“What’s up?” called Aladdin after him.
“Up!” cried the conductor. “We’re off the track.”
“Can’t we go on to-night?”
“Nup!” The conductor passed out of the car and banged the door.
“Got to sit here all night!” said Aladdin. “Not much! Get up, Troubles! If you don’t think I know the way about here, you can stay by the stove. I’m going to walk.”
Aladdin and Troubles rose, buttoned their coat, left the car, and set out in the direction of the St. Johns’. Aladdin’s watch at starting read five o’clock.
“Our luggage is all checked, Troubles,” he said, “and all we’ve got to face is the idea of walking three miles through very disagreeable weather, over a broad path that we know like the palm of our hand (which we don’t know as well as we might), arriving late, wet to the skin, and without a change of clothes. On the other hand, we shall deserve a long drink and much sympathy. As for you, Troubles, you’re the best company I know, and all is well.”
The first scarlet huntsman
blew into his horn,
“Lirala, Lovely Morning, I’m glad I was born.”
At first the way, lying through waist-high fir scrub, was pretty bad underfoot, but beyond was a stretch of fine timber, where the trees had done much to arrest the snow, and the going was not so severe. Aladdin calculated that he should make the distance in an hour and a half; and when the wood ended, he looked at his watch and found that the first mile, together with only twenty-five minutes, was behind him.
“That’s the rate of an hour and a quarter, Troubles,” he said. “And that’s good time. Are you listening?”
But following the wood was a great open space of country pitched up from the surrounding levels, and naked to every fury of nature. Across that upland the wind blew a wicked gale, scarifying the tops of knolls to the brown, dead grass, and filling the hollows flush with snow. At times, to keep from being blown over, it was necessary to lean against the gusts. Aladdin was conscious of not making very rapid progress, but there was something exhilarating in the wildness, the bitter cold, and the roar of the wind; it had an effect as of sea thundering upon beach, great views from mountain-tops, black wild nights, the coming of thunder and freshness after intense heat, or any of the thousand and one vaster demonstrations of nature. Now and again Aladdin sang snatches of song: