“Aw, say! What d’ye think? I ain’t nawthan’ ter do but beau greenies around this burg? A swell chaunc’t I’d have to git any eats meself. I gotter sell these posies, I have.”
“But you can eat with us!” Nan suggested.
“Oh, Nan!” Bess whispered. “Do you s’pose we can find any clue to those girls there?”
“I hope so,” returned Nan, in the same low voice.
“Goodness! I’m just as excited as I can be,” her chum went on to say. “We’ll be regular detectives. This beats being a movie actress, right now.”
Nan smiled, but in a moment was grave again. “I’d do a great deal for that lovely Mrs. Morton,” she said. “And even funny old Si Snubbins had tears in his eyes at the last when he begged us to find his Celia.”
“I know it,” Bess agreed sympathetically. “But I can’t help being excited just the same. If we should find them at this Mother Beasley’s—”
“I don’t expect that; but we may hear of them there,” said Nan. “Here’s our new chum.”
The flower-girl had darted away to sell one of her little bouquets. Now she came back and took up the discussion where she had dropped it.
“Now about those eats,” she said. “I ain’t in the habit of eating at all hours; it don’t agree wid my constitootin, me doctor tells me. Fact is, sometimes I don’t eat much, if any.”
“Oh!” gasped Bess.
“That’s when I don’t sell out. An’ I got five posies left. I b’lieve I’d better take ye up on this offer. Youse pay for me feed for the pleasure of me comp’ny; hey?”
“That’s the answer,” said Nan, spiritedly. “We’re going to be good friends, I can see.”
“We are if youse is goin’ to pay for me eats,” agreed the girl.
“What is your name?” asked Nan, as their young pilot guided the chums across to the opening of a side-street. “Mine is Nan, and my friend’s is Bess.”
“Well, they calls me some mighty mean names sometimes; but my real, honest-to-goodness name is Inez. Me mudder was a Gypsy Queen and me fadder was boss of a section gang on de railroad somewhere. He went off and me mudder died, and I been livin’ with me aunt. She’s good enough when she ain’t got a bottle by her, and me and her kids have good times. But I gotter rustle for me own grub. We all haster.”
Nan and Bess listened to this, and watched the independent little thing in much amazement. Such a creature neither of the chums from Tillbury had ever before heard of or imagined.
“Do you suppose she is telling the truth?” whispered Bess to Nan.
“I don’t see why she should tell a wrong story gratuitously,” Nan returned.
“Come on, girls,” said Inez, turning into another street—narrower and more shabby than the first. “Lift your feet! I ain’t got no time to waste.”
Nan laughed and hastened her steps; but Bess looked doubtful.
“Hi!” exclaimed the street girl, “are you sure you two ain’t wantin’ to break into the movies, too?”