“Mr. Bulson is so insistent, and is so ugly,” the letter said, “that I fear your dear father will have to go to court. It will be a great expense as well as a notorious affair.
“Fighting an accusation that you cannot disprove is like Don Quixote’s old fight with the windmill. There is nothing to be gained in the end. It is a dreadful, dreadful thing.”
Nan determined to meet her father and tell him all about Inez. She was sure he would be interested in the waif, and in her plans for Inez’s future.
That night, however, at the Mason house, there was much excitement among the young people. Of course the girls got Katie, the maid, to help with Inez. Katie would have done anything for Nan, if not for Grace herself; and although she did not at first quite approve of the street waif, she ended in loving Inez.
In the first place they bathed the child and wrapped her in a soft, fleecy gown of Grace’s. Her clothing, every stitch of it, was carried gingerly down to the basement by Katie, and burned.
From the garments Mrs. Harley had sent a complete outfit for the child was selected. They were probably the best garments Inez had ever worn.
“She looks as nice now as me own sister,” Katie declared, when, after a deal of fussing and chatting in the girls’ suite, the street waif was dressed from top to toe.
“Now ye may take her down to show the mistress; and I belave she will be plazed.”
This was a true prophecy. Not only was Mrs. Mason delighted with the changed appearance of Inez, but Mr. Mason approved, too; while Walter considered the metamorphosis quite marvelous.
“Great!” he said. “Get her filled up, and filled out, and her appearance alone will pay you girls for your trouble.”
While they talked and joked about her, Inez fell fast asleep with her head pillowed in Nan Sherwood’s lap.
THE KEY TO A HARD LOCK
The young people had planned to spend that next forenoon at a skating rink, where the ice was known to be good; but Nan ran away right after breakfast to meet her father’s train, intending to join the crowd at the rink later.
“I’ll take your skates for you, Nan,” Walter assured her, as she set forth for the station.
“That’s so kind of you, Walter,” she replied gratefully.
“Say! I’d do a whole lot more for you than that,” blurted out the boy, his face reddening.
“I think you have already,” said Nan, sweetly, waving him good-bye from the taxi in which Mrs. Mason had insisted she should go to the station.
She settled back in her seat and thought happily for a few minutes. She had been so busy with all sorts of things here in Chicago—especially with what Bess Harley called “other people’s worries”—that Nan had scarcely been able to think of her hopes for the future, or her memories of the past. She had been living very much in the present.