MoboReader > Literature > Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways

   Chapter 17 A MOVING SCENE

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 7784

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

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 lavalliéres 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 lavalliéres. 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 lavalliére I showed you is not here."

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

"The special lavalliére 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 lavalliére," she said, and although her voice was stern, it was low. "I haven't your lavalliére. 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 lavalliére!" 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 detectiv

e scarcely noticed. He looked at the lovely woman and asked:

"Madam is sure this girl took the lavalliére?"

"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 searched."

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 lavalliére 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 excitement.

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

"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 lavalliére!" 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."

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