It was midnight when the cars drew up at the door of the house of Forbes. Anxiously waiting in the library were Mrs. Forbes and Ernest Peabody.
“At last!” cried Mrs. Forbes, smiling her relief; “we thought maybe Sam and you had decided to spend the night in New Haven.”
“No,” said Miss Forbes, “there was some talk about spending the night at Fairport, but we pushed right on.”
With a long, nervous shudder, the Scarlet Car came to a stop, and the lamps bored a round hole in the night, leaving the rest of the encircling world in a chill and silent darkness.
The lamps showed a flickering picture of a country road between high banks covered with loose stones, and overhead, a fringe of pine boughs. It looked like a colored photograph thrown from a stereopticon in a darkened theater.
From the back of the car the voice of the owner said briskly: “We will now sing that beautiful ballad entitled `He Is Sleeping in the Yukon Vale To-night.’ What are you stopping for, Fred?” he asked.
The tone of the chauffeur suggested he was again upon the defensive.
“For water, sir,” he mumbled.
Miss Forbes in the front seat laughed, and her brother in the rear seat, groaned in dismay.
“Oh, for water?” said the owner cordially. “I thought maybe it was for coal.”
Save a dignified silence, there was no answer to this, until there came a rolling of loose stones and the sound of a heavy body suddenly precipitated down the bank, and landing with a thump in the road.
“He didn’t get the water,” said the owner sadly.
“Are you hurt, Fred?” asked the girl.
The chauffeur limped in front of the lamps, appearing suddenly, like an actor stepping into the limelight.
“No, ma’am,” he said. In the rays of the lamp, he unfolded a road map and scowled at it. He shook his head aggrievedly.
“There ought to be a house just about here,” he explained.
“There ought to be a hotel and a garage, and a cold supper, just about here,” said the girl cheerfully.
“That’s the way with those houses,” complained the owner. “They never stay where they’re put. At night they go around and visit each other. Where do you think you are, Fred?”
“I think we’re in that long woods, between Loon Lake and Stoughton on the Boston Pike,” said the chauffeur, “and,” he reiterated, “there ought to be a house somewhere about here—where we get water.”
“Well, get there, then, and get the water,” commanded the owner.
“But I can’t get there, sir, till I get the water,” returned the chauffeur.
He shook out two collapsible buckets, and started down the shaft of light.
“I won’t be more nor five minutes,” he called.
“I’m going with him,” said the girl, “I’m cold.”