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

   Chapter 20 NAN ON THE HEIGHTS

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 8637

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Mrs. Mason had not chaperoned the party of girls and boys to the motion picture show; but Miss Hagford, the English governess, was with them. Including the young hosts and Nan and Bess, there was almost a score in the party, and they made quite a bustling crowd in the lobby as they came out, adjusting their outer garments against the night air.

Walter and Nan were in the lead and when Linda Riggs' venomous tongue spat out the unkind words last repeated, few of the party heard her. Pearl Graves, her cousin, was beside the purse-proud girl who had been Nan's bitter enemy since the day they had first met. Pearl was a different kind of girl entirely from Linda; in fact, she did not know her cousin very well, for Linda did not reside in Chicago. At her cousin's harsh exclamation Pearl cried:

"Hush, Linda! how can you say such things? That can not possibly be true."

"'Tis, too! And Nan won't dare deny it," whispered Linda. "She knows what her father is, too! Mr. and Mrs. Mason can't have heard about Nan's father being in trouble for taking a man's watch and money in a sleeping car. Oh! I know all about it."

Walter Mason's ears were sharp enough; but Linda spoke so hurriedly, and the boy was so amazed, that the cruel girl got thus far in her wicked speech before he turned and vehemently stopped her.

"What do you mean by telling such a story as that about Nan?" demanded the boy, hoarsely. "And about her father, too? You are just the meanest girl I ever saw, Linda Riggs, and I'm sorry you're in this party. I wish you were a boy-I'd teach you one good lesson-I would!"

They stood just at the entrance to the theatre, where the electric lights were brightest. A few flakes of snow were falling, like glistening particles of tinsel. There were not many patrons entering the moving picture house at this late hour, but the remainder of the Masons' guests crowded forward to hear and see what was going on.

Nan was white-faced, but dry-eyed. Walter stood partly in front of her as though he were physically defending her, and held one of her hands while his other hand was tightly clenched, and his face ablaze with indignation.

"Oh, Nan! What is the matter?" cried Bess Harley, running to Nan's side and taking her other hand.

"What has happened?" asked Grace Mason. "What is it, Walter?"

"My goodness!" broke in Bess, before there could be any other explanation. "Here's that horrid Linda Riggs. What brought her here, I'd like to know?"

"I've as much right here as you have, Harley," cried Linda. "I don't have to worm myself into society that is above me, as you and your precious friend do. My father is as rich as any girl's father here, I'd have you know."

"Oh, hush, Linda!" murmured Pearl Graves, very much ashamed of her cousin.

"Walter! Grace! What does this mean?" demanded the governess, hurrying forward. "Don't make a scene here, I beg. Have no quarreling."

But Walter was too greatly enraged to be easily amenable to the mild lady's advice.

"What do you think of this, Miss Hagford?" he cried excitedly. "Nan Sherwood has been at our house since the first day she and Bess arrived in Chicago; yet Linda Riggs says she saw Nan taking something in a store here."

"Hush, Walter, hush!" begged Miss Hagford. "People will hear you."

"Well, people heard her!" declared the angry youth.

"We know Linda Riggs for what she is," Bess put in. "But these other boys and girls don't. Grace will tell you that Linda is the very meanest girl at Lakeview Hall."

"Oh! I couldn't say that, Bess," gasped timid Grace. "She is my guest for the evening!"

"Well, I'll say it for you," burst out her brother. "Somebody should tell the truth about her."

"So they should," chimed in Bess. "She's a mean, spiteful thing!"

"Stop! stop, all of you!" commanded the governess, sternly. "Why, this is disgraceful."

"I guess it is-I guess it is," said Linda, bitterly. "But this is the sort of treatment I might expect from anybody so much under the influence of Sherwood and Harley, as Grace and Walter are. I tell you I saw Nan Sherwood being held by a detective in Wilson-Meadows store, because they said she had taken some jewelry from the counter. And she cannot deny it!"

She said this with such positiveness, and was so much in earnest, that m

ost of her hearers could not fail to be impressed. They stared at white-faced Nan to see if she had not something to say in her own defense. It seemed preposterous for Linda to repeat her charge so emphatically without some foundation for it.

"It isn't so!" cried Bess, first to gain her breath. "You know, Grace, Nan hasn't been shopping unless you and I were both with her. That's made up out of whole cloth!"

"You were not with her that day, Miss Smartie," cried the revengeful

Linda. "And you see-she doesn't deny it."

"Of course she denies it!" Bess responded. "Do say something, Nan! Don't let that girl talk about you in this way."

Then Nan did open her lips-and what she said certainly amazed most of her hearers. "I was charged with taking a lavalliére from the counter. But it was found hanging from a lady's coat-"

"Where you hung it, when you saw you were caught!" interposed Linda.

"It was dreadful," Nan went on, brokenly. "I was so frightened and ashamed that I did not tell anybody about it."

"Nan!" cried Bess. "It's never true? You weren't arrested?"

"I-I should have been had the lavalliére not been found," her chum confessed. "Linda saw me and she told the man I was dishonest. I-I was so troubled by it all that I didn't tell anybody. It was the day I met that lady whose card I showed you, Bess. She was the lady whose coat caught up the chain. She was very kind to me."

"And Linda Riggs tried to make it worse for you, did she?" put in the indignant Walter.

"Hush, Walter!" commanded Miss Hagford. "We must have no more of this here. It is disgraceful. We will go directly home and your mother must know all the particulars. I don't know what she will say-I really do not," the troubled governess added.

"Oh, you can all go," snarled Linda. "You're welcome to the company of that Nan Sherwood. Pearl and I can find our way to her house. We'll leave you right now."

"Pearl is not going home, Linda," said her cousin. "You're not going to spoil all my fun for your own pleasure, I can tell you!"

"Stop, my dear," Miss Hagford said sternly. "Don't wrangle any more. Come! March! Walter, lead the way with your sister. Let us delay no longer."

Walter felt inclined to be obstinate and stick to Nan; but the latter slipped back with Bess, and they two walked arm in arm. Bess was frankly sobbing. They were tears of rage.

"Oh, dear! I wish I hadn't been brought up so respectably!" she gasped. "I wish I were like Inez. I'd slap that Linda Riggs' face and tear her hair out in big handfuls!"

Nan could not even smile at her chum's tearful emphasis. She felt very miserable indeed. She thought the English governess looked at her suspiciously. Some of the girls and boys must surely be impressed by what Linda had said. Had it been practical, Nan would have slipped out of the crowd and run away.

It was a rather silent party that passed through the snowy streets to the Mason house. Some of the girls and their escorts whispered together but this only added to the embarrassment of all concerned.

They reached the house at last. It was brightly lighted, for Mrs. Mason had promised to entertain royally. Her appearance at the door when it was opened, was quite in the nature of a surprise, however. She ran forward, her lovely gown trailing behind her and both hands outstretched.

"Where is our Nan?" she cried gaily. "Nan Sherwood! come here to me at once. You delightfully brave girl! And never to have talked about it!"

By this time she had the embarrassed Nan within the circle of her arms, and was smiling charmingly upon the others who trooped into the big entrance hall.

"What do you suppose she has done?" pursued Mrs. Mason, happily. "You must have known about it, Bess, for you were with Nan when she went to Lakeview Hall last September. Why, girls! this Nan of ours, when the train stopped at a station, went alone to the rescue of a child threatened by a rattlesnake, killed the snake, and rescued the child. What do you think of that?

"And now some of the passengers on that train, who saw the brave deed, have applied for and obtained a medal for bravery which has been brought here by a committee, and is to be presented to our Nan. You dear girl!" cried Mrs. Mason, kissing her heartily. "What are you crying for?"

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