Banneker investigated. Nothing was missing from within the shack. But outside he made a distressing discovery.
His molasses pie was gone.
“To accomplish a dessert as simple and inexpensive as it is tasty,” prescribes The Complete Manual of Cookery, p. 48, “take one cup of thick molasses—” But why should I infringe a copyright when the culinary reader may acquire the whole range of kitchen lore by expending eighty-nine cents plus postage on 39 T 337? Banneker had faithfully followed the prescribed instructions. The result had certainly been simple and inexpensive; presumably it would have proven tasty. He regretted and resented the rape of the pie. What aroused greater concern, however, was the presence of thieves. In the soft ground near the window he found some rather small footprints which suggested that it was the younger of the two hoboes who had committed the depredation.
Theorizing, however, was not the order of his day. Routine and extra-routine claimed all his time. There was his supplementary report to make out; the marooned travelers in Manzanita to be looked after and their bitter complaints to be listened to; consultations over the wire as to the condition and probabilities of the roadbed, for the floods had come again; and in and out of it all, the busy, weary, indefatigable Gardner, giving to the agent as much information as he asked from him. When their final lists were compared, Banneker noticed that there was no name with the initials I.O.W. on Gardner’s. He thought of mentioning the clue, but decided that it was of too little definiteness and importance. The news value of mystery, enhanced by youth and beauty, which the veriest cub who had ever smelled printer’s ink would have appreciated, was a sealed book to him.
Not until late that afternoon did a rescue train limp cautiously along an improvised track to set the interrupted travelers on their way. Gardner went on it, leaving an address and an invitation to “keep in touch.” Mr. Vanney took his departure with a few benign and well-chosen words of farewell, accompanied by the assurance that he would “make it his special purpose to commend,” and so on. His nephew, Herbert Cressey, the lily-clad messenger, stopped at the station to shake hands and grin rather vacantly, and adjure Banneker, whom he addressed as “old chap,” to be sure and look him up in the East; he’d be glad to see him any time. Banneker believed that he meant it. He promised to do so, though without particular interest. With the others departed Miss Camilla Van Arsdale’s two emergency guests, one of them the rather splendid young woman who had helped with the wounded. They invaded Banneker’s office with supplementary telegrams and talked about their hostess with that freedom which women of the world use before dogs or uniformed officials.
“What a woman!” said the amateur nurse.