MoboReader > Literature > Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways

   Chapter 15 CONTRASTS

Nan Sherwood's Winter Holidays; Or, Rescuing the Runaways By Annie Roe Carr Characters: 8100

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

A girl not much bigger than Inez, nor dressed much better, came out of the basement door of Mother Beasley's, wiping her lips on the back of her hand.

"Hullo, Ine!" she said to the flower-seller. "Who you got in tow? Some more greenies."

"Never you mind, Polly," returned Inez. "They're just friends of mine-on their way to Washington Park."

"Yes-they-be!" drawled the girl called Polly.

"Hi! that's all right," chuckled Inez. "I t'ought I'd make ye sit up and take notice. But say! wot's good on the menu ter-day?"

"Oh, say! take me tip," said Polly. "Order two platters of Irish stew an' a plate o' ham an' eggs. Youse'll have a bully feed then. Eggs is cheap an' Mother Beasley's givin' t'ree fer fifteen cents, wid the ham throwed in. That'll give youse each an egg an' plenty of stew in the two platters for all t'ree."

This arrangement of a course dinner on so economical a plan made Bess open her eyes, while Nan was greatly amused.

"How strong's the bank?" asked Inez of Nan, whom she considered the leader of the expedition. "Can we stand fifteen cents apiece?"

"I think so," returned the girl from Tillbury, gravely.

"Good as gold, then!" their pilot said. "We'll go to it. By-by, Polly!"

She marched into the basement. Bess would never have dared proceed that far had it not been for Nan's presence.

A woman with straggling gray hair met them at the door of the long dining-room. She had a tired and almost toothless smile; but had it not been for her greasy wrapper, uncombed hair and grimy nails, Mother Beasley might have been rather attractive.

"Good afternoon, dearies," she said. "Dinner's most over; but maybe we can find something for you. You goin' to eat, Inez?"

"Ev'ry chance't I get," declared the flower-seller, promptly.

"Sit right down," said Mrs. Beasley, pointing to the end of a long table, the red-and-white cloth of which was stained with the passage of countless previous meals, and covered with the crumbs from "crusty" bread.

Bess looked more and more doubtful. Nan was more curious than she was hungry. Inez sat down promptly and began scraping the crumbs together in a little pile, which pile when completed, she transferred to the oil-cloth covered floor with a dexterous flip of the knife.

"Come on!" she said. "Shall I order for youse?"

"We are in your hands, Inez," declared Nan, gravely. "Do with us as you see fit."

"Mercy!" murmured Bess, sitting down gingerly enough, after removing her coat in imitation of her chum.

"Hi!" shouted Inez, in her inimitable way. "Hi, Mother Beasley! bring us two orders of the Irish and one ham an' eggs. Like 'em sunny-side up?"

"Like what sunny-side up?" gasped Bess.

"Yer eggs."

"Which is the sunny-side of an egg?" asked Bess faintly, while Nan was convulsed with laughter.

"Hi!" ejaculated Inez again. "Ain't you the greenie? D'ye want yer egg fried on one side, or turned over?"

"Turned over," Bess murmured.

"An' you?" asked the flower-seller of Nan.

"I always like the sunny-side of everything," our Nan admitted.

"Hi, Mother Beasley!" shouted Inez, to the woman in the kitchen. "Two of them eggs sunny-side up, flop the other."

Nan burst out laughing again at this. Bess was too funny for anything-to look at!

There were other girls in the long room, but none near where Nan and Bess and their strange little friend sat. Plainly the strangers were working girls, somewhat older than the chums, and as they finished their late dinners, one by one, they went out. Some wore cheap finery, but most of them showed the shabby hall-mark of poverty in their garments.

By and by the steaming food appeared. Inez had been helping herself liberally to bread and butter and the first thing Mother Beasley did was to remove the latter out of the flower-seller's reach.

"It's gone up two cents a pound," she said plaintively. "But if it was a dollar a pound some o' you girls would never have no pity on neither the bread nor the butter."

The stew really smelled good. Even Bess tri

ed it with less doubt. Inez ate as though she had fasted for a week and never expected to eat again.

"Will you have coffee, dearies?" asked Mother Beasley.

"Three cents apiece extry," said Inez, hoarsely.

"Yes, please," Nan said. "And if there is pie, we will have pie."

"Oh, you pie!" croaked Inez, aghast at such recklessness. "I reckon you do 'blong up to Washington Park."

Nan had to laugh again at this, and even Bess grew less embarrassed. When Mrs. Beasley came back with the coffee and pie, Nan drew her into conversation.

"Inez, here, says she introduced two other girls from the country to your home a few days ago," said Nan. "Two girls who were looking for jobs with the movies."

"Were they?" asked Mrs. Beasley, placidly. "My girls are always looking for jobs. When they get 'em, if they are good jobs, they go to live where the accommodations are better. I do the best I can for 'em; but I only accommodate poor girls."

"And I think you really must do a great deal of good, in your way, Mrs. Beasley," Nan declared. "Did these two we speak of chance to stay with you until now?"

"I was thinkin'," said Mrs. Beasley. "I know, now, the ones you mean. Yes, Inez did bring 'em. But they only stayed one night. They wus used to real milk, and real butter, and strictly fresh eggs, and feather beds. They was real nice about it; but I showed 'em how I couldn't give 'em live-geese feather beds an' only charge 'em a dollar apiece a week for their lodgin's.

"They had money-or 'peared to have. And they heard the movin' picture studios were all on the other side of town. So they went away."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Bess.

"Well, they were all right at that time. I'll write and tell Mrs.

Morton," Nan said.

"Did they tell you their names, Mrs. Beasley?" she asked.

"Bless you! if they did, I don't remember. I have twenty-five girls all the time and lots of 'em only stay a few nights. I couldn't begin to keep track of 'em, or remember their names."

This was all the information the chums could get from Mrs. Beasley regarding the girls whom Nan and Bess believed to be the runaways. A little later they went out with Inez, the latter evidently filled to repletion.

"Hi! but that was a feed! You girls must be millionaires' daughters, like the newspapers tell about," said the street girl.

"Oh, no, we're not," Nan cried.

"Well, you better be joggin' along toward Washington Park. I don't want youse should get robbed while I'm with you. Mebbe the police'd think I done it."

"If you will put us on the car that goes near this address," said Nan, seriously, showing Inez Walter Mason's card, "we'll be awfully obliged."

Inez squinted at the address. "I kin do better'n that," she declared. "I'll put youse in a jitney that'll drop ye right at the corner of the street-half a block away."

"Oh! a jitney!" Bess cried. "Of course."

Inez marched them a couple of blocks and there, on a busy corner, hailed the auto-buss. Before this Nan had quietly obtained from the child her home address and the name of her aunt.

"In you go," said the flower-seller. Then she shouted importantly to the 'bus-driver: "I got your number, mister! You see't these ladies gets off at their street or you'll get deep into trouble. Hear me?"

"Sure, Miss! Thank ye kindly, Miss," said the chauffeur, saluting, with a grin, and the jitney staggered on over the frozen snow and ice of the street.

They came to the Mason house, safe and sound. An important-looking man in a tail coat and an imposing shirt-front let the girls into the great house.

"Yes, Miss," he said, in answer to Nan's inquiry. "There must have been some mistake, Miss. Miss Grace and Mister Walter went to the station to meet you, and returned long ago. I will tell them you have arrived."

He turned away in a stately manner, and Bess whispered: "I feel just as countrified as that little thing said we looked."

Nan was looking about the reception room and contrasting its tasteful richness with Mother Beasley's place.

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