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

   Chapter 27 JENNIE ALBERT—AND SOMEBODY ELSE

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 14146

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Well! what do you know about that?" was Walter's comment, when he came back to the girls and found them surrounding the hungry looking little street waif, of whom he had already heard so much from Nan and Bess.

"We go out to shoot partridges and bring down a crow," he added.

"Goodness! what a hungry looking kid. There's a bakeshop over the way.

Bring her in and see if we can't cure this child of old Father Famine."

Inez looked at Walter askance at first. But when she understood that he was going to stand treat to coffee and cakes, she grew friendlier.

"Yep, I'm hungry," she admitted. "Ain't I always hungry? M-m-!" as the shop door opened and she sniffed the odors of coffee and food.

"Do, do hurry and feed the poor little thing," urged Grace, almost in tears. "Oh! I'm sorry I came with you girls. Hungry! Only think of being hungry, Walter!"

Inez looked at Grace as though she thought she was losing her mind.

"Aw, say," said she, "don't let it worry youse. I'm uster being empty, I am. And 'specially since me and me aunt had our fallin' out."

"Oh! we know about that, Inez," cried Bess. "We went there to look for you."

"To me aunt's?" asked Inez, in some excitement.

"Yes," Nan replied.

"Is she a-lookin' for me?" demanded the child with a restless glance at the door of the shop.

"I don't think she is," Nan said.

"I should say not!" Bess added. "She seems to fairly hate you, child. And didn't she beat you?"

"Yep. She's the biggest, ye see. She took away all me money and then burned me basket. That was puttin' me on the fritz for fair, and I went wild and went for her. This is what I got!"

She dropped the shawl off her head suddenly. There, above the temple and where the tangled black hair had been cut away, was a long, angry wound. It was partially healed.

"Oh, my dear!" cried Nan.

Grace fell to crying. Bess grew very angry and threatened all manner of punishments for the cruel aunt.

"How did she do it?" Walter asked.

"Flat iron," replied the waif, succinctly. "I had the poker. She 'got' me first. I didn't dare go back, and I thought I'd die that first night."

"Oh, oh!" sobbed Grace. "Out in the cold, too!"

"Yes'm," Inez said, eating and drinking eagerly. "But a nice feller in a drug store-a night clerk, I guess youse call him-took me in after one o'clock, an' give me something to eat, and fixed up me head."

"What a kind man!" exclaimed Bess.

"So you see, Inez, there are some kind folks in the world," said Nan, smiling at the waif. "Some kind ones beside us."

"Yep," the child admitted. "But not rich folks like youse."

"Goodness, child!" gasped Grace. "We're not rich."

Inez stared at her with a mouthful poised upon her knife. "Cracky!" she ejaculated. "What do youse call it? Furs, and fine dresses, and nothin' ter do but sport around-Hi! if youse girls from Washington Park ain't rich, what d'ye call it?"

Nan was looking serious again. "I guess the child is right," she said, with a little sigh. "We are rich. Compared with what she has, we're as rich as old King Midas."

"For goodness' sake!" cried Bess. "I hope not-at least, not in ears."

The others laughed; but Nan added: "I guess we don't realize how well off we are."

"Hear! hear!" murmured Walter. "Being sure of three meals a day would be riches to this poor little thing."

"Hi!" ejaculated Inez, still eating greedily. "That'd be Heaven, that would!"

"But do let her finish her story, girls," urged Bess. "Go on, dear. What happened to you after the kind druggist took you in?"

"I staid all night there," said Inez. "He fixed me a bunk on an old lounge in the back room. An' next morning a girl I useter see at Mother Beasley's seen me and brought me over here. She ain't well now and her money's about run out, I reckon. Say! did youse ever find them two greenies youse was lookin' for?" she suddenly asked Nan.

"Oh, no! We're looking for them now," Nan replied. "Have you seen them, Inez?"

"I dunno. I b'lieve my friend may know something about them."

"You mean the girl you are with?" Nan asked.

"Yep."

"Who is she?" asked Bess.

"She's one o' them movin' picture actorines. She does stunts."

"'Stunts'?" repeated Walter, while Nan and Bess looked at each other with interest. "What sort of 'stunts,' pray?"

"Hard jobs. Risky ones, too. And that last one she went out on she got an awful cold. Whew! I been expectin' her to cough herself to pieces."

"But what did she do?" repeated the curious Walter.

"Oh, she was out in the country with the X.L.Y. Company. She was playin' a boy's part-she's as thin as I am, but tall and lanky. Makes up fine as a boy," said Inez, with some enthusiasm.

"She was supposed to be a boy helpin' some robbers. They put her through a ventilator into a sleepin' car standin' in the railroad yards. That's where she got cold," Inez added, "for she had to dress awful light so's to wiggle through the ventilator winder. It was a cold mornin', an' she came back ter town 'most dead."

"Where is she now?" asked Walter.

But it was Nan's question which brought out the most surprising response.

"Who is she?" Nan asked the little girl. "What is her name?"

"Jennie Albert. An' she's a sure 'nough movie girl, too. But she can't get good jobs because she ain't pretty."

"I declare!" exclaimed Bess, finally, after a moment of surprised silence.

"I know she can't live over there in that big warehouse, and that's number four hundred and sixteen," said Grace.

"She lives in a house back in a court beside that big one," explained

Inez. "It's four hundred and sixteen and a half."

"Then it's only half a house?" suggested Bess Harley.

"I know it can be only half fit to live in," said Walter. "Not many of these around here are. What are you going to do now, Nan?"

"Inez will take us over and introduce us to Jennie."

"Sure thing!" agreed the waif.

"Tell us, Inez," Nan said. "What can we take in to your friend Jennie?"

"To eat, or comforts of any kind?" cried Grace, opening her purse at once.

"Hi!" cried Inez. "Jest look around. Anything youse see. She ain't got nothin'."

"Which was awful grammar, but the most illuminating sentence I ever heard," declared Bess, afterward.

The girls made special inquiries of the child, however, and they did more than carry over something for the sick girl to eat. They bought an oil heater and a big can of oil, for the girl's room was unheated.

There was extra bed-clothing and some linen to get, too, for Inez was an observant little thing and knew just what the sick girl needed. Walter meanwhile bought fresh fruit and canned goods-soup and preserved fruit-and a jar of calf's foot jelly.

The procession that finally took up its march into the alley toward number four hundred and sixteen and a half, headed by Inez and with the boy from the shop bearing the heater and the oil can as rear guard, was an imposing one indeed.

"See what I brought you, Jen Albert!" cried Inez, as she burst in the door of the p

oorly furnished room. "These are some of me tony friends from Washington Park, and they've come to have a picnic."

The room was as cheaply and meanly furnished as any that the three girls from Lakeview Hall had ever seen. Nan thought she had seen poverty of household goods and furnishings when she had lived for a season with her Uncle Henry Sherwood at Pine Camp, in the woods of Upper Michigan. Some of the neighbors there had scarcely a factory made chair to sit on. But this room in which Jennie Albert lived, and to which she had brought the little flower-seller for shelter, was so barren and ugly that it made Nan shudder as she gazed at it.

The girl who rose suddenly off the ragged couch as the three friends entered, startled them even more than the appearance of the room itself. She was so thin and haggard-she had such red, red cheeks-such feverish eyes-such an altogether wild and distraught air-that timid Grace shrank back and looked at Walter, who remained with the packages and bundles at the head of the stairs.

Nan and Bess likewise looked at the girl with some trepidation; but they held their ground.

"What do you want? Who are you?" asked Jennie Albert, hoarsely.

"We-we have come to see you," explained Nan, hesitatingly. "We're friends of little Inez."

"You'd better keep away from here!" cried the older girl, fiercely. "This is no place for the likes of you."

"Aw, say! Now, don't get flighty again, Jen," urged little Inez, much worried. "I tell youse these girls is all right. Why, they're pertic'lar friends of mine."

"Your-your friends?" muttered the wild looking girl. "This-this is a poor place to bring your friends, Ina. But-do sit down! Do take a chair!"

She waved her hand toward the only chair there was-a broken-armed parlor chair, the upholstery of which was in rags. She laughed as she did so-a sudden, high, cackling laugh. Then she broke out coughing and-as Inez had said-she seemed in peril of shaking herself to pieces!

"Oh, the poor thing!" murmured Bess to Nan.

"She is dreadfully ill," the latter whispered. "She ought really to have a doctor right now."

"Oh, girls!" gasped Grace, in terror. "Let's come away. Perhaps she has some contagious disease. She looks just awful!"

The sick girl heard this, low as the three visitors spoke. "And I feel 'just awful!'" she gasped, when she got her breath after coughing. "You'd better not stay to visit Ina. This is no place for you."

"Why, we must do something to help you," Nan declared, recovering some of her assurance. "Surely you should have a doctor."

"He gimme some medicine for her yisterday," broke in Inez. "But we ain't got no more money for medicine. Has we, Jen?"

"Not much for anything else, either," muttered the bigger girl, turning her face away.

She was evidently ashamed of her poverty. Nan saw that it irked Jennie Albert to have strangers see her need and she hastened, as usual, to relieve the girl of that embarrassment.

"My dear," she said, running to her as Jennie sat on the couch, and putting an arm about the poor, thin, shaking shoulders. "My dear! we would not disturb you only that you may be able to help us find two lost girls. And you are so sick. Do let us stay a while and help you, now that we have come, in return for the information you can give us about Sallie Morton and Celia Snubbins."

"Gracious! who are they?" returned Jennie Albert. "I never heard of them,

I'm sure," and she seemed to speak quite naturally for a moment.

"Oh, my dear!" murmured Nan. "Haven't you seen them at all? Why, they told me at the studio-"

"I know! I know!" exclaimed Bess, suddenly. "Jennie doesn't know their right names. Nan means Lola Montague and Marie Fortesque."

Jennie Albert stared wonderingly at them. "Why-those girls? I remember them, of course," she said. "I supposed those names were assumed, but I had no idea they really owned such ugly ones."

"And where, for goodness' sake, are they?" cried the impatient Bess.

"Miss Montague and her friend?"

"Yes," Nan explained. "We are very anxious to find them, and have been looking for them ever since we came to Chicago. You see, they have run away from home, Jennie, and their parents are terribly worried about them."

"Maybe they were ill-treated at home," Jennie Albert said, gloomily.

"Oh, they were not!" cried Bess, eagerly. "We know better. Poor old Si

Snubbins thinks just the world and all of Celia."

"And Mrs. Morton is one of the loveliest women I ever met," Nan added.

"The girls have just gone crazy over the movies."

"Over acting in them, do you mean?" asked the girl who "did stunts."

"Yes. And they can't act. Mr. Gray says so."

"Oh, if they were no good he'd send them packing in a hurry," groaned the sick girl, holding her head with both hands. "I sent them over to him because I knew he wanted at least one extra."

"And he did not even take their address," Nan explained. "Do you know where they live?"

"No, I don't. They just happened in here. I know that they recently moved from a former lodging they had on the other side of town. That is really all I know about them," said Jennie Albert.

Meanwhile Walter had been quietly handing in the packages to his sister and Bess. The oil stove was deftly filled by the good-hearted boy before he lifted it and the can of oil inside.

When the big lamp was lit the chill of the room was soon dispelled.

Little Inez opened the packages eagerly, chattering all the time to

Jennie Albert about the good things the young folks from Washington Park

had brought.

But the sick girl, after her little show of interest in Nan's questioning, quickly fell back into a lethargic state. Nan whispered to Inez and asked her about the doctor she had seen for Jennie.

"Is he a good one?" she asked the child. "And will he come here if we pay him?"

"He's a corker!" exclaimed the street waif. "But he's mighty busy. You got to show him money in your hand to get him to come to see anybody. You know how these folks are around here. They don't have no money for nothin'-least of all for doctors."

She told Nan where the busy physician was to be found, and Nan whispered to Walter the address and sent him hurrying for the man of pills and powders.

Until the doctor returned with Walter the girls busied themselves cleaning up the room, undressing the patient, and putting her into bed between fresh sheets, and making her otherwise more comfortable. There was a good woman on this same floor of the old tenement house, and Grace paid her out of her own purse to look in on Jennie Albert occasionally and see that she got her medicine and food.

For they were all determined not to leave little Inez in these poor lodgings. "Goodness knows," Bess remarked, "if she gets out of our sight now we may never find her again. She's just as elusive as a flea!"

The child looked at Bess in her sly, wondering way, and said: "Hi! I never had nobody worry over what become of me 'fore this. Seems like it's somethin' new."

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