And his outward seeming did not belie his feelings. He had spent a pleasant day. At South Wellmouth, his first port of call, he had strengthened his political fences by dropping in upon and chatting with several acquaintances who prided themselves upon being “in the know” concerning local political opinion and drift. Mr. “Raish” Pulcifer—no one in Ostable county ever referred to him as Horatio— had already held the positions of town clerk, selectman, constable and postmaster. Now, owing to an unfortunate shift in the party vote, the public was, temporarily, deprived of his services. However, it was rumored that he might be persuaded to accept the nomination for state representative if it were offered to him. His acquaintances at South Wellmouth had that day assured him there was “a good, fair fightin’ chance” that it might be.
Then, after leaving South Wellmouth, he had dined at the Rogers’ House in Wellmouth Centre, “matching” a friend for the dinners and “sticking” the said friend for them and for the cigars afterward. Following this he had joined other friends in a little game in Elmer Rogers’ back room and had emerged from that room three dollars and seventy-two cents ahead. No wonder he sang as he drove homeward. No wonder he looked quite care free. And, as a matter of fact, care free he was, that is, as care free as one is permitted to be in this care-ridden world. Down underneath his bright exterior there were a few cankers which might have gnawed had he permitted himself to think of them, but he did not so permit. Mr. Pulcifer’s motto had always been: “Let the other feller do the worryin’.” And, generally speaking, in a deal with Raish that, sooner or later, was what the other fellow did.
The fog and dusk thickened, Mr. Pulcifer sang, and the flivver wheezed and rattled and splashed onward. At a particularly dark spot, where the main road joined a cross country byroad, Raish drew up and climbed out to light the car lamps, which were of the old-fashioned type requiring a gas tank and matches. He had lighted one and was bending forward with the match ready to light the other when a voice at his elbow said:
“I beg your pardon, but—but will you kindly tell me where I am?”
It was not a loud, aggressive voice; on the contrary, it was hesitating and almost timid, but when one is supposedly alone at twilight on the East Wellmouth road any sort of voice sounding unexpectedly just above one’s head is startling. Mr. Pulcifer’s match went out, he started violently erect, bumping his head against the open door of the lamp compartment, and swung a red and agitated face toward his shoulder.
“I—beg your pardon,” said the voice. “I’m afraid I startled you. I’m extremely sorry. Really I am.”
“What the h-ll?” observed Raish, enthusiastically.
“I’m very sorry, very—yes, indeed,” said the voice once more. Mr. Pulcifer, rubbing his bumped head and puffing from surprise and the exertion of stooping, stared wide-eyed at the speaker.