Lem glanced forbiddingly at the woman. “The bats be a comin’ again,” he muttered, “and there ain’t no tellin’ what she’ll do. If it wasn’t for that blasted cat, I’d chuck her in the lake!”
But he dared not carry out his threat; for Scraggy was muttering to herself, the cat rebuffing her rough handling.
In another minute she rose and made toward the steps. Her eyes fell upon Lem, and sanity flashed back into them.
“I gived the boy to the woman—with golden hair,” she stammered, as if some power were forcing the words from her. “Ye would have killed him. Yer kid be a livin’, Lem!”
Truth rang in her statement, and the man got to his feet abruptly. He had almost forgotten the black-haired little boy. Only when Scraggy’s name was mentioned to him did he remember. But the woman’s words awoke a new feeling in his heart, and mentally he counted back the years to the date of his son’s birth. Scraggy was still looking at him in bewilderment, scarcely realizing that her story had been told to the enemy of her child. She battled with a desire to blurt out the whole truth; but the man’s next words silenced her.
“Who be the golden-haired woman, Scraggy?” he wheedled.
“What woman—what golden-haired woman?”
“The woman who has our brat.”
Like lightning a sudden joy filled Scraggy’s heart. Her benumbed love for Lem Crabbe grew mighty in a moment and rushed over her. His words were softly spoken with an old-time inflection. She sank down with a cry. She was so near him that the cat rose and spat venomously. Lem’s curses brought Scraggy out of her dreams.
“Chuck that damn cat to the bank,” ordered Lem, “if ye want to stay with me! Do ye hear? Chuck him out!”
“Nope, I ain’t a goin’ to! I’m goin’ hum.”
“Not till ye tell me where the boy is. Didn’t ye throw him in the river?”
“What did ye do with him?”
“Gived him away.”
“Ye lie! That winder was open, and the river was dark as hell. Ye throwed him in, I tell ye!”
“Nope; I gived him to a woman—”
She stopped and edged toward the stairs, all her old fear of him returning. Reaching the short flight, she bounded up, the cat clinging to her sleeve. Lem did not follow; for the crazy woman had frightened him. He stood with hushed breath, holding grimly to the wooden table. A voice from the deck of the scow came down to him.
“I gived him to a rich woman on a yacht. He’s rich with mints of money. Yer kid’s a gentleman, Lem Crabbe!”
He sprang after her to the deck; but nothing greeted him save the cry of an owl from the ragged rocks and the glistening green of the cat’s eyes as Scraggy hurried away.