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Title: The Flying Mercury
Author: Ingram, Eleanor M. (Eleanor Marie), 1886-1921
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Flying Mercury" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                  [Illustration: THE FLYING MERCURY]


                                 THE

                                FLYING

                               MERCURY



                                  By

                           ELEANOR M INGRAM


                              Author of
                       THE GAME AND THE CANDLE



                        With Illustrations by

                           EDMUND FREDERICK


                            Decorations by

                            BERTHA STUART



                             INDIANAPOLIS

                      THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY

                              PUBLISHERS



                            COPYRIGHT 1910

                      THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY

       *       *       *       *       *



_To_

MY MOST DELIGHTFUL COMRADES AND
INDULGENT MOTOR INSTRUCTORS
--MY TWO BROTHERS

       *       *       *       *       *



I


The roaring reports of the motor fell into abrupt silence, as the
driver brought his car to a halt.

"You signaled?" he called across the grind of set brakes.

In the blending glare of the searchlights from the two machines, the
gray one arriving and the limousine drawn to the roadside, the young
girl stood, her hand still extended in the gesture which had stopped
the man who now leaned across his wheel.

"Oh, please," she appealed again.

On either side stretched away the Long Island meadows, dark,
soundless, apparently uninhabited. Only this spot of light broke the
monotony of dreariness. A keen, chill, October wind sighed past,
stirring the girl's delicate gown as its folds lay unheeded in the
dust, fluttering her fur-lined cloak and shaking two or three childish
curls from the bondage of her velvet hood. The driver swung himself
down and came toward her with the unhasting swiftness of one trained
to the unexpected.

"I beg pardon--can I be of some use?" he asked.

"We are lost," she confessed hurriedly. "If you could set us right, I
should be grateful. I--we must get home soon. I have been a guest at a
house somewhere here, and started to return to New York this
afternoon. The chauffeur does not know Long Island; we can not seem
to find any place. And now we have lost a tire. I was afraid--"

She broke off abruptly, as her companion descended from the limousine.

"We only want to know the way; we're all right," he explained. "This
is my cousin; I came out after her, you see. Don't get so worried,
Emily--we'll go straight on as soon as Anderson changes the tire."

He huddled his words slightly and spoke too rapidly, the round,
good-humored face he turned to the white light was too flushed;
otherwise there was nothing unusual in his appearance. And his caste
was evident and unquestionable, in spite of any circumstance. There
was no anger in the girl's dark eyes as she gazed straight before her,
only pity and helpless distress.

"I can tell your chauffeur the road," the driver of the gray car
quietly said. "Have you far to go?"

"To the St. Royal," she answered, looking at him. "My uncle is there.
Is that far?"

"No; you can reach there by ten o'clock. I will speak to your
chauffeur."

"Do, like a good fellow," the other man interposed. "Awfully obliged.
You're not angry, Emily," he added, lowering his voice, and moving
nearer her. "Since we're engaged, why should you get frightened simply
because I proposed we get married to-night instead of waiting for a
big wedding? I thought it was a good idea, you know. It isn't my fault
Anderson got lost instead of getting us home for dinner, is it?"

"Hush, Dick," she rebuked, hot color sweeping her face. "You, you are
not well. And we are not engaged; you forget. Just because people want
us to be--" Too proud to let her steadiness quiver, she broke the
sentence.

If the driver had heard, and it was scarcely possible that he had not,
he made no sign. By the acetylene light he produced an envelope and
pencil, and proceeded to sketch a map, showing the route to the
limousine's chauffeur.

"Understand it?" he queried, concluding. He had a certain decision of
manner, not in the least arrogant, but the result of a serene
self-surety that somehow accorded with his lithe, trained grace of
movement. A judge of men would have read him an athlete, perhaps in an
unusual line.

"Yes, sir," the chauffeur replied. "I'll get Miss Ffrench home in no
time after I get the tire on."

The indiscretion of the spoken name was ignored, except for a slight
lift of the hearer's eyebrows.

"How long does it take you to change a tire?"

"About half an hour; it's night, of course."

An odd, choking gurgle sounded from the gray machine, where a dark
figure had sat until now in quiescent muteness.

"Half an hour!" echoed the gray machine's driver, and faced toward the
chuckle. "Rupert, it isn't in your contract, but do you want to come
over and change this tire?"

"I'll do it for you, Darling," was the sweet response; the small
figure rolled over the edge of the car with a cat-like celerity.
"Where are your tools, you chauffeur? Quick!"

The bewildered chauffeur mechanically reached for a box on the
running-board, as the young assistant came up, grinning all over his
malign dark face.

"Oh, quicker! What's the matter, rheumatism? They wouldn't have you in
a training camp for motor trucks on Sunday. Hustle, _please_."

There never had been anything done to that sedate limousine quite as
this was done. Even the preoccupied girl looked on in fascination at a
rapidity of unwasted movement suggesting a conjuring feat.

"By George!" exclaimed her escort. "A splendid man you've got there!
Really, a splendid chauffeur, you know."

The driver smiled with a gleam of irony, but disregarded the comment.

"Would you like to get into your car?" he asked the girl. "You will be
able to start very soon."

"I see that," she acknowledged gratefully. "Thank you; I would rather
wait here."

"Is your chauffeur trustworthy?"

"Oh, yes; he has been in my uncle's employ for three years. But he was
never before out here, in this place."

There was a pause, filled by the soft monotone of insults drifting
from the side of the limousine, for Rupert talked while he worked and
his fellow-worker did not please him.

"Wrench, baby hippo! Oh, look behind you where you put it--you need a
memory course. You ought to be passing spools to a lady with a
sewing-machine. Did you ever see a motor-car before? There, pump her
up, do." He rose, drew out his watch and glanced at it. "Five minutes;
I'll have to beat that day after to-morrow."

The driver looked over at him and their eyes laughed together. Now,
for the first time, the girl noticed that across the shoulders of both
men's jerseys ran in silver letters the name of a famous foreign
automobile.

"I am very grateful, indeed," she said bravely and graciously. "I wish
I could say more, or say it better. The journey will be short, now."

But all her dignity could not check the frightened shrinking of her
glance, first toward the interior of the limousine and then toward the
man who was to enter there with her. And the driver of the gray
machine saw it.

"We have done very little," he returned. "May I put you in your car?"

The chauffeur was gathering his tools, speechlessly outraged, and
making ready to start. Seated among the rugs and cushions, under the
light of the luxurious car, the girl deliberately drew off her glove
and held out her small uncovered hand to the driver of the gray
machine.

"Thank you," she said again, meeting his eyes with her own, whose
darkness contrasted oddly with the blonde curls clustered under her
hood.

"You are not afraid to drive into the city alone?" he asked.

"Alone! Why, my cousin--"

"Your cousin is going to stay with me."

She flung back her head; amazement, question, relief struggled over
her sensitive face, and finally melted into irrepressible mirth under
the fine amusement of his regard.

"You are clever--and kind, to do that! No, I am not afraid."

He closed the door.

"Take your mistress home," he bade the chauffeur. "Crank for him,
Rupert."

"Why, why--" stammered the limousine's other passenger, turning as the
motor started.

No one heeded him.

"By-by, don't break any records," Rupert called after the chauffeur.
"Hold yourself in, do. If you shed any more tires, telegraph for me,
and if I'm within a day's run I'll come put them on for you and save
you time."

Silence closed in again, as the red tail-light vanished around a bend.
The gray car's driver nodded curtly to the stupefied youth in the
middle of the road.

"Unless you want to stay here all night, you'd better get in the
machine," he suggested. "My name's Lestrange--I suppose yours is
Ffrench?"

"Dick Ffrench. But, see here, you mean well, but I'm going with my
cousin. I'd like a drive with you, but I'm busy."

"You're not fit to go with your cousin."

"Not--"

"Fit," completed Lestrange definitely. "Can you hang on somewhere,
Rupert?"

"I can," Rupert assured, with an inflection of his own. "Get your
friend aboard."

Lestrange was already in his seat, waiting.

"What's that for?" asked the dazed guest, as, on taking his place, a
strap was slipped around his waist, securing him to the seat.

"So you won't fall out," soothed the grinning Rupert. "You ain't well,
you know. Not that I'd care if you did, but somebody might blame
Darling."

The car leaped forward, gathering speed to an extent that was a
revelation in motoring to Ffrench. The keen air, the giddy rush
through the dark, were a sobering tonic. After a while he spoke to the
man beside him, nervously embarrassed by a situation he was beginning
to appreciate.

"This is a racing car?"

"It was."

"Isn't it now?"

"If I were going to race it day after to-morrow, I wouldn't be risking
it over a country road to-night. A racing machine is petted like a
race-horse until it is wanted."

"And then?"

"It takes its chances. If you are connected with the Ffrenches who
manufacture the Mercury car, you should know something of automobile
racing yourself. I noticed your limousine was of that make."

"Yes, that is my uncle's company. I did see a race once at Coney
Island. A car turned over and killed its driver and made a nasty muss.
I--I didn't fancy it."

A wheel slipped off a stone, giving the car a swerving lurch which was
as instantly corrected--with a second lurch--by its pilot. The effect
was not tranquilizing; the shock swept the last confusion from
Ffrench's brain.

"Where are you taking me?" he presently asked.

"Where do you want to go? I will set you down at the next village we
come to; you can stay there to-night or you can get a trolley to the
city."

The question remained unanswered. Several times Ffrench glanced,
rather diffidently, at his companion's clear, firm profile, and looked
away again without speaking.

"I went out to get my cousin to-day, and my host gave me a couple of
highballs," he volunteered, at last. "I don't know what you thought--"

Lestrange twisted his car around a belated farm-wagon.

"How old are you?" he inquired calmly.

"Twenty-three."

"I'm nearly twenty-seven. That's what I thought."

The simpler mind considered this for a space.

"Some men are born awake, some awake themselves, and some are shaken
into awakening," paraphrased Lestrange, in addition. "If I were you,
I'd wake up; it comes easier and it's sure to arrive anyhow. There is
the village ahead--shall I stop?"

"It looks terribly dull," was the doleful verdict.

"Then come with me," flashed the other unexpectedly; for a fractional
instant his eyes left the road and turned to his companion's face.
"Did you ever see race practice at dawn? Come try a night in a
training camp."

"You'd bother with me?"

"Yes."

A head bobbed up by Ffrench's knee, where Rupert was clinging in some
inexplicable fashion.

"Once I rode eight miles out there by the hood, head downward, holding
in a pin," he imparted, by way of entertainment.

Ffrench stared at the reeling perch indicated, and gasped.

"What for?" he asked.

"So we could keep on to our control instead of being put out of the
running, of course. Did you guess I was curing a headache?"

"But you might have been killed!" exclaimed Ffrench.

Even by the semi-light of the lamps there was visible the
mechanician's droll twist of lip and brow.

"I'd drive to hell with Lestrange," he explained sweetly, and settled
back in his place.

Ffrench drew a long breath. After a moment he again looked at the
driver.

"I'll come," he accepted. "And, thank you."

It was Lestrange who smiled this time, with a sudden and enchanting
warmth of mirth.

"We'll try to amuse you," he promised.



II


It was a business consultation that was being held in Mr. Ffrench's
firelit library, in spite of the presence of a tea-table and the young
girl behind it. A consultation between the two partners who composed
the Mercury Automobile Company, of whom the lesser was speaking with a
certain anecdotal weight.

"And he said he was losing too much time on the turns; so the next
round he took the bend at seventy-two miles an hour. He went over, of
course. The third car we've lost this year; I'm glad the season's
closed."

Emily Ffrench gave an exclamation, her velvet eyes widening behind
their black lashes.

"But the driver! Was the poor driver hurt, Mr. Bailey?"

"He wasn't killed, Miss Emily," answered Bailey, with a tinge of
pensive regret. He was a large, ruddy, white-haired man, with the slow
and careful habit of speech sometimes found in those who live much
with massive machinery. "No, he wasn't killed; he's in the hospital.
But he wrecked as good a car as ever was built, through sheer
foolishness. It costs money."

Mr. Ffrench responded to the indirect appeal with more than usual
irritation, his level gray eyebrows contracting.

"We ought to have better drivers. Why do you not get better men,
Bailey? You wanted to go into this racing business; you said the cars
needed advertising. My brother always attended to that side of the
factory affairs, while he lived, with you as his manager. Now it is
altogether in your hands. Why do you not find a proper driver?"

"Perhaps my hands are not used to holding so much," mused Bailey
unresentfully. "A man might be a good manager, maybe, and weak as a
partner. It isn't the same job. But a first-class driver isn't easy to
get, Mr. Ffrench. There's Delmar killed, and George tied up with
another company, and Dorian retired, all this last season; and we
don't want a foreigner. There's only one man I like--"

"Well, get him. Pay him enough."

Bailey hunched himself together and crossed his legs.

"Yes, sir. He's beaten our cars--and others--every race lately, with
poorer machines, just by sheer pretty driving. He drives fast, yet he
don't knock out his car. But there's a lot after him--there's just one
way we could get him, and get him for keeps."

"And that?"

"He's ambitious; he wants to get into something more solid than
racing. If we offered to make him manager, he'd come and put some new
ideas, maybe, into the factory, and race our cars wherever we chose to
enter them. I know him pretty well."

The proposition was advanced tentatively, with the hesitation of one
venturing in unknown places. But Ethan Ffrench said nothing, his gray
eyes fixed on the hearth.

"He understands motor construction and designing, and he's been with
big foreign firms," Bailey resumed, after waiting. "He'd be useful
around; I can't be everywhere. What he'd do for us in racing would
help a whole lot. It's very well to make a fine standard car, but it
needs advertising to keep people remembering. And men like to say 'my
machine is the same as Lestrange won the Cup race with.' They like
it."

"I don't know," said Mr. Ffrench slowly, "that it is dignified for the
manager of the Mercury factory to be a racing driver."

"The Christine cars are driven by the son of the man who makes them,"
was the response. "Some drive their own."

"The son of the man who makes them," repeated the other. He turned his
face still more to the quivering fire, his always severe expression
hardening strangely and bitterly. "The son--"

The girl rose to draw the crimson curtains before the windows and to
push an electric switch, filling the room with a subdued golden glow
in place of the late afternoon grayness. Her delicate face, as she
regarded her uncle, revealed most strongly its characteristic
over-earnestness and a sensitive reflection of the moods of those
around her. Emily Ffrench's childhood had been passed in a Canadian
convent, and something of its mysticism clung about her. As the
cheerful change she had wrought flashed over the room, Mr. Ffrench
held out his hand in a gesture of summons, so that she came across to
sit on the broad arm of his chair during the rest of the conference,
her soft gaze resting on the third member.

"My adopted son and nephew having no such talents, we must do the best
we can," Mr. Ffrench stated, with his most precise coldness. "Being
well-born and well-bred, he has no taste for a mechanic's labor or for
circus performances with automobiles in public. Who is your man,
Bailey?"

"Lestrange, sir. You must have heard of him often."

"I never read racing news."

"I read ours," said Bailey darkly. "We've been licked often enough by
him. And he's straight--he's one of the few men who'll stop at the
grand-stand and lose time reporting a smash-up and sending help
around. Every man on the track likes Darling Lestrange."

"Likes _whom_?"

Bailey flushed brick-red.

"I didn't mean to call him that. He signs himself D. Lestrange, and
some of them started reading it Darling, joking because he was such a
favorite and because they liked him anyhow. It's just a nickname."

Emily laughed out involuntarily, surprised.

"I beg pardon," she at once apologized, "but it sounded so frivolous."

"If you try this man, you had better keep that nickname out of the
factory," Mr. Ffrench advised stiffly. "What respect could the workmen
feel for a manager with such a title? If possible, you would do well
to prevent them from recognizing him as the racing driver."

Bailey, who had risen at the chime of a clock, halted amazed.

[Illustration]

"Respect for him!" he echoed. "Not recognize him! Why, there isn't a
man on the place who wouldn't give his ears to be seen on the same
side of the street with Lestrange, let alone to work under him. They
_do_ read the racing news. That part of it will be all right, if I can
have him."

"If it is necessary--"

"I think it is, sir."

Emily moved slightly, pushing back her yellow-brown curls under the
ribbon that banded them. On a sudden impulse her uncle looked up at
her.

"What is your opinion?" he questioned. "If Dick had been listening I
should have asked his, and I fancy yours is fully as valuable. Come,
shall we have this racing manager?"

Astonished, she looked from her uncle to the other man. And perhaps it
was the real anxiety and suspense of Bailey's expression that drew her
quick reply.

"Let us, uncle. Since we need him, let us have him."

"Very well," said Mr. Ffrench. "You hear, Bailey."

There was a long silence after the junior partner's withdrawal.

"Come where I can see you, Emily," her uncle finally demanded. "I
liked your decided answer a few moments ago; you can reason. How long
have you been a daughter in my house?"

"Six years," she responded, obediently moving to a low chair opposite.
"I was fifteen when you took me from the convent--to make me very,
very happy, dear."

"I sent for you when I sent for Dick, and for the same reason. I have
tried three times to rear one of my name to fitness to bear it, and
each one has failed except you. I wish you were a man, Emily; there
is work for a Ffrench to do."

"When you say that, I wish I were. But--I'm not, I'm not." She flung
out her slender, round arms in a gesture of helpless resignation. "I'm
not even a strong-minded woman who might do instead. Uncle Ethan, may
I ask--it was Mr. Bailey who made me think--my cousin whom I never
saw, will he never come home?"

Her voice faltered on the last words, frightened at her own daring.
But her uncle answered evenly, if coldly:

"Never."

"He offended you so?"

"His whole life was an offense. School, college, at home, in each he
went wrong. At twenty-one he left me and married a woman from the
vaudeville stage. It is not of him you are to think, Emily, but of a
substitute for him. For that I designed Dick; once I hoped you would
marry him and sober his idleness."

"Please, no," she refused gently. "I am fond of Dick, but--please,
no."

"I am not asking it of you. He is well enough, a good boy, not
overwise, but not what is needed here. Failed, again; I am not
fortunate. There is left only you."

"Me?"

Her startled dark eyes and his determined gray ones met, and so
remained.

"You, and your husband. Are you going to marry a man who can take my
place in this business, in the factory and the model village my
brother and I built around it; a man whose name will be fit to join
with ours and so in a fashion preserve it here? Will you wait until
such a one is found and will you aid me to find him? Or will you too
follow selfish, idle fancies of your own?"

"No!" she answered, quite pale. "I would not do that! I will try to
help."

"You will take up the work the men of your name refuse, you will
provide a substitute for them?"

Her earnestness sprang to meet his strength of will, she leaned nearer
in her enthusiasm of self-abnegation, scarcely understood.

"I will find a substitute or accept yours. I, indeed I will try not to
fail."

It was characteristic that he offered neither praise nor caress.

"You have relieved my mind," said Ethan Ffrench, and turned his face
once more to the fire.



III


It was October when the consultation was held in the library of the
old Ffrench house on the Hudson; December was very near on the sunny
morning that Emily drove out to the factory and sought Bailey in his
office.

"I wanted to talk with you," she explained, as that gentleman rose to
receive her. "We have known each other for a long time, Mr. Bailey;
ever since I came from the Sacred Heart to live with Uncle Ethan. That
is a _very_ long time."

"It's a matter of five or six years," agreed the charmed Bailey,
contemplating her with affectionate pride in her prettiness and grace.
"You used to drive out here with your pony and spend many an hour
looking on and asking questions. You'll excuse me, Miss Emily, but
there was many a man passed the whisper that you'd have made a fine
master of the works."

She shook her head, folding her small gloved hands upon the edge of
the desk at the opposite sides of which they were seated.

"At least I would have tried. I am quite sure I would have tried. But
I am only a girl. I came to ask you something regarding that," she
lifted her candid eyes to his, her soft color rising. "Do you
know--have you ever met any men who cared and understood about such
factories as this? Men who could take charge of a business, the
manufacturing and racing and selling, like my uncles? I have a reason
for asking."

"Sure thing," said Bailey, unexpectedly prompt. "I've met one man who
knows how to handle this factory better than I do, and I've been at it
twelve years. And there he is--" he turned in his revolving chair and
rolled up the shade covering the glass-set door into the next room,
"my manager, Lestrange."

The scene thus suddenly opened to the startled Emily was sufficiently
matter-of-fact, yet not lacking in a certain sober animation of its
own. Around a drafting table central in the bare, systematic disorder
of the apartment beyond, three or four blue-shirted men were grouped,
bending over a set of drawings, which Lestrange was explaining.
Explaining with a vivid interest in his task that sparkled over his
clear face in a changing play of expression almost mesmeric in its
command of attention. The men watched and listened intently; they
themselves no common laborers, but the intelligent workmen who were to
carry out the ideas here set forth. Wherever Lestrange had been, he
was coatless and the sleeves of his outing shirt were rolled back,
leaving bare the arms whose smooth symmetry revealed little of the
racing driver's strength; his thick brown hair was rumpled into boyish
waves and across his forehead a fine black streak wrote of recent
personal encounter with things practical.

"Oh!" exclaimed Emily faintly. And after a moment, "Close the curtain,
please."

None of the group in the next room had noticed the movement of the
shade, absorbed in one another; any sound being muffled by the throb
of adjacent machinery. Bailey obeyed the request, and leaned back in
his chair.

"That's Darling Lestrange," he stated with satisfaction. "That's his
own design for an oiling system he's busy with, and it's a beauty.
He's entered for every big race coming this season, starting next week
in Georgia, and meantime he oversees every department in every
building as it never was done before. The man for me, he is."

Emily made an unenthusiastic sign of agreement.

"I meant very different men from Mr. Lestrange," she replied, her
dignity altogether Ffrench. "I have no doubt that he is all you say,
but I was thinking of another class. I meant--well, I meant a
gentleman."

"Oh, you meant a gentleman," replied Bailey, surveying her oddly. "I
didn't know, you see. No; I don't know any one like that."

"Thank you. Then I will go. I--it does not matter."

She did not go, however, but remained leaning on the arm of her chair
in troubled reverie, her long lashes lowered. Bailey sat as quietly,
watching her and waiting.

The murmur of voices came dully through the closed door, one, lighter
and clearer in tone, most frequently rising above the roar pervading
the whole building. It was not possible that Emily's glimpse of
Lestrange across the glass should identify him absolutely with the man
she had seen once in the flickering lights and shadows on the Long
Island road; but he was not of a type easily forgotten, and she had
been awakened to a doubting recognition.

Now, many little circumstances recurred to her; a strangeness in
Dick's manner when the new manager was alluded to, the fact that her
rescuer on that October night had been driving a racing car and had
worn a racing costume; and lastly, when Bailey spoke of "Darling"
Lestrange there had flashed across her mind the mechanician's
ridiculous answer to the request to aid her chauffeur in changing a
tire: "I'll do it for you, Darling." And listening to that dominant
voice in the next room, she slowly grew crimson before a vision of
herself in the middle of a country road, appealing to a stranger for
succor, like the heroine of melodramatic fiction. Decidedly, she
would never see Lestrange, never let him discover Miss Ffrench.

"I will go," she reiterated, rising impetuously.

The glass-set door opened with unwarning abruptness.

"I'll see Mr. Bailey," declared some one. "He'll know."

Helpless, Emily stood still, and straightway found herself looking
directly into Lestrange's gray eyes as he halted on the threshold.

It was Bailey who upheld the moment, all unconsciously.

"Come in," he invited heartily. "Miss Ffrench, this is our manager,
Mr. Lestrange; the man who's going to double our sales this year."

Emily moved, then straightened herself proudly, lifting her small
head. Lestrange had recognized her, she felt; the call was to
courage, not flight.

"I think I have already met Mr. Lestrange," she said composedly. "I am
pleased to meet him again."

"Met him!" cried Bailey. "Met him? Why--"

Neither heeded him. A gleaming surprise and warmth lit Lestrange's
always brilliant face.

"Thank you," he answered her. "You are more than good to recall me,
Miss Ffrench. I owe an apology for breaking in this way, but I fancied
Mr. Bailey alone--and he spoils me."

"It is nothing; I was about to go." She turned to give Bailey her
hand, smiling involuntarily in her relief. With a glance, an
inflection, Lestrange had stripped their former meeting of its
embarrassment and unconventionality, how, she neither analyzed nor
cared.

"Good morning," said Bailey. "Shall I take you through, or--"

But Lestrange was already holding open the door, with a bright
unconcern as to his workmanlike costume which impressed Emily
pleasantly. She wondered if Dick would have borne the situation as
well, in the impossible event of his being found at work.

The two walked together down an aisle of the huge, machinery-crowded
room, the grimy men lifting their heads to gaze after Emily as she
passed. Once Lestrange paused to speak to a man who sat, note-book and
pencil in hand, beside another who manipulated under a grinding wheel
a delicate aluminum casting.

"Pardon," he apologized to Emily, who had lingered also. "Mathews
would have let that go wrong in another moment. He," his smile glanced
out, "he is not a Rupert at changing his tires, so to speak, but just
a good chauffeur."

The gay and natural allusion delighted her. For the first time in her
life Emily Ffrench laughed out in a genuine, mischievous sense of
adventure.

"Yes? I wonder you could separate yourself from that Rupert to come
here; he was a most bewildering person," she retorted.

"Separate from Rupert? Why, I would not think of racing a taxicab, as
he would say, without Rupert beside me. He is here taking a
post-graduate course in this type of car, in order to be up to his
work when we go down to Georgia next week."

"Next week? You expect to win that race?"

"No. We are running a stock car against some heavy foreign racing
machines; the chance of winning is slight. But I hope to outrun any
other American car on the course, if nothing goes wrong."

She looked up.

"And if something does?" she wondered.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Pray be careful of those moving belts behind you, Miss Ffrench. If
something does--there is a chance in every game worth playing."

"A chance!" her feminine nerves recoiled from the implied
consequences. "But only a chance, surely. You were never in an
accident, never were hurt?"

Lestrange regarded her in surprise mingled with a dawning raillery
infinitely indulgent.

"I had no accidents last season," he guardedly responded. "I've been
quite lucky. At least Rupert and I play our game unhampered; there
will be no broken hearts if we are picked up from under our car some
day."

They had reached the door while he spoke; as he put his hand on the
knob to open it, Emily saw a long zigzag scar running up the extended
arm from wrist to elbow, a mute commentary on the conversation. In
silence she passed out across the courtyard to where her red-wheeled
cart waited. But when Lestrange had put her in and given her the
reins, she held out her hand to him with more gravity.

"I shall wish you good luck for next week," she said.

Lestrange threw back his head, drawing a quick breath; here in the
strong sunlight he showed even younger than she had thought him, young
with a primitive intensity of just being alive.

"Thank you. I would like--if it were possible--to win this race."

"This one, especially?"

"Yes, because it is the next step toward a purpose I have set myself,
and which I shall accomplish if I live. Not that I will halt if this
step fails, no, nor for a score of such failures, but I am anxious to
go on and finish."

Up to Emily's face rushed the answering color and fire to his; drawn
by the bond of mutual earnestness, she leaned nearer.

"You live to do something? So do I, so do I! And every one else
_plays_."

However Lestrange would have replied, he was checked by the crash of
the courtyard gate. Abruptly recalled to herself, Emily turned, to see
Dick Ffrench coming toward them.

Remembering how the three had last met, the situation suggested
strain. But to Emily's astonishment the young men exchanged friendly
nods, although Dick flushed pink.

"Good morning, Lestrange," he greeted. "I've just come up from the
city, Emily, and there wasn't any carriage at the station, so when one
of the testers told me you were here I came over to get a ride."

"I've been to see Mr. Bailey," she responded. "Get in."

As Dick climbed in beside her, she bent her head to Lestrange; if she
had regretted her impulsive confidence, again the clear sanity and
calm of the gray eyes she encountered established self-content.

When they were trotting down the road toward home, in the crisp air,
Emily glanced at her cousin.

"I did not know you and Mr. Lestrange were so well acquainted," she
remarked.

"I see him now and then," Dick answered uneasily. "He's too busy to
want me bothering around him much. You--remembered him?"

"Yes."

He absently took the whip from its socket, flecking the horse with it
as he spoke.

"It was awfully square of you, Emily, not to mention that night to
Uncle Ethan. It wasn't like a girl, at all. I made an idiot of
myself, and you've never said anything to me about it since. I never
told you where Lestrange took me, because I didn't like to talk of the
thing. I'm really awfully fond of you, cousin."

"Yes, Dickie," she said patiently.

"Well, Lestrange rubbed it in. Oh, he didn't say much. But he carried
me down to where they were practising for a road race. Such a jolly
lot of fellows, like a bunch of kids; teasing and calling jokes back
and forth at one another half the night until daybreak, everything raw
and chilly. Busy, and their mechanics busy, and one after another
swinging into his car and going off like a rocket. By the time
Lestrange went off, I was as much stirred up as anybody. When he made
a record circuit at seventy-seven miles an hour average, I was
shouting over the rail like a good one. And then, while he was off
again, a big blue car rolled in and its driver yelled that Lestrange
had gone over on the Eastbury turn, and to send around the ambulance.
It was like a nightmare; I sat down on a stone and felt sick."

"He--"

"He shook me up half an hour later, and stood laughing at me. 'Upset?'
he said. 'No; we shed a tire and went off into a field, but it didn't
hurt the machine, so we righted her and came in.' He was limping and
bruised and scratched, but he was laughing, while a crowd of people
were trying to shake hands with him and say things. I felt--funny; as
if I wasn't much good. I never felt like that before. 'This is only
practise,' he said, when I was about to go. 'The race to-morrow will
do better. We find it more exciting than cocktails.' That was all, but
I knew what he meant, all right. I've been careful ever since. He won
the race next day, too."

"Dick, didn't it ever occur to you that you as well as Mr. Lestrange
might do real things?" she asked, after a moment.

He turned his round, good-humored face to her in boundless amazement.

"I? I race cars and break my neck and call it fun, like Lestrange?
You're laughing at me, Emily."

"No, no," in spite of herself the picture evoked brought her smile.
"Not like that. But you might be interested in the factory. You might
learn from Mr. Bailey and take charge of the business with Uncle
Ethan. It would please uncle, _how_ it would please him, if you
did!"

[Illustration]

Dick stirred unhappily.

"It would take a lot of grind," he objected. "I haven't the head for
it, really. I'm not such an awfully bad lot, but I hate work. Let's
not be serious, cousin. How pretty the frosty wind makes you look!"

Emily tightened the reins with a brief sigh of resignation.

"Never mind, Dickie. I--uncle will find a substitute. Things must go
on somehow, I suppose, even if we do not like the way."

But the way loomed distasteful that morning as never before.



IV


Mr. Ffrench and his niece were at breakfast, on the Sunday when the
first account of the Georgia race reached Ffrenchwood.

"You will take fresh coffee," Emily was saying, the little silver pot
poised in her hand, when the door burst open and Dick hurried,
actually hurried, into the room.

"He's won! He's got it!" he cried, brandishing the morning newspaper.
"The first time for an American car with an American driver. And how
he won it! He distanced every car on the track except the two big
Italian and French machines. Those he couldn't get, of course; but the
Frenchman went out in the fourth hour with a broken valve. Then he
was set down for second place--second place, Emily, with every other
big car in the country entered. They say he drove like, like--I don't
know what. A hundred and some miles an hour on the straight
stretches."

"Oh," Emily faltered, setting down the coffee-pot in her plate.

He stopped her eagerly, half turning toward Mr. Ffrench, who had put
on his pince-nez to contemplate his nephew in stupefaction, not at his
statement, but at his condition.

"Wait. In the last hour, the Italian car lost its chain and went over
into a ditch on a back stretch, three miles from a doctor. People
around picked the men out of the wreck, and Lestrange came up to find
that the driver was likely to die from a severed artery before help
got there. Emily, he stopped, stopped, with victory in his hands, had
the Italian lifted into the mechanician's seat, and Rupert held him in
while they dashed around the course to the hospital. He got him there
fifteen minutes before an ambulance could have reached him, and the
man will get well. But Lestrange had lost six minutes. He had rushed
straight to the doctor's, given them the man, and gone right on, but
he had lost six minutes. When people realized what he'd done, they
went wild. Every one thought he'd lost the race, but they cheered him
until they couldn't shout. And he kept on driving. It's all here," he
waved the gaudy sheet. "The paper's full of it. He had half an hour to
make up six minutes, and he did it. He came in nineteen seconds ahead
of the nearest car. The crowd swarmed out on the course and fell all
over him. Old Bailey's nearly crazy."

To see Dick excited would have been marvel enough to hold his auditors
mute, if the story itself had not possessed a quality to stir even
non-sporting blood. Emily could only sit and gaze at the head-lines of
the extended newspaper, her dark eyes wide and shining, her soft lips
apart.

"He telegraphed to Bailey," Dick added, in the pause. "Ten words:
'First across line in Georgia race. Car in fine shape. Lestrange.'
That was all."

Mr. Ffrench deliberately passed his coffee-cup to Emily.

"You had better take your breakfast," he advised. "It is unusual to
see you noticing business affairs, Dick; I might say unprecedented. I
am glad if Bailey's new man is capable of his work, at least. I
suppose for the rest, that he could scarcely do less than take an
injured person to the hospital. Why are you putting sugar in my cup,
Emily?"

"I don't know," she acknowledged helplessly.

"I didn't mean to disturb any one," said Dick, sulky and resentful.
"It'll be a big thing though for our cars, Bailey says. I didn't know
you disliked Lestrange."

Mr. Ffrench stiffened in his chair.

"I have not sufficient interest in the man to dislike him," was the
cold rebuke. "We will change the subject."

Emily bent her head, remedying her mistake with the coffee. She
comprehended that her uncle had conceived one of his strong, silent
antipathies for the young manager, and she was sorry. Sorry, although,
remembering Bailey's unfortunate speech the night Lestrange's
engagement was proposed, she was not surprised. But she looked across
to Dick sympathetically. So sympathetically, that after breakfast he
followed her into the library, the colored journals in his hand.

"What's the matter with the old gentleman this morning?" he
complained. "He wants the business to succeed, doesn't he? If he does,
he ought to like what Lestrange is doing for it. What's the matter
with him?"

Emily shook back her yellow curls, turning her gaze on him.

"You might guess, Dickie. He is lonely."

"Lonely! He!"

All the feminine impulse to defend flared up.

"Why not?" she exclaimed with passion. "Who has he got? Who stands
with him in his house? No wonder he can not bear the man who is hired
to do what a Ffrench should be doing. It is not the racing driver he
dislikes, but the manager. And do not you blame him, Dick Ffrench."

Quite aghast, he stared after her as she turned away to the nearest
window. But presently he followed her over, still holding the papers.

"Don't you want to read about the race?" he ventured.

Smiling, though her lashes were damp, Emily accepted the peace
offering.

"Yes, please."

"You're not angry? You know I'm a stupid chump sometimes; I don't mean
it."

This time she laughed outright.

"No; I am sorry I was cross. It is I who would like to shirk my work.
Never mind me; let us read."

They did read, seated opposite each other in the broad window-seat and
passing the sheets across as they finished them. Dick had not
exaggerated, on the contrary he had not said enough. Lestrange and his
car were the focus of the hour's attention. The daring, the reckless
courage that risked life for victory, the generosity which could throw
that victory away to aid a comrade, and lastly the determination and
skill which had won the conquest after all--the whole formed a feat
too spectacular to escape public hysteria. It was very doubtful
indeed whether Lestrange liked his idolizing, but there was no escape.

The two who read were young.

"It was a splendid fight," sighed Dick, when they dropped the last
page.

"Yes," Emily assented. "When he comes back, when you see him, give him
my congratulations."

"When I see him? Why don't you tell him yourself?"

Something like a white shadow wiped the scarlet of excitement from her
cheeks, as she averted her face.

"I shall not see him; I shall not go to the factory any more. It will
be better, I am sure."

Vaguely puzzled and dismayed, Dick sat looking at her, not daring to
question.

Emily kept her word during the weeks that followed. Through Dick and
Bailey she heard of factory affairs; of the sudden increase of orders
for the Mercury automobiles, the added prestige gained, and the public
favor bestowed on the car. But she saw nothing of the man who was
responsible for all this. Instead she went out more than ever before.
Their social circle was too painfully exclusive to be large or gay.

Three times a week it was Mr. Ffrench's stately custom to visit the
factory and inspect it with Bailey. At other times Bailey came up to
the house, where affairs were conducted. But in neither place did Mr.
Ffrench ever come in contact with his manager, during all the months
while winter waxed and waned again to spring.

"That's Bailey's doing," chuckled Dick, when Emily finally wondered
aloud at the circumstance. "He isn't going to risk losing Lestrange
because our high and mighty uncle falls out with him. And it would be
pretty likely to happen if they met. Lestrange has a temper, you know,
even if it doesn't stick out all over him like a hedgehog; and a dozen
other companies would give money to get him."

Emily nodded gravely. It was a sunny morning in the first of March,
and the cousins were at the end of the old park surrounding
Ffrenchwood, where they had strolled before breakfast.

"Mr. Bailey likes Mr. Lestrange," she commented.

"Likes him! He loves him. You know Lestrange lives with him; a
bachelor household, cozy as grigs."

Just past here ran the road, beyond a high cedar hedge. While he was
speaking, the irregular explosive reports of a motor had sounded down
the valley, unmistakable to those familiar with the testing of the
stripped cars, and rapidly approaching. Now, as Emily would have
answered, the roar suddenly changed in character, an appalling series
of explosions mingled with the grind of outraged machinery suddenly
braked, and some one shouted above the din. The next instant a huge
mass shot past the other side of the hedge and there followed a dull
crash.

"That's one of our men!" gasped Dick, and plunged headlong through the
shrubbery.

Dazed momentarily, Emily stood, then caught up her skirts and ran
after him. She knew well enough what the testers of the cars risked.

"Dick!" she appealed. "Dick!"

But it was not the wreck she anticipated that met her eyes as she came
through the hedge. On the opposite side of the road a long low
skeleton car was standing, one side lurched drunkenly down with two
wheels in the gutter. Still in his seat, the driver was leaning over
the steering-wheel, out of breath, but laughing a greeting to the
astonished Dick.

"A break in the steering-gear," he declared, by way of explanation. "I
told Bailey it was a weak point; now perhaps he'll believe me and
strengthen it."

"You're not hurt," Dick inferred.

"I think she's not--a tire gone. Find anything wrong, Rupert?"

"Two tires off," said the laconic mechanician. "Two funerals
postponed. That was a pretty stop, Darling."

"Very," coolly agreed Lestrange, rising and removing his goggles.
"What's the matter, Ffrench?"

"You frightened us out of our five senses, that's all. Do you usually
practise for races out here?"

"_Us?_" repeated Lestrange, and turning, saw the girl at the edge of
the park. "Miss Ffrench, I beg your pardon!"

The swift change in his tone, the ease of deference with which he
bared his head and, motor caps not being readily donned or doffed, so
remained bareheaded in the bright sunlight, savored of the Continent.

"It is too commonplace to say good morning," Emily replied, her color
rising with her smile. "I am very glad you escaped. But that is
commonplace, too, I'm afraid."

"Every one is commonplace before breakfast," reassured her cousin.
"Honestly, Lestrange, do you practise racing here?"

"Hardly. I'm trying out the car; every car has to go through that
before it is used. Don't you know that we've recently secured from the
local authorities a permit to run at any speed over this road between
four o'clock and eight in the morning? I thought all the country-side
knew that."

"But we have a regiment of men to test cars."

Lestrange passed a caressing glance over the dingy-gray machine in its
state of bareness that suggested indecorum.

"This is my car, the one I'll race this spring and summer. No one
drives it but me. Besides, I have to have some diversion."

He stepped to the ground with the last word, and went around to where
Rupert was on his knees beside the machine.

"Can you fix it here?" he demanded.

"Not precisely," was the drawled reply. "Back to camp for it with a
horse in front."

"All right. You'll have to walk down and get a car from Mr. Bailey to
tow it home."

Rupert got up, his dark, malign little face twisted.

"If I'd broken a leg they'd have sent a cart for me," he mourned. "Now
I'll have to walk, and I ain't used to it. Hard luck!"

"If you go around to the stables they will give you my pony cart,"
Emily offered impulsively. "You," her dimpling smile gleamed out, "you
once put a tire on for me, you know. Please let me return the
service."

Rupert's black eyes opened, a slow grin of appreciation crinkled
streaks of dust and oil as he surveyed the young girl.

"I'll put tires on every wheel you run into control, day and night
shifts," he acknowledged with sweet cordiality. "But I'm no
horse-chauffeur, thanks; I guess I'll walk."

"He is a gentle pony," she remonstrated. "Any one can drive him."

He turned a side glance toward the motionless car.

"That's all right, but I'm used to being killed other ways. I'll be
going."

"Jack Rupert, do you mean to tell me that you will race with
Lestrange every season, and yet you're afraid to drive a fat cob?"
cried the delighted Dick.

"I'm not telling anything. I had a chum who was pitched out by a horse
he lost control of, and broke his neck. I'm taking no chances."

"How many men have you seen break their necks out of autos?"

"That's in business," pronounced Rupert succinctly. "I'm going on,
Darling; it's only a two-mile run."

"Here, wait," Dick urged. "Emily, I'll stroll around to the stables
with him and make one of the men drive him down. You don't mind my
leaving you?"

"No," Emily answered. "I will wait for you."

She might have walked back alone, if she had chosen. But instead she
sat down on a boulder near the hedge, folding her hands in her lap
like a demure child. The house was so dull, so hopelessly monotonous
contrasted with this fresh, wind-tossed outdoors and Lestrange in his
vigor of life and glamour of ultramodern adventure.

"You and Mr. Ffrench are very good," Lestrange said presently. "I am
afraid I appreciate it more than Rupert, though."

"Is he really afraid of horses?"

"I should not wonder; I never tried him. But he is amazingly
truthful."

Their eyes met across the strip of sunny road as they smiled; again
Emily felt the sudden confidence, the falling away of all constraint
before the direct clarity of his regard.

"You won your race," she said irrelevantly. "I was glad, since you
wanted it."

"Thank you," he returned with equal simplicity. "But I did not want it
that way, so far as I was concerned."

"Yet, it was the next step?"

"Yes, it was the next step. I meant that one does not care to be
victor because the leading cars were wrecked. There is no elation in
defeating a driver who lies out on the course. But, as you say, it
helped my purpose. You," he hesitated for the right phrase, "you are
most kind to recall that I have a purpose."

It was the convent-bred Emily who looked back at him, earnest-eyed,
exaltedly serious.

"I have thought of it often. Every one else that I know just lives the
way things happen--there are only a few people who grasp things and
_make_ them happen. That is real work; so many of us are just given
work we do not want--" she broke off.

"If we do not want the work, it is probably not our own," said
Lestrange. "Unless we have brought it on ourselves by a fault we must
undo--I need not speak of that to you. One must not make the mistake
of assuming some one else's work."

He spoke gently, almost as if with a clairvoyant reading of her
tendency to self-immolation.

"But may not some one else's fault be given us to undo?" she asked
eagerly. "May not their work be forced on us?"

"No," he answered.

"No?" bewildered.

"I don't think so. Each one of us has enough with his own, at least
so it seems to me. Most of us die before we finish it."

Emily paused, contending with the loneliness and doubts which impelled
her to speech, the feminine yearning to let another decide her
problems. This other's nonchalant strength of decision allured her
uncertainty.

"I am discouraged," she confessed. "And tired. I--there is no reason
why I should not speak of it. You know Dick, how he can do nothing in
the factory or business, or in the places where a Ffrench should
stand. All this must fall into the hands of strangers, to be broken
and forgotten, when my uncle dies, for lack of some one who would
care. And Uncle Ethan seems severe and hard, but it grieves him all
the time. His only son was not a good man; he lives abroad with his
wife, who was an actress before he married her. You knew that?" as he
moved.

"I heard something of it in the village," Lestrange admitted gravely.
"Please do not think me fond of gossip; I could not avoid it. But I
should not have imagined this a family likely to make low marriages."

"It never happened before. I never saw that cousin, nor did Dick; but
he was always a disappointment, always, Uncle Ethan has told me. And
since he failed, and Dick fails, there is only me."

"You!"

She nodded, her lip quivering.

"Only me. Not as a substitute--I am not fit for that--but to find a
substitute. I have promised my uncle to marry the first one who is
able to be that."

The silence was absolute. Lestrange neither moved nor spoke, gazing
down at her bent head with an expression blending many shades.

"It is a duty; there is no one except me," she added. "Only sometimes
I grow--to dislike it too much. I am so selfish that sometimes I hope
a substitute will never come."

Her voice died away. It was done; she, Emily Ffrench, had deliberately
confided to this stranger that which an hour before she would have
believed no one could force from her lips in articulate speech. And
she neither regretted nor was ashamed, although there was time for
full realization before Lestrange answered.

"I did not believe," he said, "that such things could be done. It is
nonsense, of course, but such magnificent nonsense! It is the kind of
situation, Miss Ffrench, where any man is justified in interfering. I
beg you will leave the affair in my hands and think no more of such
morbid self-sacrifice."

Stupefied, Emily flung back her head, staring at him.

"In _your_ hands?"

"Since there are none better, it appears. Why," his vivid face
questioned her full and straightly, "you didn't imagine that any man
living could hear what you are doing, and pass on?"

"My uncle knows--"

"Your uncle--is not for me to criticize. But do not ask any other man
to let you go on."

Her ideas reeling, she struggled for comprehension.

"You, what could you do?" she marveled. "The substitute--"

"There won't be any substitute," replied Lestrange with perfect
coolness. "I shall train Dick Ffrench to do his work."

"You--"

"I can, and I will."

"He can not--"

"Oh, yes, he can; he is just idle and spoiled," the firm lips set more
firmly. "He shall take his place. I can handle him."

Emily sat quite helplessly, her eyes black with excitement. Slowly
recollection flowed back to her of a change in Dick since his light
contact with Lestrange; his avoidance of even occasional highballs,
his awakening interest in the clean sport of the races, and his
half-wistful admiration for the virile driver-manager.

"I almost believe you could," she conceded.

"I can," repeated Lestrange. "Only," he openly smiled, "it will be
hard on Dickie."

It was the touch needed, the antidote to sentiment. Emily laughed with
him, laughed in sheer mischief and relief and leap of youth.

"You will be gentle--poor Dickie!"

"I'll be gentle. He is coming now, I think." He took a step nearer
her. "You will leave this in my care, wholly? You will not trouble
about--a substitute?"

"I will leave it with you. But you are forgetting your own doctrine;
you are taking some one else's work to do."

"Pardon, I am merely making Ffrench do his work. I have seen a little
more of him than you perhaps know; I understand what I am undertaking.
Moreover, I would forget a great many doctrines to set you free."

"Free?" she echoed; she had the sensation of being suddenly confronted
with an open door into the unexpected.

"Free," he quietly reasserted. "Free to live your own life and draw
unhampered breath, and to decide the great question when it comes,
with thought only of yourself."

She drew back; a prescient dismay fell sharply across her late relief,
a panic crossed with strange delight.

"He's off," called Dick, emerging from the park. "I made Anderson
take him down with the limousine. At least, Rupert is driving while
Anderson sits alongside and holds on; when they came to the turn in
the avenue, your precious mechanician took it full speed and then
apologized for going so slowly because, as he said, he was an amateur
and likely to upset. Is he really a good driver, Lestrange?"

"Pretty fair," returned Lestrange serenely, from his seat on the edge
of the ditched machine. "When I'm not using him, he's employed as one
of the factory car testers; and when we're racing I give him the wheel
if I want to fix anything. However, I'm obliged to that
steering-knuckle for breaking here, instead of leaving me to a long
wait in the wilds. Come down to the shop to-morrow at six, and Rupert
and I will even up by taking you for a run."

"Who; me? You're asking me?"

"Why not? It's exhilarating."

Dick removed his hat and ran his fingers through his hair,
gratification and alarm mingling in his expression with somewhat the
effect of the small boy who is first invited into a game with his
older brother's clique.

"You--er, wouldn't smash me up?" he hesitated.

"I haven't smashed up Rupert or myself, so far. If you feel timid,
never mind, of course; I'll take my usual companion."

Dick flushed all over his plump face, the Ffrench blood up at last.

"I was only joking," he hastily explained. "I'll come. It's only that
you're so confoundedly reckless sometimes, Lestrange, and--But I'll
come."

Lestrange gave his fine, glinting smile as he rose to salute Emily.

"All right. If you don't get down to the factory in time, I'll call
for you," he promised.



V


There was a change in the Ffrench affairs, a lightening of the
atmosphere, a vague quickening and stir of healthful cheer in the days
that followed. The somber master of the house met it in Bailey's
undisguised elation and pride when they discussed the successful
business now taxing the factory's resources, met it yet again in
Emily's pretty gaiety and content. But most strikingly was he
confronted with an alteration in Dick.

It was only a week after his first morning ride with Lestrange, that
Dick electrified the company at dinner, by turning down the glass at
his plate.

"I've cut out claret, and that sort of thing," he announced. "It's
bad for the nerves."

His three companions looked up in complete astonishment. It was
Saturday night and by ancient custom Bailey was dining at the house.

"What has happened to you? Have you been attending a revival meeting?"
the young man's uncle inquired with sarcasm.

"It's bad for the nerves," repeated Dick. "There isn't any reason why
I shouldn't like to do anything other fellows do. Les--that is, none
of the men who drive cars ever touch that stuff, and look at their
nerve."

Mr. Ffrench contemplated him with the irritation usually produced by
the display of ostentatious virtue, but found no comment. Emily gazed
at the table, her red mouth curving in spite of all effort at
seriousness.

"You're right, Mr. Dick," said Bailey dryly. "Stick to it."

And Dick stuck, without as much as a single lapse. Ffrenchwood saw
comparatively little of him, as time went on, the village and factory
much. He lost some weight, and acquired a coat of reddish tan.

Emily watched and admired in silence. She had not seen Lestrange
again, but it seemed to her that his influence overlay all the life of
both house and factory. Sometimes this showed so plainly that she
believed Mr. Ffrench must see, must feel the silent force at work. But
either he did not see or chose to ignore. And Dick was incautious.

"I'm going to buy one of our roadsters myself," he stated one day.
"Can I have it at cost?"

Mr. Ffrench felt for his pince-nez.

"You? Why do you not use the limousine?"

"Because I don't want to go around in a box driven by a chauffeur. I
want a classy car to run myself. I've been driving some of the
stripped cars, lately, and I like it."

"I will give you a car, if you want one," answered his uncle, quite
kindly. "Go select any you prefer."

"Thank you," Dick sat up, beaming. "But I'll have to wait my turn,
we've orders ahead now. Lestrange says I've no right to come in and
make some other fellow wait."

Mr. Ffrench slowly stiffened.

"We do not require lessons in ethics from this Lestrange," was the
cold rebuke. "I shall telephone Bailey to send up your car at once."

Rupert brought the sixty-horse-power roadster to the door, three hours
later. And Emily appreciated that Lestrange was discreet as well as
compelling, when she found the black-eyed young mechanician was
detailed to accompany Dick's maiden trips; which duty was fulfilled,
incidentally, with the fine tact of a Richelieu.

In May there was a still greater accession of work at the factory. In
addition, the first of June was to open with a twenty-four hour race
at the Beach track, and Lestrange was entered for it. Excitement was
in the air; Dick came in the house only to eat and sleep.

The day before the race, Mr. Ffrench walked into the room where his
niece was reading.

"I want to see Bailey," he said briefly. "Do you wish to drive me down
to the factory, or shall I have Anderson bring around the limousine?"

"Please let us drive," she exclaimed, rising with alacrity. "I have
not been to the factory for months."

"Very good. You are looking well, Emily, of late."

Surprised, a soft color swept the face she turned to him.

"I am well. Dear, I think we are all better this spring."

"Perhaps," said Ethan Ffrench. His bitter gray eyes passed
deliberately over the large room with all its traces of a family life
extending back to pre-Colonial times, but he said no more.

It was an exquisite morning, too virginal for June, too richly warm
for May. When the two exchanged the sunny road for the factory office,
a north room none too light, it was a moment before their dazzled eyes
perceived no one was present. This was Bailey's private office, and
its owner had passed into the room beyond.

"I will wait," conceded Mr. Ffrench, dismissing the boy who had
ushered them in. "Sit down, Emily; Bailey will return directly, no
doubt."

But Emily had already sat down, for she knew the voice speaking beyond
the half-open door, and that the long-prevented meeting was now
imminent.

"It will not do," Lestrange was stating definitely. "It should be
reinforced."

"It's always been strong enough," Bailey's slower tones objected.
"For years. It's not a thing likely to break."

"Not likely to break? Look at last year's record, Mr. Bailey, and tell
me that. A broken steering-knuckle killed Brook in Indiana, another
sent Little to the hospital in Massachusetts, the same thing wrecked
the leader at the last Beach race and dashed him through the fence. Do
you know what it means to the driver of a machine hurling itself along
the narrow verge of destruction, when the steering-wheel suddenly
turns useless in his grasp? Can you feel the sick helplessness, the
confronting of death, the compressed second before the crash? Is it
worth while to risk it for a bit of costless steel?"

The clear realism of the picture forced a pause, filled by the dull
roar and throb through the machinery-crowded building.

"They were not our cars that broke, any of them," Bailey insisted.

"Not our cars, no. But the steering-knuckle of my own machine broke
under my hands last March, on the road, and if I had been on a curve
instead of a straight stretch there would have been a wreck. As it
was, I brought her to a stop in the ditch. There is no other thing
that may not leave a fighting chance after it breaks, but this leaves
absolutely none. I know, you both know, that the steering-wheel is the
only weapon in the driver's grasp. If it fails him, he goes out and
his mechanician with him."

Emily paled, shrinking. She remembered the road under the maples and
Lestrange's laughing face as he leaned breathless across his useless
wheel. That was what it had meant, then, the lightly treated episode!

"You'd better fix it like he wants it," advised Dick's disturbed
tones. "Remember, he's got to drive the car Friday and Saturday,
Bailey, not us."

"It's not alone for my racer I'm speaking, but for every car that
leaves the shop," Lestrange caught him up. "I'm not flinching; I've
driven the car before and I will again. It may hold for ever, that
part, but I've tested it and it's a weak point--take the warning for
what it's worth."

There was a movement as if he rose with the last word. Emily laid her
hand on the arm of the chair, turning her excited dark eyes on her
uncle. Surely if ever Mr. Ffrench was to meet his manager, this was
the moment; when Lestrange's ringing argument was still in their ears,
his splendid force of earnestness still vibrant in the atmosphere. And
suddenly she wanted them to meet, passionately wanted Ethan Ffrench's
liking for this man.

"Uncle," she began. "Uncle--"

But it was not Lestrange's light step that halted on the threshold.

"Why, I didn't know--" exclaimed Bailey. "Excuse me, Mr. Ffrench, they
didn't tell me you were down."

He glanced over his shoulder; as he pulled shut the door Emily fancied
she heard an echo, as if the two young men left the next room.
Bitterly disappointed, she sank back.

"That was your manager with you?" Mr. Ffrench frigidly inquired.

"Yes; he went up-stairs to see how the new drill is acting." Bailey
pulled out a handkerchief and rubbed his brow. "Excuse me, it's warm.
Yes, he wants me to strengthen a knuckle--he's spoken considerable
about it. I guess he's right; better too much than too little."

"I do not see that follows. I should imagine that you understood
building chassis better than this racing driver. You had best consult
outside experts in construction before making a change."

"Uncle!" Emily cried.

"There's a twenty-four hour race starts to-morrow night," Bailey
suggested uneasily. "It's easy fixed, and we might be wrong."

"We have always made them this way?"

"Yes, but--"

"Consult experts, then. I do not like your manager's tone; he is too
assuming. Now let me see those papers."

Emily's parasol slipped to the floor with a sharp crash as she stood
up, quite pale and shaken.

"Uncle, Mr. Lestrange knows," she appealed. "You heard him say what
would happen--please, please let it be fixed."

Amazed, Mr. Ffrench looked at her, his face setting.

"You forget your dignity," he retorted in displeasure. "This is mere
childishness, Emily. Men will be consulted more competent to decide
than this Lestrange. That will do."

From one to the other she gazed, then turned away.

"I will wait out in the cart," she said. "I--I would rather be
outdoors."

Dick Ffrench was up-stairs, standing with Lestrange in one of the
narrow aisles between lines of grimly efficient machines that bit or
cut their way through the steel and aluminum fed to them, when Rupert
came to him with a folded visiting card.

"Miss Ffrench sent it," was the explanation. "She's sitting out in her
horse-motor car, and she called me off the track to ask me to demean
myself by acting like a messenger boy. All right?"

"All right," said Dick, running an astonished eye over the card.

"No answer?"

"No answer."

"Then I'll hurry back to my embroidery. I'm several laps behind in my
work already."

"See here, Lestrange," Dick began, as the mechanician departed,
sitting down on a railing beside a machine steadily engaged in
notching steel disks into gear-wheels.

"Don't do that!" Lestrange exclaimed sharply. "Get up, Ffrench."

"It's safe enough."

"It's nothing of the kind. The least slip--"

"Oh, well," he reluctantly rose, "if you're going to get fussy. Read
what Emily sent up."

Lestrange accepted the card with a faint flicker of expression.

"Dick, uncle is making the steering-knuckle wait for expert opinion,"
the legend ran, in pencil. "Have Mr. Bailey strengthen Mr. Lestrange's
car, anyhow. Do not let him race so."

Near them two men were engaged in babbitting bearings, passing
ladlefuls of molten metal carelessly back and forth, and splashing
hissing drops over the floor; at them Lestrange gazed in silence,
after reading, the card still in his hand.

"Well?" Dick at last queried.

"Have Mr. Bailey do nothing at all," was the deliberate reply. "There
is an etiquette of subordination, I believe--this is Mr. Ffrench's
factory. I've done my part and we'll think no more of the matter. I
may be wrong. But I am more than grateful to Miss Ffrench."

"That's all you're going to do?"

"Yes. I wish you would not sit there."

"I'm tired; I won't fall in, and I want to think. We've been a lot
together this spring, Lestrange; I don't like this business about the
steering-gear. Do you go down to the Beach to-morrow?"

"To-night. To-morrow I must put in practising on the track. I would
have been down to-day if there had not been so much to do here. Are
you coming with me, or not until the evening of the start?"

Dick stirred uncomfortably.

"I don't want to come at all, thank you. I saw you race once."

"You had better get used to it," Lestrange quietly advised. "The day
may come when there is no one to take your place. This factory will be
yours and you will have to look after your own interests. I wish you
would come down and represent the company at this race."

"I haven't the head for it."

"I do not agree with you."

Their eyes met in a long regard. Here, in the crowded room of workers,
the ceaseless uproar shut in their conversation with a walled
completeness of privacy.

"I'm not sure whether you know it, Lestrange, but you've got me all
stirred up since I met you," the younger man confessed plaintively.
"You're different from other fellows and you've made me different. I'd
rather be around the factory than anywhere else I know, now. But
honestly I like you too well to watch you race."

"I want you to come."

"I--"

One of the men with a vessel of white, heaving molten metal was trying
to pass through the narrow aisle. Dick broke his sentence to rise in
hasty avoidance, and his foot slipped in a puddle of oil on the floor.

It was so brief in happening that only the workman concerned saw the
accident. As Dick fell backward, Lestrange sprang forward and caught
him, fairly snatching him from the greedy teeth. There was the rending
of fabric, a gasping sob from Dick, and reeling from the recoil,
Lestrange was sent staggering against a flying emery wheel next in
line.

The workman set down his burden with a recklessness endangering
further trouble, active too late.

"Mr. Lestrange!" he cried.

But Lestrange had already recovered himself, his right arm crossed
with a scorched and bleeding bar where it had touched the glittering
wheel, and the two young men were standing opposite each other in
safety.

"You are not hurt?" was the first question.

"_I?_ I ought to be, but I'm not. Come to a surgeon, Lestrange--Oh,
you told me not to sit there!"

Lestrange glanced down at the surface-wound, then quickly back at the
two pallid faces.

"Go on to your work, Peters," he directed. "I'm all right." And as the
man slowly obeyed, "_Now_ will you take my advice and come to the race
with me, Ffrench?"

"Race! You'd race with that arm?"

"Yes. Are you coming with me?"

Shaken and tremulous, Dick passed a damp hand across his forehead.

"I think you're mad to stand talking here. Come to the office, for
heaven's sake. And, I'd be ground up there, if you hadn't caught me,"
he looked toward the jaws sullenly shredding and reshredding a strip
of cloth from his sleeve. "I'll do anything you want."

"Will you?" Lestrange flashed quickly. He flung back his head with the
resolute setting of expression the other knew so well, his eyes
brilliant with a resolve that took no heed of physical discomfort.
"Then give me your word that you'll stick to your work here. That is
my fear; that the change in you is just a mood you'll tire of some
day. I want you to stand up to your work and not drop out
disqualified."

"I will," said Dick, subdued and earnest. "I couldn't help doing
it--your arm--"

Lestrange impatiently dragged out his handkerchief and wound it around
the cut.

"Go on."

"I can't help keeping on; I couldn't go back now. You've got me awake.
No one else ever tried, and I was having a good time. It began with
liking you and thinking of all you did, and feeling funny alongside of
you." He paused, struggling with Anglo-Saxon shyness. "I'm awfully
fond of you, old fellow."

The other's gray eyes warmed and cleared. Smiling, he held out his
left hand.

"It's mutual," he assured. "It isn't playing the game to trap you
while you are upset like this. But I don't believe you'll be sorry.
Come find some one to tie this up for me; I can't have it stiff
to-morrow."

But in spite of his professed haste, Lestrange stopped at the head of
the stairs and went back to recover some small object lying on the
floor beneath a pool of chilling metal. When he rejoined Dick, it was
to linger yet a moment to look back across the teeming room.

"It's worth having, all this," he commented, with the first touch of
sadness the other ever had seen in him. "Don't throw it away,
Ffrench."

There is usually a surgeon within reach of a factory. When Mr. Ffrench
passed out to the cart where Emily waited, he passed Dick and the
village physician entering. The elder gentleman put on his glasses to
survey his nephew's white face.

"An accident?" he inquired.

The casual curiosity was sufficiently exasperating, and Dick's nerves
were badly gone.

"Nothing worth mentioning," he snapped. "Just that I nearly fell into
the machinery and Lestrange has done up his arm pulling me out. That's
all."

And he hurried the doctor on without further parley or excuse.

Lestrange was in the room behind the office, smoking one of Bailey's
cigars and listening to that gentleman's vigorous remarks concerning
managers who couldn't keep out of their own machinery, the patient not
having considered it worth while to explain Dick's share in the
mischance. An omission which Dick himself promptly remedied in his
anxious contrition.

Later, when the arm was being swathed in white linen, its owner spoke
to his companion of the morning:

"I hope you didn't annoy Miss Ffrench with this trifling matter, as
you came in."

"I didn't speak to her at all, only to my uncle."

"Very good."

Something in the too-indolent tone roused Dick's usually dormant
observation. Startled, he scrutinized Lestrange.

"Is that why you bothered yourself with me?" he stammered. "Is that
why--"

"Shut up!" warned Lestrange forcibly and inelegantly. "That isn't
tight enough, Doc. You know I'm experienced at this sort of thing, and
I'm going to use this arm."

But Dick was not to be silenced in his new enlightenment. When the
surgeon momentarily turned away, he leaned nearer, his plump face
grim.

"If I brace up, it won't be for Emily, but for you, Darling
Lestrange," he whispered viciously. "She don't want me and I don't
want her, that way. I've got over that. And, and--oh, confound it, I'm
sorry, old man!"

"Shut up!" said Lestrange again.

But though Dick's very sympathy unconsciously showed the hopeless
chasm between the racing driver and Miss Ffrench, the hurt did not
cloud the cordial smile Lestrange sent to mitigate his command.



VI


Emily first heard the full story of the accident that evening, when
Dick sat opposite her on the veranda and gave the account in frank
anxiety and dejection.

"We're going down to-night on the nine o'clock train," he added in
conclusion. "To-morrow morning he'll spend practising on the track,
and to-morrow evening at six the race starts. And Lestrange starts
crippled because I am a clumsy idiot. He laughs at me, but--he'd do
that anyhow."

"Yes," agreed Emily. "He would do that anyhow." Her eyes were wide and
terrified, the little hands she clasped in her lap were quite cold.
"I wish, I wish he had never come to this place."

"Oh, you do?" Dick said oddly. "Maybe he will, too, before he gets
through with us. We're a nasty lot, we Ffrenches; a lot of
blue-blooded snobs without any red blood in us. Are you going to say
good-by to me? I won't be home until it's over."

She looked at him, across the odorous dusk slowly silvering as the
moon rose.

"You are going to be with him?"

Dick smoothed his leggings before standing up, surveying his strict
motor costume with a gloomy pride not to be concealed.

"Yes; I'm representing our company. Lestrange might want some backing
if any disputes turned up. Uncle Ethan nearly had a fit when Bailey
told him what I was going to do; he called me Richard for the first
time in my life. I guess I'll be some good yet, if every one except
Lestrange did think I was a chump."

"I am very sure you will," she answered gently. "Good-by, Dick; you
look very nice."

When he reached the foot of the steps, her voice recalled him, as she
stood leaning over the rail.

"Dick, you could not make him give it up, not race this time?"

He stared up at her white figure.

"No, I could not. Don't you suppose I tried?"

"I suppose you did," she admitted, and went back to her seat.

The June night was very quiet. Once a sleepy bird stirred in the
honeysuckle vines and chirped through the dark. Far below the throb
of a motor passed down the road, dying away again to leave silence.
Suddenly Emily Ffrench hid her face on the arm of her chair and the
tears overflowed.

There was no consciousness of time while that inarticulate passion of
dread spent itself. But it was nearly half an hour later when she
started up at the echo of a light step on the gravel path, dashing her
handkerchief across her eyes.

It was incredible, but it was true: Lestrange himself was standing
before her at the foot of the low stairs, the moonlight glinting
across his uncovered bronze head and bright, clear face.

"I beg pardon for trespass, Miss Ffrench," he said, "but your cousin
tells me he has been saying a great deal of nonsense to you about
this race, and that you were so very good as to feel some concern
regarding it. Really, I had to run up and set that right; I couldn't
leave you to be annoyed by Mr. Ffrench's nerves. Will you forgive me?"

Like sun through a mist his blithe voice cleaved through her distress.
Before the tranquil sanity of his regard, her painted terrors suddenly
showed as the artificial canvas scenes of a stage, unreal, untrue.

"It was like you to come," she answered, with a shaking sigh that was
half sob. "I was frightened, yes."

"There is no cause. A dozen other men take the same chance as Rupert
and I; the driver who alternates with me, for instance. This is our
life."

"Your arm--"

"Is well enough." He laughed a little. "You will see many a bandaged
arm before the twenty-four hours are up; few of us finish without a
scratch or strain or blister. This is a man's game, but it's not half
so destructive as foot-ball. You wished me good luck for the Georgia
race; will you repeat the honor before I go back to Ffrench?"

"I wish you," she said unsteadily, "every kind of success, now and
always. You saved Dick to-day--of all else you have done for him and
for me I have not words to speak. But it made it harder to bear the
thought of your hurt and risk from the hurt, when I knew that I had
sent Dick there, who caused it."

Lestrange hesitated, himself troubled. Her soft loveliness in the
delicate light that left her eyes unreadable depths of shadow, her
timidity and anxiety for his safety, were from their very
unconsciousness most dangerous. And while he grasped at self-control,
she came still nearer to the head of the steps and held out her small
fair hand, mistaking his silence for leave-taking.

"Good night; and I thank you for coming. I am not used to so much
consideration."

Her accents were unsure when she would have made them most certain,
with her movement the handkerchief fell from her girdle to his feet.
Mechanically Lestrange recovered the bit of linen, and felt it lie wet
in his fingers. Wet--

"Emily!" he cried abruptly, and sprang the brief step between them.

Her white, terrified face turned to him in the moonlight, but he saw
her eyes. And seeing, he kissed her.

The moment left no time for speech. Some one was coming down the
drawing-room toward the long windows. Dick's impatient whistle sounded
shrilly from the park. Panting, quivering, Emily drew from the embrace
and fled within.

She had no doubt of Lestrange, no question of his serious meaning--he
had that force of sincerity which made his silence more convincing
than the protestations of others. But alone in her room she laid her
cheek against the hand his had touched.

"I wish I had died in the convent," she cried to her heart. "I wish I
had died before I made him unhappy too."



VII


Morning found a pale and languid Emily across the breakfast table from
Mr. Ffrench. Yet, by a contradiction of the heart, her pride in loving
and being loved so overbore the knowledge that only sorrow could
result to herself and Lestrange, that her eyes shone wide and lustrous
and her lips curved softly.

Mr. Ffrench was almost in high spirits.

"The boy was merely developing," he stated, over his grape-fruit. "I
have been unjust to Richard. For two months Bailey has been talking of
his interest in the business and attendance at the factory, but I was
incredulous. Although I fancied I observed a change--have you
observed a change in him, Emily?"

"Yes," Emily confirmed, "a very great change. He has grown up, at
last."

"Ah? I can not express to you how it gratifies me to have a Ffrench
representing me in public; have you seen the morning journals?"

"I have just come down-stairs."

He picked up the newspaper beside him and passed across the folded
page.

"_All in readiness for Beach Contest_," the head-lines ran. "_Last big
driver to arrive, Lestrange is in Mercury camp with R. Ffrench,
representative of Company._"

And there was a blurred picture of a speeding car with driver and
mechanician masked to goblinesque non-identity, with the legend
underneath: "'_Darling' Lestrange, in his Mercury on the Georgia
course._"

"Next year I shall make him part owner. It was always my poor
brother's desire to have the future name still Ffrench and Ffrench. He
was not thinking of Richard then; he had hope of--"

Emily lifted her gaze from the picture, recalled to attention by the
break.

"Of?" she echoed vaguely.

"Of one who is unworthy thought. Richard has redeemed our family from
extinction; that is at rest." He paused for an instant. "My dear
child, when you are married and established, I shall be content."

Her breathing quickened, her courage rose to the call of the moment.

"If Dick is here, if he is instead of a substitute," she said,
carefully quiet in manner, "would it matter, since I am only a girl,
whom I married, Uncle Ethan?"

The recollection of that evening when Emily had given her promise of
aid, stirred under Mr. Ffrench's self-absorbtion. He looked across the
table at her colorless, eager face with perhaps his first thought of
what that promise might have cost her.

"No," he replied kindly. "It is part of my satisfaction that you are
set free to follow your own choice, without thought of utility or
fortune. Of course, I need not say provided the man is of your own
class and associations. We will fear no more low marriages."

She had known it before, but it was hard to hear the sentence embodied
in words. Emily folded her hands over the paper in her lap and the
pleasant breakfast-room darkened before her. Mr. Ffrench continued
speaking of Dick, unheard.

When the long meal was ended and her uncle withdrew to meet Bailey in
the library, Emily escaped outdoors. There was a quaint summer-house
part way down the park, an ancient white pavilion standing beside the
brook that gurgled by on its way to the Hudson, where the young girl
often passed her hours. She went there now, carrying her little
work-basket and the newspaper containing the picture of Lestrange.

"I will save it," was her thought. "Perhaps I may find better
ones--this does not show his face--but I will have this now. It may be
a long time before I see him."

But she sat with the embroidery scissors in her hand, nevertheless,
without cutting the reprint. Lestrange would return to the factory,
she never doubted, and all would continue as before, except that she
must not see him. He would understand that it was not possible for
anything else to happen, at least for many years. Perhaps, after Dick
was married--

The green and gold beauty of the morning hurt her with the memory of
that other sunny morning, when he had so easily taken from her the
task she hated and strove to bear. And he had succeeded, how he had
succeeded! Who else in the world could have so transformed Dick?
Leaning on the table, her round chin in her palm as she gazed down at
the paper in her lap, her fancy slipped back to that night on the
Long Island road, when she had first seen his serene genius for
setting all things right. How like him that elimination of Dick,
instead of a romantic and impracticable attempt to escort her himself.

A bush crackled stiffly at some one's passage; a shadow fell across
her.

"Caught!" laughed Lestrange's glad, exultant voice. "Since you look at
the portrait, how shall the original fear to present himself? See, I
can match." He held out a card burned at the corners and streaked with
dull red, "The first time I saw your writing, and found my own name
there."

Amazed, Emily sat up, and met in his glowing face all incarnate joy of
life and youth.

"Oh!" she gasped piteously.

"You are surprised that I am here? My dear, my dear, after last night
did you think I could be anywhere else?"

"The race--"

"I know that track too well to need much practise, and I had the
machine out at dawn. My partner is busy practising this morning, and
I'll be back in a couple of hours. I was afraid," the gray eyes were
so gentle in their brilliancy, "I was afraid you might worry, Emily."

Serenely he assumed possession of her, and the assumption was very
sweet. He had not touched her, yet Emily had the sensation of brutally
thrusting him away when she spoke:

"How could I do anything else," she asked with desolation, "since we
must never meet each other any more? Only, you will not go far
away--you will stay where I can sometimes see you as we pass? I--I
think I could not bear it to have you go away."

"Emily!"

The scissors clinked sharply to the floor as she held out her white
hands in deprecation of his cry; the tears rushed to her eyes.

"You know, you know! I am not free; I am Emily Ffrench. I can not fail
my uncle and grieve him as his son did. Oh, I will never marry any one
else, and we will hear of each other; I can read in the papers and
Dick will tell me of you. It will be something to be so close, down
there and up here."

"Emily!"

"You are not angry? You will not be angry? You know I can do nothing
else, please say you know."

He came nearer and took both cold little hands in his clasp, bending
to her the shining gravity of his regard.

"Did you think me such a selfish animal, my dear, that I would have
kissed you when I could not claim you?" he asked. "Did you think I
could forget you were Emily Ffrench; even by moonlight?"

Her fair head fell back, her dark eyes questioned his.

"You--mean--"

"I mean that even your uncle can not deny my inherited quality of
gentleman. I am no millionaire incognito. I have driven racing cars
and managed this factory to earn my living, having no other dependence
than upon myself, but my blood is as old as yours, little girl, if
that means anything."

"Not to me," she cried, looking up into his eyes. "Not to me, but to
him. I cared for _you_--"

He drew her toward him, unresisting, their gaze still on each other.
As from the first, there was no shyness between them, but the strange,
exquisite understanding now made perfect.

"I was right to come to you," he declared, after a time. "Right to
fear that you were troubled, conscientious lady. But I must go back,
or there will be a fine disturbance at the Beach. And I have shattered
my other plans to insignificant fragments, or you have. If I did not
forget by moonlight that you were Emily Ffrench, I certainly forgot
everything else."

She looked up at him, her softly tinted face bright as his own, her
yellow hair rumpled into flossy tendrils under the black velvet
ribbon binding it.

"Everything else?" she echoed. "Is there anything else but this?"

"Nothing that counts, to me. You for my own, and this good world to
live in--I stand bareheaded before it all. But yet, I told you once
that I had a purpose to accomplish; a purpose now very near
completion. In a few months I meant to leave Ffrenchwood."

Emily gave a faint cry.

"Yes, for my work would have been done. Then I fell in love and upset
everything. When I tell Mr. Ffrench that I want you, I will have to
leave at once."

"Why? You said--"

"How brave are you, Emily?" he asked. "I said your uncle could not
question my name or birth, but I did not say he would want to give you
to me. Nor will he; unless I am mistaken. Are you going to be brave
enough to come to me, knowing he has no right to complain, since you
and I together have given him Dick?"

"He does not know you; how can you tell he does not like you?" she
urged.

"Do you think he likes 'Darling' Lestrange of the race course?"

The sudden keen demand disconcerted her.

"I hear a little down there," he added. "I have not been fortunate
with your kinsman. No, it is for you to say whether Ethan Ffrench's
unjust caprice is a bar between us. To me it is none."

"I thought there was to be no more trouble," she faltered,
distressed.

Lestrange looked down at her steadily, his gray eyes darkening to an
expression she had never seen.

"Have I no right?" was his question. "Is there no cancelling of a
claim, is there no subsequent freedom? Is it all no use, Emily?"

Vaguely awed and frightened, her fingers tightened on his arm in a
panic of surrender.

"I will come to you, I will come! You know best what is right--I trust
you to tell me. Forgive me, dear, I wanted to--"

He silenced her, all the light flashing back to his face.

"A promise; hush! Oh, I shall win to-night with that singing in my
ears. I have more to say to you, but not now. I must see Bailey,
somehow, before I go."

"He is at the house; let me send him here to you."

"If you come back with him."

They laughed together.

"I will--Do you know," her color deepened rosily, "they all call you
'Darling'; I have never heard your own name."

"My name is David," Lestrange said quietly, and kissed her for
farewell.

The earth danced under Emily's feet as she ran across the lawns, the
sun glowed warm, the brook tinkled over the cascades in a very madness
of mirth. At the head of the veranda steps she turned to look once
more at the roof of the white pavilion among the locust trees.

"Uncle will like you when he knows you," she laughed in her heart.
"Any one _must_ like you."

The servant she met in the hall said that Mr. Bailey had gone out, and
Mr. Ffrench also, but separately, the former having taken the short
route across toward the factory. That way Emily went in pursuit,
intending to overtake him with her pony cart.

But upon reaching the stables, past which the path ran, she found
Bailey himself engaged in an inspection of the limousine in company
with the chauffeur.

"You'll have to look into her differential, Anderson," he was
pronouncing, when the young girl came beside him.

"Come, please," she urged breathlessly.

"Come?" repeated Bailey, wheeling, with his slow benevolent smile.
"Sure, Miss Emily; where?"

She shook her head, not replying until they were safely outside;
then:

"To Mr. Lestrange; he is in the pavilion. He wants to see you."

"To Lestrange!" he almost shouted, halting. "Lestrange, here?"

"Yes. There is time; he says there is time. He is going back as soon
as he sees you."

"But what's he doing here? What does he mean by risking his neck
without any practice?"

"He came to see me," she whispered, and stood confessed.

"God!" said Bailey, quite reverently, after a moment of speechless
stupefaction. "You, and him!"

She lifted confiding eyes to him, moving nearer.

"It is a secret, but I wanted you to know because you like us both.
Dick said you loved Mr. Lestrange."

"Yes," was the dazed assent.

"Well, then--But come, he is waiting."

She was sufficiently unlike the usual Miss Ffrench to bewilder any
one. Bailey dumbly followed her back across the park, carrying his hat
in his hand.

A short distance from the pavilion Emily stopped abruptly, turning a
startled face to her companion.

"Some one is there," she said. "Some one is speaking. I forgot that
Uncle Ethan had gone out."

She heard Bailey catch his breath oddly. Her own pulses began to beat
with heavy irregularity, as a few steps farther brought the two
opposite the open arcade. There they halted, frozen.

In the place Emily had left, where all her feminine toys still lay,
Mr. Ffrench was seated as one exhausted by the force of overmastering
emotion; his hands clenched on the arms of the chair, his face drawn
with passion. Opposite him stood Lestrange, colorless and still as
Emily had never conceived him, listening in absolute silence to the
bitter address pouring from the other's lips with a low-toned violence
indescribable.

"I told you then, never again to come here," first fell upon Emily's
conscious hearing. "I supposed you were at least Ffrench enough to
take a dismissal. What do you want here, money? I warned you to live
upon the allowance sent every month to your bankers, for I would pay
no more even to escape the intolerable disgrace of your presence here.
Did you imagine me so deserted that I would accept even you as a
successor? Wrong; you are not missed. My nephew Richard takes your
place, and is fit to take it. Go back to Europe and your low-born
wife; there is no lack in my household."

The voice broke in an excess of savage triumph, and Lestrange took the
pause without movement or gesture.

"I am going, sir, and I shall never come back," he answered, never
more quietly. "I can take a dismissal, yes. If ever I have wished
peace or hoped for an accord that never existed between us, I go cured
of such folly. But hear this much, since I am arraigned at your bar: I
have never yet disgraced your name or mine unless by the boy's
mischief which sent me from college. The money you speak of, I have
never used; ask Bailey of it, if you will." He hesitated, and in the
empty moment there came across the mile of June air the roaring noon
whistle of the factory. Involuntarily he turned his head toward the
call, but as instantly recovered himself from the self-betrayal.
"There is another matter to be arranged, but there is no time now. Nor
even in concluding it will I come here again, sir."

There was that in his bearing, in the dignified carefulness of
courtesy with which he saluted the other before turning to go, that
checked even Ethan Ffrench. But as Lestrange crossed the threshold of
the little building, Emily ran from the thicket to meet him, her eyes
a dark splendor in her white face, her hands outstretched.

"Not like this!" she panted. "Not without seeing me! Oh, I might have
guessed--"

His vivid color and animation returned as he caught her to him,
heedless of witnesses.

"You dare? My dear, my dear, not even a question? There is no one like
you. Say, shall I take you now, or send Dick for you after the race?"

Mr. Ffrench exclaimed some inarticulate words, but neither heard him.

"Send Dick," Emily answered, her eyes on the gray eyes above her.
"Send Dick--I understand, I will come."

He kissed her once, then she drew back and he went down the terraces
toward the gates. As Emily sank down on the bench by the pavilion
door, Bailey brushed past her, running after the straight, lithe
figure that went steadily on out of sight among the huge trees planted
and tended by five generations of Ffrenches.

When the vistas of the park were empty, Emily slowly turned to face
her uncle.

"You love David Ffrench?" he asked, his voice thin and harsh.

"Yes," she answered. She had no need to ask if Lestrange were meant.

"He is married to some woman of the music-halls."

"No."

"How do you know? He has told you?"

She lifted to him the superb confidence of her glance, although
nervous tremors shook her in wavelike succession.

"If he had been married, he would not have made me care for him. He
has asked me to be his wife."

They were equally strange to each other in these new characters, and
equally spent by emotion. Neither moving, they sat opposite each other
in silence. So Bailey found them when he came back later, to take his
massive stand in the doorway, his hands in his pockets and his strong
jaw set.

"I think that things are kind of mixed up here, Mr. Ffrench," he
stated grimly. "I guess I'm the one to straighten them out a bit; I've
loved Mr. David from the time he was a kid and never saw him get a
square deal yet. You asked him what he was doing here--I'll tell you;
he is Lestrange."

There is a degree of amazement which precludes speech; Mr. Ffrench
looked back at his partner, mute.

"He is Lestrange. He never meant you to know; he'd have left without
your ever knowing, but for Miss Emily. I guess I don't need to remind
you of what he's done; if it hadn't been for him we might have closed
our doors some day. He understands the business as none of us
back-number, old-fashioned ones do; he took hold and shook some life
into it. We can make cars, but he can make people buy them.
Advertising! Why, just that fool picture he drew on the back of a pad,
one day, of a row of thermometers up to one hundred forty, with the
sign 'Mercuries are at the top,' made more people notice."

Bailey cleared his throat. "He was always making people notice, and
laughing while he did it. He's risked his neck on every course going,
to bring our cars in first, he's lent his fame as a racing driver to
help us along. And now everything is fixed the way we want, he's
thrown out. What did he do it for? He thought he needed to square
accounts with you, for being born, I suppose; so when he heard how
things were going with us he came to me and offered his help. At
least, that's what he said. I believe he came because he couldn't bear
to see the place go under."

There was a skein of blue silk swinging over the edge of the table.
Mr. Ffrench picked it up and replaced it in Emily's work-basket before
replying.

"If this remarkable story is true," he began, accurately precise in
accent.

"You don't need me to tell you it is," retorted Bailey. "You know what
my new manager's been doing; why, you disliked him without seeing him,
but you had to admit his good work. And I heard you talking about his
allowance, Mr. Ffrench. He never touched it, not from the first; it
piled up for six years. Last April, when we needed cash in a hurry, he
drew it out and gave it to me to buy aluminum. When he left here first
he drove a taxicab in New York City until he got into racing work and
made Darling Lestrange famous all over the continent. I guess it went
pretty hard for a while; if he'd been the things you called him, he'd
have gone to the devil alone in New York. But, he didn't."

An oriole darted in one arcade and out again with a musical whir of
wings. The clink of glass and silver sounded from the house windows
with a pleasant cheeriness and suggestion of comfort and plenty.

"He made good," Bailey concluded thoughtfully. "But it sounded queer
to me to hear you tell him you didn't want him around because Mr. Dick
took his place. I know, and Miss Emily knows, that Dick Ffrench was no
use on earth for any place until Mr. David took him in hand and made
him fit to live. That's all, I guess, that I had to say; I'll get back
to work." He turned, but paused to glance around. "It's going to be
pretty dull at the factory for me. And between us we've sent Lestrange
to the track with a nice set of nerves."

His retreating footsteps died away to leave the noon hush unbroken. As
before, uncle and niece were left opposite each other, the crumpled
newspaper where Lestrange's name showed in heavy type still lying on
the floor between them.

The effect of Bailey's final sentence had been to leave Emily dizzied
by apprehension. But when Mr. Ffrench rose and passed out, she aroused
to look up at him eagerly.

"Uncle," she faltered.

Disregarding or unseeing her outstretched hand, he went on and left
her there alone. And then Emily dared rescue the newspaper.

"A substitute," she whispered. "A substitute," and laid her wet cheek
against the pictured driver.

No one lunched at the Ffrench home that day, except the servants. Near
three o'clock in the afternoon Mr. Ffrench came back to the pavilion
where Emily still sat.

"Go change your gown," he commanded, in his usual tone. "We will start
now. I have sent for Bailey and ordered Anderson to bring the
automobile."

"Start?" she wondered, bewildered.

He met her gaze with a stately repellence of comment.

"For the Beach. I understand this race lasts twenty-four hours. Have
you any objection?"

Objection to being near David! Emily sprang to her feet.



VIII


Six o'clock was the hour set for the start of the Beach race. And it
was just seventeen minutes past five when Dick Ffrench, hanging in a
frenzy of anxiety over the paddock fence circling the inside of the
mile oval, uttered something resembling a howl and rushed to the gate
to signal his recreant driver. From the opposite side of the track
Lestrange waved gay return, making his way through the officials and
friends who pressed around him to shake hands or slap his shoulder
caressingly, jesting and questioning, calling directions and advice. A
brass band played noisily in the grand-stand, where the crowd heaved
and surged; the racing machines were roaring in their camps.

"What's the matter? Where were you?" cried Dick, when at last
Lestrange crossed the course to the central field. "The cars are going
out now for the preliminary run. Rupert's nearly crazy, snarling at
everybody, and the other man has been getting ready to start instead
of you."

"Well, he can get unready," smiled Lestrange. "Keep cool, Ffrench;
I've got half an hour and I could start now. I'm ready."

He was ready; clad in the close-fitting khaki costume whose immaculate
daintiness gave no hint of the certainty that before the first six
hours ended it would be a wreck of yellow dust and oil. As he paused
in running an appraising glance down the street-like row of tents,
the white-clothed driver of a spotless white car shot out on his way
to the track, but halted opposite the latest arrival to stretch down a
cordial hand.

"I hoped a trolley-car had bitten you," he shouted. "The rest of us
would have more show if you got lost on the way, Darling."

The boyish driver at the next tent looked up as they passed, and came
over grinning to give his clasp.

"Get a move on; what you been doin' all day, dear child? They've been
givin' your manager sal volatile to hold him still." He nodded at the
agitated Dick in ironic commiseration.

"Go get out your car, Darling; I want to beat you," chaffed the next
in line.

"'Strike up the band, here comes a driver,'" sang another, with an
entrancing French accent.

Laughing, retorting, shaking hands with each comrade rival, Lestrange
went down the row to his own tent. At his approach a swarm of
mechanics from the factory stood back from the long, low, gray car,
the driver who was to relieve him during the night and day ordeal
slipped down from the seat and unmasked.

"He's here," announced Dick superfluously. "Rupert--where's Rupert?
Don't tell me _he's_ gone now! Lestrange--"

But Rupert was already emerging from the tent with Lestrange's
gauntlets and cap, his expression a study in the sardonic.

"It hurts me fierce to think how you must have hurried," he observed.
"Did you walk both ways, or only all three? I'm no Eve, but I'd give a
snake an apple to know where you've been all day."

"Would you?" queried Lestrange provokingly, clasping the goggles
before his eyes. "Well, I've spent the last two hours on the Coney
Island beach, about three squares from here, watching the kiddies play
in the sand. I didn't feel like driving just then. It was mighty
soothing, too."

Rupert stared at him, a dry unwilling smile slowly crinkling his dark
face.

"Maybe, Darling," he drawled, and turned to make his own preparations.

Fascinated and useless, Dick looked on at the methodical flurry of the
next few moments; until Lestrange was in his seat and Rupert swung in
beside him. Then a gesture summoned him to the side of the machine.

"I'll run in again before we race, of course," said Lestrange to him,
above the deafening noise of the motor. "Be around here; I want to see
you."

Rupert leaned out, all good-humor once more as he pointed to the
machine.

"Got a healthy talk, what?" he exulted.

The car darted forward.

A long round of applause welcomed Lestrange's swooping advent on the
track. Handkerchiefs and scarfs were waved; his name passed from mouth
to mouth.

"Popular, ain't he?" chuckled a mechanic next to Dick. "They don't
forget that Georgia trick, no, sir."

It was not many times that the cars could circle the track. Quarter of
six blew from whistles and klaxons, signal flags sent the cars to
their camps for the last time before the race.

"Come here," Lestrange beckoned to Dick, as he brought his machine
shuddering to a standstill before the tent. "Here, close--we've got a
moment while they fill tanks."

He unhooked his goggles and leaned over as Dick came beside the wheel,
the face so revealed bright and quiet in the sunset glow of color.

"One never knows what may happen," he said. "I'd rather tell you now
than chance your feeling afterward that I didn't treat you quite
squarely in keeping still. I hope you won't take it as my father did;
we've been good chums, you and I. I'm your cousin, David Ffrench."

The moment furnished no words. Dick leaned against the car, absolutely
limp.

"Of course, I'm not going back to Ffrenchwood. After this race I shall
go to the Duplex Company; I used to be with them and they've wanted me
back. Your company can get along without me, now all is running
well--indeed, Mr. Ffrench has dismissed me." His firm lip bent a
little more firmly. "The work I was doing is in your hands and
Bailey's; see it through. Unless you too want to break off with me,
we'll have more time to talk over this."

"Break off!" Dick straightened his chubby figure. "Break off with you,
Les--"

"Go on. My name is Lestrange now and always."

A shriek from the official klaxon summoned the racers, Rupert swung
back to his seat. Dick reached up his hand to the other in the first
really dignified moment of his life.

"I'm glad you're my kin, Lestrange," he said. "I've liked you anyhow,
but I'm glad, just the same. And I don't care what rot they say of
you. Take care of yourself."

Lestrange bared his hand to return the clasp, his warm smile flashing
to his cousin; then the swirl of preparation swept between them and
Dick next saw him as a part of one of the throbbing, flaming row of
machines before the judges' stand.

It was not a tranquilizing experience for an amateur to witness the
start, when the fourteen powerful cars sprang simultaneously for the
first curve, struggling for possession of the narrow track in a wheel
to wheel contest where one mistouch meant the wreck of many. After
that first view, Dick sat weakly down on an oil barrel and watched the
race in a state of fascinated endurance.

The golden and violet sunset melted pearl-like into the black cup of
night. The glare of many searchlights made the track a glistening band
of white around which circled the cars, themselves gemmed with white
and crimson lamps. The cheers of the people as the lead was taken by
one favorite or another, the hum of voices, the music and uproar of
the machines blended into a web of sound indescribable. The spectacle
was at once ultramodern and classic in antiquity of conception.

At eight o'clock Lestrange came flying in, sent off the track to have
a lamp relighted.

"Water," he demanded tersely, in the sixty seconds of the stop, and
laughed openly at Dick's expression while he took the cup.

"Why didn't you light it out there?" asked the novice, infected by the
speed fever around him.

"Forgot our matches," Rupert flung over his shoulder, as they dashed
out again.

An oil-smeared mechanic patronizingly explained:

"You can't have cars manicuring all over the track and people tripping
over 'em. You get sent off to light up, and if you don't go they fine
you laps made."

Machines darted in and out from their camps at intervals, each waking
a frenzy of excitement among its men. At ten o'clock the Mercury car
came in again, this time limping with a flat tire, to be fallen on by
its mechanics.

"We're leading, but we'll lose by this," said Lestrange, slipping out
to relax and meditatively contemplating the alternate driver, who was
standing across the camp. "Ffrench, at twelve I'll have to come in to
rest some, and turn my machine over to the other man. And I won't have
him wrecking it for me. I want you, as owner, to give him absolute
orders to do no speeding; let him hold a fifty-two mile an hour
average until I take the wheel again."

"Me?"

"I can't do it. You, of course."

"You could," Dick answered. "I've been thinking how you and I will
run that factory together. It's all stuff about your going away; why
should you? You and your father take me as junior partner; you know
I'm not big enough for anything else."

"You're man's size," Lestrange assured, a hand on his shoulder.
"But--it won't do. I'll not forget the offer, though, never."

"All on!" a dozen voices signaled; men scattered in every direction as
Lestrange sprang to his place.

The hours passed on the wheels of excitement and suspense. When
Lestrange came in again, only a watch convinced Dick that it was
midnight.

"You gave the order?" Lestrange asked.

"Yes."

He descended, taking off his mask and showing a face white with
fatigue under the streaks of dust and grime.

"I'll be all right in half an hour," he nodded, in answer to Dick's
exclamation. "Send one of the boys for coffee, will you, please?
Rupert needs some, too. Here, one of you others, ask one of those idle
doctor's apprentices to come over with a fresh bandage; my arm's a
trifle untidy."

In fact, his right sleeve was wet and red, where the strain of driving
had reopened the injury of the day before. But he would not allow Dick
to speak of it.

"I'm going to spend an hour or two resting. Come in, Ffrench, and
we'll chat in the intervals, if you like."

"And Rupert? Where's he?" Dick wondered, peering into the dark with a
vague impression of lurking dangers on every side.

"He's hurried in out of the night air," reassured familiar accents; a
small figure lounged across into the light, making vigorous use of a
dripping towel. "Tell Darling I feel faint and I'm going over to that
grand-stand café _a la_ car to get some pie. I'll be back in time to
read over my last lesson from the chauffeurs' correspondence school.
Oh, see what's here!"

A telegraph messenger boy had come up to Dick.

"Richard Ffrench?" he verified. "Sign, please."

The message was from New York.

"All coming down," Dick read. "Limousine making delay. Wire me St.
Royal of race. Bailey."

Far from pleased, young Ffrench hurriedly wrote the desired answer and
gave it to the boy to be sent. But he thrust the yellow envelope into
his pocket before turning to the tent where Lestrange was drinking
cheap black coffee while an impatient young surgeon hovered near.

The hour's rest was characteristically spent. Washed, bandaged, and
refreshed, Lestrange dropped on a cot in the back of the tent and
pushed a roll of motor garments beneath his head for a pillow. There
he intermittently spoke to his companion of whatever the moment
suggested; listening to every sound of the race and interspersing
acute comment, starting up whenever the voice of his own machine
hinted that the driver was disobeying instructions or the shrill
klaxon gave warning of trouble. But through it all Dick gathered much
of the family story.

"My mother was a Californian," Lestrange once said, coming back from a
tour of inspection. "She was twenty times as much alive as any Ffrench
that ever existed, I've been told. I fancy she passed that quality on
to me--you know she died when I was born--for I nearly drove the
family mad. They expected the worst of me, and I gave the best worst I
had. But," he turned to Dick the clear candor of his smile, "it was
rather a decent worst, I honestly believe. The most outrageous thing I
ever did was to lead a set of seniors in hoisting a cow into the
Dean's library, one night, and so get myself expelled from college."

"A cow?" the other echoed.

"A fat cow, and it mooed," he stuffed the pillow into a more
comfortable position. "Is that our car running in? No, it's just
passing. If Frank doesn't wreck my machine, I'll get this race. And
then, the same week, my chum and room-mate ran away with a Doraflora
girl of some variety show and married her. I was romantic myself at
twenty-one, so I helped him through with it. He was wealthy and she
was pretty; it seemed to fit. I believe they've stayed married ever
since, by the way. But somehow the reporters got affairs mixed and
published me as the bridegroom. Have you got a cigar? I smoke about
three times a year, and this is one of them. Yes, there was a fine
scene when I went home that night, a Broadway melodrama. I lost my
temper easier then; by the time my father and uncle gave me time to
speak, I was too angry to defend myself and set them right. I supposed
they would learn the truth by the next day, anyhow. And I left home
for good in a dinner-coat and raglan, with something under ten dollars
in odd change. What's that!"

"That" was the harsh alarm of the official klaxon, coupled with the
cry of countless voices. The ambulance gong clanged as Lestrange
sprang to his feet and reached the door.

"Which car?" he called.

Rupert answered first:

"Not ours. Number eight's burning up after a smash on the far turn."

"Jack's car," identified Lestrange, and stood for an instant. "Go flag
Frank; I'll take the machine again myself. It's one o'clock, and I've
got to win this race."

Several men ran across to the track in compliance. Lestrange turned to
make ready, but paused beside the awed Dick to look over the infield
toward the flaming blotch against the dark sky.

"He was in to change a tire ten minutes ago," observed Rupert, beside
them. "'Tell Lestrange I'm doin' time catchin' him,' he yelled to me.
Here's hoping his broncho machine pitched him clear from the
fireworks."

When the Mercury car swung in, a few moments later, Lestrange lingered
for a last word to Dick.

"I'm engaged to Emily," he said gravely. "I don't know what she will
hear of me; if anything happens, I've told you the truth. I'm old
enough to see it now. And I tried to square things."



IX


In the delicate, fresh June dawn, the Ffrench limousine crept into the
Beach inclosure.

"We're here," said Bailey, to his traveling companions. "You can't
park the car front by the fence; Mr. David might see you and kill
himself by a misturn. Come up to the grand-stand seats."

Mr. Ffrench got out in silence and assisted Emily to descend; a pale
and wide-eyed Emily behind her veil.

"The boys were calling extras," she suggested faintly. "They said
three accidents on the track."

Bailey turned to a blue and gold official passing.

"Number seven all right?" he asked.

"On the track, Lestrange driving," was the prompt response. "Leading
by thirty-two miles."

A little of Emily's color rushed back. Satisfied, Bailey led the way
to the tiers of seats, almost empty at this hour. Pearly,
unsubstantial in the young light, lay the huge oval meadow and the
track edging it. Of the fourteen cars starting, nine were still
circling their course, one temporarily in its camp for supplies.

"I've sent over for Mr. Dick," Bailey informed the other two. "He's
been here, and he can tell what's doing. Four cars are out of the
race. There's Mr. David, coming!"

A gray machine shot around the west curve, hurtled roaring down the
straight stretch past the stand and crossed before them, the
mechanician rising in his seat to catch the pendant linen streamers
and wipe the dust from the driver's goggles in preparation for the
"death turn" ahead. There was a series of rapid explosions as the
driver shut off his motor, the machine swerved almost facing the
infield fence and slid around the bend with a skidding lurch that
threw a cloud of soil high in the air. Emily cried out, Mr. Ffrench
half rose in his place.

"What's the matter?" dryly queried Bailey. "He's been doing that all
night; and a mighty pretty turn he makes, too. He's been doing it for
about five years, in fact, to earn his living, only we didn't see him.
Here goes another."

Mr. Ffrench put on his pince-nez, preserving the dignity of outward
composure. Emily saw and heard nothing; she was following Lestrange
around the far sides of the course, around until again he flashed
past her, repeating his former feat with appalling exactitude.

It was hardly more than five minutes before Dick came hurrying toward
them; cross, tired, dust-streaked and gasolene-scented.

"I don't see why you wanted to come," he began, before he reached
them. "I'm busy enough now. We're leading; if Lestrange holds out
we'll win. But he's driving alone; Frank went out an hour ago, on the
second relief, when he went through the paddock fence and broke his
leg. It didn't hurt the machine a bit, except tires, but it lost us
twenty-six laps. And it leaves Lestrange with thirteen steady hours at
the wheel. He says he can do it."

"He's fit?" Bailey questioned.

Dick turned a peevish regard upon him.

"I don't know what you call fit. He says he is. His hands are
blistered already, his right arm has been bandaged twice where he hurt
it pulling me away from the gear-cutter yesterday, and he's had three
hours' rest out of the last eleven. See that heap of junk over there;
that's where the Alan car burned up last night and sent its driver and
mechanician to the hospital. I suppose if Lestrange isn't fit and
makes a miscue we'll see something like that happen to him and
Rupert."

"No!" Emily cried piteously.

Remorse clutched Dick.

"I forgot you, cousin," he apologized. "Don't go off; Lestrange swears
he feels fine and gibes at me for worrying. Don't look like that."

"Richard, you will go down and order our car withdrawn from the race,"
Mr. Ffrench stated, with his most absolute finality. "This has
continued long enough. If we had not been arrested in New York for
exceeding the speed limit, I should have been here to end this scene
at midnight."

Stunned, his nephew stared at him.

"Withdraw!"

"Precisely. And desire David to come here."

"I won't," said Dick flatly. "If you want to rub it into Lestrange
that way, send Bailey. And I say it's a confounded shame."

"Richard!"

His round face ablaze, Dick thrust his hands in his pockets, facing
his uncle stubbornly.

"After his splendid fight, to stop him now? Do you know how they take
being put out, those fellows? Why, when the Italian car went off the
track for good, last night, with its chain tangled up with everything
underneath, its driver sat down and cried. And you'd come down on
Lestrange when he's winning--I won't do it, I won't! Send Bailey; I
can't tell him."

"If you want to discredit the car and its driver, Mr. Ffrench, you can
do it without me," slowly added Bailey. "But it won't be any use to
send for Mr. David, because he won't come."

The autocrat of his little world looked from one rebel to the other,
confronted with the unprecedented.

"If I wish to withdraw him, it is to place him out of danger," he
retorted with asperity. "Not because I wish to mortify him,
naturally. Is that clear? Does he want to pass the next thirteen hours
under this ordeal?"

"I'll tell you what he wants," answered Dick. "He wants to be let
alone. It seems to me he's earned that."

Ethan Ffrench opened his lips, and closed them again without speech.
It had not been his life's habit to let people alone and the art was
acquired with difficulty.

"I admit I do not comprehend the feelings you describe," he conceded,
at last. "But there is one person who has the right to decide whether
David shall continue this risk of his life. Emily, do you wish the car
withdrawn?"

There was a gasp from the other two men.

"I?" the young girl exclaimed, amazed. "I can call him here--safe--"

Her voice died out as Lestrange's car roared past, overtaking two
rivals on the turn and sliding between them with an audacity that
provoked rounds of applause from the spectators. To call him in from
that, to have him safe with her--the mere thought was a delight that
caught her breath. Yet, she knew Lestrange.

The three men watched her in keen suspense. The Mercury car had passed
twice again before she raised her head, and in that space of a hundred
seconds Emily reached the final unselfishness.

"What David wants," she said. "Uncle, what David wants."

"You're a brick!" cried Dick, in a passion of relief. "Emily, you're a
brick!"

She looked at him with eyes he never forgot.

"If anything happens to him, I hope I die too," she answered, and drew
the silk veil across her face.

"Go back, Mr. Dick, you're no good here," advised Bailey, in the
pause. "I guess Miss Emily is right, Mr. Ffrench; we've got nothing to
do but look on, for David Ffrench was wiped out to make Darling
Lestrange."

Having left the decision to Emily, it was in character that her uncle
offered no remonstrance when she disappointed his wish. Nor did he
reply to Bailey's reminder of who had sent David Ffrench to the track.
But he did adopt the suggestion to look on, and there was sufficient
to see.

When Lestrange came into his camp for oil and gasolene, near eight
o'clock, Dick seized the brief halt, the first in three hours.

"Emily's up in the stand," he announced. "Send her a word, old man;
and don't get reckless in front of her."

"Emily?" echoed Lestrange, too weary for astonishment. "Give me a
pencil. No, I can't take off my gauntlet; it's glued fast. I'll
manage. Rupert, go take an hour's rest and send me the other
mechanician."

"I can't get off my car; it's glued fast," Rupert confided, leaning
over the back of the machine to appropriate a sandwich from the basket
a man was carrying to the neighboring camp. "Go on with your
correspondence, dearest."

So resting the card Dick supplied on the steering-wheel, Lestrange
wrote a difficult two lines.

He was out again on the track when Dick brought the message to Emily.

"I just told him you were here, cousin," he whispered at her ear, and
dropped the card in her lap.

     "I'll enjoy this more than ever, with you here," she read.
     "It's the right place for my girl. I'll give you the cup for
     our first dinner table, to-night.

                                                 "DAVID."

Emily lifted her face. The tragedy of the scene was gone, Lestrange's
eyes laughed at her out of a mist. The sky was blue, the sunshine
golden; the merry crowds commencing to pour in woke carnival in her
heart.

"He said to tell you the machine was running magnificently,"
supplemented Dick, "and not to insult his veteran reputation by
getting nervous. He's coming by--look."

He was coming by; and, although unable to look toward the grand-stand,
he raised his hand in salute as he passed, to the one he knew was
watching. Emily flushed rosily, her dark eyes warm and shining.

"I can wait," she sighed gratefully. "Dickie, I can wait until it
ends, now."

Dick went back.

The hours passed. One more car went out of the race under the grinding
test; there were the usual incidents of blown-out tires and temporary
withdrawals for repairs. Twice Mr. Ffrench sent his partner and Emily
to the restaurant below, tolerating no protests, but he himself never
left his seat. Perfectly composed, his expression perfectly
self-contained, he watched his son.

The day grew unbearably hot toward afternoon, a heat rather of July
than June. After a visit to his camp Lestrange reappeared without the
suffocating mask and cap, driving bareheaded, with only the narrow
goggles crossing his face. The change left visible the drawn pallor of
exhaustion under stains of dust and oil, his rolled-back sleeves
disclosed the crimson bandage on his right arm and the fact that his
left wrist was tightly wound with linen where swollen and strained
muscles rebelled at the long trial.

"He's been driving for nineteen hours," said Dick, climbing up to his
party through the excited crowd. "Two hours more to six o'clock.
Listen to the mob when he passes!"

The injunction was unnecessary. As the sun slanted low the enthusiasm
grew to fever. This was a crowd of connoisseurs--motorists,
chauffeurs, automobile lovers and drivers--they knew what was being
done before them. The word passed that Lestrange was in his twentieth
hour; people climbed on seats to cheer him as he went by. When one of
his tires blew out, in the opening of the twenty-first hour of his
driving and the twenty-fourth of the race, the great shout of sympathy
and encouragement that went up shook the grand-stand to its cement
foundations.

Neither Lestrange nor Rupert left his seat while that tire was
changed.

"If we did I ain't sure we'd get back," Rupert explained to Dick, who
hovered around them agitatedly. "If I'd thought Darling's mechanician
would get in for this, I'd have taken in sewing for a living. How much
longer?"

"Half an hour."

"Well, watch us finish."

A renewed burst of applause greeted the Mercury car's return to the
track. Men were standing watch in hand to count the last moments,
their eyes on the bulletin board where the reeled-off miles were being
registered. Two of the other machines were fighting desperately for
second place, hopeless of rivaling Lestrange, and after them sped the
rest.

"The finish!" some one suddenly called. "The last lap!"

Dick was hanging over the paddock fence when the car shot by amidst
braying klaxons, motor horns, cheers, and the clashing music of the
band. Frantic, the people hailed Lestrange as the black and white
checked flag dropped before him in proclamation of his victory and the
ended race.

Rupert raised his arms above his head in the signal of acknowledgment,
as they flew across the line and swept on to complete the circle to
their camp. Lestrange slackened speed to take the dangerous, deeply
furrowed turn for the last time, his car poised for the curving flight
under his guidance--then the watching hundreds saw the driver's hands
slip from the steering-wheel as he reached for the brake. Straight
across the track the machine dashed, instead of following the bend,
crashed through the barrier, and rolled over on its side in the green
meadow grass.

"The steering-knuckle!" Bailey groaned, as the place burst into uproar
around them. "The wheel--I saw it turn uselessly in his hands!"

"They're up!" cried a dozen voices. "No, one's up and one's under."
"Who's caught in the wreck--Lestrange or his man?"

But before the people who surged over the track, breaking all
restraint, before the electric ambulance, Dick Ffrench reached the
marred thing that had been the Mercury car. It was Lestrange who had
painfully struggled to one knee beside the machine, fighting hard for
breath to speak.

"Take the car off Rupert," he panted, at Dick's cry of relief on
seeing him. "I'm all right--take the car off Rupert."

The next instant they were surrounded, overwhelmed with eager aid. The
ambulance came up and a surgeon precipitated himself toward Lestrange.

"Stand back," the surgeon commanded generally. "Are you trying to
smother him? Stand back."

But it was he who halted before a gesture from Lestrange, who leaned
on Dick and a comrade from the camp.

"Go over there, to Rupert."

"You first--"

"No."

There was nothing to do except yield. Shrugging his shoulders, the
surgeon paused the necessary moment. A moment only; there was a
scattering of the hushed workers, a metallic crash.

From the space the car had covered a small figure uncoiled,
lizardlike, and staggered unsteadily erect.

"Where's Darling Lestrange?" was hurled viciously across the silence.
"Gee, you're a slow bunch of workers! Where's Lestrange?"

The tumult that broke loose swept all to confusion. And after all it
was Lestrange who was put in the surgeon's care, while Rupert rode
back to the camp on the driver's seat of the ambulance.

"Tell Emily I'll come over to her as soon as I'm fit to look at," was
the message Lestrange gave Dick. "And when you go back to the factory,
have your steering-knuckles strengthened."

Dick exceeded his commission by transmitting the speech entire;
repeating the first part to Emily with all affectionate solicitude,
and flinging the second cuttingly at his uncle and Bailey.

"The doctors say he ought to be in bed, but he won't go," he
concluded. "No, you can't see him until they get through patching him
up at the hospital tent; they put every one out except Rupert. _He_
hasn't a scratch, after having a ninety Mercury on top of him. You're
to come over to our camp, Emily, and wait for Lestrange. I suppose
everybody had better come."

It was a curious and an elevating thing to see Dickie assume command
of his family, but no one demurred. An official, recognizing in him
Lestrange's manager, cleared a way for the party through the noisy
press of departing people and automobiles. The very track was blocked
by a crowd too great for control.

The sunset had long faded, night had settled over the motordrome and
the electric lamps had been lit in the tents, before there came a stir
and murmur in the Mercury camp.

"Don't skid, the ground's wet," cautioned a voice outside the door.
"Steady!"

Emily started up, Dick sprang to open the canvas, and Lestrange
crossed the threshold. Lestrange, colorless, his right arm in a sling,
his left wound with linen from wrist to elbow, and bearing a heavy
purple bruise above his temple, but with the brightness of victory
flashing above all weariness like a dancing flame.

"Sweetheart!" he laughed, as Emily ran to meet him, heedless of all
things except that he stood within touch once more. "My dear, I told
them not to frighten you. Why, Emily--"

For as he put his one available arm about her, she hid her wet eyes on
his shoulder.

"I am so happy," she explained breathlessly. "It is only that."

"You should not have been here at all, my dear. But it is good to see
you. Who brought you? Bailey?" catching sight of the man beside Dick.
"Good, I wanted some one to help me; Rupert and I have got to find a
hotel and we're not very active."

Emily would have slipped away from the clasp, scarlet with returning
recollection, but Lestrange detained her to meet his shining eyes.

"The race is over," he reminded, for her ears alone. "I'm going to
keep you, if you'll stay."

He turned to take a limping step, offering his hand cordially to the
speechless Bailey, and faced for the first time the other man present.

"I think," said Ethan Ffrench, "that there need be no question of
hotels. We have not understood each other, but you have the right to
Ffrenchwood's hospitality. If you can travel, we will go there."

"No," answered David Ffrench, as quietly. "Never. You owe me nothing,
sir. If I have worked in your factory, I took the workman's wages for
it; if I have won honors for your car, I also won the prize-money
given to the driver. I never meant so to establish any claim upon
Ffrenchwood or you. I believe we stand even. Dick has taken my place,
happily; Emily and I will go on our own road."

They looked at each other, the likeness between them most apparent, in
the similar determination of mood which wiped laughter and warmth from
the younger man's face. However coldly phrased and dictatorially
spoken, it was an apology which Mr. Ffrench had offered and which had
been declined. But--he had watched Lestrange all day; he did not lift
the gauntlet.

"You are perfectly free," he conceded, "which gives you the
opportunity of being generous."

His son moved, flushing through his pallor.

"I wish you would not put it that way, sir," he objected.

"There is no other way. I have been wrong and I have no control over
you; will you come home?"

There was no other argument but that that could have succeeded, and
the three who knew Lestrange knew that could not fail.

"You want me because I am a Ffrench," David rebelled in the final
protest. "You have a substitute."

"Perhaps I want you otherwise. And we will not speak in passion; there
can be no substitute for you."

"Ffrench and Ffrench," murmured Dick coaxingly. "We can run that
factory, Lestrange!"

"There's more than steering-knuckles needing your eye on them. And you
love the place, Mr. David," said Bailey from his corner.

From one to the other David's glance went, to rest on Emily's
delicate, earnest face in its setting of yellow-bronze curls. Full and
straight her dark eyes answered his, the convent-bred Emily's answer
to his pride and old resentment and new reluctance to yield his
liberty.

"After all, you were born a Ffrench," she reminded, her soft accents
just audible. "If that is your work?"

Very slowly David turned to his father.

"I never learned to do things by halves," he said. "If you want me,
sir--"

And Ethan Ffrench understood, and first offered his hand.

Rupert was discovered asleep in a camp-chair outside the tent, a few
minutes later, when Dick went in search of him.

"The limousine's waiting," his awakener informed him. "You don't feel
bad, do you?"

The mechanician rose cautiously, wincing.

"Well, if every joint in my chassis wasn't sore, I'd feel better," he
admitted grimly. "But I'm still running. What did you kiss me awake
for, when I need my sleeps?"

"Did you suppose we could get Lestrange home without you, Jack
Rupert?"

"I ain't supposing you could. I'm ready."

The rest of the party were already in the big car, with one exception.

"Take a last look, Rupert," bade David, as he stood in the dark
paddock. "We're retired; come help me get used to it."

Rupert passed a glance over the deserted track.

"I guess my sentiment-tank has given out," he sweetly acknowledged.
"The Mercury factory sounds pretty good to me, Darling. And I guess we
can make a joy ride out of living, on any track, if we enter for it."

"I guess we can," laughed David Ffrench. "Get in opposite Emily. We're
going home to try."


THE END





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