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Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays by Annie Roe Carr

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That's how I came to be acquainted with your little dog. He was with your
father on the train."

"Why, Pop!" cried the eager boy. "You never told me a word about it. And
you must know this girl."

Mr. Ravell Bulson only grunted and scowled.

"What's your name, girl?" cried the boy, curiously.

"I am Nan Sherwood," the girl said, kissing him and then giving him a
gentle push toward his father's outstretched and impatient hand. "If I
don't see you again I shall often think of you. Be good to Buster."

"You must tell me about being snowed up, Pop," urged little Junior, as
Nan turned away. "And I like that girl."

"That isn't much to tell--and _I_ don't like her--nor any of her name,"
snapped Mr. Bulson.

"But you'll tell me about the snowed-up train?"

"Yes, yes!" cried his father, impatiently, anxious to get his lame son
away from Nan's vicinity. "I'll tell you all about it."

Nan was quite sure that the fat man would be ashamed to give his little
son the full particulars of his own experience on the stalled train. The
little chap, despite his affliction, was an attractive child and seemed
to have inherited none of his father's unhappy disposition.

"Good bye, Nan Sherwood!" he cried after the girl. "Come, Buster! Come,
Buster! My, Pop! Buster likes that girl!"

"Well, I don't," declared the fat man, still scowling at Nan.

"Don't you?" cried Junior. "That's funny. I like her, and Buster likes
her, and you don't, Pop. I hope I'll see you again, Nan Sherwood."

His father almost dragged him away, the spaniel, on a leash, cavorting
about the lame boy. Nan was amazed by the difference in the behavior of
Mr. Bulson and his afflicted son.

"And won't he be surprised when he learns that it wasn't Papa Sherwood,
after all, but that wicked negro porter, who stole his wallet and watch?"
Nan mused. "I hope they find the man and punish him. But--it really does
seem as though Mr. Bulson ought to be punished, too, for making my father
so much trouble."

Later "Nosey" Thompson _was_ captured; but he had spent all Mr. Bulson's
money in a drunken spree, and while intoxicated had been robbed of the
watch. So, in the end, the quarrelsome fat man, who had so maligned Mr.
Sherwood and caused him so much trouble, recovered nothing--not even his
lost temper.

"Which must be a good thing," was Bess Harley's comment. "For if I had a
temper like his, I'd want to lose it--and for good and all!"

"But there must be some good in that fat man," Nan said, reflectively.

"Humph! Now find some excuse for _him_, Nan Sherwood!" said her chum.

"No. Not an excuse. He maligned Papa Sherwood and I can't forgive him.
But his little boy thinks the world of him, I can see; and Mr. Bulson is
very fond of the little boy--'Junior,' as he calls him."

"Well," quoth Bess, "so does a tiger-cat love its kittens. He's a gouty,
grumpy old fellow, with an in-growing grouch. I couldn't see a mite of
good in him with a spyglass."

Her chum laughed heartily at that statement. "Well, let us hope he will
keep so far away from us after this that we will have to use a spyglass
to see him at all."

"And there's another person who can stay away from us," said Bess,

"Who's that?" queried Nan, looking up at the change in Bess' voice.

"Linda Riggs. She's coming this way," Bess said, tartly.

This conversation occurred in the skating rink, and while Nan was having
her skates strapped on by an attendant, for Walter Mason was not at the
moment in sight.

The haughty daughter of the railroad president evidently proposed
speaking with the chums from Tillbury. They had not seen her since the
runaway and more than once Nan had wondered just what attitude Linda
would take when they again met.

For Nan's part, she would rather not have met the rich girl at all. She
had no particular ill-feeling toward her now; although time was when
Linda had done all in her power to hurt Nan's reputation--and that not so
very long past. But having actually helped to save the girl's life, Nan
Sherwood could not hold any grudge against Linda. Bess, on the other
hand, bristled like an angry dog when she saw Linda approach.

Linda came skating along warily, and arrived at the chums' bench by a
series of graceful curves. She was rather a good skater, but more showy
than firm on her skates.

"Oh, girls! I'm awful glad to see you," Linda cried, boisterously--and
that boisterousness doubtless was assumed to cover her natural
embarrassment at meeting again the girl whom she had so injured. "I
didn't have time," pursued Linda, hurriedly, "the other day, to thank you
properly--or Walter--for helping me out of that sleigh. I _was_ scared."

"I should think you would have been," Bess said, rather grimly. "I'm sure
I thought you would never get out of it alive."

"Well," repeated Linda, more doubtfully, for Nan had remained silent, "I
wanted to thank you for what you did for me."

"You needn't thank me," said Bess, sharply. "For I didn't do a thing."

"Well, Nan Sherwood did, I s'pose," Linda observed, her color rising.

"You are heartily welcome if you think you need to thank me, Linda," Nan
said, quietly. "But Walter really did it all."

"Of course!" said Linda, tossing her head, for Bess' manner had rasped
the rich girl, "I know it took Walter to do it. But I presumed you girls
expected to be thanked, too," and she turned sharply away.

"Oh, Bess! we ought not to have spoken as we did," murmured Nan,

"Pooh! Let her go. Mean old thing!" exclaimed Bess. "And you didn't say
anything to get her mad. Crocodile tears! what did I tell you? Linda
Riggs is a regular cat--"

"Both cat and crocodile?" giggled Nan. "Your natural history, Bess,
honey, must be slightly twisted."

"I've about got that girl's number, just the same," said Bess, slangily.
"You wait, Nan. She'll be just as mean when we get to Lakeview Hall as
ever she was. Mark my word."

"All right, Worthy Prophetess," said Nan, seriously. "I mark thee well.
But I am afraid we are in the wrong this time. We should have encouraged
her attempt to be grateful."

She had no idea--nor had Nan Sherwood herself--that it lay within Linda's
power, if it did in her wish, to injure Nan further. But Fate weaves
strange webs of ordinary circumstances and that very evening Nan Sherwood
came in close contact with Linda Riggs again, and the incident savored of
a new peril, as keen as it was unexpected.

Walter was a minute late at the dinner table that night and as he slid
into his seat beside Nan, after excusing himself to his mother and
receiving her absolution in a smile, he whispered to Nan:

"What's 'on' for after dinner?"

"I really do not know of anything, Walter," she replied, smiling. "Don't
you suppose we girls ever want to keep quiet? This visit to your house
has been one continual round of pleasure--"

"Yes. You get _your_ pleasure out of rescuing kids from the street,
chasing runaway horses, hunting for runaway girls, and playing Sister of
Charity to sick people. Say! your idea of pleasure, Nan Sherwood, is
simply funny. Now, I've got something on for this evening, if you, and
Bess, and Grace--and the kid, of course--want to go. But no crowd. My
exchequer will not stand it.

"I'm running low in funds and father won't let _me_ overdraw my
allowance, although he lets Grace do it almost every month. He says a
girl hasn't any head for figures, anyway, and she's to be excused."

"Oh, my!" gasped Nan. "That maligns the sex. I ought not to allow that,
Walter Mason."

"Huh!" returned the boy, grinning. "Grace doesn't mind how much the sex
is maligned, I warrant, as long as father hands her out an extra five
whenever she runs short."

"But you haven't told me what the scheme is for this evening," Nan
reminded him.

"Movies," Walter said. "There's a dandy new theatre opened on Halliburton
Street. It isn't far, and mother approves of the class of pictures they
run. There are going to be some funny ones shown to-night, too. I'll
stand treat for you girls--but no more."

"Dear me, Walter," cried Nan. "You spend all your money on us girls."

"It couldn't go in a better cause," retorted the generous boy, stoutly.

Permission for the evening's outing was easily obtained, and the
quintette of pleasure-seeking young folk hurried away immediately after
dinner, so as to see the first show and get home early. Little Inez was
as eager and excited as she could be over the prospect of seeing a real
movie show.

"I seen some pictures once in a dance hall where a man let me sell me
flowers," she explained. "But, I never dared spend a nickel for no show.
Me aunt would have scalped me--sure she would!"

Mr. Sherwood had seen Inez's aunt that afternoon, at his little
daughter's request, and found that the woman dared make no objection as
to their disposal of the child. In fact, she seemed a good deal relieved
that kind friends had been raised for Inez.

The party arrived at the new picture palace to find a goodly crowd
already assembled at the entrance. On this opening night there was a good
deal of local interest shown, and the first picture was being finished
when Nan Sherwood and her friends crowded into their seats.

"That's a good picture, I warrant," Walter said. "We want to stay and see
that run over again. Ah-ha! here comes a Keynote Comedy. That will be a
funny one, sure."

"I like to laugh," announced Inez, with her most serious air. "But I
ain't never had much time for it."

"You poor little mite," said Bess. "I should say you hadn't. But you'll
laugh all right when you get home with us to Tillbury. Won't she, Nan?"

"Of course she will," agreed Nan, squeezing the little one close to her.

They did not, however, laugh much at the picture which followed. The
reels did not seem to run very evenly. Either the operator was not an
experienced one or there was something the matter with the machine. The
flash-card, "Wait a minute, please," appeared so frequently on the screen
that the audience began to murmur, and some got up and went out.

There were others ready to take their places, and this continual changing
of positions in the half-darkness of the house made a confusion that was
hard to bear.

Nan and her friends moved over against the wall and another party came
rustling in to take the seats in that row nearest to the aisle. Not until
this crowd was seated did the party from the Mason house realize that it
was anybody whom they knew.

Then Pearl Graves' rather loud voice broke in upon Nan and Walter's
whispered conversation:

"Why! see who's here?" she cried. "Hullo, Walter Mason. Who's that you've
got with you? Nan Sherwood, I'll be bound. And Grace, and Bess Harley.
Hullo, girls! Is the show any good?"

"For goodness' sake!" interposed the sharp voice of the girl on the other
side of Pearl. "Can't we go anywhere without running up against that Nan
Sherwood and her crowd?"

"Oh, you be still, Linda!" laughed good-natured Pearl. "You ought to
be pleased as Punch to see Nan and Walter. Between them they just
about saved your life when Granny Graves' horses ran away with you the
other day."

Little Inez was on Nan's other side and immediately Nan gave her
attention to the child, leaving Walter free to talk with the new-comers
if he chose.

"Did you like that picture, dear?" asked Nan of the little one.

"Hi! I liked it where the fat man slipped up on the soap at the top of
the stairs and slid to the bottom where the scrub-woman left her tub of
water. Do you 'spect that was _real_ water, Nan Sherwood? He'd ha' been
drowned, wouldn't he?"

"I guess it was real water," laughed Nan. "But they wouldn't let him be
drowned in a picture."

"I forget it's a picture," sighed little Inez, exhibiting thereby true
dramatic feeling for the art of acting. To her small mind the pantomime
seemed real.

Another reel was started. The projection of it flickered on the screen
until it dazzled one's eyes to try to watch it.

"Goodness!" gasped Pearl Graves. "I hope that won't keep up."

The excited little Hebrew who owned the theatre ran, sputtering, up the
aisle, and climbed into the gallery to expostulate with the operator.
There was an explosion of angry voices from the operator's box when the
proprietor reached it.

The reel was halted again--this time without the projection of the usual
"Wait a minute, please," card. The next instant there was another
explosion; but not of voices.

A glare of greenish flame was projected from the box in the gallery where
the machine was located--then followed a series of crackling, snapping

It was indeed startling, and there were a general craning of necks and
excited whispering in the audience; but it might have gone no further had
it not been for Linda Riggs.

It could not have been with malice--for the result swept Linda herself
into the vortex of excitement and peril that followed; but the railroad
president's daughter shrieked at the loudest pitch of her voice:

"Fire! fire! We'll all be burned to death! _Fire_!"

"Be still!" "Sit down!" were commands that instantly sounded from all
parts of the house.

But the mischief was done, and Linda continued to shriek in apparently an
abandonment of terror:

"_Fire! Fire!_"

Other nervous people took up the cry. Nearly half a thousand spectators
were seated in the picture theatre and the smell of smoke was in their
nostrils and the glare of fire above them.

For something, surely, was burning in the operator's box. The danger of
the inflammable film was in the minds of all. A surge of the crowd toward
the main exit signaled the first panic.

The outgoing rush was met by those who (not understanding the commotion)
had been waiting at the back for seats. These people would not give way
easily as the frightened audience pushed up the main aisle.

Those at the sides escaped more easily, for there was an exit on either
side of the audience room. In the case of Nan Sherwood and her party,
however, they were in the worst possible position as far as quick escape
went. By some oversight of the fire inspectors the seats on several front
rows had been built close against the sidewalls, with no passage at that
end of the rows for entrance or egress.

Bess was next to the wall, and she jumped up, crying: "Oh, come on,
girls! let's get out. Walter! I say, Walter! I'm frightened. Let us go."

Grace was crying.

Nan hugged Inez close to her and looked to Walter, too, to extricate
them from their situation. But Linda had reached across her cousin,
Pearl Graves, and clawed at Walter in abject terror. "Oh, save me! save
me, Walter!" she moaned. "I am _so_ afraid of fire--and in a place like
this! Oh! oh!"

"Shut that girl's mouth!" exclaimed one man from the front. "Stop that
screaming! There is no danger! The fire is confined to the box, and that
is made of sheet iron. We're all right. Don't crowd!"

The panic had, however, spread too far.

The mob struggled and fought at the main doors. The police had been
summoned; but they could not get into the building through the main
entrance, and the side exits were toward the rear. Several people were
knocked down and trampled on. A pungent odor of burning filled the
theatre; the crackling of the flames grew louder and louder.

Walter had his hands full with Linda and Pearl, who had become likewise
panic-stricken. Nan pushed Grace and Bess back toward the wall.

"Stand right where you are. We mustn't get in that crowd. We'll be
killed," advised she, holding little Inez close to her.

"Save me! save me, Walter!" wailed Linda.

"I wish somebody would take this girl out of the way!" growled Walter
Mason in much disgust, and far from gallant.

"Don't leave me!" shrieked Linda.

People began madly to climb over the seats--and over one another--to
reach the side exits.

"How ever will we get out, Nan?" demanded Bess Harley, with keen faith
in her chum.

"Keep still. Let us wait," urged Nan.

But at that instant red and yellow flames burst from the box where the
picture projecting machine was housed. These flames began to lick up the
furnishings of the balcony like so much tinder. Sparks and dense smoke
were thrown off and both settled upon the struggling people below.

"Oh, Walter! Walter! We shall be burned," cried his sister.

The boy had never yet neglected his timid sister's cry. He somewhat
rudely pushed Linda away and reached across Nan and Inez to seize
Grace's hand.

"Pluck up your courage, Sis!" he cried, his voice rising cheerfully above
the turmoil. "We'll get out all right."

"But _how_?" demanded Bess, in great anxiety. "Oh! see those sparks fly!"

"I see," said Nan, trying to speak calmly.

"They're falling right on those poor people--do, do look!" gasped Bess.

There was an open space between the young folks from the Mason house and
the crowd that was wedged into the exit at the head of the main aisle.
Upon this mob was pouring smoke and sparks. The flames ate up the bunting
with which the balcony rail and pillars were decorated. The burning cloth
floated down upon the heads of the excited people and threatened to set
the dresses of some afire.

Pearl Graves had actually fainted in her seat. Linda lay across her
cousin, sobbing and groaning. The rest of their party, whoever they were,
had deserted the two girls.

"What under the sun shall we do, Nan?" whispered Walter, and Nan read the
words on his lips rather than heard them; for the burning theatre was by
this time a scene of pandemonium.



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

"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

"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.

And here the heat of them almost overwhelmed her. The shrieks of the
frantic throng at the main door of the theatre died away. She heard
the shouted commands of the police and firemen--then the swish of
water from the first pipe brought to play upon the flames. But they
were all outside.

There was nobody near to help Nan Sherwood. She might easily have escaped
by herself; but to leave this helpless girl whom Linda Riggs had

Nan could not do that. She seized Pearl Graves by the shoulders and
strove to drag her out of that row of seats and into the next. Although
the main aide was now clear, she dared not try that way. Fire was raining
down from the balcony into the back of the house.

Pearl was a larger and heavier girl than Nan. Strong as the latter was,
and well developed from her athletic training, the older girl would have
been a heavy charge for Nan at best. Now, with the smoke half smothering
her, and Pearl a dead weight in her arms, Nan could scarcely drag her
burden to the opening in the row of seats.

She struggled to it, however, and got the girl through the first row of
chairs, tearing Pearl's dress sadly in the effort and scratching her own
ungloved hands. Nan was crying, too, as she struggled on; she was both
frightened and unnerved.

But she stuck to her self-imposed task. She could hear no voices near
her now. Nothing but the crackling of the flames and the crash of axes
as the firemen wrecked the partition back of the balcony to get at the
seat of the fire.

There was nobody to help Nan with her burden. A curtain of smoke shut off
the firemen and policemen in the front of the house from the auditorium
itself. The smoke grew thicker back there where the young girl struggled
to reach the side exit.

Walter Mason and her other friends had escaped. Nan was glad of that. She
did not even question why none of them came back to help her.

Nan did not know that the moment they appeared in the side alley, leading
back to the rear of the theatre, a policeman with more zeal than good
sense hustled them away from the door and would not let even Walter
return when he found that Nan and Pearl were not with the party.

"Ye can't go back in there, me laddy-buck," declared the officer. "Is it
crazy ye are? Phat's in that the-a-tre will have to stay there, if it
can't git out be itself. Orders is ter let nobody inside."

"But something's happened to Nan!" cried Walter. "She and that other girl
are perhaps overcome with the smoke. They'll smother!"

"Be still, I tell yez," commanded the officer, putting the boy back with
one hand. "Orders is orders. Ye can't go back."

The situation quite overpowered Walter. He could not break through to
help Nan and Pearl. His own sister was crying to him and begging him to
come out of danger. Bess was screaming for Nan. Linda stood by, shaking
with terror and cold. She doubtless realized that she had been the cause
of the catastrophe.

And then, suddenly, little Inez broke away from Bess's restraining hand,
and darted toward the exit, out of which the smoke was now pouring.
Walter sprang forward again, too. The police officer caught the boy with
a strong hand and hurled him back with an emphatic word; but Inez ran
right between the officer's legs!

"Now, drat that young'un!" ejaculated the policeman, as Inez completely
escaped him and disappeared under the pall of smoke.

"Oh, Inez! Come back! You'll be smothered!" shrieked Grace.

If the child heard this cry she paid no attention. Fearless and wild, she
was too used to having her own way to obey now. And, besides, in her own
queer, half-tamed way, she loved Nan Sherwood.

Being so tiny, Inez was less affected by the smoke than those who were
taller. The blundering policeman who essayed to follow her into the
doorway, came staggering back, choking and blinded. Walter himself,
springing forward when he thought the way was clear, was met by the
rolling volume of pungent smoke, which filled his lungs and stifled him.

"Come back! Come back, Walter!" wailed his sister.

With smarting throat and tearful eyes the boy obeyed--not because he
wanted to. The heat and smoke overpowered him. The policeman was still
choking and gasping.

Then, of a sudden, Bess Harley emitted an excited cheer. "Here they are!
Hooray!" she shrieked.

Out of the doorway plunged little Inez, one arm over her eyes to defend
them from the stinging smoke; one hand pulling at Nan's jacket, to guide
her; for Nan came stumbling backward from the burning theatre, dragging
Pearl Graves with her.

Both girls fell on the flagging as they reached the alley. The policeman
and Walter raised Nan quickly. She did not lose consciousness; but she
was scorched and breathless. Pearl, however, had not recovered her senses
at all from the moment the shock had made her faint.

"She's--she's safe!" gasped Nan. "I covered her face so she should not
breathe the smoke."

"And you're safe--you dear!" cried Bess, hugging her.

"And what a little trump that kid is," cried Walter, taking Inez by the
shoulders and lifting her suddenly into his arms. He implanted a kiss on
the child's smooched face, and put Inez down, laughing, when she
struggled and cried out.

"Say, you're too fresh, you are," declared Inez. "Who told you you could
kiss me? I don't like boys--much--anyway."

This made the other girls laugh. Walter aided Nan out of the alley. The
policeman carried Pearl out into the back street and to the nearest drug
store. There she was revived, and Linda telephoned for a taxi-cab to
take them both home.

The rich girl had little to say to the Masons, or Nan and Bess. And
certainly the four friends said nothing to her. They were convinced that
there would have been no panic in the theatre had it not been for Linda
Riggs; and her treatment of her own cousin had disgusted them all.

When Pearl had revived, being still very sick, the druggist gave her some
medicine and then Linda took her home in the cab. Pearl knew, however,
who had saved her from the fire. Bess Harley saw to it that there was no
mistake about that.

"And we both owe our escape, I verily believe, to little Inez," Nan
said, laughing, and stroking the head of the waif fondly. "The dear
little thing came right inside and found us in the smoke. I was almost
out of breath."

Pearl was quietly grateful to Nan, however, and she kissed Inez. When she
went away in the cab Nan's hand was the last she touched, and Nan knew
that she had made a friend for life of Pearl Graves. Nan refused to allow
the Masons or Bess to talk of the matter. They all walked home, and by
the time they reached the Mason house were all more quiet and able to
appear before Mrs. Mason as though nothing extraordinary had happened.

It was not until the next morning at breakfast time, indeed, that
Walter's and Grace's parents learned of the fire in the new theatre. Not
much damage had been done the house; but several people had been hurt;
and the escape of Walter and his party had been really miraculous.

"Goodness me!" sighed Mrs. Mason. "I shall be afraid to have you young
folk out of my sight for the remainder of this vacation. What scrapes you
manage to get into!"

These busy winter holidays were drawing to a close, however. Grace and
Walter Mason and their two visitors, as well as all of their
neighborhood friends, who had occupied themselves most enjoyably and in
a dozen different ways, were now scattering for the latter half of the
school year.

Nan did not see Linda Riggs again while she remained in Chicago.
Immediately following the fire in the picture theatre, the railroad
president's daughter went home. How she really felt toward Nan, the
latter did not know; nor did this uncertainty bother her much.

Now that her father's trouble with Mr. Ravell Bulson was cleared up, Nan
did not worry over anything but the seemingly total disappearance of the
runaways, Sallie and Celia or, as they preferred to be known, Lola
Montague and Marie Fortesque.

Mr. Sherwood was still in town to settle matters with the automobile
company, and would return to Tillbury with Nan and Bess and Inez. Walter
and Grace tried to crowd into the last forty-eight hours of the chums'
stay all the good times possible, and the second night before Nan and
Bess were to go home, a masquerade party was arranged at the Mason home.
Of course, Mrs. Mason was the chief "patroness" of the affair and
superintended the arrangements herself. So it was bound to be a success.

Nan needed some ribbons and a new pair of gloves at the last minute, and
she ran out to get them herself. Trying shop after shop, just as the
street lights were beginning to glimmer, she wandered some blocks away
from the Mason house.

She reached a corner where there was a brilliantly lighted bakery beside
a narrow and dark alley. Nan was looking for a shop where gloves were
sold, not for a bakery; but some people coming out of the shop jostled
her. She did not give the little group a second glance as they set off on
their several ways from the bakeshop door.

Suddenly, she heard a voice say: "Oh, Sallie! they smell so good. I am as
hungry as I can be."

Nan fairly jumped. She wheeled quickly to see two girls--one quite tall
and pretty, after a fashion--standing with a bag of cakes between them.
The tall girl opened it while the shorter peered in hungrily.

"Goodness! Can it be--?"

Nan's unspoken question was not completed, for out of the alley darted a
street urchin of about Inez's age, who snatched the bag of cakes out of
the girl's hand and ran, shrieking, back into the dark alley.

"Oh! the rascal!" gasped the taller of the two girls.

The other burst into tears--and they were very real tears, too! She
leaned against the bakery wall, with her arm across her eyes, and sobbed.

"Oh, Marie, don't!" begged the other, with real concern. "Suppose
somebody sees you!"

"I don't care if they do. And I _hate_ that name,--Marie!" choked the
crying girl, desperately. "I won't answer to it an--any more--so now! I
want my own na--name."

"Oh, dear, Celia! don't be a baby."

"I--I don't care if I _am_ a baby. I'm hun--hun--hungry."

"Well, we'll buy some more cakes."

"You can't--you shouldn't," sobbed the other, weakly. "I haven't any more
money at all, and you have less than a dollar."

Nan had heard enough. She did not care what these girls thought of her;
they should not escape. She planted herself right before the two startled
strangers and cried:

"You foolish, foolish things! You are starving for greasy baker's cakes,
when your fathers and mothers at home are just sitting down to lovely
sliced ham and brown bread and biscuit and homemade preserves and
cake--_and plenty of it all_! Sallie Morton and Celia Snubbins, I think
you are two of the most foolish girls I ever heard of!"

The crying girl stopped in surprise. The other tried to assume a very
scornful air.

"Haven't you made a mistake, Miss?" she said. "My name is Lola Montague
and my friend is Miss Marie Fortesque."

"Sure they are," said the excited Nan. "I know they are your names, for
you chose them yourselves. But I was at your house, Sallie Morton, the
day of the big blizzard--the very day after you and Celia ran away. And
if you'd seen how your mother cried, and how badly your father felt--

"And _your_ mother is worried to death about you, Celia Snubbins; and
your father, Si, who is a dear old man, said he'd give everything he
owned to get you back--"

"Oh, oh!" gasped Celia, and burst into tears again.

"Listen to this, Sallie Morton!" added Nan, rummaging in her shopping bag
and bringing forth Mrs. Morton's letter. She read some of the letter
aloud to the girls.

"Now, Sallie, how dare you stay away from a mother like that? You've both
just got to come with me. I should think you'd have found out by this
time that neither of you will ever be famous as motion picture

"We have!" gulped Celia, plucking up a little courage. "You know we
have, Sallie. That Mr. Gray told us to go back and milk the cows--you
know he did!"

Sallie, determined as she was, was softened by her mother's letter. She
said: "Well--if they'll have us back, I s'pose we might as well go. But
everybody will laugh at us, Celia."

"Let 'em laugh!" cried her friend. "They won't laugh any harder than
those folk in that studio did when we tried to act for the movies."

Their experience searching for work at the film studios all over
Chicago had taught the two country girls something, at least. They had
seen how poor people have to live in the city, and were going back to
their country homes with an appreciation of how much better off they
were there.

First, however, Nan forgot to buy her gloves; and instead took Sallie and
Celia back to the Mason house with her. When she explained the situation
to Walter and sent him out to telegraph to Mr. Morton, the boy laughingly
nick-named the big Mason home, "The Wayfarers' Inn."

"If you stayed here a month longer, Nan Sherwood, you'd have the house
filled with waifs and strays," he declared.

Sallie and Celia that evening divided interest with the masquerade party.
The next day at noon, however, the fathers of the two girls arrived and
took them home.

The farmers were grateful--loquaciously so on Mr. Si Snubbins' part--to
Mr. and Mrs. Mason for housing the runaways over night; but neither could
properly express the feeling he had for Nan Sherwood.

Mrs. Morton did that later in a letter, and Nan keeps that much-read
letter to this very day in the secret box in which she locks her medal
for bravery. She thinks a great deal more of the letter from the grateful
farmer's wife than she does of the Society's medal.

Before Nan Sherwood returned to Tillbury she saw Jennie Albert again, and
finally made a special call upon Madam, the famous film actress, to beg
that kind, if rather thoughtless, woman, to take the girl under her own
special and powerful protection.

Inez went to Tillbury and Mrs. Sherwood welcomed the waif just as Nan
knew she would. While Nan was absent at school, her mother would have
somebody to run errands and who would be cheerful company for her in "the
little dwelling in amity."

So we leave Nan Sherwood, looking toward her second term at Lakeview
Hall, and about to renew her association with the girls and instructors
there--looking forward, likewise, to hard study, jolly times, and a
broadening opportunity for kindly deeds and pleasant adventures in her
school life.

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