“Sure. That’s easy. It’s the one that was left on your doorstep last night,” said the man glibly.
“Well, I guess you’re right,” began Anderson disconsolately.
“Boy or girl?” demanded Mrs. Crow, shrewdly and very quickly. She had been inspecting the man more closely than before, and woman’s intuition was telling her a truth that Anderson overlooked. Mr. Hawkshaw was not only very seedy, but very drunk.
“Madam,” he responded loftily, “it is nothing but a mere child.”
“I’ll give you jest one minute to get out of this house,” said Mrs. Crow sharply, to Anderson’s consternation. “If you’re not gone, I’ll douse you with this kettle of scalding water. Open the back door, Edna. He sha’n’t take his dirty self through my parlour again. Open that door, Edna!”
Edna, half paralysed with astonishment, opened the kitchen door just in time. Mr. Hawkshaw was not so drunk but he could recognise disaster when it hovered near. As she lifted the steaming kettle from the stove he made a flying leap for the door. The rush of air that followed him as he shot through the aperture almost swept Edna from her feet. In ten seconds the tattered Hawkshaw was scrambling over the garden fence and making lively if inaccurate tracks through last year’s cabbage patch.
The Mysterious Visitor
The entire Crow family watched him in stupefaction until he disappeared down the lane that led to Hapgood’s grove. It was then, and not until then, that Anderson Crow took a breath.
“Good Lord, Eva, what do you mean?” he gasped.
“Mean?” she almost shrieked. “Anderson Crow, didn’t you recognise that feller? He ain’t no more detective than you er me. He’s the self-same tramp that you put in the calaboose last week, and the week before, too. I thought I’d seen his ugly face before. He’s—”
“Great jumpin’ geeswax!” roared the town marshal. “I recollect him now. He’s the one that said he’d been exposed to smallpox an’ wanted to be kept where it was warm all winter. Well, I’ll be—I’ll be—”
“Don’t say it, pa. He said it fer you when he clumb over that barb-wire fence out there,” cried Edna gleefully.
Several days of anxiety and energy followed this interesting episode. In that time two tramps attempted to obtain food and shelter at Crow’s home, one on the plea that he was the father of the unfortunate child, the other as an officer for the Foundlings’ Home at Boggs City. Three babies were left on the doorstep—two in one night—their fond mothers confessing fessing by letters that they appreciated Anderson’s well-known charitable inclinations and implored him to care for their offspring as if they were his own. The harassed marshal experienced some difficulty in forcing the mothers to take back their children.