If marks an alternate trail, along which one can see no farther than the first comer.

'What's the matter with it?'' asked Innes impatiently, some hours later.

'Nothing I can't fix m an hour,' Fred said. 'Sorry, sir. Shall I limp into the next town?'

'Will it limp?'

'Just about.'

'Where are we?'

Fred reached for his map. ''Sixty-five miles to camp yet. We're ten miles out of Ogaunee, sir.'

'Oh, lord,' Imies groaned. 'Don't tell me.'

'If you and Miss Brennan don't mind just sitting here I can get busy right away. I thought— '

'Yes, yes.' Innes pasted his hand over his brow with artistic weariness. 'Are you cold, Alice?'

'Chilly,' she said She felt exhausted, mentally and spiritually. The long afternoon drive had been a strain, she wasn't quite sure why. She thought perhaps their swift flight along the roads was too comfortable and oddly static. 'I'm a little tired of riding. Can't we walk up and down while he fixes it?'

Innes said, 'No, no. Better try to make it into Ogaunee, Fred. We'll get this girl warm. Stay for dinner if we're asked.'

'Asked?' Alice said, startled.

'My sisters' house is in Ogaunee. We'll stop in there.'

'I didn't know you had a sister.'

'I have three sisters,' Innes said. 'They still live up here. It was my father's house. My dear, I'll tell you a secret. I was bom in Ogaimee, MicWgan.'

'Oh?' Alice invited more. ' 'I must confess Fd planned to skip by, this time,' he went on uneasily. 'They're another generation, really. Half-sisters, you see. My father was twice married.'

Alice felt she ought not to say 'oh' again, so she kept quiet.

'You don't mind, do you?'

'Mind? Of course not.'

'It'll be more comfortable than sitting here,' Innes said a little doubtfully, with an effect of gnawing on his mustache. Then he smiled. 'We'll be some excitement for them.' He patted hex hand.

The big car crept forward, complaining. Alice knew nothing about the insides of a car. She looked at the back of Fred's neck and wondered if it hurt him, this humiliation of his Proud Beauty. She herself sat ridiculously tense, as if the car had pain,

'This isn't going to damage the engine?' demanded Innes, who evidently knew nothing about the insides of a car either.

'No, sir,' Fred said stolidly.

For a long time no one spoke, as if the car's plight cast a spell of silence over them. Only Innes cleared his throat from time to time, but he never quite said anything. Alice thought it tactful to ask no questions. She simply sat, and slowly began to wonder what it was he felt he ought to say and couldn't

It was a curious ten miles, full of reluctance. Not the nightmare quality of trying to get to a place and always failing, but an equally nightmarish feeling of taking much labor and some pain to get to a place where one didn't want to be. Ogaunee was a gash across the smooth face of their plans. Furthermore, it required bracing. One had to brace oneself. Alice felt that.

When at last they crawled past a house or two, Innes burst into speech. It was his home town, after all.

'This is iron-mining country, you see. This is the Menominee Range. What they do here is underground. Up on the Mesabi they strip off the earth and take the ore out of an open pit. Makes a mess. But it was pretty here when I was a kid. My father owned the land all around and brought in Eastern captial in the old days. There's a shaft- house; see? That's Briar Hill.'

The wounded car crept aroimd a curve. Ahead, the road dipped and staggered over a kind of earthen bridge. On either side of the built-up causeway the ground fell precipitously into two great deep pits, down the far sides of which was scattered debris, as of shattered houses.

'Good heavens! It's fallen In!' cried Alice. Innes said carelessly, 'Well, you see, when they mine

underground they honeycomb the place. Where the ore comes out, they prop up the roof with timber and go deeper, down to another level. Of course, later, when the ore's all gone, the timbers rot, I suppose, and collapse.'

'And the earth falls in!' Alice said, awestricken. 'The houses, too?'

''Same of them were over the mines.' 'But how terrible!'

'Oh, no. Nobody gets hurt. It's not like an earthquake, you know. It's slow. It just sinks.'

'I still think it's terrible. It isn't going to fall m any more?'

'No, no. Although they have to keep filling in this road.' She looked at him, horrified. 'Oh, it's all over now. Don't worry. These mines were played out long ago. This is what you might call a ghost town.' 'Is it, really? Like the ones in the West?' 'Not so romantic,' said Innes. 'Why do people stay here?'

'I do not know.' Innes dropped his guidebook manner and was personally vehement. 'I wouldn't.' Then, with that curious reluctance, ''Of course, my sisters . . .'

Вы читаете The Case of the Weird Sisters
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