It was many years ago, and he was 6 or 7 years old. It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Dan was playing in Mrs. Prothero’s garden with her son Jim. Dan was afraid of Mrs. Prothero because she always looked strict and harsh. She never invited him to the house. But her son Jim was different. The boys were playing cat hunters: they made lots of snowballs and prepared to attack the cats. Dan and Jim felt cold waiting for the cats to come over the garden wall. But none of them had appeared yet.
Suddenly the boys heard a loud cry from the house. At first they thought it was Mrs. Prothero’s white cat that was their main enemy. Soon the cry repeated and grew louder. Now the boys understood that it was Mrs. Prothero herself, and she was shouting ’Fire!’
The boys ran down towards the house. The door was wide open with grey smoke coming from inside. Something was burning. Mrs. Prothero desperately called for help and for Mr. Prothero, who was obviously sleeping in another room. He always slept after lunch with a newspaper over his face. Finally, Mr. Prothero appeared in the clouds of smoke in the doorway. “What a fine Christmas!” he said waving his hand like an orchestra conductor. Mrs. Prothero asked him to call the fire brigade, but he doubted that they would be available because of the holiday. But he sent the boys to the telephone box.
Dan and Jim rushed out of the house. The adventure seemed to be better than cat hunting. Jim suggested also calling the police and the ambulance. But they called only the fire brigade. The fire truck and three tall men in helmets arrived just as the boys returned to Mrs. Prothero’s house. It was the noisiest and most unusual Christmas Eve they had ever had.
The firemen started the pump and the water ran into the house. When it was all over, Mr. and Mrs. Prothero were standing in their wet and smoky room with a grey Christmas tree in the middle. The room looked a complete mess. Mrs. Prothero opened the oven and took out a burnt cake. She was in tears – it had been a horrible Christmas.
Just as the firemen were going to leave, Jim’s aunt, Miss Prothero, came back home. She looked surprised at the crowd of neighbours but did not give way to panic. She opened a colourful paper bag and produced a nice Christmas cake from the nearest shop. Then she smiled and said, “Merry Christmas! Everything will be all right!”