“And Linda Riggs tried to make it worse for you, did she?” put in the indignant Walter.
“Hush, Walter!” commanded Miss Hagford. “We must have no more of this here. It is disgraceful. We will go directly home and your mother must know all the particulars. I don’t know what she will say—I really do not,” the troubled governess added.
“Oh, you can all go,” snarled Linda. “You’re welcome to the company of that Nan Sherwood. Pearl and I can find our way to her house. We’ll leave you right now.”
“Pearl is not going home, Linda,” said her cousin. “You’re not going to spoil all my fun for your own pleasure, I can tell you!”
“Stop, my dear,” Miss Hagford said sternly. “Don’t wrangle any more. Come! March! Walter, lead the way with your sister. Let us delay no longer.”
Walter felt inclined to be obstinate and stick to Nan; but the latter slipped back with Bess, and they two walked arm in arm. Bess was frankly sobbing. They were tears of rage.
“Oh, dear! I wish I hadn’t been brought up so respectably!” she gasped. “I wish I were like Inez. I’d slap that Linda Riggs’ face and tear her hair out in big handfuls!”
Nan could not even smile at her chum’s tearful emphasis. She felt very miserable indeed. She thought the English governess looked at her suspiciously. Some of the girls and boys must surely be impressed by what Linda had said. Had it been practical, Nan would have slipped out of the crowd and run away.
It was a rather silent party that passed through the snowy streets to the Mason house. Some of the girls and their escorts whispered together but this only added to the embarrassment of all concerned.
They reached the house at last. It was brightly lighted, for Mrs. Mason had promised to entertain royally. Her appearance at the door when it was opened, was quite in the nature of a surprise, however. She ran forward, her lovely gown trailing behind her and both hands outstretched.
“Where is our Nan?” she cried gaily. “Nan Sherwood! come here to me at once. You delightfully brave girl! And never to have talked about it!”
By this time she had the embarrassed Nan within the circle of her arms, and was smiling charmingly upon the others who trooped into the big entrance hall.
“What do you suppose she has done?” pursued Mrs. Mason, happily. “You must have known about it, Bess, for you were with Nan when she went to Lakeview Hall last September. Why, girls! this Nan of ours, when the train stopped at a station, went alone to the rescue of a child threatened by a rattlesnake, killed the snake, and rescued the child. What do you think of that?
“And now some of the passengers on that train, who saw the brave deed, have applied for and obtained a medal for bravery which has been brought here by a committee, and is to be presented to our Nan. You dear girl!” cried Mrs. Mason, kissing her heartily. “What are you crying for?”