“But how about that blood?” he demanded.
“Yes,” said Harry Squires with a sly grin, “it was positively identified as yours, Miss Banks.”
“Well, it’s the first time I was ever fooled,” confessed Anderson glibly. “I’ll have to admit it. The blood really belonged to ’Rast Little. Boys, the seegars are on me.”
“No, they’re on me,” exclaimed Tom Reddon, producing a box of Perfectos.
“But, Miss Banks, you are wanted in Chicago,” insisted Anderson. Reddon interrupted him.
“Right you are, my dear Sherlock, and I’m going to take her there as soon as I can. It’s what I came East for.”
“Ain’t—I mean, wasn’t you Miss Lovering?” muttered Anderson Crow.
“Good heavens, no!” cried Miss Banks. “Who is she—a shoplifter?”
“I’ll tell you the story, Mr. Crow, if you’ll come with me,” said Mr. Farnsworth, stepping forward with a wink.
In the library he told the Tinkletown posse that Tom Reddon had met Miss Banks while she was at school in New York. He was a Chicago millionaire’s son and she was the daughter of wealthy New York people. Her mother was eager to have the young people marry, but the girl at that time imagined herself to be in love with another man. In a pique she left school and set forth to earn her own living. A year’s hardship as governess in the family of Congressman Ritchey and subsequent disillusionment as a country school-teacher brought her to her senses and she realised that she cared for Tom Reddon after all. She and Miss Gray together prepared the letter which told Reddon where she could be found, and that eager young gentleman did the rest. He had been waiting for months for just such a message from her. The night of the spelling-match he induced her to come to Colonel Randall’s, and now the whole house-party, including Miss Banks, was to leave on the following day for New York. The marriage would take place in a very few weeks.
“I’ll accept your explanation,” said Mr. Crow composedly as he took a handful of cigars. “Well, I guess I’ll be startin’ back. It’s gettin’ kind o’ late-like.”
There was a telegram at the livery stable for him when he reached that haven of warmth and rest in Tinkletown about dawn the next day. It was from Chicago and marked “Charges collect.”
* * * * *
“What girl and whose body,” it said, “do you refer to? Miss Lovering has been dead two years, and we are settling the estate in behalf of the other heirs. We were trying to establish her place of residence. Never mind the body you have lost.”
* * * * *
“Doggone,” said Anderson, chuckling aloud, “that was an awful good joke on ’Rast, wasn’t it?”
The stablemen stood around and looked at him with jaws that were drooping helplessly. The air seemed laden with a sombre uncertainty that had not yet succeeded in penetrating the nature of Marshal Crow.