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   Chapter 11 A RURAL BEAUTY

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 8683

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

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 two-whole-weeks!"

"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.

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