Chapter 16: The Fire
Later on in the evening a traveler's horse was brought in
by the second hostler, and while he was cleaning him
a young man with a pipe in his mouth lounged into the stable to gossip.
"I say, Towler," said the hostler, "just run up the ladder into the loft and
put some hay down into this horse's rack, will you? only lay down your pipe."
"All right," said the other, and went up through the trapdoor;
and I heard him step across the floor overhead and put down the hay.
James came in to look at us the last thing, and then the door was locked.
I cannot say how long I had slept, nor what time in the night it was,
but I woke up very uncomfortable, though I hardly knew why. I got up;
the air seemed all thick and choking. I heard Ginger coughing
and one of the other horses seemed very restless; it was quite dark,
and I could see nothing, but the stable seemed full of smoke,
and I hardly knew how to breathe.
The trapdoor had been left open, and I thought that was the place
it came through. I listened, and heard a soft rushing sort of noise
and a low crackling and snapping. I did not know what it was, but there was
something in the sound so strange that it made me tremble all over.
The other horses were all awake; some were pulling at their halters,
At last I heard steps outside, and the hostler who had put up
the traveler's horse burst into the stable with a lantern,
and began to untie the horses, and try to lead them out;
but he seemed in such a hurry and so frightened himself
that he frightened me still more. The first horse would not go with him;
he tried the second and third, and they too would not stir.
He came to me next and tried to drag me out of the stall by force;
of course that was no use. He tried us all by turns
and then left the stable.