Again and again the maid insisted that she had left them in the hall but a few moments, and the cook and the butler declared that she had spoken truly, yet it seemed strange that in so short a time the two could have so completely disappeared.
In the midst of the excitement Uncle Harry came home, and he looked very grave when he learned the cause of their alarm.
Yes, the house and grounds had been thoroughly searched, they told him, and neither could be found, nor could any one remember having seen them after the baby had been brought in from her ride.
And while the other members of the household were searching in every direction, Uncle Harry secured a lantern, and went out into the shadowy garden, hoping that he might, in some forgotten corner, find the two children whom he so dearly loved.
Around the house, along the driveway toward the stable, down a little path to where the tall dahlias nodded; across the lawn to the open space where the new moon spread its sheen, then toward the shrubbery and the hedge.
Flossie saw the gleam of the bright lantern through the bushes, and huddled closer to the little shrubs. She believed that it was the butler who carried the lantern, and that he had been sent to capture the baby.
“Hush, hush—sh—sh!” she whispered, patting its shoulder gently. It had no idea of crying, but she was so afraid that it might, and thus tell where they were hiding. It happened that the baby was sleepy, and snug and warm in Flossie’s loving arms, it was quite content.
Nearer, and yet nearer came the light! Now it was going farther from her,—now returning, and now, oh, she must hold her breath!
A firm step trampled the underbrush, the lantern was swung high, and the two runaways were discovered. With a sob Flossie clasped the infant closer, hiding its face with her own.
“You sha’n’t have this baby!” she cried, “for I won’t let you! Nobody shall touch my Uncle Harry’s baby; nobody’s going to quantine her. I’m ’fraid out here, but I’ll stay to take care of his own baby!”
“Flossie! Flossie, little girl, who has frightened you? Why are you hiding out here with the baby?”
“Go away!” she cried, holding the baby closer, “they’ve sent you to find us, but you don’t know that they’re going to quantine this baby, but I’ll never let them do it.”
“Flossie, Flossie, you’re frightened, listen to me.”
He put the lantern down, and seating himself upon the grass, placed his strong arm around Flossie, drawing the two closer as if to protect them.
“They are going to quantine this baby!” she cried, “and they sha’n’t cut her head off ’cause there’s spots on her face. She’s your baby, and oh, I love you both!”
The wild note in her voice showed how genuine was her terror.
“Nobody shall harm baby, I promise you that, dear,” said Uncle Harry, an odd quiver in his voice, “and you were a dear little girl to take care of her for me, but now I must take you both up to the house, for every one is hunting for you.”