“Slats?” murmured Anderson.
“That’s short fer ribs,” explained Bud loftily.
“Well, why couldn’t he have said short ribs an’ been done with it?” complained Anderson.
“Then they whipped up an’ turned off west in the pike,” resumed Bud. “We run all the way home an’ tole Mr. Lamson, an’ he—”
“Where was Rosalie all this time?” asked Anderson.
“Layin’ in the back seat covered with a blanket, jest the same as if she was dead. I heerd ’em say somethin’ about chloroformin’ her. What does chloroform smell like, Mr. Crow?”
“Jest like any medicine. It has drugs in it. They use it to pull teeth. Well, what then?”
“Well,” interposed Roscoe, “Mr. Lamson gave the alarm, an’ nearly ever’body in town got out o’ bed. They telegraphed to Boggs City an’ all around, but it didn’t seem to do no good. Them horses went faster’n telegraphs.”
“Did you ever see them fellers before?”
“No, sir; but I think I’d know ’em with their masks off.”
“Was they masked?”
“Their faces were.”
“Oh, my poor little Rosalie!” sobbed old Anderson hopelessly.
The Haunted House
Days passed without word or sign from the missing girl. The marshal haunted the post-office and the railroad station, hoping with all his poor old heart that word would come from her; but the letter was not there, nor was there a telegram at the station when he strolled over to that place. The county officials at Boggs City came down and began a cursory investigation, but Anderson’s emphatic though doleful opinions set them quite straight, and they gave up the quest. There was nothing to do but to sit back and wait.
In those three days Anderson Crow turned greyer and older, although he maintained a splendid show of resignation. He had made a perfunctory offer of reward for Rosalie, dead or alive, but he knew all the time that it would be fruitless. Mark Riley, the bill-poster, stuck up the glaring reward notices as far away as the telegraph poles in Clay County. The world was given to understand that $1000 reward would be paid for Rosalie’s return or for information leading to the apprehension and capture of her abductors.
There was one very mysterious point in connection with the affair—something so strange that it bordered on the supernatural. No human being in Bramble County except the two boys had seen the double-seated sleigh. It had disappeared as if swallowed by the earth itself.
“Well, it don’t do any good to cry over spilt milk,” said Anderson bravely. “She’s gone, an’ I only hope she ain’t bein’ mistreated. I don’t see why they should harm her. She’s never done nobody a wrong. Like as not she’s been taken to a comfortable place in New York, an’ we’ll hear from her as soon as she recovers from the shock. There ain’t no use huntin’ fer her, I know, but I jest can’t help nosin’ around a little. Mebby I can git some track of her. I’d give all I got in this world to know that she’s safe an’ sound, no matter if I never see her ag’in.”