THE FIRST CLUE
Nan and her chum were wildly excited. During their brief stay at Tillbury over Christmas they had been so busy, at home and abroad, that they had not thought much about Sallie Morton and Celia Snubbins, the two runaways.
In Nan’s case, not having seen her mother for ten months, she did not—at the last moment—even desire to come away from her and visit her school friends in Chicago.
There really was so much to say, so much to learn about Scotland and the beautiful old Emberon Castle and the village about it, and about the queer people Mrs. Sherwood had met, too! Oh! Nan hoped that she would see the place in time—the “Cradle of the Blake Clan,” as Mr. Sherwood called it.
There had been presents, of course, and in the giving and accepting of these Nan had found much pleasure and excitement—especially when she found a box of beautiful new clothes for her big doll, all made in Scotland by “Momsey,” who knew just how precious Beautiful Beulah was in her daughter’s eyes.
With all her work and play at Lakeview Hall, Nan Sherwood had not forgotten Beulah. The other girls of her age and in her grade were inclined to laugh at Nan for playing dolls; but at the last of the term Beautiful Beulah had held the post of honor in Room Seven, Corridor Four.
Nan’s love for dolls foreshadowed her love for babies. She never could pass a baby by without trying to make friends with it. The little girls at Lakeview Hall found a staunch friend and champion in Nan Sherwood. It was a great grief to Mrs. Sherwood and Nan that there were no babies in the “little dwelling in amity.” Nan could barely remember the brother that had come to stay with them such a little while, and then had gone away forever.
Nan’s heart was touched by the apparent needs of this street girl who had come to the rescue of Bess and herself when they arrived in Chicago. All the time she and her chum were trying to learn something about the two girls who had come to the great city to be moving picture actresses, and listening to what the flower-seller had to say about them, Nan was thinking, too, of their unfortunate little informant.
“Is that restaurant where you took those girls to eat near here?” she suddenly asked.
“Aw, say! ’tain’t no rest’rant,” said the child. “It’s just Mother Beasley’s hash-house.”
“Goodness!” gasped Bess. “Is it a nice place?”
The girl grinned. “‘Cordin’ ter what you thinks is nice. I ’spect you’d like the Auditorium Annex better. But Mother Beasley’s is pretty good when you ain’t got much to spend.”
Bess looked at Nan curiously. The latter was eager to improve this acquaintanceship so strangely begun, and for more than one reason.
“Could you show us to Mother Beasley’s—if it isn’t very far away?” Nan asked.