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EARTH, Air, and Water are necessary
conditions of human life; but Fire is the first
great element of civilisation. Fire, the first
medium between the 'cooking animal' and
the wild root and raw flesh-devouring savage;
fire, the best, because the most useful of
servants, and, according to the old proverb,
the worst, because the most tyrannical of
masters; fire, the chief friend of man in
creations of nature and of industrial art, yet
the most potent of all enemies in destruction;
fire, the most brilliant and magnificent object
on the earth, yet the most frightful and
appalling when once it obtains dominion over
man and man's abodes;—to subdue, and
render docile to all needs, this devouring
dragon, and bend his splendid crests, not only
to 'boil the pot' but to lick the dust before
the feet of Science, this is one of the greatest
triumphs of mankind, the results of which are
every year more and more stupendous.

But, amidst all our mastery, we are never
permitted to forget that this illustrious slave
has neither abandoned nor abated one jot of
his original nature. Of this we are but too
constantly reminded. Not to speak of lightning
and volcanic eruptions, the weekly record
of colliery and other mine explosions, of steam-boat
explosions, the burning of ships, and the
dismal transformation to a heap of ashes of
valuable warehouses, costly public edifices, or
private houses, with 'dreadful loss of life,'
need but the slightest mention to excite a
thrill of alarm, or some passing thought of
caution in the mind of every person holding
the smallest stake in the social community.

To meet this sudden emergency, therefore,
and to restore the balance of power, or, rather,
to put down the mutiny of this powerful slave,
and reduce him to his habitual subserviency,
we have the Fire Brigade, divided into four
sections, and having nineteen stations in the
most central quarters of the metropolis. This
includes two 'mighty engines' floating on the

'Of all the rallying words,' says a writer in
Charles Knight's "London," ' whereby multitudes
are gathered together, and their energies impelled
forcibly to one point, that of "Fire!" is, perhaps,
the most startling and the most irresistible. It
levels all distinctions; it sets at nought sleep, and
meals, and occupations, and amusements; it turns
night into day, and Sunday into a "working-day;"
it gives double strength to those who are blessed
with any energy, and paralyses those who have
none; it brings into prominent notice, and
converts into objects of sympathy, those who were
before little thought of, or who were, perhaps,
despised; it gives to the dwellers in a whole huge
neighbourhood the unity of one family.'

But even while we are trimming our
midnight lamp to write this paper, the cry of
'Fire!' suddenly resounds from a distant
street. The heavy boots of a policeman clatter
along beneath our window. The cry is
repeated by several voices, and more feet are
heard hurrying along. The fire is in a squalid
court, leading into a mews which runs close
to the backs of the houses of one side of a
great square. We hastily struggle into an
overcoat, snatch up a hat, and issue forth to
follow the alarming cry.

The tumult sounds in the court; the cry of
'Fire!' is wildly repeated in a woman's voice
from one of the windows of the mews; now
from another window!—now from several.
'Fire! fire!' cry voices of many passengers in
streets, and away scamper the policemen to
the nearest stations of the Fire Brigade, passing
the word to other policemen as they run,
till all the police force in the neighbourhood
are clattering along the pavement, some
towards the scene of the fire, but most of them
either towards an engine-station, to one of the
Fire-escapes of the Royal Society, or to pass
the word to the policeman whose duty it will
be to run to the engine-station next beyond.
By this means of passing the word, somebody
arrives at the gates of the Chief Office of the
Fire Brigade, in Watling Street, and, seizing
the handle of the night-bell, pulls away at it
with the vigour which such events always call

The fireman on duty for the night, immediately
opens the gate, and receives the intelligence,
cutting short all loquacity as much as
possible, and eliciting the spot where the fire
has broken out, and the extent to which it was
raging when the person left. The fireman
then runs to a bell-handle, which he pulls;
and applying his ear to the mouth-piece of a
pipe, hears a voice ask, 'What is it?' (The
fireman hears his own voice sound as if at a
great distance; while the voice actually