Then he bore down on the accelerator slab. Funny, he did not meet another single car in the remaining three mile run! And as he swung up at the ranch-house he grimly confirmed his earlier guess. The fire was at the new house he had just seen completed.
A half barrel of tar had been left standing near a corner, and it was from this that the blaze had started-probably someone in passing, had carelessly thrown a cigarette butt into the sun-heated tar. And the fire had got to roaring good-had reached up and smoked and scorched the eaves of the new house a little, and then had somehow petered out.
The Red Bullet was parked beside the road ; and around the corner, presently, came the two riders, one of them carrying an empty pail.
“Hello, Mr. Belton!” sang out one of them-he with the pail. “We got here just in time, I guess-slammed a door down on top of that tar barrel, and then grabbed up this lime-pail and busted into the cellar and filled it with water and doused the side of your house just as the fire was starting under the gutter. If we hadn’t been coming along just then, I’m afraid you’d ‘a’ been around just right to see the roof cave in.”
Thad Belton did a little clear thinking on his way back to Plainton; and as he thought, the cloud of uncertainty seemed to dispel itself. He grinned a bit, as he turned in at the Motor Mart and ran the roadster around into its back yard, when he caught himself noticing that the sun shone. He had found one factor at least that was out of balance in his scheme of things; and he whistled a bit as he strode in and cornered Bill Denman in the office.
“It’s busted,” he averred.
Bill reached up and twisted a mustache and awaited explanations.
“You don’t say!” he interjected, “And where do I come in?”
“You’re getting a present I” vouchsafed Thad, grinning. “You see, it’s this way: that house I built out to the A.L.B. ranch got afire right where I could see it-from behind a traffic jam. And, you know, two of those rapscallions you sold a Red Bullet to went and whizzed right through the hole and got out there and put that fire out while I was tied up not able to turn a wheel. I figure that Red Bullet thing saved me just four thousand dollars, and perhaps a contract or two. And then I got to thinking. Here, these two or three years, I’ve been carting around-fifteen miles to the gallon-a juggernaut with a ton of surplus poundage just to carry my person around amongst my projects. It fair makes me squirm to think of it. And all the way in, over that cement road, as the laps went by underneath, that old roadster just rumbled, “Two thousand pounds of junk: two thousand pounds of junk!”
“Now you can trot out one of those twin cylinder Red Bullets, that weighs down to something appropriate, and that will snake two men through a traffic hole less than a yard wide, and you can have that vee-hickle out there in your back lot.
“Wall, that’s where an ill wind blowed me somethin’,” observed Bill, grinning as he led the way into the show-room.
But Thad Belton was too much pleased with himself to notice: he was trimming out waste that upset balance in a neat and efficient scheme of things.