“Carping critic!” exclaimed Bess, pouting. “Do let me eat what I like while I’m here. When we get back to Lakeview Hall you know Mrs. Cupp will want to put us all on half rations to counteract our holiday eating. I heard her bemoaning the fact to Dr. Beulah that we would come back with our stomachs so full that we would be unable to study for a fortnight.”
“My! she is a Tartar, isn’t she?” was Walter’s comment.
“Oh, you don’t know what we girls have to go through with at the Hall—what trials and privations,” said his sister, feelingly.
“I can see it’s making you thin, Sis,” scoffed the boy. “And how about all those midnight suppers, and candy sprees, and the like?”
“Mercy!” exclaimed Bess. “If it were not for those extras we should all starve to death. There! we’ve missed that jitney. We’ll have to wait for another.”
The girls and their escort got safely to the shabby street in which Mother Beasley kept her eating and lodging house; but they obtained no new information regarding the runaway girls who had spent their first night in Chicago with the poor, but good-hearted widow.
Nor did they find Inez in her accustomed haunts near the railroad station; and it was too late that day to hunt the little flower-seller’s lodging, for Inez lived in an entirely different part of the town.
“Rather a fruitless chase,” Walter said, as they walked from the car on which they had returned. “What are you going to do about those runaway girls, now?”
“I don’t know—oh! stop a moment!” Nan suddenly cried. “What’s that over there?”
“A picture palace; goodness knows they’re common enough,” said Bess.
“But see what the sign says. Look, girls! Look, Walter!” and Nan excitedly pointed out the sheet hung above the arched entrance of the playhouse. “’A Rural Beauty’!” she cried. “That’s the very picture those two girls took part in. It’s been released.”
“We must see it,” Bess cried. “I’m just crazy to see how Sallie and Celia look on the screen.”
“Why! you never saw them. Do you think they will be labeled?” scoffed Walter.
“Oh, we saw a photograph of Sallie; and if Celia looks anything like Mr. Si Snubbins, we can’t mistake her,” laughed Bess. “Let’s run over and go in.”
“No,” Grace objected. “Mother never lets us go to a picture show without asking her permission first.”
“No? Not even when Walter is with you?” asked Bess.
“No. She wishes to know just what kind of picture I am going to see. She belongs to a club that tries to make the picture-play people in this neighborhood show only nice films. She says they’re not all to be trusted to do so.”
“I guess this ‘Rural Beauty’ is a good enough picture,” Nan said; “but of course we’ll ask your mother’s permission before we go in.”
“There it is,” groaned Bess. “Got to ask permission to breathe, I expect, pretty soon.”