Page images
PDF
EPUB

on one of the closed shutters, and still re- that, she made a despairing gesture with her ceiving no response, she stood on her toes in hands, resettled her shawl about her shoulan effort to peek through the diamond open- ders, and came away. Neighbors, from being. She was not tall enough for that, and, hind jarred doors, peered out on her, but stepping back, again she essayed the door. none spoke to her; and so still was it that She rattled the latch; but no word. from the deck of the Midnight they could

Throwing back her head, she stared anew hear her heels clicking as she hurried down at the blank walls; but nothing coming of the rocky pathway.

THE GIRL FROM THE MACHINE

By Jesse Lynch Williams

ILLUSTRATIONS BY FLETCHER C. RANSOM

T

I

he being her escort, and his figure being of

a sort inconvenient to hide in the shadow CHE girl slipped into the shad- of middle-aged trees-hardly an æsthetic

ow of a tree just beyond the sight, but the orator sweeping grandly on to crowd and listened, smiling his peroration experienced the usual leap of appreciatively as she thought the heart occasioned by the presence of anyhow disconcerted "the elo- body or anything even remotely associated

quent young candidate” with her. Subconsciously he kept wonderwould be to know that she was there. He ing what the deuce old Gray might be doing was emitting burning words about the in this remote edge of a dirty town miles wickedness of the corporations, and her away from the Hallowells' place at an hour father was president or director of a score usually claimed by the Hallowells' dinner. of the most conspicuous.

As a lover, Davidge was grimly grateful The speaker's efforts to convince the peo- that even this member of the household ple that he was one of them, despite well- cared to come and hear him talk. As a known handicaps of birth and inheritance, politician he reminded himself that a servappealed to her as too delicious to keep to ant's opinion counts as much as his masherself. The money enabling him to fight ter's at the polls--more, incidentally, than corporate wealth happened to have been his mistress's—and resolved to seek out inherited from a corporation. But the an- Gray at the conclusion of the speech to ticipated relish of mimicking him at home thank him for his interest. burned out in a blush as she suddenly real- So the girl behind the tree was caught. ized that this would involve acknowledging “Nell!” he exclaimed with a burst of dethat she had taken the trouble to go and light; “how sweet of you!" The vote was hear him-a thing she did not care to pro- forgotten; he had her hand in his, he was claim. Perhaps the blush showed the real making obeisance over it. The crowd was reason for this secret expedition.

still cheering his name; he did not hear it. Abstractly he was absurd, as represented “Oh, you needn't think it was because I by the papers (controlled by her father), admire you,” she said, smiling easily. She but concretely he looked very nice as he withdrew her hand and retreated a little stood up there with the flaring light over- from him. head casting deep, interesting shadow's up- "I don't,” he said in a lower tone; “but on his clean-cut face while he forgot him- you came!” His voice was vibrant from self in the vehemence with which he swayed speaking, his eye flashing, his atmosphere the silent crowd before him.

dominant.

“Oh," said the girl in an indolent manDavidge, unaware of Miss Hallowell's ner, “I was just passing by this way.” proximity, presently caught a glimpse of “But you stopped!” the familiar figure of the Hallowells' butler, "I couldn't get through this crowd of

[graphic][merged small][merged small]

yours with the machine. We haven't all make off with her to the uttermost ends of had your experience in getting around the the earth, there to fight and keep her for his peopul,' Tom.”

own to the end of time. He laughed applaudingly at that. “You Presently the civilized man returned to could have gone around the block, you the lady and her servant in a snorting fortyknow-if you'd wanted to.” He drove his horse-power touring car. gaze down into her eyes, which fluttered “That's not my machine," she remarked, like cowards and sought the shadow. annoyed.

“Not with a broken-down machine," she "It's mine," he said, jumping out beside returned glibly. “I had to put in the time her; “but I'll let you go home in it,” he somehow. You're not much of a speaker; added with bantering condescension, and are you?

then stretched out an assisting hand deferHe paid no attention to the last. “Bro-entially. ken down?” he asked, a sudden plan com- The girl turned away with a manner caling into the back of his head. Politicians culated to freeze him. “Gray, will you be learn to see opportunities quickly. good enough to get my runabout?" “It's all right now.”

“Yes, Gray, get Miss Hallowell's run“Oh!” he sighed, disappointed. Then about," put in Davidge, “and have it hauled looking sceptically at the fat, incompe. to that garage half a mile down Main Street. tent house servant, “Who fixed it?” he l’ve telephoned them to expect it.” asked.

The girl turned in amazement. He kept demolishing her defences. Safety “Whoever fixed your car," he said calmlay in flight. "Perhaps you'll be convinced ly, "bungled the job pretty badly; the vithat it's fixed if you'll take the trouble to get bration screws are gone." it for me," she answered. “I'm late enough “The vibration screws!” as it is." He kept on gazing quizzically at “What did you think was the trouble?” Gray as she pointed down the dark side- There had been no trouble, but she could street where the automobile stood. “But not confess it now. She stood looking down it would take him forever,” she whispered, the side-street, trapped, irritated, but consmiling, "to get through this crowd of siderably interested. yours.

“Hurry, please," he said in a matter-of“That's what I was counting on, Nell,” fact manner; “I have another speech to he muttered and started off in the direction make this evening.” He touched her elbow she pointed, adding, “I suppose you saw gently. She bristled. He should have rethat."

membered how she always disliked being She did see it; she felt it, too; her breast seized by the elbow. was thumping with it-another reason for “I do not care to go with you,” she her panicky desire to be rid of him. said.

She watched him as the crowd parted be- “I know, but I'm afraid there's no way fore him, some of them turning to point him out of it, now," he replied with elaborate out, to gaze after the hero, as he brushed sympathy. “Gray has gone to hunt up a by, ignoring their adulation. She had come horse. Hurry, Nell, I'm due in Carusey in here to be amused. . . . So she smiled

So she smiled forty-five minutes." satirically.

“I'm not going with you, Tom!” As usual after one of his moments Dav- "Oh, yes you are!" idge had felt the jubilant glow that comes of She felt that he was willing her toward masterly self-assertion, a delicious form of the step. “It will be thirty miles around intoxication known to a few preachers, by your place,” he whispered; “but I'll some actors, and to "born” orators. But risk it-to please you." the momentary sense of invincibility now She drew back abruptly. “Thanks,” she only made him rebel the more at being said with sarcastic distinctness; “I'd hate thwarted in the thing he desired beyond all to make you late!” the public power the world could offer. “Think how that would please your faThe natural man within him raged, and ther,” he returned. “Come, Nell, it's to be he had to battle with a suffusing impulse to the speech of my life!" rush back, snatch her up in his arms, and “I'm not interested in your silly career.”

Vol. XL.-51

“But I am!” he cried, and picking her up They were rounding a curve at rather in his arms, he sprang into the car, threw in high speed and centrifugal force had its way the clutch, and dashed for the open country. with her. She came very near him, indeed,

and now was constrained to speak to him, II

too-a stiff apology for having clutched his

arm. Perhaps it was his elbow. At first she said nothing, sinking into the “Your apology is accepted,” he said, depths of her fur collar and giving herself up turning his face away. to the soothing sensations of speed and the She knew he was laughing at her. joyous frightof abduction, perhapsa heritage “Witty, aren't you?" she flung out. from former ages. He, too, said nothing, be It was a pretty good joke on you, Nell, ing still in a region of vehicles and frequent when you stop to think of it. You would crossings. Finally her dignity compelled come to hear me speak, would you? Well, her to let him see a little of her disapproval. I'll teach you how to trifle with a reformer."

“The vibration screws,” she remarked, “Quite proud of yourself!" looking straight down the road, "were all I'm proud of one thing." right when I left the machine.”

She kept silent for a bounding half-mile. “I know," he said; "it was done after He was bending over the wheel. “I'm you came to hear me speak.”

sure you want to know what I'm so proud “How do you know?”

of," he said, tooting for the trolley crossing. "I saw it done.”

I do not." “Who did it?"

“Then I'll tell you. I,” he said deliber“Some foe of the money power.” ately, “am honest about it, at any rate." “Why didn't you stop it?”

“You mean that I'm not?” Her cheeks “But I'm a friend of the people." flushed. “You did it!”

“Here are your vibration screws. Even “Of course; putting the money power's your father's crowd acknowledges that I'm machine out of business is my job, at pres- honest.” ent. Ask your father.”

Oh, to jump out and break her neck so She looked at the fleeting landscape, the that the blame would fall upon him and he rising moon, and then at him. “I suppose should have remorse all the days of his life! you think you're very clever,” she remarked But she didn't; they seldom do. Between sneeringly.

her teeth she said, “If you only knew how "It doesn't matter about that. I've got I hated you!” her voice shaking with it.

He observed the interesting curl of her “When we come to the trolley, I'll get lips and under it the momentary flash in the out, if you please.”

moonlight as he replied luxuriously: "Is He reached down, engaged the high-speed that the reason you came to see me-'way gear, opened the throttle, and advanced the over there, without any dinner?” spark. “At this rate of speed, Nell ? “I dined before starting, thank you." Really, I couldn't let you think of it." “Did you ? Nice of you to think of or

“I prefer to go home by trolley." dering dinner early, stirring up old Gray, “I'm fighting the trolleys.”

coming all that distance-all to hear me There was a silence. They raced on speak.' through the cool, open country, the coil “Oh, I admit being curious-" purring in high notes of delight as the car “Aha!” ate up the white road, bounding over bridges To see you make a spectacle of yourwith a roar, dashing past farm-houses, dis- self.” appointing eager dogs which could not reach

“But you liked my speech-you know you the fence in time to bark at them.

did. I know you did. A man can always Presently the girl spoke again, still deep tell.” in her coat and still looking straight ahead: “You convinced me of one thing: What

“Of course you realize that after this I they say about you is true.” can never have anything more to do with “They say so many things. Do you beyou; that I shall never speak to you; that lieve them, Nell?” I shall never come near you, that I-oh, oh!” He seemed serious and a little nicer in

you."

the rea

that tone; but it did not save him. “You She resented his masculine arrogance, his have convinced me that you are just as con- mannish tactlessness, and she hated herceited as a man can be."

self for wanting to cry. So because she felt "That isn't true, Nell. I could be still her heart giving way a little in spite of everymore conceited—if you would only let me." thing she pushed forth these words to him

She hurried away from that at once. in desperation: “Also you amused me. It must amuse “The reason I came to hear you, your 'peo-pul' too, pretending to be one of son I listened so closely, if you must have them-coming in an imported car to do it. it”-her clear voice rang defiantly in the Ha, ha!”

frosty air-"I wanted to see whether you “It's sweet of you, Nell, to be so much attacked my

father!” concerned about my success. But don't “Was that it, Nell ?” he asked quietly. you worry about the people," he went on in “That was it.” a calm, conversational tone, as if they were The horn tooted dismally for a curve. the best of friends. “That is just the mis- He said nothing more. take so many of the bosses—so many re- It suddenly occurred to her for the first formers make, too. The people know me time why her father's name had been so pretty well by this time, so much better than consistently spared in the candidate's you do, Nell. And they understand the is- speeches. It opened a rift in the clouds sues of this campaign so much better, too. that had gathered over them of late. It Did you ever stop to think how little you was the sort of thing to appeal to a girl, and appreciate all this? I don't believe you it set her thinking. even understood what I was talking about.” The silence continued for so long that

"Oh, you don't?” she returned disdain- she became exceedingly uncomfortable. fully. There was not enough difference in She had wanted to sting, but not to injure. their ages to make her wish that he were His actions and his words this evening were younger, but there was quite enough to hard to forgive, but it was harder to forget make her wish often that she were a little the reason for them. Besides, even if he did older. Just to show him that she was not play the game roughly, it was all in the spirit the ignorant child he thought her, she now of banter and good sport; whereas she felt outlined his entire address. When she fin- that she had now done the nasty, cattish ished she found him bending over the wheel thing. Straightway, like her impulsive sort, shaking with laughter.

she wanted to take all the blame. But girl“You dear thing! you lovely thing!” he ish pride closed her lips, so she bit them, cried jubilantly. “Conceited? Oh," he hating herself, her sex, her situation. shouted aloud to the passing trees, echoing As for the young man, he too was taking his horn from the distant hills, “there never her remark with undue seriousness, being was a man so conceited! Why, Nell, you in love with her. He had, to be sure, made must have been there the whole time! You jocular allusions to his fight with her famust have listened to the whole speech!” ther's interests—just as he and the old man Then, suddenly in the other tone, he said: himself were accustomed to do when they “Oh, if I could only make you listen to me met at the club-because it seemed more when I talk to you alone! No, don't be sensible and civilized than to ignore the matafraid, Nell, I won't. I know my place. ter with a humorless silence which would But, oh, you dear, dear girl!” His voice only proclaim it uncomfortably. But the came closer even though he did not. “If girl's serious reference to the affair, whether you only knew how I am missing you these she really had suspected him or not, seemed days! If you only knew how I'm needing in very bad taste. He had not thought it you! But that's all right, I'll shut up." He of her. It made him rather bitter as he returned his gaze down the road again. flected how little she realized the kind of

The combination of her emotions was al- attack he could make on Colonel Hallowell, most too much for her. Just when he if he wanted to, and at what a sacrifice he seemed to be taking her less seriously than refrained. ever he suddenly became devoted and def- The candidate sighed and still held his erential; while still showing her that he de- peace. He no longer felt strong and conspised her he let her see how he loved her. fident; he felt weak and discouraged. The

« EelmineJätka »