He was close upon the farther end when upon a hapchance impulse he glanced over the nearest guard-rail, down at the bed of the creek. And stopped incontinently, gaping. Stationary in the middle of the depression, hub-deep in the shallow waters, was a motor-car; and it, beyond dispute, was identical with that which had occupied his thoughts on the ferry-boat.
"Been rainin' steady for nearly two weeks," interrupted the settler. "Hub-deep everywhere. It's a good twenty-five or thirty mile from Crawfordsville to Lafayette. Looks like more rain, too. I think she'll be on us in about two minutes. I guess mebby we c'n find a place fer you to sleep to-night, and we c'n give you somethin' fer man an' beast.
The dilapidated house and barn had given place to modern buildings; apple, pear, and peach-trees, covered with fragrant blossoms were substituted for their decayed and skeleton prototypes; the narrow, crooked, muddy lane, where horses and wagons had struggled through the knee-deep, and often hub-deep sticky clay, had become a firm and fairly straight highway.
I should say it took about ten minutes for the first of them to reach the dirt road, where our autos stood hub-deep in mud, and by that time we had shoved and pulley-hauled them into movement, our engines making as much row as a nest of machine-guns as they struggled against the strain. We didn't want to be swamped under that tide of fugitives. But they took no notice of us.
Roads which are good for "narrow-gauge" Russian sleds in the winter when frozen and packed with several feet of snow, are often impassable even on foot in the summer. And dirt or corduroy roads which are good in dry summer or frozen winter are impassable or hub-deep in mud in the spring and in the fall rainy season.
By now the roads were quagmires, and the unceasing current of traffic had thickened and slowed down until Gray's car rocked and plunged through a hub-deep channel of slime.
The road was through a narrow lane, hub-deep with mud, and what, with stalling and resting, we were more than half an hour getting to the hotel. My fellow passenger was about my age, and was a shrewd, well-informed native of the vicinity. He knew the mineral, timber and agricultural resources, was evidently an enterprising business man and an intelligent but not voluble talker.
The troops under the command of General O. M. Mitchel were encamped between Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, Tennessee, after a march from Nashville through a steady drizzle of rain. It had been a dreary, tedious march, made worse by long detours to avoid burnt bridges, detours over roads where the heavy wagons of the army sank hub-deep in the glue-like mud.
The seat was upholstered, high-backed, and comfortable; and Billy raved about the wonders of the efficient brake. He trotted the team along the hard county road to show the standard-going in them, and put them up a steep earthroad, almost hub-deep with mud, to prove that the light Belgian sire was not wanting in their make-up.
I felt the blanket, weighted down, slowly settle over me. Suddenly as it had come, the sandstorm passed. It left a changed world for us. The trail was covered; the wheels hub-deep in sand; the horses, walking sand dunes. I could not close my teeth without grating harshly on sand.