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zens of Doddville formed the department, for every man had volunteered, and all had been accepted. The young men who first «fired Andrew up» had narrowly missed blowing him and themselves up together; but that danger had been averted by practice, and the whole town was proud of its fire department, which was only another way of saying it was proud of itself.

The «Boomer » at once turned a stream of brag and bombast and self-laudation upon neighboring settlements, based upon its new equipment in this line, that was incense to the noses of Doddville. It even patronized the towns up and down the line to the extent of remarking editorially that «in event of destructive conflagrations raging anywhere within reach by rail, it will be a matter of satisfaction to all the Boomer's distant readers and their name is legion-to know that the energetic residents of our flourishing city can now send a special train, equipped with a fire-engine of the latest and most approved pattern, and manned by a department whose efficiency is not to be matched this side of Chicago, to the rescue.» This editorial concluded modestly: «Having placed ourselves in the front ranks of the world by our energy and enterprise, we are ever ready to share the results of our prudence and foresight, -the fruits of our industry, as it were, -with our less fortunate brothers who are denied the privilege of living and dying in Doddville. To all such we will send out our model fire department if they get on fire, at the same time remarking that it would be every way cheaper and better for them to move into our corporation before they catch. Those who are unable to avail themselves of this golden opportunity immediately can ameliorate their condition by advertising in the Boomer.>>>

This was the state of affairs in the summer of 1894. The first week in August Dodd began talking about a birthday celebration for the town. It would be three years old on the 3rd of the next month. The second week found everybody else talking about it. By the third week towns up and down the line were talking about it, and Doddville was working. Dodd even went to the editor and suggested advertising it as "Doddville's Centennial,» but Elihu took him over to the school-house, where the only dictionary in town was kept, and Webster and he together convinced Dodd that that idea was impracticable. By the 1st of September the town was measuring off her bunting, and the children were scouring the woods in search of pine boughs and green branches. The latter were hard to find, for everything was

crisp and sear before its time. There had been no rain for two months, and a carpet of brown, tinder-like needles lay under the pines as deep as it would have been in December. There was a thick haze over everything, and the children said it was real Indiansummery.»

The little school-teacher who had taught them the year before was showing them how to wind the garlands, and Bob White was helping her. People said if they were not engaged they would be pretty soon, for he had been «paying her attention» for nearly a year. The children used to tease her about his name, for it was what the quails said in the fields before rain. Some people thought it sounded more like «Mo-re wet! mo-re wet!» than it did like « Bob White! Bob White!» But the difference in sound all lay in the hearing, and whichever words the birds said, they brought nothing but blushes to the little teacher's face. There was never a cloud in the sky from week to week, and if the quails called for more wet they never got it.

Even Johnson's Creek, the little stream, half brook, half river, that ran past the town, held less than half its normal depth. It was shallow at the best, wide and stony in some places, and with deep pools in others. But the pools were far apart, and the water babbling by Doddville was hardly more than shoe-high. These waters had once been dammed below the town, and diverted into a wooden aqueduct to turn the mill-wheel. The sluice had been opened one morning, and that afternoon the children had picked trout out of the uncovered river-bed where the stream was carried around by the mill-beautiful, speckled trout, flapping and gasping in little muddy puddles drying quickly in the sun. The town feasted on them for two days, gathered up like ripe plums from the turf. But the next spring, when the snows melted in the woods, and the freshet and the logs came down together, the two forces had split the dam like paper, and it had never been rebuilt. The little mill thereafter worked by steam, with any amount of fuel to be had for nothing at its doorsfor nothing, or the gathering only.

Disquieting reports reached Doddville on the evening of the 1st. The afternoon train had brought news of a great forest fire raging over toward the northwest. Late in the evening, as the little school-teacher and Bob White and several of the young people were at work on garlands in the school-house, the telegraph operator came over; he was a young man, and had been missed. He said he had taken a passing message off the wires to the effect

that Centerville and Milltown, seventy and seventy-eight miles away respectively, had been destroyed by fire. A great many lives had been lost in Centerville.

<< Have you told Dodd?»
«No; I'm just going over.»

«Seems to me the smoke is getting dreadful thick here,» said Annie Johnson, a pretty, yellow-haired girl who showed her Norse descent in her complexion.

«Pshaw! You're nervous, Annie,» said a young fellow, reassuringly; « the wind is from the southeast, and that fire up north could n't get here if it tried.»>

The young telegraph operator went over and told Dodd. Everybody looked to him for advice in time of need, because they knew he was honest about everything but his town, and they forgave him for lying about that. Moreover, he was shrewd and far-seeing, and a man of affairs and experience. His ungrammatical sentences had meaning in them, and so great was the faith the town felt for its father and founder that Elihu, who had once sounded the place on the question of establishing a mayor and common council, and incorporating as a city, said there would not need to be an election for the chief office except just for form, as there would only be one candidate for mayor, and his name would be John Dodd.

«You can be governor if you just work it right," said Elihu, in the full flame of his zeal and conviction that night-« governor of the State of Michigan, sir!» Whereupon Dodd had remarked carelessly:

« Wal, I was born a Michigander, an' if I ain't always lived in the ole State, I guess I'm eligeeable all right enough for 'most any office she's got.» But on going out of the sanctum sanctorum that night he had returned for a moment, thrust his head in at the door, and winked a ponderous, crafty wink at the editor, full of guile and subtility. Then he had creaked down the steep stairs, with their litter of dirt and dusty rubbish, congratulating himself that he had been very sly and foxy.

"I did n't say a word,» he chuckled, «but Elihu knows I'm on to that there governor racket-on to it with both feet.»

This was innocent vanity, full of the secrecy of that probing finger in Dakota. But to-night he said to the telegraph operator, with the same veiling of his secret thoughts: «Oh, we 're all right. The wind 's in the sou'east, an' it looks to me 's if we was goin' to git rain, anyhow.»

After the young man had gone he said to his eldest son.

<< Jim, you sneak 'roun' to the ingine-house an' fire up Andrew.>>

The news of the destruction of towns so close at hand traveled from house to house. Tired women, who had exhausted themselves in the preparation of food for the coming celebration, heard it over their hot stoves, and felt their hearts sink with sympathy. Miranda Dodd turned a flushed and heated face toward her husband, and after he had told her the news took off the lid of her stove and put in more wood. How the pitchy pine snapped and crackled! How quickly it caught, and how fast it burned! She was baking bread and cake. Every oven in Doddville that night was hot with the hospitality of its people. She looked at her husband in the firelight which flickered on both their faces, and as she looked she wiped her floury hands on her clean calico apron. The night was warm and the little kitchen was insufferably hot, but the look of that fire, roaring under control in the stove, and their unspoken thoughts, made them both shiver.

John Dodd had always been light-hearted, looking on the bright side of a dark life because he was healthy, had a good digestion, normal nerves, and had been endowed by nature and his parents with a good disposition. He was honestly loving and uniformly kind to his family, but not demonstrative. To-night, as his wife stood before him in the firelight, a wholesome, healthy-looking woman just approaching middle life, he put his arm about her waist and kissed her. That kiss frightened Miranda Dodd more than any rumors could have done. He had not kissed her like that since the night before their only little girl had died ten years ago—their little Martha. He knew the odds were against her recovery, and he had kissed his child's mother with that same solemn tenderness then-a tenderness that meant so much: memories of happiness and trials shared, and of life together a life that had stretched over many years (for they had married young), and reached out into the presence of death. Tired as she was, Miranda Dodd did not sleep that night. Few people did in Doddville.

In the little school-house the young folks and some of their elders sat among the garlands, and tried mechanically to continue making them, or to make merry. Some one brought a flute, and one of the young men played an accordion. They tried to dance, but soon abandoned the amusement, for it was not amusing. The smoke was thick, even with the wind blowing softly from the southeast, and John Dodd, wandering about with his hands

in his pockets, wondered where it came from. He concluded that there must be fires south of them that had not been reported. The sky had a peculiar look, a luminous, weird, unusual look, that he knew was the light of distant conflagrations shining upon their own smoke, and reflected on a thick, atmospheric darkness. At about midnight it seemed to be brighter, though the wind had not changed, and he concluded it was time to do something. So some of the older men got out their teams and their plows, and with the aid of lanterns carried ahead, began their work. In the darkness they plowed strips on the farther side of field fences, where they could get at them; for each man wished to save his fence, and each thought that would do it. Some of the women laid their quilts and blankets out near their rain-barrels, to have them handy for wetting and laying on the roofs. Thus the night passed with no nearer developments, and the southeast wind blew softly.

Early on the morning of the 2d the sun looked like a harvest moon, the haze was so thick. But about nine o'clock it lifted perceptibly. The wind veered round to the west; it seemed to blow the smoke away. Discontinued preparations were renewed, and John Dodd went about cheering up the town.

"We're goin' to celebrate,» he said; «we're goin' to git in our celebration all right. Things looked a little scaly last night, but everything's O. K. now. Pitch into your pies, girls, else the boys ain't goin' to have no chance to pitch into 'em later. Some folks wrote me last week they'd be up on the afternoon train, an' we'll git in our fireworks all right to-night.» That was the way John Dodd talked, and for a while that was the way he felt: but he kept a close watch on the weathercock on his barn. "If you ain't the wobblest weathercock 1 ever seen!» he said, apostrophizing it savagely. «If I'd 'a' knew you was sich a oncertain critter you could 'a' waited one while afore I set you up onter my barn ter flippityflop like an ole hen in the dust!»

It was just ten o'clock when the young telegraph-operator came running down the main street. People hurried out of their stores and houses and looked after him, or ran after him, as he rushed into John Dodd's yard. John met him at the door.

"They're fighting fire at Tracy,» shouted the younger man.

Dodd looked at him and then at his weathercock.

«I am damned, Mr. Dodd, and so are you, and so is everybody. And we're going to get a taste of damnation here before the day is out, or my name is Mud.»>

There were fields and timber between Tracy and Doddville, fifteen miles of both, with occasional farms and farm-houses in their clearings between. And, gathering down on these and everything lying in that direction, fanned by winds that had veered from all points, and now united to blow the northwest fires in the big timber straight that way, came the flames. Near the earth they ran, like a hissing, kneehigh wave, scorching the beach it combed over. This was in the fields. In the timber the knee-high wave no longer ran, combing low: it vaulted; it leaped upon the winds like witches upon broomsticks, and swooped ahead. Fiery darts arose like arrows out of consuming forests, and swept hurtling through the smoke, to fall half a mile in advance. Each lighted a little conflagration of its own-one spark, a dozen, a snapping ring around a growing circle left charred and black, hurrying up in small fury, flaring, gone; swallowed by the tidal wave behind as a floating weed would be swallowed by the sea. And men had plowed in the dark the night before, thinking to save their fences by a little belt of overturned sod!

There were dreadful sounds ascending upon this fire-storm. Inanimate things shivered before it, and leaned and tugged at their earthbound roots to escape. A belt of reeds in a drought-dried swamp clashed their hollow tubes together, rattling against one another in a frenzy of fright, flamed, flashed, vanished. Lily bulbs baked in the earth and popped into dusty nothingness. Trees creaked and groaned and writhed under the consuming breath; their stalwart arms turned to burning brands, blazed, dropped, disappeared; their vital saps evaporated in fainting steam escaping from charred and dying stumps and trunks like the last breath from a sensate frame. The very stones of the fields crumbled and fell apart, and little snaps and popping explosions, like small musketry in a battle, rose in sharp diverberation above the muffling roar that smothered sound and life alike.

The fierce tongues licking up the pineneedles played between jaws of heat, cracking the boughs that bore them. The flames roared and bellowed; they clapped their wicked hands; they flapped their fiery wings in the wind like some horrid monster, part beast, part demon, part bird, rejoicing devil

"You be damned!» he said quietly. The operator knew this was only a figure of ishly over its evil work. The four winds speech, and he laughed hysterically.

VOL. LII.-79.

gathered from the four corners of the earth,

and blew upon them with cracking cheeks and blistering lips. Red-hot fire, that had snapped and flickered and wavered like little serpents' tongues before, leaped into tall pillars then, and waltzed with the winds to a terrible drumming roar ascending out of the vortex. Choking smoke belched up as if from a dragon's mouth, and winds and smoke and fire twisted together in mad confusion, and whirled and leaped and danced like the first riotings of chaos. Under their hot feet the world slipped by; peaceful autumn fields and homes before: ashes, and black ruin, and obliteration behind. Desolation traveled in a trailing cloud.

Everything was confusion in the doomed little town. No more preparation for the celebration; no more watching weathercocks. John Dodd rushed into the street, giving orders as he ran.

«Git out the ingine, boys! Pump the cistern out on to the houses and then hitch on to the crick. Git a move on to you, now! They're fightin' fire at Tracy, an' the wind 's plum' from the northwest. Nothin' but God's mercy an' our own git up an' dust, or git up an' wet, is goin' to keep Doddville on this earth!»>

Men and women worked together. At first they worked for houses and homes; then they worked for lives. The smoke came down thicker and more suffocating. The wind blew it into their lungs with every laboring breath; it blew it into their nostrils and crowded back the breath; and driven before the dreadful threatening of this thick, hot wind, wild creatures of the woods abandoned their forest homes, and fled into the clearings and into the village itself, fearless of their ancient enemy in face of the common danger menacing all their world. A doe and a fawn went bounding through the streets, leaping toward that stream that could not save them. A brown bear swung into a gate and lumbered into the open door of a house already deserted; the dog that whined and howled upon the doorstep did not dispute his entrance. Horses that had been left tied in the streets quivered and snorted and crouched in their harness before their plunging terror broke the straps that bound them; then they ran clattering through roads and yards, masterless, frenzied, seeking their smoking stables at last, and neighing in response to the half-human screams of their perishing fellows within. The heat was growing greater and greater, a thick, suffocating heat that filled the lungs like cotton wool. Burning brands were riding the furnace-like blast and dropping upon buildings. One fell on the school-house; another dropped into a

lumber pile; they smoked, they smoldered, they blazed. The air was full of sparks and of a mighty roaring. This awful roar sounded like a passing tornado-no; like a coming tornado-like a dozen tornadoes coming. It was useless to think of saving the town; the question now became, How shall human life be saved?

«The 'leven forty-five train!» shouted Dodd. «It's due-it's the only way out-if it comes. Run for your lives! Run fer the station!»>

A few heard; a few obeyed. Then, in the face of the utter hopelessness of saving the town, his pet, his pride, his darling, for a moment John Dodd went mad.

<< Miranda,» he said hoarsely to his wife, «<if God burns this town I hope he 'll burn me with it!»

His wife flung her arms about his neck for a moment as he stood rigid and unresponsive before her, and cried in a dreadful voice-a voice that haunted him long after:

« John, John, don't say that! It's a sin-a sin for punishment! Oh, John! >> Her voice, her face, restored him to calmness.

«There, Miranda; don't fret. You run to the station, and I'll come along in a minute. I've got to tell the folks first.»

They parted, she to gather her two youngest boys against her bursting, motherly heart for a moment, and then to flee away with them, but not to the depot.

« We must get your sister's picture first,»> she cried to them; «there is time.» But there was not time.

John Dodd rushed along the street, yelling: «To the train! Run to the train! Run fer your lives!»>

The woman whose first husband he had helped to bury so many weeks after the snow had been his sexton tore past him, screeching in a terrible voice. She was a tall woman, with black hair and eyes, and had been educated in some little Ohio seminary. Her arms were flung above her head, where her wild locks streamed in tangles; her eyes were wide, her teeth were bare.

«Run to the train, Hattie! run to the train! >> he shouted; and passing each other swiftly in the thick smoke and horror, he did not see that she was on fire, and that sparks were in her thick hair. She disappeared in the smoke, stark mad, shrilling in her agony. Terrible cries, human and brutish, assailed the ear on every side.

Coming back, he found his eldest boy at his


<< Run, Jimmie!» he cried; «you can't do

nothin' now. It's no use; we got to be wiped out. Run to the train! Your mother an' the boys has gone.»>

Jimmie ran a few steps toward the depot, and then, fancying he saw his mother through the smoke in the street, he turned and ran in that direction. A shrill whistling broke piercingly upon the ear. The train was coming. John Dodd delayed only a moment longer, stopping to kick away a brand that had fallen upon the hose. The rubber was old and rotten, and had sprung a leak in places, and the water was spurting out.

"It's no use, Andrew,» he said mournfully to the little engine. «You done noble, an' no ingine could 'a' done better; but it's all up. You could keep on pumpin' until you bust an''t would n't save us. You're a mighty good little machine, and I hate like sixty to leave you in this Tophet, but it 's got to be did. I'll jes turn this here snozzle on to Mis' Wilson's flower-bed. If you can save a posy, Andy, I'll pick it out o' hell to-morrow.>>

A LITTLE while before this the little teacher had been sitting in her school-room, surrounded by her garlands and three little ones whose parents were away. Bob White had told her to wait there until he came for her. They had learned each other's hearts through the long night before, and the thought of that great happiness lifted her fainting soul as the smoke grew thicker and the sparks and cinders began to blow upon the place. The children were screaming and crying with fright, and, in her forgetfulness of self, and her knowledge of the great new love, she tried to solace them. She is twice a heroine who forgets herself and believes in a man's love. Presently he came running up.

«Allie, Allie, this roof is all in a blaze!» He gathered her into his arms for a moment and kissed her as they stood upon the threshold. "We must run for the train-it's the only hope.»

"But the children, Bob! the children! They can't run!»>

"They must. Here, give them to me. Come as fast as you can, and I will come back for you.» He gathered the youngest child into his lusty young arms, seized the oldest by the hand, and rushed away. The child left with the little teacher was five years old-a big, healthy child. She tried to run, but fright had half paralyzed her. She was too big to be carried. Alice knelt beside her, and said as calmly as possible, though the tears were streaming from her smarting eyes and she was half blinded:

"Listen, Totty. Look at teacher and listen to her. You must run! I am not strong enough to carry you.» And then, in the contradiction of despair, she turned her shoulder to the sobbing child.

«Climb upon my back, Totty darling. I can carry you; I will try to; I will not leave you.»>

The child clutched her about the throat, and the little teacher staggered to her feet. A frightened dog-Bob's dog-crowded against her, and looked up with imploring eyes. She felt so weak, so frail, to buffet against this tempest of fire, but she struggled on. Bob would meet her in a moment. The whistle screeched madly, the locomotive bell clanged furiously. She was almost there. Gasping, choking, suffocating, she tottered forward. Here was Bob.

«My God, my God, Allie! the train has gone!»

IT was the third of September. A half-dozen men had toiled back to Doddville on a handcar, which they had carried around burned bridges, and lifted over places where the heat had warped and twisted the iron rails. They had gone out of the burning town the day before on that fire-girt train, and had had such a ride as never men lived through before. They could not tell of it yet.

Those of them who came through were burned and blistered with the fire. Some who started from the little burning station had seen the waving hands of delirium beckoning from the consuming forests, and had plunged headlong from the train to awful destruction. The conductor was a raving maniac. The engineer was a blistered hero. They had all been through the fire.

«This ought to be Doddville,» said some one. They had come to a charred bit of switch and two or three bent and crooked bunches of wheels showing where freight-cars had been burned.

«It ought to be, but it ain't,» said John Dodd. «This is ruin and Deathville.>>

Small need to recount what they found among the ashen ruins-ghastly finds, but not a living thing. Not one living thing? Yes, one: one unharmed little flower growing in Mis' Wilson's dooryard-just one flower, unscorched, unburned, in the soaked and cindercovered bed. A bit of shining brass hard by showed where the brave little engine had perished at its post. The little flower had survived amidst the wreck of things human and man-made, the one living thing left to celebrate the birthday. John Dodd picked it and held it in his shaking hand. The afternoon

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