But Nan considered the matter too serious to joke about. “I am afraid that Sallie and Celia must be about to their limit,” she said. “Poor Mrs. Morton! She said Sallie was stubborn, and she must be, to endure so many disappointments and not give up and go home.”
“The sillies!” said Walter. “How about it, kid? Would you run away from a good home, even if it were in the country?”
“Not if the eats came reg’lar and they didn’t beat me too much,” declared Inez, repeating her former declaration.
“Well, then, we’ll take you where the ‘eats’ at least come regular,” laughed Walter. “Eh, Grace?”
“Of course. Do hurry and get that taxi.”
“What do you suppose your mother will say, Grace?” demanded Bess, in sudden doubt, when Walter had departed to telephone for the taxi-cab.
“I know mother will pity the poor little soul,” Grace declared. “I’m sure she belongs to enough charitable boards and committees so that she ought to be delighted that we bring a real ‘case,’ as she calls them, to her,” and Grace laughed at her own conceit.
Nan, however, wondered if, after all, Mrs. Mason would care to take any practical responsibility upon herself regarding the street waif. It was one thing to be theoretically charitable and an entirely different matter to take a case of deserving charity into one’s own home.
But that thought did not disturb Nan. She had already planned a future for little Inez. She was determined to take her back to Tillbury and leave Inez with her mother.
“I’m sure,” Nan said to herself, “that Momsey will be glad to have a little girl around the house again. And Inez can go to school, and grow to be good and polite. For, goodness knows! she is a little savage now.”
Eventually these dreams of Nan for little Inez came true. Just at present, however, much more material things happened to her when they arrived at the Mason house.
Grace and Bess hung over the little girl, and fussed about her, as Walter laughingly said, “like a couple of hens over one chicken.”
Nan was glad to see her schoolmates so much interested in the waif. She knew it would do both Grace and Bess good to have their charitable emotions awakened.
As for Mrs. Mason, Nan soon saw that that kindly lady would be both helpful and wise in the affair. Left to their own desires, Grace and Bess would have dressed Inez up like a French doll. But Nan told Mrs. Mason privately just what she hoped to do with the child, and the lady heartily approved.
“A very good thing—very good, indeed, Nan Sherwood,” said Mrs. Mason, “if your father and mother approve.”
As it chanced, there was a letter from Mrs. Sherwood awaiting Nan when she and her schoolmates arrived with Inez; from it Nan learned that her father would be in Chicago the next day, having been called to a final conference with the heads of the automobile corporation.