He hurried along, still wrapped in the atmosphere which had surrounded him all day. He felt still the lift of the boat over the short swell, he smelled the pleasant combination of salt, and gasolene, and the whiff of the hayfields, and his eyes still kept the glare and the blue, and the swinging dark shape of the Dutchman’s bows as he headed her down the bay. Just before he reached Winterbottom Road, he saw, rather vaguely through the twilight, the figures of a man and a small boy, coming toward him. They had, apparently, seen him, also, for the man walked more quickly for a step or two, then stopped altogether, and finally turned sharply off the road and swung the child over a stone wall, with a quick remark which Ken did not hear.
He did hear, however, the child’s reply, for it was in a clear and well-known voice. It said: “I don’t think this can be the way. I didn’t come over a wall.”
The remainder of the cherry pie dropped to the dust of the Winterbottom Road. Not more than three gigantic leaps brought Ken to the spot; he vaulted the wall with a clean and magnificent spring that would have won him fame at school. The man was a stranger, as Ken had thought—an untidy and unshaven stranger. He was not quite so tall as Ken, who seized him by the arm.
“May I ask where you’re going?” roared Ken, at which the small boy leaped rapturously, fastened himself to Ken’s coat-tail, and cried:
“Oh, I’m so glad it’s you! I started to come and meet you, and I walked farther than I meant, and I got lost, and I met this person, and he said he’d take me home, and—”
“Shut up!” said Ken. “And let go of me!" at which Kirk, thoroughly shocked, dropped back as though he could not believe his ears.
“I was takin’ the kid home,” muttered the man, “just like he says.”
“Why were you going in exactly the opposite direction, then?” Ken demanded.
As he leaped abreast of the man, who was trying to back away, the day’s receipts of the Sturgis Water Line jingled loudly in his trousers pocket. The stranger, whose first plan had been so rudely interfered with, determined on the instant not to leave altogether empty-handed, and planted a forcible and unexpected blow on the side of Ken’s head. Ken staggered and went down, and Kirk, who had been standing dangerously near all this activity, went down on top of him. It so happened that he sprawled exactly on top of the trousers pocket aforesaid, and when the man sought, with hasty and ungentle hands, to remove him from it, Kirk launched a sudden and violent kick, in the hope of its doing some execution.
Kirk’s boots were stout, and himself horrified and indignant; his heel caught the stranger with full force in the temple, and the man, too, was added to the prostrate figures in the darkening field. Two of them did not long remain prostrate. Ken lurched, bewildered, to his feet, and seeing his foe stretched by some miracle upon the ground, he bundled Kirk over the wall and followed giddily. Stumbling down the shadowy road, with Kirk’s hand in his, he said: