“See here, Mr. Crow, I don’t like to upset your hopes and calculations,” said Barnes soberly. “I did that once before, you remember. That was years ago. You were wrong then, and you are wrong now. Shall I tell you why I am interested in this pretty waif of yours?”
“It ain’t necessary,” protested the marshal.
“I’ll tell you just the same. My son met her in New York while he was at school. He heard her story from mutual friends and repeated it to me. I was naturally interested, and questioned you. He said she was very pretty. That is the whole story, my dear sir.”
“That’s all very purty, but how about the B in your hat?”
“I don’t understand. Oh, you mean the political bee?”
“Politics, your granny! I mean the ’nitial that Briggs saw. No; hold on! Don’t answer. Don’t say anything that’ll incriminate yourself.”
“I never had an initial in my hat, and I don’t know Briggs. Mr. Crow, you are as crazy as a loon.” He prepared to bring the machine to a standstill. “I’m going home. You can ride back with me or get out and walk on, just as you please.”
“Hold on! Don’t do that! I’ll see that you’re paid fer the use of the machine. Besides, consarn ye, you’re my prisoner.” This was too much for Barnes. He laughed long and loud, and he did not turn back.
Just beyond the ferry they turned aside to permit a carriage to pass. A boy on the box with the driver shouted frantically after them, and Anderson tried to stop the machine himself.
“Stop her!” he cried; “that’s Roscoe, my boy. Hold on! Who’s that with him? Why, by cracky, it’s Miss Banks! Gee whiz, has she come back here to teach again? Whoa! Turn her around, Mr. Barnes. They are motionin’ fer us to come back. ’Pears to be important, too.”
Barnes obligingly turned around and ran back to where the carriage was standing. An hour later the automobile rolled into the driveway at Bonner Place, and Anderson Crow, a glorious triumph in his face, handed Miss Banks from the tonneau and into the arms of Rosalie Gray, who at first had mistaken the automobile for another. Pompous to the point of explosion, Anderson waved his hand to the party assembled on the veranda, strolled around to Mr. Barnes’s seat and acquired a light for his cigar with a nonchalance that almost overcame his one-time prisoner, and then said, apparently to the whole world, for he addressed no one in particular:
“I knowed I could solve the blamed thing if they’d jest give me time.”
The Story is Told
Elsie Banks had a small and select audience in Mrs. Bonner’s room upstairs. She had come from New York—or from California, strictly speaking—to furnish the narrative which was to set Rosalie Gray’s mind at rest forever-more. It was not a pleasant task; it was not an easy sacrifice for this spirited girl who had known luxury all her life. Her spellbound hearers were Mrs. Bonner and Edith, Wicker Bonner, Anderson Crow, Rosalie, and John E. Barnes, who, far from being a captive of the law, was now Miss Gray’s attorney, retained some hours before by his former captor.