“Poor old daddy,” she sighed, compassion in her heart. “He thinks he is doing it for the best. Wicker, I hope it is—it is not Mr. Barnes,” she added, voicing a thought which had been struggling in her mind for a long time.
“Why not, dearest?”
“It would mean one of two things. Either he does not want to recognise me as his child—or cannot, which is even worse. Wicker, I don’t want to know the truth. I am afraid—I am afraid.”
She was trembling like a leaf and there was positive distress in her eyes, eyes half covered by lids tense with alarm.
“Don’t feel that way about it, dear,” cried he, recovering from his astonishment and instantly grasping the situation as it must have appeared to her. “To tell you the truth, I do not believe that Mr. Barnes is related to you in any way. If he is connected with the case at all, it is in the capacity of attorney.”
“But he is supposed to be an honourable man.”
“True, and I still believe him to be. It does not seem possible that he can be engaged in such work as this. We are going altogether on supposition—putting two and two together, don’t you know, and hoping they will stick. But, in any event, we must not let any chance slip by. If he is interested, we must bring him to time. It may mean the unravelling of the whole skein, dear. Don’t look so distressed. Be brave. It doesn’t matter what we learn in the end, I love you just the same. You shall be my wife.”
“I do love you, Wicker. I will always love you.”
“Dear little sweetheart!”
They whirled up to the lodge gate at Judge Brewster’s place at last, the throbbing machine coming to a quick stop. Before he called out to the lodge keeper, Bonner impulsively drew her gloveless hand to his lips.
“Nothing can make any difference now,” he said.
The lodge keeper, in reply to Bonner’s eager query, informed them that Mr. Barnes had gone away ten or fifteen minutes before with an old man who claimed to be a detective, and who had placed the great lawyer under arrest.
“Good Lord!” gasped Bonner with a sinking heart.
“It’s an outrage, sir! Mr. Barnes is the best man in the world. He never wronged no one, sir. There’s an ’orrible mistake, sir,” groaned the lodge keeper. “Judge Brewster is in Boggs City, and the man wouldn’t wait for his return. He didn’t even want to tell Mr. Barnes what ’e was charged with.”
“Did you ever hear of anything so idiotic?” roared Bonner. Rosalie was white and red by turn. “What direction did they take?”
“The constable told Mr. Barnes he’d ’ave to go to Tinkletown with ’im at once, sir, even if he ’ad to walk all the way. The old chap said something, sir, about a man being there who could identify him on sight. Mr. Barnes ’ad to laugh, sir, and appeared to take it all in good humour. He said he’d go along of ’im, but he wouldn’t walk. So he got his own auto out, sir, and they went off together. They took the short cut, sir, by the ferry road, ’eaded for Tinkletown. Mr. Barnes said he’d be back before noon, sir—if he wasn’t lynched.”