In the meantime, the quarry, if we may be permitted so to designate her, stood before them as pretty as a picture. At her side was Tom Reddon, and a dozen guests of the house fell in behind them.
“Did Rosalie tell you?” demanded Miss Banks. “The mean thing! She said she wouldn’t.”
“Ro—Rosalie!” gasped Anderson; “tell me what?” nervously.
“That I was—was coming over here with Tom. Didn’t she tell you?”
“I should say not. If she’d told me you don’t suppose I’d’a’ driv’ clear over here in this kinder weather fer nothin’, do you? Thunder! Did she know ’bout it?”
“Certainly, Mr. Crow. She helped with the plans.”
“Well, good gosh a’mighty! An’ we was a-keepin’ from her the awful news fer fear ’twould give her a backset.”
“Awful news! What do you mean? Oh, you frighten me terribly!”
“Doggone! I don’t believe Rosalie was sick at all,” continued Anderson, quite regardless of the impatience of his listeners; “she jest wanted to keep from answerin’ questions. She jest regularly let everybody believe you had been slaughtered, an’ never opened her mouth.”
“Slaughtered!” cried half a dozen people.
“Sure! Hain’t you heard ’bout the murder?”
“Murder?” apprehensively from the excited New Yorkers.
“Yes—the teacher of schoolhouse No. 5 was brutally butchered las—las—night—by—”
[Illustration: “What is the meaning of all this?”]
“Go slow, Anderson! Better hold your horses!” cautioned Harry Squires. “Don’t forget the body’s alive and kic—” and stopping short, in the hope that his break might escape the school-teacher’s attention, he confusedly substituted, “and here.”
Anderson’s jaw dropped, but the movement was barely perceptible, the discomfiture temporary, for to the analytical mind of the great detective the fact that a murder had been committed was fully established by the discovery of the blood. That a body was obviously necessary for the continuance of further investigations he frankly acknowledged to himself; and not for one instant would any supposition or explanation other than assassination be tolerated. And it was with unshaken conviction that he declared:
“Well, somebody was slew, wasn’t they? That’s as plain’s the nose on y’r face. Don’t you contradict me, Harry Squires. I guess Anderson Crow knows blood when he sees it.”
“Do you mean to tell me that you’ve been trailing us all day in the belief that some one of us had killed somebody?” demanded Tom Reddon.
Harry Squires explained the situation, Anderson being too far gone to step into the breach. It may be of interest to say that the Tinkletown detective was the sensation of the hour. The crowd, merry once more, lauded him to the skies for the manner in which the supposed culprits had been trailed, and the marshal’s pomposity grew almost to the bursting point.