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   Chapter 26 AN UNEXPECTED FIND

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 11337

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


The mounted policeman came thundering down the street after them, his horse having regained its footing. The reins of the big steeds were dragging on the ground, and Walter and his girl companions saw no way of getting hold of the lines and so pulling down the frightened horses.

There was another way to save Linda Riggs, however. Walter looked at Nan

Sherwood and his lips moved.

"Are you afraid to drive Prince?" he asked.

"No," declared Nan, and reached for the reins. She had held the black horse before. Besides, she had driven her Cousin Tom's pair of big draught horses up in the Michigan woods, and Mr. Henry Sherwood's half-wild roan ponies, as well. Her wrists were strong and supple, and she was alert.

Walter passed the lines over and then kicked the robe out of the way. Bess sat on the left side of the seat, clinging to the rail. She was frightened-but more for the girl in the other sleigh, than because of their own danger.

Walter Mason motioned to Bess to move over to Nan's side. The latter was guiding Prince carefully, and the cutter crept up beside the bigger vehicle. Only a couple of feet separated the two sleighs as Walter leaned out from his own seat and shouted to Linda:

"Look this way! Look! Do exactly as I tell you!"

The girl turned her strained face toward him. The bigger sleigh swerved and almost collided with the cutter.

"Now!" yelled Walter, excitedly. "Let go!"

He had seized Linda by the arm, clinging with his other hand to the rail of the cutter-seat. She screamed-and so did Bess.

But Walter's grasp was strong, and, after all, Linda was not heavy. Her hold was torn from the plume-staff, and she was half lifted, half dragged, into the cutter.

Prince darted past the now laboring runaways. One of the latter slipped on a smooth bit of ice and crashed to the roadway.

His mate went down with him and the sleigh was overturned. Had Linda not been rescued as she was, her injury-perhaps her death-would have been certain.

They stopped at the first drug store and a man held the head of the excited black horse while Walter soothed and blanketed him. Then the boy went inside, and into the prescription room, where Nan and Bess were comforting their schoolmate.

"Oh, dear! oh, dear! I'd have been killed if it hadn't been for you, Walter Mason," cried Linda, for once so thoroughly shaken out of her pose that she acted and spoke naturally. "How can I ever thank you enough?"

"Say!" blurted out Walter. "You'd better thank Nan, here, too. I couldn't have grabbed you if it hadn't been for her. She held Prince and guided the sleigh."

"Oh, that's all right!" interjected Nan, at once very much embarrassed.

"Anybody would have done the same."

"'Tisn't so!" cried Bess. "I just held on and squealed."

But Linda's pride was quite broken down. She looked at Nan with her own eyes streaming.

"Oh, Sherwood!" she murmured. "I've said awfully mean things about you.

I'm so sorry-I really am."

"Oh, that's all right!" muttered Nan, almost boyish in her confusion.

"Well, I have! I know I made fun of your medal for bravery. You deserve another for what you just did. Oh, dear! I-I never can thank any of you enough;" and she cried again on Bess Harley's shoulder.

Walter telephoned to the Graves' house, telling Linda's aunt of the accident and of Linda's predicament, and when a vehicle was sent for the hysterical girl the boy, with Nan and Bess, hurried home to a late luncheon, behind black Prince.

Although Mrs. Mason, naturally, was disturbed over the risk of accident Walter and the girl chums had taken in rescuing Linda Riggs, the interest of the young folks was in, and all their comment upon, the possible change of heart the purse-proud girl had undergone.

"I don't know about these 'last hour conversions,'" said the pessimistic Bess. "I should wring the tears out of the shoulder of my coat and bottle 'em. Only tears I ever heard of Linda's shedding! And they may prove to be crocodile tears at that."

"Oh, hush, Bess!" said Nan. "Let's not be cruel."

"We'll see how she treats you hereafter," Grace said. "I, for one, hope Linda has had a change of heart. She'll be so much happier if she stops quarreling with everybody."

"And the other girls will have a little more peace, too, I fancy; eh?" threw in her brother, slyly. "But how about this place you want to go to this afternoon, Nan?" he added.

"I should think you had had enough excitement for one day," Mrs. Mason sighed. "The wonderful vitality of these young creatures! It amazes me. They wish to be on the go all of the time."

"You see," Nan explained, "we have only a few more days in Chicago and I am so desirous of finding Sallie and Celia. Poor Mrs. Morton is heart-broken, and I expect Celia's mother fears all the time for her daughter's safety, too."

"Those foolish girls!" Mrs. Mason said. "I am glad you young people haven't this general craze for exhibiting one's self in moving pictures."

"You can't tell when that may begin, Mother," chuckled Walter. "When Nan was holding on to Prince and I was dragging Linda out of that sleigh, if a camera-man had been along he could have made some picture-believe me!"

"You'll walk or take a car to the address," Mrs. Mason instructed them.

"No more riding behind that excited horse to-day, please."

"All right, Mother," said Walter, obediently. "Now, whenever you girls are ready, I am at your service. It's lucky I know pretty well the poorer localities in Chicago. Your calling district, Nan Sherwood, seems to number in it a lot of shady localities."

However, it was only a poor neighborhood,

not a vicious one, in which Jennie Albert lived. Grace had accompanied the chums from Tillbury, and the trio of girls went along very merrily with Walter until they came near to the number Mr. Gray had given them.

This number they had some difficulty in finding. At least, four hundred and sixteen was a big warehouse in which nobody lodged of course. Plenty of tenement houses crowded about it but four hundred and sixteen was surely the warehouse.

While Walter was inquiring in some of the little neighboring stores, Nan saw a child pop out of a narrow alley beside the warehouse and look sharply up and down the street. It was the furtive, timid glance of the woods creature or the urchin of the streets; both expect and fear the attack of the strong.

The Lakeview Hall girls were across the street. The little girl darted suddenly toward them. Her head was covered by an old shawl, which half blinded her. Her garments were scanty for such brisk winter weather, and her shoes were broken.

"Oh, the poor little thing!" murmured Grace Mason.

Nan was suddenly excited by the sight of the child crossing the crowded street; she sprang to the edge of the walk, but did not scream as the little one scurried on. Down the driveway came a heavy auto-truck and although the little girl saw the approach of this, she could not well see what followed the great vehicle.

She escaped the peril of the truck, but came immediately in the path of a touring car that shot out from behind to pass the truck. With a nerve-racking "honk! honk!" the swiftly moving car was upon the child.

Bess and Grace did scream; but Nan, first aware of the little one's danger, was likewise first to attempt her rescue. And she needed her breath for that effort. Other people shouted at the child and, from either sidewalk, Nan was the only person who darted out to save her!

The driver under the steering wheel of the touring car did his best to bring it to an abrupt stop; but the wheels skidded and-for a breathless moment-it did seem as though the shawl-blinded child must go under the wheels of the vehicle.

Nan Sherwood seized the shawl and by main strength dragged its owner to the gutter. The car slid past; both girls were safe!

"You lemme be! you lemme be!" shrieked the girl Nan had rescued, evidently considering herself much abused by the rough treatment her rescuer had given her, and struggling all the time to keep Nan from lifting her upon the sidewalk.

"Why, you little savage!" gasped Bess Harley. "Don't you know you've been saved?"

"Who wants to be saved?" demanded the smaller girl, looking up at the three older ones out of the hood of the shawl she had clung to so desperately. "What youse savin' me from?"

Bess grew more excited. "Why, Nan!" she cried. "It is-it must be! Don't you see who she is?"

Nan was already looking down into the dark, shrewd and thin countenance of the little one with a smile of recognition. It was Inez, the little flower-girl, whom she had so fortunately pulled out of the way of the automobile.

"Hullo, honey; don't you know us?" Nan asked her.

"Hi!" exclaimed the street waif. "If it ain't me tony friends from

Washington Park. Say! youse got ter excuse me. I didn't know youse."

"Why, Inez!" exclaimed Nan, kindly. "You have a dreadful cold."

"Say! if I don't have nothin' worse than that I'll do fine," croaked the little girl, carelessly. "But I never expected to see youse tony folks again."

"Why, Inez!" exclaimed Bess. "And we've been hunting all over for you."

"Goodness me!" burst out Grace Mason. "You don't mean to say that this is the poor little thing we've been in such a fuss about?"

"Of course she is," Bess replied.

"This is positively Inez," laughed Nan, squeezing the little one's cold hand in her own. "Aren't you glad to see us, child?"

"I dunno," said Inez, doubtfully. "Youse ain't come to take me back to me aunt, have youse?" and she looked around for a chance to escape. "I ain't goin' to live with her no more-now I tell youse!" and she became quite excited.

Nan sought to reassure her. "Don't you be afraid, honey. We wouldn't see you abused. We only want to help you. That is why we have been searching for you."

"You been huntin' me up-jest to help me?" gasped Inez, in wonder.

"Of course we have," said Bess.

"Hi!" exclaimed the flower-seller, with an impish grin. "I reckon me aunt would say some of yer buttons was missin'. Youse can't be right in the upper story," and she pointed to her own head to illustrate her meaning.

"Goodness!" gasped Grace. "Does she think we are crazy because we want to do her a kindness?"

"She's not used to being treated with much consideration, I am afraid,"

Nan observed, in a low voice.

"You ridiculous child!" came from Bess. "Don't you know that we were both interested in you that first day? We told you we would see you again."

"Aw, that don't mean nothin'," sniffed Inez. "I didn't expect nothin' would come of it. If youse folks from Washington Park ain't crazy, what is the matter wit' youse? I ain't nothin' ter you."

"Why, goodness me!" cried Grace again. "Do you think everybody who is kind must be out of his head? Who ever heard the like?"

"Folks ain't generally crazy to do me no favors," said Inez, with one of her sharp glances. "But if you girls want ter give me somethin' for nothin,' you've lost some of yer buttons, that's sure!"

Nan and her two companions had to laugh at this, but the laughter was close to tears, after all. It was really pathetic that this waif of the streets should suspect the sanity of anybody who desired to do her a kindness.

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