quickly strung. But the red automobile rumbled on, to come to a halt within ten yards of the building. Already two scouts were unlimbering the oxyhydrogen tanks and blow pipe equipment. Bruce rushed forward to aid them, while Chief Blaney looked on quite puzzled for the moment.
Working fast, but with the utmost coolness, Bruce donned a pair of asbestos gloves that came with the equipment and attached the blow pipe. Romper turned on the gases, while the young leader produced a match and ignited the torch. Instantly a tiny blue flame shot out that hissed and sputtered in a threatening manner.
As he advanced toward the window Bruce saw that the old bookkeeper had disappeared. He knew from this that there was no time to be lost, for the man had probably fainted and would soon be overcome with smoke. Hastily he shot the blue flame at the base of the first bar. There was a hiss and a shower of sparks as the flame met the cold metal. Bruce pressed the blow pipe closer, while he watched with anxious eye the progress of the flame.
The bar grew red, then gold, then white. The heat was terrific. The bar began to melt, slowly first, then faster, until the blue flame ate completely through. Another was attacked, and still another, until the scout had cut a hole in the iron grating large enough for a man to pass through.
Shouting to Romper to turn off the gas, he dropped the blow pipe, and plunging a handkerchief in a fire pail that stood near by, he tied the cloth over his nose and mouth. Then he hoisted himself through the window and disappeared.
Inside the smoke was thick and black, but Bruce could see flames dart through at the far end of the room, and he knew that in a few moments more the place would be seething.
He groped vainly about for the old bookkeeper. Where was he? He had dropped under the window a moment ago. Had he tried to crawl to the door? What had happened?
The smoke was so thick that even the moist handkerchief was of no avail. Bruce began to strangle. Then suddenly he remembered the instructions in his Handbook. The air was purest near the floor!
He dropped to his hands and knees, and with his face to the boards he began to crawl about, blindly groping for the body of the old bookkeeper. His fingers clutched something. He drew the object toward him and peered at it through the smoke. It was Uriah Watkins doubled in a ball, though unconscious and almost suffocated, the faithful old man still clasped his precious ledgers.
Bruce knew that unless the man reached the open air immediately he would perish. Also he knew that if they were not both clear of the building in a few minutes they would be food for the flames which were even then thrusting spiteful tongues under the door at the other end of the room.
Here again the instructions of the Handbook stood the scout in good stead. He knew that it would be next to suicide to stand up and try to carry the prostrated form to the window. The smoke was so thick even down there near the floor that he was gasping and choking.
He twisted his hand into the old man's collar and began to crawl, face to the floor, back toward the gray space that marked the window through the smoke, hauling Uriah after him. Foot by foot he dragged his burden. In spite of the handkerchief the smoke was getting into his lungs. His chest pained him dreadfully. Oh, what wouldn't he give for a single breath of pure, fresh air! The eight or ten feet to the side wall seemed like eight or ten miles. Would he never reach there!
Finally his hand struck the wall and he stood erect. The draught caused by the open window was drawing thick smoke out of the building into the air. Bruce knew he could not stand in that current of gases long. Pulling Uriah Watkins forward, he raised the limp form and forced it through the window ahead of him. Willing hands seized the old bookkeeper and lifted him to safety.
Then, dizzy and sick, Bruce clutched at the ledge and scrambled up. But a dreadful nausea seized him as he knelt on the window sill. His head whirled. He lost his balance. He knew he was falling backward into the burning building, but he was powerless to save himself. He gave a stifled cry of terror, and in answer the loud voice of Chief Blaney boomed in his ear and strong arms encircled his waist. Then everything grew black.
The Boy Scout Engineers never forgot the shout that went up when Chief Blaney carried the unconscious form of Bruce to safety. They were mighty proud of their leader. But they were prouder still when, a week later, Bruce was summoned into the presence of Mayor Worthington and Chief Blaney and presented with a parchment charter which officially informed him that the fire company of Quarry Troop had been officially made a member of the Woodbridge Fire Department, to be known thereafter as Chemical Company No. 1, with Brewster W. Clifford as the Chief.
WHEN THE CIRCUS CAME TO TOWN
Twelve Scouts, nearly half of Quarry Troop No. 1, now popularly known as the Boy Scout Engineers, were gathered in the meeting room at headquarters. In fact, they had been literally driven there when the Woodbridge Academy let out at halt past two on Friday afternoon. You see, it was raining so hard that there was no other place to go. But, then, the old machine shop was the best place in the world for the boys, rain or shine, so that didn't make much difference. What really did matter was the monotony of it all. For five days now the region round about Woodbridge had been literally deluged with a spring downpour. Otter Creek had swollen to twice its normal size, springs were gushing from most unheard-of places and rivulets were racing down hillsides that usually were, to quote Nipper Knapp, "dry as a smoked herring."
"By George, I do wish this rain would let up. What we want is a chance to get out of doors a bit. I haven't stretched my legs in a week," said Romper Ryan glumly, as he gazed out of the big front window.
"Well," said fat Babe Wilson with his usual sarcasm, "if it don't dry up soon the whole blamed world is liable to shrink." Then, as an after thought, he added, "That might bring St. Cloud City so near Woodbridge that we could at least see the circus parade."
"Aw-w, what'er you bringing up that circus subject for again," said Jiminy Gordon, who didn't like to be reminded of the pleasure he had decided to forego.
"Yes," chorused two others who were equally reluctant about facing the sacrifice they had voted themselves; "forget about that blooming circus."
"Say, you fellows needn't hop on me just because I want to have a little fun with you," protested Babe. "I'm as good a sport as any of you. Don't you suppose I agreed when you voted not to go to the circus. I know it would be foolish to spend most of the thirty dollars in the troop's treasury for a day's outing. You needn't talk, Jiminy Gordon; you were the first one to suggest the idea last week when you saw the man posting the bills."
"Yes, I know I was," said Jiminy, somewhat embarrassed, "but I said it without thinking. When we got to discussing it last night I saw how ridiculous it was. By Jiminy, I'd rather see the money go toward a new camping outfit, or the lumber for the troop's power boat. I wouldn't spend that thirty dollars to see three circuses, I wouldn't."
Judging from the conversation, the circus question referred to had died a hard death. To tell the truth, its demise had really been quite painful so far as most of the boys were concerned, for all of them had rather liked the idea of being able to enjoy "the World's Mightiest, Most