NAN ON THE HEIGHTS
Mrs. Mason had not chaperoned the party of girls and boys to the motion picture show; but Miss Hagford, the English governess, was with them. Including the young hosts and Nan and Bess, there was almost a score in the party, and they made quite a bustling crowd in the lobby as they came out, adjusting their outer garments against the night air.
Walter and Nan were in the lead and when Linda Riggs’ venomous tongue spat out the unkind words last repeated, few of the party heard her. Pearl Graves, her cousin, was beside the purse-proud girl who had been Nan’s bitter enemy since the day they had first met. Pearl was a different kind of girl entirely from Linda; in fact, she did not know her cousin very well, for Linda did not reside in Chicago. At her cousin’s harsh exclamation Pearl cried:
“Hush, Linda! how can you say such things? That can not possibly be true.”
“’Tis, too! And Nan won’t dare deny it,” whispered Linda. “She knows what her father is, too! Mr. and Mrs. Mason can’t have heard about Nan’s father being in trouble for taking a man’s watch and money in a sleeping car. Oh! I know all about it.”
Walter Mason’s ears were sharp enough; but Linda spoke so hurriedly, and the boy was so amazed, that the cruel girl got thus far in her wicked speech before he turned and vehemently stopped her.
“What do you mean by telling such a story as that about Nan?” demanded the boy, hoarsely. “And about her father, too? You are just the meanest girl I ever saw, Linda Riggs, and I’m sorry you’re in this party. I wish you were a boy—I’d teach you one good lesson—I would!”
They stood just at the entrance to the theatre, where the electric lights were brightest. A few flakes of snow were falling, like glistening particles of tinsel. There were not many patrons entering the moving picture house at this late hour, but the remainder of the Masons’ guests crowded forward to hear and see what was going on.
Nan was white-faced, but dry-eyed. Walter stood partly in front of her as though he were physically defending her, and held one of her hands while his other hand was tightly clenched, and his face ablaze with indignation.
“Oh, Nan! What is the matter?” cried Bess Harley, running to Nan’s side and taking her other hand.
“What has happened?” asked Grace Mason. “What is it, Walter?”
“My goodness!” broke in Bess, before there could be any other explanation. “Here’s that horrid Linda Riggs. What brought her here, I’d like to know?”
“I’ve as much right here as you have, Harley,” cried Linda. “I don’t have to worm myself into society that is above me, as you and your precious friend do. My father is as rich as any girl’s father here, I’d have you know.”
“Oh, hush, Linda!” murmured Pearl Graves, very much ashamed of her cousin.
“Walter! Grace! What does this mean?” demanded the governess, hurrying forward. “Don’t make a scene here, I beg. Have no quarreling.”