“Where’s papa?” Marjory tremulously inquired of the footman in the hallway.
“He’s waitin’ for you in the library, miss—I should say Mrs. Barnes,” replied the man, a trace of excitement in his face.
“Mrs. Barnes!” exclaimed four voices at once.
“Who told you, William?” cried Marjory, leaning upon Jack for support.
“A Mr. Anderson Crow was here not half an hour ago, ma’am, to assure Mr. Brewster as to how his new son-in-law was in nowise connected with the murder up the way. He said as how he had personally investigated the case, miss—ma’am, and Mr. Brewster could rely on his word for it, Mr. Jack was not the man. He told him as how you was married at the boathouse.”
“Yes—and then?” cried Marjory eagerly.
“Mr. Brewster said that Mr. Jack wasn’t born to be hanged, and for me to have an extry plate laid at the table for him to-night,” concluded William with an expressive grin.
The Babe on the Doorstep
It was midnight in Tinkletown, many months after the events mentioned in the foregoing chapters, and a blizzard was raging. The February wind rasped through the bare trees, shrieked around the corners of lightless houses and whipped its way through the scurrying snow with all the rage of a lion. The snow, on account of the bitter cold in the air, did not fly in big flakes, but whizzed like tiny bullets, cutting the flesh of men and beasts like the sting of wasps. It was a good night to be indoors over a roaring fire or in bed between extra blankets. No one, unless commanded by emergency, had the temerity to be abroad that night.
The Crow family snoozed comfortably in spite of the calliope shrieks of the wind. The home of the town marshal was blanketed in peace and the wind had no terrors for its occupants. They slept the sleep of the toasted. The windows may have rattled a bit, perhaps, and the shutters may have banged a trifle too remorselessly, but the Crows were not to be disturbed.
The big, old-fashioned clock in the hall downstairs was striking twelve when Anderson Crow awoke with a start. He was amazed, for to awake in the middle of the night was an unheard-of proceeding for him. He caught the clang of the last five strokes from the clock, however, and was comforting himself with the belief that it was five o’clock, after all, when his wife stirred nervously.
“Are you awake, Anderson?” she asked softly.
“Yes, Eva, and it’s about time to get up. It jest struck five. Doggone, it’s been blowin’ cats and dogs outside, ain’t it?” he yawned.
“Five? It’s twelve-now, don’t tell me you counted the strokes, because I did myself. Ain’t it queer we should both git awake at this unearthly hour?”
“Well,” murmured he sleepily now that it was not five o’clock, “it’s a mighty good hour to go back to sleep ag’in, I reckon.”