This speech was received with great applause, mixed with cries of:
"That's the talk! "He's a good fellow, anyway, if he _is_ a teetotaler!" "Drink his health!" "Give him a rouser, and no heeltaps!"
Glasses were handed around, and everybody on the platform drank Angelo's health, while the house bellowed forth in song:
For he's a jolly good fel-low, For he's a jolly good fel-low, For he's a jolly good fe-el-low, Which nobody can deny.
Tom Driscoll drank. It was his second glass, for he had drunk Angelo's the moment that Angelo had set it down. The two drinks made him very merry--almost idiotically so, and he began to take a most lively and prominent part in the proceedings, particularly in the music and catcalls and side remarks.
The chairman was still standing at the front, the twins at his side. The extraordinarily close resemblance of the brothers to each other suggested a witticism to Tom Driscoll, and just as the chairman began a speech he skipped forward and said, with an air of tipsy confidence, to the audience:
"Boys, I move that he keeps still and lets this human philopena snip you out a speech."
The descriptive aptness of the phrase caught the house, and a mighty burst of laughter followed.
Luigi's southern blood leaped to the boiling point in a moment under the sharp humiliation of this insult delivered in the presence of four hundred strangers. It was not in the young man's nature to let the matter pass, or to delay the squaring of the account. He took a couple of strides and halted behind the unsuspecting joker. Then he drew back and delivered a kick of such titanic vigor that it lifted Tom clear over the footlights and landed him on the heads of the front row of the Sons of Liberty.
Even a sober person does not like to have a human being emptied on him when he is not going any harm; a person who is not sober cannot endure such an attention at all. The nest of Sons of Liberty that Driscoll landed in had not a sober bird in it; in fact there was probably not an entirely sober one in the auditorium. Driscoll was promptly and indignantly flung on the heads of Sons in the next row, and these Sons passed him on toward the rear, and then immediately began to pummel the front row Sons who had passed him to them. This course was strictly followed by bench after bench as Driscoll traveled in his tumultuous and airy flight toward the door; so he left behind him an ever-lengthening wake of raging and plunging and fighting and swearing humanity. Down went group after group of torches, and presently above the deafening clatter of the gavel, roar of angry voices, and crash of succumbing benches, rose the paralyzing cry of "_fire!_"
The fighting ceased instantly; the cursing ceased; for one distinctly defined moment, there was a dead hush, a motionless calm, where the tempest had been; then with one impulse the multitude awoke to life and energy again, and went surging and struggling and swaying, this way and that, its outer edges melting away through windows and doors and gradually lessening the pressure and relieving the mass.
The fireboys were never on hand so suddenly before; for there was no distance to go this time, their quarters being in the rear end of the market house, There was an engine company and a hook-and-ladder company. Half of each was composed of rummies and the other half of anti-rummies, after the moral and political share-and-share-alike fashion of the frontier town of the period. Enough anti-rummies were loafing in quarters to man the engine and the ladders. In two minutes they had their red shirts and helmets on-- they never stirred officially in unofficial costume--and as the mass meeting overhead smashed through the long row of windows and poured out upon the roof of the arcade, the deliverers were ready for them with a powerful stream of water, which washed some of them off the roof and nearly drowned the rest. But water was preferable to fire, and still the stampede from the windows continued, and still the pitiless drenching assailed it until the building was empty; then the fireboys mounted to the hall and flooded it with water enough to annihilate forty times as much fire as there was there; for a village fire company does not often get a chance to show off, and so when it does get a chance, it makes the most of it. Such citizens of that village as were of a thoughtful and judicious temperament did not insure against fire; they insured against the fire company.