“Excellent!” rumbled the Baron with relish. “Excellent. If all this be true,” he added, muddling an Americanism, “we have then, of the horse another color!”
“Later,” said Philip, “when Miss Westfall returns to her house on wheels, I imagine he too will take to the road again—and resume his charming erotics.”
“That,” said the Baron with decision, “is most undesirable.”
“I agree with you!” said Philip feelingly.
“I too have promised to be a guest at Miss Sherrill’s fete de nuit!” purred the Baron suavely. “And you, Poynter?”
“Unfortunately Miss Sherrill knows absolutely nothing of my whereabouts.”
“Sherrill days ago entrusted me with a cordial invitation for you. He was unaware of our disagreement and expected you to accompany me. As my official secretary, Poynter, for, let us say the month of January, it is possible for me to command your attendance at Palm Beach.”
“Excellency,” said Philip slowly, “singular as it may seem in my present free lance state, I am greatly desirous of hearing such a command.”
“Poynter,” boomed the Baron formally, “in January I shall be overweighted with diplomatic duties at Palm Beach. I regret exceedingly that I am forced to command your attendance. This frivoling about must cease.” He shook suddenly with silent laughter. “Doubtless,” said he, meeting Philip’s amused glance with level significance, “doubtless, Poynter, we can—”
“Yes,” said Philip with much satisfaction, “I think we can.”
They fell to chatting in lower voices as the fire died down.
“Meanwhile,” shrugged the disgusted Baron a little later, “I shall abandon that accursed music-machine to its fate, and rest. God knows I am but an indifferent nomad and need it sorely. Night and day have I thunder-cracked the highways, losing my way and my temper until I loathe camps and motor machines and dust and wind and baked potatoes. I sincerely hope, Poynter, that you can find me the road to an inn and a bed, a bath and some iced mint—to-night.”
Philip could and did. Presently standing by his abominated motorcycle on a lonely moonlit road, the Baron adjusted his leather cap and stroked his beard.
“Do you know, Poynter,” said he slowly, “this is a most mysterious motorcycle. It was crated to me from an unknown village in Pennsylvania by the hand of God knows whom!”
“Excellency,” said Philip politely as he cordially shook hands with his chief, “The world, I find, is full of mystery.”
Rumbling the Baron mounted and rode away. With a slight smile, Philip watched him thunder-cracking disgustedly along the dusty road back to civilization.
A DECEMBER SNOW STORM
As the dusty wanderers wound slowly down into southern Georgia on a mild bright day, a December snow storm broke with flake and flurry over the Westfall farm. Whirling, crooning, pirouetting, the mad white ghost swept down from the hills and hurled itself with a rattle of shutters and stiffened boughs against the frozen valley. By nightfall the wind was wailing eerily through the chimneys; but the checkerboard panes of light one glimpsed through the trees of the Westfall lane were bright and cheery.