“Can’t you remember where and under what circumstances you saw him before?” cried Bonner, very much excited.
“I’m goin’ to try to think it up to-night. He was a rich-lookin’ feller an’ he had a heavy black band aroun’ one of his coat sleeves. Wick, I bet he’s the man we want. I’ve made up my mind ’at he’s her father!”
Bonner impatiently wormed all the information possible out of the marshal, especially as to the stranger’s looks, voice, the direction taken when they parted company and then dismally concluded that an excellent opportunity had been hopelessly lost. Anderson said, in cross-examination, that the stranger had told him he “was leavin’ at once fer New York and then going to Europe.” His mother had died recently.
“I’ll try to head him off at Boggs City,” said Bonner; and half an hour later he was off at full speed in the big machine for the county seat, a roundabout way to Bonner Place. The New York train had gone, but no one had seen a man answering the description of Anderson’s interviewer.
“I’m sorry, Rosalie,” said Bonner some time later. He was taking her for a spin in the automobile. “It was a forlorn hope, and it is also quite probable that Mr. Crow’s impressions are wrong. The man may have absolutely no connection with the matter. I’ll admit it looks interesting, his manner and his questions, and there is a chance that he knows the true story. In any event, he did not go to New York to-day and he can’t get another train until to-morrow. I’ll pick up Mr. Crow in the morning and we’ll run up here to have a look at him if he appears.”
“I think it is a wild goose chase, Wicker,” Rosalie said despairingly. “Daddy Crow has done such things before.”
“But this seems different. The man’s actions were curious. He must have had some reason for being interested in you. I am absolutely wild with eagerness to solve this mystery, Rosalie. It means life to me.”
“Oh, if you only could do it,” she cried so fervently, that his heart leaped with pity for her.
“I love you, Rosalie. I would give my whole life to make you happy. Listen, dearest—don’t turn away from me! Are you afraid of me?” He was almost wailing it into her ear.
“I—I was only thinking of the danger, Wicker. You are not watching the road,” she said, flushing a deep red. He laughed gaily for the first time in months.
“It is a wide road and clear,” he said jubilantly. “We are alone and we are merely drifting. The machine is alive with happiness. Rosalie—Rosalie, I could shout for joy! You do love me? You will be my wife?”
She was white and silent and faint with the joy of it all and the pain of it all. Joy in the full knowledge that he loved her and had spoken in spite of the cloud that enveloped her, pain in the certainty that she could not accept the sacrifice. For a long time she sat staring straight down the broad road over which they were rolling.