« 上一页继续 »
They had all been staying at a country-house, and had come up in the morning train together-Miss Sally Ingle to go to Lenox, the General to a yacht down in the bay, and Arthur Brooks to parts unknown. At least Brooks had somewhat gloomily indicated that he did not know-or care—where he was to be. This was the more surprising as he had accepted an invitation to stay at the very house to which Miss Ingle was going, and had changed his plans very abruptly. And now they followed the General laggingly from the ferry-station.
“No carriages here," exclaimed the General in distress. “Outrageous!"
"But what does it matter?" pleaded the girl.
“A great deal,” fumed the General. “Though, I say, see there! It's all right! Here's this.”
“This” was an automobile hansom!
haven't much time to lose."
Miss Ingle hesitated. A look of profound reflection on her face. Brooks, gazing at her in silent distress, could read every thought. It was August. The town was deserted.
No one could see them. It would be only for a short distance.
She got in.
“Now, jump up, Arthur," said the General, taking the young man by the arm and almost pushing him into the vehicle. “In my time, young men didn't hang back like that." And as the young man sat down reluctantly, the General swung together the flaps; and, giving the driver directions, stood back and waved a farewell.
The girl turned on the young man. “Do you call this nice-following me after what happened?"
“It was in the dark," he urged; "and, if I did kiss you, when you were so indignant I explained at once that I thought that you were some one else.”
“Oh,” she cried furiously. "Betty Wylde, I've no doubt, or Miss Fastnet! It is very pleasant to be mistaken for them.”
“Of course, I couldn't say who it was," he continued. “And the moment afterwards, when I saw how you felt, I'd have given the world not to have done it. Of course, I've always thought of you as so different—so out of reach, you know—and yet I was just beginning to hope, to think you liked me a little."
"I hate you--I always hated you."
“You can't think that I cared for them—for anyone else in the world," he said anxiously. "You must not make that mistake.”
“Then why did you do as you did?"
He hesitated. “I wish I could tell you the truth, but you would only hate me worse.”
“As if there could be anything worse. But it is strange, here we, at daggers drawn, are sitting so quietly side by side.”
“It won't be many minutes more.”
“I'm very glad, for you know that they had begun to talk before this happened; and now, as we are never to see each other again, it would be the height of foolisliness to be discovered driving about town together like this. Why doesn't he go faster ?” She glanced up and saw a red, disturbed face peering intently down.
“Don't be frightened, Miss," it said, “there'll be no trouble. I've got this ould sewin’-machine under me perfect control-don't be doubtin' that—but I can't stop it."
Miss Ingle gazed at the man in mute inquiry.
“There's something out of order, but it's all right. All that cħere's to do is to go straight on, an' they'll be nothing an’ nobody harmed.”
“But run it into your stables and have it stopped,” suggested Miss Ingle.
“An' how could I do that? There'd be a brick wall interposin' an’ smashin' the hul of it to bits, to say nothin' of ourselves.”
"And do you mean," asked the girl, "that I have got to ride about in this affair until it makes up its mind to stop itself?"
“That's it, Miss, there's no way of lassoin' it now, an' no good callin' for help. You see, it's a-goin’at a quiet, decent enough gait, now, an’ we'd better keep on until the power gives out.”
“And how long will that be?” asked the young man.
"It's charged for something like five hours still; but don't you mind, sir, it's an elegant day, an' it'll be a pleasant ride for you."
“That's the third time we have passed the club," she said wrathfully.
“So it is," he replied and threw up the trap. "Hi! Take us out in the country somewhere."
“Very sorry, but I can't tell what's the matter, no way, nor how soon there might be a smash in the works, an' I shouldn't like bein' too far away."
“Oh! There is old Mrs. Trewaves. What will she think and say? Can't he at least take us on a side street ?"
“Hi!” cried Brooks, again raising the trap. “Take us off Fifth Avenue, at least.”
“Beg pardon, sir, but you see, the Noah's Ark bein' out of order, I don't like to risk breakin' somethin' on them stone pavements.”
“Oh! Is it-oh!is it—it is Aunt Susannah. She must have just come over from Philadelphia. She wants to speak to us. What shall we do?"
“We simply can't do anything."
They were almost abreast of the old lady, who stood smiling amiably on the edge of the pavement. A changing succession of expressions played over her face; first cordial welcome, then as the automobile did not diminish its speed, gloomy and perplexed surprise; finally, as it was clear that the vehicle was going to pass without stopping, increasing displeasure and growing anger.
“To meet her in the street,” moaned Miss Ingle, "and not to speak to her. She will never-never forgive me.”
The automobile, in turning a corner, had jarred against an applecart propelled by an old woman. The shock was not sufficient to overturn the cart, but, lifting it slightly on one side, sent the few apples it contained rolling in the gutter.
“The poor old thing!” exclaimed Miss Ingle. “We can't leave her that way! Please,” she said, opening the trap, "I must speak to the woman."
“There ain't no way but to go round the block, Miss, an' if you have anything to say, why, say it in passin'."
The automobile circled the block; and, coming round the first corner, bore down upon a little group that was helping the woman to recover her apples.
Brooks took from his pocket a bill marked with a generous figure.
“Here,” he cried, flinging it from the window of the carriage as they dashed past.
“Hi! Pull up!"
“Hold on there. Tell your man to stop there, or I'll arrest the whole lot of you."
“But we can't,” answered Brooks. “The thing is running away with us.” "Don't you try to give me that I tell you that won't do with
Hold on, now.” "But, really, Mr. Officer," said Miss Ingle, "we can't do anything and we only wish we could."
“I'll have to keep an eye on you, anyway," he said, appearing for a moment round the corner of the automobile and again disappearing
“See,” said Miss Ingle, “the people are stopping to look. They think he is chasing us. It is fearful and I could cry. And I am starving."
Suddenly she laughed for the first time. "I do believe that we've met everyone that I ever saw in my life before. one will tell everyone else.”
And every“How can I bear the irony of it when they begin to congratulate me !” he cried.
“Oh, do you imagine they'll think we are engaged ?"
"Really become engaged. You know how I love you and you know that you liked me a little before that happened.”
“I can't forgive you,” she answered.
"And is this really to be the end ?” he asked, leaning forward to take her hands; and then, as he remembered the policeman and the gasping crowd, drawing back.
“Oh, it must be," she gasped, “if this ever stops.”
"Then, I'm going to tell you the truth; it will only make you hate me all the more, but you might as well understand. It was false when I said it was someone else. I knew that it was you all the time, but I was madly in love with you. Then when you were so indignant-I was awfully rattled, you know, so I told you what I did. But I've told you the truth now, and I know you loathe me, and you need not say anything."
Gradually with weakening force the wheels dragged over the pavement as if weary of the long journey. The power was nearly spent. At last the huge vehicle came to a standstill.
"I'll have to take your names, you know," said the policeman, while the crowd gathered in thick and close.
"All right," said Brooks.
“Can't I get out of this?” cried the girl. “There is a cab! Put me in that.
Brooks signalled to the cabman. Miss Ingle jumped in and closed the door, when she paused.
“You are sure that it was I that you meant to kiss," “Sure? I should think I was !"
"Well, if that is certainly so, and you are sure-positively sure -why-you are asked to stay at the Green's, and you had better come with me, for I am sure they will be delighted to have you— and-and-so shall I !"