Bruce tells Laura the story of his visit to Mr. Dexter’s house.

Bruce, who was of a rather practical turn of mind, was amused at the excitement of his more imaginative companion. Up to this moment he had simply felt a curiosity to learn why it was that the Dexter homestead seemed familiar to him, and it had never occurred to him that he had any particular “rights” to be restored to him, or that any grave question depended on the fancied resemblance of the place to the one pictured in his memory.

“I would like very much to learn something about Mr. Dexter and his old house, but I don’t know how to go about it. I always lived in the country, and, outside the men in our fire company, I have no friends or even acquaintances in New York. You have lived here all your life, and everything seems natural to you, but you’ve no idea what a big, lonely, desolate place this city is to a boy like me who comes here as a stranger.”

“I’ll tell you what,” exclaimed Laura suddenly, “when my papa comes home to-night—you know you’re going to stay to dinner with us—you ask him about Mr. Dexter but don’t tell him that you said a word to me about it. Maybe he’ll tell you something that will be of 74some use to you, but don’t say a word to him about what you told me about your visit there. We must keep that for our own secret, and I shall be mad if you tell him or Harry or anybody else, and if I get mad I won’t help you to find out the mystery of it. Now, you must do just what I tell you or else I won’t like you any more.”

“What secret are you talking about?” demanded some one close beside them in a voice so loud that both Laura and Bruce started in surprise from their seats. It was Harry who had just been released by his tutor and had been, according to his own account, hunting them all over the grounds.

Laura put her finger on her lips and threw a significant glance at Bruce, and so it happened that Harry learned nothing of what they had been talking about for fully half an hour.

At six o’clock, Mr. Van Kuren reached home. He shook hands with Bruce and told him he was glad to see him and thanked him for his kindness to Harry.

Bruce noticed that both children appeared to stand in wholesome awe of their parent, obeying him with the utmost alacrity and conversing only in low tones while he was present. This was not surprising to the young visitor, 75for Mr. Van Kuren impressed him as a stern, silent, self-contained man, who might be very severe if he chose to. But his face was not unkind, and in the few remarks that he addressed to his guest he showed a certain interest in his welfare and a desire to make him feel as much at home as it was possible for a shy, country boy, unaccustomed to the ways of society, to feel in a splendid house like the one in which he found himself now. But all idea of asking him about the Dexter mansion left his mind, and although he found himself alone with him for a few moments before dinner was announced, he simply did not dare to broach the subject that was uppermost in his mind.

The dinner to which he sat down seemed to Bruce a very grand affair. It was served in a large, square room, wainscoted in dark wood and furnished in a rich, simple and tasteful fashion. The round table was covered with a white damask cloth of beautiful texture and the glass and silver seemed to have been polished with wonderful care. Colored wax candles with silk shades shed a soft light. Besides Mr. Van Kuren and his two children there were two other persons in the company; Mr. Reed, the tutor, a tall, grave young man who talked but little, and seemed to watch 76Harry with much care, and a delicate, nervous lady, a sister of Mr. Van Kuren’s, whom the children called Aunt Emma, and who retired to her apartment as soon as the cloth was removed.

For such a fine dinner it seemed to Bruce that every thing moved very easily and quietly. There were two men in black coats and white ties who went about noiselessly serving the guests and removing the dishes. Mr. Van Kuren, Miss Van Kuren and Mr. Reed drank wine, but there were no glasses at either Harry’s or Laura’s plate. Mr. Van Kuren asked Bruce if he would like a little claret, and he declined. He began to explain why he did not wish any, but stopped suddenly, feeling perhaps that he was saying too much, but Mr. Van Kuren helped him out with a kindly, smiling inquiry, and he went on: “Chief Trask of my battalion advised me not to drink anything, because he told me that when it was known of a young fireman that he did not take a drop of anything it was a great aid to him and helped him to get along.”

“Very good indeed,” said Mr. Van Kuren approvingly, “at any rate you’re too young now to need it.”

77At first, the young visitor was not quite sure of himself and did not know exactly what to do with all the forks that he found beside his plate, but by carefully watching his host he managed to acquit himself with credit; and when they arose from the table he realized that he had not made one single “bad break” as Harry would have called it.

“Did you ask Papa about the Dexter house?” whispered Laura at the first opportunity.

“No,” replied the boy simply, “I was too much afraid of him; after what you told about his getting mad, I wouldn’t have said anything about Mr. Dexter for a hundred dollars.”

Soon after dinner Bruce took his leave, having promised his new friends that he would pay them another visit as soon as he could. Ashe was saying good-bye, Laura slipped into his hand a small piece of paper, and when he opened it in the elevated train he found the following note:

“I have a splendid idea and will let you know about it very soon. I think it will help you to solve the mystery of the haunted house.

One afternoon Mr. Peter Dewsnap was seated in the great library in which he passed most of his leisure time, busily engaged on a work in which he had taken a great deal of interest. A tap on the door interrupted his labor, and in response to his invitation Bruce Decker entered the room, cap in hand, and saluted him.

“Ah, it’s you, young Decker, is it?” said the old gentleman, as he rose to greet his visitor. “Well, how is the chief to-day?”

“He’s very well,” answered the boy, in hesitating tones, “and the fact is it was at his advice that I accepted your invitation to come up and see your library.”

“Very glad to see you, indeed, my young friend,” responded the old gentleman, cordially. “As you said yourself the other day I’m an old fire crank, and I like nothing better than talking to young men of your age about what I think is the most important branch of public service in the country. Sit down here, Decker, and if you’ve an hour to spare it won’t do you any harm to hear an old man talk about a subject that’s nearest to his heart.”

Bruce seated himself in one of the big leather arm-chairs and glanced about the room. He had never seen as many books in handsome bindings in all his life, and he was particularly struck with the fact that one side of the room was completely filled with oaken shelves containing only books bound in red morocco. About the room were also scattered a number of old colored prints representing, for the most part, pictures of fires and of engines.

“Those books in red constitute my fire library,” said Mr. Dewsnap, “and I am proud to say that it is one of the best, if not the very best, in this country. I have books in French, German and English, for you know that the service has a much greater literature than most people have any idea of.”

Then Mr. Dewsnap lit a cigar, puffed thoughtfully at it for a moment or two, and went on: “The trouble with most of the boys who want to become firemen is that they are so carried away with the idea of jumping out of bed at a moment’s notice and tearing away through the streets at full gallop, and then turning streams on the flames and climbing up ladders and all the rest of it, that they entirely 80forget the fact that there is a serious side to it all, and that being a good fireman involves more in the way of training, both physical and mental, than almost any other public career that is open to them.

“As I told you the other day, people have been in the habit, or to speak more correctly, were in the habit during the ante-bellum days, of regarding firemen as a lot of toughs and loafers who got together to have a good time and a big hurrah, and sometimes even for political purposes, and comparatively few really knew what a fireman’s life meant. Well, when you look at those books there, many of which were written by people of the highest eminence in science or literature, you realize that there must be something in the art of overcoming the most destructive and dangerous of all the elements to excite the attention and enlist the brains of these men. Now take this book for example and glance through it.”

Bruce took a large flat volume which Mr. Dewsnap handed him, opened it, and glanced attentively at some of its copper plates. They represented men in quaint, old-fashioned costumes, engaged in putting out fires by the most primitive of means, chiefly by leather buckets passed from hand to hand. The book, 81as Mr. Dewsnap explained, was printed in 1735 in Holland by Jan vander Heiden, the first inventor of flexible hose. It was an exhaustive treatise on conflagrations and the art of extinguishing them.

“What did they make the hose of in those days?” asked Bruce, as he studied the old-fashioned prints with deep attention.

“Leather,” replied Mr. Dewsnap. “And leather continued to be used until forty years ago. In fact, it’s used to a great extent to this very day in the smaller towns and cities where fires are of rare occurrence. There are some men who claim that it is better than rubber because it lasts longer and does not rot so easily, but I just showed you that book because its pictures would give you some idea of the enormous advancement that has been made in the last century and a half. Here’s another book written in German that is devoted entirely to the burning of the Theatre Comique in Paris a few years ago. Four books in all have been written and published on that subject alone, but strange to say, no book has yet been written in regard to the burning of the Brooklyn Theatre, which was a catastrophe involving an infinitely greater loss of life. It is interesting, by the way, to know that every great fire 82teaches us some important lesson, and the direct result of the Brooklyn Theatre fire was a number of new laws which govern the construction of theatres, and provides for various improvements and appliances for safety that had never been thought of before.”

“Why is it,” inquired Bruce, “that so many of these books seem to be by French, German or English authors, instead of by Americans? It seems to me that as we have the best department in the world, the best books on the subject ought to be by American writers.”

Mr. Dewsnap smiled broadly at the boy’s remark. “That’s a very pertinent question, my lad,” he said, “and the answer to it is simply this: Those foreigners are more given to writing and talking and thinking than we are. Here we go ahead and do things without stopping to write books about them. I’m expecting some foreigners here within a short time, and when they come I shall take them down to call on Chief Trask. If you see them, you will understand what I mean when I speak of the difference between Americans and either Germans or Englishmen.”

“What do you consider the greatest improvement that has been made in the department in your recollection?” asked the boy.

83“Well, to my mind, though I would not have admitted it twenty years ago, I think that the fact that politics has been eliminated from the department is one of the chief things that we have to be thankful for, and I believe that it is almost the first time in the history of the world that a fire department has been run without mixing it with political affairs. Why, before the birth of Christ, the Emperor Pompey once refused to allow a new fire company to be formed in Rome because he knew that it was merely an excuse to get together a new crowd of his political opponents, and in the old days when I used to run with a company, politics and the fire department were very much mixed up. I could give you the names of dozens of men who have reached the highest offices in the city and have climbed all the way up by means of their connection with the fire department. Some of these were good men and others were not. But nowadays when a lad like yourself enters the service he sees nothing ahead of him except that service, and the consequence is if he stays in it he devotes himself to his duties with no object in view except to become chief of the department. At least that’s what he ought to do.

84“But for all its politics and its toughs, the members of the old department had just as much pluck and were just as ready to take the hose nozzle in hand and go right into a burning building as they are to-day. I’ve shown you these books, my boy, because I wanted you to feel that there was a dignity in the service to which you intend to devote yourself, and if you want to rise in it, it must be by hard work, obedience to orders, and constant study. Don’t be afraid to borrow some of these books of me to read when you have nothing else to do. There are plenty of them that are in English that you could learn something from. It’s education nowadays that tells. But I’ve a project in my mind that both Mr. Trask and I have devoted considerable time to, and I hope to live to see the day when it will be carried out. I want to see a school established in which boys like yourself can be trained for the fire department just as they are trained for the navy. My idea would be to take a number of boys every year from the public schools in the city and give them a regular course of training in gymnastics and special scientific studies so that by the time they were twenty-one they would be much better prepared to fight fire than are the young men that usually join the department at that age.”

85“That’s a magnificent idea!” cried Bruce with an enthusiasm that was so hearty and genuine that the old gentleman was delighted, “and I can tell you one thing, and that is you wouldn’t have any difficulty in getting scholars for it. It seems to me that every boy in New York is just as crazy to run to fires as I was when I lived in the country. Why, do you know sir, that every time we start out of quarters there’s such a swarm of young ones in the street that it’s a wonder we don’t run over two or three of them. And besides, boys seem to me to be tougher and more supple than men. There are lots of things I can do in an athletic way that Tom Brophy can’t and he’s twenty-five years old.”

“Well,” said the old gentleman pleasantly, “you ask some of the lads of your acquaintance how they’d like to join such a school as that and put down on paper any ideas you may have regarding it. Then the next time I see you we will talk them over.”

As Bruce walked slowly homeward after one of the pleasantest hours he had spent since his arrival in the city, he felt a new pride which he had never known before, in the great department which it was his wish to serve. The fact that fire departments had existed since the 86earliest times had never occurred to him, and he determined to devote all his leisure time to a study of Mr. Dewsnap’s pet scheme of a training school in the hope that he might be able to render the kindly old gentlemen some service which he would appreciate.

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For fully a minute Bruce stood looking at the house.

One bright afternoon in May, Bruce found himself riding beside the chief up Fifth avenue, and as they rode the elder pointed out to him the principal public buildings, gave brief histories of some of the well-known landmarks and explained how the great fortunes had been rolled up which enabled some men to live in Fifth avenue palaces with practically unlimited incomes.

Bruce wondered how it was that his guide should happen to know so much about the fashionable part of the city, even more in fact than he seemed to know about the poorer quarters. It may have been that Chief Trask saw what was uppermost in the boy’s mind, for he said, as if in answer to a question, “I have to know about every part of the city, and it is particularly valuable for me to keep the run of what we call the brown stone district. The men who live here own property all over the city—factories, apartment houses, tenement houses and private dwellings—besides what they live in themselves. If there is ever a riot 28in the city, and I hope there will never be another one, the mob will make a rush for Fifth avenue. There are the Vanderbilt houses, those big brown buildings opposite the Cathedral. If fire were to consume them it would be a loss to the whole city, because they’ve got pictures and statues and books in them that could never be replaced. And my idea is that in time those valuable things will find their way into the Metropolitan Museum or some other public institution where they will be safe from fire and thieves, and can be seen by everybody.”

“Do they often have fires in these big brown stone houses?” asked Bruce.

“Not very often,” replied Mr. Trask, “but they have them sometimes in the hotels and fashionable apartment houses, and perfect death traps some of those places are. There was one fire in a dwelling-house not long ago that came near proving fatal, and would have if it hadn’t been for our hook and ladder company getting there in time. It wasn’t much of a fire either, just what you might call a little blaze and a good deal of smoke in the third story, but it came near costing a lady her life all the same.”

“How was that?” inquired the boy eagerly.

29“Well” said the Chief, “it happened this way. The alarm came in one afternoon and of course we got right out. Probably if the alarm had told us that it was nothing but a little blaze in an upper room, we wouldn’t have thought so much about getting there quickly, but luckily for all concerned, we got away just as quick as possible, and when we turned the corner into the street the first thing we saw was a big crowd of people dancing around and shouting to a lady who was sitting on a little narrow ledge right under the third story window of her house. The smoke was pouring out of the window just over her head, and she had to sit there crouched down so as to keep from being suffocated. Some of the people were crying but most of them were hollering to her, and most of those who were hollering were telling her to jump. She knew too much for them though, and just sat there as cool and patient as you please, waiting for us to come along and save her. As soon as we could get some of the people out of the way we had a ladder put up against the house and Charley Weyman started up it. As his foot touched the lower rung I saw that the woman was beginning to sway. The excitement and the smoke and all had been too much for her. 30Charley made the best time he could to the top of the ladder, and caught her just as she toppled over. At that moment the window curtains took fire and swung out over her head in a blaze. I really think if we had been four seconds later than we were she would have lost her grip and fallen headlong to the street.”

“Did Mr. Weyman carry her down the ladder in his arms?” inquired Bruce excitedly.

“He carried her down about half-way and then she suddenly braced up, got out of his grasp, and came down the rest of the way herself. It was one of the narrowest escapes I have ever seen. And the lesson that it teaches a fireman is to be always ready for any emergency, and always on time to the half second. Seconds are like weeks in fighting fire.”

For a few moments the two rode along in silence, and then the chief said “I’m going to take you up to headquarters to-day to give you an idea of how the telegraphic part of the service is conducted. The building we are going to is one of the most important in the whole city, and it would be a terrible thing for property owners if it were to be suddenly destroyed.” As he said this he turned off into 67th street, and very soon drew up in front of what looked like an engine house with four or 31five extra stories added to it. Leaving the horse in a covered court-yard beside the tall building, they made their way to the upper floor in which was the elaborate, costly and ingenious telegraphic apparatus employed exclusively by the fire department.

As they entered, a telegraphic operator arose from his desk and came forward to greet them. Chief Trask shook him by the hand, and told him that he had brought the boy up there in order to begin his education in the duties of a fireman.

“That’s good” replied the operator, “and it’s a good thing to begin here for this is what you might call the heart of the whole system. If this part were to stop working, all the rest of it would be paralyzed.”

While he was speaking, the tick of a telegraph instrument was heard, and the operator immediately turned away.

“That’s an alarm from box 323,” said the chief in a low voice, for he had listened to the ticking too. “Now you’ll see him send a dispatch to the companies which are to go out. He sends two dispatches. One to ring the little gong in each engine house, and the other, which acts as a check on the first, to ring on the big gong. The first he sends by means of 32a switch and the second by that machine over there in a glass case. That one acts automatically.”

By this time the operator, having notified the different companies situated in the vicinity of the fire, returned and expressed his willingness to explain the whole system to the young boy. For fully half an hour they remained in the operating room where Bruce saw the careful and systematic manner in which every fire is recorded—they average about ten a day—while by means of a peculiar apparatus on the wall the operator can tell exactly what engine companies are out on duty, and what ones are in their quarters ready to respond to an alarm. In this way he knows what to do in the event of two fires in the same vicinity.

As they were taking their leave Chief Trask stopped in a large room fitted up with various gymnastic appliances: “This,” he said, “is the gymnasium used by the men who wish positions in the department. They come here and practice, and then when the Board sits to determine on their application they show what they can do on the rings, the horizontal bar and the ladder, the same as if they were giving an exhibition at an athletic club. My idea has always been” he continued, as they walked down 33stairs “to have a special training school the same as they have for the Navy, in which boys can be taught to become firemen. Our great trouble is that the men don’t begin this exercising and gymnastics until they’re of age, and it’s very hard for them to acquire activity and quickness. I think boys could be brought up with special reference to entering the fire department, and taught to do all sorts of tricks such as climbing ladders and making high jumps.”

“Oh! I was always good at climbing and things like that,” responded Bruce, “and up in the country there wasn’t a boy anywhere around who could go up a walnut tree quicker than I could, or who dared go as far out on a branch as I would. You’ll find me all right in that part of the business as soon as you give me a show.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” rejoined the chief, “and it won’t be long before I’ll give you a chance to see what you can do.”

His few words had a wonderful effect on Bruce Decker. He had not yet dared to whisper to the chief the hope which he had cherished that he would soon be allowed to go out on the truck and assist in putting out a fire, and now it seemed to him that the moment 34was at hand when he was to have his long sought for chance to distinguish himself. He was in a merry mood that night as he bedded down the horses and washed the Chief’s wagon. How soon would he become a member of the department? How soon would he rise to become Chief of a Battalion?

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Well, Pete, old fellow, I’ve heard of you many a time.

o you see that boy sitting on the curbstone over the way? Well, he’s been there for the last half hour, and I’d just like to know what he’s up to. Run over, Charley, and ask him what he wants.”

It was John Trask, a chief of battalion in the New York Fire Department who addressed these words to his subordinate, Charley Weyman, one pleasant afternoon in early spring, and the boy to whom he referred had been sitting for some time on the curbstone across the street from the hook and ladder company’s quarters, peering anxiously through the open door which afforded him a view of the hook and ladder truck, the horses quietly munching their hay, and, in the rear room, half a dozen firemen seated about a table talking, reading or playing checkers.

The boy, who seemed to be about fifteen years of age, looked as if he had just reached town after a long and weary walk. His clothes were torn and travel-stained, and there was a 2gaunt, hungry look in his face that spoke unmistakably of want and privation. It was this look and the boy’s dejected attitude which had first attracted the chief’s attention for he feared that he might be waiting for a chance to get into the building, and steal what he could lay his hands on.

“There’s something queer about that kid,” he continued, half to himself, as he watched Weyman cross the street and enter into conversation with him. “Hulloa! he’s bringing him over here; he must want to see somebody,” and just then the fireman entered leading the boy with him.

“He says he wants to see you, chief,” said Weyman, seating himself in an arm-chair while the boy stood with his hat in his hand waiting respectfully for the other to address him.

“Well, my boy,” said the chief of battalion in a kindly voice, “what can I do for you?”

“Are you Mr. John Trask, chief of the battalion?” inquired the boy.

“I am” was the reply.

“Well, did you ever have a man here in the company named Frank Decker?”

At the mention of this name a sudden silence fell upon the little group of men who were gathered about the table, newspapers were 3laid aside, the talking ceased, and every eye was turned on the hungry looking, travel-stained boy who stood with his hat in his hand, looking the chief squarely in the face while he put the question.

The chief paused a moment as he adjusted a pair of eye-glasses on his nose, and then answered in a voice that had something of a stern soldierly ring in it: “I knew Frank Decker well, and I wish there were more men on the earth like him. But what have you to do with Frank Decker?”

“My name is Bruce Decker and Frank Decker was my father” replied the boy, still looking the chief squarely in the eye and trying to speak steadily, but there was a little break in his voice as he mentioned his father’s name and a faint quiver in his lower lip as he finished. “Frank Decker’s boy!” exclaimed Weyman springing to his feet, “Why I never knew he had a boy!”

“Where do you come from, young man?” inquired Chief Trask, regarding him now with a new interest and shifting his position so as to get a clear view of the young lad’s face.

“I come from Oswego County way back in the state, where I’ve lived all my life. I got here early this morning and came here because 4I had no other place to go to. I’ve never been in New York before, but father used to tell me about you and a friend of his named Mr. Weyman and so I thought maybe you’d be willing to give me a lift, if only on his account.”

“Upon my word I believe the boy is speaking the truth,” said Chief Trask; “he’s got Frank’s nose and eyes and his straight way of looking at you and—here just turn around a moment, my boy—yes, there it is, that little patch of gray on the back of his head that Frank used to tell us was the birth mark of every Decker that ever was born. Well young man—Bruce you say your name is? I’m glad to see you, and what’s more I’ll be glad to help you, if you need help. Here, give me your hand and sit down beside me.”

Bruce seated himself beside his new friend and then Weyman stepped over and whispered something in the chief’s ear.

“Certainly!” exclaimed that official hastily, “come along with me, boy, and have something to eat; it’s just about dinner time.”

As the two left the truck house the others laid aside their newspapers and games and began an eager discussion of the new arrival, whose father had been, until his death three months before, a member of the company.

5“I heard once that he had a boy somewhere up the country,” said Tom Brophy, “and I’ve no doubt this lad is just what he claims to be, the son of Frank Decker, because he resembles him in every particular. And if he is Frank’s son why we ought to see to it that he has a fair chance to get along here, and not turn him adrift—to make out as best he can. We’re not one of us rich, but we’re not so poor that we can’t spare a dollar now and then for a son of one of the squarest and best men that the department ever had.”

Brophy’s words were received with a degree of enthusiasm and approval that showed plainly that he and his comrades were of one mind as to the course they should pursue in welcoming and looking after the son of their old friend, and until the return of the boy and Chief Trask, they sat talking over the days when Frank Decker was one of the quickest, bravest and most popular men in all the department.

But before proceeding any further with our story, it will be necessary to turn back to the time about twelve years before the appearance of Bruce Decker at the door of the New York truck house, when Frank Decker, a strong, hearty, active man of twenty-five, turned his back on the little village near Lake Ontario, 6where he had just buried his young wife, and, having placed his little boy in the care of some distant relatives, set out for the city in the hope of beginning anew a career which had been broken by financial misfortune and the loss of his wife. Through the influence of an old friend he had obtained an appointment in the fire department, in which service he had distinguished himself by his bravery, coolness and zeal, qualities which served to commend him to the notice of the chief officers of the department, and which would probably have won for him a place at the head of a battalion, had it not been for the awful catastrophe at the burning of the Gothic Hotel on Broadway.

On this occasion Decker arrived, entered the hotel at the command of his chief, and ascended the staircase, in order to save some women who were supposed to be in one of the upper floors. That was the last seen of him, and late that night when the rest of his company had been relieved and were slowly making their way home, they spoke little of anything or anybody, save Frank Decker, who was among the missing and who had gone down before that awful sheet of flame that broke out and swept through the hotel about five minutes after he was seen to enter the building.

7Half a dozen charred bodies were taken from the ruins the next day, but which one of them had once been Frank Decker no one could tell.

And while the father had been at work in the fire department, the child whom he had left in the little village in the northern part of the State, had grown in health, strength and mind, and was now in his sixteenth year, an active, vigorous, straightforward youth, who inherited all his father’s daring and quickness, together with a willingness to learn and a decided taste for books, which had come to him direct from his mother.

During his short life he had cherished but one ambition, which was to become a fireman, and most of the correspondence which he always maintained with his father, had been in regard to the workings of the New York department, and particularly the battalion to which the elder belonged. Once a year the father had returned to his old home on the shore of the great fresh water lake to spend his short vacation with his boy, and during these visits it had been the habit of the two to take long walks and sails together, enjoying themselves after their own fashion, the boy listening with flushed cheeks and bated breath, while his father described to him the life of excitement 8and danger which he led as a member of what he always called, “the greatest fire department in the world.”

From his father’s lips the boy had heard stories of the swift runs to fires, of thrilling midnight rescues, of brave firemen plunging into solid sheets of smoke and flame, and so strong a hold had these stories taken on his mind that his desire to become a fireman himself had slowly grown within him, until it became the one fixed and cherished ambition of his life.

So it happened, naturally enough, that at his father’s death he resolved to make his way to New York and ask John Trask, the chief of his father’s old battalion, to appoint him to a place in the Department.

We have described in an earlier part of this chapter the arrival of Bruce Decker, footsore and travel-stained at the truck house, and his reception at the hands of the chief and his subordinates, and we left him going out for dinner under the guidance of his newly-made friend.

When he returned from the restaurant where he had enjoyed a hearty meal and a long, confidential talk with the chief, he stopped by the stalls in which the horses were standing, stroked the nose of the big gray, and said, without an instant’s hesitation: “Well, Pete, old fellow, I’ve heard of you many a time,” and the horse laid his muzzle on the boy’s shoulder and whinnied softly, as if he were returning the friendly greeting. The men noticed this and exchanged significant glances.

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