Paul remembered that a family, in which were quite a number of children, had lately come to town, and taken the big ramshackle building.
The thought gave him a thrill, and inwardly he found himself hoping that none of them might be caught in that fire-trap.
“There comes the old machine!” shouted the fellow who, not being able to get a grip on the rope by which the hose wagon was drawn, trotted in the rear, and made out to push.
Yes, they could hear the shouts of the excited fire laddies now, and also catch the sound of galloping horses.
Looking over his shoulder, Paul saw a medley of moving lights, evidently the lanterns carried by the volunteers. These were doubtless clad in their old toggery and fire hats, the foreman with his silver trumpet in evidence, without which no respectable fire would think of allowing itself to be quenched.
And a rising column of sparks attested to the fact that the fire in the engine was in full blast, so that steam would be ready by the time the scene of operations was reached.
“One side, boys, and let them pass! Give them plenty of room!” called Paul.
He had seen that old engine booming along to a fire on many an occasion, and remembered that the driver, Hank Seeris, was inclined to be a reckless hand; for as a rule the machine was wobbling from side to side, and threatening to overturn at any minute.
Up to this date that catastrophe had never happened; but Paul remembered the old saying that “a pitcher may go to the well once too often;” and he had fears.
It proved that they were well grounded too, after the hose reed had safely negotiated the last bend in the road, and the burning dwelling was in plain sight.
“Look at them coming, full tilt! They will be over at the turn!” shrieked Bobolink, who, being near the tail end of the double line could observe what was taking place without hindrance.
Immediately there arose a chorus of loud shouts, as of warning. But apparently Hank Seeris must have been indulging in more liquor than was good for him; or else he happened to be in an unusually reckless state.
“They’re going over!” howled Bobolink.
“Oh! there goes our only engine to the scrap heap!” exclaimed Jud Elderkin, in dismay; for his father happened to be the foreman, and it looked just then as though the gallant fireman might be without a job.
Paul ran back, as did most of the boys, thinking that something terrible must have happened.
The plunging horses had been pulled down, and a man was already sitting on the head of each to keep them from kicking further. There are generally some wise persons present in such a calamity, who know just what ought to be done.
Willing hands were already unhitching the horses, so that they could be taken out of the way, and the ditched engine upraised.
“Where’s Hank, the driver! Is he hurt?” asked some one; and Paul recognized the old minister, who must have been on the way home from visiting when the alarm burst out, and hence he had accompanied the fire fighters, eager to lend a hand at the rescue work.