“I must see you, Mr. Crow,” she cried in a low, agitated voice.
“Who are you?” he demanded. She was dressed entirely in black.
“I came to see you about the baby.”
“That won’t do, madam. There’s been three tramps here to hornswoggle us an’ I—”
“I must see her, Mr. Crow,” pleaded the stranger, and he was struck by the richness of her voice.
“Mighty queer, it seems to me,” he muttered hesitatingly. “Are you any kin to it?”
“I am very much interested.”
“By giminy, I believe you’re the one who left her here,” cried the detective. “Are you a typewriter?”
“I’ll answer your questions if you’ll allow me to step inside. It is very cold out here.”
Anderson Crow stood aside and the tall, black figure entered the hall. He led her to the warm sitting-room and gave her a chair before the “base-burner.”
“Here, Mr. Crow, is an envelope containing two hundred and fifty dollars. That proves my good faith. I cannot tell you who I am nor what relation I bear to the baby. I am quite fully aware that you will not undertake to detain me, for it is not an easy matter to earn a thousand dollars a year in this part of the world. I am going abroad next week and do not expect to return for a long, long time. Try as I would, I could not go without seeing the child. I will not keep you out of bed ten minutes, and you and your wife may be present while I hold Rosalie in my arms. I know that she is in good hands, and I have no intention of taking her away. Please call Mrs. Crow.”
Anderson was too amazed to act at once. He began to flounder interrogatively, but the visitor abruptly checked him.
“You are wasting time, Mr. Crow, in attempting to question my authority or identity. No one need know that I have made this visit. You are perfectly secure in the promise to have a thousand dollars a year; why should you hesitate? As long as she lives with you the money is yours. I am advancing the amount you now hold in order that her immediate wants may be provided for. You are not required to keep an account of the money paid to you. There are means of ascertaining at once whether she is being well cared for and educated by you, and if it becomes apparent that you are not doing your duty, she shall be removed from your custody. From time to time you may expect written instructions from—from one who loves her.”
“I jest want to ast if you live in Tinkletown?” Anderson managed to say.
“I do not,” she replied emphatically.
“Well, then, lift your veil. If you don’t live here I sha’n’t know you.”
“I prefer to keep my face covered, Mr. Crow; believe me and trust me. Please let me see her.” The plea was so earnest that Anderson’s heart gave a great thump of understanding.
“By ginger, you are her mother!” he gasped. Mrs. Crow came in at this juncture, and she was much quicker at grasping the situation than her husband. It was in her mind to openly denounce the woman for her heartlessness, but her natural thriftiness interposed. She would do nothing that might remove the golden spoon from the family mouth.