“No, you mustn’t walk, Deary, you can’t; we’ll drive. But I wish you wouldn’t go out at all, Floyd. Do listen to me!”
“But I must go. Please, get my clothes.”
After brief, but vain, arguing, Ann yielded to Floyd’s entreaties.
The governor, meditating in his library, was disturbed by a ring at the front door. The servant opened it, and he heard Miss Shellington’s voice without.
In a moment Ann entered, white and flurried.
“I want you to pardon me, Floyd,” she begged, “but that boy of ours insisted upon coming to see you. He would have come alone, had I refused to accompany him. Will you be kind to him for my sake? He is so miserable over his sister!”
Vandecar clasped her extended hands and smiled upon her.
“I’ll be kind to him for his own sake, little friend. Mrs. Vandecar told me of her talk with Horace over the telephone, and I was awfully sorry to have missed him. But the little boy, where is he?”
Miss Shellington threw open the door, and Vandecar’s gaze fell upon a tall boy, straight and slim, who pierced him with eyes that startled him into a vague apprehension. He did not utter a word—he seemed to be choked as effectually as if strong fingers were sunk into his throat.
Floyd loosened his hands from Ann’s and stepped forward.
“I’m Flukey Cronk, Sir,” he broke forth, “and Pappy Lon Cronk stole my sister Flea, and he’s goin’ to give her to Lem Crabbe to be his woman, and Lem won’t marry her, either. Will ye help me to get her back? Brother Horace said as how ye could. Pappy Lon’s a thief, too, and so is Lem. If ye’d see Lem Crabbe, ye’d help my sister.”
Ann saw two pairs of mottled brown eyes staring at each other, and, as she listened to Floyd’s petition, the likeness of the boy to the man struck her forcibly. The expression that swept over Governor Vandecar’s face frightened her, and she held her breath. But quicker than hers had been the thoughts of the man. He staggered at the name of “Lon Cronk,” and his mind coursed back to a heart-rending scene, to hear again the deep voice of a big-shouldered thief pleading for a sick woman. Again he saw the huge form of the squatter loom up before him, and heard once more the frantic prayer for a week’s freedom. He had not taken his eyes from the boy’s, and a weakening of his knees compelled him to grip the back of the chair for support. With a voice thickened to huskiness, he stammered:
“What—what did you say your father’s name was, boy?”
“Lon Cronk, Sir—and he’s the worst man ye ever see. I bet he’s the worst man in the state—only Lem Crabbe! He beat my sister, and were makin’ me a thief.”
Governor Vandecar dropped into his desk-chair. For a space of time his face was concealed from Ann and Floyd by his quivering hand. When he looked up, the joy in his eyes formed a strange contrast to Ann’s tearful face. Floyd, thinking the change in the governor boded well for Fledra, advanced a step.