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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesYoung Captain Jack: The Son Of A Soldier - Chapter 21. A Lively Fire
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Young Captain Jack: The Son Of A Soldier - Chapter 21. A Lively Fire Post by :howdeedoodee Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :1179

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Young Captain Jack: The Son Of A Soldier - Chapter 21. A Lively Fire

CHAPTER XXI. A LIVELY FIRE

In the meantime Jack and several others of the Home Guard had made their way to the barn and brought forth two ladders, a short affair and one which was both long and heavy.

"The short one can be placed on the veranda roof," said the young captain. "The other we can place against the corner, where the fire is burning the strongest."

"Somebody must have gone into the garret to set that fire," said another of the boys. "Where are the water buckets?"

"Here da am, sah," replied one of the negro servants, and handed them over.

"Somebody must keep at the well," said Jack. "Pompey, you know how to use the buckets best. You draw for us."

"Yes, Massah Jack."

"We'll form a line to the cistern, too," went on our hero. "Now then, work lively!"

The boys ran to the places assigned to them, and aided by the colored servants placed the ladders as desired. Soon water was being passed up and dashed upon the burning roof with all possible speed. But the fire was a lively one, and the breeze which was blowing helped it to spread.

"What can I do?" asked St. John, as he stood by, rubbing his hands nervously.

"Go down to the stable and the barns and put out the sparks blowing that way," said Jack.

"Don't you want me here?"

"Yes, if you'll go up to the top of the ladder," answered our hero, knowing full well St. John would do nothing of the sort.

"I--I never could climb a ladder," faltered the young man, and turned toward the stable, where he spent his time in putting out the flying sparks, as Jack had suggested.

It was hot work on the long ladder, and soon Jack was all but exhausted. But he stuck to his post, knowing full well that, if he let up, the fire would soon get the best of them. All of the boys worked like Trojans, and the negro servants helped them as much as possible. Mrs. Ruthven remained in the house, packing up her valuables, so as to be able to leave, should it become necessary to do so.

(Illustration: IT WAS HOT WORK ON THE LONG LADDER AND SOON JACK WAS ALL BUT EXHAUSTED.--_Page 173._)

"More water!" cried Jack. "The fire is eating to the center of the roof! More water!"

"We are bringing it as fast as we can!" panted the boy below him.

"Make the servants form a line to the cistern."

"I will," answered the boy, and soon the water was coming up as rapidly as Jack and the other lad on the roof could handle it.

At last the fire seemed to lose its force, and was extinguished at one corner of the roof. Then all hands turned their attention to the spot over the veranda. Here the flames had eaten under the gutter.

"We must have an ax!" exclaimed Jack, and one was quickly procured from the woodpile.

"Hi! what are you going to do with that?" yelled St. John, as he caught sight of the article.

"Going to chop a hole in the roof," answered our hero.

"How foolish! You'll make the fire worse."

"No, I won't--I know what I am doing, St. John."

"You shan't chop a hole in the roof," insisted the unreasonable young man.

A cry of derision went up from half a dozen of the boys.

"Take a back seat, St. John," advised one. "You are too scared to know what you are saying."

At this the spendthrift's face grew as red as a beet.

"Shut your tongue, Larry Wilson," he retorted. "I say you shan't chop a hole in the roof. It will let the wind get to the flames."

"We want to get the water on the flames," replied Larry.

"And I say you shan't touch the roof with the ax!" screamed St. John. "I command you to stop."

"All right then, we'll stop," said Larry, and Jack said the same. In a moment more they were both on the ground, the other lads with them.

"Fo' de land sake, de house will burn up suah now!" groaned one of the negroes.

"If it does, it will be St. John's fault," answered our hero. He was thoroughly disgusted over the way St. John had acted.

"I'se gwine to tell de missus ob dis!" cried a second negro, and darted away in search of Mrs. Mary Ruthven.

Soon the lady of the house came running out, with a bundle in one hand and a box of jewelry in the other.

"What is this I hear, St. John?" she demanded.

"They want to chop in the roof, mother," he answered.

"We must make a hole, so that we can pour the water on the fire," explained Jack.

"Then go and make the hole," returned Mrs. Ruthven readily. "And please be quick!"

"But, mother----" began St. John.

"St. John, they know more about putting out the fire than you do," was the tart reply of the young man's parent. "Let them do as they wish."

"All right then," growled the unreasonable son. "But if the house burns to the ground it will be their fault."

"It won't burn to the ground," answered Jack, and leaped up the ladder again.

Soon our hero was chopping away at a lively rate. In the meantime the others brought all the water possible to the scene.

When a hole was made in the roof the flames shot skyward for six or eight feet. At this St. John uttered a loud cry, almost of exultation:

"There, what did I tell you? Now the house will be burnt to the ground sure!"

"Lively with that water!" shouted Jack, ignoring him completely. And as the pails and buckets came up in a stream, he dashed the contents where they would do the most good.

It was perilous work, for the smoke rolled all around him, and more than once he was in danger of suffocation. But the water now did much good, and soon the flames began to go down.

"Hurrah! we have the fire under control!" shouted Larry.

It was true, and inside of quarter of an hour the last spark was put out. Then Jack crawled to the ground, almost too weak to stand.

"Is it out?" asked Mrs. Ruthven anxiously.

"Yes," answered our hero.

"Oh, I am so glad!" and she caught Jack warmly by the hand. At heart she was a true woman, and could appreciate what our hero had done for her.

St. John stood by in silence, hardly knowing what to say. At last he shuffled into the house.

"The water has made an awful mess," he declared, later, to his mother. "They needn't have drowned out the whole house like this."

"Don't say another word, St. John," answered his mother severely. "I am thankful the fire is out, even if you are not." And then she turned away to direct the servants in clearing away the muss that had been made.

The tide of battle had swept off in the direction of Jack's home, and anxious to know how Marion and his foster mother were faring, our hero soon after left Mrs. Mary Ruthven's plantation, and with him went Larry Wilson and three others of the Guard.

From a distance came the constant cracking of rifles and the booming of cannon.

"Let us take the short cut," suggested Jack, as he pushed across the fields. "There can be no time to spare."

"It is hard to tell who is winning to-day," returned Larry. "At first I thought the Yankees were in retreat."

"So did I, Larry. Well, we'll know how matters stand by night."

As they came in sight of our hero's home a Federal battery dashed into sight, drawn by horses covered with foam. The battery was followed by a regiment of infantry.

"Colonel Stanton's regiment!" cried Jack.

"They are in retreat!" answered Larry. "Look! our soldiers are coming down the hill after them like mad!"

"There is Colonel Stanton on horseback," went on Jack, straining his eyes. "What a fine figure he cuts!"

"Ba, Jack! how can you say that of a Yankee? I have half a mind to shoot him."

As Larry spoke he raised his gun, but Jack pulled it down.

"Don't, Larry!"

"Why not? We are at war, and he is our enemy."

"I know, but----"

"But what? Are you too tender-hearted to be a real soldier?"

"It isn't that, Larry. Colonel Stanton is such a fine man----"

"Those Yankees killed Colonel Ruthven, don't forget that," went on Larry earnestly. "We ought to bring down every one of them--if we can."

"Perhaps, but I would like to see Colonel Stanton spared--I cannot tell why."

On swept the soldiers, and for the moment the Federals were hidden by the smoke of gun fire. Then, as they reappeared, Jack set up a cry, half of alarm.

"What is it?" queried Larry.

"Colonel Stanton is shot!"

"Shot? You are sure?"

"Yes. See, he has fallen over the neck of his horse and several soldiers are running toward him. How sad! I wonder if he is dead?"

"If he is, it but serves him right, Jack."

"Perhaps; but I hope he isn't dead," answered Jack, with a peculiar look in his anxious face. As the Federal colonel disappeared from view he gave something of a groan, he could not tell why.

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