THE FIREMAN'S WEDDING
W. A. Eaton
What are we looking at, guv'nor?
Well, you see those carriages there?
It's a wedding... that's what it is, sir;
And aren't they a beautiful pair?
They don't want no marrow-bone music,
There's the fireman's band come to play;
It's a fireman that's going to get married,
And you don't see such sights every day!
They're in the church now, and we're waiting
To give them a cheer as they come;
And the grumbler that wouldn't join in it
Deserves all his life to go dumb.
They won't be out for a minute,
So if you've got time and will stay,
I'll tell you right from the begining
About this 'ere wedding to-day.
One night I was fast getting drowsy,
And thinking of going to bed,
When I heard such a clattering and shouting-
'That sounds like an engine!' I said.
So I jumped up and opened the window:
'It's a fire sure enough, wife,' says I;
For the people were running and shouting,
And the red glare quite lit up the sky.
I kicked off my old carpet slippers
And on with my boots in a jiff;
I hung up my pipe in the corner
Without waiting to have the last whiff.
The wife, she just grumbled a good 'un,
But I didn't take notice of that,
For I on with my coat in a minute,
And sprang down the stairs like a cat!
I followed the crowd, and it brought me
In front of the house in a blaze;
At first I could see nothing clearly,
For the smoke made it all of a haze.
The firemen were shouting their loudest,
And unwinding great lengths of hose;
The 'peelers' were pushing the people,
And treading on everyone's toes.
I got pushed with some more in a corner,
Where I couldn't move, try as I might;
But little I cared for the squeezing
So long as I had a good sight.
Ah, sir, it was grand! but 'twas awful!
The flames leaped up higher and higher:
The wind seemed to get underneath them,
Till they roared like a great blacksmith's fire!
"I was just looking round at the people,
With their faces lit up by the glare,
When I heard some one cry, hoarse with terror,
'Oh, look! there's a woman up there!'
I shall never forget the excitement,
My heart beat as loud as a clock;
I looked at the crowd, they were standing
As if turned to stone by the shock.
And there was the face at the window,
With its blank look of haggard despair-
Her hands were clasped tight on her bosom,
And her white lips were moving in prayer.
The staircase was burnt to a cinder,
There wasn't a fire escape near;
But a ladder was brought from the builder's,
And the crowd gave a half-fightened cheer.
The ladder was put to the window,
While the flames were still raging below:
I looked, with my heart in my mouth, then,
To see who would offer to go!
When up sprang a sturdy young fireman,
As a sailor would climb up a mast;
We saw him go in at the window,
And we cheered as though danger were past.
"We saw nothing more for a moment,
But the sparks flying round us like rain;
And then as we breathlessly waited,
He came to the window again.
And on his broad shoulder was lying,
The face of that poor fainting thing,
And we gave him a cheer as we never
Yet gave to a prince or a king.
He got to the top of the ladder...
I can see him there now, noble lad!
And the flames underneath seemed to know it,
For they leaped at that ladder like mad.
"But just as he got to the middle,
I could see it begin to give way,
For the flames had got hold of it now, sir!
I could see the thing tremble and sway.
He came but a step or two lower,
Then sprang with a cry to the ground;
And then, you would hardly believe it,
He stood with the girl safe and sound.
"I took off my old hat and waved it:
I couldn't join in with the cheer,
For the smoke had got into my eyes, sir,
And I felt such a choking... just here.
And now, sir, they're going to get married,
I bet you, she'll make a good wife;
And who has the most right to have her?
Why, the fellow that saved her young life!
A beauty! ah, sir, I believe you!
Stand back, lads! stand back! here they are!
We'll give them the cheer that we promised,
Now, lads, with a hip, hip, hurrah!