“You certainly will,” the major nodded.
“And you’ll leave the other things too.
I see them in your pockets.
Since my father is tied up I suppose I must call the police myself.”
She began to move sidewise toward the silver telephone on the desk, keeping the revolver pointed at Bill’s breast.
I transcribe Bill’s thought: The little devil was actually going to call the police!
Action must come now if at all, and quickly.
He dismissed the idea of a dash for freedom; she would certainly pull the trigger, and she had a firm eye and hand.
Bill summoned all his wit.
“My little girl’s mama is dead, too,” he blurted out suddenly.
The major, with her hand outstretched for the telephone, stopped to look at him.
“My mother isn’t dead,” she observed sharply.
“She’s gone to the country.”
“You don’t say so!”
Bill’s voice was positively explosive with enthusiastic interest.
“Why didn’t you go along, Major, if I may ask?”
“I am too busy with the Auxiliary. We are pushing the campaign for preparedness.”
She added politely: “You say your wife is dead?”
Bill nodded mournfully.
“Been dead three years.
Got sick and wasted away and died.
Broke my little girl’s heart, and mine, too.”
A suggestion of sympathy appeared in the major’s eyes as she inquired:
“What is your little girl’s name?”
Bill floundered in his stupidity.
“Oh, her name.
Why, of course her name’s Hilda.”
The major looked interested.
“The same as Cook.
How old is she?”
“Sixteen,” said Bill rather desperately.
“Oh, she’s a big girl, then!
I suppose she goes to school?”
It was a mean question.
In Bill’s mind school was simply school.
He tried to think of a word that would sound like the name of one, but nothing came.
“Day school,” he said at last, and then added hastily, “that is, she moves around, you know. Going up all the time.
She’s a smart girl.” His tone was triumphant.
Then, fearing that another question might finish him, he continued slowly: “You might as well go on and call the cops—the police, I suppose.
Of course, Hilda’s at home hungry, but that don’t matter to you.
She’ll starve to death.
I didn’t tell you she’s sick.
She’s sick all the time—something wrong with her.
I was just walkin’ past here and thought I might find something for her to eat, and I was lookin’ around—”
“You ate the strawberry shortcake yourself,” put in the major keenly.