Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/176

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elements and the oxygen gas in the water burned vehemently on its own account. The water, in fact, added fuel to the flames. As soon as I made sure of this, I saw that the town was doomed and walked my pony back a block or two to avoid flying sparks.

This must have been about three or four o'clock in the morning. I had gone back about three blocks when I came across a man talking to a group of men at the corner of a street. He was the one man of insight and sense I met that night. He seemed to me a typical, down-east Yankee: he certainly talked like one. The gist of his speech was as follows:

"I want you men to come with me right now to the Mayor and tell him to give orders to blow up at least two blocks deep all along this side of the town; then, if we drench the houses on the other side, the flames will be stopped: there's no other way."

"That's sense", I cried, "that's what ought to be done at once. There's no other way of salvation; for the heat is disintegrating the water and the oxygen in the water is blazing fiercely, adding fuel to the flames."

"Gee! that's what I have been preaching for the last hour", he cried.

A little later fifty or sixty citizens went to the Mayor, but he protested that he had no power to blow up houses and evidently, too, shirked the responsibility. He decided, however, to call in some of the councilmen and see what could be done. Meanwhile I went off and wandered towards the Randolph Street bridge and there saw a scene that appalled me.

Some men had caught a thief, they said, plundering one of the houses and they proceeded to string the poor wretch up to a lamp-post.

In vain I pleaded for his life, declared that he ought to be tried, that it was better to let off ten