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Life in the Red Brigade London Fire Brigade   By: (1825-1894)

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Wet, worn and weary with water squeaking in his boots, and a mixture of charcoal and water streaking his face to such an extent that, as a comrade asserted, his own mother would not have known him a stout young man walked smartly one morning through the streets of London towards his own home.

He was tall and good looking, as well as stout, and, although wet and weary, had a spring in his step which proved beyond all question that he was not worn out. As the comrade above referred to would have said, "there was plenty of go in him still." His blue and belted coat, sailor's cap, and small hatchet, with the brass helmet swinging by its chin strap on his left arm, betokened him a member of "The Red Brigade," a London fireman one of those dare anything characters who appear to hold their lives remarkably cheap, for they carry these lives in their hands, as the saying goes, night and day; who seem to be able to live in smoke as if it were their native element; who face the flames as if their bodies were made of cast iron; and whose apparent delight in fire is such that one is led to suspect they must be all more or less distantly connected with the family of Salamander.

The young man's expression of countenance, as far as it could be discerned through the charcoal and water, was hearty, and his name Dashwood was in keeping with his profession. The comrade, whose opinion we have already quoted, was wont to say that he ought to change it to Dashwater, that being his chief occupation in life. We need scarcely say that this comrade was rather fond of his joke.

Arrived at a small street, not far from the Regent Circus, young Dashwood entered a fire station there, and found the comrade above referred to in the act of disposing himself on a narrow tressel bed, on which there was no bedding save one blanket. The comrade happened to be on duty that night. It was his duty to repose on the tressel bedstead, booted and belted, ready at a moment's notice to respond to "calls." Another fireman lay sleeping at his side, on another tressel bed, similarly clothed, for there were always two men on duty all night at that station. The guard room, or, as it was styled, the "lobby," in which they lay, was a very small room, with a bright fire in the grate, for it was winter; a plain wooden desk near the window; a plain deal table near the door, on which stood four telegraphic instruments; and having the walls ornamented with a row of Wellington boots on one side, and a row of bright brass helmets on the other, each helmet having a small hatchet suspended by a belt below it.

The comrade, who looked very sleepy, glanced at a small clock, whose tick was the only sound that fell upon the ear, and whose hands indicated the hour of half past two.

On hearing the door open, the comrade, whose name was Bob Clazie, raised himself on one elbow.

"Ah, Joe, that you?" he said, with a somewhat violent yawn.

"All that's left of me, anyhow," replied Joe Dashwood, as he hung up his helmet and axe on his own particular peg. "Bin much doin', Bob?"

"Not much," growled Bob; "but they don't give a poor fellow much chance of a sleep with them telegraphs. Roused me four times already within the last hour stops for chimbleys."

"Ha! very inconsiderate of 'em," said Dashwood, turning towards the door. "It's time I had a snooze now, so I'll bid 'ee good night, Bob."

Just as he spoke, one of the sharp little telegraphic bells rang viciously. He waited to ascertain the result while Clazie rose quickly but not hurriedly and went to read the instrument with sleepy eyes.

"Another stop for a chimbley," he muttered, with a remonstrative growl. By this he meant that the head office in Watling Street had telegraphed that a chimney had gone on fire in some part of London; that it was being looked after, and that he and his comrades were to stop where they were and pay no attention to it, even although some one should rush into the office like a maniac shouting that there was a fire in that particular place... Continue reading book >>

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