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   Chapter 2 THE FAT MAN WITH HIS GROUCH

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 9301

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Nan Sherwood had steered this big bobsled down Pendragon Hill many times. She had no fear of an accident when they started, although the rush of wind past them seemed to stop her breath and made her eyes water.

There really was not a dangerous spot on the whole slide. It crossed but one road and that the path leading down to Professor Krenner's cabin. At this intersection of the slide and the driveway, Walter Mason had erected a sign-board on which had been rudely printed:

STOP! LOOK! LISTEN!

Few people traversed this way in any case; and it did seem as though those who did would obey the injunction of the sign. Not so a heavy-set, burly looking man who was tramping along the half-beaten path just as Nan and her chums dashed down the hill on the bobsled. This big man, whose broad face showed no sign of cheerfulness, but exactly the opposite, tramped on without a glance at the sign-board. He started across the slide as the prow of the Sky-rocket, with Nan clinging to the wheel, shot into view.

The girls shrieked in chorus-all but Nan herself. The stubborn, fat man, at last awakened to his danger, plunged ahead. There was a mighty collision!

The fat man dived head-first into a soft snow bank on one side of the slide; the bobsled plunged into another soft bank on the other side, and all the girls were buried, some of them over their heads, in the snow.

They were not hurt-

"Save in our dignity and our pompadours!" cried Laura Polk, the red-haired girl, coming to the surface like a whale, "to blow."

"Goodness-gracious-Agnes!" ejaculated the big girl, who was known as "Procrastination" Boggs. "What ever became of that man who got in our way?"

Nan Sherwood had already gotten out of the drift and had hauled her particular chum, Bess Harley, with her to the surface. Grace Mason and Lillie Nevins were crying a little; but Nan had assured herself at a glance that neither of the timid ones was hurt.

She now looked around, rather wildly, at Amelia Boggs' question. The fat man had utterly disappeared. Surely the bobsled, having struck him only a glancing blow, had not throw him completely off the earth!

Bess was looking up into the snowy tree-tops, and Laura Polk suggested that maybe the fat man had been only an hallucination.

"Hallucination! Your grandmother's hat!" exclaimed Amelia Boggs. "If his wasn't a solid body, there never was one!"

"What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?" murmured Laura.

"Both must be destroyed," finished Bess. "But I see the tail of our bob, all right."

Just then Nan ran across the track. At the same moment a floundering figure, like a great polar bear in his winter coat, emerged from the opposite drift. The fat man, without his hat and with his face very red and wet, loomed up gigantically in the snow-pile.

"Oh! Nan Sherwood!" cried Laura. "Have you found him?"

The fat man glared at Nan malevolently. "So your name is Sherwood, it is?" he snarled. "You're the girl that was steering that abominable sled-and you steered it right into me."

"Oh, no, sir! Not intentionally!" cried the worried Nan.

"Yes, you did!" flatly contradicted the choleric fat man. "I saw you."

"Oh, Nan Sherwood!" gasped Amelia, "isn't he mean to say that?"

"Your name's Sherwood, is it?" growled the man. "I should think I'd had trouble enough with people of that name. Is your father Robert Sherwood, of Tillbury, Illinois?"

"Yes, sir," replied the wondering Nan.

"Ha! I might have known it," snarled the man, trying to beat the snow from his clothes. "I heard he had a girl up here at this school. The rascal!"

Professor Krenner had just reached the spot from the top of the hill. From below had hurried the crews of bobsleds number two and three. Linda Riggs, who led one of the crews, heard the angry fat man speaking so unfavorably of Nan Sherwood's father. She sidled over to his side of the track to catch all that he said.

Nan, amazed and hurt by the fat man's words and manner, would have withdrawn silently, had it not been for the last phrase the man used in reference to her father. Nan was very loyal, and to hear him called "rascal" was more than she could tamely hear.

"I do not know what you mean, sir," she said earnestly. "But if you really know my father, you know that what you say of him is wrong. He is not a rascal."

"I say he is!" ejaculated the man with the grouch.

Here Professor Krenner interfered, and he spoke quite sharply.

"You've said enough, Bulson. Are you hurt?"

"I don't know," grumbled the fat man.

"He can't tell till he's seen his lawyer," whispered L

aura Polk, beginning to giggle.

"Are any of you girls hurt?" queried the professor, his red and white cap awry.

"I don't think so, Professor," Bess replied. "Only Nan's feelings. That man ought to be ashamed of himself for speaking so of Mr. Sherwood."

"Oh, I know what I'm talking about!" cried the fat man, blusteringly.

"Then you can tell it all to me, Ravell Bulson," bruskly interposed the professor again. "Come along to my cabin and I'll fix you up. Mrs. Gleason has arrived at the top of the hill and she will take charge of you young ladies. I am glad none of you is hurt."

The overturned crew hauled their bobsled out of the drift. Linda Riggs went on with her friends, dragging the Gay Girl.

"I'd like to hear what that fat man has to say about Sherwood's father," the ill-natured girl murmured to Cora Courtney, her room-mate. "I wager he isn't any better than he ought to be."

"You don't know," said Cora.

"I'd like to find out. You know, I never have liked that Nan Sherwood. She is a common little thing. And I don't believe they came honestly by that money they brought from Scotland."

"Oh, Linda!" gasped Cora.

"Well, I don't!" declared the stubborn girl. "There is a mystery about the Sherwoods being rich, at all. I know they were as poor as church mice in Tillbury until Nan came here to school. I found that out from a girl who used to live there."

"Not Bess Harley?"

"No, indeed! Bess wouldn't tell anything bad about Nan. I believe she is afraid of Nan. But this girl I mean wrote me all about the Sherwoods."

"Nan is dreadfully close-mouthed," agreed Cora, who was a weak girl and quite under Linda's influence.

"Well! Those Sherwoods were never anything in Tillbury. How Bess Harley came to take up with Nan, the goodness only knows. Her father worked in one of the mills that shut down last New Year. He was out of work a long time and then came this fortune in Scotland they claim was left Mrs. Sherwood by an old uncle, or great uncle. I guess it's nothing much to brag about."

"Bess said once it might be fifty thousand dollars," said Cora, speaking the sum unctuously. Cora was poor herself and she loved money.

"Oh, maybe!" exclaimed Linda Riggs, tossing her head. "But I guess nobody knows the rights of it. Maybe it isn't so much. You know that there were other heirs who turned up when Nan's father and mother got over to Scotland, and one while Nan thought she would have to leave school because there wasn't money enough to pay her tuition fees."

"Yes, I know all about that," admitted Cora, hurriedly. She had a vivid remembrance of the unfinished letter from Nan to her mother, which she had found and shown to Linda. Cora was not proud of that act. Nan had never been anything but kind to her and secretly Cora did not believe this ill-natured history of Nan Sherwood that Linda repeated.

Those of my readers who have read the first volume of this series, entitled "Nan Sherwood at Pine Camp, Or, The Old Lumberman's Secret," will realize just how much truth and how much fiction entered into the story of Nan's affairs related by the ill-natured Linda Riggs.

When Mr. and Mrs. Sherwood started for Scotland to make sure of the wonderful legacy willed to Nan's mother by the Laird of Emberon's steward, Nan was sent up into the Peninsula of Michigan to stay with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Kate Sherwood at a lumber camp. Her adventures there during the spring and summer were quite exciting. But the most exciting thing that had happened to Nan Sherwood was the decision on her parents' part that she should go with her chum, Bess Harley, to Lakeview Hall, a beautifully situated and popular school for girls on the shore of Lake Huron.

In "Nan Sherwood at Lakeview Hall, Or, The Mystery of the Haunted Boathouse," the second volume of the series, were narrated the incidents of Nan's first term at boarding school. She and Bess made many friends and had some rivals, as was natural, for they were very human girls, in whom no angelic quality was over-developed.

In Linda Riggs, daughter of the rich and influential railroad president, Nan had an especially vindictive enemy. Nan had noticed Linda's eagerness to hear all the ill-natured fat man had to say about Mr. Sherwood.

"I do wish Linda had not heard that horrid man speak so of Papa Sherwood," Nan said to Bess Harley, as they toiled up the hill again after the overturning of the Sky-rocket.

"Oh, what do you care about Linda?" responded Bess.

"I care very much about what people say of my father," Nan said. "And the minute I get home I'm going to find out what that Bulson meant."

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