“Not at all!” The doctor was walking so rapidly that Esther was a little out of breath. “Only, the oars—are certain—to be locked—in the house!” she warned jerkily.
“Then we shall serve sentence for house breaking also.”
“Oh, gracious!” Esther stumbled over the root of a tree and nearly fell. But the doctor only walked the faster. They scrambled together down the steep path and over the stretch of rocky beach to where the tiny float lay a black oblong on the water. The boat house was beside it.
“Eureka!” cried the doctor, springing forward.
But the door of the boat house was open and the boat was gone.
It is a fact infinitely to be regretted, but the doctor swore!
“Well, did you ever!” exclaimed Esther. She was a little tired and more than a little excited, a condition which conduces to hysteria, and collapsing upon the end of the float she began to laugh.
“I wish,” said the doctor judicially, “that I knew exactly what you find to laugh at.”
“Oh, nothing! Your face—I think you looked so very murderous. And you did swear—didn’t you?”
“Beg your pardon, I’m sure,” stiffly.
For an instant they gazed resentfully at each other. The doctor was seriously worried. Esther felt extremely frivolous. But if he wanted to be stiff and horrid,—let him be stiff and horrid.
“I declare you act as if it were my fault the old boat is gone!” she remarked aggrievedly.
“Don’t be silly!”
An uncomfortable silence followed. Esther began to realise how tired she was. Callandar stared out gloomily over the darkening lake.
“Anyway it’s bad enough without your being cross,” said Esther in a small voice.
“Cross—my dear child! Did I seem cross? What a brute you must think me. But to get you into this infernal tangle!—If this old woman is out in the boat she’ll have to come back some time. She can’t stay out on the lake all night.”
Esther, who thought privately that this was exactly what the old woman might do, made no reply. She rather liked the tone of his apology and was feeling better.
“Then there is the dog. If she is anywhere near, she will be sure to hear the dog. From the noise he is making she will deduce burglars and return to protect her property. As a man-hater she will have no fear of a mere burglar. Luckily for us, that dog has a carrying voice!”
Scarcely had he spoken than the dog ceased to bark.
“Shall I go and throw sticks at it?” asked Esther helpfully.
“Hush! The dog must have heard something. Let’s listen!”
In the silence they listened intently. Certainly there was something, a faint indeterminate sound, a sound not in the bush but in the lake, a sound of disturbed water.
“The dip of a paddle,” whispered Callandar. “Some one is coming in a canoe. The dog heard it before we did—recognised it, too, probably. It must be the witch!”