Bock was tied up in a corner of the yard, under the side door of the hotel. I went over to release him while the Professor was putting Peg into harness. As I stooped to unfasten the chain from his collar I heard some one talking through the telephone. The hotel lobby was just over my head, and the window was open.
“What did you say?”
“—— —— —— ——”
“McGill? Yes, sir, registered here last night. She’s here now.”
I didn’t wait to hear more. Unfastening Bock, I hurried to tell Mifflin. His eyes sparkled.
“The Sage is evidently on our spoor,” he chuckled. “Well, let’s be off. I don’t see what he can do even if he overhauls us.”
The clerk was calling me from the window: “Miss McGill, your brother’s on the wire and asks to speak to you.”
“Tell him I’m busy,” I retorted, and climbed onto the seat. It was not a diplomatic reply, I’m afraid, but I was too exhilarated by the keen morning and the spirit of adventure to stop to think of a better answer. Mifflin clucked to Peg, and off we went.
The road from Shelby to Port Vigor runs across the broad hill slopes that trend toward the Sound; and below, on our left, the river lay glittering in the valley. It was a perfect landscape: the woods were all bronze and gold; the clouds were snowy white and seemed like heavenly washing hung out to air; the sun was warm and swam gloriously in an arch of superb blue. My heart was uplifted indeed. For the first time, I think, I knew how Andrew feels on those vagabond trips of his. Why had all this been hidden from me before? Why had the transcendent mystery of baking bread blinded me so long to the mysteries of sun and sky and wind in the trees? We passed a white farmhouse close to the road. By the gate sat the farmer on a log, whittling a stick and smoking his pipe. Through the kitchen window I could see a woman blacking the stove. I wanted to cry out: “Oh, silly woman! Leave your stove, your pots and pans and chores, even if only for one day! Come out and see the sun in the sky and the river in the distance!” The farmer looked blankly at Parnassus as we passed, and then I remembered my mission as a distributor of literature. Mifflin was sitting with one foot on his bulging portmanteau, watching the tree tops rocking in the cool wind. He seemed to be far away in a morning muse. I threw down the reins and accosted the farmer.
“Morning to you, ma’am,” he said firmly.
“I’m selling books,” I said. “I wonder if there isn’t something you need?”
“Thanks, lady,” he said, “but I bought a mort o’ books last year an’ I don’t believe I’ll ever read ’em this side Jordan. A whole set o’ ‘Funereal Orations’ what an agent left on me at a dollar a month. I could qualify as earnest mourner at any death-bed merrymakin’ now, I reckon.”
“You need some books to teach you how to live, not how to die,” I said. “How about your wife—wouldn’t she enjoy a good book? How about some fairy tales for the children?”