“Yes, I’ll tell you the whole story,” Azalea repeated, addressing herself to Farnsworth, but glancing now and then at the others.
“On my way East, I met Mr. and Mrs. Bixby on the train. They were pleasant people and Mrs. Bixby was very kind to me in many ways. Then, I learned that they were in the moving-picture business, and as I wanted to act myself, I cultivated their acquaintance all I could. And by the time we reached New York Mr. Bixby had agreed to give me a trial at his studio. He said I had the right type of face for the screen and if I could learn to act, my Western life had fitted me for some certain parts they were just then in need of. So I went in for it,—and I got along all right. Then they wanted a little baby in the picture and as I was so fond of Fleurette and loved her too much to let any harm come to her, I thought it all right to take her over there once or twice to get the pictures of her. But one of the films went wrong, somehow, and Mr. Merritt was determined to take it over again. I wouldn’t allow it, because I found out how Patty felt about Baby being in it,—so I refused. Now, I don’t suppose you know how insistent the picture people are about any scene they want. They go to any lengths to get them. I’ve heard Mr. Bixby say, ‘Get the picture if it kills the leading man!’ And though he doesn’t mean that literally I think he would do anything short of murder to get his picture. Well, they thought that the whole reel was spoiled because one scene with Fleurette in it wasn’t right. And they were bound to have her over there again.”
“She shan’t go,—so she shouldn’t!” Patty crooned, as she held her child closer in her sheltering arms.
“No; and that’s what I told Mr. Merritt,” went on Azalea. “But he is tricky, and I felt pretty sure he’d try underhand means to get the baby. I’ve kept watch night and day, and I’ve always been certain that Fleurette was either in Winnie’s care or Patty’s. Patty wouldn’t trust her with me any more.”
Azalea spoke the last words wistfully, with a penitent look in her brown eyes.
“Small wonder!” cried Elise, who was listening interestedly. “After you took that blessed child to—”
“There, there, Elise,” Farnsworth interrupted, “we do trust Azalea. Let her finish her story.”
Azalea gave him a grateful look and went on.
“When I went away from the house to-day, Patty was at home, so, though I knew it was Winnie’s day off, I felt all right about Baby. Then,—while we were out walking, I saw Winnie go by,—and soon after I felt a—a sort of presentiment that I must go home. I couldn’t tell why,—only I felt I must come back to the house at once. So I did,—and everything seemed to be all right. I decided I had been foolishly nervous about it,—and I took Fleurette down on the porch for a little while.