“But ain’t Celia here?” reiterated Mr. Snubbins, as he and the chums from Tillbury passed into the warm, big kitchen.
“No, she ain’t, I tell you.”
“But she started over for here yesterday morning, figgerin’ to spend the day with your Sallie. When she didn’t come back at night my woman an’ me reckoned it snowed so hard you folks wouldn’t let her come.”
“Oh, lawk!” exclaimed Mr. Morton. “They was off yesterday mornin’ just as soon as your Celia got here. Planned it all a forehand—the deceivin’ imps! Said they was goin’ to the Corner. An’ they did! Sam Higgin picked ‘em up there an’ took ’em along to Littleton; an’ when he plowed past here jest at evenin’ through the snow he brought me a note. Hi, Maw, bring in that there letter,” shouted Peleg Morton.
That the two men were greatly disturbed by the running away of their daughters, there could be no doubt. Nan was sorry she and Bess had come over from the train. These people were in serious trouble and she and her chum could not help them.
She drew the wondering Bess toward the door, and whispered: “What do you think, Bess? Can’t we go back to the train alone?”
“What for, Nan?” cried Bess.
“Well, you see, they are in trouble.”
At that moment Mrs. Morton hurried in with a fluttering sheet of paper in her hand. She was a voluminous woman in a stiffly starched house dress, everything about her as clean as a new pin, and a pair of silver-bowed spectacles pushed up to her fast graying hair. She was a wholesome, hearty, motherly looking woman, and Nan Sherwood was attracted to her at first sight.
Even usually unobservant Bess was impressed. “Isn’t she a love?” she whispered to Nan.
“Poor woman!” Nan responded in the same tone, for there were undried tears on the cheeks of the farmer’s wife.
“Here’s Si, Maw,” said Mr. Morton. “He ain’t been knowin’ about our girl and his Celia runnin’ off, before.”
“How do, Si?” responded Mrs. Morton. “Your wife’ll be scairt ter death, I have no doubt. What’ll become of them foolish girls—Why, Peke! who’s these two young ladies?”
Mr. Morton looked to Mr. Snubbins for an introduction, scratching his head. Mr. Snubbins said, succinctly: “These here gals are from a railroad train that’s snowed under down there in the cut. I expect they air hungry, Miz’ Morton.”
“Goodness me! Is that so?” cried the good woman, bustling forward and jerking her spectacles down astride her nose, the better to see the unexpected guests. “Snowed up—a whole train load, did you say? I declare! Sit down, do. I won’t haf to put any extry plates on the supper table, for I did have it set, hopin’ Sallie an’ Celia would come back,” and the poor mother began to sob openly.
“I vow, Maw! You do beat all. Them gals couldn’t git back home through this snow, if they wanted to. And they likely got to some big town or other,” said Mr. Morton, “before the worst of the blizzard. They’ve got money; the silly little tykes! When they have spent it all, they’ll be glad to come back.”