BY LLOYD OSBOURNE
CONTENTS: THE MOTORMANIACS THE GREAT BUBBLE SYNDICATE COAL OIL JOHNNY JONES
"It's jolly to get you off by yourself," I said as we wandered away from the rest of the party.
"Then you are not afraid of an engaged girl," she observed "Everybody else seems to be."
"I am made of sterner stuff," I said. "Besides, I am dying to know all about it."
"All about what?"
"What you found to like in Gerard Malcolm, and what Gerard Malcolm found to like in you, and what he said and what you said and what the Englishman said, and how it all happened generally."
"What you want to know would fill a book."
"You speak as if you mean it to be a sealed one."
"I don't see exactly what claim you have to be a reader."
"Well, I was the first person to love you," I said. "Surely that ought to count for something. It didn't last long, I know, but it was a wild business while it did. When I discovered you were just out for scalps—"
"And when I discovered you were the most conceited, monopolizing, jealous, troublesome and exacting man that ever lived, and that I was expected to play kitten while you did demon child—"
"Oh, of course, it was a mistake," I said quickly. "The illusion couldn't be kept up on either side. We only, really got chummy after we called it off."
"The trouble was that we were both scalpers, and when we decided to let each other alone—in that way, I mean—we built up a pleasant professional acquaintance on the ashes of the dead fires."
"Can't you make it a little warmer than acquaintance?" I protested.
"It was a real fellow feeling—whatever you choose to call it," she conceded. "You wanted to talk about yourself, and I wanted to talk about myself, and without any self-flattery I think I can say we found each other very responsive."
"I've rather a memory that you got the best of the bargain."
"There were hours and hours when I couldn't get a word in edgewise."
"And there were whole days and days—" I began.
"Now, don't let's work up a fuss," she said sweetly. "We won't have so many more talks together, and anyway it isn't professional etiquette for us to fight."
"Who wants to fight?" I said. "I never was that kind of Indian."
"Then let's begin where we left off."
"It used to be all Harry Clayton then," I remarked.
"Was it as long ago as that?" she asked. "Oh, dear, how time passes!"
"He joined the great majority, I heard."
"Oh, yes, he's married," she said. "He wasn't any good at all. What can you do with a person who has scalps to burn?"
"That kind of thing discourages an Indian," I remarked.
"It robs the thing of all its zip, but I suppose there's a Harry Clayton kind of girl, Loo."
"The woods are full of them."
"I am almost glad I've decided to bury the tomahawk."
"And leave me the last of the noble race?"
"You'll have to whoop alone."
"I'll often think of you in your log cabin with the white man," I said. "On winter nights I'll flatten my nose against the window-pane and have a little peek in; next day you'll recognize my footsteps in the snow."
"I'd be sure to know them by their size."
"I'm going to take ten dollars off your wedding present for that"
"It was one of our rules we could say anything we liked."
"It was a life of savage freedom. It takes one a little time to get into it again."
"You used to say things, too."
"I can't remember saying anything as horrid as that."
"Well, you couldn't, you know," she said, and put out the tip of a little slipper.
"I thought all the while it was to be Captain Cartwright—that Englishman with the eyeglass."
"I thought so, too."
"I read of the engagement in the papers, and I can not recollect that it was ever contradicted or anything."
"Oh, it wasn't," she said. "Ax least, not till later—lots later."
"I suppose I ought to hurriedly talk about something else," I remarked.
"You needn't feel like that at all," she returned. "The captain and I are very good friends—only be doesn't play in my yard any more."
"I can't remember Gerard Malcolm very well," I went on. "Wasn't he rather tall and thin, with a big nose and a hidden-away sister who was supposed to be an invalid?"
"That's one way of describing him."
"I'd rather like to hear yours."
"Oh, I'm quite silly about him."
"That must have happened later," I said. "It certainly didn't show at the time."
"Everything must have a beginning, you know."
"That's what I want to get at,—what made you get a transfer from the captain?"
"It all happened through an automobile," she said.
"Oh, an automobile!" I exclaimed.
"It was an awfully up-to-date affair altogether!"
"I suppose it ran away and he caught it by the bridle at the risk of his life?"
"No, he didn't stop it," she said. "He made it go."
"It isn't everybody can do that with an automobile."
"You ought to have seen the poor captain turn the crank!" she exclaimed, with a little laugh of recollection.
"So the captain was there, too?" I said. "He never struck me as the kind of man that could make anything go, exactly."
"Oh, he didn't," she said.
"I am surprised that he even tried."
"But Gerard is a perfectly beautiful mechanic. You ought to see how respectful they are to him at the garage—especially, when there's a French car in trouble."
"They are respectful to me, too."
"That's only because you're rich," she returned.
"I own a French car and drive it myself," I said, "and—but I see there's no use of my saying anything."
"It's genius with Gerard," she said. "It makes one solemn to think how much he knows about gas engines."
"So that's how he did it!" I observed. "Different men have different ways to charm, I suppose. I don't remember that looks were his long suit."
"If you were a woman, that would be called catty."
"Oh, I don't want to detract from him," I said. "He used to dance with wall-flowers and they said he was an angel to his sister."
"It was that sister who was the real trouble," she said meditatively.
"What had she to do with it?" I asked.
"Oh, just being there—being his sister—being an invalid, yon know."
"No, I don't know, at all."
"The trouble is, I'm telling you the end of the story first."
"Let's start at the very beginning."
"In real life beginnings and middles and ends of things are all so jumbled up."
"When I went away," I said, "everybody thought it was Harry Clayton, with the Englishman as a strong second, and there wasn't any Malcolm about it."
"Do yon remember the flurry in Great Westerns?" she asked.
"That's surely the beginning of something else," I remarked,
"No, it's the beginning of this."
I've a faint memory they jumped up to something tremendous, didn't they?"
"It was the biggest thing of its kind ever seen on Wall Street."
"Wall Street!" I exclaimed. "The voice is Jess Hardy's, but—"
"Well, you can't buy a Manton car without a little trouble."
"Or twenty-five hundred dollars in a certified check."
"It's nearer three thousand, with acetylene lamps, top, baskets, extra tires, French tooter, freight, insurance, extra tools and a leather coat."
"You've got the thing down fine," I said. "You speak like a folder."
"Well, I didn't have any three thousand dollars," she continued, undisturbed; "all I had was an allowance of a hundred a month, a grand piano, a horse (you remember my, blood mare, Gee-whizz?) a lot of posters, and a father."
"He seems to me the biggest asset of the lot," I observed.
"I thought so, too, till I tried him," she said. "He had the automobile fever, too—only the negative kind—wanted to shoot them with a gun."
"Surely it's dangerous enough already, without adding that."
"For a time I didn't know what to do," she went on. "I thought I'd have to try the stage, or write one of those Marie Bashkirtseff books that shock people into buying them by thousands—and whenever I saw a Manton on the road my eyes would almost pop out of my head. Then, when I was almost desperate, Mr. Collenquest came on a visit to papa."
"I see now why you said Wall Street," I remarked.
"Mr. Collenquest is an old friend of papa's," she continued. "They were at the same college, and both belonged to what they call 'the wonderful old class of seventy-nine,' and there's nothing in the world papa wouldn't do for Mr. Collenquest or Mr. Collenquest for papa. I had never seen him before and had rather a wild idea of him from the caricatures in the paper—you know the kind—with dollar-signs all over his clothes and one of his feet on the neck of Honest Toil. Well, he wasn't like that a bit—in fact, he was more like a bishop than anything else and the only thing he ever put his foot on was a chair when he and papa would sit up half the night talking about the wonderful old class of seventy-nine. Papa is rather a quiet man ordinarily, but that week it seemed as though he'd never stop laughing; and I'd wake up at one o'clock in the morning and hear them still at it. Of course, they had long serious talks, too, and Mr. Collenquest was never so like a bishop as when the conversation turned on stocks and Wall Street. When he boomed out things like 'the increasing tendency of associated capital in this country,' or 'the admitted financial emancipation of the Middle West,'—you felt somehow you were a better girl for having listened to him. What he seemed to like best—besides sitting up all night till papa was a wreck—was to take walks. He was as bad about horses as papa was about automobiles—and of course papa had to go, too —and naturally I tagged after them both—and so we walked and walked and walked.
"Well, one day they were talking about investments, and stocks, and how cheap money was, and how hard it was to know what to do with it, and I was picking wild-flowers and wondering whether I'd have my Manton red, or green with gilt stripes, when I heard something that brought me up like an explosion in the muffler.
"'I know you are pretty well fixed, Fred,' said Mr. Collenquest, 'but I never knew a man yet who couldn't do with forty or fifty thousand more.'
"'I don't care to get it that way, Bill,' said my father.
"'I tell you Great Western is going to reach six hundred and fifty,' said Mr. Collenquest.
"I picked daisies fast, but if there ever was a girl all ears, it was I.
"'I am giving you a bit of inside information that's worth millions of dollars,' said Mr. Collenquest in that solemn tone that always gave me the better-girl feeling.
"'My dear old chap,' said papa, 'I don't want you to believe I am not grateful for this sort of proof of your friendship; and you mustn't think, because I have strong convictions, that I arrogate any superior, virtue to myself. Every man must be a law to himself. I have never speculated and I never will.'
"Mr. Collenquest heaved a regular bishop's sigh, and stopped and put one foot on a log as though it was a toiler.
"'This isn't speculation, Fred,' he said. 'This is a fact, because I happen to be rigging the market myself.'
"'I don't care to do it,' said my, father, as firmly as before.
"'If it's just being a little short of ready money,' said Mr. Collenquest, 'well—my purse is yours, you know—from one figure to six.'
"My father only shook his head.
"'I said fifty thousand,' said Mr. Collenquest, 'but there is nothing to prevent your adding another naught to it.
"'It's speculating,' said my father.
"'Well, I'm sorry,' said Mr Collenquest. 'I'm getting pretty far into the forties now, Fred, and I don't think the world holds anything dearer to me than a few old friends like yourself.' He put out his hand as he spoke, and papa took it. It was awfully affecting. I looked as girly-girly as I could, lest they should catch me listening, and picked daisies harder than ever.
"'Of course, this is sacredly confidential,' said Mr. Collenquest, 'but I know you'll let it go no farther, Fred.'
"'My word on that,' said my father in his grand, gentleman-of -the-old-school way.
"Then they started to walk again, and though I felt a little sneak right down to my shoes, I listened and listened for anything more. But they wandered off into the Pressed Steel Car Company, till it got so tiresome I ached all over.
"That night I didn't do anything, because I wanted to think it ever; but the next morning I went to papa and asked him point-blank if I might sell Gee-whizz if I wanted go. He looked very grave, and talked a lot about what a good horse Gee-whizz was, and how hard I'd find it to replace her. But it was one of papa's rules that there shouldn't be any strings to his presents to me—that's the comfort of having a thoroughbred for your father, you know—and ever since I was a little child he had always told me what was mine was mine to do just what I liked with. He's the whitest father a girl ever had. But he spoke to me beautifully in a sort of man-to-man way, and was perfectly splendid in not asking any questions. If he hadn't been such a bubble-hater, I'd have thrown my arms round his neck and told him everything. So I let it go at promising him the refusal of the mare in case I decided to sell her.
"Then I kited after Mr. Collenquest, whom I found in a hammock, reading a basketful of telegrams.
"'Oh, don't get up,' I said (because he was always a most punctilious old fellow). 'The fact is, I just wanted to have a little business talk with you.'
"'Oh, a business talk,' he said, in a be-nice-to-the-child tone.
"'Yes,' I said, 'I thought I might perhaps take a little flyer in Great Westerns.'
"You ought to have seen him leap out of that hammock. I quaked all over, like Honest Labor in the pictures.
"He smothered an awful bad swear and turned as pale as a white Panhard.
"'Little girl,' he said, 'you've been listening to things you had no right to hear.'
"'I didn't mean to listen,' I said. 'Really and truly, Mr. Collenquest, I didn't—'
"'You were forty feet away picking wildflowers,' he said.
"'You didn't realize how badly I wanted a Manton,' I said.
"'A Manton!' he cried out. 'What in heaven's name is a Manton?'
"It's awful to think how little some people know! I'm sure he thought it was something to wear.
"I explained to him what a Manton is.
"'And so you must have a Manton,' he said.
"'Did you ever want anything so bad that it kept you awake at night?' I asked him.
"He looked at me a long time without saying a word. He was one of the kings of Wall Street and I was only a five-foot-three girl, and I felt such a little cad when I saw his hands were trembling.
"'Jess,' he said, 'if you chose to do it you could half ruin me. You could shake some of the biggest houses in New York; you could drive the Forty-fourth National Bank into the hands of a receiver. You could start a financial earthquake.'
"And he looked at me again a long time.
"'The point is,' he began once more, 'are you strong enough to keep such a secret? Have you the character to do it—the grit—the determination?'
"'Just watch me!' I said.
"I thought it was a good sign that he smiled.
"'Just keep this to yourself for one month,' he said, 'and I'll send you the biggest, the reddest, the most dangerous, noisy, horse-frightening, man-destroying, high-stepping, high-smelling —what do you call it—Manton?—in the whole United States.'
"'Oh, Mr. Collenquest, I couldn't do that,' I said.
"Then he got frightened all over again.
"'Why not?' he demanded. 'Why not?
"'I wouldn't put a price on my secrecy,' I said. 'That wasn't what I meant at all, only I thought you might be good-natured enough to let me in on the deal—with a margin on Gee-whizz, you know.'
"'I suppose I am getting old,' he said, 'and getting stupid—but would you mind explaining to me what you want in words of one syllable?'
"'You wanted to put papa on a good thing,' I said. 'He wouldn't have it, so I thought you might pass it along to me,
"'You seem to have passed it along to yourself,' he remarked, a bit ironically.
"'It's a very small matter to you,' I pleaded, 'but it's a whole Manton to me.'
"'And the shock nearly killed father,' he said, mopping his bishop forehead.
"'I can make papa give me four hundred and fifty dollars for Gee-whizz,' I said; 'and the question is, is that enough?'
"'Enough for what?' he asked.
"'For a Manton, of course,' I said.
"'Would you mind putting it in figures instead of gasoline?' he said, laughing as though he had made an awfully good joke. I laughed, too—just to humor him.
"'Well,' I said, 'with acetylene lamps, top, baskets, extra tires, French tooter, freight, insurance, spare tools and a leather coat—say three thousand.'
"'I can double that for you,' he said.
"'I don't want one cent more,' I said. That was just my chance to shine—and I shined.
"He made a note of it in his pocketbook.
"'That's settled,' he said.
"'Not till I've said one thing more,' I remarked, 'and that is, I shan't be horrid if the thing goes the wrong way. My dressmaker once put a hundred dollars in an oil company, and the oil company man was surer than you—and yet it went pop. I can easily tease my mare back from papa.'
"He lay back again in the hammock and laughed, and laughed, and laughed.
"'Oh, Jess Hardy,' he said, 'you'll be the death of me!'—and he laughed as though it was at one of his own jokes.
"'I'd hate to make a vacancy in the wonderful old class of seventy-nine,' I said.
"'Now, I want to say something, too,' he said, getting serious again. 'If you have a pet minister who can't afford a holiday, or you want to help that dressmaker pay off her mortgage, or give a boost to a poor family who have had diphtheria—don't you think to help them by tipping off Great Western Preferred. That sort of charity may sound cheap, but it's likely to cost me hundreds of thousands. Let me know, and I'll send them checks.'
"'Don't you worry about me,' I said.
"'I am told you are engaged to an Englishman,' he said; 'an Embassy man at Washington. You aren't making any kind of mental reservation in his case, are you?'
"'He's the last person I tell anything to,' I said. 'That is, —anything important, you know.'
"'Then, Miss Jess Hardy,' he said, with his eyes twinkling as though he were giving an Apostolic benediction at a Vanderbilt wedding, 'if you'll bring me your four-fifty we'll close the deal.'
"'Perhaps it would be as well to leave papa out of this,' I hinted. 'I mean about telling him anything, you know'
"'Oh, distinctly,' he said. 'Fred's a bit old-fashioned and we must respect his prejudices. Wait till you get him on the cowcatcher of your Manton, anti then break it to him gently.'
"'And, Mr. Collenquest,' I said, 'if you should really think it awfully low and horrid of me to do this—I won't do it.'
"'My dear little girl,' he returned, 'get that out of your head right here. I hope your car will prove everything you want it to be, and the same with your Englishman, and I'm only too grateful that it wasn't a steam yacht you had set your heart on, or a palace on the Hudson.'
"There isn't much more to be said about this part of the afair. Papa paid me four-fifty for Gee-whizz, and I handed the check to Mr. Collenquest, and Mr. Collenquest went away, and then the market began to turn bullish (isn't that the word?) and Great Western went up with a whoop, and it got whoopier and whoppier; and whenever anybody was certain it had reached the top-notch it would take another kick skyward, and it went on jumping and jumping till finally there came a letter from Mr. Collenquest with a check for three thousand five hundred dollars, saying I must have forgotten about buying Gee-whizz back again, and that he had taken the liberty of exceeding my instructions about selling till my shares had touched that figure. Then one morning, as we were at breakfast, a great big splendid Manton car—my car—came whisking up the drive and stopped in front of the house, and the expert—they had thrown him in for a week for nothing—him and an odometer and an ammeter, and a new kind of French spark-plug they wanted me to try—and a gasoline tester —the Mantons are such nice people to deal with in all those little ways—and the expert sent in word: would Miss Hardy come out and see her new car? And, of course, Miss Hardy, went out, and Mr. Hardy went out, and my, aunt went out, and the five guests that were staying with us went out, and the servants went out—and you never saw such a mix-up in all your life, nor such excitement and hurrah-boys generally. For papa was ordering it off the place, and I was explaining about Great Western Preferred, and my aunt was trying to make us listen about a friend who had been burned to death with a gasoline stove, and the guests were taking my part and fighting for the first ride, and the expert was showing off the double vertical cylinders, and explaining splash lubrication to the butler, whom he must have mistaken for papa, and—
"When it had settled down a bit and the battle-smoke drifted away and showed who had won—which was me, naturally—and I had promised aunt to be, oh, so careful, and papa that I'd cross my heart never to go into stocks again, and rides, of course, to the guests, and everything to everybody—then they all went back to breakfast while I had mine brought out on the veranda—mine and the expert's—and I guess I talked four speeds ahead while he ate his on the low gear—for he had come ninety miles and wasn't much of a talker at any time—and I just sat there and gloated over my Manton.
"We had a perfectly delirious week together—the expert and I —for the Manton turned out perfectly splendid and everything they said it was, except for the rear tires blowing up three times, and a short circuit in the coil owing to a faulty condenser; and though it was all I could do to hold it down on the low speeds, you ought to have seen me on the forty-mile clip—till they said I'd have to go to prison for the next offense without the option of a fine. The expert was one of the nicest men you ever saw, and we used to take off cylinder heads, and adjust cams, and spend hours knocking everything to pieces and putting them together again so that I might be prepared for getting on without him. He said he hated to think of that time, and what do you suppose he did? I was lying under the machine at the time, studying the differential, while he was jacking up an axle. Proposed, positively. I dropped a nut and a cotter pin out of my mouth, I was so astonished. We talked it over for about five minutes through one of the artillery, wheels, and I must say he took it beautifully. I wanted to be nice to him, because he had been so patient in explaining things, and never got tired of being asked the same question fifty times. He wiped his eyes with some cotton waste and told me that even if years were to pass and oceans and continents divide us, I had only to say 'come' and he'd come—that is, if I ever got into real trouble with the Manton.
"When it came to saying good-by to him I let him take my cap as a keepsake and accepted a dynamo igniter that he guaranteed not to burn out the wires (though that's exactly what it did a week afterward) and it was all too sad for anything. The governor, you know, that was attached to the igniter, got stuck somehow, and of course the current just sizzled up the plug. Then, when I had been running the machine for about a week and doing splendidly with it, Captain Cartwright turned up from Washington. I suppose I wasn't so pleased as I ought to have been to see him, for though we were engaged and all that, there were wheels within wheels and—you know how silly girls are and what fool things they do, and Gerard Malcolm and the captain, to make matters worse, talked a whole streak about good form, and how in England they always walked their automobites, and how hateful anything like speeding (and going to jail) was to a real English lady, and 'Oh, my dear, would the Queen do it?' Can't you hear him? It goaded me into saying awful things back, and when I took him out for his first spin, as grumpy as only an Englishman can be after you've insulted him from his hat to his boots, I just opened the throttle, threw in the high clutch, and let her go. There were some things I liked about the captain, and the best was that he didn't scare easy. He just folded his arms and never wiggled an eyelash while I took some of the grades like the Empire State Express.
"I knew he was boiling inside, in spite of his calm, British, new-washed look, for I hadn't let him kiss me or anything, and nobody, however brave he is, welcomes the idea of being squashed under a ton of old iron. You see I was in a perfectly vicious humor, thinking what an awful mistake I had made, and what a little fool I had been, and how if it had only been Gerard Malcolm—and while my hands were clenched on the steering-wheel I could see the mark of his horrid ring' sticking through my gauntlets, and I wouldn't have cared two straws if I had blown up a tire just then, and driven head-foremost through a stone wall.
"I had given him about eighteen miles of this sort of thing when the right-hand cylinder began to miss a little. Then, after a while, the left started to skip, too. I stopped under a tree to look for the trouble and pulled up the bonnet. The spark-plugs were badly carbonized, and when I had seen to them and had put the captain on the crank, we could only get explosions at intervals. There was good compression; everything was lubricating nicely; no heating or sticking anywhere—but the engine had lain down on us. The captain was so angry he wouldn't speak a word to me, and mumbled red-hot things to himself under his breath. Guess how I felt. But he was too much of a gentleman not to crank—and so he cranked and cranked and still nothing happened. I chased a whole row of things one after another—battery, buzzer, oil or gasoline in the cylinders, defective insulation, commutator, water in the carburettor, choked feed-pipe,—and all it did was to cough in a dreary, tow-me-home-to-mother sort of way,
"If the captain had known anything about engines and could have made it start, I expect I would have married him and lived happy ever afterward. It was just his Heaven-sent chance to win out and show he was the right man for the place. But he didn't know enough to run a phonograph and began to talk about getting towed home, and how if he ever bought a machine it would be electric. If I had been out of patience with him before, imagine what I felt then! He said he knew all the time I was driving too fast and hurting something, and thought he had proved it by the cylinders being hot—as though they aren't always hot. It was awful how stupid he was and helpless and disagreeable. He couldn't even crank properly and the engine back-fired on him and hurt his hand. Finally I got so desperate that I sat down and cried, while he nursed his hand and said we ought to desert the machine and go home, and that papa would be anxious if we didn't turn up to lunch. I knew all the time he was talking about his lunch. You don't know what an Englishman is if he isn't fed regularly, and it was now after one and we were eighteen miles from High Court.
"But I wasn't the girl to give up the ship. As long as there weren't any fractures or things stuck together I knew the expert could have made it go—and if the expert, why not I? If the captain hadn't flurried me with all the silly things he said, I believe I would have ferreted out the trouble all right. But I was so cross and tired and disgusted that my brain was stalled as well as the Manton, and so I gave up for a little while and wouldn't even answer the captain when he spoke to me.
"Oh, yes, we were pigs, both of us, he in his way and I in mine; and the sun went down and down, and it didn't make me feel any better to think that I was smudged all over with grease, and that my hands and nails were something awful—while if ever there was a galley-slave at the oar, it was the Honorable John Vincent Cartwright cranking.
"We went on in this way till nearly four o'clock, when what should we hear coming along the road but a buggy, and who should be in that buggy but Gerard Malcolm with an actressy-looking girl! I wasn't over-pleased at the girl part of it, but it did my heart good to see Gerard. He drew up alongside the Manton and leaped out of the buggy, so splendid and handsome and cool and masterful, with a glisten in his eye which said: 'Bring on your gas-engine!'—that I loved him harder than ever, and could have almost torn the captain's ring off my finger. He didn't waste any time saying how-do-you-do, but just asked this and that and dived in. Then he pegged away for about five minutes, wiped his hands, took his bat that the captain had been holding, and said: 'Gears!'
"'It'll take me about two hours to break them loose,' he said, 'and so if Miss Stanton wouldn't mind trading escorts, and if the captain would take the buggy, I think Miss Hardy and I had better stay by the machine.'
"Miss Stanton didn't look nearly so pleased as the captain; but when Gerard said again he positively couldn't manage it under two hours, and I snubbed her when she proposed towing, and when the captain brightened up and made a good impression—he was so excited, poor fellow, at the chance of getting away—that it all came right, and they drove off cheerfully together. When they had quite disappeared, Gerard threw down the wrench he had in his hand, and said we'd now have that talk he had been trying to get with me for the past month.
"'We'll do the gears first, thank you,' I said.
"'Gears!' he exclaimed, 'there's nothing the matter with the gears. I thought you were chauffeur enough for that'
"'But you said—' I began.
"I can make this car move in five minutes,' he said, climbing into the tonneau and motioning with his hand for me to take the other seat.
"Of course I obeyed him. I didn't want to, but somehow when Gerard wants a thing I always do it. They say every woman finds her master, and though I hate to admit it even to myself, I suppose Gerard is mine. But I hid it all I could and I dare say I was pretty successful. It care all the easier because Gerard himself was kind of embarrassed, and he colored up and stammered while I sat in the tonneau, waiting for him to begin.
"'I thought you said you were going to talk,' I said.
"'Jess,' he said, 'my sister is going to get married.'
"Now, this was news, indeed. She was lots old older than Gerard —forty years old, if a day—and a chronic invalid. I don't know exactly what was the matter with her, but she had a bad complexion, and used to stick pretty tight is the house, and was always absorbed in church work. She had snappy black eyes, and Gerard couldn't call his soul his own. They kept house together, you know, and had been orphans ever since they were little.
"'Oh, married!' I said, pretending to be little interested.
"'It's Mr. Simpson, the curate,' he said.
"It seemed rude to be too surprised, so I just rattled off some of the usual congratulations. Gerard didn't say a word. He simply looked and looked, and there was something beautiful to me in his shame and backwardness and hesitation.
"'It's very unexpected,' he blurted out at last. 'I thought I was going to take care of her always. It is going to make a great difference in my life.'
"'I know how you always devoted yourself to her,' I said.
"'I had made up my mind never to marry,' he went on. 'How could I marry?—for it would have been like turning her out of doors. She was too ill and helpless and despondent to live by herself, and had I brought a third person into the family it would have been misery all round.'
"Still I said nothing.
"'Jess,' he said suddenly, 'don't you understand? Can't you understand?'
"In fact, I did understand very well. It explained a heap of things—why he had always acted so strangely—sometimes so devoted to me, sometimes so distant; crazy to hold my hand one day and avoiding me the next. It was no wonder he had made me utterly desperate and piqued me into accepting the captain. Then he said: 'Jess, Jess!' like that; and 'for God's sake, was it too late?'
"I couldn't trust myself to speak and I could feel my lips trembling. I didn't sob or anything, but the tears just rolled down my cheeks. Wasn't it a dead giveaway? It's awful to care for a man as much as that. I thought it was splendid of him that he didn't try to kiss me. He simply took my hand and pulled off the captain's ring and said I had to give it back to him at once. Then I broke down altogether and began to cry like a baby, while Gerard got out and emptied the kerosene from the oil lamps into the exhaust valves. You see, pieces of scale from the inside of the cylinders had wedged against the exhaust-valve seats so that they wouldn't close tight, but leaked and leaked. Gerard said that new Mantons always feed too rich a mixture at first and that he knew what was the matter the moment he stuck his fingers in.
"We went home on the second speed so that Gerard could steer with one hand.
"Oh, the captain? He acted kind of miserable at first, and was awfully sarcastic about being a gentleman and not a gas-engineer. But I said the modern idea was to be both. He got himself transferred home and I really think it was the making of him—for what do you think happened last week? He won the nonstop London to Glasgow race on an eighteen horsepower Renault. I felt quite proud of him.
"He has asked Gerard and me and the Manton to spend a month with him in England when we go abroad. He said I'd probably be pleased to hear that he had made a lovely garage out of his ancestral Norman chapel. But I suppose that was just his English humor, you know. Anyway, we are the best of friends, and if I ever see him again I'll give him a double toot on my French horn."
"And what became of the curate and Gerard's sister?"
"Oh, they married and went into steam."
THE GREAT BUBBLE SYNDICATE
I suppose it was a fool arrangement, but anyway we did it; and Harry Prentiss, who is learning how to be a corporation lawyer and has specialized on contracts, spent a whole week making it what he called iron-clad. When it was typewritten it covered nine pages, and was so excessively iron-clad that nobody could understand it but Harry. He said it undoubtedly covered the ground, however, and would be worth all the trouble it cost him in the friction it would save afterward. You'd hardly know Harry as the same boy that played Yale full-back, he's grown so cynical and suspicious, and he's got that lawyer way of looking at you now, as though you were a liar and he was just about to pounce on you with the truth. I thought he might have brought Nelly and himself into the agreement under one head, considering he was engaged to her and they were only waiting to save a thousand dollars in order to get married; but he couldn't see it in that way at all, and spoke about people changing their minds, and how in law you must be prepared for everything (especially if it were disagreeable and unexpected) and put supposistious cases till Nelly broke down and cried.
They had got five hundred toward the thousand when they were both taken with automobile fever—and taken bad; and then they decided that, though marriage was all right, they were still young, and the bubble had the first call. Harry had been secretly taking the Horseless Age for three months, and as for Nelly—anybody with a four-cylinder tonneau could have torn her from her happy home. Not that she didn't love Harry tremendously. She was crazy about him—but crazier for a bubble. It's an infatuation like any other, only worse, and I guess I was no better than Nelly myself, for I used to ride regularly with Lewis Wentz and you know what Lewis Wentz is. And he only had a wheezy old steam carriage anyway, and sometimes blue flames would leap up all around you till you felt like a Christian martyr, and his boiler was always burning out when he'd try to hold my hand instead of watching the gage. You paid in every kind of way for riding with Lewis Wentz, and people talked about you besides—but I always went just the same. Oh, I know I ought to be ashamed to admit it, and I said to myself every time should be the last; yet he only had to double-toot at the front door for me to drop everything and run. This naturally made him awfully forward and troublesome, not to speak of complicating me with pa, who didn't approve of him the least bit, and who used to regale me with little talks beginning: "I would rather see you lying dead in your coffin," and winding up with, "Now, won't you promise your poor old dad?" till I was all broken up. But, as I said before, Lewis Wentz had only to toot for me to forget my old dad and the coffin and everything.
With only five hundred dollars to go on, Harry and Nelly, of course, had to look about for more capital; and that was why they chose me to go in with them. I didn't have any capital except a rich father, but I suppose they thought that was the same thing. People are so apt to—though I never found it the same thing at all. Then, too, Nelly and I were bosom friends, and they naturally wanted to give me the first chance. Their original plan had been to have the bubble held in four equal shares, taking in Morty Truslow as the fourth. I think there was a little scheme in that, too, for Morty and I hadn't spoken for three months, and it was all off between us. There was a time when I thought there was only one thing in the world, and that was Morty Truslow—but that was over for good, with nothing left of it but a great big ache. I can never be grateful enough to Mrs. Gettridge for putting me on to it, for, however much a girl cares for a man, her pride won't let her—and she was Josie's aunt, you know, and if anybody was on the inside track, she was—and I cut him dead and sent back his letters unopened, though he wrote and wrote—and it was awfully hard, you know, because I just had to grit my teeth together to keep from loving him to death. Nelly said I was just too proud and silly for anything, and pa looked as depressed as though there was another slump in Preferred Steel, and mama said he was such a catch that the first designing girl would snap him up, and Harry said you wouldn't know Morty now, he was so changed and different.
So that was how it was when Nelly and Harry started the Great Bubble Syndicate and wanted to take Morty and me into it as quarter share-holders each. But I wouldn't have joined in a heavenly chariot on those terms, and so we talked and talked till finally Morty was eliminated and we settled on a two-third and one-third basis. The next point was to choose the car, for it had to be a cheap car and we wanted to get the very best for our money. Harry said the Model E Fearless runabout at seven hundred and fifty was the bulliest little car on the market; and that the Fearless agent was so good and kind and looked so much like Henry Ward Beecher that you felt uplifted just to be with him; and that you knew instinctively that his car was sure to be the best car.
A picture of the Fearless settled the matter, for it was a real little beauty—long in the chassis and very low, with wood artillery wheels and guards and lamps thrown in for nothing. Harry said it had more power than it knew what to do with and was a bird on the hills, and that he had a friend who had a friend who owned one and swore by it. Afterward we met him and towed him nine miles, and what swearing he did was all the other way; however, I mustn't get ahead of the story, or anticipate, as they say in novels.
Getting two hundred and fifty dollars from pa was the next step, and of all my automobiling experiences it was certainly the worst. He couldn't see it at all, though I caught him after dinner and sat on the arm of his chair and rubbed my cheek against his like the sunny-haired daughter on the stage.
He ought to have reciprocated by doing angel parent, but he talked horse-sense instead; how he couldn't afford to buy me a whole car, and how in his experience divided ownership always ended in the people hating one another ever afterward, and how dangerous automobiling was anyway, and how much nicer it would be to have a beautiful little horse.
Then I gave him the iron-clad agreement. He put on his spectacles and read it, asking me not to breathe on his neck, as it tickled him. (How different real life is from the stage!) And he began to giggle at the second page; at the third he could hardly go on; and finally, when mama came in and asked what was the matter, he couldn't speak at all, but got up and stamped about the room till you thought he was going to have a fit. Then he sat down again and wiped his eyes and asked as a favor whether he mightn't have a copy for himself. I said I might possibly manage it if he would come down with the two hundred and fifty.
Then he got kind of serious again; asked if I didn't know any cheaper way of getting killed; said I might have appendicitis for the same money and be fashionable. When pa is in the right humor he can tease awfully, and that agreement had set him off worse than I had ever remembered. But I stuck to my bubble and wasn't to be guyed out of the idea, and finally he lit a cigar and started, in to bargain.
Pa is the worst old skinflint in Connecticut, and never even gave me a bag of peanut candy without getting a double equivalent. First of all, I had to give up Lewis Wentz entirely; I wasn't to speak to him, or bow or bubble or dance or anything. I put up a good fight for Lewis Wentz—not that I cared two straws for him, now that I was going to have an automobile of my own, but just to head pa off from grasping for more. I didn't want to be eaten out of house and home, you know, and I guess I am too much pa's daughter to surrender more than I could help.
It was well I did so, for on top of that I had to promise never to ride in any car except my own, and then he branched off into my giving up coffee for breakfast, going to bed at ten, only one dance a week, wearing flannel in winter, minding my mother more, and Heaven only knows what all. But I said that Lewis Wentz alone was worth two hundred and fifty, and that I'd draw on the other things when I needed money for repairs. Then pa suddenly had a new notion and said he wanted to be in the thing, too; would take a quarter interest of his own; that we'd change the syndicate to fourths instead of thirds.
I was almost too thunderstruck to speak. Think of hearing pa saying he wished to buy in! It was like an evangelist wanting to take shares in the devil. I could only say "Pa!" like that, and gasp.
"I know I'm pretty old to change," he said. "But a fellow must keep up with the procession, you know. And I always liked the way they smell."
His eyes were dancing and I saw he meant mischief; but, after all, the bubble was assured now, and that was the great thing. It wasn't till up to that moment that I felt really safe.
"I read here in the agreement," he went on, "that the automobile is taken in rotation by every member of the syndicate; and that when it's my day it's my day, and nobody can say a word or use it themselves, even if I don't care to."
"That's how we'll save any possibility of friction," I returned. "For instance, to-day it is absolutely my car; to-morrow it's yours; day after to-morrow it is Harry's; the day after that it's Nelly's—and if anything breaks on your day it's up to you to pay for it."
"Oh, I'm not going to break anything," said pa with the satisfied look of a person who doesn't know anything about it.
"Don't you be too sure about that," I said. "I've been around enough with Lewis Wentz to know better."
"Well, you see," said pa, "that depends on how much you use your automobile. If you never take it out at all you eliminate most of the bothers connected with it."
"Never take it out at all?" I cried.
"On my day it stays in the barn," he said.
I began to see now what he was smiling at. Wasn't it awful of him? He simply meant to tie it up for a quarter of the time.
"Now, Virgie," he said, "you mustn't think that I am not stretching a point to promise you what I have. It's too blamed dangerous and you're all the little girl I have. Well, if you must do it, I am going to cut the risk by twenty-five per cent and my automobile days will be blanks."
I flared up at this. It's awful when your father wants to do something you're ashamed of. It was such a dog-in-the-manger idea, too, and so unsportsmanlike. But nothing could shake pa, though I tried and tried, and said things that ought to have pierced a rhinoceros. But pa ran for governor once, and his skin's thicker. I felt almost sorry we hadn't taken in Morty Truslow instead—not really, you know, but just for the moment.
"How can I tell Hairy and Nelly you're such a pig?" I said, half crying.
"I'm not a pig," said pa, "though now I'm the next thing to it —an automobilist. And, anyway, it's a straight business proposition. Take it or leave it."
"Pa," I said, "if you'll stay out of it altogether, I'll take it back about coffee for breakfast and not minding mama more."
"It's too late," he returned. "I've got the automobile fever now myself. For two cents I'd buy out Harry and Nelly and keep the red bug in the family."
Certainly pa has the most ingenious mind of anybody I know. He ought to have been in the Spanish Inquisition just to think up new torments. I don't wonder they like him so well on the Stock Exchange: he probably initiates new members and makes them ride goats. Anyway, nothing could change him about the automobile, and I closed the deal quick, lest he might carry out his other plan and absorb seventy-five per cent of the syndicate's stock.
The Fearless was even prettier than its picture, and there wasn't a runabout in town in the same class with it. Then our lessons began, which we took separately, because there was only room on the seat for two, and nobody wanted the other members of the syndicate to see him running into the curb or trying to climb trees. The agent turned out less like Henry Ward Beecher than Harry had thought, and it was sickening how he lost interest in us after he got his money. But he threw in a tooter for nothing and a socket-wrench, and in some ways lived up to the resemblance. He would not take me out himself, but gave me in charge of a weird little boy we called the Gasoline Child. The Gasoline Child was about thirteen, and was so full of tools that he rattled when he walked, and I guess his head rattled, too—he knew so much about gas engines. He was the greasiest, messiest, grittiest and oiliest little boy that ever defied soap; and Harry always declared he was an automobile variety of coddling-moth or Colorado beetle or june-bug, who would wind up by spinning a cotton-waste cocoon in the center of the machinery and hatch out a million more like himself. Perhaps he was too busy to start his happy home, for I never saw him at the garage but his little legs were sticking out of a bonnet, and you could hear him hammering inside and telling somebody to "Turn it over, will you?" or "Now, try it that way, Bill."
But with all the heaps he knew, the Gasoline Child was a good deal like the man who got rich by never spending anything. His knowledge was imbedded in him like gold in quartz; you could see it there all right, but couldn't take it out. He tried so hard to be helpful, too; would plunge his little paw into the greasy darkness below the seat and say:
"That's a nut you ought to remember now it works on the babbitt of the counter-shaft"—or something of the kind—"and you must see to it regular." Or, "Watch your valves, Miss, and be keerful they don't gum on you." Or, "Them commutators are often the seat of trouble, for oftentimes they wear down and don't break the spark right." When I'd grow dizzy with these explanations he would reassure me by saying that "I'd soon fall into it, like he did." But I didn't fall into it nearly so well as I could have wished. On the contrary, the more I learned the more intricate the whole thing seemed to grow, and I looked forward to taking the car out alone by myself with the sensations of a prisoner about to be guillotined. Not that I had lost heart in automobilism. The elation of those rides was delicious. The little car ran with a lightness that was almost like flying; it was as buoyant, swift and smooth as a glorified sledge; one awoke with joy to the fact that the world contained a new and irresistible pleasure.
The Gasoline Child soon taught me to run it for myself. With him by my side I was as brave as a lion, and I took the corners and shaved eternity in a way to make him gasp. He said he had never been really scared in an automobile before, and he used to look at me with a ready-to-jump expression, as though I were a baby playing with a gun. You see, I had graduated on Lewis Wentz's steamer and a twenty-mile clip didn't feaze me any, though there were times when I'd forget which things to pull, and this always seemed to rattle his little nerves. It was strange, however, what a coward I was when I first went out by myself. There was no devil left in me at all, and I was certainly the crawly-crawliest bubbler you ever saw, and I teetered at street-car crossings till everybody went mad. It might have been worse than it was, though, for the only real trouble I had was chipping the tail off a milk wagon and ramming a silly horse on Eighth Avenue. When his friends helped him up (he had been standing still at the time, and I had forgotten the low gear always started with a jump) they said his front legs were barked flve dollars' worth. I wouldn't have minded if he had got the five dollars, poor thing, for after ramming him once I became confused at the notoriety I attracted, and, instead of reversing, I threw in the highspeed clutch and rammed him some more. Oh, yes, he had some right to have a kick coming, though all he did was to look at me reproachfully and then lie down. He was an Italian vegetable horse, and from the way his friends vociferated they must have thought a lot of him.
Of course, Harry and Nelly were taking their lessons, too, and getting into their individual scrapes in the intervals of my getting into mine. Pa was the only stock-holder who never came to time, though he used to walk round to the garage on his day to make sure the bubble was at home. He was awfully mean about his rights and explained the syndicate principle to Mr. Hoover, the head of the establishment, and tipped right and left, so that there shouldn't be any doubt about the blanks being blanks. I tried to bluff Mr. Hoover once and take out the car on pa's day, but I bumped into a regular stone wall. Pa had given everybody there a typewritten schedule with his days marked in red ink, and the whole thing had become the joke of the garage, till even the wipers grinned when the foreman would call out: "Syndicate car there, for Miss Lockwood."
In fact, that car seemed to make everybody mean who was in the least way connected with it. I was a perfect pig myself, and Harry and Nelly were positively worse. It was one of our rules that the rider of the day should be answerable for any troubles or breakages that occurred when be (or she) was running the car. Naturally, there had to be some understanding of this kind, for personality counts a lot in automobiling, and often the chauffeur is more to blame than the machine. But it was awful what fibs it tempted us into, and how we were always "passing the buck," as they say in poker. Nelly got so treacherous that once she told me she didn't care to use the wagon that day, and would I like to? She had chewed up the bearings in a front wheel and if I hadn't suspected her generosity and taken a good look beforehand it would have cost me six dollars!
I guess I wasn't any better myself, and quite a coolness sprang up all around.
The repair bills came to a good deal of money, and the eighteen dollars a month we paid at the garage was the least of the total. The Henry Ward Beecher agent had told Harry it cost a cent a mile to run a Fearless, but if he had said a dollar-eighty he would have been nearer the mark. Mr. Hoover said cheerfully he knew only one person who had got automobiling down to bed-rock, and that was pa! But for the rest of the syndicate it was their life's blood. It began to dawn on Harry and Nelly that they could never get married at all, as long as they stayed in the combine. It had cost them all the money they had saved to come in, and now it was taking every cent they had to stay in. Nelly used to cry about it, though I never noticed that it made any difference in her taking out the car, which she did regularly, and didn't let me ride with her unless I paid a dollar each time in advance. She said she didn't know any other way of saving money.
Altogether, you wouldn't have known us for the same three people, we had all grown so horrid and changed and mercenary. Nelly was hankering to get married, while I was crazy to put in a radiator with a forced water circulation (ours was a silly old kind that boiled on you), and Harry wobbled one way and the other as though he couldn't make up his mind—sometimes agreeing with her, and sometimes frantic for a radiator. It looked as though the Fearless was going to make it a lifetime engagement, and Harry, said ruefully that their marriage was not only, made in Heaven, but would probably take place there. I should have felt sorrier for them if they hadn't been so horrid to me about it. From the way they talked, you'd think I had started the syndicate idea myself and had lured them into it against their own better judgment. They were nasty about pa, too, and said he was acting dishonorably with his blank days, and that as a new machine always had to be broken in and notoriously cost more for repairs the first year than ever afterward, he was meanly benefiting himself at our expense. Harry called it pa's "unearned increment" and seemed to think it was an outrage.
They struck a whole row of troubles about this time, too—stripping a gear, losing a front wheel on the main street and winding up by fracturing the whole transmission into finders. Nelly would hardly speak to me on the street, and the Gasoline Child told me they would be cheaply out of it at eighty dollars. Pa was the only person who didn't share the general depression. In fact, he never seemed to be so happy as when the car was stripped in the shop and sure to stay there. He used to go around there occasionally and tell them they needn't hurry—and they didn't!
The new transmission was of a better model than the old one, and I foresaw I might have trouble about it with the syndicate. It would be just like Harry to talk about "unearned increment" and rope me in to pay part. But I still owed on my leather coat and wasn't in the humor to hand out a cent. What is the good of iron-clad agreements, anyway, if people don't live up to them —and as for the transmission, I was quite satisfied with the old one till they broke it. So when Nelly came around one night, all smiles and friendliness, I suspected trouble and didn't kiss her very hard back. But she was in too high spirits to notice anything, and hugged me and hugged me till I inwardly relented ten dollars' worth on the transmission—for Nelly and I had been good chums before we went into the syndicate, and there was a time when we would have shared our last chocolate cream.
"Virgie, you can't guess!" she exclaimed, her eyes dancing.
"The makers will do the right thing and won't charge for it?"
This brought her back again to earth at once.
"It—it isn't the transmission at all," she said. "I am going to get married next month!"
"I thought they insisted that Harry had to save a thousand dollars first."
"He's got it! He's got it!" she cried delightedly.
I was nearly as happy as she was, for it had looked terribly hopeless up till then, what with all the money they had put into the syndicate and the way the bubble was gobbling us up.
"Oh, Nelly, I am so glad," I said. "I'll put in that forced water circulation at once, and I'll make your and Harry's share of it a wedding present!"
"Oh, I'm out of the syndicate," she said. "I guess we'd prefer something for the flat."
"Out of the syndicate?" I cried.
"Yes," she returned brazenly. "Sold out!"
It took me a moment to pull myself together. I felt premonitions running all over me. I didn't feel so enthusiastic about their marriage as I had at first thought I was.
"Oh, Virgie, darling, you won't hate me?" she asked.
"Not till I hear more about it," I said.
She thought to make it up by squeezing my hands. But it wasn't squeezing that I wanted, it was facts. I drew away a bit and waited for them.
"Losing that front wheel was bad enough," she said, "especially as I went over the dashboard in my dotted muslin and Harry has limped ever since; but when the transmission broke it seemed as though it was both our hearts. Harry said we had come to a place where we had to choose between owning an automobile or getting married. It was perfectly plain we couldn't do both. $e said he didn't want to influence me either way, but that there was no good drifting on and on, deceiving ourselves and thinking it would all come out right. Of course, when he put it to me like that the bubble wasn't in it—and so we towed home for the last time and Harry, went around to close out our interest in the syndicate."
She paused here and looked at me, quite frightened.
"Around where, exactly?" I demanded.
"Well," she went on, "your father was always dropping hints that he would buy us out at the price we paid, and so Harry went to his office and tried to make a deal. But your father said it wasn't reasonable to expect him to pay for the new transmission, too—and as Harry didn't want to, and couldn't, the whole thing hung fire till Harry ran into Morty Truslow on the street. Morty offered him a thousand dollars right off for his half-interest," continued Nelly; "you know how free-handed be is, and rich, and Harry just jumped at it and walked off with the check."
"But you only paid half of seven hundred and fifty dollars in the first place!" I exclaimed.
"Well, you see," said Nelly, "that car has gone up since. It's 'appreciated,' as Harry calls it. And just think what a fortune it has stood us in for repairs!"
"It's the most horrid, mean, treacherous thing one person ever did to another!" I cried; "you know I wouldn't speak to Morty Truslow if be had the only monkey-wrench in the world and I was carbonized on a country road. I think you have acted detestably, and so has he, and I consider it downright caddish for him to buy a half-interest in anything I am connected with"
"Oh, Virgie, you don't know how bad be feels!" said Nelly. "He told me be had just been breaking his heart, and that you wouldn't answer his letters or anything, and if you would only let him talk for fifteen minutes he'd explain everything and you'd take him back."
"I won't take him back," I said.
"He wears a little flower you gave him next his heart," continued Nelly, "and when he speaks about you it is with tears in his eyes, and if you weren't made of flint and rock candy you'd feel so sorry for him you couldn't sleep!"
"What did be offer you to say all this, Nelly?" I demanded.
"Only a pearl horseshoe," she returned, quite unabashed. "Said I might choose it for myself at Helbe's if I could persuade you to give him a fifteen minutes' talk"
"I am sorry about the pearl horseshoe," I said ironically, "but you might as well give up the idea right now. And if he talked forty times fifteen minutes it wouldn't make the least difference in the world. He thinks he's so handsome and so well off and that so many girls are crazy about him that he only, has to whistle for you to come!"
"If it wasn't for Harry I would," she said; "that is, if he whistled loud enough and there wasn't too much of a crowd thinking he meant them! Oh, Virgie, it's just like Faversham to hear him talk, and I can't think how anybody could be such a little fool as to say no!"
"If you call that being a little fool I guess I am," I said, "though for a year he was the one man in my life, and if it hadn't been for Mrs. Gettridge—well, it's all off, now, and it's going to stay off,—and his owning half the bubble won't make the least difference in the world!"
"But you'll come to my wedding and be one of the bridesmaids?" she pleaded. "And you won't blame me too much for getting out of the syndicate as I did? I knew it wasn't right and I felt awfully about it—but then, Harry and I couldn't have managed otherwise, and it takes years and years to save a thousand dollars!" she looked so sweet and pitiful and contrite as she said this that I forgave her everything and hugged her till she choked. It seemed a shame to spoil her happiness with reproaches, and I couldn't but think how I'd have felt myself if it had been Mor— Not that I cared a row of pins for him now, and would have despised myself if I did—but everybody has moments of looking back—and girls are such fools anyway. And, of course, deep down somewhere I was pleased that he still cared.
I felt quite twittery when I first went to the garage after that, for I thought Morty might pop out at me from somewhere, and though I wasn't afraid to meet him and would have cut him if I had, it would inevitably be embarrassing and upsetting. But he had the good taste to stay away on my days, and I never saw as much as a pin-feather of him. But he was awfully artful, even if he didn't let himself be seen, and the things he did to the car went straighter to my heart than any words he could have spoken. He put in a radiator, a new battery with a switch, three twisted cowhide baskets, two fifty-dollar acetylene lamps, an odometer, a spark gap, a little clock on the dashboard, and changed the tooter for a splendid French horn. My repair bills, too, stopped as though by magic, and the bubble ran so well I guess people must have sat up nights with it! The engine would start at the half-turn of the crank; the clutches were adjusted to a hair; she speeded up to twenty now on the open throttle, which she had never done before except in the advertisement; she was the showiest, smartest, fastest little car in town, and when she miraculously went into red leather, edged with gold stampings, people used to fall over one another on the street. I believe those two months were the happiest months of my life. It was automobile Heaven, and if it hadn't been for pa's blanks and Morty's half-interest I should have been deliriously happy every day instead of every fourth.
I can't think how it happened, but finally I got confused and lost count. I had been away at my grandmother's for a week and somehow that threw me out. But it was a Thursday afternoon, I remember, and a beautiful autumn day, and I walked along to the garage with that delicious feeling of anticipation—that tingle of happiness to come—that made my heart bound with love of the little red wagon. (The horse, for all his prancing and social position, never roused a sensation like that and never will.) I dodged a big touring-car coming out, and then went in on the floor to order my car. I was just telling Bert to get it out when I turned around, and there was Morty sitting in it not four feet away from me. He had his cap on and his leather coat, and I saw at once that I had made a terrible mistake. Before I could even think what to do he saw my predicament and leaped out, insisting that I—should take his place. I murmured something about being sorry and tried to move away, but he caught my arm and wouldn't let go. He was so eager and excited and made such a scene that I allowed myself to be bundled into the car rather than attract everybody's attention—for there was a Packard and a waterless Knox looking on. Bert started up the engine and I was just engaging the low-gear clutch, when Morty gave me such a look that I stopped dead. It seemed too horribly mean to rob him of his afternoon—besides, when you've been awfully in love with a man—and his face—
"Mr. Truslow," I said, speaking loud, so as not to be drowned by the engine, "if you promise on your honor not to speak a single word to me—you can come, too!" I had to say it twice before he understood, and then, didn't he bound in! I suppose it was an awfully reckless thing to do, for whatever they say about absence making the heart grow fonder, sitting close is lots more dangerous, and I began to feel all my pride and determination oozing out of my shoes. It came over me in waves that I loved him better than ever, and I stole little sidewise peeps at him —and every peep seemed to make it worse. He belonged to a splendid type—I had to admit that, even if I didn't forgive him —big, clear-eyed, ruddy and broad-shouldered—and there was something tremendously compelling and manly about him that seemed to sweep me off my feet. This only made me hate him more, for I didn't see how I could ever love anybody else, and it's dreary for a girl to have only a single man in her life and not even be on speaking terms with that one! It leaves her with no outlook or anything, and one might as well be dead right off. But you can't be long miserable in a bubble, even if you try—that is, if it is running nicely, developing full power and you have a fat, rich spark—and though I looked as cold and distant as I could, secretly I think I never was so happy in my life.
Morty behaved properly for quite a while—much longer, in fact, than I could have believed possible. Then he brought out a pencil and began to write things on the beck of an envelope. I never moved an eyelash and didn't seem to understand at all till he handed me what he had written. I promptly tore it up and threw it away. But he found another envelope and did it again, this time holding to it tight and moving it before my eyes. I nearly ditched the car, for I was running with an open throttle and the grade was in our favor. Then he bent over and kissed my cloth sleeve. I pulled up short and gave him his choice of either getting out or comporting himself like a civilized being. He indicated that he would try to do the latter, though be looked awfully savage and folded his arms, and moved as far away from me as the seat would allow. I didn't care, besides he was safer like that than when he was nice—and so I just looked cross, too, and speeded up.
I laid out about a twenty-five mile spin, cut cutting Deering Avenue midway, and branching off where the Italians are working at the new trolley, toward Menlo, Hatcherly and the road through the woods. We turned at the Trocadero, climbed the long hill, and took the river-drive home. You know how steep it is, the river miles below and nothing but the sheerest wall on the other side. But there is no finer road in Europe, and it's straight enough to see everything ahead, so you are free to coast as fast as you please. I let her out at the top, for knew my breaks had been taken up, and there were cotter pins in every bolt of the steering gear; and, as I said before, there was always plenty of room to pull up in if you happened to meet a team. Well, off we went with a rush that made our ears sing, the little car humming like a top.
When we were more than two-thirds down and going like the wind I saw a nurse-girl near the bottom pushing a baby in a baby carriage and coming uphill, with two lithe tots in red dresses walking on either side of her. They saw us the same moment we saw them and lined up against the side—fiery sensibly, as I thought—and it was all so plain and right that I held on without a thought of danger. When I was about ten yards from them and allowing them an ample four feet to the good—I mean from the steep side, where they stuck in a row like barnaeles—what did the little idiots do but rush across the road like a covey of partridges, while the nurse-girl stayed where she was with the baby! If ever a person's blood ran cold it was mine. There was no time, no room, no anything—and the bubble going at forty miles an hour! It seemed like a choice between their lives or our own. But, thank God, I was game, and I just screamed out the one word "jump!" to Morty and turned the machine over the edge. I must have jumped, too, though I have no recollection of it, for when I came to myself my head was lying on Morty's knee and on looking about I saw we were still on the road. The machine? Oh, it was two hundred feet below, smashed to smithereens, and if we both hadn't lit out like lightning—
I wasn't a bit hurt, only bruised and giddy, and Morty was throwing the baby's milk in my face to revive me, while the baby looked on and roared with displeasure at its being wasted. Morty wasn't hurt, either, and if there were ever two people well out of a bad scrape it was he and I. He had been so frightened about me he was crying; and I guess his tears were like the recording angel's, because they seemed to blot out all the old quarrel between us. At least, when we got up and began to limp home it seemed to me I didn't mind anything so long as he was close to me. He was shameless enough to kiss me right before the nurse-girl, who was demanding our names and addresses and our blood—and all I did was to kiss back. I didn't have any fight left, and for once he had everything his own way. Of course, it didn't last long—it wouldn't have been good for him if it had—but even in six minutes I managed to lose the results of six months' coldness. Yet I was glad it was gone; glad just to be alive; and we'd look at each other and laugh like children. You don't realize what a good old place the world is until you've taken a chance on leaving it and weighed against death itself; all our little jealousies and misunderstandings seemed too trivial to count. It seemed enough that I loved him and that he loved me and that neither of us had broken anything—bones, I mean. It was sad, though, to think the poor little bubble was a goner and that we'd never hear its honest little pant again.
"If we had lived up to the comic papers, Morty," I said, "we would have spiflicated a red child, given a merry toot and disappeared in a cloud of dust!"
"I'm almost sorry we didn't," said Morty, who was dreadfully pale and always hated walking. "We'll know better next time."
"There'll be no next time for that bubble," I said sadly. "It's sparked its last spark and will never choo-choo again!
"I mean our next car, of course," said Morty (it was awfully sweet to hear him say "our." And it took the sting out of losing the little bubble, especially now that we're going to have another).
"Yesterday Forbes Mason offered me his new four-cylinder Lafayette for twenty-eight hundred dollars," said Morty; "it's only been run five hundred miles, and I told him I'd think about it."
"It's suspiciously cheap," I said. "Sure he hasn't cut the cylinders?"
"Well, you see, he broke his arm cranking. It backfired on him, and his wife is such a little fool that he had to promise to give up automobiling."
"They are splendid cars, with a record of fifty miles on the track, unstripped and out of stock!"
"And you shall have half-interest in it, Virgie!"
"I never could pay fourteen hundred dollars, Morty, and I don't want any more of pa's blanks. It's too exasperating."
"Oh, I meant for nothing!"
"Then it's a present—and there's always a string to your presents."
"Isn't there to everybody's?"
"Besides, it's an air-cooled motor," I said, not wanting to appear too eager. "Don't they always overheat in time and stick the pistons?"
"Not the Lafayette!"
"Don't tempt me," I said. "You know I couldn't take it on any terms."
"Forced feed lubrication and direct drive on the fourth speed," he continued, like a stage villain offering diamonds to the heroine.
"What kind of a string?"
"Oh, Virgie, it was all a lie about Josie Felton."
"I had it straight from Mrs. Gettridge and she's Josie's aunt and she ought to know, I guess."
"Mrs. Gettridge is a social assassinator belongs to a regular Mafia of mischief-makers and old cats—you know you used to care once."
"Oh, I did, Morty, I did. It nearly broke my heart, and I just wanted to throw myself away—become a trained nurse or go in for settlement work!"
"Couldn't it ever be as it used to be?"
"I should want all the bushings of phosphor bronze."
"They are that already—and it's patent-lock nutted throughout, and the engine is that new kind that interlocks. I'll draw it for you when I get home . . . and we'll be married at the same time as Harry and Nelly."
"And one of those French brass gasoline tanks that set flat against the dash-board and hold a two-gallon extra supply."
"You shall have it!"
"But she said she had actually, seen the letter!"
"It was all a lie, every word of it," he broke out. "We'll go straight to her now if you like and have it out, and then you'll see whom to believe! There never was any letter or anything, except that she made up her mind I was to have her niece whether I wanted to or not. I told you that fifty million times in the letters you wouldn't read and sent back unopened. And it wasn't the kind of message I could give anybody else to take to you. I had to think of the girl, of course, and I know she liked me."
"French tires, of course?"
"Every blessed thing just the way you want it. The only thing I can't see my way to change is the chauffeur, a poor devil named Truslow, who's really an awful decent kind of fellow when you get to know him!"
"Oh, dear," I said, "I never dreamed the Great Bubble Syndicate was going to end like this!"
"End?" cried Morty, putting his arm around my waist as though he now had a right to. "It's only the reorganization of a splendid old concern, and for fourteen hundred kisses I am going to let you in on the ground floor!"
COAL OIL JOHNNY
It was eleven o'clock in the forenoon, and on the veranda of Mrs. Hemingway's house three young girls were gathered in conversation. Below them a garden ran to the water's edge and gave access to a wooden pier projecting some thirty or forty feet beyond. Here, in a mimic harbor formed by a sharp turn of the shore and a line of piles on which the pier was supported, rode the Hemingway fleet at its moorings: a big half-decked catboat, a gasoline launch, an Indian canoe and two trim gigs. Here, too, under the kindly lee of a small boat-house, the Hemingway crew lay stretched in slumber, his head pillowed on an ancient jib, and his still-smoking pipe fallen from his unconscious lips. A Hemingway puppy was stalking some Hemingway tomtits, in the bland, leisurely, inoffensive manner of one whose intentions were not serious; and the picture was completed by a Hemingway cat, with a blue ribbon round its neck, which was purring to itself in a serenity that a stray page of a Sunday supplement never yet afforded man.
The wide, shady veranda was articulate of summer and girls and gaiety, and of all that pleasant, prosperous American homeliness that we see so much of in life and hear so little about in fiction. Hammocks, rocking-chairs and rugs were scattered about in a comfortable, haphazard fashion; a tea-table here was stacked high with novels and magazines; a card-table there bore a violin, a couple of tennis racquets, a silver-handled crop and a box of papa's second-best cigars. (The really-truly best were under the basketwork sofa.) There was also a sewing-machine, a music-stand, a couple of dogs asleep on the floor, a family Bible full of pressed wild flowers, a twenty-two-bore rifle, and the messy remains of a Latin exercise that the son of the house had recently been engaged upon before being called away to play Indian.
Dolly Hemingway, a handsome, fair-haired, imperious-looking girl, was lolling in a hammock, directing the deliberations of Sattie Felton, aged seventeen, who was sitting on the floor holding a dog's head in her lap, and of Grace Sinclair, aged twenty, who was in possession of a stool and a box of chocolate creams. A very important matter was being discussed, and that was why everybody was talking at once, and how it came about that a young man passed unnoticed through the cool darkened rooms of the house and appeared without warning before the little group—a tall, bulky young man, with an air of diffidence on his honest, sunburned face, and a general awkwardness of movement that seemed to betray a certain doubt as to his welcome. He stammered out something like "Good morning," and then stood there, hat in hand, waiting for the massacre to begin.
"Mr. Bassity!" exclaimed Dolly Hemingway, straightening up in the hammock, and staring at him with cold gray eyes. The bulky young man halted, tried to find some reassurance in the no less chilling faces of Sattie Felton and Grace Sinclair, and then said, "How do you do!" in a voice of extreme dejection.
"It is the custom here," said Dolly in cutting accents, "for a gentleman, when he calls upon a lady, to announce himself first at the door—"
"And be told she's out," said Mr. Bassity, timidly defiant. "Call next day, and out, too! Call next week and still out!"
"When you make a closer study of the social system," began Miss Hemingway "our social system, which seems in vogue everywhere except the place you came from—you will discover that such little subterfuges save painful interviews."
"Oh, now, girls, don't be hard on me," said Mr. Bassity, sitting down uninvited and speaking with the most disarming contrition. "We all used to be such good friends once, and now, for the life of me, I don't know, what's the matter. I valued your friendship tremendously—valued it more than I can tell, and now I am losing it without even knowing why. It cuts a fellow; it's humiliating; it is crool, that's what it is, awful crool, and I'll tell you the straight-out truth that I've cried over it!"
He looked quite capable of crying over it again, and his honest, manly face bore mute witness to his words. Though addressing himself to Miss Hemingway, his eyes were more often fixed on Grace Sinclair, and it was plain that it was her good opinion he valued most. But she was as merciless as Dolly, and showed not the least sign of relenting.
"We have decided that we do not care for the further pleasure of your acquaintance," said Miss Hemingway. "It's a disagreeable thing to have to say—but it's the truth! We liked you at first because there was something breezy and Western about you; then you got breezier and Westerner til it was more than the traffic could stand."
"Now see here," broke out Mr. Bassity in pleading accents, "have I ever done anything caddish or ungentlemanly—intentionally, I mean—anything that could possibly justify my being dropped like this—that could—"
"Perhaps not intentionally," Interrupted Miss Hemingway, "though it's no good your coming around here to say you didn't know any better. You ought to have known better, that's all."
"Known what?" bleated Mr. Bassity. "In Heaven's name, tell me what?"
"Oh, it isn't one thing—it's a thousand," said Dolly. "It's—it's —general social ineptitude!"
Mr. Bassity looked more depressed than ever. He didn't know what the word meant, and it seemed to cover a terrifying accusation. He was seen silently making a note of it for a future reference to a dictionary.
"I'm just a rough, uncouth fellow," said he at last. "I know that well enough without three young ladies' telling me so: An oil man—a successful oil man—hasn't much chance to cultivate the social graces. If he can keep on the right side of common honesty he has done more than most. I guess even our best people out there would give you a shock—and I don't pretend I even ran with them!"
"That's the most redeeming thing you've said yet," remarked Grace.
"Oh, they wouldn't have me," remarked Coal Oil Johnny with fatal truthfulness.
"All you need is toning down," said Miss Hemingway, with a suspicion of kindness in her voice. "You're too exuberant, that's all. You're always rushing in where angels fear to tread, till it has grown on you like a habit. When other people stop you're just beginning!"
"Couldn't you give me another chance?" he asked, still with his eyes pathetically on Grace Sinclair's face. "Just one more chance to try and hit it off better next time? Now, just sit up, every one of you, and tell me frankly what I've done to offend you—stamp all over me—bite my head off—and then let's begin again with a clean slate, and see if I can't buck up"
"I'll leave it to the general vote," said Miss Hemingway. "You certainly have a very winning nature in some ways—and who knows?—you might possibly do better after this awful warning. Only you mustn't come round here next time demanding explanations. The next time will be positive and final. Yes," she went on, "I propose that Mr. Bassity be given a good talking to, and then have his name put on the probation list."
"Poor Mr. Bassity!" said Sattie Felton. "I second the motion for reinstating him temporarily!"
Grace Sinclair was not so quick in giving her decision. In her girlish heart she enjoyed the big man's discomfiture, and was mischievous enough to prolong his suspense. She knew that to him her opinion was the most important of all, and this gave her an added pleasure in withholding her verdict. All three looked at her as she bent her pretty brown head and seemed to weigh the question. She was a Southerner, and her French-Spanish blood betrayed itself in her grace, her slender hands and feet, and the type of her dark and unusual beauty. She was more a woman than either Dolly or Sattie, and the fact that Mr. Bassity was desperately in love with her fanned within her breast a wilful desire to torment him.
"Let me think!" she said.
"'Pon my soul!—" began that unfortunate young man, boisterously attempting to sway her judgment.
"Hush!" exclaimed Sattie Felton.
"She's thinking," said Miss Hemingway severely.
Mr. Bassity noisily subsided.
"I don't know whether it's worth while to forgive him," said Grace at last. "He's so incorrigible—so wild and woolly—that if you're nice to him he's like one of those dogs that want to jump all over you!"
"Oh, Miss Sinclair, please, please—!" cried Coal Oil Johnny.
"Well, I won't hang the jury," continued Grace; "only it must be clearly understood that we have the privilege of making a few remarks"
Mr. Bassity made a pantomime of baring his breast.
"Strike!" he said.
"You first," said Dolly to Grace.
"Last Tuesday I was playing golf at the links," began that young lady vindictively. "Mr. Bassity volunteered to call for me at four and take me home in his French automobile. I knew we were going too fast and said so twice, but he only answered, 'Oh, bother!' or something equally polite and gracious. Then as we raced into Franklin Street we found a rope across it and sixteen policemen waiting to arrest us! Pleasant, wasn't it?—with a million people looking on; and my picture next day in the paper. I was so mortified I could have cried, and I can't think of it even now without burning all over"
"Perhaps the prisoner might care to offer some explanation?" suggested Miss Hemingway.
"Well, really, it was most unfortunate," admitted Coal Oil Johnny. "The fact is, the low gear is chewed up on that car, and I've always been forced to run it on the intermediate—and the most you can throttle down the intermediate to is eighteen miles an hour!"
"The legal speed being eight, I believe," Icily interjected Miss Sinclair.
"I don't know what the silly law is," continued Mr. Bassity, "but the only way to obey it would be to get out and push the car. Couldn't ask a lady to do that, could I?"
"You could have thrown in your intermediate and then thrown it out again, and run on momentum," said Miss Sinclair. "That's automobile A B C!"
"Oh, but my dear girl," protested Coal Oil Johnny, "the clutches on that car are something fierce, and half the time the intermediate won't mesh. When you're lucky enough to get it in, of course you keep it in."
"Yes, and get arrested," said Miss Sinclair, "and give your passenger some disagreeable notoriety, not to speak of shaking up her happy home and getting her allowance stopped for a month."
Mr. Bassity looked acutely miserable. To have brought penury to his lady-love struck him to the heart.
"I'm the most wretched fellow alive," he said. "If ever there was a child of misfortune, it's me. I can only throw myself on the mercy of the court and grovel—yes, grovel —if you'll show me a place to grovel and teach me how!"
"Have you anything else against the prisoner?" Inquired Miss Hemingway of Grace.
"About sixty-five other complaints," assented that young lady. "But I'll let it go at this, which was the worst of all"
"Miss Sattie Felton, what have you against the unhappy wretch who stands trembling at the bar of justice?" asked the self-appointed president of the court.
"Last Sunday I was at the Country Club with papa," said Miss Felton. "The prisoner engaged in an altercation with my male parent on the subject of religion, said parent being a man of strong views and short temper. Said parent, however, being a man of the world as well, tried to evade an argument and escape, but was penned up in a corner for ten purple minutes. Said afterward that he had never been so affronted in all his life; explodes even now at the recollection; calls the prisoner a word that begins with a B, contains a double O and ends with R!"
At this staggering blow poor Coal Oil Johnny covered his face with his hands and groaned.
"It's all true," he said, "only I was kind of goaded into it. It began by my saying that if religious people would only be Christians, too, the world would be a better place to live in!"
"The court is now going to get in its own little knife," said Miss Hemingway. "The court, in a moment of generous weakness, verging on imbecility, invited, or, rather, caused to be invited, the prisoner to dinner. Prisoner, through the absence of one lady from the party, was placed next to a distinguished young sociologist. Of course, in his usual headlong and unrestrained manner, the prisoner had to teach the distinguished young sociologist a thing or two he didn't know about sociology. Roared at him! Yes, ladies of the jury, positively roared at him, and beat on the table, extra, with his fist!"
"But he was such an ass!" said the prisoner.
"No reason at all why you should roar at him," said the court, "and disturb everybody and make them feel uncomfortable."
"An awful ass!" persisted the prisoner.
"The world is full of them," said the court "If you were to roar at every one you meet you'd never have time for anything else. Life would degenerate into one long roar. Everybody knows that Professor Titcombe is a ninny and an idiot, but the decencies of intercourse require you to say, 'How nice!' or 'How interesting!' to his remarks.
"But he had never even been in Colorado," vociferated Coal Oil Johnny. "It was all lies and hearsay and gas. But I have, and I know all about it, and if you want proof I have a scar on my head where a dago shot me at Telluride!"
"Prisoner's motion to show scar overruled," said the court.
"Isn't it about time to let me off?" pleaded Mr. Bassity. "Surely I've listened like a lamb to everything you've said to me? I've been slapped on one cheek and then on the other, and if I haven't always come up smiling it isn't that I haven't tried. It stings a fellow to hear such things to his face; it hurts a fellow more than I think you know; for I may not be up to the general standard of your friends, but I guess my feelings are just as sensitive, and my regard and respect for all three of you is not a whit behind theirs. I dare say this has amused you very much, and I don't grudge for a minute the fun you've had out of it—but suppose we call it off now and be friends again, and—and —talk about something else!" He looked earnestly from one to another.
There was something so naive and affecting in Bassity's plea for mercy that for a moment his three persecutors looked almost ashamed of themselves. Grace Sinclair's eyes filled with tears, and she rose and went over to him and patted his hand.
"Cheer up," she said, smiling. "We've reinstated you now, and like you better than we ever did before."
"And oo'll be mamma's little darling and will never be naughty again?" added Miss Hemingway.
"Poor old Johnny!" said Miss Felton sympathetically; "that's the trouble about being a rough diamond and being polished while you wait—makes you sorry you ever came, doesn't it?"
"Now you can smoke a cigar, Mr. Bassity," said Dolly, "and improve your mind listening to us talk!"
"So long as I'm not the subject of it," observed Coal Oil Johnny ruefully.
"Oh, we can't bother about you for always," said Miss Hemingway. "You've had your little turn and must now give way to something mere important!"
"Delighted!" said Mr. Bassity.
"And don't look as though your own cigars were better than papa's," added Dolly.
"But they are," he retorted.
"Will nothing ever prevent your speaking the truth?" cried Miss Sinclair. "There ought to be tracts about the young man who always spoke the truth—and his awful end!"
"Do you want me to listen intelligently or unintelligently?" Mr. Bassity asked Dolly.
"Oh, any old way," she said. "We don't mind particularly which."
"But you might tell me what the next topic's about," he said. "It might improve my mind more, you know, to have some glimmering of what's going on. Possibly—I say it with all diffidence—possibly I might be able to contribute some valuable suggestions."
At this there arose such a chorus of incredulity that even the dogs jumped up and barked.
"It'll be a long time before you'll ever pay your social way," said Miss Hemingway cruelly. "In the meanwhile you're a social pauper, living on crusts, and the most becoming thing you can do is to sit very silent and grateful and self-effacing."
"Yep," said Coal Oil Johnny, pretending to gulp down a manly emotion. "Yep, kind lady, and God bless your purty face, and if a lifetime of humble devotion and—"
"We all three have to do something for the St. John's Home for Incurable Children," Interrupted Dolly, "and the question is, what?"
"Simplest thing out," said Mr. Bassity, feeling for his pocketbook.
"That's just what we're not going to do," continued Dolly. "It's horrid to go around dunning people for subscriptions, and being ten dollars nice to them for three dollars and fifty cents cash. We're all pledged to earn some money—really, truly earn it—and every one of us is going to get out and hustle, and, of course, we want to arrange it so that none of us three will overlap. My own idea is dog-thinning!"
"Dog-what?" ejaculated Coal Oil Johnny.
"Most people's dogs are too fat," explained Miss Hemingway. "Most owners are so slack and good-natured that, though they know they are their own dogs' worst enemies, they weakly go on pampering them in spite of their better judgment. I am going to reduce dogs for ten dollars a dog—not brutally, like a vet, who kicks them into a cellar and leaves them there—but giving up my whole time to it for a month. Plain living, lots of exercise, sympathy, tact, and all the comforts of home! I've already got the promise of four, and there's a Russian Poodle, besides, and a dachshund, who are trying to make up their minds."
"I wish I could have thought of anything so original," cried Sattie Felton mournfully. "It seems so commonplace just to work in papa's office for two weeks, doesn't it?"