Beautiful Joe
Chapter 34

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Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


CHAPTER XXXIV: A FIRE IN FAIRPORT

I had several times run to a fire with the boys, and knew that there was always a great noise and excitement. There was a light in the house, so I knew that somebody was getting up. I don't think — indeed I know, for they were good boys — that they ever wanted anybody to lose property, but they did enjoy seeing a blaze, and one of their greatest delights, when there hadn't been a fire for some time, was to build a bonfire in the garden.

Jim and I ran around to the front of the house and waited. In a few minutes, some one came rattling at the front door, and I was sure it was Jack. But it was Mr. Morris, and without a word to us, he set off almost running toward the town. We followed after him, and as we hurried along other men ran out from the houses along the streets, and either joined him, or dashed ahead. They seemed to have dressed in a hurry, and were thrusting their arms in their coats, and buttoning themselves up as they went. Some of them had hats and some of them had none, and they all had their faces toward the great red light that got brighter and brighter ahead of us. "Where's the fire?" they shouted to each other. "Don't know — afraid it's the hotel, or the town hall. It's such a blaze. Hope not. How's the water supply now? Bad time for a fire."

It was the hotel. We saw that as soon as we got on to the main street. There were people all about, and a great noise and confusion, and smoke and blackness, and up above, bright tongues of flame were leaping against the sky, Jim and I kept close to Mr. Morris's heels, as he pushed his way among the crowd. When we got nearer the burning building, we saw men carrying ladders and axes, and others were shouting directions, and rushing out of the hotel, carrying boxes and bundles and furniture in their arms. From the windows above came a steady stream of articles, thrown among the crowd. A mirror struck Mr. Morris on the arm, and a whole package of clothes fell on his head and almost smothered him; but he brushed them aside and scarcely noticed them. There was something the matter with Mr. Morris — I knew by the worried sound of his voice when he spoke to any one, I could not see his face, though it was as light as day about us, for we had got jammed in the crowd, and if I had not kept between his feet, I should have been trodden to death. Jim, being larger than I was, had got separated from us.

Presently Mr. Morris raised his voice above the uproar, and called, "Is every one out of the hotel?" A voice shouted back, "I'm going up to see."

"It's Jim Watson, the fireman," cried some one near. "He's risking his life to go into that pit of flame. Don't go, Watson." I don't think that the brave fireman paid any attention to this warning, for an instant later the same voice said, "He's planting his ladder against the third story. He's bound to go. He'll not get any farther than the second, anyway."

"Where are the Montagues?" shouted Mr. Morris. "Has any one seen the Montagues?"

"Mr. Morris! Mr. Morris!" said a frightened voices and young Charlie Montague pressed through the people to us. "Where's papa?"

"I don't know. Where did you leave him?" said Mr. Morris, taking his hand and drawing him closer to him. "I was sleeping in his room," said the boy, "and a man knocked at the door, and said, 'Hotel on fire. Five minutes to dress and get out,' and papa told me to put on my clothes and go downstairs, and he ran up to mamma."

"Where was she?" asked Mr. Morris, quickly.

"On the fourth flat. She and her maid Blanche were up there. You know, mamma hasn't been well and couldn't sleep, and our room was so noisy that she moved upstairs where it was quiet." Mr. Morris gave a kind of groan. "Oh, I'm so hot, and there's such a dreadful noise," said the little boy, bursting into tears, "and I want mamma." Mr. Morris soothed him as best he could, and drew him a little to the edge of the crowd.