“Besides,” added Nan, smiling sadly. “Inez is a bankrupt. She is out of business altogether. The few pennies she saved back every day—rain or shine, whether she went hungry, or was fed—was her capital; and that her aunt took away. I’m dreadfully worried about the poor thing,” concluded Nan, with moist eyes.
She felt so bad about it that she could not bring herself to join the matinee party that had been arranged by Grace for that afternoon. Some of the girls were going to have a box at a musical comedy, with Miss Hagford as chaperon.
Nan did not plead a headache; indeed, she was not given to white lies. She wished to call on the lovely actress whom she had met the day of her adventure in the department store. She wanted to inquire if she had seen or heard anything of the runaways, Sallie and Celia.
“I’d dearly love to go with you,” Bess observed. “Just think of your knowing such a famous woman. You have all the luck, Nan Sherwood.”
“I’m not sure that it was good fortune that brought me in contact with the lady,” Nan returned ruefully.
“Well! it turned out all right, at least,” said Bess. “And my escapades never do. I never have any luck. If it rained soup and I was hungry, you know I wouldn’t have any spoon.”
Nan set forth before the other girls started for the theatre. She knew just how to find the fashionable apartment hotel in which the actress lived, for she and her friends had passed it more than once in the car.
At the desk the clerk telephoned up to the actress’ apartment to see if she was in, and would receive Nan. The maid did not understand who Nan was, and was doubtful; but the moment Madam came to the telephone herself and heard Nan’s name, she cried:
“Send her up—send her up! She is just the one I want to see.”
This greatly excited Nan, for she thought of Sallie and Celia. When she was let out of the elevator on one of the upper floors, the apartment door was open, and Madam herself was holding out a welcoming hand to her, excitedly saying:
“You dear girl! You are as welcome as the flowers in May. Come in and let me talk to you. How surprising, really! I had no thought of seeing you, and yet I desired to—so much.”
Nan was drawn gently into the large and beautiful reception room, while the actress was talking. She saw the woman’s furs and hat thrown carelessly on a couch, and thought that she must have recently come in, even before Madam said:
“I have just come from an exhausting morning in the studio. Oh, dear! everybody seemed so stupid to-day. There are such days, you know—everything goes wrong, and even the patient camera-man loses his temper.
“Yes, Marie, you may bring the tea tray. I am exhausted; nothing but tea will revive this fainting pilgrim.
“And, my dear!” she added, turning to Nan again, “I have news for you—news of those runaway girls.”