"'It is illegitimate?' asked the nurse.
"'Yes,' I said." The long and short of it was, Colonel Tom went on to tell, that the nurse went out and got her mother. Which the two of them lived alone, only around the corner. And give the child into the keeping of her mother, who took it away then and there.
Colonel Tom had made up his mind there wasn't going to be no b.a.s.t.a.r.ds in the Buckner fambly. And now that Miss Lucy thought it was dead he would let her keep on thinking so. And that would be settled for good and all.
He figgered that it wouldn't ever hurt her none if she never knowed it.
The nurse's mother kept it all that week, and it throve. Colonel Tom was coaxing of his sister to go back to Tennessee. But she wouldn't go. So he had made up his mind to go back and get his Aunt Lucy Davis to come and help him coax. He was only waiting fur his sister to get well enough so he could leave her. She got better, and she never ast fur the kid, nor said nothing about it. Which was probable because she seen he hated it so. He had made up his mind, before he went back after their Aunt Lucy Davis, to take the baby himself and put it into some kind of an inst.i.tution.
"I thought," he says to Miss Lucy, telling of the story, "that you yourself were almost reconciled to the thought that it hadn't lived."
Miss Lucy interrupted him with a little sound. She was breathing hard, and shaking from head to foot. No one would have thought to look at her then she was reconciled to the idea that it hadn't lived. It was cruel hard on her to tear her to pieces with the news that it really had lived, but had lived away from her all these years she had been longing fur it. And no chancet fur her ever to mother it. And no way to tell what had ever become of it. I felt awful sorry fur Miss Lucy then.
"But when I got ready to leave Galesburg," Colonel Tom goes on, "it suddenly occurred to me that there would be difficulties in the way of putting it in a home of any sort. I didn't know what to do with it--"
"What DID you? What DID you? WHAT DID YOU?" cries out Miss Lucy, pressing her hand to her chest, like she was smothering.
"The first thing I did," says Colonel Tom, "was to get you to another house--you remember, Lucy?"
"Yes, yes!" she says, excited, "and what then?"
"Perhaps I did a very foolish thing," says Colonel Tom.
"After I had seen you installed in the new place and had bidden you good-bye, I got a carriage and drove by the place where the nurse and her mother lived. I told the woman that I had changed my mind--that you were going to raise the baby--that I was going to permit it. I don't think she quite believed me, but she gave me the baby. What else could she do? Besides, I had paid her well, when I discharged her, to say nothing to you, and to keep the baby until I should come for it. They needed money; they were poor.
"I was determined that it should never be heard of again. It was about noon when I left Galesburg. I drove all that afternoon, with the baby in a basket on the seat of the carriage beside me. Everybody has read in books, since books were first written--and seen in newspapers, too--about children being left on door steps. Given an infant to dispose of, that is perhaps the first thing that occurs to a person. There was a thick plaid shawl wrapped about the child. In the basket, beside the baby, was a nursing bottle. About dusk I had it refilled with warm milk at a farmhouse near--"
My head was beginning fur to swim. I pulled my head out of that there hole, and rammed my foot into it. It banged against that grating and loosened it. It busted loose some plaster, which showered down into the room underneath. Miss Lucy, she screamed. And the doctor and Colonel Tom both yelled out to oncet:
"It's me," I yells, banging that grating agin. "Watch out below there!"
And the third lick I give her she broke loose and clattered down right onto a centre table and spilled over some photographs and a vase full of flowers, and bounced off onto the floor.
"Look out below," I yells, "I'm coming down!"
I let my legs through first, and swung them so I would land to one side of the table, and held by my hands, and dropped. But struck the table a sideways swipe and turned it over, and fell onto the floor. The doctor, he grabbed me by the collar and straightened me up, and give me a shake and stood me onto my feet.
"What do you mean--" he begins. But I breaks in.
"Now then," I says to Colonel Tom, "did you leave that there child sucking that there bottle on the doorstep of a blacksmith's house next to his shop at the edge of a little country town about twenty miles northeast of Galesburg wrapped up in that there plaid shawl?"
"I did," says Colonel Tom.
"Then," says I, turning to Miss Lucy, "I can understand why I have been feeling drawed to YOU fur quite a spell. I'm him."