“And,” , “she’s picked out the engine-house for it. Yes, sir,—the fire-engine house. No other place was quaint enough. No other place lent itself to decoration probabilities—or somethin’ like that. She turned her back flat on the church an’ went round to empty stores, lookin’ for quaint-ity. One while I thought she’d hev us in the Chinese laundry, she seemed that took with[Pg 120] the tomato-coloured signs on the walls. But, finally, she lit on the engine-house; an’ when she see the big, bare engine-room, with the big, shinin’ engine in it, an’ harnesses hangin’ from them rough board beams in a kind of avenoo, an’ the board walls all streaked down, she spatted her hands an’ ‘lowed we’d hev our Java there. ‘What a dear, quaint place,’ s’s she,—’so flexible!’ She held out about the harnesses bein’ so quaintly picturesque an’ the fire-engine a piece o’ resistance—or somethin’ like that. An’ she rents the room, without ay, yes, no, nor boo. My way of thinkin’, a chairman ought to hev boo for a background, even if she is chairman. That’s where she wants the statue an’ the nut butter an’ the cap an’ gown. Can we borrow ‘em of you?”
“The engine-house!” I repeated incredulously. “You cannot mean the fire-engine house, Calliope?”
“I do,” Calliope said firmly, “the quaint, flexible fire-engine house. They ain’t been a fire in Friendship in over two years, so Mis’ Johnson says we ain’t got that to think of—an’ I donno as we hev. An’ they never use the engine any more, now they’ve got city water, excep’ for fires in the country, and then nobody ever gets in to give the alarm till the house is burned down an’ no need to bother goin’. Even if they do get in in some sort of season, the department has to go to the mayor to get a permit to go outside the city limits. It was so when the Topladys’ barn burned. Timothy told ‘em, when they come gallopin’ up after it was most done smokin’, that if they had held off a little longer they could have been a sight of help to him in shinglin’ the new one. Oh, no, they ain’t much of any danger of our being disturbed by a fire in them two hours to-night. Anyhow, they can’t be a fire. Mis’ Oliver Wheeler Johnson said so.”
We laughed like children as we loaded my “Java” stuffs on the wagon. Calliope was a valiant helper to Mrs. Johnson, and so I told her. She was standing in the wagon box, one arm about my palm, the other free for driving.