Yawningly, the professor reached for his watch.
It had run down.
“Evidently they do not wake guests for breakfast,” he mused. “Perhaps,” with rising dismay, “there isn’t any breakfast to wake them for!”
He felt suddenly ravenous and hurried into his clothes. It is really wonderful how all kinds of problems give place to the need for a wash and breakfast. Somewhere outside he could hear water running, so with a towel over his arm and a piece of soap in his pocket he started out to find it. His room, as he had noted the night before, was one of two small rooms under the eaves. There was a small, dark landing between them and a steep, ladderlike stair led directly down into the living-room. There was no one there; neither was there anyone in the small kitchen at the back. Benis Spence decided that this second room was a kitchen because it contained a cooking stove. Otherwise he would not have recognized it, Aunt Caroline’s idea of a kitchen being quite otherwise. Someone had been having breakfast on a corner of the table and a fire crackled in the stove. Window and door were open, and leafy, ferny odors mingled with the smell of burning cedar. The combined scent was very pleasant, but the professor could have wished that the bouquet of coffee and fried bacon had been included. He was quite painfully hungry.
Through the open door the voice of falling water still called to him but of other and more human voices there were none. Well, he could at least wash. With a shrug he turned away from the half cleared table and, in the doorway, almost ran into the arms of a little, old man in a frock coat and a large umbrella. There were other items of attire, but they did not seem to matter.
“My dear sir,” said the little, old man, in a gentle, gurgling voice. “Let me make you welcome—very, very welcome!”
“Thank you,” said the professor.
There were other things that he might have said, but they did not seem to suggest themselves. All the smooth and biting sentences which his mind had held in readiness for this moment faded and died before the stunning knowledge of their own inadequacy. Surprise, pure and simple, stamped them down.
“Unpardonable, my not being at home to receive you,” went on this amazing old gentleman. “But the exact time of your coming was somewhat indefinite. Still, I am displeased with myself, much displeased. You slept well, I trust?”
The professor was understood to say that he had slept well.
Dr. Farr sighed. “Youth!” he murmured, waving his umbrella. “Oh, youth!”
“Quite so,” said the professor. There was a dryness in his tone not calculated to encourage rhapsody. The old gentleman’s gurgle changed to a note of practical helpfulness.
“You wish to bathe, I see. I will not detain you. Our sylvan bathroom you will find just down the trail and behind those alders. Pray take your time. You will be quite undisturbed.”