“No; I am not going to stop a minute. I am going back to her. She seemed real quiet, and I think she’ll go to sleep, but if she should wake up and find herself alone she might be frightened.”
Mrs. Anderson spoke as if of a baby in arms.
“Yes, she might; she has had a terrible shock,” Anderson said, in what he essayed to render a natural tone.
“Terrible shock! I should think she had, poor child!” said Mrs. Anderson, and she seemed to reproach him.
“It was a long way for her to come alone,” said Anderson, as if he were trying to excuse himself.
“I should think it was. It’s a good mile, and that wasn’t the worst of it. Worrying about her father, and all alone in the house! I was always scared to death alone in a house, and I know what it means.” She still seemed reproachful.
“She must have been frightened.”
“I should rather think she would have been.” Suddenly his mother’s face regarding his took on a different expression; it became shrewd and confidential. “Do you suppose her father has taken this way of—?” she said.
“No,” answered Randolph, emphatically.
“No, I do not. I don’t know the man very well, and I don’t suppose his record is to be altogether justified, but, if I know anything, he would no more go voluntarily and leave that child alone all night to worry over him than I would.”
“Then you think something has happened to him?”
“I am afraid so.”
“Do you think there has been an accident?”
“I don’t know, mother.”
His mother continued to look at him shrewdly. “Do you suppose he has got into any trouble?” she asked, bluntly.
“I don’t know, mother.”
Then Mrs. Anderson’s face suddenly resumed its old, reproachful expression. “Well, I don’t care if there has,” said she. She whispered, but her voice was intense. “I don’t care if there has. I don’t care if he is in state-prison. That child has got to caring about you, and you ought to—”
Anderson turned and looked at his mother, and her severe face softened and paled. He looked to her at that moment more like his father than himself. He was accusing her.
“Mother, do you think, if she cares, that I would ever desert her, any more than father would have deserted you?” he demanded.
It was her turn to excuse herself. “I know you are honorable, Randolph,” she said, “but I saw when I came in, and I don’t see how you have seen enough of her to have it happen; but I know girls, and I can see how she feels, and I didn’t know but you might think if her father—”
“What difference do you think her father makes to me, mother?” asked Anderson.