Redbeard was already sitting in front with the reins in hand. I climbed up beside him. The front seat was broad but uncushioned, well sheltered by the peak of the van. I gave a quick glance around at the comfortable house under its elms and maples—saw the big, red barn shining in the sun and the pump under the grape arbour. I waved good-bye to Mrs. McNally who was watching us in silent amazement. Pegasus threw her solid weight against the traces and Parnassus swung round and rolled past the gate. We turned into the Redfield road.
“Here,” said Mifflin, handing me the reins, “you’re skipper, you’d better drive. Which way do you want to go?”
My breath came a little fast when I realized that my adventure had begun!
Just out of sight of the farm the road forks, one way running on to Walton where you cross the river by a covered bridge, the other swinging down toward Greenbriar and Port Vigor. Mrs. Collins lives a mile or so up the Walton road, and as I very often run over to see her I thought Andrew would be most likely to look for me there. So, after we had passed through the grove, I took the right-hand turn to Greenbriar. We began the long ascent over Huckleberry Hill and as I smelt the fresh autumn odour of the leaves I chuckled a little.
Mr. Mifflin seemed in a perfect ecstasy of high spirits. “This is certainly grand,” he said. “Lord, I applaud your spunk. Do you think Mr. McGill will give chase?”
“I haven’t an idea,” I said. “Not right away, anyhow. He’s so used to my settled ways that I don’t think he’ll suspect anything till he finds my note. I wonder what kind of story Mrs. McNally will tell!”
“How about putting him off the scent?” he said. “Give me your handkerchief.”
I did so. He hopped nimbly out, ran back down the hill (he was a spry little person in spite of his bald crown), and dropped the handkerchief on the Walton Road about a hundred feet beyond the fork. Then he followed me up the slope.
“There,” he said, grinning like a kid, “that’ll fool him. The Sage of Redfield will undoubtedly follow a false spoor and the criminals will win a good start. But I’m afraid it’s rather easy to follow a craft as unusual as Parnassus.”
“Tell me how you manage the thing,” I said. “Do you really make it pay?” We halted at the top of the hill to give Pegasus a breathing space. The terrier lay down in the dust and watched us gravely. Mr. Mifflin pulled out a pipe and begged my permission to smoke.
“It’s rather comical how I first got into it,” he said. “I was a school teacher down in Maryland. I’d been plugging away in a country school for years, on a starvation salary. I was trying to support an invalid mother, and put by something in case of storms. I remember how I used to wonder whether I’d ever be able to wear a suit that wasn’t shabby and have my shoes