We met no more teams, saw no more lights, but seemed to be in an utterly uninhabited country. Then, after an hour of wearisome jolting and plunging, we discovered that the darkness had not been total, for the line of the horizon had been visible, but now it was swallowed up. We knew we were in a wood, by the rush of the wind amid the dried white oak leaves—knew that the road grew rougher at every step—that our driver became more nervous as he applied the brake, and we went down, down.
Still the descent grew steeper. We stopped, and Father Olever felt for the bank with his whip to be sure we were on the road. Then we heard the sound of rushing, angry waters, mingled with the roar of the wind, and he seemed to hesitate about going on, but we could not very well stay there, and he once more put his horses in motion, while we held fast and prayed silently to the great Deliverer. After stopping again and feeling for the bank, lest we should go over the precipitous hillside, which he knew was there, he proceeded until, with a great plunge, we were in the angry waters, which arose to the wagon-bed, and roared and surged all around us. The horses tried to go on, when something gave way, and our guardian concluded further progress was impossible, and began to hallo at the top of his voice.
For a long time there was no response; then came an answering call from a long distance. Next a light appeared, and that, too, was far away, but came toward us. When it reached the brink of the water, and two men with it, we felt safe. The light-bearer held it up so that we saw him quite well, and his peculiar appearance suited his surroundings. He was more an overgrown boy than a man, beardless, with a long swarthy face, black hair and keen black eyes. He wore heavy boots outside his pantaloons, a blouse and slouch hat, spoke to his companion as one having authority, and with a laugh said to our small gentleman:
“Is this where you are?” but gave no heed to the answer as he waded in and threw off the check lines, saying: “I wonder you did not drown your horses.”
He next examined the wagon, paying no more attention to Father Olever’s explanations than to the water in which he seemed quite at home, and when he had finished his inspection he said:
“They must go to the house,” and handing the light to the driver he took us up one by one and carried us to the wet bank as easily as a child carries her doll. He gave some directions to his companion, took the light and said to us:
“Come on,” and we walked after him out into the limitless blackness, nothing doubting. We went what seemed a long way, following this brigand-looking stranger, without seeing any sign of life or hearing any sound save the roar of wind and water, but on turning a fence corner, we came in sight of a large two-story house, with a bright light streaming out through many windows, and a wide open door. There was a large stone barn on the other side of the road,