the spot; among them the landlord and Mrs. McQuilken.
Not that any one could be blamed for laughing. Jimmy was a comical object. In carrying away a chimney which did not belong to him, he had of course torn his clothes frightfully and left big pieces sticking on the broken wires of the roof. A more “raggety” boy never was seen.