The French engineer was sufficiently superstitious to lend a half belief to the idea that the place was haunted, and that was his reason for haste. The electrician was only sorry that so much time had been purely wasted; that was his reason. He was a middle-aged man, spare, quick, and impatient, but he looked at Alec Trenholme in the light of the engine lamp, when they came up to it, with some kindly interest.
“I say,” he went on again, “don’t you go on staying here alone—a good-looking fellow like you. You don’t look to me like a chap to have fancies if you weren’t mewed up alone.”
As Trenholme saw the car carried from him, saw the faces and forms of the men who stood at its door disappear in the darkness, and watched the red light at its back move slowly on, leaving a lengthening road of black rails behind it, he felt more mortified at the thought of the telegraph man’s compassion than he cared to own, even to himself.
He went out again, and hunted with a lantern till he found a track leading far into the wood in the opposite direction from his house. This, then, was the way the old man had gone. He followed the track for a mile, but never came within sight or sound of the man who made it.
At last it joined the railway line, and where the snow was rubbed smooth he could not trace it. Probably the old man had taken off his snow-shoes here, and his light moccasins had left no mark that could be seen in the night.
For two nights after that Alec Trenholme kept his lamp lit all night, placing it in his window so that all the light that could struggle through the frosted panes should cast an inviting ray into the night. He did this in the hope that the old man might still be wandering in the neighbourhood; but it was soon ascertained that this was not the case; the stranger had been seen by no one else in Turrifs Settlement. Though it was clear, from reports that came, that he was the same who had visited other villages and been accepted as the missing Cameron, nothing more was heard of him, and it seemed that he had gone now off the lines of regular communication—unless, indeed, he had the power of appearing and disappearing at will, which was the popular view of his case. Turrifs Station had become notorious. Trenholme received jeers and gibes even by telegraph from neighbouring stations. He had given account to no one of the midnight visit, but inventive curiosity had supplied details of a truly wonderful nature. It was not on this account that he gave up his situation on the line, but because a new impulse had seized him, and he had no particular reason for remaining. He waited till a new caretaker arrived from the headquarters of the railway, and then set forth from the station the following morning on foot.
Turrif had been laid up with some complaint for a week or two, and Alec went to say good-bye to him. The roads had been opened up again. He had his snow-shoes on his back, and some clothes in a small pack.