Beautiful Joe
Chapter 34, Page 2

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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 (continued)

While he was doing this, there was a piercing cry. I could not see the person making it, but I knew it was the Italian's voice. He was screaming, in broken English that the fire was spreading to the stables, and his animals would be burned. Would no one help him to get his animals out? There was a great deal of confused language Some voices shouted, "Look after the people first Let the animals go." And others said, "For shame. Get the horses out." But no one seemed to do anything, for the Italian went on crying for help, I heard a number of people who were standing near us say that it had just been found out that several persons who had been sleeping in the top of the hotel had not got out. They said that at one of the top windows a poor housemaid was shrieking for help. Here in the street we could see no one at the upper windows, for smoke was pouring from them.

The air was very hot and heavy, and I didn't wonder that Charlie Montague felt ill. He would have fallen on the ground if Mr. Morris hadn't taken him in his arms, and carried him out of the crowd. He put him down on the brick sidewalk, and unfastened his little shirt, and left me to watch him, while he held his hands under a leak in a hose that was fastened to a hydrant near us. He got enough water to dash on Charlie's face and breast, and then seeing that the boy was reviving, he sat down on the curbstone and took him on his knee, Charlie lay in his arms and moaned. He was a delicate boy, and he could not stand rough usage as the Morris boys could.

Mr. Morris was terribly uneasy. His face was deathly white, and he shuddered whenever there was a cry from the burning building. "Poor souls — God help them. Oh, this is awful," he said; and then he turned his eyes from the great sheets of flame and strained the little boy to his breast. At last there were wild shrieks that I knew came from no human throats. The fire must have reached the horses. Mr. Morris sprang up, then sank back again. He wanted to go, yet he could be of no use. There were hundreds of men standing about, but the fire had spread so rapidly, and they had so little water to put on it, that there was very little they could do. I wondered whether I could do anything for the poor animals. I was not afraid of fire, as most dogs, for one of the tricks that the Morris boys had taught me was to put out a fire with my paws. They would throw a piece of lighted paper on the floor, and I would crush it with my forepaws; and If the blaze was too large for that, I would drag a bit of old carpet over it and jump on it. I left Mr. Morris, and ran around the corner of the street to the back of the hotel. It was not burned as much here as in the front, and in the houses all around, people were out on their roofs with wet blankets, and some were standing at the windows watching the fire, or packing up their belongings ready to move if it should spread to them. There was a narrow lane running up a short distance toward the hotel, and I started to go up this, when in front of me I heard such a wailing, piercing noise, that it made me shudder and stand still. The Italian's animals were going to be burned up and they were calling to their master to come and let them out. Their voices sounded like the voices of children in mortal pain. I could not stand it. I was seized with such an awful horror of the fire, that I turned and ran, feeling so thankful that I was not in it. As I got into the street I stumbled over something. It was a large bird — a parrot, and at first I thought it was Bella. Then I remembered hearing Jack say that the Italian had a parrot. It was not dead, but seemed stupid with the smoke. I seized it in my mouth, and ran and laid it at Mr. Morris's feet. He wrapped it in his handkerchief, and laid it beside him.

I sat, and trembled, and did not leave him again. I shall never forget that dreadful night. It seemed as if we were there for hours, but in reality it was only a short time. The hotel soon got to be all red flames, and there was very little smoke. The inside of the building had burned away, and nothing more could be gotten out. The firemen and all the people drew back, and there was no noise. Everybody stood gazing silently at the flames. A man stepped quietly up to Mr. Morris, and looking at him, I saw that it was Mr. Montague. He was usually a well-dressed man, with a kind face, and a head of thick, grayish-brown hair. Now his face was black and grimy, his hair was burnt from the front of his head, and his clothes were half torn from his back. Mr. Morris sprang up when he saw him, and said, "Where is your wife?"

The gentleman did not say a word, but pointed to the burning building. "Impossible!" cried Mr. Morris. "Is there no mistake? Your beautiful young wife, Montague. Can it be so?" Mr. Morris was trembling from head to foot.

"It is true," said Mr. Montague, quietly. "Give me the boy." Charlie had fainted again, and his father took him in his arms, and turned away.

"Montague!" cried Mr. Morris, "my heart is sore for you. Can I do nothing?"

"No, thank you," said the gentleman, without turning around; but there was more anguish in his voice than in Mr. Morris's, and though I am only a dog, I knew that his heart was breaking.