Bobbsey Twins in Washington by Laura Lee Hope
Chapter XVII. Freddie's Real Alarm
"I hope nothing has happened--that the boat isn't on fire," said Mrs. Bobbsey to her husband. "That would be terrible!"
"I hardly think that is it," he said. "There may be a small fire, somewhere on the boat, but, even if there is, they have a way of putting it out. I'll go and see what it is. You stay with the children."
But just then, after another clanging of the bell, some one was heard to laugh--the ringing, hearty laugh of a man.
"There!" exclaimed Mr. Bobbsey, "I guess everything is all right. They wouldn't be laughing if there was any danger."
"Let's go to the fire!" cried Bert. "I want to see it!"
"So do I!" chimed in his new chum, Billy, eagerly.
"Oh, can't we see it; whatever it is?" begged Nan.
"First I'll have to make sure there is a fire," replied Mr. Bobbsey. "I hope there isn't. But, if there should be a small one, and the firemen on the boat are putting it out, and if they let us get near enough to see, and if the smoke isn't too thick--"
"Oh, Daddy! Not so many 'ifs' please!" laughed Nan.
The Bobbseys all laughed at this, as did Nell and Billy.
"Freddie would like to see the fire, if there is one," remarked Nell Martin.
"Oh, that's so! Where is Freddie?" cried Bert.
Then, for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey noticed that the little blue-eyed and light-haired boy was not with them.
But at that moment around the corner of a deck cabin came a man wearing a cap with gold braid around the edge. He was smiling and leading by the hand a little boy. And the little boy was Freddie!
"Oh, there he is!" cried Flossie. "Freddie, where were you?" she asked. "And did you been to see the fire?"
"Well, I rather guess he did!" exclaimed the man, who was the captain of the boat. "He Was the whole fire himself!"
"The whole fire?" cried Mr. Bobbsey. "Do you mean to say that my little boy started a fire?"
"Oh, nothing as bad as that!" said the captain, and he smiled down on Freddie who smiled up at him in return. "No, all your little boy did was to ring the fire alarm bell and then call out 'Fire!' But of course that was enough to start things going, and we had quite a good deal of excitement for a time. But it's all right now, and I think he won't do it again."
"Just what did he do?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, as Freddie came over to stand beside his mother. He looked rather ashamed.
"Well, on the deck, back of the wheel-house, which is the little place where I or my men stand to steer the boat, there is a fire alarm bell. It's there for any one to ring who finds the boat on fire, and when the bell is rung all my firemen hurry to put out the blaze," said the captain.
"Now this little chap of yours went up and rang that bell, and then he cried out 'Fire,' as I've told you. Then--well, lots of things happened. But I couldn't help laughing when I found out it was a false alarm, and learned just why Freddie, as he tells me his name is, rang the bell."
"And why was that?" asked Mr. Bobbsey, quickly.
Freddie spoke up for himself.
"The bell had a sign on it," said the little fellow, "and it said to ring it for a fire. I wanted to see a fire, and so I rang the bell and-- and--"
Freddie's lips began to quiver. He was just ready to cry.
"There, there, my little man!" said the captain kindly. "No harm is done. Don't worry. It's all right," and he patted Freddie on the shoulder.
"You see it's just as Freddie says," the captain went on. "There is a large sign painted near the bell which reads: 'Ring this for a fire.' I suppose it would be better to say; 'Ring the bell in case of fire.' I believe I'll have it changed to read that way. Anyhow, your little boy saw the sign over the bell, And on the bell is a rope so low that any one, even a child, can reach it. So your Freddie just pulled the rope, clanged the bell, and then he cried 'Fire!' as loudly as he could. Some one else took up the cry, and, there you are!"
"And so you rang the bell, did you, Freddie, because you wanted to see a fire?" asked the father of the little fellow.
"Yes," answered Flossie's brother. "I wanted to see how they put out a fire on a boat, and the bell said for to ring for a fire, and I wanted a fire, I did; not a big one, just a little one, and so----"
"And so you just naturally rang the bell!" laughed the captain. "Well, I guess that's partly my fault for having the sign read that way. I'll have it changed. But your little boy is quite smart to be able to read so well," he added.
"Oh, I go to school!" said Freddie proudly, "only there isn't any now on account of--well I guess the boiler got on fire," he added.
"He's a regular little fireman," said Mr. Bobbsey. "He can't read very much, but one of the first words he learned to spell was 'fire,' and he's never forgotten it."
The boat was now going on down the river toward Mount Vernon, and the excitement caused by the false alarm of fire was over.
Of course Freddie had done wrong, though he had not meant to, and perhaps it was not all his fault. However, his father and mother scolded him a little, and he promised never to do such a thing again.
I wish I could tell you that the Bobbsey twins were interested in Mount Vernon, but the truth of the matter is that the two younger ones were so busy talking about Freddie's fire alarm, and Bert and Nan, with Billy and Nell, also laughed so much about it, that they did not pay much attention to the tomb of the great Washington, or anything about the place where the first President of the United States once had his home.
Of course Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey were interested in the place where the wonderful man had lived, and they looked about the grounds where he had once walked, and they visited the house where he had lived. But, really, the children did not care much for it.
"When are we going back?" asked Freddie several times.
"Don't you like it here?" asked his mother. "Just think of what a wonderful and beautiful place this is!"
"Well," said Freddie slowly, "I didn't see any fire engines yet."
Mrs. Bobbsey tried not to laugh, but it was hard work.
"I think we'd better go back to Washington," she said to her husband.
"I think so, too," he answered, and back to Washington they went. This time they rode on a trolley car, and there was no danger of Freddie's sending in an alarm of fire.
And on the way home something quite wonderful happened. At least it was wonderful for Freddie.
He was looking out of the window, when suddenly he gave a yell that startled his father and mother, as well as Nan, Bert, Nell and Flossie, and that made the other passengers sit up.
"Oh, look! There's a fire engine! There's a fire engine!" cried the little chap, pointing; and, surely enough, there was one going along the street. It was bright and shiny, smoke was pouring from it and the horses were prancing.
The other Bobbsey twins turned to look at it, and Bert said:
"Pooh, that's only coming back from an alarm."
"That's so," agreed Mr. Bobbsey. "The horses are going too slowly to be running to a fire, Freddie. They must be coming back."
"Well, it's a fire engine, anyhow," said Freddie, and every one had to agree with him. Freddie watched the shiny engine until it was out of sight, and then he talked about nothing else but fires on the way home.
Tired, but well satisfied with their trip, the Bobbsey's reached their hotel, and the Martin children went to their home, promising to meet the following day and see more Washington sights.
It was about the middle of the night that Mrs. Bobbsey, who slept in the same room with Flossie and Freddie, felt herself being shaken in bed. She roused up to see, in the dim light, Freddie standing near her, and shaking her with his chubby hands.
"What is it, dear?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey, sleepily.
"Fire!" hoarsely whispered Freddie. "The house is on fire, and it's real, too, this time!"