Lloyd Osbourne.

The Motormaniacs online

. (page 1 of 8)
Online LibraryLloyd OsbourneThe Motormaniacs → online text (page 1 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook






"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

"Can't you make it a little warmer than acquaintance?" I

"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

"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

"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

"I suppose I ought to hurriedly talk about something else," I

"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

"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

"What had she to do with it?" I asked.

"Oh, just being there - being his sister - being an invalid, yon

"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

"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

"'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

"'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

"'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

"'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

"'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

"'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

"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

1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryLloyd OsbourneThe Motormaniacs → online text (page 1 of 8)