“Folks ain’t generally crazy to do me no favors,” said Inez, with one of her sharp glances. “But if you girls want ter give me somethin’ for nothin,’ you’ve lost some of yer buttons, that’s sure!”
Nan and her two companions had to laugh at this, but the laughter was close to tears, after all. It was really pathetic that this waif of the streets should suspect the sanity of anybody who desired to do her a kindness.
JENNIE ALBERT—AND SOMEBODY ELSE
“Well! what do you know about that?” was Walter’s comment, when he came back to the girls and found them surrounding the hungry looking little street waif, of whom he had already heard so much from Nan and Bess.
“We go out to shoot partridges and bring down a crow,” he added. “Goodness! what a hungry looking kid. There’s a bakeshop over the way. Bring her in and see if we can’t cure this child of old Father Famine.”
Inez looked at Walter askance at first. But when she understood that he was going to stand treat to coffee and cakes, she grew friendlier.
“Yep, I’m hungry,” she admitted. “Ain’t I always hungry? M-m—!” as the shop door opened and she sniffed the odors of coffee and food.
“Do, do hurry and feed the poor little thing,” urged Grace, almost in tears. “Oh! I’m sorry I came with you girls. Hungry! Only think of being hungry, Walter!”
Inez looked at Grace as though she thought she was losing her mind.
“Aw, say,” said she, “don’t let it worry youse. I’m uster being empty, I am. And ‘specially since me and me aunt had our fallin’ out.”
“Oh! we know about that, Inez,” cried Bess. “We went there to look for you.”
“To me aunt’s?” asked Inez, in some excitement.
“Yes,” Nan replied.
“Is she a-lookin’ for me?” demanded the child with a restless glance at the door of the shop.
“I don’t think she is,” Nan said.
“I should say not!” Bess added. “She seems to fairly hate you, child. And didn’t she beat you?”
“Yep. She’s the biggest, ye see. She took away all me money and then burned me basket. That was puttin’ me on the fritz for fair, and I went wild and went for her. This is what I got!”
She dropped the shawl off her head suddenly. There, above the temple and where the tangled black hair had been cut away, was a long, angry wound. It was partially healed.
“Oh, my dear!” cried Nan.
Grace fell to crying. Bess grew very angry and threatened all manner of punishments for the cruel aunt.
“How did she do it?” Walter asked.
“Flat iron,” replied the waif, succinctly. “I had the poker. She ‘got’ me first. I didn’t dare go back, and I thought I’d die that first night.”
“Oh, oh!” sobbed Grace. “Out in the cold, too!”