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- The Day of the Dog - 3/10 -
"I'm not in hiding, Mrs. Delancy. I'm a prisoner, that's all. I'm right near the top of the ladder directly in front of you. You know me only through the mails, but my partner, Mr. Rolfe, is known to you personally. My name is Crosby."
"How very strange," she cried in wonder. "Why don't you come down, Mr. Crosby?"
"I hate to admit it, but I'm afraid. There's the dog, you know. Have you any influence over him?"
"None whatever. He hates me. Perhaps Mr. Austin can manage him. Oh, isn't it ludicrous?" and she burst into hearty laughter. It was a very musical laugh, but Crosby considered it a disagreeable croak.
"But Mr. Austin declines to interfere. I came to see you on private business and am not permitted to do so."
"We don't know this fellow, Louise, and I can't allow you to talk to him," said Austin brusquely. "I found him where he is and there he stays until the marshal comes out from town. His actions have been very suspicious and must be investigated. I can't take chances on letting a horse thief escape. Swallow will watch him until I can secure assistance."
"I implore you, Mrs. Delancy, to give me a moment or two in which to explain," cried Crosby. "He knows I'm not here to steal his horses, and he knows I intend to punch his head the minute I get the chance." Mrs. Austin's little shriek of dismay and her husband's fierce glare did not check the flow of language from the beam. "I AM Crosby of Rolfe & Crosby, your counsel. I have the papers here for you to sign and--"
"Louise, I insist that you come away from here. This fellow is a fraud-- "
"He's refreshing, at any rate," said Mrs. Delancy gaily. "There can be no harm in hearing what he has to say, Bob."
"You are very kind, and I won't detain you long."
"I've a mind to kick you out of this barn," cried Austin angrily.
"I don't believe you're tall enough, my good fellow." Mr. Crosby was more than amiable. He was positively genial. Mrs. Delancy's pretty face was the picture of eager, excited mirth, and he saw that she was determined to see the comedy to the end.
"Louise!" exclaimed Mrs. Austin, speaking for the first time. "You are not fool enough to credit this fellow's story, I'm sure. Come to the house at once. I will not stay here." Mrs. Austin's voice was hard and biting, and Crosby also caught the quick glance that passed between husband and wife.
"I am sure Mrs. Delancy will not be so unkind as to leave me after I've had so much trouble in getting an audience. Here is my card, Mrs. Delancy." Crosby tossed a card from his perch, but Swallow gobbled it up instantly. Mrs. Delancy gave a little cry of disappointment, and Crosby promptly apologized for the dog's greediness. "Mr. Austin knows I'm Crosby," he concluded.
"I know nothing of the sort, sir, and I forbid Mrs. Delancy holding further conversation with you. This is an outrageous imposition, Louise. You must hurry, by the way, or we'll miss the train," said Austin, biting his lip impatiently.
"That reminds me, I also take the four o'clock train for Chicago, Mrs. Delancy. If you prefer, we can talk over our affairs on the train instead of here. I'll confess this isn't a very dignified manner in which to hold a consultation," said Crosby apologetically.
"Will you be kind enough to state the nature of your business, Mr. Crosby?" said the young woman, ignoring Mr. Austin.
"Then you believe I'm Crosby?" cried that gentleman triumphantly.
"Louise!" cried Mrs. Austin in despair.
"In spite of your present occupation, I believe you are Crosby," said Mrs. Delancy merrily.
"But, good gracious, I can't talk business with you from this confounded beam," he cried lugubriously.
"Mr. Austin will call the dog away," she said confidently, turning to the man in the door. Austin's sallow face lighted with a sudden malicious grin, and there was positive joy in his voice.
"You may be satisfied, but I am not. If you desire to transact business with this impertinent stranger, Mrs. Delancy, you'll have to do so under existing conditions. I do not approve of him or his methods, and my dog doesn't either. You can trust a dog for knowing a man for what he is. Mrs. Austin and I are going to the house. You may remain, of course; I have no right to command you to follow. When you are ready to drive to the station, please come to the house. I'll be ready. Your Mr. Crosby may leave when he likes--IF HE CAN. Come, Elizabeth." With this defiant thrust, Mr. Austin stalked from the barn, followed by his wife. Mrs. Delancy started to follow but checked herself immediately, a flush of anger mounting to her brow. After a long pause she spoke.
"I don't understand how you came to be where you are, Mr. Crosby," she said slowly. He related his experiences rapidly and laughed with her simply because she had a way with her.
"You'll pardon me for laughing," she giggled.
"With all my heart," he replied gallantly. "It must be very funny. However, this is not business. You are in a hurry to get away from here and--I'm not, it seems. Briefly, Mrs. Delancy, I have the papers you are to sign before we begin your action against the Fairwater estate. You know what they are through Mr. Rolfe."
"Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Crosby, to say to you that I have decided to abandon the matter. A satisfactory compromise is under way."
"So I've been told. But are you sure you understand yourself?"
"Perfectly, thank you."
"This is a very unsatisfactory place from which to argue my case, Mrs. Delancy. Can't you dispose of the dog?"
"Only God disposes."
"Well, do you mind telling me what the compromise provides?" She stared at him for a moment haughtily, but his smile won the point for him. She told him everything and then looked very much displeased when he swore distinctly.
"Pardon me, but you are getting very much the worst of it in this deal. It is the most contemptible scheme to rob that I ever heard of. By this arrangement you are to get farming lands and building lots in rural towns worth in all about $100,000, I'd say. Don't you know that you are entitled to nearly half a million?"
"Oh, dear, no. By right, my share is less than $75,000," she cried triumphantly.
"Who told you so?" he demanded, and she saw a very heavy frown on his erstwhile merry face.
"Why--why, Mr. Austin and another brother-in-law, Mr. Gray, both of whom are very kind to me in the matter, I'm sure."
"Mrs. Delancy, you are being robbed by these fellows. Can't you see that these brothers-in-law and their wives will profit immensely if they succeed in keeping the wool over your eyes long enough? Let ME show you some figures." He excitedly drew a packet of papers from his pocket and in five minutes' time had her gasping with the knowledge that she was legally entitled to more than half a million of dollars.
"Are you sure?" she cried, unable to believe her ears.
"Absolutely. Here is the inventory and here are the figures to corroborate everything I say."
"But THEY had figures, too," she cried in perplexity.
"Certainly. Figures are wonderful things. I only ask you to defer this plan to compromise until we are able to thoroughly convince you that I am not misrepresenting the facts to you."
"Oh, if I could only believe you!"
"I'd toss the documents down to you if I were not afraid they'd join my card. That is a terribly ravenous beast. Surely you can coax him out of the barn," he added eagerly.
"I can try, but persuasion is difficult with a bulldog, you know," she said doubtfully. "It is much easier to persuade a man," she smiled.
"I trust you won't try to persuade me to come down," he said in alarm.
"Mr. Austin is a brute to treat you in this manner," she cried indignantly.
"I wouldn't treat a dog as he is treating me."
"Oh, I am sure you couldn't," she cried in perfect sincerity. "Swallow doesn't like me, but I'll try to get him away. You can't stay up there all night."
"By Jove!" he exclaimed sharply.
"What is it?" she asked quickly.
"I had forgotten an engagement in Chicago for to-night. Box party at the comic opera," he said, looking nervously at his watch.
"It would be too bad if you missed it," she said sweetly. "You'd be much more comfortable in a box."
"You are consoling at least. Are you going to coax him off?"
"In behalf of the box party, I'll try. Come, Swallow. There's a nice doggie!"
Crosby watched the proceedings with deepest interest and concern and not a little admiration. But not only did Swallow refuse to abdicate but he seemed to take decided exceptions to the feminine method of appeal. He evidently did not like to be called "doggie," "pet," "dearie," and all
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