The driver had begun to speed; as if to make up for lost time, he was forcing the engine to its limit. The machine, of light construction, shook violently, negotiated the steep places with jumps and slid down on the other side with breakneck velocity. The dust thickened about Mr. Heatherbloom’s head so that he could scarcely see. His arms ached and every bump nearly tore him loose. He wound the strap around his wrist and strove to ensconce himself deeper in a place not large enough for him. He was on an edge all the time, and felt as if he were falling over every moment; the edge, too, was sharp and dug into him.
Mr. Heatherbloom, however, had little thought of bodily discomfort; he was more concerned in making progress and the difficulty of maintaining his position. His only fear was that he would be compelled to abandon his place because his physical energy might not be equal to the demands put upon it. He set his teeth now and began to count the seconds. The faster they went, the better was his purpose served; he strove to find encouragement in the thought. The other car could make a superior showing in the way of speed, but it might stop voluntarily somewhere after a while, or something might happen to arrest its progress. The race did not always belong to the swift. He endeavored to formulate some plan as to just what he would do if he did finally manage to overtake the woman and her party, but at length ceased trying. Sufficient unto the moment were the problems thereof; he could but strive in the present. He dispelled the fear that he could not hold on much longer, and filled himself with new determination not to yield. But even as he did so, a bigger bump than any they had yet encountered jerked him abruptly from his place.
When finally he managed to collect himself and his senses and sit up uncertainly in the road, the car was far away. The snap of exploding gasolene grew faint—fainter—then ceased altogether.
IN THE NIGHT
A wayworn figure, some time thereafter, moved slowly along the deserted road, where it ran like a winding ribbon over the top of a great bluff. A sea wind, coming in varying gusts, bent low the long grass and rustled in the bushes. The moon had escaped from behind dark clouds in a stormy sky and threw its rays far and wide. They imparted a frosty sheen to the wavy surface between road and sea and brightened the thoroughfare, which, lengthening tortuously, disappeared beneath in a tangle of forest or underbrush.
Mr. Heatherbloom gazed wearily down the road, then over the grass. In the latter direction, afar, a strip of ocean lay like an argent stream flowing between the top of the bank and the horizon. Toward that illusory river he, leaving the main highway, walked in somewhat discouraged fashion. It might avail him little, so much time had elapsed, but from the edge of the bluff he would be afforded a view of the surrounding country and the topography of the coast.