Cross-Questions And Crooked Answers
All unconscious of the slur just cast upon her forty years of single-minded devotion to the
Van Gorder family, Lizzie chose that particular moment to open the door and make a
little bob at her mistress and the detective.
"The gentleman's room is ready," she said meekly. In her mind she was already
beseeching her patron saint that she would not have to show the gentleman to his room.
Her ideas of detectives were entirely drawn from sensational magazines and her private
opinion was that Anderson might have anything in his pocket from a set of terrifying
false whiskers to a bomb!
Miss Cornelia, obedient to the detective's instructions, promptly told the whitest of fibs
for Lizzie's benefit.
"The maid will show you to your room now and you can make yourself comfortable for
the night." There - that would mislead Lizzie, without being quite a lie.
"My toilet is made for an occasion like this when I've got my gun loaded," answered
Anderson carelessly. The allusion to the gun made Lizzie start nervously,, unhappily for
her, for it drew his attention to her and he now transfixed her with a stare.
"This is the maid you referred to?" he inquired. Miss Cornelia assented. He drew nearer
to the unhappy Lizzie.
"What's your name?" he asked, turning to her.
"E-Elizabeth Allen," stammered Lizzie, feeling like a small and distrustful sparrow in the
toils of an officious python.
Anderson seemed to run through a mental rogues gallery of other criminals named
Elizabeth Allen that he had known.
"How old are you?" he proceeded.
Lizzie looked at her mistress despairingly. "Have I got to answer that?" she wailed. Miss
Cornelia nodded - inexorably.
Lizzie braced herself. "Thirty-two," she said, with an arch toss of her head.
The detective looked surprised and slightly amused.
"She's fifty if she's a day," said Miss Cornelia treacherously in spite of a look from Lizzie
that would have melted a stone.
The trace of a smile appeared and vanished on the detective's face.