There flashed before Antony's eyes a quick panorama of the
extended Frenchman, the kneeling doctor, the threatening
men; his ears 37resounded with the gleeful cackle of that freckled Fate who had
launched them, and then he faced an empty country road, silent but for the
whirring of their chariot. He turned his face to the girl, unconsciously moving
the simple steering apparatus so as to keep the car in the middle of the road,
while he spoke.
"May I trouble you to take this now?" he said politely.
"Your knowledge of this business has undoubtedly saved you a great deal of
mortifying bother and delay."
She stiffened sensibly beside him, and in her voice he caught no
hint of the momentary rich abandon that he had noticed at the beginning of
their flight, for she spoke with the cool and airy dryness of their first
"My knowledge?" she repeated, with an obviously sincere
surprise, "my knowledge? What do you mean? Why should I take it? I never
handled a car in my life!"
Antony's fingers stiffened and grew damp against the wheel. For a
few sick seconds he sat utterly silent, stunned and incredulous, not knowing
what he did, while his hands, with a strange muscular memory all their own of
the days when he had propelled a 38little mechanical velocipede steered by a wheel, kept the whirring
vehicle in the centre of the long, empty road.
"Good heavens!" he muttered at last, "I thought you
told me--you certainly said--I understood you--oh, the devil!"
"Put your foot on something!" Nette cried feverishly;
"that's the way they do! It can't be hard to stop it for just a moment.
Put your foot----"
With that she stamped her little white shoe on a round metal disc
projecting like a toadstool from the floor in front of her, and immediately,
whether from that cause alone, or because Antony unwittingly complicated the
manoeuvre by some untoward pressure of knee or wrist, the car, with a
tremendous jerk, began to revolve backward upon itself in a dizzy swoop. A
moment more had seen them in the deep ditch beside the road, had not Antony
dislodged her foot with an ungraceful but timely kick and allowed the mechanism
to right itself and lumber into its course again.
"For God's sake, sit still!" he shouted hoarsely.
"Is it possible you do not understand you are in danger? Do you wish to
kill or 39maim us both before
it is necessary? I order you to sit perfectly quiet until I tell you to
"Very well," she replied meekly, with a short,
frightened intake of the breath, and they sped along.