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THE BOILER CLEANERS
 IN the engine room of a great machine shop
in Indiana, William Phelps and
another man are cleaning a boiler.
It is night. The machinery is at a
standstill. Engineers and firemen have
gone home. Besides Phelps and his companion
there is not another man in the room.
The boiler which they are cleaning has
not been in use for some days. The
water has been drawn from it. It is
waiting for repairs. But beneath its
companions in the adjoining room the
fires are still glowing red, and the
steam sizzles shrilly from beneath their
The two men are inside of the boiler.
To get there they have been obliged
to creep through a small, round opening
on the upper side. This opening
is barely large enough to admit the body
of a slender man. Through it
passes all the air which the cleaners
can have while working at this
unpleasant task. Beneath it hangs a
 lantern which gives them all the light
they are thought to need.
They are busy with their scrubbing
brushes and scrapers, removing
the lime with which the interior of the
boiler has become coated. They
are accustomed to the work, and they do
not mind the dimness of the
light, the heaviness of the air, the
cramping discomfort of the place.
As for danger, what danger could there
be inside of an empty boiler?
Suddenly there is a strange, hissing
sound at the farther end of the
boiler. Then a cloud of hot steam
begins to fill the space around
"What's that?" cries William Phelps,
starting quickly up.
Through some sort of accident a valve
has been opened in one of
the large pipes which connect this
boiler with another in the adjoining
room. The scalding vapor is pouring
through in a steady stream.
William Phelps is nearest to the opening
which is the only means of
escape. He may save himself if he will
act quickly. But, no; he steps
aside and cries: "Out with you, Jim!
 Jim's body entirely fills the opening.
He wriggles slowly through,
almost paralyzed with fear and the pain
of the scalding steam. He
shouts the alarm. Watchmen in the
near-by rooms hear him, and come
with helping hands to lift him out.
But where is William Phelps? The boiler
is filled with steam. He has
only enough strength remaining to push
his head through the opening.
Then he loses all consciousness.
The men seize hold of his shoulders and
pull him out. From his neck
to the soles of his feet he is as
thoroughly scalded as though he had
been dipped in boiling water.
They lay him on the floor. They apply
restoratives. They send for a
In a little while he opens his eyes.
"Jim," he gasps, "I'm glad you got out
safe. It was your right to go first:
you have a wife and child. And I—I'm
only Bill Phelps."
Jim turns away, weeping.
The next moment the surgeon arrives.
"Too late," he says, as he looks
at the silent form before him. "No man
can live after such a bath as