As Hartley plodded through the muddy barnyard preparing to do his afternoon chores, he noticed that a car was parked at the side of the road. The car was obviously in distress. Otherwise, no man so well-dressed would have been tinkering with it in the rain. The man was clearly no mechanic. He desperately plodded from the raised hood back to the car seat to try the starter, then back to the hood again.
When Hartley finished his chores and closed the barn, it was almost dark. The car was still there. So he took a flashlight and walked down the road. The man was sort of startled and disturbed when Hartley came up to him, but he seemed anxious enough for Hartley’s help. It took only a few minutes for Hartley to spot the trouble.
“It’s your coil,” Hartley told him.
“But it couldn’t be that!” he blurted. “I just installed a new one only about a month ago.” He was a young man at around twenty-one.
“Well, it’s like this,” Hartley said. “Coils are pretty touchy. Sometimes they’ll last for years. Then again sometimes they’ll go out in a matter of hours. Let’s pull the car up into the barn. Then we’ll try the coil from my car. If that works, I know a guy down at the corner who’ll sell you one.”
Hartley was right. With the coil from his car in place, the motor started right off. They then drove down the road and bought the new coil. They had just finished changing the coil when Hartley’s wife, Jane, came out to the barn. “Supper’s ready,” she announced. Then, turning to the strange young man and said, “You come in and eat too.”
“Oh, but I couldn’t,” the young man protested. “I’ve got to get going. No, I just can’t stay.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Hartley said. “How long will it take you to eat? Besides, no one comes to our house at mealtime and leaves without eating.”
Still protesting, the young man allowed himself to be led off to the house. During the meal, he seemed fidgety and barely picked at his food. Once the meal was over, he got quickly to his feet, announcing that he must be on his way.
“Now, look here,” Jane said, and she glanced at Hartley for support. “It’s still pouring out there. Your clothes are all wet, and you can’t help being cold. I’ll bet you’re tired too; you must have driven for long time today. Stay with us tonight. Tomorrow you can start out warm and dry and all rested.”
Hartley nodded slightly at her. It isn’t always advisable to take in strangers that way. But he liked this young man and felt that he could be trusted.
The young man reluctantly agreed to stay the night. Jane sent him to bed and hung his clothes to dry by the fire. Next morning she pressed them and gave him a nice breakfast. This meal he ate with relish. It seemed he was more settled that morning, not so restless as he had been. He thanked Hartley and Jane profusely before he left.
But when he started away, an odd thing happened. He had been headed down the valley the night before. But when he left, he headed back the opposite direction. Hartley wondered about this, but decided the young man had just been confused and made a wrong turn.
[To be continued …]