He pointed out the peculiar topography of the place, and Ralph got back in the coach.
“We’re practically on a flood-made island,” he exclaimed, with one eye on the pretty daughter, “and we shall have to stop over night at that quaint, old-fashioned inn we passed a few moments ago.”
The pretty daughter’s eyes twinkled, and he thought he caught a swift, direct gleam from under the long lashes—but he was not sure.
“Dear me, how annoying,” said the blonde matron, but the brunette matron still stared, without the slightest trace of interest in anything else, at the infinitesimal spot she had selected on the affronting window-shade.
The two men gave sighs of resignation, and cast carefully concealed glances at each other, speculating on the possibility of a cigar and a glass, and maybe a good story or two, or possibly even a game of poker after the evening meal. Who could tell what might or might not happen?
When the stage drew up in front of the little hotel, it found Uncle Billy Tutt prepared for his revenge. In former days the stage had always stopped at the Tutt House for the noonday meal. Since the new railway was built through the adjoining county, however, the stage trip became a mere twelve-mile, cross-country transfer from one railroad to another, and the stage made a later trip, allowing the passengers plenty of time for “dinner” before they started. Day after day, as the coach flashed by with its money-laden passengers, Uncle Billy had hoped that it would break down. But this was better, much better. The coach might be quickly mended, but not the flood.
“I’m a-goin’ t’ charge ’em till they squeal,” he declared to the timidly protesting Aunt Margaret, “an’ then I’m goin’ t’ charge ’em a least mite more, drat ’em!”
He retreated behind the rough wooden counter that did duty as a desk, slammed open the flimsy, paper-bound “cash book” that served as a register, and planted his elbows uncompromisingly on either side of it.
“Let ’em bring in their own traps,” he commented, and Aunt Margaret fled, ashamed and conscience-smitten, to the kitchen. It seemed awful.
The first one out of the coach was the husband of the brunette matron, and, proceeding under instructions, he waited neither for luggage nor women folk, but hurried straight into the Tutt House. The other man would have been neck and neck with him in the race, if it had not been that he paused to seize two suitcases and had the misfortune to drop one, which burst open and scattered a choice assortment of lingerie from one end of the dingy coach to the other.
In the confusion of rescuing the fluffery, the owner of the suitcase had to sacrifice her hauteur and help her husband and son block up the aisle, while the other matron had the ineffable satisfaction of being kept waiting, at last being enabled to say, sweetly and with the most polite consideration: