"Because today is Thursday," put in the Master. "And that means tomorrow will be Friday."
"And on Friday," added the Mistress, "there's going to be a beautiful surprise for you, Cyril. We can't tell you what it is, but--"
"Why can't you tell me?" urged the child. "Aw, go ahead and tell me! I think you might."
The Master had gone over to the nearest window; and was staring out into the gray-black dusk. Mid-winter gripped the dead world; and the twilight air was deathly chill. The tall naked treetops stood gaunt and wraithlike against a leaden sky.
To the north, the darkness was deepest. Evil little puffs of gale stirred the powdery snow into myriads of tiny dancing white devils. It had been a fearful winter, thus far; colder than for a score of years; so cold that many a wild woodland creature, which usually kept far back in the mountains, had ventured down nearer to civilization for forage and warmth.
Deer tracks a-plenty had been seen, close up to the gates of the Place. And, two days ago, in the forest, half a mile away, the Master had come upon the half-human footprints of a young bear. Starvation stalked abroad, yonder in the white hills. And need for provender had begun to wax stronger among the folk of the wilderness than their inborn dread of humans.
"There's a big snowstorm coming up," ruminated the Master, as he scanned the grim weather-signs. "A blizzard, perhaps. I--I hope it won't delay any incoming steamers. I hope at least one of them will dock on schedule. It--"
He turned back from his musings, aware for the first time that a right sprightly dialogue was going on. Cyril was demanding for the eighth time: