« PreviousContinue »
R. McMURDOCH'S expression remained utterly blank, and he slowly shook his head. “I haven't an idea in the world,” he declared. “A patient, perhaps?” “Possibly,” said Harley, conscious of some disappointment; “yet from the way he spoke of him I scarcely think that he was a patient. Surely Sir Charles, having resided so long in India, numbered several Orientals among his acquaintances if not among his friends?” “None ever came to his home,” replied Dr. McMurdoch. “He had all the Anglo-Indian’s prejudice against men of color.” He rested his massive chin in his hand and stared down reflectively at the carpet. “Then you have no suggestion to offer in regard to this person?” “None. Did he tell you nothing further about him?” “Unfortunately, nothing. In the next place, Dr. McMurdoch, are you aware of any difference of opinion which had arisen latterly between Sir Charles and his daughter?” “Difference of opinion!” replied Dr. McMurdoch, raising his brows ironically. “There would always be difference of opinion between little Phil and any man who cared for her. But out-and-out quarrel—no!” Again Harley found himself at a deadlock, and it was with scanty hope of success that he put his third question to the gloomy Scot. “Was Sir Charles a friend of Mr. Nicol Brinn?” he asked. “Nicol Brinn?” echoed the physician. He looked perplexed. “You mean the American millionaire? I believe they were acquainted. Abingdon knew most of the extraordinary people in London; and if half one hears is true Nicol Brinn is as mad as a hatter. But % : they were not in any sense friends s s as far as I know.” He was watching Harley curiously. “Why do you ask that question?” “I will tell you in a moment,” said Harley rapidly, “but I have one more question to put to you first. Does the term Fire-Tongue convey anything to your mind?” Dr. McMurdoch's eyebrows shot upward most amazingly. “I won't insult you by supposing that you have chosen such a time for joking,” he said dourly. “But if your third question surprised me, I must say that your fourth sounds simply daft.” “It must do,” agreed Harley, and his manner was almost fierce; “but when I tell you why I ask these two questions—and I only do so on the understanding that my words are to be treated in the strictest confidence—you may regard the matter in a new light. “Nicol Brinn' and “Fire-Tongue’ were the last words which Sir Charles Abingdon uttered.” “What!” cried Dr. McMurdoch, displaying a sudden surprising energy. “What?” “I solemnly assure you,” declared Harley, “that such is the case. Benson, the butler, also overheard them.” Dr. McMurdoch relapsed once more into gloom, gazing at the whisky in the glass which he held in his hand and slowly shaking his head. “Poor old Charlie Abingdon,” he murmured. “It’s plain to me, Mr. Harley, that his mind was wandering. May not we find here an explanation, too, of this idea of his that some danger overhung Phil? You didn't chance to notice, I suppose, if he had a temperature?” “I did not,” replied Harley, smiling slightly. But the smile quickly left his face, which became again grim and stern.
A short silence ensued, during which Dr. McMurdoch sat staring moodily down at the carpet and Harley slowly paced up and down the room. “In view of the fact,” he said suddenly, “that Sir Charles clearly apprehended an attempt upon his life, are you satisfied professionally that death was due to natural causes?” “Perfectly satisfied,” replied the physician, looking up with a start: “perfectly satisfied. It was unexpected, of course, but such cases are by no means unusual. He was formerly a keen athlete, remember. 'Tis often so. Surely you don’t suspect foul play? I understood you to mean that his apprehensions were on behalf of Phil.” " Paul Harley stood still, staring meditatively in the other's direction. “There is not a scrap of evidence to support such a theory,” he admitted, “but if you knew of the existence of any poisonous agent which would produce a death simulating these familiar symptoms, I should be tempted to take certain steps.” “If you are talking about poisons,” said the physician, a rather startled look appearing upon his face, “there are several I might mention; but
the idea seems preposterous to me. Why should anyone want to harm Charlie Abingdon? When could poison have been administered and by whom?”
“When indeed?” murmured Harley. “Yet I am not satisfied.”
“You’re not hinting at-suicide?”
“What had he eaten?”
“Nothing but soup, except that he drank a portion of a glass of water. I am wondering if he took anything at Mr. Wilson's house.” He stared hard at Dr. McMurdoch. “It may surprise you to learn that I have already taken steps to have the remains of the soup from Sir Charles's plate examined, as well as the water in the glass. I now propose to call upon Mr. Wilson in order that I may complete this line of inquiry.”
“I sympathize with your suspicions, Mr. Harley,” said the physician dourly, “but you are wasting
A tall, lean man with straight black hair and the features of a Sioux—that was Nicol Brinn, known on two continents as a glutton for danger
your time.” A touch of the old acidity crept back into his manner. “My certificate will be syncope due to unusual excitement; and I shall stand by it.” “You are quite entitled to your own opinion,” Harley conceded, “which if I were in your place would be my own. But what do you make of the fact that Sir Charles received a bogus telephone message some ten minutes before my arrival, as a result of which he visited Mr. Wilson’s house?” “But he's attending Wilson,” protested the physiclan. “Nevertheless no one there had telephoned. It was a ruse. I don't assume for a moment that this ruse was purposeless.” Dr. McMurdoch was now staring hard at the speaker. “You may also know,” Harley continued, “that there was an attempted burglary here less than a week ago.” “I know that,” admitted the other, “but it counts for little. There have been several burglaries in the neighborhood of late.” Harley perceived that Dr. McMurdoch was one of those characters, not uncommon north of the Tweed, who, if slow to form an opinion, once having done so cling to it as tightly as any barnacle. “You may be right and I may be wrong,” he admitted, “but while your professional business with Sir Charles unfortunately is ended, mine is only beginning. May I count upon you to advise me of Miss Abingdon's return? I particularly wish to see her, and I should prefer to meet her in the capacity of a friend rather than in that of a professional investigator.” “At the earliest moment that I can decently arrange a meeting,” replied Dr. McMurdoch, “I will communicate with you, Mr. Harley. I am just cudgeling my brains at the moment to think how the news is to be broken to her. Poor little Phil' He was all she had.” “I wish I could help you,” declared Harley with sincerity, “but in the circumstances any suggestion of mine would be mere impertinence.” He held out his hand to the doctor. “Good night,” said the latter, gripping it heartily. “If there is any mystery surrounding poor Abingdon's death, I believe you are the man to clear it up. But, frankly, it was his heart. I believe he had a touch of the sun once in India. Who knows? His idea that some danger threatened him or threatened Phil may have been merely—” He tapped his brow significantly. “But in the whole of your knowledge of Sir Charles,” cried Harley, exhibiting a certain irritation, “have you ever known him to suffer from delusions of that kind or any other?” “Never,” replied the physician firmly; “but once a man has had the sun one cannot tell.” “Ah!” said Harley. “Good night, Dr. McMurdoch.” When presently he left the house, carrying a brown leather bag borrowed from the butler, he knew that, rightly or wrongly, his own opinion remained unchanged. The bogus message remained to be explained, the assault in the square, the purpose of the burglar to whom gold and silver plate made no appeal. More important even were the dead man's extraordinary words: “Fire-Tongue”—“Nicol Brinn.” Finally and conclusively he had detected the note of danger outside and inside the house; and now as he began to cross the square it touched him again intimately.
E looked up at the darkened sky. A black cloud was moving slowly overhead, high above the roof of the late Sir Charles Abingdon; and as he watched its stealthy approach it seemed to Paul Harley to be the symbol of that dread in which latterly Sir Charles's life had lain, beneath which he had died, and which now was stretching out, mysterious and menacing, over himself. (C’t'd on page 32)
By Porter Emerson Browne
Illustrated by Warren B. Davis
N the brilliant haze of an Arizona dusk Redfield Pepperday sat on the still sunny side of the rambling old ranch house mending a broken girth. Blue of eye, red of hair, bounteously bestowed as to sunburn and freckle, as he sat there on his haunches, missing himself with the rowels of his spurs by but a fraction of an inch (for the true desert dweller has but the supremest contempt for such useless vagaries as chairs), he seemed to participate in, and even add to, the vividness of the landscape about him—flat, spreading sands of yellow dotted with the pale green of mesquite, a sky of cerulean washed with gold,
and, limned against it, opal mountains, snow-tipped; the whole creating a picture of surging splendor aided, if not abetted, by the deeper blue of Redfield Pepperday's shirt, the more violent crimson of the silk handkerchief around his neck, and the flashing brightness of his spurs. So sat Redfield Pepperday—Redfield Pepperday, that is, on the pay roll, on the erstwhile draft lists, on the bottom of the infrequent and hard-wrought letters which, evolved with sputtering pen and much facial agony, he occasionally sent East, and, last but not least, in the material possession left him by parents long since gone to an even better land than Arizona: the family Bible.
One wonders, knowing of the fierce pride of parenthood, what the se parents would have thought had they realized that the resounding name that they so fondly bestowed upon him was one day to be callously abbreviated into another form. Yet such had happened. It was too good a chance to be missed. Not for long was their resonant offspring to be known as they had decreed. In his first year at school his fellows fixed it for him, and from then on all who knew him well (and no one who knew him at all didn't know him well) called him not Redfield Pepperday, but Red Pepper. It was a name that stuck. It stuck because it couldn't help sticking. For it described him absolutely. Red Pepper he, was called. And Red Pepper he was. Not by any chance could he have been known as anything else. To review his career may be monotonous; but it is necessary. And at least it will be brief. He was born at Red Wing, Ariz., at five o'clock on the morning of July 4, 1893. He had a tough time teething, but got along ail right until 1898, when he had measles. From 1899 until 1906 he commuted nine miles to school on horseback. In 1907 his parents were killed in a railroad accident and he went to work for old man Moseby of the Diamond Dot. He fell in love three times. Once with a little girl with yellow curls who later married a wellknown and justly unpopular train robber; once with a waitress in the Bon Ton Restaurant in Flagstaff. And once with a photograph of Edna May.
When Germany invaded Belgium he was puzzled. When the Lusitania was sunk he decided he wouldn't wait for America to go to war, but would go himself anyhow. He started for the Canadian border, but his horse stepped in a prairie dog hole, and his destination suddenly changed to the hospital at Phoenix. Emerging therefrom, he returned to the ranch and stayed there until restored to health and strength, when he made another attempt. This time typhoid fever stopped him.
When America finally entered the war he started a third time. On this occasion the constraining influence proved to be a bullet from the casual .45 of an ardent disciple of preparedness who, full of enthusiasm engendered by near beer and Jamaica ginger, was equally casual as to where and what he was shooting. The bullet went through the left arm, cavorted around a rib, crossed the sternum, and finally lodged itself under the right clavicle. It was a highly successful shot, in that by the time Red had recovered the armistice had been signed and the war was, in a manner of speaking, over.
LL of which leads us back to where he sits, on the still sunny side of the ranch house, mending a girth. And which explains why the largest city his eyes had ever viewed was Phoenix, Ariz., and that only through the back end of an ambulance and from a hospital window. But while denying him all knowledge of men and affairs save that reflected by the public prints, nature had once again been bountiful in the blessings of health and strength. He felt so good it hurt! As he stopped to roll, one-handed, a cigarette, old man Moseby, tall, gaunt, and grizzled, came around the corner of the house and, swinging his left leg over the pommel of his saddle, slid to the ground. He stood for a long time, silent. Nor did Red speak. People that really know each other can do it. Finally the silence was broken. “Red,” said old man Moseby, “I be’n thinkin’.” Red waited. (Continued on page 36) N fifteen years you and I and the rest of us have paid upward of three billion dollars for construction, reconstruction, and maintenance of what we fondly called “permanent” roads. During that period we have succeeded in adding to our road mileage something like 12,500 miles'of reasonably durable (never really permanent) roads. A minute with a pencil and the cost figures to $240,000 per mile. Road engineers say every mile of it could be duplicated to-day, in spite of the high cost of labor and material, for from thirty to fifty thousand dollars per mile. Is it any wonder that all of us, taxpayers, farmers, road users, and the makers of vehicles which run upon roads, are asking how the money was spent which should have made roads and didn't? Fifteen years ago we spent an average of $80,000,000 annually for roads and bridges together. In 1919 we spent $400,000,000 for roads. In 1920 the road bill counted up to about $490,000,000 expended, or about $4.65 for each man, woman, and child. There will be available for 1921 a great deal more money than can be spent if the expenditure curve follows its present course, and if present plans do not miscarry, certainly not less than $570,000,000 will be poured out to buy rock and dirt and stones and oil and machinery and labor and land and concrete. But will we get $570,000,000 worth of roads? There seems no reason to think that our expenditures last year, this year. or next year, will result in any better economy of road building than the decade and a half immediately past. So that it becomes pertinent to inquire into the reasons why, when we make a road, it does not remain a permanent asset to the community which bought it. . By no means the least important reason is found in those very words—“permanent asset.” The early fathers of good-road building in the United States conducted their campaign against the seas of mud, collections of ruts, cow wallows of holes we miscalled roads by spreading broadcast the doctrine of the “permanent road” as opposed to the “temporary” road of mud, earth, or clay. Slowly, through the years and the earnest efforts of broad-visioned men, road propaganda spread. Always it was in favor, of the “permanent” road. A “permanent” road, of course, is one which, like a monument, once built lasts indefinitely with no other attention than admiring glances. . - . . . . As the man said who saw a giraffe for the first time: “There ain't no such animal.” At least, there is no such road except at a price of half a million dollars or more per mile. The Appian Way is still permanent” in that it is built of huge slabs of stone, but the cost of the war would not build our
by C. H. Claudy
pitiful aggregate of improved roads into Appian Ways.
I do not mean to imply that we have never received any benefit or value from our roads. Up to the time when, ten or fifteen years ago, the automobile began to change the entire character of our traffic, the counties and municipalities which had poured millions of dollars into the building of what were then considered permanent roads reaped a limitless amount of economic benefit from these local thoroughfares which linked up their communities with important cities and shipping points. The old water-bound macadams, gravel roads, and even the graded roads all had purposes to serve, served them well, and justified the expenditure of millions of dollars upon them. To be sure, there was graft and inefficiency and all sorts of similar evils, but we cannot wholly and unqualifiedly condemn highway development throughout the entire history of road building in this country.
Tires Make Road History
UT the automobile and motor truck wrought a mighty change in road-building problems, a change which we have not yet fully appreciated and with which we have not yet learned to cope. People thought “permanent” meant permanent,
and only so they raised their money, by bonds or
taxes, and spent it for roads—all for roads—and opened them with ceremony and a broken white ribbon, used them with happiness and inattention, gave them neither further thought nor any maintenance
—and in from one to five years found themselves
possessed of ribbons of holes, ruts, mire, disaster, but no roads. However, failure to realize that the best road begins to wear out the day it is opened is but one of many factors contributing to our waste of road substance in riotous road construction. Much has been made from time to time of graft, as a reason for lack of results of money spent on roads. In days gone by, the political appointee
who spent State or county money for roads could, if
he wished, easily line his own pockets in the process. But times have changed, and ideas with them. The coming of Federal aid to the States in road building, while not an unmixed joy, eliminated many of the unfit from the offices of constructors of public roads. No State which has not a State highway commission or similar regularly constituted body to attend to the construction of State roads may share
Your $4.65 Worth of Roads
in the Federal benefits. Moreover, while the American people can be, and are, fooled often and much, Abraham Lincoln was right, and the time has gone by when all the people can be fooled all the time as to road building. We have come to realize at last that' road building is an engineering, not a contractor's job, and by the amount of such realization we have eliminated practically all the waste of money which comes from graft. The disadvantages of the Federal aid system as at present constituted are many—in fact, so many that it is doubtful if this system will supply even a part of the final answer to the highway-building problem. In the first place, State highway commissions throughout the United States have exercised jurisdiction over only a small fraction of the highways. It is true also that many of these State highway commissions have shown little or no judgment in the distribution of the Federal funds intrusted to their care. Looking a little farther into reasons, it is easy to see that we have “muddled through” two desperate situations and found the answer to two problems; from this we may deduce that, give us time, money, and patience, and we will in time solve our present pressing problem. In the past two great problems appeared in the tires of wheels. When we began to build “permanent” roads, or, as they may be correctly called, hard-surface roads, our first problem was the steel tire. It was the steel tire which chopped our earth roads into ruts, destroyed what little foundation work we know how to build, and made nice bathing places for buffaloes out of public highways. We learned to build the macadam road, the road of stone, laid in courses, and bonded—held together— with dust of rock. We learned that wind and rain gradually but surely take away this dust, and to calculate our rock sizes to our vehicular traffic, so that horseshoe and steel tire should grind up surface rock into dust at the same speed that wind and rain removed the dust already there. Thus our road maintained itself during the life of its “top dressing.” When the automobile made its appearance, it was perfectly evident to everyone that our road troubles were over. The automobile couldn’t possibly hurt the stone road because the soft rubber would do no damage to rock. Nor does it; but to a road built for steel tires it is more deadly than a gang with pickaxes. For the rapidly moving rubber tire sucks, sucks, sucks at the dust, raises it in clouds; the wind blows it away to powder the landscape, and the rubber tire breaks up no rocks to make dust to take the place of that which has been stolen from the road by the suction. Deprived of the rock dust, the stones scatter, the road “ravels,” holes and ruts appear, and the highway joins that (Continued on page 18)
T; first great demand for new cars in 1921 will come from people whose cars have worn out in honest use. The early automobiles made in America and abroad wore out in a limited time. Even one season's driving took toll of the primitive ignition and lubrication systems used in those days, and of many parts subjected to strains not foreseen by the early designers. In these days of better metals and better design the average car—driven by a man who is neither a wrecker nor a skilled engineer—will last in daily service for five years. ( As its price has come down, due to quantity production, so has its length of service increased. By comparing production with registration you will find that 1,500,000 cars are being retired from service, and scrapped, as the old year ends. As this replacement demand gathers way the manufacturers will be kept busy to meet it. That's a useful thought for the man who is going on the assumption that automobiles will be much cheaper a few months hence and that the supply will more than equal the demand. After the replacement and export markets have been taken care of, it has been estimated that there will be only 700,000 cars left for first buyers— and not for many years have we had as few buyers as that. Who buys these cars? A survey made by one of the large rubber companies, and quoted by George W. Sutton in this issue, tells more than has been generally imagined. Two-thirds of all the cars sold in 1920 went to users in agricultural districts. More than half of all the cars went to towns of less than 5,000 people. The greatest recent increase in registration has been in the South. The automobile has broken down every barrier and obstacle to its general use. More rapidly than many people suppose, automobile manufacturers and dealers are adapting themselves to this new condition. The tremendous difference between salesmen and order takers is making itself felt. “We have fired every man who thinks he can sell cars from an armchair,” says one of the best known men in the industry. “We have increased our advertising and have started a house-to-house campaign all over the country. We are running full time, and every car we can make is wanted.”
By United Action
N this matter of better salesmanship, which starts on the drawing board of the car designer, continues through the factory and the sales office, and ends with seeing that the car performs efficiently at all times for its purchaser, there are encouraging signs that a suggestion put forth some months ago is beginning to bear fruit. The automobile gives us motion that depends neither on our own energy, nor on the strength of animals, nor on the whims of wind and tides, nor upon fixed steel rails winding among the hills. It runs upon roads. Too often, as anybody realizes who ventures far off the city asphalt, it has been asked to run upon bad roads or no roads at all. o In the name of cheaper transportation, lower prices, and a better-knit America, Collier's has appealed to engineering societies, to makers of cars and trucks, and to farsighted statesmen to join hands in a campaign to awaken the people of America to the need of better highways. Let the facts be presented in order. Better villages do not mean better roads, but better roads mean better villages. Better cities do not mean better motor trucks, but better motor trucks do mean better cities. Let it be shown that good roads and good motor transport will widen the city circle, so that idle acres in the suburbs can feed the city, and the city can scatter its goods and its overcrowded population into the idle acres. Let it be shown that motor transportation is a more direct way between the farmer and the consumer, bringing higher prices to the farmer and lower costs to the city dweller. It is a story for the new Congress, for every legislature and city hall, for every automobile manufacturer in the country, for every engineering society, and for every newspaper and publication that foresees the future of efficient transportation.
The Truck and the Road
NE piece of gossip engineers say we can forget, once for all, is the statement that what wears out good highways is the mere weight of the big motor truck. Actual tests point in a very different direcFor one thing, the United States Bureau of Public Roads is conducting an elaborate series of tests to show the road-wearing effects of varying sizes of motor trucks. Results so far made public show that it is not the weight of the load, but the impact (the downward blow of the moving wheels) that is the all-important factor. Here was one of the tests: An overloaded three-ton truck, running at a speed of fifteen miles an hour over a twoinch rut, struck a downward blow of slightly over seventeen tons. A properly loaded fiveand-a-half-ton truck, running at the same speed over the same rut, struck a downward blow of a little less than twelve tons. This result, surprising as it seems, was due largely to the fact that the heavier truck,
due to better design, had a much smaller
“unsprung weight,” by which is meant weight of wheels and axles only. The engineer in charge of tests, Mr. A. T. Goldbeck, reaches this conclusion: “It is possible to have vastly different impact pressures exerted on the roads by two trucks, both
having the same gross weight, but having different distribution of their sprung and unsprung weights.” He suggests that any laws framed to restrict the maximum sizes of trucks should be based on the actual wheel pressure on the road, instead of the gross weight of the load. But perhaps the most important research in the history of road construction is the recent investigation of subgrades. The results thus far obtained seem to absolve the motor truck, big or little, from responsibility for the failure of many highways to withstand the additional traffic. They show that possibly 70 per cent of all road failures are due to defective drainage, weak subsoils, and frost action. The wearing surface gives the engineer little worry. And, as Mr. C. H. Claudy remarks in an article in this issue: “We have come to realize at last that road building is an engineering and not a contractor's job.”
The Wabbling Child
HE mind of man has never devised a bet
ter, cheaper, or quicker unit of personal transportation than the bicycle. It won't carry heavy luggage. It won't climb steep hills on high. But it will carry you back and forth over the narrowest highways. And, despite the immense growth of the automobile industry, the old-fashioned bike is still very much in the picture. It is produced by a firm and compact industry that makes and sells more than a half million bicycles a year —more than it ever did in the days of the so-called “craze,” the days of bloomer girls and century runs.
More States have already passed and enforced laws prohibiting the driving of automobiles by children. The bicycle, as a builder of healthy bodies, has a large place among childhood's best possessions. But the child on a bicycle, darting or wabbling around in motor traffic, is a terror to motorists and a source of deadly danger to itself. Let's give some thought to this. Let's revive the bicycle path; let's open some of our park roads and lanes to bicycles only, and even build some new ones if need be—just as our fathers built bridle paths. Let's give both the motorist and the bicyclist a square deal.
For Night Drivers
ONSIDER the headlight. For years this necessary accessory to night driving has
been the cause of more discussion and of more legislative and scientific research than any other part of the automobile. A short drive upon any highway used by motor traffic will convince anyone that we are still a very long way from answering this perplexing question.
It would be untrue to say that no progress is being made. The motor-car authorities of most of the States are honestly trying to reach a solution. Probably the most constructive work is being done by the Society of Illuminating Engineers. The trouble seems to be that most of those officials in whose jurisdiction the regulation of headlights belongs are all working toward the same end, but by different roads and with. out cooperation.
Collier's will consider it a pleasure to hear from those who are seeking light on the lighting problem and those who have light to shed.
CE upon a time an elm and a maple tree stood in front of a cottage where a workman lived. The elm leaned a little toward the maple, but she was a very proud tree, one of the old Rock Maples family, and even when he induced the wind to urge her nearer she held back proudly, so that he felt rejected, being only a plain American elm. And once upon a time the little boy, who was only six years old and who lived in the cottage with his mother and his father, fell very ill. His father came back from the factory all panting and hot and pressed his cheek against the white cheek of his boy. And he looked up into the face of the mother and said: “When I heard, I telephoned the doctor, but he may not come in time, and we may lose all that we love. But, just the same, I want you to be brave.” The mother raised her head and stood quite erect, and though there were tears in her eyes, she said in a firm voice: “If God wants to take him, we can be glad that we had him for a time, can’t we? For is it not better to have had him for a time than never to have had him with us at all?” “Yes,” said the man. “But listen!” They both listened and heard the sound of an automobile, coming nearer and nearer. “He is burning the wind" said the father. “Perhaps he will be in time,” said the mother. And the doctor, when he came and saw the child, said: “Just in time, I think.”
The trees were excited, indeed every leaf upon them was trembling while the doctor was in the house. But after a time he came out, mopping his forehead with a handkerchief, and the trees saw that he was a kindlylooking man. He turned to the father and the mother of the little boy and said: “He is out of danger. In two or three days he will be all right. I'm glad I came in time. Four or five minutes more would have been too late.” “How can we thank you enough?” said they. Then a little smile came into his eyes and at the corners of his mouth, where age and experience and love and humor had brought the deep lines and the wrinkles. He sat down on a bench beneath the elm and patted the great trunk with his hand, caressingly, and said: “Oh, don’t thank me. Thank the tree.” “The tree!” they said. “Yes,” he answered. “I could not have come in time if I had not had a motor car. And in that gasoline engine in my motor car there was an electric spark repeating itself over and over, and by its fire turning into gas the liquid fuel, and making great power. And that liquid fuel was extracted from oils pressed out from decayed and carbonized vegetable matter.” Then he laughed and said: “I am sure that the gasoline which brought me here just in time was the essence—or shall we say the spirit?—of one of this tree's most distinguished ancestors.” You may be sure the maple listened to this
with utter surprise. But it quite touched her heart to think that her elm came from such proud ancestry and from a race which had so undying a spirit that many thousands of years after death it could save the life of a little boy. - - So this time it was she who induced the evening wind to come and make her lean toward the elm until she was almost in his arms and had indicated quite clearly to him that she was his if he wanted her. “My stars!” said the little boy's mother. “What a wind has sprung up! I hope it will not harm the tree, because some day this tree too may save some other parents’ little son.” “After thirty thousand years,” said the doctor. “Yes, after thirty thousand years,” the workman said, laughing. “After thirty thousand years I will still love you,” said the maple to the elm very seriously. But just then a huge motor truck loaded with bright green and yellow squashes went clamoring by on its way to the city, taking the produce of the soil to hungry mouths. A man sat at the steering wheel, very glum and disconsolate. What do you suppose he said as he passed the cottage and the two trees and the three people under the trees? Well, this is what he said: “Why do I have to sit here driving all the time? All I do is listen to that blooming old gas engine. Ain't there any romance left in the world?”