Rescue At Night

     Joan sat at the dining-room table, busy with her homework. Her older brother, Bill, was reading a book in the living room. Four little brothers and sisters were already sound asleep in the large bedroom at the back of the Joan sat at the dining-room table, busy with her homework. Her older brother, Bill, was reading a book in the living room. Four little brothers and sisters were already sound asleep in the large bedroom at the back of the house. The whole house was still and quiet.

     Presently Joan finished studying and leaned back in her chair, stretching her arms and yawning widely. She then gathered her work together neatly and stacked her notebook and schoolbooks, ready to take to school the next morning. She got up from the table then shivered and pulled her sweater closer about her shoulders.

     "Br-r-r! I’m cold!" Joan said in a loud whisper to Bill.

     "I am too," Bill replied, looking up from his book. "Dad’s been having trouble with that old furnace in the basement. It doesn’t heat right. He said he’ll have it fixed as soon as we have the money.

     "Hope that’s soon," Joan said, buttoning her sweater. "This old house always seems cold." She walked to the window and looked out. "Wonder when Mother and Dad will come back from Aunt Jane’s?"

     "It should be soon; they never stay late," Bill answered. Then he sniffed the air and exclaimed, "I smell smoke!"

     Joan stepped back from the window and sniffed too. "So do I!" she cried.

     "Must be from the furnace in the basement," Bill said. "I’ll go and check it." He got up and went quickly down the center hall, where a door opened into steps leading to the basement. As he flung open the door, he looked down into the dark basement. At once strong smoke swept up the stairway and set him to coughing. He slammed the door shut quickly and ran back to Joan.

     "The furnace must have started a fire in the basement," Bill said, trying to keep calm. "Get the little ones out of bed while I call the fire department."

     Joan ran to the back bedroom where their brothers and sisters were sleeping. As she tried to waken them, she could hear Bill’s voice on the telephone, calling the fire department.

     Strange crackling sounds could be heard from the basement now, and hot smoke was drifting through all the house. Little tongues of flame were licking up into some of the floor vents.

     Joan wakened the sleepy children, who sat up in bed, rubbing their eyes and wondering what the excitement was all about. Trying not to frighten them, Joan finally got all four out of bed and hurried them into the center hall. Bill met her, and they tried to get to the back door, but there was fire in the kitchen. The front of the house was filled with heavy smoke.

     "We must get the children back into the bedroom," Bill shouted above the crackling noise of the fire, as he helped Joan. Then he said quickly, "You run out the front way and get under the bedroom window. I’ll hand the little ones out to you!""

     Joan started, then stopped and shouted. "The window’s too high! I can’t reach it from the ground!"

     "All right, I’ll go, and I’ll help you out too!" Then he disappeared through the heavy smoke toward the front door.

     Joan closed the door to the back bedroom to keep out the smoke. There was not too much in there, yet, but smoke was beginning to creep through the closed vent from the basement.

     The children were coughing and crying, as Joan led them to the window. "Hold on to me," she cautioned, and they clutched her skirt as she reached up to open the window. She took a deep breath of fresh night air and looked outside for Bill. "Sh-h-h!" she said to the children. "You’ll be outside in a minute." It was hard to be calm, with smoke rapidly filling the room.

     Bill finally appeared under the window, and Joan first picked up little two-year-old Johnny and reached far out of the window to hand him to Bill. Then came three-year-old Betsy. Joan was coughing from the smoke now, and her eyes were smarting so that she could hardly see. She turned back inside and felt for five-year-old Ralph and lifted him out the window. Then the next was seven-year-old Jane, who was able to help herself through the window, and Joan held her arms while Bill set her on the ground.

     Smoke was everywhere, even pouring out the window, and Joan was choked by it. Tears filled her burning eyes, and she doubled over in a fit of coughing. She heard Bill’s voice calling, "Come on, Joan! Get out!" It seemed that he sounded so far away, as she groped to find the window again. But, oh, the smoke was choking her, and her eyes were smarting so! Then she felt herself falling, falling, down, down.

     "Joan! Joan!" It was Bill’s voice again, much closer this time. "Can you hear me, Sis?" he said urgently.

     Then Joan heard another voice, a deeper, stronger voice. "She’s all right, Son. Just a little too much smoke." It was Dad’s voice! Joan opened her eyes and looked up to see her father leaning over her. She could see Mother there, too, standing behind him. And there were all sorts of shouts and strange noises. They were coming from the men of the fire department, trying to save the burning house. Joan then realized that she was lying on a blanket on the ground, under the cold night sky, with Dad’s overcoat covering her.

     "What happened?" she asked groggily, trying to sit up.

     "You didn’t come out after handing me the children," said Bill, "and just then Mother and Dad came home. Dad put a wet handkerchief over his face and went into the house and got you."

    "Thanks, Dad," Joan said to her father, smiling weakly.

     "I’m so glad we came home right then," Dad said, laying his hand gently on her shoulder. "We think you were very brave to stay inside to help the little ones out."

     Joan looked to see Mother standing close by, holding little Johnny and with the other three children clinging to her. "I’m so glad they’re safe," Joan said. Then she looked past her father to the burning house, which was still smoking and smoldering. "Can they save our house?" she asked, with tears in her eyes.

     "Not completely," Dad answered, "but we do have some fire insurance. And even if our home was burned, God was still good to us, because all of our family is safe. We must be thankful for that." Dad put his arm around Bill and said, "We’re proud of you both for your bravery and quick thinking. We’ll go to Aunt Jane’s house till we decide what to do about our house."

     Then Bill and Joan looked straight at each other and said a silent prayer of thanks that God had helped them save their brothers and sisters from the fire.

 Ellen E. Morrison