In each instance he was reviled by the estimable ladies, all of whom accused him of being utterly heartless. Mrs. Crow came to his rescue and told the disappointed mothers that the scalding water was ready for application if they did not take their baskets of babies away on short order. It may be well for the reputation of Tinkletown to mention that one of the donors was Mrs. Raspus, a negro washerwoman who did work for the “dagoes” engaged in building the railroad hard by; another was the wife of Antonio Galli, a member of the grading gang, and the third was Mrs. Pool, the widow of a fisherman who had recently drowned himself in drink.
It is quite possible that Anderson might have had the three infants on his hands permanently had not the mothers been so eager to know their fate. They appeared in person early the next morning to see if the babies had frozen to death on the doorstep. Mrs. Pool even went so far as to fetch some extra baby clothes which she had neglected to drop with her male. Mrs. Raspus came for her basket, claiming it was the only one she had in which to “tote” the washing for the men.
After these annoying but enlivening incidents Anderson was permitted to recover from his daze and to throw off symptoms of nervous prostration. Tinkletown resumed its tranquil attitude and the checker games began to thrive once more. Little Rosalie was a week older than when she came, but it was five weeks before anything happened to disturb the even tenor of the foster-father’s way. He had worked diligently in the effort to discover the parents of the baby, but without result. Two or three exasperated husbands in Tinkletown had threatened to blow his brains out if he persisted in questioning their wives in his insinuating manner, and one of the kitchen girls at the village inn threw a dishpan at him on the occasion of his third visit of inquiry. A colored woman in the employ of the Baptist minister denied that Rosalie was her child, but when he insisted, agreed with fine sarcasm to “go over an’ have a look at it,” after his assurance that it was perfectly white.
“Eva, I’ve investigated the case thoroughly,” he said at last, “an’ there is no solution to the mystery. The only thing I c’n deduce is that the child is here an’ we’ll have to take keer of her. Now, I wonder if that woman really meant it when she said we’d have a thousand dollars at the end of each year. Doggone, I wish the year was up, jest to see.”
“We’ll have to wait, Anderson, that’s all,” said Mrs. Crow. “I love the baby so it can’t matter much. I’m glad you’re through investigatin’. It’s been most tryin’ to me. Half the women in town don’t speak to me.”
It was at the end of Rosalie’s fifth week as a member of the family that something happened. Late one night when Anderson opened the front door to put out the cat a heavily veiled woman mounted the steps and accosted him. In some trepidation he drew back and would have closed the door but for her eager remonstrance.