“No,” reflectively; “the chances are she’d want ter git married inside of that time. They always—
“‘Tain’t that, Anderson. You an’ me’d have to live to be more’n a hundred years old.”
“That’s so. We ain’t spring chickens, are we, deary?”
She put her hard, bony hand in his and there was a suspicion of moisture in the kindly old eyes.
“I love to hear you call me ‘deary,’ Anderson. We never get too old for that.”
He coughed and then patted her hand rather confusedly. Anderson had long since forgotten the meaning of sentiment, but he was surprised to find that he had not forgotten how to love his wife.
“Shucks!” he muttered bravely. “We’ll be kissin’ like a couple of young jay birds first thing we know. Doggone if it ain’t funny how a baby, even if it is some one else’s, kinder makes a feller foolisher’n he intends to be.” Hand in hand they watched the sleeping innocent for several minutes. Finally the detective shook himself and spoke:
“Well, Eva, I got to make a bluff at findin’ out whose baby it is, ain’t I? My reputation’s at stake. I jest have to investigate.”
“I don’t see that any harm can come from that, Anderson,” she replied, and neither appreciated the sarcasm unintentionally involved.
“I won’t waste another minute,” he announced promptly. “I will stick to my theory that the parents live in Tinkletown.”
“Fiddlesticks!” snorted Mrs. Crow disgustedly, and then left him to cultivate the choleric anger her exclamation had inspired.
“Doggone, I wish I hadn’t patted her hand,” he lamented. “She didn’t deserve it. Consarn it, a woman’s always doin’ something to spoil things.”
And so he fared forth with his badges and stars, bent on duty, but not accomplishment. All the town soon knew that he was following a clew, but all the town was at sea concerning its character, origin, and plausibility. A dozen persons saw him stop young Mrs. Perkins in front of Lamson’s store, and the same spectators saw his feathers droop as she let loose her wrath upon his head and went away with her nose in the air and her cheeks far more scarlet than when Boreas kissed them, and all in response to a single remark volunteered by the faithful detective. He entered Lamson’s store a moment later, singularly abashed and red in the face.
“Doggone,” he observed, seeing that an explanation was expected, “she might ‘a’ knowed I was only foolin’.”
A few minutes later he had Alf Reesling, the town sot, in a far corner of the store talking to him in a most peremptory fashion. It may be well to mention that Alf had so far forgotten himself as to laugh at the marshal’s temporary discomfiture at the hands of Mrs. Perkins.
“Alf, have you been havin’ another baby up to your house without lettin’ me know?” demanded Anderson firmly.
“Anderson,” replied Alf, maudlin tears starting in his eyes, “it’s not kind of you to rake up my feelin’s like this. You know I been a widower fer three years.”