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"Lie down instantly! Don't be alarmed! I will save you," said Fred rapidly, as he reached the girl.
He spoke in a tone of authority required by the emergency, and Rose obeyed without question. Her terror gave place to confidence in Fred. Her prompt obedience saved her life. A minute's delay, and it would have been too late.
There was a wild rush to the stage. First among those to reach Fred and the little girl was Mr. Wainwright. He had seen his daughter's peril, and for a moment he had been spellbound, his limbs refusing to act. Had Fred been affected in the same way, the life of Rose would have been sacrificed.
"Are you much hurt, my darling?" he asked, sick with apprehension.
"Just a little, papa," answered Rose, cheerfully. "If it hadn't been for Fred, I don't know what would have happened."
The coat was carefully removed, and it was found that the chief damage had been to the white dress. The little girl's injuries were of small account.
Fortunately there was a physician present, who took Rose in hand, and did what was needed to relieve her.
"It is a miracle that she was saved, Mr. Wainwright," he said. "But for this brave boy——"
"Hush, doctor, I cannot bear to think of it," said Mr. Wainwright with a shudder. "I can never forget what you have done for me and mine," he added, turning to Fred, and wringing his hand. "I won't speak of it now, but I shall always remember it."
Fred blushed and tried to escape notice, but the guests surrounded him and overwhelmed him with congratulations. One little girl, the intimate friend of Rose, even threw her arms round his neck and kissed him, which caused Fred to blush more furiously then ever. But upon the whole he bore himself so modestly that he won golden opinions from all.
The incident put an end to the party. As soon as it was understood that Rose was in no danger, the guests began to take their leave.
George Swain and Fred went out together.
"Fred, you have shown yourself a hero," said his friend warmly.
"You would have done the same thing," said Fred.
"Perhaps I should, but I should not have acted so promptly. That was the important point. You had your wits about you. I was sitting beside you, but before I had time to collect my thoughts you had saved Rose."
"I acted on the impulse of the moment."
"How did you know just what to do—making her lie down, you know?"
"I read an account of a similar case some months since. It came to me in a moment, and I acted upon it."
"If I ever catch fire, I hope you'll be on hand to put me out."
"Oh, yes," laughed Fred. "I'll stand you on your head directly."
"Thank you! It's a good thing to have a considerate friend."
"Did you have a pleasant evening, Fred?" asked Mrs. Fenton. "Are you not home earlier than you expected?"
"Yes, mother. There was as an accident that broke up the party."
He described the affair, but said nothing of his own part in it.
The next morning, after Fred had taken breakfast and gone to business, a neighbor came in.
"I congratulate you, Mrs. Fenton," she said. "You have a right to be proud of Fred."
"Thank you," said the widow, puzzled. "I'm glad you think well of him."
"There's few boys that would have done what he did."
"What has he done?" asked Mrs. Fenton, stopping short on her way to the pantry.
"You don't mean to say you don't know? Why, it's in all the papers."
"I am sure I don't know what you are talking about."
"Didn't I tell you how he saved the little girl from burning to death?"
"Was it Fred who saved her? He didn't tell me that."
"Of course it was. Read that, now!"
She put in the hand of the widow a copy of the Sun in which the whole scene was vividly described.
"What do you say now, Mrs. Fenton?"
"That I am all the more proud of Fred because he did not boast of what he did," and a look of pride shone in the widow's eyes.
That morning, when Raymond Ferguson entered the breakfast-room rather later than usual, he found his father reading a paragraph in the Sun with every appearance of surprise.
"What is it, papa?" asked Raymond.
Raymond took the paper, and his eye was drawn to some conspicuous headlines.
"Why, it's Rose Wainwright!" said Raymond excitedly. "Whom do you think I saw on his way to the party last evening?"
"How did you hear it?" asked Raymond in surprise.
"Read the account and you will understand."
This is what Raymond read:
Last evening a terrible tragedy came near being enacted at the house of the well-known broker, John Wainwright. The occasion was a juvenile party given by his little daughter Rose, eleven years of age. One part of the entertainment provided was a series of tableaux upon a miniature stage at one end of the dining-room. All went well till the third tableau, in which the young hostess took part, She incautiously approached too near the footlights, when her white dress caught fire and instantly blazed up. All present were spellbound, and it seemed as if the little girl's fate was sealed. Luckily one of the young guests, Fred Fenton, retained his coolness and presence of mind. Without an instant's delay he sprang upon the stage, directed the little girl to lie down, and wrapped his coat around her. Thanks to his promptitude, she escaped with slight injuries. By the time the rest of those present recovered from the spell of terror, Rose was saved.
We understand that the brave boy who displayed such heroic qualities was formerly a train boy on the Erie Railroad, but is now employed in the office of Mr. Wainwright.
Raymond read this account with lowering brow. He felt sick with jealousy. Why had he not been lucky enough to receive an invitation to the party, and enact the part of a deliverer? He did not ask himself whether, if the opportunity had been afforded, he would have availed himself of it. It is fortunate for Rose that she had Fred to depend upon in her terrible emergency, and not Raymond Ferguson. There was little that was heroic about him. A hero must be unselfish, and Raymond was the incarnation of selfishness.
"Your cousin seems to have become quite a hero," said Mr. Ferguson, as Raymond looked up from the paper.
"Don't call him my cousin! I don't care to own him."
"I don't know," said his father, who was quite as selfish, but not as malicious as Raymond. "I am not sure but it will be considered a credit to us to have such a relative."
"Anybody could have done as much as he did," said Raymond in a tone of discontent. "Here's some news of your train-boy, Luella," he continued, as his sister entered the room.
"Has he been arrested?" asked Luella listlessly.
"Not at all! He turns out to be a hero," said her father.
"I suppose that is a joke."
"Read the paper and see."
The young lady read the account with as little pleasure as Raymond.
"How on earth came a boy like that at the Wainwrights' house?" she said with a curl of the lip. "Really, society is getting very much mixed."
"Perhaps," said her father, "it was his relationship to the future Countess Cattelli."
Luella smiled complacently. She had fallen in with an Italian count, an insignificant looking man, very dark and with jet black hair and mustache, of whom she knew very little except that he claimed to be a count. She felt that he would propose soon, and she had decided to accept him. She did not pretend to love him, but it would be such a triumph to be addressed as the Countess Cattelli. She would let Alfred Lindsay see that she could do without him.
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