It was obvious that the door was open; he had left it shut.
Breaking off his search for the matches, he made toward the entrance and sprang out. There was nobody upon the moonlit snow, and the shadows were hardly deep enough to conceal a lurking man. He ran toward the end of the rather long building; but, as it happened, he had to make a round to avoid a stack of wood and a wagon on the way. When he turned the corner, the other side of the stable was clear in the moonlight and, so far as he could see, the snow about it was untrodden. It looked as if he had made for the wrong end of the building, and he retraced his steps toward a barn that stood near its opposite extremity. Running around it, he saw nobody, nor any footprints that seemed to have been recently made; and while he stood wondering what he should do next, Grierson appeared between him and the house.
“Were you in the stables a minute or two ago?” George called to him,
“No,” said the other approaching. “I’d just come out for some wood when I saw you run round the barn.”
George gave him a brief explanation, and the man looked about.
“Perhaps we’d better search the buildings; if there was any stranger prowling round, he might have dodged you in the shadow. It’s hardly likely he’d make for the prairie; the first clump of brush big enough to hide a man is a quarter of a mile off.”
They set about the search, but found nobody, and George stopped outside the last building with a puzzled frown on his face.
“It’s very strange,” he said. “I left the door shut; I couldn’t be mistaken.”
“Look!” cried Grierson, clutching his arm. “There’s no mistaking about that!”
Turning sharply, George saw a dim mounted figure cross the crest of a low rise some distance away and vanish beyond it.
“The fellow must have run straight for the poplar scrub, keeping the house between you and him,” Grierson explained. “He’d have left his horse among the brush.”
“I suppose that was it,” George said angrily. “As there’s no chance of overtaking him, we’ll have a look at the horses, with a light, and then let Flett know.”
There was nothing wrong in the stable, where they found the lantern George had looked for flung down in the empty stall, and in a very short space of time after they had called him Flett appeared. He walked round the buildings and examined some of the footprints with a light, and then he turned to George.