“This must be a large fire,” Father said. “Everyone is trying to make their way to the river!” He stopped a mon that was running down the street.
“Pardon me, mister.” He started. “Can you tell me where the fire started?”
“I’m not rightly sure,” the man said. “But I’ve heard rumors that it started near DeKoven Street.”
“DeKoven Street! That’s halfway across the city! Father exclaimed, astounded at how far the fire must have traveled.
“It started lat last night, I believe,”the man said, hurrying away. Alice squirmed when she saw her father’s look. He set his jaw and breathed deep.
“Well, we’ll just have to go down Chicago Ave and cross the bridge. We’ll have to trust God to get us there safely.”
“Let’s pray.” Mother said. And so there on the pavement, in front of the apartment building, the Baker’s knelt down and prayed. People looked on, a little ashamed of themselves. Here they had been hurrying about, trying to save all they could, and thinking they could do it by themselves. But one family remembered the One who controlled the fire.
“Mother, look, is that Townsend St.?” Alice asked. They were making their way trough the thick crowds, trying to reach the bridge.
“Yes, dear. I think that is Townsend St. Why do you ask?” Mother replied, struggling with the bundle of blankets she carried.
“Irene lives in that street! Oh, Mother, what if they don’t know what’s going on? They might wait until it’s to late!” Alice cried. “Oh, can’t I go check and see if they’re there?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m sure they’re all right. You might get lost in the crowds. ” Father said, a little cross.
“But they might still be in their house! Can’t I go check and come RIGHT back here?” she pleaded.
“Oh, all right. But you come back RIGHT HERE. And don’t take long! We don’t have much time!” he said. Alice breathed a word of thanks and dashed into the crowd. She dodged horses and buggies and people. But no matter how hard she pushed, she couldn’t get through. She saw a side street. Then she saw an alley that led to the back end of Townsend St.
“Perfect,” She thought. “I’ll weave my way through.” She ran into the dark, smelly, alley. Garbage was everywhere. Alice muffled a scream when a fat rat scurried in front of her. She hurried along, trying to leave the place as soon as possible. But then, something made her stop. Was that crying she heard? She strained to hear more, but the loud noises of the people and horses blocked any sound. She saw a door that was cracked open. She cautiously peeked inside.
“The crying seems louder in here,” she thought. She went inside and found herself in a rundown apartment building. A sour smell mad Alice cover her nose and mouth. She climbed the creaky steps and on to the second floor. The crying was coming from one of the apartments. She walked up to the door and gulped.
“Rap, rap,” she knocked on the door. No answer. Alice listened carefully. The crying had stopped. She reached for the rusty doorknob and slowly turned it. She pushed open the door and gasped. Three young children sat on the floor, huddled together. Alice just stared with her mouth drooping.
“Who are you?” she finally asked. The oldest child. who was a girl, answered.
“I’m Elizabet Hilby, miss. Who-who are you?”
“I’m Alice Baker. I-I’m sorry for just walking in…I thought I heard crying.” she said.
“Oh, I’m really sorry, miss. That was my sister Ada. I’ve been trying to comfort her, but I don’t rightly know what’s going on,” she siad, her voice quivering.
“There’s a fire! You better get your parents and get going. It’s only a few blocks away!” the girl just sat and stared at Alice and then burst into tears.
“What’s the matter?’ Alice asked, a little sore with herself for making the poor girl cry like that.
“It’s just that-that our mother,” the girl sobbed. "she went to go get daddy from his night job. She left me in charge of the other two,” she cried. Alice was dumbfounded. The children’s mother must have not known about the fire, or she wouldn’t have left them alone. Alice didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t just leave them!
“Well, you and your sisters-what’s their names?” she asked.
“I’m Elizabet and I’m nine. Cora’s seven, and Ada’s five.” Elizabet replied.
“Okay. All of you will have to come with me.” Alice said. Suddenly a terrible thought came to her mind. Her parents! They told her to hurry, and she hadn’t even seen Irene yet! Like a block of ice, it hit her. The noises had stopped. It was all silence. Alice ran to the window and to her dismay, not a person was in sight. Fear gripped inside her. Where was everybody?
“Is something the matter?” Elizabet asked, seeing Alice’s ashen face.