The young folk danced for an hour to the music of a big disc machine. The committee of presentation had bidden Nan good-bye, and thanked Mrs. Mason for her hospitality. The party was breaking up.
Mrs. Mason called the young people together when the wraps of those who were leaving were already on.
“One last word, boys and girls, before we separate,” the lady said softly, her arm around Nan, by whom she seemed to stand quite by chance. “I hope you have all had a pleasant time. If we cultivate a happy spirit we will always find pleasure wherever we go. Remember that.
“Criticism and back-biting in any social gathering breed unhappiness and discontent. And we should all be particularly careful how we speak of or to one another. I understand that there was one incident to mar this otherwise perfect evening. One girl was unkind enough to try to hurt the feelings of another by a statement of unmistakable falsehood.”
Mrs. Mason’s voice suddenly became stern. She was careful to avert her gaze from Linda Riggs’ direction; but they all knew to whom she referred.
“I speak of this, boys and girls, for a single reason,” the lady pursued. “For fear some of you may go home with any idea in your minds that the accusation against the girl vilified or against her father is in any particular true, I want you to tell your parents that I stand sponsor for both our dear Nan and her father. Neither could be guilty of taking that which was not his.
“Now, good-night all! I hope you have had a lovely time. I am sure this night will long be remembered by our Nan!”
The boys, led by Walter, broke into a hearty cheer for Nan Sherwood. Every girl save Linda came to kiss her good-night. Her triumph seemed unalloyed.
Yet the first mail in the morning brought a letter which dealt a staggering blow to Nan’s Castle of Delight. Her mother wrote in haste to say that Mr. Ravell Bulson had been to the automobile manufacturers with whom Mr. Sherwood had a tentative contract, and had threatened to sue Mr. Sherwood if he did not return to him, Bulson, his lost watch and chain and roll of bankbills, amounting to several hundred dollars.
The automobile manufacturers had served notice on Mr. Sherwood that they would delay the signing of any final contract until Bulson’s accusation was refuted. Almost all of Mrs. Sherwood’s ready money, received through the Scotch courts, had been invested in the new automobile showroom and garage.
WHAT HAS BECOME OF INEZ?
Nan could not bring herself to speak of the sudden turn her father’s difficulties had taken. She had long-since learned that family affairs were not to be discussed out of the family circle.
It was bad enough, so she thought, to have Tillbury and Owneyville people discussing the accusation of Ravell Bulson, without telling all the trouble to her friends here in Chicago. Enough had been said on the previous evening, Nan thought, about the matter. She hid this new phase of it even from her chum.