At length we suspected, rather than saw, a gleam of light at the rear of one of the shrouded shapes we took for houses, and, stumbling toward it, we heard cheerful voices, German voices; and, knocking at a back door, received a friendly summons to enter. Then, out of the night that covered us, suddenly sprang a kitchen full of light and a family at supper, kind German folk, the old people, the younger married couple, and the grandchildren, and a big dog vociferously taking care of them. A lighted glimpse, a few hearty words of direction, and we were out in the night again; for though, indeed, this was Dutch Hollow, its simple microcosm did not include an hotel. For that we must walk on another half-mile or so. O those country half-miles! So on we went again, and soon a lighted stoop flashed on our right. At last! I mounted the steps of a veranda, and, before knocking, looked in at the window. Then I didn’t knock, but softly called Colin, who was waiting in the road, and together we looked in. At a table in the centre of a barely furnished, brightly-lit room, an old woman and a young man were kneeling in prayer. Colin and I stood a moment looking at them, and then softly took the road again.
But the inn, or rather the “hotel,” did come at last. Alas! however, for dreams of ruddy welcome—rubicund host, and capon turning on the spit. In spite of German accents, we were walking in America, after all. A shabbily-lit glass door admitted us into a dreary saloon bar, where a hard-featured, gruff-mannered young countryman, after serving beer to two farm-labourers, admitted with apparent reluctance that beds were to be had by such as had “the price,” but that, as to supper, well! supper was “over”—supper-time was six-thirty; it was now seven-thirty. The young man seemed no little surprised, even indignant, that any one should be ignorant of the fact that supper-time at Sheldon Center was half-past six; and this, by the way, was a surprise we encountered more than once on our journey. Supper-time in the American road-house is an hour severely observed, and you disregard it at the peril of your empty stomach, for no larders seem so hermetically sealed as the larders of American country hotels after the appointed hour, and no favour so impossible to grant as even a ham sandwich, if you should be so much a stranger to local ordinances as to expect it after the striking of the hour. Indeed, you are looked on with suspicion for asking, as something of a tramp or dangerous character. Not to know that supper-time at Sheldon Center was half-past six seemed to argue a sinister disregard of the usages of civilization.