My sudden roaring was mingled with frightened outcries from Todd. “Stop! Wait a minute! Whoa! Help!”
Fortunately for my radiator, the lamp-post into which he steered me was poorly rooted. He looked at the wreckage of the glass globe on the grass, and declared he had taken as much of the theory of motoring as he could absorb in one session.
“This is the only lesson I can give you free,” said Willie. “You’d better keep on while the learning’s cheap.”
To free education and to compulsory education Mr. Todd pronounced himself opposed. Cramming was harmful to the student; the elective method was the only humane one. He put off the evil hour by engaging Willie as a private tutor for the remaining afternoons of the month.
I have met many rabbits but only one Todd. He would visit me in the barn and look at me in awe by the half-hour. Yet I liked him; I felt drawn toward him in sympathy, for he and I were fellow victims of the hauteur of Mrs. Todd.
In my travels I have never encountered a glacier. When I do run across one I shall be reminded, I am certain, of Mr. Todd’s lady.
“So you are still alive?” were her cordial words as we rolled into the yard on the first afternoon.
“Yes, my dear.” His tone was almost apologetic.
“Did he drive it?” she asked Willie.
“I’ll say so, ma’am.”
She looked me over coldly. When she finished, I had shrunk to the dimensions of a wheelbarrow. When Todd sized me up in the warehouse only an hour before, I had felt as imposing as a furniture van.
“Put it in the barn,” said Mrs. Todd, “before a bird carries it off.”
I began to suspect that a certain little stranger was not unanimously welcome in that household. For a moment I was reassured, but only for a moment.
“John Quincy Burton says,” she observed, “that a little old used car like this is sometimes a very good thing to own.”
“That is encouraging,” said Todd, brightening. In his relief he explained to Willie that John Quincy Burton drove the largest car in the neighbourhood and was therefore to be regarded as an authority.
“Yes,” Mrs. Todd concluded, “he says he thinks of buying one himself to carry in his tool-box.”
Willie was an excellent teacher, though a severe disciplinarian.
But by way of amends for the rigours of the training, Willie would take Mr. Todd after the practice hour for a spin around the park. At those times I came to learn that the collision I had had with a trolley-car before Todd bought me had not left me with any constitutional defect. I still had power under my hood, and speed in my wheels. But what good were power and speed to me now? I doubted that Todd would ever push me beyond a crawl.
Yet I had hope, for when his relaxation from the tension of a lesson had loosened his tongue he would chatter to Willie about self-confidence.