downcast, however, as to ignore the fact that here was an excellent opportunity to view a number of fire fighting machines of all varieties. Indeed, they inspected the equipment of every out-of-town company they ran across, and in the course of the morning had become partly familiar with everything, from an oldfashioned gooseneck hand engine to the latest type of hand-drawn chemical engine, the pride of the company from Middlebury. This last appliance was an excellent piece of work and Bruce and his friends realized that even, with her new paint and shining brass, "Old Nanc" could not compare in general appearance with this costly equipment.
Promptly at half-past ten the automobile in which was seated the Mayor, Fire Chief Blaney and several other dignitaries, swung into Webster avenue. This was followed by the Woodbridge band and the parade to the tournament grounds was under way. The Boy Scout Engineers reviewed the procession from the curb, and when it had passed they hurried by way of a short cut across the fields to the tournament grounds, reaching there just as the Mayor's car turned in at the big gate.
A makeshift two-story frame building had been constructed in the very center of the enclosure, and the village authorities had erected a dozen temporary hydrants in a half circle about the front of the building. The plan was to conduct the contests on the level stretch of turf before the grandstand, and as a finale set fire to the wooden structure and have a real demonstration of fire fighting.
The procession of visiting companies made a circle of the grounds after entering the gate while the Mayor reviewed them from his automobile. Then after the various engines and hose carts had been parked at the far end of the field the Mayor prepared formally to open the ceremonies with a speech of welcome. But he had hardly uttered two sentences when Bruce, for some unknown reason turned and looked down Webster avenue towards the town. In the distance he saw a great cloud of black smoke mounting skyward above the roofs. He grasped Bud Weir's arm and shouted:
"Look! Quick! Afire!"
And as if to verify his words the far-off clang of the village fire bell sounded.
Instantly the tournament grounds were in a turmoil. Every one raised a cry of fire! In a twinkle the grandstand was empty, but before the crowd could reach Webster avenue the companies had begun to leave the enclosure. With a rattle and a clang one engine after another swung into the broad avenue. Then with the old hand equipment of the Woodbridge vamps in the van the whole aggregation hurled itself down the street toward the village.
BOY SCOUTS TO THE RESCUE
Bruce Clifford and the other members of Quarry Troop No. 1, waited only to determine the location of the column of smoke that now extended clear across the sky, then, selecting the short cut across the field by which they had come, they hurried pellmell toward the scene of trouble.
"It's down in the factories!" panted Romper as he ran.
"Yes, I think it's Mayor Worthington's woolen mills," shouted Bud.
"By Jove, I guess you're right," yelled Bruce as they turned into Willow Street and saw smoke pouring from the windows of the big brick building at the far end of the street.
It was the worst fire that Woodbridge had experienced in years. By the time the firemen reached the scene the whole west end of the building was enveloped in flames and a section of the slate roof had already caved in. From every window long tongues of red flames darted out like hideous serpents' tongues. Great sparks shot skyward as sections of the west wall crumbled and fell into the red hot caldron that had once been the building's interior, and the heat was so intense that windows in the factory building across the street cracked and crumbled.
It was a fortunate thing for Woodbridge that there was a score of visiting fire companies in town, or else the whole south section of the village would have been wiped out. Chief Blaney, almost beside himself with anxiety, implored the visiting chiefs for their assistance. And assist him they did. Every company got its equipment into action and lines of hose were strung in some cases nearly half a mile. There were at least a dozen hand engines and two steamers on the banks of Otter Creek supplying lines to the fire, not to mention the hundreds of feet of hose that were coupled to the village hydrant system in every direction.
But all that the willing vamps could do seemed to no avail. The fire demon was rampant. He roared full cry through the long brick building, consuming everything in his path. Section after section of roof sagged, then fell with a crash and a roar into the flames, sending aloft a shower of crackling sparks.
"Thank heavens, this was a holiday. There's no one in the building," Bruce heard Chief Blaney cry as he hurried past in company with the foreman of a visiting company.
But the rubber-coated fire fighter had hardly uttered the words when a shout went up from the crowd at the east end of the building, where the firm's office was located. Men with blanched faces and trembling hands were pointing towards the big iron barred window that marked the counting room.
"O-o-h! It's old Uriah Watkins!" shrieked Blaney.
Bruce looked and turned sick at the sight. There, his wrinkled old face pressing against the bars, was the aged bookkeeper of the woolen mills. One hand was extended between the iron grating in frantic appeal. The other clutched the precious ledgers that the old man had rashly rushed into the building to rescue. His ashen face was set with a horrible expression, and his eyes stood out with terror. Bruce saw his lips move, but could not hear his feeble voice above the roar of the flames.
For a moment the scout stood panic stricken. Then suddenly his lips pressed together and his face took on a determined look. In a flash he turned to Bud and gave a few brief orders. Then, elbowing their way through the jam and press about them, the youngsters disappeared and left Bruce there alone.
In the meantime a score of vamps had been summoned by Chief Blaney to rescue the aged bookkeeper. They attacked the heavy bars on the window with sledges and axes, but with no success. They tried to pry away the bricks with crowbars, but this, too, failed, and it was quite apparent to all that if Uriah Watkins was to be saved it could be accomplished only by the slow and laborious task of sawing through the bars. Could this be done? Had they the time to accomplish the task? Already a nearby section of the roof had caved in! How long would it be before the flames reached the office and burned the old man alive?
At this point the figure of a boy in Scout uniform broke through the fire lines and rushed up to the side of Chief Blaney. Standing at attention, Bruce saluted in regulation Boy Scout fashion and asked briefly:
"Chief, can the Boy Scout Engineers take a hand in this? I'll have the bars cut in two minutes."
"You will what—! Why—!"
"Yes, yes, we can do it; I've sent for our fire department—here come the Scouts now!"
The shriek of sirens was heard above the din about the factory building and the great crowd beheld seven motorcycles tearing down the hill at top speed. And just behind them bowled "Old Nanc" at her best.
"Have I your permission to take a hand?" demanded Bruce.
"Yes! yes! for goodness' sake do anything you can to free him!" cried the chief.
The line of motorcycles stopped and hose lines were