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   Chapter 18 THE RUNAWAYS AGAIN

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 7098

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


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 accusation.

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 film-stage."

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

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 rat

her 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."

"Runaways?"

"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.

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