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- The Flyers - 5/15 -
machine. The noise of the engines was deafening.
"Hang it all, man, don't blow your horn like that!" roared Windomshire at last, harassed and full of dread. Joe, in his abstraction, was sounding his siren in a most insulting manner.
At last Windomshire's wheels struck a surface that seemed hard and resisting. He gave a shout of joy.
"Here we are! It's macadam!"
"Cobberly Road," cried Joe. "Back off to the right and let me run in ahead. I'm--I'm in a devil of a hurry."
"By Gad, sir, so am I. Hi, hold back there! Look out where you're going, confound you!"
"Now for it," cried Joe to Eleanor. "We've got the lead; I'll bet a bun he can't catch us." He had deliberately driven across the other's bows, as it were, scraping the wheel, and was off over Cobberly Road like the wind. "Turn to your right at the next crossing," he shouted back to Windomshire. Then to himself hopefully: "If he does that, he'll miss Fenlock by three miles."
They had covered two rash, terrifying miles before a word was spoken. Then he heard her voice in his ear--an anxious, troubled voice that could scarcely be heard above the rushing wind.
"What will we do if the train is late, dear? He'll be--be sure to catch us."
"She's never late. Besides, what if he does catch us? We don't have to go back, do we? You're of age. Brace up; be a man!" he called back encouragingly.
"There are too many men as it is," she wailed, sinking back into the tonneau.
"Here we are!" he shouted, as the car whizzed into a murky, dimly lighted street on the edge of Fenlock, the county seat. "There are the station lights just ahead."
"Is the train in?" she cried, struggling to her feet eagerly.
"I think not." He was slowing down. A moment later the throbbing car came to a stop beside the railway station platform. The lights blinked feebly through the mist; far off in the night arose the faint toot of a locomotive's whistle.
"We're just in time," he cried. "She's coming. Quick!" He lifted her bodily over the side of the car, jerked two suitcases from beneath the curtains, and rushed frantically to the shelter of the platform sheds.
"I'll leave you here, dear," he was saying rapidly. "Wait a second; there is your railroad ticket and your drawing-room ticket, too. I'll wake Derby when I get on board. I have to run the automobile down to Henry's garage first. Won't take ten seconds. Don't worry. The train won't be here for three or four minutes. Get on board and go to sleep. I'll be two cars ahead."
"Oh, Joe, won't I see you again before we start?" she cried despairingly.
"I'll be back in a minute. It's only half a block to Henry's. All I have to do is to leave the car in front of his place. His men will look after it. It's all understood, dearest; don't worry. I'll be here before the train, never fear. Stand here in the shadow, dear." He gave her what might have been a passionate kiss had it not been for the intervention of veil and goggles. Then he was off to the motor, his heart thumping frantically. Standing as stiff and motionless as a statue against the damp brick wall, she heard the automobile leap away and go pounding down the street. Apparently she was alone on the platform; the ticking of telegraph instruments came to her anxious ears, however, and she knew there were living people inside the long, low building. The experience certainly was new to this tall, carefully nurtured girl. Never before had she been left alone at such an hour and place; it goes without saying that the circumstances were unique. Here she was, standing alone in the most wretched of nights, her heart throbbing with a dozen emotions, her eyes and ears labouring in a new and thrilling enterprise, her whole life poised on the social dividing line. She was running away to marry the man she had loved for years; slipping away from the knot that ambition was trying to throw over her rebellious head. If she had any thought of the past or the future, however, it was lost among the fears and anxieties of the present. Her soul was crying out for the approach of two objects--Joe Dauntless and the north-bound flyer.
Her sharp ears caught the sound which told her that the motor had stopped down the street; it was a welcome sound, for it meant that he was racing back to the station--and just in time, too; the flyer was pounding the rails less than half a mile away.
Fenlock was a division point in the railroad. The company's yards and the train despatcher's office were located there. A huge round-house stood off to the right; half a dozen big headlights glared out at the shivering Eleanor like so many spying, accusing eyes. She knew that all trains stopped in Fenlock. Joe had told her that the flyer's pause was the briefest of any during the day or night; still she wondered if it would go thundering through and spoil everything.
Miss Thursdale, watching the approaching headlight, her ears filled with the din of the wheels, did not see or hear a second motor car rush up to the extreme south end of the platform. She was not thinking of Windomshire or his machine. That is why she failed to witness an extraordinary incident.
As the driver leaped from the car a second man disconnected himself from the shadows, paused for a moment to take orders from the new arrival, and then jumped into the seat just vacated. Whereupon the one-time driver performed precisely the same feat that Dauntless had performed three minutes before him. He jerked forth a couple of bags and then proceeded to lift from the tonneau of the car a vague but animate something, which, an instant later, resolved itself into the form of a woman at his side.
"I've settled with the company, Meaders," hurriedly announced Windomshire to the man on the seat. "The car is in your hands now."
"Yes, sir; I understand. Your week is up to-night. Hope it was satisfactory, sir." The car shot off in the night, almost running down a man who scudded across the street in its path.
"Just in time, Anne," said Windomshire to the tall, hooded figure beside him. "Thank God, we didn't miss it."
"Hasn't it been good sport, Harry?" cried the young woman, with an unmistakably English inflection. "It's just like a book."
"Only more so," he observed. "This has really happened, you know. Things never really happen in books, don't you know. You've not lost your tickets, dear?"
"No; they do that only in books. Really, I'm trembling like a leaf. I can't realise that it is all taking place as we planned, and that I am to be your wife after all. Ah, Harry! isn't it splendid?"
"'Gad, little woman, I am the one who hasn't the right to realise. By Jove, I didn't give myself credit for the cleverness to fool every one so neatly. Really, don't you know, however, I feel a bit sorry for Miss Thursdale. She's a ripping good sort, and I'm sorry on that account."
Miss Courtenay--erstwhile governess--took hold of the lapels of his raincoat and looked seriously up into his face. "Are you sure you'll never regret giving her up for me--with all her money?"
"Oh, I say, Anne dear, it's I who am running away, not you. I've always wanted you--all my life. I've been something of a cad---"
"It wasn't your fault. Mrs. Thursdale was bound to have you. It's her way."
"It hurts my pride to say it, but hanged if I think--er--Eleanor was very strong for the match. I've a notion she was bullied into it."
"I'm quite sure of it."
"You're doing her a good turn, my dear. You see, I couldn't love her, and I'd probably have beaten her and all that. It wasn't as if I had to marry her for her money. Deuce take it, I've got a few pounds of my own."
"I'm only Anne Courtenay, the governess."
"You'll be Lady Windomshire some day, my word for it--if the other chaps manage to die, God bless 'em. I say, here's the train. Good- night, dear, up you go! I'll go up ahead. Don't forget! The wedding's at noon to-morrow."
The long, shadowy train came to a stop. He elbowed the porter aside and helped her up the steps. Neither of them noticed the vague figure which rushed across the platform and into the second car below.
"Where's the luggage car?" shouted Windomshire to the porter.
"I mean the baggage van."
"Way up front, sir. Where they're puttin' on the trunks, sir."
Swinging his travelling bag almost at arm's length, the long Englishman raced forward. His own and Miss Courtenay's pieces had come over during the afternoon, skilfully smuggled out of the Thursdale house. Just as he reached the baggage truck a panting, mud-covered individual dashed up from the opposite direction, madly rushing for the train. They tried to avoid a collision, but failed. A second later the two men were staring into each other's eyes, open-mouthed and dismayed.
"Hello!" gasped Dauntless, staggered.
"What the devil, sir, do--My word! It's Dauntless!" sputtered Windomshire.
"Where is she?" shouted Joe, convinced that his rival had captured his runaway fiancee and was now confronting him for explanation.
"Confound you, sir, it's none of your business," roared Windomshire, confident that Dauntless had been sent by Mrs. Thursdale to intercept
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