The president’s private car was side-tracked on the short spur at the eastern end of the Crow’s Nest, and when Lidgerwood reached it he found the observation platform fully occupied. The night was no more than pleasantly cool, and the half-grown moon, which was already dipping to its early extinguishment behind the upreared bulk of the Timanyonis, struck out stark etchings in silver and blackest shadow upon a ground of fallow dun and vanishing grays. On such nights the mountain desert hides its forbidding face, and the potent spell of the silent wilderness had drawn the young people of the Nadia’s party to the out-door trysting-place.
“Hello, Mr. Lidgerwood, is that you?” called Van Lew, when the superintendent came across to the spur track. “I thought you said this was a bad man’s country. We have been out here for a solid hour, and nobody has shot up the town or even whooped a single lonesome war-whoop; in fact, I think your village with the heavenly name has gone ingloriously to bed. We’re defrauded.”
“It does go to bed pretty early—that part of it which doesn’t stay up pretty late,” laughed Lidgerwood. Then he came closer and spoke to Miss Brewster. “I am going west in my car, and I don’t know just when I shall return. Please tell your father that everything we have here is entirely at his service. If you don’t see what you want, you are to ask for it.”
“Will there be any one to ask when you are gone?” she inquired, neither sorrowing nor rejoicing, so far as he could determine.
“Oh, yes; McCloskey, my trainmaster, will be in from the wreck before morning, and he will turn flip-flaps trying to make things pleasant for you, if you will give him the chance.”
She made the adorable little grimace which always carried him swiftly back to a certain summer of ecstatic memories; to a time when her keenest retort had been no more than a playful love-thrust and there had been no bitterness in her mockery.
“Will he make dreadful faces at me, as he did at you this morning when you went down among the smashed cars at the wreck to speak to him?” she asked.
“So you were looking out of the window, too, were you? You are a close observer and a good guesser. That was Mac, and—yes, he will probably make faces at you. He can’t help it any more than he can help breathing.”
Miss Brewster was running her fingers along the hand-rail as if it were the key-board of a piano. “You say you don’t know how long you will be away?” she asked.
“No; but probably not more than the night. I was only providing for the unexpected, which some people say is what always happens.”
“Will your run take you as far as the Timanyoni Canyon?”
“Yes; through it, and some little distance beyond.”
“You have just said that we are to ask for what we want. Did you mean it?”