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


Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 6742

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Nan could not bring herself to speak of the sudden turn her father's difficulties had taken. She had long-since learned that family affairs were not to be discussed out of the family circle.

It was bad enough, so she thought, to have Tillbury and Owneyville people discussing the accusation of Ravell Bulson, without telling all the trouble to her friends here in Chicago. Enough had been said on the previous evening, Nan thought, about the matter. She hid this new phase of it even from her chum.

It was Bess who suggested their activities for this day. She wanted to do something for Inez, the flower-girl, in whom usually thoughtless Bess had taken a great interest. She had written to her mother at once about the poor little street arab, and Mrs. Harley had sent by express a great bundle of cast-off dresses outgrown by Bess' younger sisters, that easily could be made to fit Inez.

Mrs. Mason had shoes and stockings and hats that might help in the fitting out of the flower-seller; and she suggested that the child be brought to the house that her own sewing maid might make such changes in the garments as would be necessary to make them of use for Inez.

"Not that the poor little thing is at all particular, I suppose, about her clothes," Bess remarked. "I don't imagine she ever wore a garment that really fitted her, or was made for her. Her shoes weren't mates-I saw that the other day, didn't you, Nan?"

"I saw that they were broken," Nan agreed, with a sigh. "Poor little thing!"

"And although fashion allows all kinds of hats this season, I am very sure that straw of hers had seen hard service for twelve months or more," Bess added.

Walter, hearing the number and street of Inez's lodging, insisted upon accompanying the chums on their errand. Grace did not go. She frankly admitted that such squalid places as Mother Beasley's were insufferable; and where Inez lived might be worse.

"I'm just as sorry for such people as I can be and I'd like to help them all," Grace said. "But it makes me actually ill to go near them. How mother can delve as she does in the very slums-well, I can't do it! Walter is like mother; he doesn't mind."

"I guess you're like your father," said Bess. "He believes in putting poor people into jails, otherwise institutions, instead of giving them a chance to make good where they are. And there aren't enough institutions for them all. I never supposed there were so many poor people in this whole world as we have seen in Chicago.

"I used to just detest the word 'poor'-Nan'll tell you," confessed Bess.

"I guess being with Nan has kind of awakened me to 'our duties,' as Mrs.

Cupp would say," and she laughed.

"Oh!" cried Grace. "I'd do for them, if I could. But I don't even know how to talk to them. Sick babies make me feel so sorry I want to cry, and old women who smell of gin and want to sell iron-holders really scare me. Oh, dear! I guess I'm an awful coward!"

Nan laughed. "What are you going to do with that crisp dollar bill I saw your father tuck into your hand at breakfast, Gracie?" she asked.

"Oh, I don't know. I hadn't thought. Papa is always so thoughtful. He knows I just can't make ends meet on my fortnightly allowance."

"But you don't absolutely need the dollar?"


"Then give it to us. We'll spend it for something nice with which to treat

those kid cousins that Inez told us about."

"Good idea," announced Walter. "It won't hurt you to give it to charity, Sis."

"All right," sighed Grace. "If you really all say so. But there is such a pretty tie down the street at Libby's."

"And you've a million ties, more or less," declared Bess. "Of course we'll take it from her, Walter. Come on, now! I'm ready."

Under Walter's piloting the chums reached the street and number Inez had given Nan. It was a cheap and dirty tenement house. A woman told them to go up one flight and knock on the first door at the rear on that landing.

They did this, Walter insisting upon keeping near the girls. A red-faced, bare-armed woman, blowsy and smelling strongly of soapsuds, came to the door and jerked it open.

"Well?" she demanded, in a loud voice.

Bess was immediately tongue-tied; so Nan asked:

"Is Inez at home?"

"And who be you that wants Inez-the little bothersome tyke that she is?"

"We are two of her friends," Nan explained briefly. It was plain that the woman was not in a good temper, and Nan was quite sure she had been drinking.

"And plenty of fine friends she has," broke out the woman, complainingly. "While I'm that poor and overrun with children, that I kin scarce get bite nor sup for 'em. And she'll go and spend her money on cakes and ice-cream because it's my Mamie's birthday, instead of bringing it all home, as I told her she should! The little tyke! I'll l'arn her!"

"I am sorry if Inez has disobeyed you," said Nan, breaking in on what seemed to promise to be an unending complaint. "Isn't she here-or can you tell us where to find her?"

"I'll say 'no' to them two questions immediate!" exclaimed the woman, crossly. "I beat her as she deserved, and took away the money she had saved back to buy more flowers with; and I put her basket in the stove."

"Oh!" gasped Bess.

"And what is it to you, Miss?" demanded the woman, threateningly.

"It was cruel to beat her," declared Bess, bravely, but unwisely.

"Is that so? is that so?" cried the virago, advancing on Bess with the evident purpose of using her broad, parboiled palm on the visitor, just as she would use it on one of her own children. "I'll l'arn ye not to come here with your impudence!"

But Walter stepped in her way, covering Bess' frightened retreat. Walter was a good-sized boy.

"Hold on," he said, good-naturedly. "We won't quarrel about it. Just tell us where the child is to be found."

"I ain't seen her for four days and nights, that I haven't," declared the woman.

That was all there was to be got out of her. Nan and her friends went away, much troubled. They went again to Mother Beasley's to inquire, with like result. When they told that kind but careworn woman what the child's aunt had said, she shook her head and spoke lugubriously.

"She was probably drunk when she treated the child so. If she destroyed Inez basket and used the money Inez always saved back to buy a new supply of bouquets, she fair put the poor thing out o' business."

"Oh, dear!" said Nan. "And we can't find her on the square."

"Poor thing! I wisht she had come here for a bite-I do. I'd have trusted her for a meal of vittles."

"I am sure you would, Mrs. Beasley," Nan said, and she and her friends went away very much worried over the disappearance of Inez, the flower-seller.

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