Hood and Deering found Cassowary sitting in the machine in the inn yar_eading a newspaper; this Hood promptly seized and scanned with his traine_ye.
“Are the bags aboard? Ah, I see you have been forehanded, Cassowary!”
Deering went to the inn office and came out with a number of telegrams whic_e read as he slowly crossed the yard.
“What do you think of this?” he asked weakly. The yellow sheets shook in hi_and and his face was white. “I wired to a bank and a club in San Francisc_ast night, and they’ve answered that father isn’t in San Francisco and hasn’_een there! And I wired the people Constance was to visit at Pasadena, an_hey don’t know anything about her. Just look at these things!”
“Sounds like straight information, but why worry?” remarked Hood, scanning th_elegrams.
“But why should father lie to me? Why should Constance say she was going t_alifornia if she wasn’t?”
“My dear boy, don’t ask me such questions!” Hood remarked with an injured air.
“You are guilty of the gravest error in sending telegrams without consultin_e! How can we trust ourselves to Providence if you persist in sendin_elegrams! If you do this again, I shall be seriously displeased, and yo_ustn’t displease Hood. Hood is very ugly in his wrath.”
Deering was at the point of tears. Hood was a fool, and he wished to tell hi_o, but the words stuck in his throat.
“We move eastward toward the Connecticut border, Cassowary,” Hood ordered an_ushed Deering into the machine.
Hood was as merry as the morning itself, and talked ceaselessly as they rolle_hrough the country, occasionally bidding Cassowary slow down and give heed t_is discourse. The chauffeur listened with a grin, glancing guardedly a_eering, who stared grimly ahead with an unlighted cigar in his mouth. He wa_ot to be disturbed in his meditations upon the blackness of the world by th_diotic prattle of a madman. For half an hour Hood had been describing hi_dventures with a Dublin University man, whose humor he pronounced the keenes_nd most satisfying he had ever known. He had gathered from this person a_mmense fund of lore relating to Irish superstitions.
“He left me just when I had learned to love him,” Hood concluded mournfully.
“Became fascinated with a patent-medicine faker we struck at a county fair i_ndiana. He was so tickled over the way the long-haired doctor played th_anjo and jollied the crowd that he attached himself to his caravan. Tha_rishman was one of the most agreeable men to be in jail with that I eve_new; even hardened murderers would cotton to him. That spire over there mus_e Addington. The inn is nothing to boast of, but we’d better tackle it.”
His gayety at luncheon once more won Deering to a cheerier view of hi_estiny. Hood called for the proprietor and lectured him roundly for offerin_anned-blueberry pie. The fact that blueberries were out of season made n_ifference to the outraged Hood; pie produced from a can was a gros_mposition. He cited legal decisions covering such cases and intimated that h_ight bring proceedings. As the innkeeper strode angrily away an elderly woma_t a neighboring table addressed the dining-room on the miserable incompetenc_f the pastry-cooks of these later times, winding up by thanking Hood heartil_or his protest. She was from Boston, she announced, and the declinin_ntellectual life of that city she attributed to the deterioration of its pie.
Hood rose and gravely replied in a speech of five minutes, much to the deligh_f two girls at the old lady’s table. Hood wrote his name on the menu card,
and bade the giggling waitress hand it to the lady from Boston. Her youn_ompanions conferred for a moment, and then sent back a card on which appeare_hese names neatly pencilled:
> Maid Marian
> The Queen of Sheba
> The Duchess of Suffolk (Mass.)
“My dear boy,” Hood remarked to Deering after he had bowed elaborately to th_rio, “I tell you the whole world’s caught step with us! That lady and her tw_ieces, or granddaughters as the case may be, are under the spell, just as yo_nd I are and Cassowary and your Pierrette and Babette of the bungalow. I_nly you could yield yourself to the May spirit, how happy we might be! Jus_hink of Cassowary; worth a million dollars and eating his lunch with th_hauffeurs somewhere below stairs and picking up much information that he wil_mpart to me later! What a bully world this would be if all mankind followe_y system: stupid conventions all broken-down; the god of mirth holding hi_ides as he contemplates the world at play! You may be sure that old lady is _tickler for the proprieties when she’s at home; widow of a bishop mos_ikely. Those girls have been carefully reared, you can see that, but full o_he spirit of mischief. The moment I tackled that stupid innkeeper about hi_onstrous pie they felt the drawing of the mystic tie that binds us togethe_ith silken cords. Very likely they, like us, are in search of adventure, an_f our own affairs were less urgent I should certainly cultivate their furthe_cquaintance.”
The lady who called herself the Duchess of Suffolk (Mass.) was undoubtedly _erson of consequence and the possessor of a delightful humor. Deering assume_hat she and her companions were abroad upon a lark of some kind and wer_njoying themselves tremendously. Hood’s spell renewed its grip upon him. I_ccurred to him that the whole world might have been touched with the Ma_adness, and that the old order of things had passed forever. It seemed age_ince he had watched the ticker in his father’s office. As they sat smoking o_he veranda the Duchess of Suffolk, the Queen of Sheba, and Maid Marian cam_ut and entered a big car. The old lady bowed with dignity as the car move_ff; the girls waved their hands.
“Perfect!” Hood muttered as he returned their salutations. “We may never mee_gain in this world, but the memory of this encounter will abide with m_orever.”
“I don’t want to appear fussy, Hood,” Deering began good-naturedly, “but woul_ou mind telling me what’s next on your programme?”
“Not in the slightest. It’s just occurred to me that it would be well to din_o-night in one of the handsome villas scattered through these hills. Stil_ollowing the slipper, we shall choose one somewhere east of the inn an_resent ourselves confidently at the front door. Failing there, we shal_ssault the postern and, perhaps, enrich our knowledge of life with th_ervants’ gossip.”
“There are some famous kennels in this neighborhood, and I’d hate awfully t_ave an Airedale bite a hole in my leg,” Deering suggested.
“My dear boy, that’s the tamest thing that could happen to us! My calves ar_overed with scars from dogs’ teeth; you soon get hardened to canine ferocity.
We’ll take a tramp for an hour to work the fuzz off our gray matter, and the_ nap to freshen us up for the evening. We shall learn much to-night; I’_onfident of that.”
There seemed to be no way of escaping Hood or changing his mind once h_nnounced a decision. The programme was put through exactly as he ha_ndicated. The important thing about the tramp was that Cassowary accompanie_hem on the walk, and Deering found him both agreeable and interesting. H_iscoursed of polo, last year’s Harvard-Yale football game, and ice-boating,
in which he seemed deeply experienced.
Hood left them to look for hieroglyphics on a barn which he said was _eritable palimpsest of cryptic notations of roving thieves.
Cassowary’s manner underwent a marked change when he and Deering were alone.
“If you’re going to give the old boy the slip,” he said earnestly, “I want yo_o give me notice. I’m not going to be left alone with him.”
Their eyes met in a long scrutiny; then Deering laughed.
“I don’t know how you feel about it, but, by George, I’m afraid to shake him!”
“That’s exactly my fix,” Cassowary answered. “I was in a bad way when h_icked me up: just about ready to jump off a high building and let it go a_hat. And I must say he does make things seem brighter. He mustn’t see u_alking off key, as he’d say, but I’d like to ask you this: what’s he runnin_way from? That’s what worries me. What’s he grabbing newspapers for all th_ime and slashing out ads and other queer stuff?”
“You’ve got me there,” Deering replied soberly. “We ran into some men th_ther night who he said were detectives looking for him, but it didn’t seem t_orry him any.”
“There’s nothing new in _that_. We’ve struck a number of men who apparentl_ere looking for somebody, and he greatly enjoys chaffing them. If he’s reall_ crook, he wouldn’t be exposing himself to arrest as he does.”
Hood was now returning from his investigations of the barn, and as he crosse_he pasture was examining a bunch of the newspaper clippings with which hi_ockets were stuffed.
“You needn’t be afraid of getting into trouble with him,” Cassowary remarke_dmiringly. “He pulls off things you wouldn’t think could be done. He’s _arvel, that man!”
“Old Bill Fogarty’s been ripping into the country stores in these parts,”
began Hood volubly; “found his mark on the barn, all right. Amusing cuss,
Fogarty. Sawed himself out of most of the jails between here and Bangor. We’l_robably meet up with him somewhere. It’s about time to go back for tha_nooze, boys. To the road again!”
He strode off singing, in a very good tenor voice, snatches from Italia_peras, and his pace was so rapid that his companions were hard pressed t_eep up with him.