Just then Nurse Winnie appeared: “Here’s the food, Mrs. Farnsworth,” she said, showing a bowl of steaming white liquid. “It’s all ready.”
“What food?” said Patty, mystified.
“Miss Thorpe came here fifteen minutes ago, and said you ordered me to a make a bowl of prepared food,—that Fleurette was not getting enough nourishment.”
“Why, I did nothing of the sort! Where is Miss Thorpe? And where is the baby?”
“I don’t know,” and Winnie looked as if she thought Patty was crazy. “Don’t you know, ma’am?”
Elise gave one glance at Patty’s white, scared face and one glance At Nurse Winnie’s red, frightened face, and then she herself began To scream.
“Stop that, Elise!” Patty cried, “it’s bad enough to have my baby kidnapped, without your yelling like a Comanche! Hush, I tell you!”
But Elise wouldn’t, or couldn’t hush. The word “kidnapped” upset any composure she may have had left, and she burst into hysterical sobbing.
“Of course,” she said brokenly, between sobs, “she’s kidnapped! You and Bill are so—so wealthy and grand—she’s just the child the kidnappers would pick out for ransom—and—”
“Don’t—don’t, Elise,” begged Patty, her voice shaking; “I don’t believe she’s kidnapped at all. It’s far more likely Azalea took her out for a ride or something. She’s crazy over the baby and she always wants to have her to herself, but, she says, Winnie won’t let her.”
“And indeed not!” spoke up the nurse. “Miss Thorpe,—she tosses the child about in a way that’d fair curdle your blood! That she does!”
“That’s true,” said Patty. “You see, Bill pitches baby around just as he likes, and so Azalea thinks she may do the same.”
“Then she did do that,—and she dropped her,—and maybe killed her!”
Elise voiced her new theory with a fresh burst of grief, and the idea struck a chill to Patty’s heart. She took no stock in the kidnapping theory, for Winnie had left the child with Azalea, who would have fought off a horde of marauders before she let them carry off the little one. No, whatever had happened was doubtless Azalea’s doing. But Elise’s notion of an accident to Fleurette might come somewhere near the truth.
“Of course that’s it,” Elise went on, excitedly. “The idea of a girl throwing a baby about! What did she do, Winnie? I mean did she let go of her?”
“Oh, yes, ma’am! She often would throw Fleurette clear up in the air and catch her as she came down.”
“She is athletic,” conceded Patty. “Over at the Gales’ gymnasium she does all sorts of stunts. But I don’t want her doing them with my baby!” she broke down, and cried piteously.
“Sometimes,” vouchsafed Winnie, “Miss Azalea would toss the baby into the bassinette, instead of laying her down. She always pitched her straight in,—and baby liked it! You see, Miss Thorpe was very gentle with the child, and never missed her aim. But I was fair frightened to watch her.”