“Why, you little savage!” gasped Bess Harley. “Don’t you know you’ve been saved?”
“Who wants to be saved?” demanded the smaller girl, looking up at the three older ones out of the hood of the shawl she had clung to so desperately. “What youse savin’ me from?”
Bess grew more excited. “Why, Nan!” she cried. “It is—it must be! Don’t you see who she is?”
Nan was already looking down into the dark, shrewd and thin countenance of the little one with a smile of recognition. It was Inez, the little flower-girl, whom she had so fortunately pulled out of the way of the automobile.
“Hullo, honey; don’t you know us?” Nan asked her.
“Hi!” exclaimed the street waif. “If it ain’t me tony friends from Washington Park. Say! youse got ter excuse me. I didn’t know youse.”
“Why, Inez!” exclaimed Nan, kindly. “You have a dreadful cold.”
“Say! if I don’t have nothin’ worse than that I’ll do fine,” croaked the little girl, carelessly. “But I never expected to see youse tony folks again.”
“Why, Inez!” exclaimed Bess. “And we’ve been hunting all over for you.”
“Goodness me!” burst out Grace Mason. “You don’t mean to say that this is the poor little thing we’ve been in such a fuss about?”
“Of course she is,” Bess replied.
“This is positively Inez,” laughed Nan, squeezing the little one’s cold hand in her own. “Aren’t you glad to see us, child?”
“I dunno,” said Inez, doubtfully. “Youse ain’t come to take me back to me aunt, have youse?” and she looked around for a chance to escape. “I ain’t goin’ to live with her no more—now I tell youse!” and she became quite excited.
Nan sought to reassure her. “Don’t you be afraid, honey. We wouldn’t see you abused. We only want to help you. That is why we have been searching for you.”
“You been huntin’ me up—jest to help me?” gasped Inez, in wonder.
“Of course we have,” said Bess.
“Hi!” exclaimed the flower-seller, with an impish grin. “I reckon me aunt would say some of yer buttons was missin’. Youse can’t be right in the upper story,” and she pointed to her own head to illustrate her meaning.
“Goodness!” gasped Grace. “Does she think we are crazy because we want to do her a kindness?”
“She’s not used to being treated with much consideration, I am afraid,” Nan observed, in a low voice.
“You ridiculous child!” came from Bess. “Don’t you know that we were both interested in you that first day? We told you we would see you again.”
“Aw, that don’t mean nothin’,” sniffed Inez. “I didn’t expect nothin’ would come of it. If youse folks from Washington Park ain’t crazy, what is the matter wit’ youse? I ain’t nothin’ ter you.”
“Why, goodness me!” cried Grace again. “Do you think everybody who is kind must be out of his head? Who ever heard the like?”