A FRESH OUTLOOK
Nan had already made up her mind what they must do. Despite the spread of the fire—and the heat of the flames already scorched their faces—she saw there was no escape for them by the front door of the building. And the chair-backs shut them off from the side exit.
“Get over the seat-back, Walter,” Nan commanded. “Haul your sister and Bess over. I can climb over myself and take little Inez with me.”
“Don’t leave us to burn up!” shrieked Linda, wildly, starting up again. Her ears were keen enough.
“Pearl Graves has fainted,” Walter said, hesitatingly.
“If we could only break down these seat-backs,” cried Nan. “There are four rows between us and the side aisle.”
“We can break them down,” responded Walter, and immediately flung his weight against the back of the chair in which he had been sitting, glad to have some line of positive action suggested to him.
The boy’s second attempt broke the back of the seat short off; it was built none too strong. He leaped over into the next row and quickly smashed his way through that.
“Come on, girls! I’ll get you out,” he cried, more cheerfully.
His sister and Bess climbed through the first aperture. Nan lifted Inez through and was about to follow, when Linda seized upon her jacket.
“You let me get out, Nan Sherwood!” she commanded, trying to pull Nan back.
“There is room enough—and time enough,” panted Nan, resisting. “I must look after Inez.”
“Let that young one go with Bess and Grace,” Linda said. “Somebody’s got to help me with Pearl. The silly has fainted.”
Nan saw that this was so. She adjured Bess to take care of Inez.
“Hi! I don’t need nobody ter take care o’ me,” cried that independent young lady. “I’m big enough to take care o’ myself. You come on, Nan Sherwood.”
“I’m coming,” promised Nan, slipping back to help with Pearl.
Instantly Linda pushed by and followed the other girls, leaving Nan alone with Pearl Graves. The girl had no intention of helping her cousin.
Walter was smashing one seat-back after another, and calling to the girls to follow. Bess had grabbed up Inez and now only Nan and Pearl were left behind.
The latter was really senseless. Shaking her—patting her hands—rubbing her forehead—all did no good. It seemed impossible for Nan Sherwood to arouse her.
The smoke came down upon them, thick and stifling. The others of her party were shut out of Nan Sherwood’s view. She heard them calling to each other, Walter shouting in advance. They thought Nan was coming, too.
Nan was dreadfully tempted to run. She was as frightened as she could be. She had a great terror of fire; ever since her experience with Cousin Tom in the forest fire, she had shuddered at the very thought of flames.