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Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays by Annie Roe Carr

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that they air jest cut out for movin' picter actresses. They wanter go
off ter the city an' git jobs in one o' chem there studios! Peleg says
he'll spank his gal, big as she is, if she don't stop sich foolish talk.
I reckon Celia won't go fur without Sallie."

"My! it must be quite exciting to work for the pictures," said
romantic Bess.

"Sure it is," chuckled the farmer. "One feller fell off a hoss while they
was up here an' broke his collarbone; an' one of the gals tried ter milk
our old Sukey from the wrong side, an' Sukey nigh kicked her through the
side of the shed," and Mr. Snubbins indulged in another fit of laughter
over this bit of comedy.

He was still chuckling when they climbed down from the hard eminence of a
drift into a spot that had been cleared of snow before the Morton's side
door. At once the door was opened and a big, bewhiskered man looked out.

"Well, well, Si!" he ejaculated. "I thought them was your Celia and my
Sallie. _Them_ girls air strangers, ain't they? Some more of that tribe
of movin' picture actresses?"

"I vow ter Maria, Peleg!" ejaculated Mr. Snubbins. "What's happened to
Celia? Ain't she here?"

"No. Nor no more ain't Sallie," Mr. Morton said. "Come in. Bring in them
young ladies. I'll tell ye about it. Sallie's maw is mighty upsot."

"But ain't Celia _here_?" reiterated Mr. Snubbins, as he and the chums
from Tillbury passed into the warm, big kitchen.

"No, she ain't, I tell you."

"But she started over for here yesterday morning, figgerin' to spend the
day with your Sallie. When she didn't come back at night my woman an' me
reckoned it snowed so hard you folks wouldn't let her come."

"Oh, lawk!" exclaimed Mr. Morton. "They was off yesterday mornin' just as
soon as your Celia got here. Planned it all a forehand--the deceivin'
imps! Said they was goin' to the Corner. An' they did! Sam Higgin picked
'em up there an' took 'em along to Littleton; an' when he plowed past
here jest at evenin' through the snow he brought me a note. Hi, Maw,
bring in that there letter," shouted Peleg Morton.

That the two men were greatly disturbed by the running away of their
daughters, there could be no doubt. Nan was sorry she and Bess had come
over from the train. These people were in serious trouble and she and her
chum could not help them.

She drew the wondering Bess toward the door, and whispered: "What do you
think, Bess? Can't we go back to the train alone?"

"What for, Nan?" cried Bess.

"Well, you see, they are in trouble."

At that moment Mrs. Morton hurried in with a fluttering sheet of paper in
her hand. She was a voluminous woman in a stiffly starched house dress,
everything about her as clean as a new pin, and a pair of silver-bowed
spectacles pushed up to her fast graying hair. She was a wholesome,
hearty, motherly looking woman, and Nan Sherwood was attracted to her at
first sight.

Even usually unobservant Bess was impressed. "Isn't she a _love_?" she
whispered to Nan.

"Poor woman!" Nan responded in the same tone, for there were undried
tears on the cheeks of the farmer's wife.

"Here's Si, Maw," said Mr. Morton. "He ain't been knowin' about our girl
and his Celia runnin' off, before."

"How do, Si?" responded Mrs. Morton. "Your wife'll be scairt ter death, I
have no doubt. What'll become of them foolish girls--Why, Peke! who's
these two young ladies?"

Mr. Morton looked to Mr. Snubbins for an introduction, scratching his
head. Mr. Snubbins said, succinctly: "These here gals are from a railroad
train that's snowed under down there in the cut. I expect they air
hungry, Miz' Morton."

"Goodness me! Is that so?" cried the good woman, bustling forward and
jerking her spectacles down astride her nose, the better to see the
unexpected guests. "Snowed up--a whole train load, did you say? I
declare! Sit down, do. I won't haf to put any extry plates on the supper
table, for I _did_ have it set, hopin' Sallie an' Celia would come back,"
and the poor mother began to sob openly.

"I vow, Maw! You _do_ beat all. Them gals couldn't git back home through
this snow, if they wanted to. And they likely got to some big town or
other," said Mr. Morton, "before the worst of the blizzard. They've got
money; the silly little tykes! When they have spent it all, they'll be
glad to come back."

"Celia will, maybe," sobbed Mrs. Morton, brokenly. "She ain't got the
determination of our Sallie. She'd starve rather than give in she was
beat. We was too ha'sh with her, Paw. I feel we was too ha'sh! And maybe
we won't never see our little gal again," and the poor lady sat down
heavily in the nearest chair, threw her apron over her head, and cried in
utter abandon.



Nan Sherwood could not bear to see anybody cry. Her heart had already
gone out to the farmer's wife whose foolish daughter had left home, and
to see the good woman sobbing so behind her apron, won every grain of
sympathy and pity in Nan's nature.

"Oh, you poor soul!" cried the girl, hovering over Mrs. Morton, and
putting an arm across her broad, plump shoulders. "Don't cry--don't,
don't cry! I'm _sure_ the girls will come back. They are foolish to
run away; but surely they will be glad to get back to their dear,
dear homes."

"You don't know my Sallie," sobbed the woman.

"Oh! but she can't forget you--of course she can't," Nan said. "Why ever
did they want to run away from home?"

"Them plagued movin' picters," Mr. Snubbins said gruffly, blowing his
nose. "I don't see how I kin tell my woman about Celia."

"It was that there 'Rural Beauty' done it," Mr. Morton broke in
peevishly. "Wish't I'd never let them film people camp up there on my
paster lot and take them picters on my farm. Sallie was jest carried away
with it. She acted in that five-reel film, 'A Rural Beauty.' And I must
say she looked as purty as a peach in it."

"That's what they've run away for, I bet," broke in Si Snubbins. "Celia
was nigh about crazy to see that picter run off. She was in it, too. Of
course, a big drama like that wouldn't come to the Corner, and I
shouldn't wonder if that's what took 'em both to the city, first of all.
Still," he added, "I reckon they wanter be actorines, too."

Bess suppressed a giggle at that, for Si Snubbins was funny, whether
intentionally so or not. Nan continued to try to soothe the almost
hysterical Mrs. Morton. Mr. Morton said:

"Let's have that letter, Maw, that Sallie writ and sent back by Sam
Higgins from Littleton."

Mrs. Morton reached out a hand blindly with the paper in it. Nan took it
to give to Mr. Morton.

"You read it, Si," said Mr. Morton. "I ain't got my specs handy."

"Neither have I--and I ain't no hand to read writin' nohow," said his
neighbor, honestly. "Here, young lady," to Nan. "Your eyes is better than
ourn; you read it out to us."

Nan did as she was asked, standing beside Mrs. Morton's chair the while
with a hand upon her shoulder:

"'Dear Maw and Paw:--

"'Celia and me have gone to the city and we are going to get jobs with
the movies. We know we can--and make good, too. You tell Celia's Paw and
Maw about her going with me. I'll take care of her. We've got plenty
money--what with what we earned posing in those pictures in the fall, the
Rural Beauty, and all. We will write you from where we are going, and you
won't mind when you know how successful we are and how we are getting
regular wages as movie actresses.

"'Good-bye, dear Paw and Maw, and a hundred kisses for Maw from

"'Your daughter,

"'Sallie Morton.

"'P.S.--I won't be known by my own name in the movies. I've picked a real
nice sounding one, and so has Celia.'"

"There! You see?" said Mrs. Morton, who had taken the apron down so she
could hear Nan the better. "We can't never trace 'em, because they'll be
going by some silly names. Dear, dear me, Peke! Somethin' must be done."

"I dunno what, Maw," groaned the big man, hopelessly.

"What city have they gone to?" asked Bess, abruptly.

"Why, Miss," explained Mr. Morton, "they could go to half a dozen cities
from Littleton. Of course they didn't stay there, although Littleton's a
big town."

"Chicago?" queried Bess.

"Perhaps. But they could get to Detroit, or Indianapolis, or even to

"There are more picture making concerns in Chicago," suggested Nan,
quietly, "than in the other cities named, I am sure. And the fare to
Chicago is less than to the others."

"Right you air, Miss!" agreed Si Snubbins. "That's where them pesky gals
have set out for, I ain't a doubt."

"And how are we goin' to get 'em back?" murmured Mr. Morton.

"The good Lord won't let no harm come to the dears, I hope and pray,"
said his wife, wiping her eyes. "Somebody'll be good to 'em if they get
sick or hungry. There! We ain't showin' very good manners to our guests,
Peke. These girls are off that train where there ain't a bite to eat, I
do suppose; and they must be half starved. Let's have supper. You pull up
a chair, too, Si."

"All right, Miz' Morton," agreed Mr. Snubbins, briskly.

Nan felt some diffidence in accepting the good woman's hospitality. She
whispered again to Bess:

"Shall we stay? They're in such trouble."

"But goodness!" interrupted Bess. "I'm hungry. And we want to get her
interested in the kiddies aboard the train."

"Yes, that's so," agreed Nan.

"Come, girls," Mrs. Morton called from the other room. "Come right in
and lay off your things--do. You are pretty dears--both of you. City
girls, I'spect?"

"No, ma'am," Nan replied. "We live in a small town when we are at home.
But we've been to boarding school and are on our way home for Christmas."

"And after that," Bess added briskly, "we're going to Chicago for

"You air? Well, well! D'you hear that, Peke?" as her husband came heavily
into the room.

"What is it, Maw?"

"These girls are going to Chicago. If our Sallie and Si's Celia have gone
there, mebbe these girls might come across them."

"Oh, Mrs. Morton!" cried Nan. "If we do, we will surely send them home to
you. Or, if they are foolish enough not to want to come, we'll let you
know at once where they are."

"Of course we will," agreed Bess.

"If you only had a picture of your daughter?" suggested Nan.

"Of Sallie? Why, we have," said Mrs. Morton. "She's some bigger now; but
she had her photographt took in several 'poses', as they call 'em, when
she was playin' in that 'Rural Beauty'. I got the prints myself from the
man that took 'em."

But when she hunted for the pictures, Mrs. Morton found they were
missing. "I declare for't!" she said, quite vexed. "I do believe that
Sallie took 'em with her to show to folks she expects to ask for work.
Jest like her! Oh, she's smart, Sallie is."

"There's that picter she had took the time we went to the County Fair,
three year ago, Maw," suggested Mr. Morton, as they prepared to sit down
to the bountiful table. "I 'low she's filled out some since then; she
was as leggy as a colt. But these gals can see what she looks like in
the face."

While he was speaking his wife brought forth the family album--a green
plush affair with a huge gilt horseshoe on the cover. She turned over the
leaves till she found Sallie's photograph, and displayed it with pride.
Nan secretly thought her father's description of Sallie at twelve years
old or so was a very good one; but Mrs. Morton evidently saw no defects
in her child's personal appearance.

"Sallie wore her hair in curls then, you see," said Mrs. Morton. "But she
says they ain't fashionable now, and she's been windin' her braids into
eartabs like that leadin' lady in the movie company done. Makes Sallie
look dreadfully growed up," sighed the troubled woman. "I sartainly do
hate to see my little girl change into a woman so quick."

"That's what my woman says," agreed Snubbins. "Celia's 'bout growed up,
she thinks. But I reckon if her mother laid her across her lap like she
uster a few years back, she could nigh about slap most of the foolishness
out o' Celia. Gals nowadays git to feel too big for their boots--that's
what the matter."

"Mercy!" gasped Bess. "I hope my mother won't go back to first
principles with me, if I displease her. And I'm sure your Celia can't be
really bad."

"Just foolish--just foolish, both on 'em," Mr. Morton said. "Let me help
you again."

"Oh, I'm so full," sighed Bess.

"I'm afraid ye ain't makin' out a supper," Mrs. Morton said.

"Indeed we are," cried Nan. "I only wish the children on that snow-bound
train had some of these good things."

This turned the current of conversation and the Mortons were soon
interested in the girls' story of the castaways in the snow. Mrs. Morton
set to work at once and packed two big baskets with food. A whole ham
that she had boiled that day was made into sandwiches. There were hard
boiled eggs, and smoked beef and cookies, pies and cakes. In fact, the
good woman stripped her pantry for the needy people in the stalled train.

Her husband got into his outer garments and helped Si Snubbins carry the
baskets across the snow. Mrs. Morton's last words to the girls were:

"Do, _do_, my dears, try to find my girl and Celia when you go to

Nan and Bess promised to do so, for neither realized what a great city
Chicago is, and that people might live there, almost side by side, for
years and never meet.



"What do you think of those two girls, anyway, Nan?" Bess Harley asked.

This was late in the evening, after the porter had made up their
berths again in the Pullman. The baskets of food had been welcomed by
the snow-bound passengers with acclaim. The two girls were thanked
more warmly for their thoughtfulness than Nan and Bess believed they
really deserved.

Bess Harley's question, of course, referred to Sallie Morton and Celia
Snubbins, the girls who had run away from home to become moving picture
actresses. Nan replied to her chum's query:

"That Sallie Morton must be a very silly girl indeed to leave such a
comfortable home and such a lovely mother. Perhaps Celia Snubbins may not
have been so pleasantly situated; but I am sure she had no reason for
running away."

Bess sighed. "Well," she murmured, "it must be great fun to work for the
movies. Just think of those two country girls appearing in a five-reel
film like 'A Rural Beauty.'"

"Well, for goodness' sake, Bess Harley!" cried Nan, astonished, "have you
been bitten by _that_ bug?"

"Don't call it 'bug'--that sounds so common," objected Bess. "Call it
'bacilli of the motion picture.' It must be _great_," she added
emphatically, "to see yourself acting on the screen!"

"I guess so," Nan said, with a laugh. "A whole lot those two foolish
girls _acted_ in that 'Rural Beauty' picture. They were probably two of
the 'merry villagers' who helped to make a background for the real
actresses. You know very well, Bess, that girls like us wouldn't be hired
by any film company for anything important."

"Why--you know, Nan," her chum said, "that some of the most highly paid
film people are young girls."

"Yes. But they are particularly fitted for the work. Do you feel the
genius of a movie actress burning in you?" scoffed Nan.

"No-o," admitted Bess. "I think it is that hard boiled egg I ate. And it
doesn't exactly burn."

Nan went off in a gale of laughter at this, and stage-struck Bess chimed
in. "I don't care," the latter repeated, the last thing before they
climbed into their respective berths, "it must be oodles of fun to work
for the movies."

While the chums slept there were great doings outside the snow-bound
train. The crew turned out with shovels, farmers in the neighborhood
helped, and part of a lately arrived section gang joined in to shovel the
snow away from the stalled engine and train.

Cordwood had been bought of Peleg Morton and hauled over to the
locomotive for fuel. With this the engineer and fireman managed to make
sufficient steam to heat the Pullman coach and the smoking car. Nan and
Bess had brought little "Buster," as the spaniel had been named, into
their section and, having been fed and made warm, he gave the girls
hardly any trouble during the night.

Selfish Mr. Bulson, who had shipped the puppy home to his little boy,
seemed to have no interest whatsoever in Buster's welfare.

It was not until the great snow-plow and a special locomotive appeared
the next morning, and towed the stalled train on to its destination, and
Nan Sherwood and her chum arrived at Tillbury, that Nan learned anything
more regarding Mr. Ravell Bulson.

Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood had been more than a little worried by Nan's delay
in getting home and Mr. Sherwood was at the station to meet the train
when it finally steamed into Tillbury.

Owneyville, which the girls knew to be Mr. Bulson's home town, was a
station beyond Tillbury, and a much smaller town. The fat man had to
change cars, so it was not surprising that he stepped down upon the
Tillbury platform just as Nan ran into her father's arms.

"Oh, Papa Sherwood!" Nan almost sobbed.

"My dear Nancy!" he returned, quite as much moved.

And just then Mr. Bulson appeared beside them. "Well, Sherwood!" the fat
man growled, "have you come to your senses yet?"

Robert Sherwood's face flushed and he urged Nan away along the snowy
platform. "I don't care to talk to you, Bulson," he said shortly.

"Well, you _will_ talk to me!" exclaimed the angry fat man. "I'll get you
into court where you'll have to talk."

Mr. Sherwood kept right on with Nan and Bulson was left fuming and
muttering on the platform. Bess had already been put into the family
sleigh and was being whisked home. Nan and her father tramped briskly
through the snowy streets toward "the little dwelling in amity," which
Nan had not seen since leaving Tillbury for her Uncle Henry Sherwood's
home at Pine Camp, ten months before.

"Oh, _dear_, Papa Sherwood!" gasped Nan. "What is the matter with that
horrid man? He says the most dreadful things about you!"

"What's that?" demanded her father, quickly. "What do you know
about Bulson?"

"More than I really want to know about him," said Nan, ruefully. She
related briefly what had happened a few days before on Pendragon Hill.
"And when he called you a rascal, I--oh! I was very, very angry! What did
he mean, Papa Sherwood?"

But her father postponed his explanation until later; and it was really
from her mother that Nan heard the story of Mr. Sherwood's trouble with
Ravell Bulson. Mrs. Sherwood was very indignant about it, and so, of
course, was Nan.

A week or more before, Mr. Sherwood had had business in Chicago, and in
returning took the midnight train. The sleeping car was side-tracked at
Tillbury and when most of the passengers were gone the man in the berth
under Mr. Sherwood's began to rave about having been robbed. His watch
and roll of banknotes had disappeared.

The victim of the robbery was Mr. Ravell Bulson. Mr. Bulson had at once
accused the person occupying the berth over his as being the guilty
person. Nan's father had got up early, and had left the sleeping car long
before Mr. Bulson discovered his loss.

The railroad and the sleeping car company, of course, refused to
acknowledge responsibility for Mr. Bulson's valuables. Nor on mere
suspicion could Mr. Bulson get a justice in Tillbury to issue a warrant
for Mr. Sherwood.

But Ravell Bulson had been to the Sherwood cottage on Amity Street, and
had talked very harshly. Besides, the fat man had in public loudly
accused his victim of being dishonest.

Mr. Sherwood's reputation for probity in Tillbury was well founded; he
was liked and respected; those who really knew him would not be
influenced by such a scandal.

But as Mr. Sherwood was making plans to open an agency in Tillbury for a
certain automobile manufacturing concern, he feared that the report of
Mr. Bulson's charge would injure his usefulness to the corporation he was
about to represent. To sue Bulson for slander would merely give wider
circulation to the story the fat man had originated.

Ravell Bulson was a traveling man and was not often in Tillbury--that was
one good thing. He had a reputation in his home town of Owneyville of
being a quarrelsome man, and was not well liked by his neighbors.

Nevertheless a venomous tongue can do a great deal of harm, and a
spiteful enemy may sometimes bring about a greater catastrophe than a
more powerful adversary.



"Now! what _do_ you know about this?" Bess Harley demanded, with
considerable vexation.

"Of course, it's a mistake--or else that big clock's wrong," declared
Nan Sherwood.

"No fear of a railroad clock's being wrong," said her chum, grumpily.
"That old time table was wrong. _They're_ always wrong. No more sense
to a time table than there is to a syncopated song. _It_ said we were
to arrive in this station three-quarters of an hour ago--and it turns
out that it meant an entirely different station and an entirely
different train."

Nan laughed rather ruefully. "I guess it is our own fault and not the
time table's. But the fact remains that we are in the wrong place, and at
the wrong time. Walter and Grace, of course, met that other train and,
not finding us, will have gone home, not expecting us till to-morrow."

"Goodness, what a pickle!" Bess complained. "And how will we find the
Mason's house, Nan Sherwood?"

The chums had the number and street of their friends' house, but it
occurred to neither of them to go to a telephone booth and call up the
house, stating the difficulty they were in. Nor did the girls think of
asking at the information bureau, or even questioning one of the
uniformed policemen about the huge station.

"Now, of course," Nan said firmly, "some street car must go within
walking distance of Grace's house."

"Of course, but which car?" demanded Bess.

"That is the question, isn't it?" laughed Nan.

"One of these taxi-cabs could take us," suggested Bess.

"But they cost so much," objected her friend. "And we can't read those
funny clocks they have and the chauffeur could overcharge us all he
pleased. Besides," Nan added, "I don't like their looks."

"Looks of what--the taxis?"

"The chauffeurs," responded Nan, promptly.

"We-ell, we've got to go somehow--and trust to somebody," Bess said
reflectively. "I wonder should we go to that hotel where we stayed that
week with mother? They would take us in I suppose."

"But goodness! why should we be so helpless?" demanded Nan. "I'm sure two
boys would start right out and find their way to Grace's."

"Would you _dare_?" cried Bess.

"Why not? Come on! We don't want to spend all our money in taxi fares.
Let's go over there and ask that car man who seems to be bossing the
conductors and motormen."

The girls, with their handbags, started across the great square before
the station. Almost at once they found themselves in a tangle of
vehicular traffic that quite confused Bess, and even troubled the
cooler-headed Nan.

"Oh, Nan! I'm scared!" cried her chum, clinging with her free hand to
Nan's arm.

"For pity's sake, don't be foolish!" commanded Nan. "You'll get me
excited, too--Oh!"

An automobile swept past, so near the two girls that the step brushed
their garments. Bess almost swooned. Nan wished with all her heart that
they had not so recklessly left the sidewalk.

Suddenly a shrill voice cried at her elbow: "Hi, greeny! you look out,
now, or one of these horses will take a bite out o' you. My! but you're
the green goods, for fair."

Nan turned to look, expecting to find a saucy street boy; but the owner
of the voice was a girl. She was dirty-faced, undersized, poorly dressed,
and ill-nourished. But she was absolutely independent, and stood there in
the crowded square with all the assurance of a traffic policeman.

"Come on, greenies," urged this strange little mortal (she could not have
been ten years old), "and I'll beau you over the crossing myself.
Something'll happen to you if you take root here."

She carried in a basket on her arm a few tiny bunches of stale violets,
each bunch wrapped in waxed paper to keep it from the frost. Nan had seen
dozens of these little flower-sellers of both sexes on the street when
she had passed through Chicago with her Uncle Henry the winter before.

"Oh, let's go with her," cried the quite subdued Bess. "Do, Nan!"

It seemed rather odd for these two well-dressed and well-grown girls to
be convoyed by such a "hop-o'-my-thumb" as the flower-seller. But the
latter got Nan and Bess to an "isle of safety" in a hurry, and would then
have darted away into the crowd without waiting to be thanked, had not
Nan seized the handle of her basket.

"Wait!" she cried. "Don't run away."

"Hey!" said the flower-seller, "I ain't got time to stop and chin-chin. I
got these posies to sell."

"Sell us two," Nan commanded. "Wait!"

"Aw right. 'F you say so," said the small girl. "Fifteen a bunch," she
added quickly, shrewdly increasing by a nickel the regular price of the
stale boutonnieres.

Nan opened her purse to pay for both. Bess said, rather timidly: "I
should think you would be afraid of getting run over every time you cross
the street--you're so little."

"Aw--say!" responded the strange girl, quite offended. "What d'ye think
I am--a _kid_? I live here, I do! I ain't country, and don't know me
way 'round."

"Meaning that we _are_, I suppose?" laughed Nan.

"Well," drawled the girl, "it sticks out all over you. I can tell 'em a
block away. An' I bet you're lost and don't know where you're goin'. You
two didn't come here to be pitcher actors, did ye?"

"Why--no!" gasped Bess.

Nan was moved to ask. "What put that idea in your head, honey?"

"I guess 'most girls that run away from home nowadays are lookin' to make
a hit in the pitchers--ain't they?"

"You ridiculous child, you!" laughed Bess. "We haven't run away."

"No? Well, I thought mebbe youse did," said the flower-seller, grinning
impishly. "I see a plenty of 'em comin' off the trains, I do."

"Runaway girls?" cried Nan,

"They don't tell me they have run away. But they are all greenies--just
as green as grass," this shrewd child of the street declared.

"Have you seen any girls lately who have come to the city to be picture
actresses?" Nan asked with sudden eagerness.

"Yep," was the reply.

"Sure?" cried Bess. "You don't mean it!"

"Yes, I do. Two girls bigger'n you. Le's see--it was last Friday."

"The second day of the big blizzard?" cried Nan.

"That's the very day," agreed Bess. "It's when Sallie and Celia would
have got here if they _were_ coming to Chicago."

"Hi!" exclaimed the flower girl. "What's you talkin' about? Who's Sallie
and Celia?"

"Girls whom we think came to the city the other day just as you said,"
Nan explained. "They have run away to be moving picture actresses."

"Hi!" exclaimed the flower-seller again. "What sort o' lookin' girls?"

"Why--I don't know exactly," confessed Nan. "Do we, Bess? Mrs. Morton
said Sallie took with her those photographs that were taken while the
girls were playing as extras in 'A Rural Beauty.'"

"That's it!" suddenly interrupted the flower-girl. "I bet I seen those
two. They didn't call each other 'Sallie' and 'Celia'; but they had some
fancy names--I forgot what."

"Oh! are you _sure_?" cried Bess.

"They had them photographs just like you say. They showed 'em to me. You
see," said the little girl, "I showed 'em where they could eat cheap, and
they told me how they was going to join a movie company."



Nan and her chum were wildly excited. During their brief stay at
Tillbury over Christmas they had been so busy, at home and abroad, that
they had not thought much about Sallie Morton and Celia Snubbins, the
two runaways.

In Nan's case, not having seen her mother for ten months, she did not--at
the last moment--even desire to come away from her and visit her school
friends in Chicago.

There really was so much to say, so much to learn about Scotland and the
beautiful old Emberon Castle and the village about it, and about the
queer people Mrs. Sherwood had met, too! Oh! Nan hoped that she would
see the place in time--the "Cradle of the Blake Clan," as Mr. Sherwood
called it.

There had been presents, of course, and in the giving and accepting of
these Nan had found much pleasure and excitement--especially when she
found a box of beautiful new clothes for her big doll, all made in
Scotland by "Momsey," who knew just how precious Beautiful Beulah was in
her daughter's eyes.

With all her work and play at Lakeview Hall, Nan Sherwood had not
forgotten Beulah. The other girls of her age and in her grade were
inclined to laugh at Nan for playing dolls; but at the last of the term
Beautiful Beulah had held the post of honor in Room Seven, Corridor Four.

Nan's love for dolls foreshadowed her love for babies. She never could
pass a baby by without trying to make friends with it. The little girls
at Lakeview Hall found a staunch friend and champion in Nan Sherwood. It
was a great grief to Mrs. Sherwood and Nan that there were no babies in
the "little dwelling in amity." Nan could barely remember the brother
that had come to stay with them such a little while, and then had gone
away forever.

Nan's heart was touched by the apparent needs of this street girl who had
come to the rescue of Bess and herself when they arrived in Chicago. All
the time she and her chum were trying to learn something about the two
girls who had come to the great city to be moving picture actresses, and
listening to what the flower-seller had to say about them, Nan was
thinking, too, of their unfortunate little informant.

"Is that restaurant where you took those girls to eat near here?" she
suddenly asked.

"Aw, say! 'tain't no rest'rant," said the child. "It's just Mother
Beasley's hash-house."

"Goodness!" gasped Bess. "Is it a _nice_ place?"

The girl grinned. "'Cordin' ter what you thinks is nice. I 'spect _you'd_
like the Auditorium Annex better. But Mother Beasley's is pretty good
when you ain't got much to spend."

Bess looked at Nan curiously. The latter was eager to improve this
acquaintanceship so strangely begun, and for more than one reason.

"Could you show us to Mother Beasley's--if it isn't very far away?"
Nan asked.

"Aw, say! What d'ye think? I ain't nawthan' ter do but beau greenies
around this burg? A swell chaunc't I'd have to git any eats meself. I
gotter sell these posies, I have."

"But you can eat with us!" Nan suggested.

"Oh, Nan!" Bess whispered. "Do you s'pose we can find any clue to those
girls there?"

"I hope so," returned Nan, in the same low voice.

"Goodness! I'm just as excited as I can be," her chum went on to say.
"We'll be regular detectives. _This_ beats being a movie actress,
right now."

Nan smiled, but in a moment was grave again. "I'd do a great deal for
that lovely Mrs. Morton," she said. "And even funny old Si Snubbins had
tears in his eyes at the last when he begged us to find his Celia."

"I know it," Bess agreed sympathetically. "But I can't help being excited
just the same. If we should find them at this Mother Beasley's--"

"I don't expect that; but we may hear of them there," said Nan. "Here's
our new chum."

The flower-girl had darted away to sell one of her little bouquets. Now
she came back and took up the discussion where she had dropped it.

"Now about those eats," she said. "I ain't in the habit of eating at all
hours; it don't agree wid my constitootin, me doctor tells me. Fact is,
sometimes I don't eat much, if _any_."

"Oh!" gasped Bess.

"That's when I don't sell out. An' I got five posies left. I b'lieve I'd
better take ye up on this offer. Youse pay for me feed for the pleasure
of me comp'ny; hey?"

"That's the answer," said Nan, spiritedly. "We're going to be good
friends, I can see."

"We are if youse is goin' to pay for me eats," agreed the girl.

"What is your name?" asked Nan, as their young pilot guided the
chums across to the opening of a side-street. "Mine is Nan, and my
friend's is Bess."

"Well, they calls me some mighty mean names sometimes; but my real,
honest-to-goodness name is Inez. Me mudder was a Gypsy Queen and me
fadder was boss of a section gang on de railroad somewhere. He went off
and me mudder died, and I been livin' with me aunt. She's good enough
when she ain't got a bottle by her, and me and her kids have good times.
But I gotter rustle for me own grub. We all haster."

Nan and Bess listened to this, and watched the independent little thing
in much amazement. Such a creature neither of the chums from Tillbury had
ever before heard of or imagined.

"Do you suppose she is telling the truth?" whispered Bess to Nan.

"I don't see why she should tell a wrong story gratuitously," Nan

"Come on, girls," said Inez, turning into another street--narrower
and more shabby than the first. "Lift your feet! I ain't got no time
to waste."

Nan laughed and hastened her steps; but Bess looked doubtful.

"Hi!" exclaimed the street girl, "are you sure you two ain't wantin' to
break into the movies, too?"

"Not yet," proclaimed Nan. "But we would like to find a couple of girls
who, I think, came to Chicago for that purpose."

"Hi! them two I was tellin' you about?"


"Their folks want 'em back?" asked the street child, abruptly.

"I should say they did!" cried Bess.

"Ain't they the sillies!" exclaimed Inez. "Catch me leavin' a place where
they didn't beat me too much and where the eats came reg'lar."

"Oh!" again ejaculated Bess.

Just then a little boy, more ragged even than their guide, approached. At
once Inez proceeded to shove him off the sidewalk, and when he objected,
she slapped him soundly.

"Why, goodness me, child!" cried the astonished Nan, "what did you do
that for? Did he do anything to you?"

"Nope. Never seen him before," admitted Inez. "But I pitch into all the
boys I see that I'm sure I can whip. Then they let me alone. They think
I'm tough. These boys wouldn't let a girl sell a flower, nor a newspaper,
nor nothin', if they could help it. We girls got ter fight 'em."

"The beginning of suffragism," groaned Nan.

"I never heard of such a thing!" Bess cried. "Fighting the boys--how

Inez stared at her. "Hi!" she finally exclaimed, "you wouldn't make much
if you didn't fight, I can tell ye. When I see a boy with a basket of
posies, I pull it away from him and tear 'em up. Boys ain't got no
business selling posies around here. That's a girl's job, and I'm goin'
to show 'em, I am!"

Nan and Bess listened to this with mingled emotions. It was laughable,
yet pitiful. Little boys and girls fighting like savages for a bare
existence. The chums were silent the rest of the way to the old brick
house--just a "slice" out of a three-story-and-basement row of such
houses, which Inez announced to be "Mother Beasley's."

"Sometimes she's got her beds all full and you hafter wait for lodgin's.
Mebbe she'll let you camp in her room, or in one of the halls up-stairs."

"Oh, but, my dear, we don't wish to stay!" Nan said. "Only to eat here
and inquire about those other girls."

"Where' ye goin' to stop?" asked Inez, curiously.

"We have friends out by Washington Park," Bess said. "They'd have met us,
only there was some mistake in the arrival of our train."

"Hi! Washington Park?" exclaimed the flower-seller. "Say, you must be

Nan laughed. "I guess _they_ are," she said.

"Youse won't be suited with Mother Beasley's grub," said the girl,
hesitating at the basement steps.

"I believe she's right," Bess said faintly, as the odor of cooking
suddenly burst forth with the opening of the door under the long flight
leading to the front door of the house.

"I've eaten in a lumber camp," said Nan, stoutly. "I'm sure this can't
be as hard."



A girl not much bigger than Inez, nor dressed much better, came out
of the basement door of Mother Beasley's, wiping her lips on the back
of her hand.

"Hullo, Ine!" she said to the flower-seller. "Who you got in tow? Some
more greenies."

"Never you mind, Polly," returned Inez. "They're just friends of mine--on
their way to Washington Park."

"Yes--they--be!" drawled the girl called Polly.

"Hi! that's all right," chuckled Inez. "I t'ought I'd make ye sit up and
take notice. But say! wot's good on the menu ter-day?"

"Oh, say! take me tip," said Polly. "Order two platters of Irish stew an'
a plate o' ham an' eggs. Youse'll have a bully feed then. Eggs is cheap
an' Mother Beasley's givin' t'ree fer fifteen cents, wid the ham throwed
in. That'll give youse each an egg an' plenty of stew in the two platters
for all t'ree."

This arrangement of a course dinner on so economical a plan made Bess
open her eyes, while Nan was greatly amused.

"How strong's the bank?" asked Inez of Nan, whom she considered the
leader of the expedition. "Can we stand fifteen cents apiece?"

"I think so," returned the girl from Tillbury, gravely.

"Good as gold, then!" their pilot said. "We'll go to it. By-by, Polly!"

She marched into the basement. Bess would never have dared proceed that
far had it not been for Nan's presence.

A woman with straggling gray hair met them at the door of the long
dining-room. She had a tired and almost toothless smile; but had it not
been for her greasy wrapper, uncombed hair and grimy nails, Mother
Beasley might have been rather attractive.

"Good afternoon, dearies," she said. "Dinner's most over; but maybe we
can find something for you. You goin' to eat, Inez?"

"Ev'ry chance't I get," declared the flower-seller, promptly.

"Sit right down," said Mrs. Beasley, pointing to the end of a long
table, the red-and-white cloth of which was stained with the passage
of countless previous meals, and covered with the crumbs from
"crusty" bread.

Bess looked more and more doubtful. Nan was more curious than she was
hungry. Inez sat down promptly and began scraping the crumbs together in
a little pile, which pile when completed, she transferred to the
oil-cloth covered floor with a dexterous flip of the knife.

"Come on!" she said. "Shall I order for youse?"

"We are in your hands, Inez," declared Nan, gravely. "Do with us as
you see fit."

"Mercy!" murmured Bess, sitting down gingerly enough, after removing her
coat in imitation of her chum.

"Hi!" shouted Inez, in her inimitable way. "Hi, Mother Beasley! bring us
two orders of the Irish and one ham an' eggs. Like 'em sunny-side up?"

"Like _what_ sunny-side up?" gasped Bess.

"Yer eggs."

"Which is the sunny-side of an egg?" asked Bess faintly, while Nan was
convulsed with laughter.

"Hi!" ejaculated Inez again. "Ain't you the greenie? D'ye want yer egg
fried on one side, or turned over?"

"Turned over," Bess murmured.

"An' you?" asked the flower-seller of Nan.

"I always like the sunny-side of everything," our Nan admitted.

"Hi, Mother Beasley!" shouted Inez, to the woman in the kitchen. "Two of
them eggs sunny-side up, flop the other."

Nan burst out laughing again at this. Bess was too funny for
anything--to look at!

There were other girls in the long room, but none near where Nan and Bess
and their strange little friend sat. Plainly the strangers were working
girls, somewhat older than the chums, and as they finished their late
dinners, one by one, they went out. Some wore cheap finery, but most of
them showed the shabby hall-mark of poverty in their garments.

By and by the steaming food appeared. Inez had been helping herself
liberally to bread and butter and the first thing Mother Beasley did was
to remove the latter out of the flower-seller's reach.

"It's gone up two cents a pound," she said plaintively. "But if it was a
dollar a pound some o' you girls would never have no pity on neither the
bread nor the butter."

The stew really smelled good. Even Bess tried it with less doubt. Inez
ate as though she had fasted for a week and never expected to eat again.

"Will you have coffee, dearies?" asked Mother Beasley.

"Three cents apiece extry," said Inez, hoarsely.

"Yes, please," Nan said. "And if there is pie, we will have pie."

"Oh, you pie!" croaked Inez, aghast at such recklessness. "I reckon you
_do_ 'blong up to Washington Park."

Nan had to laugh again at this, and even Bess grew less embarrassed. When
Mrs. Beasley came back with the coffee and pie, Nan drew her into

"Inez, here, says she introduced two other girls from the country to your
home a few days ago," said Nan. "Two girls who were looking for jobs with
the movies."

"Were they?" asked Mrs. Beasley, placidly. "My girls are always looking
for jobs. When they get 'em, if they are good jobs, they go to live where
the accommodations are better. I do the best I can for 'em; but I only
accommodate poor girls."

"And I think you really must do a great deal of good, in your way, Mrs.
Beasley," Nan declared. "Did these two we speak of chance to stay with
you until now?"

"I was thinkin'," said Mrs. Beasley. "I know, now, the ones you mean.
Yes, Inez _did_ bring 'em. But they only stayed one night. They wus used
to real milk, and real butter, and strictly fresh eggs, and feather beds.
They was real nice about it; but I showed 'em how I couldn't give 'em
live-geese feather beds an' only charge 'em a dollar apiece a week for
their lodgin's.

"They had money--or 'peared to have. And they heard the movin' picture
studios were all on the other side of town. So they went away."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Bess.

"Well, they were all right at that time. I'll write and tell Mrs.
Morton," Nan said.

"Did they tell you their names, Mrs. Beasley?" she asked.

"Bless you! if they did, I don't remember. I have twenty-five girls all
the time and lots of 'em only stay a few nights. I couldn't begin to keep
track of 'em, or remember their names."

This was all the information the chums could get from Mrs. Beasley
regarding the girls whom Nan and Bess believed to be the runaways. A
little later they went out with Inez, the latter evidently filled to

"Hi! but that _was_ a feed! You girls must be millionaires' daughters,
like the newspapers tell about," said the street girl.

"Oh, no, we're not," Nan cried.

"Well, you better be joggin' along toward Washington Park. I don't
want youse should get robbed while I'm with you. Mebbe the police'd
think I done it."

"If you will put us on the car that goes near this address," said Nan,
seriously, showing Inez Walter Mason's card, "we'll be awfully obliged."

Inez squinted at the address. "I kin do better'n that," she declared.
"I'll put youse in a jitney that'll drop ye right at the corner of the
street--half a block away."

"Oh! a jitney!" Bess cried. "Of course."

Inez marched them a couple of blocks and there, on a busy corner, hailed
the auto-buss. Before this Nan had quietly obtained from the child her
home address and the name of her aunt.

"In you go," said the flower-seller. Then she shouted importantly to the
'bus-driver: "I got your number, mister! You see't these ladies gets off
at their street or you'll get deep into trouble. Hear me?"

"Sure, Miss! Thank ye kindly, Miss," said the chauffeur, saluting,
with a grin, and the jitney staggered on over the frozen snow and ice
of the street.

They came to the Mason house, safe and sound. An important-looking man
in a tail coat and an imposing shirt-front let the girls into the
great house.

"Yes, Miss," he said, in answer to Nan's inquiry. "There must have been
some mistake, Miss. Miss Grace and Mister Walter went to the station to
meet you, and returned long ago. I will tell them you have arrived."

He turned away in a stately manner, and Bess whispered: "I feel just as
countrified as that little thing said we looked."

Nan was looking about the reception room and contrasting its tasteful
richness with Mother Beasley's place.



Grace's home was a beautiful, great house, bigger than the Harley's at
Tillbury, and Nan Sherwood was impressed by its magnificence and by the
spacious rooms. Her term at Lakeview Hall had made Nan much more
conversant with luxury than she had been before. At home in the little
cottage on the by-street, although love dwelt there, the Sherwoods had
never lived extravagantly in any particular. Mrs. Sherwood's long
invalidism had eaten up the greater part of Mr. Sherwood's salary when he
worked in the Atwater Mills; and now that Mrs. Sherwood's legacy from her
great uncle, Hugh Blake of Emberon, was partly tied up in the Scotch
courts, the Sherwoods would continue to limit their expenditures.

At Mrs. Sherwood's urgent request, her husband was going into the
automobile business. A part of the money they had brought back from
Scotland had already been used in fitting up a handsome showroom and
garage on the main street of Tillbury; and some other heavy expenses had
fallen upon Mr. Sherwood, for which he would, however, be recompensed by
the sale of the first few cars.

If Ravell Bulson injured Mr. Sherwood's business reputation by his wild
charges, or if the company Mr. Sherwood expected to represent, heard of
the trouble, much harm might be done. The automobile manufacturing
company might even refuse to allow their cars to be handled by Mr.
Sherwood--which was quite within their rights, according to the contract
which had been signed between them.

Enough of this, however. Nan and Bess Harley were established with Grace
Mason, in Chicago, expecting to have a fine time. Nan tried to put all
home troubles off her mind.

The girls occupied a beautiful large suite together on the third floor,
with a bath all their own, and a maid to wait upon them. Grace was used
to this; but she was a very simple-minded girl, and the presence of a
tidy, be-aproned and be-capped maid not much older than herself, did not
particularly impress Grace one way or another.

"I feel like a queen," Bess confessed, luxuriously. "I can say: 'Do thus
and so,' and 'tis done. I might say: 'Off with his head!' if one of my
subjects displeased me, and he would be guillotined before you could
wink an eye."

"How horrid!" said Grace, the shy. "I never could feel that way."

"It would never do for Elizabeth to be a grand vizer, or sultan, or
satrap," Nan remarked laughingly.

"Who wants to be a 'shawl-strap'? Not I!" cried Bess, gaily. "I am Queen
Bess, monarch of all I survey. Katie!"--the neat little maid had just
entered the room--"will you hand me the book I was reading in the other
room? I'm too weak to rise. Oh, thanks!"

Grace laughed; but Nan looked a little grave as Katie disappeared again.

"Don't, honey," Nan said to her thoughtless chum. "It isn't _nice_. The
poor girl has necessary work enough without your making up thing's for
her to do. She is on her feet from morning till night. She tells me that
her ankles swell dreadfully sometimes, and that is awful for a young girl
like her."

"Why, Nan!" Grace cried, "how did you know?"

"Katie told me," repeated Nan.

"But--but she never told me," expostulated their hostess.

"I don't suppose you ever saw her crying, as I did, while she was setting
the dinner table. It was last evening. She had been on her feet more than
usual yesterday. The doctor tells her that her arches are breaking down;
but she cannot afford to have arch supports made at present, because her
mother needs all the money Katie can earn."

"Mercy!" gasped Bess. "Did you ever see such a girl as Nan? She already
knows all the private history of that girl."

"No, I do not," said Nan, with some indignation. "I never asked her a
thing. She just told me. Lots of girls who have to go out to service are
troubled with their arches breaking down. Especially when the floors are
polished wood with nothing but rugs laid down. Bare floors may be very
sanitary; but they are hard on the feet."

"There you go!" sighed Bess, "with a lot of erudite stuff that we don't
understand. I wish you wouldn't."

"I know why Katie, and other people as well, love to tell Nan all their
troubles," said Grace, softly. "Because she is sympathetic. I am afraid
_I_ ought to have known about poor Katie's feet."

The very next day the little serving maid was sent by Mrs. Mason to the
orthopedic shoe shop to be measured for her arch supports and shoes. But
it was Nan whom poor Katie caught alone in a dark corner of the hall when
she came back, and humbly kissed.

"An' bless yer swate heart, Miss, for 'twas yer kind thought stirred up
Miss Grace to tell the mistress. Bless yer swate heart again, I say!"

Nan kept this to herself, of course; but it pleased her very much that
the word she had dropped had had such a splendid result. Grace, she knew,
was a lovable girl and never exacting with the servants; and Mrs. Mason
was good to her people, too. But it was a rather perfunctory sort of
goodness, spurred by little real knowledge of their individual needs.

After this, it was quite noticeable that Grace was even more considerate
of Katie and the other maids. Nan Sherwood had had little experience with
domestic servants; but the appreciation of _noblesse oblige_ was strong
within her soul.

The girls' time, both day and evening, was fully occupied. The Masons'
was a large household, and there seemed to be always company. It was
almost like living in a hotel, only above and over all the freedom and
gaiety of the life there, was the impression that it was a real _home_,
and that the Mason family lived a very intimate existence, after all.

Walter and his father were close chums. Grace and her mother were like
two very loving sisters. The smaller children were still with their
governess and nurse most of the time. But there were times in every day
when the whole family was together in private, with the rest of the
household shut out.

There was always something going on for the young folk. The day's
activities were usually planned at the general breakfast table. One day
Nan had two hours of the forenoon on her hands, while her chum and Grace
went shopping with Mrs. Mason. Nan did not like shopping--much.

"Not unless I can have lots of money in my pocket-book, and be
extravagant," she said, laughing.

"You never were extravagant in your life!" declared Bess, in
refutation of this.

However, Nan was left alone and Walter found it out. He had brought his
black horse down from Freeling with him. He sent for this and the cutter,
and insisted that Nan go with him through the park.

Nan went, and would have had a delightful time had it not been for a
single incident. As they turned back, suddenly there met them a very
handsome, heavy, family sleigh, the pair of horses jingling their
harness-bells proudly, and with tossing plumes and uniformed coachman
and footman.

"Goodness!" gasped Nan, as she saw a girl in furs lean far out of the
great sleigh and wave her muff to Walter.

It was Linda Riggs. Linda quite ignored Nan's presence behind the
black horse.



Nan did not refuse to go shopping every time her school friends went.
The big Chicago stores appealed to her just as much as to any country
girl who ever fell under their charm. In the Windy City the
department stores--that mammoth of modern commerce--is developed to
the highest degree.

It was like wandering through an Alladin's Palace for Nan to walk about
Wilson-Meadows, Galsig-Wheelwrights, or any of the other big stores. And
it was because she was so much interested in what she saw, that she
wandered one day away from her friends and found herself in the jewelry
department, where the French novelties loaded the trays and were
displayed in the cases.

Nan forgot her friends--and the flight of time. It was not alone the
pretty things displayed that interested her, but the wonderfully dressed
women who paraded through the aisles of the store.

She found herself beside a beautifully dressed woman, in a loose,
full-flowing fur garment, with fur hat to match, who, it seemed to Nan,
was quite the most fashionable person she had ever beheld. The woman had
a touch of rouge upon her otherwise pale cheeks; her eyebrows were
suspiciously penciled; her lips were slightly ruddy. Nevertheless, she
was very demure and very much the lady in appearance.

She was idly turning over lavallieres on a tray--holding them up for
inspection, and letting the pretty chains run through her fingers to drop
into the tray again, like sparkling water.

"I don't think I care for any of these, don't you know?" she drawled, but
very pleasantly. "I'm sorry--really."

She turned away from the counter. Nan was close by and had been secretly
watching the pretty woman more than she had the lavallieres. The
clerk--rather an attractive girl with curly, black hair and very pink
cheeks; quite an excitable young thing--suddenly leaned over the counter
and whispered:

"Oh, madam! Pray! The special lavalliere I showed you is not here."

"What do you say, child?" demanded the woman, haughtily. "Do you miss

"The special lavalliere I showed you, madam," gasped the girl. "Forgive
me--_do_! But I am responsible for all I take out of the case!"

"It is a mistake," said the woman, coldly. "I haven't the thing--surely."

"It is not here!" wailed the clerk, still in a low key, but fingering
madly among the chains upon the tray. "Oh, ma'am! it will cost me
twenty dollars!"

The woman turned slowly and her eyes--placid blue before--now shone with
an angry light. Her gaze sought the counter--then the excited
clerk--lastly, Nan!

"I haven't your lavalliere," she said, and although her voice was stern,
it was low. "I haven't your lavalliere. How about this girl, here?" and
she indicated Nan, with an air of superb indifference.

"Oh, madam!" gasped the clerk.

"Don't! don't!" begged Nan. "Oh! you _know_ I haven't it!"

At that moment Nan felt a severe grasp upon her arm. She could not have
run had she so desired. Her heart grew cold; her face flushed to fiery
red. All neighboring eyes were turned on her.

In department stores like this the management finds it very unwise to
make any disturbance over a case of loss or robbery. The store detective
held on to Nan's arm; but he waited for developments.

"What is this all about, Miss Merwin?" he demanded of the clerk.

"I am charged with stealing a twenty-dollar lavalliere!" exclaimed
the customer.

"Oh, impossible, madam!" said the detective, evidently recognizing her.

"Then this girl, who was nearest, may have it," said madam, sharply.

Nan was very much frightened; yet her sense of honesty came to her
rescue. She cried:

"Why should I be accused? I am innocent--I assure you, I would not do
such a thing. Why! I have more than twenty dollars in my purse right now.
I will show you. Why should I steal what I can buy?"

To Nan Sherwood this question seemed unanswerable. But the store
detective scarcely noticed. He looked at the lovely woman and asked:

"Madam is _sure_ this girl took the lavalliere?"

"Oh, mercy, no! I would not accuse anybody of such a thing," responded
the woman, in her low voice.

"But we know who you are, madam, we do not know this girl," said the
detective, doubtfully. "You are a customer whom the store is glad to
serve. This girl is quite unknown to us. I have no doubt but she is
guilty--as you say."

He shook the troubled Nan by the arm. The girl was trying to control
herself--to keep from breaking down and crying. Somehow, she felt that
_that_ would not help her in the least.

Without warning, a low voice spoke at Nan's side: "I know this girl. Of
what is she accused?"

Only a few beside the detective and Nan heard the words.

"Of stealing something from the counter," said the man.

"I should not be surprised." The girl who had spoken, still whispered to
the detective. "I know who she is. Her father is already in trouble on a
similar charge. This girl tried to take a hand-bag of mine once. I never
_did_ think she was any better than she should be."

It was Linda Riggs. She stood with flushed face, looking at Nan, and
although but few customers heard what she said, the latter felt as though
she should sink through the floor.

"Ah-ha!" exclaimed the pompous detective, holding Nan's arm with a
tighter grip. "You'll come with me to the superintendent's office to be

Nothing but the vindictive expression of Linda's face kept Nan Sherwood
from bursting into tears. She was both hurt and frightened by this
situation. And to have her father's name mentioned in such an
affair--perhaps printed in the papers! This thought terrified her as much
as the possibility that she, herself, might be put in jail.

Rather unsophisticated about police proceedings was Nan, and she saw jail
yawning for her just beyond the superintendent's office, whether the lost
lavalliere was found in her possession or not.

But instantly, before the detective could remove the trembling girl from
the spot, or many curious people gather to stare and comment upon the
incident, the wonderfully dressed woman said to the detective in her
careless drawl:

"Wait! Quite dramatic, I must say. So this other girl steps in and
accuses our young heroine--without being asked even? I would doubt such
testimony seriously, were I _you_, sir."

"But, madam!" exclaimed the man.

"_What_ a situation--for the film!" pursued the woman, raising her
lorgnette to look first at Nan and then at Linda Riggs. The latter was
flushing and paling by turns--fearful at what she had done to her
schoolmate, yet glad she had done it, too!

As the customer wheeled slowly in her stately way to view the railroad
magnate's daughter, the clerk uttered a stifled cry, and on the heels of
it the detective dropped Nan's arm to hop around the woman in great

"Wait, madam! wait, madam! wait!" he reiterated. "It is here--it is

"What is the matter with you, pray?" asked the woman, curiously. "Have
you taken leave of your senses? Why don't you stand still?"

"The lavalliere!" gasped the man and, reaching suddenly, he plucked the
dangling chain from an entangling frog on her fur garment. "Here it is,
madam!" he cried, with immense satisfaction.

"Now, fancy!" drawled the woman.

Linda slipped out of sight behind some other people. Nan felt faint--just
as though she would drop. The clerk and the detective were lavish in
their apologies to Nan. As for the woman whose garment had been the cause
of all the trouble, she merely laughed.

"Fancy!" she said, in her low, pleasant drawl. "Just fancy! had I not
chanced to be known to you, and a customer of the store, I might have
been marched up to the superintendent's office myself. It really _is_ a
wonderfully good situation for a film--a real moving picture scene made
to order."



Nan was ordinarily brave enough. But the disgrace of this scene--in which
the fashionably attired woman merely saw the dramatic possibilities--well
nigh broke the girl's spirit. If she moved from this place she feared the
whispering people would follow her; if she remained, they would remain to
gape and wonder.

The troubled girl glanced hurriedly around. Was there no escape? Suppose
her chum and Mrs. Mason and Grace should appear, searching for her?

The floodgates of her tears were all but raised when the placid woman who
had caused all the trouble turned suddenly to her.

"I _do_ owe an apology to you, my dear," she said. "I see you feel very
badly about it. Don't. It really is not worth thinking of. You evidently
have a spiteful enemy in that girl who has run away. But, of course, my
dear, such unfounded accusations have no weight in the minds of sensible
people." She seemed quite to have forgotten that hers was the first

She glanced about disdainfully upon the group of whispering women and
girls. Some of them quite evidently recognized her. How could they help
it, when her features were so frequently pictured on the screen? But Nan
had not identified this woman with the great actress-director, whose
films were being talked of from ocean to ocean.

"Come, my dear," she said. "We can find a quieter place to talk, I know.
And I _do_ wish to know you better."

Whether it were unwise or not, Nan Sherwood found it impossible to
refuse the request of so beautiful a woman. Nan immediately fell under
the charm of her beauty and her voice. She went with her dumbly and
forgot the unpleasant people who stood about and stared. The lovely
woman's light hand upon her arm, too, took away the memory of the
detective's stern grasp.

The actress led her to the nearest elevator where a coin slipped into
the palm of the elevator man caused him to shoot them up to another
floor without delay. In this way all the curious ones lost trace of Nan
and her new friend. In a few moments they were sitting in one of the
tea-rooms where a white-aproned maid served them with tea and sweets at
Madam's command.

"That is what you need, my dear," said Nan's host. "Our unfailing
nerve-reviver and satisfier--tea. What would our sex do without it? And
how do we manage to keep our complexions as we do, and still imbibe
hogsheads of tea?"

She laughed and pinched Nan's cheek. "You have a splendid complexion
yourself, child. And there's quite some film-charm in your features, I
can see. Of course, you have never posed?"

"For moving pictures?" gasped Nan, at last waking up to what the woman
meant. "Oh, no, indeed!"

"You are not like most other young girls, then?" said the woman. "You
haven't the craze to act in the silent drama?"

"I never thought of such a thing," Nan innocently replied. "Film
companies do not hire girls of my age, do they?"

"Not unless they are wonderfully well adapted for the work," agreed the
actress. "But I am approached every week--I was going to say, every
day--by girls no older than you, who think they have genius for the

"Oh!" exclaimed Nan, beginning at last to take interest in something
besides her recent unpleasant experience. "Do _you_ make moving

The actress raised her eyes and clasped her hands, invoking invisible
spirits to hear. "At last! a girl who is not tainted by the universal
craze for the movies--and who does not know _me_! There are still worlds
for me to conquer," murmured the woman. "Yes, my child," she added, to
the rather abashed Nan, "I am a maker of films."

"You--you must excuse me," Nan hastened to say. "I expect I ought to
know all about you; but I lived quite a long time in the Michigan
woods, and then, lately, I have been at boarding school, and we have no
movies there."

"Your excuses are accepted, my dear," the actress-director said demurely.
"It is refreshing, I assure you, to meet a girl like you."

"I--I suppose you see so many," Nan said eagerly. "Those looking for
positions in your company, I mean. You do not remember them all?"

"Oh, mercy, no, my dear!" drawled the woman. "I see hundreds."

"Two girls I know of have recently come to Chicago looking for positions
with moving picture concerns," explained Nan, earnestly. "They are
country girls, and their folks want them to come home."


"Yes, ma'am. They have run away and their folks are dreadfully worried."

"I assure you," said the moving picture director, smiling, "they
have not been engaged at my studio. New people must furnish
references--especially if they chance to be under age. Two girls from the
country, you say, my dear? How is it they have come to think they can act
for the screen?" and she laughed lightly again.

Nan, sipping her tea and becoming more used to her surroundings and more
confidential, told her new acquaintance all about Sallie Morton and
Celia Snubbins.

"Dear, dear," the woman observed at last. "How can girls be so
foolish? And the city is no place for them, alone, under any
circumstances. If they should come to me I will communicate with their
parents. I believe I should know them, my dear--two girls together,
and both from the country?"

"Oh! if you only would help them," cried Nan. "I am sure such a kind act
would be repaid."

The woman laughed. "I see you have faith in all the old fashioned
virtues," she said. "Dear me, girl! I am glad I met you. Tell me how I
may communicate with the parents of these missing girls?"

Nan did this; but she appreciated deeply the fact that the actress
refrained from asking her any personal questions. After what Linda Riggs
had said at the jewelry counter, Nan shrank from telling her name or
where she lived to anybody who had heard her enemy.

She parted from the moving picture director with great friendliness,
however. As the latter kissed Nan she slipped a tiny engraved card into
the girl's hand.

"Some time, when you have nothing better to do, my dear, come to see
me," she said. It was not until Nan was by herself again that she
learned from the card that she had been the guest of a very famous
actress of the legitimate stage who had, as well, become notable as a
maker of moving pictures.

The girl's heart was too sore at first, when she met her friends as
agreed in an entirely different part of the great store, to say anything
about her adventure. But that night, when she and Bess were alone, Nan
showed her chum the famous actress' card, and told her how the moving
picture director was likewise on the lookout for the two runaway girls.

"Splendid!" cried Bess. "Keep on and we'll have half the people in
Chicago watching out for Sallie and Celia. But Nan! You do have the most
marvelous way of meeting the most interesting people. Think of it!
Knowing that very famous actress. How did you do it, Nan?"

"Oh! something happened that caused us to speak," Nan said lightly. But
she winced at the thought of the unhappy nature of that incident. She was
glad that Bess Harley was too sleepy to probe any deeper into the matter.



Nan did not forget Inez, the flower-girl, nor the fact that the
runaways--Sallie Morton and Celia Snubbins--might still be traced through
Mother Beasley's cheap lodging house.

Both Walter and Grace Mason had been interested, as well as amused, in
the chum's account of their first adventure in Chicago. The brother and
sister who lived so far away from the squalor of Mother Beasley's and who
knew nothing of the toil and shifts of the flower-seller's existence,
were deeply moved by the recital of what Nan and Bess had observed.

"That poor little thing!" Grace said. "On the street in all weathers to
sell posies--and for a drunken woman. Isn't it awful? Something should be
done about it. I'll tell father."

"And he'd report the case to the Society," said her brother, promptly.
"Father believes all charity should be done through organizations.
'Organized effort' is his hobby," added Walter, ruefully. "He says I lack
proper appreciation of its value."

"But if he told the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
about Inez, they would take her and put her in some institution,"
objected Nan.

"And put a uniform on her like a prisoner," cried Bess. "And make her
obey rules like--like us boarding school girls. Oh, dear!"

The others laughed at that.

"Oh, you girls!" said Walter. "To hear you talk, one would think you were
hounded like slaves at Lakeview Hall. You should have such a strict
teacher as my tutor, for instance. He's the fellow for driving one. He
says he'll have me ready for college in two years; but if he does, I know
I shall feel as stuffed as a Strasburg goose."

"This learning so much that one will be glad to forget when one grows
up," sighed Bess, "is an awful waste of time."

"Why, Bess!" cried Grace Mason, "don't you ever expect to read or write
or spell or cipher when you grow up?"

"No more than I can help," declared the reckless Elizabeth.

"And yet you've always talked about our going to college together," said
Nan, laughing at her chum.

"But college girls never have to use what they learn--except fudge-making
and dancing, and--and--well, the things that aren't supposed to be in the
curriculum," declared Bess.

"Treason! treason!" said Nan. "How dare you, Elizabeth? Pray what _do_
girls go through college for?"

"To fit themselves for the marriage state," declared Bess. "My mother
went to college and she says that every girl in her graduating class was
married inside of five years--even the homely ones. You see, the homely
ones make such perfectly splendid professors' wives. There's even a
chance for Procrastination Boggs, you see."

"You ridiculous girl!" Nan said. "Come on! Who's going down town with me?
I can find my way around now, for I have studied a map of Chicago and I
can go by the most direct route to Mother Beasley's."

"And find that cunning little Inez, too?" asked Grace.

"Yes. If I want to. But to-day I want to go to see if Sallie and Celia
went back to Mrs. Beasley's. I heard from Sallie's mother by this
morning's post, and the poor woman is dreadfully worked up about the
runaways. Mrs. Morton had a bad dream about Sallie, and the poor woman
believes in dreams."

"She does!" exclaimed Grace. "I suppose she looks at a dream book every
morning to see what each dream means. How funny!"

"Goodness!" cried Bess. "Come to think of it, I had the strangest dream
last night. I dreamed that I saw myself in the looking-glass and my
reflection stepped right out and began to talk to me. We sat down and
talked. It was so funny--just as though I were twins."

"What an imagination!" exclaimed Walter. "You don't lack anything in that
particular, for sure."

"Well," declared Bess, "I want to know what it means."

"I can make a pretty close guess," said Nan, shrewdly.

"'_Vell, vas ist_?' as our good Frau Deuseldorf says when she gets
impatient with our slowness in acquiring her beloved German."

"It means," declared Nan, "that a combination of French pancake with
peach marmalade, on top of chicken salad and mayonnaise, is not conducive
to dreamless slumber. If you dreamt you met yourself on Grand Avenue
parading at the head of a procession of Elizabeth Harleys, after such a
dinner as you ate last night, I shouldn't be surprised."

"Carping critic!" exclaimed Bess, pouting. "_Do_ let me eat what I like
while I'm here. When we get back to Lakeview Hall you know Mrs. Cupp will
want to put us all on half rations to counteract our holiday eating. I
heard her bemoaning the fact to Dr. Beulah that we would come back with
our stomachs so full that we would be unable to study for a fortnight."

"My! she is a Tartar, isn't she?" was Walter's comment.

"Oh, you don't know what we girls have to go through with at the
Hall--what trials and privations," said his sister, feelingly.

"I can see it's making you thin, Sis," scoffed the boy. "And how about
all those midnight suppers, and candy sprees, and the like?"

"Mercy!" exclaimed Bess. "If it were not for those extras we should all
starve to death. There! we've missed that jitney. We'll have to wait
for another."

The girls and their escort got safely to the shabby street in which
Mother Beasley kept her eating and lodging house; but they obtained no
new information regarding the runaway girls who had spent their first
night in Chicago with the poor, but good-hearted widow.

Nor did they find Inez in her accustomed haunts near the railroad
station; and it was too late that day to hunt the little flower-seller's
lodging, for Inez lived in an entirely different part of the town.

"Rather a fruitless chase," Walter said, as they walked from the car on
which they had returned. "What are you going to do about those runaway
girls, now?"

"I don't know--oh! stop a moment!" Nan suddenly cried. "What's that
over there?"

"A picture palace; goodness knows they're common enough," said Bess.

"But see what the sign says. Look, girls! Look, Walter!" and Nan
excitedly pointed out the sheet hung above the arched entrance of the
playhouse. "'A Rural Beauty'!" she cried. "That's the very picture those
two girls took part in. It's been released."

"We must see it," Bess cried. "I'm just crazy to see how Sallie and Celia
look on the screen."

"Why! you never saw them. Do you think they will be labeled?"
scoffed Walter.

"Oh, we saw a photograph of Sallie; and if Celia looks anything like
Mr. Si Snubbins, we can't mistake her," laughed Bess. "Let's run over
and go in."

"No," Grace objected. "Mother never lets us go to a picture show without
asking her permission first."

"No? Not even when Walter is with you?" asked Bess.

"No. She wishes to know just what kind of picture I am going to see. She
belongs to a club that tries to make the picture-play people in this
neighborhood show only nice films. She says they're not all to be trusted
to do so."

"I guess this 'Rural Beauty' is a good enough picture," Nan said; "but of
course we'll ask your mother's permission before we go in."

"There it is," groaned Bess. "Got to ask permission to breathe, I expect,
pretty soon."

But she was glad, afterward, that they did ask Mrs. Mason. That careful
lady telephoned the committee of her club having the censorship of
picture plays in charge, and obtained its report upon "A Rural Beauty."
Then she sent Walter to the playhouse to buy a block of seats for that
evening, and over the telephone a dozen other boys and girls--friends of
Grace and Walter--were invited to join the party.

They had a fine time, although the chums from Tillbury had not an
opportunity of meeting all of the invited guests before the show.

"But they are all going home with us for supper--just like a grown-up
theatre party," confided Grace to Nan and Bess.

"Pearl Graves telephoned that she would be a little late and would have
to bring her cousin with her. Mother told her to come along, cousin and
all, of course."

Nan and Bess, with a couple of friends of the Masons' whom they had
already met, sat in the front row of the block of seats reserved for the
party, and did not see the others when they entered the darkened house.

Several short reels were run off before the first scene of "A Rural
Beauty" was shown. It was a very amusing picture, being full of country
types and characters, with a sweet little love story that pleased the
girls, and some quite adventurous happenings that made a hit with Walter,
as he admitted.

Sallie Morton and Celia Snubbins were in the picture and the chums easily
picked the runaways out on the screen. Sallie was a pretty girl, despite
the fault her father had pointed out--that she was long-limbed. Nan and
Bess knew Celia Snubbins because she _did_ look like her father.

The two girls had been used in the comedy scene of "A Rural Beauty" as
contrasts to the leading lady in the play, who was made up most
strikingly as the beautiful milkmaid who captured the honest young farmer
in the end.

There was a buzz of excitement among the Masons and those of their
friends who had heard about the runaways over the appearance of Sallie
and Celia when they came on the screen. As the party reached the lobby
after the end of the last reel, Walter expressed his opinion emphatically
regarding the runaway girls.

"I declare! I think those two girls awfully foolish to run away from
home if they couldn't do anything more in a picture than they did in
that one."

Nan was about to make some rejoinder, for Walter was walking beside her,
when somebody said, back of them:

"Why, you must know those girls ahead. They go to Lakeview Hall with
Gracie Mason."

"Goodness! they are not staying with Grace and Walter, are they?"
demanded a shrill and well remembered voice. "Why, I saw Nan Sherwood in
trouble in one of the big stores the other day, for taking something from
one of the counters."

Nan turned, horrified. The speaker was Linda Riggs.



Mrs. Mason had not chaperoned the party of girls and boys to the motion
picture show; but Miss Hagford, the English governess, was with them.
Including the young hosts and Nan and Bess, there was almost a score in
the party, and they made quite a bustling crowd in the lobby as they came
out, adjusting their outer garments against the night air.

Walter and Nan were in the lead and when Linda Riggs' venomous tongue
spat out the unkind words last repeated, few of the party heard her.
Pearl Graves, her cousin, was beside the purse-proud girl who had been
Nan's bitter enemy since the day they had first met. Pearl was a
different kind of girl entirely from Linda; in fact, she did not know her
cousin very well, for Linda did not reside in Chicago. At her cousin's
harsh exclamation Pearl cried:

"Hush, Linda! how can you say such things? That can not possibly be

"'Tis, too! And Nan won't dare deny it," whispered Linda. "She knows what
her father is, too! Mr. and Mrs. Mason can't have heard about Nan's
father being in trouble for taking a man's watch and money in a sleeping
car. Oh! _I_ know all about it."

Walter Mason's ears were sharp enough; but Linda spoke so hurriedly, and
the boy was so amazed, that the cruel girl got thus far in her wicked
speech before he turned and vehemently stopped her.

"What do you mean by telling such a story as that about Nan?" demanded
the boy, hoarsely. "And about her father, too? You are just the meanest
girl I ever saw, Linda Riggs, and I'm sorry you're in this party. I wish
you were a boy--I'd teach you one good lesson--I would!"

They stood just at the entrance to the theatre, where the electric lights
were brightest. A few flakes of snow were falling, like glistening
particles of tinsel. There were not many patrons entering the moving
picture house at this late hour, but the remainder of the Masons' guests
crowded forward to hear and see what was going on.

Nan was white-faced, but dry-eyed. Walter stood partly in front of her as
though he were physically defending her, and held one of her hands while
his other hand was tightly clenched, and his face ablaze with

"Oh, Nan! What is the matter?" cried Bess Harley, running to Nan's side
and taking her other hand.

"What has happened?" asked Grace Mason. "What is it, Walter?"

"My goodness!" broke in Bess, before there could be any other
explanation. "Here's that horrid Linda Riggs. What brought _her_ here,
I'd like to know?"

"I've as much right here as you have, Harley," cried Linda. "I don't
have to worm myself into society that is above me, as you and your
precious friend do. My father is as rich as any girl's father here, I'd
have you know."

"Oh, hush, Linda!" murmured Pearl Graves, very much ashamed of her

"Walter! Grace! What does this mean?" demanded the governess, hurrying
forward. "Don't make a scene here, I beg. Have no quarreling."

But Walter was too greatly enraged to be easily amenable to the mild
lady's advice.

"What do you think of this, Miss Hagford?" he cried excitedly. "Nan
Sherwood has been at our house since the first day she and Bess arrived
in Chicago; yet Linda Riggs says she saw Nan taking something in a
store here."

"Hush, Walter, hush!" begged Miss Hagford. "People will hear you."

"Well, people heard her!" declared the angry youth.

"We know Linda Riggs for what she is," Bess put in. "But these other boys
and girls don't. Grace will tell you that Linda is the very meanest girl
at Lakeview Hall."

"Oh! I couldn't say _that_, Bess," gasped timid Grace. "She is my guest
for the evening!"

"Well, I'll say it for you," burst out her brother. "Somebody should tell
the truth about her."

"So they should," chimed in Bess. "She's a mean, spiteful thing!"

"Stop! stop, all of you!" commanded the governess, sternly. "Why, this is

"I guess it is--I guess it is," said Linda, bitterly. "But this is the
sort of treatment I might expect from anybody so much under the
influence of Sherwood and Harley, as Grace and Walter are. I tell you I
saw Nan Sherwood being held by a detective in Wilson-Meadows store,
because they said she had taken some jewelry from the counter. And she
cannot deny it!"

She said this with such positiveness, and was so much in earnest, that
most of her hearers could not fail to be impressed. They stared at
white-faced Nan to see if she had not something to say in her own
defense. It seemed preposterous for Linda to repeat her charge so
emphatically without some foundation for it.

"It isn't so!" cried Bess, first to gain her breath. "You know, Grace,
Nan hasn't been shopping unless you and I were both with her. _That's_
made up out of whole cloth!"

"You were not with her that day, Miss Smartie," cried the revengeful
Linda. "And you see--she doesn't deny it."

"Of course she denies it!" Bess responded. "Do say something, Nan! Don't
let that girl talk about you in this way."

Then Nan did open her lips--and what she said certainly amazed most of
her hearers. "I was charged with taking a lavalliere from the counter.
But it was found hanging from a lady's coat--"

"Where _you_ hung it, when you saw you were caught!" interposed Linda.

"It was dreadful," Nan went on, brokenly. "I was so frightened and
ashamed that I did not tell anybody about it."

"Nan!" cried Bess. "It's never _true_? You weren't arrested?"

"I--I should have been had the lavalliere not been found," her chum
confessed. "Linda saw me and she told the man I was dishonest. I--I was
so troubled by it all that I didn't tell anybody. It was the day I met
that lady whose card I showed you, Bess. _She_ was the lady whose coat
caught up the chain. She was very kind to me."

"And Linda Riggs tried to make it worse for you, did she?" put in the
indignant Walter.

"Hush, Walter!" commanded Miss Hagford. "We must have no more of this
here. It is disgraceful. We will go directly home and your mother must
know all the particulars. I don't know what she will say--I really do
not," the troubled governess added.

"Oh, you can all go," snarled Linda. "You're welcome to the company of
that Nan Sherwood. Pearl and I can find our way to her house. We'll leave
you right now."

"Pearl is not going home, Linda," said her cousin. "You're not going to
spoil all _my_ fun for your own pleasure, I can tell you!"

"Stop, my dear," Miss Hagford said sternly. "Don't wrangle any
more. Come! March! Walter, lead the way with your sister. Let us
delay no longer."

Walter felt inclined to be obstinate and stick to Nan; but the latter
slipped back with Bess, and they two walked arm in arm. Bess was frankly
sobbing. They were tears of rage.

"Oh, dear! I wish I hadn't been brought up so respectably!" she gasped.
"I wish I were like Inez. I'd slap that Linda Riggs' face and tear her
hair out in big handfuls!"

Nan could not even smile at her chum's tearful emphasis. She felt very
miserable indeed. She thought the English governess looked at her
suspiciously. Some of the girls and boys must surely be impressed by what
Linda had said. Had it been practical, Nan would have slipped out of the
crowd and run away.

It was a rather silent party that passed through the snowy streets to the
Mason house. Some of the girls and their escorts whispered together but
this only added to the embarrassment of all concerned.

They reached the house at last. It was brightly lighted, for Mrs. Mason
had promised to entertain royally. Her appearance at the door when it was
opened, was quite in the nature of a surprise, however. She ran forward,
her lovely gown trailing behind her and both hands outstretched.

"Where is our Nan?" she cried gaily. "Nan Sherwood! come here to me at
once. You delightfully brave girl! And never to have talked about it!"

By this time she had the embarrassed Nan within the circle of her arms,
and was smiling charmingly upon the others who trooped into the big
entrance hall.

"What do you suppose she has done?" pursued Mrs. Mason, happily. "_You_
must have known about it, Bess, for you were with Nan when she went to
Lakeview Hall last September. Why, girls! this Nan of ours, when the
train stopped at a station, went alone to the rescue of a child
threatened by a rattlesnake, killed the snake, and rescued the child.
What do you think of _that_?

"And now some of the passengers on that train, who saw the brave deed,
have applied for and obtained a medal for bravery which has been brought
here by a committee, and is to be presented to our Nan. You dear girl!"
cried Mrs. Mason, kissing her heartily. "_What are you crying for_?"

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