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