The Scarlet CarRichard Harding Davis / Romance & Love
THE SCARLET CAR
RICHARD HARDING DAVIS
THE JAIL-BREAKERS THE TRESPASSERS THE KIDNAPPERS
THE SCARLET CAR
For a long time it had been arranged they all should go to the Harvardand Yale game in Winthrop's car. It was perfectly well understood.Even Peabody, who pictured himself and Miss Forbes in the back of thecar, with her brother and Winthrop in front, condescended to approve.It was necessary to invite Peabody because it was his great goodfortune to be engaged to Miss Forbes. Her brother Sam had beeninvited, not only because he could act as chaperon for his sister, butbecause since they were at St. Paul's, Winthrop and he, either asparticipants or spectators, had never missed going together to theYale-Harvard game. And Beatrice Forbes herself had been invitedbecause she was herself.
When at nine o'clock on the morning of the game, Winthrop stopped thecar in front of her door, he was in love with all the world. In theNovember air there was a sting like frost-bitten cider, in the skythere was a brilliant, beautiful sun, in the wind was the tinglingtouch of three ice-chilled rivers. And in the big house facing CentralPark, outside of which his prancing steed of brass and scarlet chuggedand protested and trembled with impatience, was the most wonderful girlin all the world. It was true she was engaged to be married, and notto him. But she was not yet married. And to-day it would be hisprivilege to carry her through the State of New York and the State ofConnecticut, and he would snatch glimpses of her profile rising fromthe rough fur collar, of her wind-blown hair, of the long, lovelylashes under the gray veil.
'Shall be together, breathe and ride, so, one day more am I deified;'whispered the young man in the Scarlet Car; 'who knows but the worldmay end to-night?'
As he waited at the curb, other great touring-cars, of every speed andshape, in the mad race for the Boston Post Road, and the town of NewHaven, swept up Fifth Avenue. Some rolled and puffed like tugboats ina heavy seaway, others glided by noiseless and proud as private yachts.But each flew the colors of blue or crimson.
Winthrop's car, because her brother had gone to one college, and he hadplayed right end for the other, was draped impartially. And so everyother car mocked or cheered it, and in one a bare-headed youth stoodup, and shouted to his fellows: Look! there's Billy Winthrop! Threetimes three for old Billy Winthrop! And they lashed the air withflags, and sent his name echoing over Central Park.
Winthrop grinned in embarrassment, and waved his hand. A bicycle cop,and Fred, the chauffeur, were equally impressed.
Was they the Harvoids, sir? asked Fred.
They was, said Winthrop.
Her brother Sam came down the steps carrying sweaters and steamer-rugs.But he wore no holiday countenance.
What do you think? he demanded indignantly. Ernest Peabody's insidemaking trouble. His sister has a Pullman on one of the special trains,and he wants Beatrice to go with her.
In spite of his furs, the young man in the car turned quite cold. Notwith us? he gasped.
Miss Forbes appeared at the house door, followed by Ernest Peabody. Hewore an expression of disturbed dignity; she one of distressedamusement. That she also wore her automobile coat caused the heart ofWinthrop to leap hopefully.
Winthrop, said Peabody, I am in rather an embarrassing position. Mysister, Mrs. Taylor Holbrooke--he spoke the name as though he wereannouncing it at the door of a drawing-room--desires Miss Forbes to gowith her. She feels accidents are apt to occur with motor cars--andthere are no other ladies in your party--and the crowds----
Winthrop carefully avoided looking at Miss Forbes. I should be verysorry, he murmured.
Ernest! said Miss Forbes, I explained it was impossible for me to gowith your sister. We would be extremely rude to Mr. Winthrop. How doyou wish us to sit? she asked.
She mounted to the rear seat, and made room opposite her for Peabody.
Do I understand, Beatrice, began Peabody in a tone that instantlymade every one extremely uncomfortable, that I am to tell my sisteryou are not coming?
Ernest! begged Miss Forbes.
Winthrop bent hastily over the oil valves. He read the speedometer,which was, as usual, out of order, with fascinated interest.
Ernest, pleaded Miss Forbes,
Mr. Winthrop and Sam planned this trip for us a long time ago--to giveus a little pleasure----
Then, said Peabody in a hollow voice, you have decided?
Ernest, cried Miss Forbes, don't look at me as though you meant tohurl the curse of Rome. I have. Jump in. Please!
I will bid you good-by, said Peabody; I have only just time to catchour train.
Miss Forbes rose and moved to the door of the car.
I had better not go with any one, she said in a low voice.
You will go with me, commanded her brother. Come on, Ernest.
Thank you, no, replied Peabody. I have promised my sister.
All right, then, exclaimed Sam briskly, see you at the game.Section H. Don't forget. Let her out, Billy.
With a troubled countenance Winthrop bent forward and clasped theclutch.
Better come, Peabody, he said.
I thank you, no, repeated Peabody. I must go with my sister.
As the car glided forward Brother Sam sighed heavily.
My! but he's got a mean disposition, he said. He has quite spoiledMY day.
He chuckled wickedly, but Winthrop pretended not to hear, and hissister maintained an expression of utter dejection.
But to maintain an expression of utter dejection is very difficult whenthe sun is shining, when you are flying at the rate of forty miles anhour, and when in the cars you pass foolish youths wave Yale flags atyou, and take advantage of the day to cry: Three cheers for the girlin the blue hat!
And to entirely remove the last trace of the gloom that Peabody hadforced upon them, it was necessary only for a tire to burst. Of coursefor this effort, the tire chose the coldest and most fiercely windsweptportion of the Pelham Road, where from the broad waters of the Soundpneumonia and the grip raced rampant, and where to the touch a steelwrench was not to be distinguished from a piece of ice. But before thewheels had ceased to complain, Winthrop and Fred were out of their furcoats, down on their knees, and jacking up the axle.
On an expedition of this sort, said Brother Sam, whatever happens,take it as a joke. Fortunately, he explained, I don't understandfixing inner tubes, so I will get out and smoke. I have noticed thatwhen a car breaks down, there is always one man who paces up and downthe road and smokes. His hope is to fool passing cars into thinkingthat the people in his car stopped to admire the view.
Recognizing the annual football match as intended solely to replenishthe town coffers, the thrifty townsfolk of Rye, with bicycles and redflags, were, as usual, and regardless of the speed at which it moved,levying tribute on every second car that entered their hospitableboundaries. But before the Scarlet Car reached Rye, small boys of thetown, possessed of a sporting spirit, or of an inherited instinct forgraft, were waiting to give a noisy notice of the ambush. And so,fore-warned, the Scarlet Car crawled up the main street of Rye asdemurely as a baby-carriage, and then, having safely reached a pointdirectly in front of the police station, with a loud and ostentatiousreport, blew up another tire.
Well, said Sam crossly, they can't arrest US for speeding.
Whatever happens, said his sister, take it as a joke.
Two miles outside of Stamford, Brother Sam burst into open mutiny.
Every car in the United States has passed us, he declared. We won'tget there, at this rate, till the end of the first half. Hit her up,can't you, Billy?
She seems to have an illness, said Winthrop unhappily. I think I'dsave time if I stopped now and fixed her.
Shamefacedly Fred and he hid themselves under the body of the car, anda sound of hammering and stentorian breathing followed. Of them allthat was visible was four feet beating a tattoo on the road. MissForbes got out Winthrop's camera, and took a snap-shot of the scene.
I will call it, she said, The Idle Rich.
Brother Sam gazed morosely in the direction of New Haven. They hadhalted within fifty yards of the railroad tracks, and as each specialtrain, loaded with