“Stop at the car barns,” she commanded.
We crossed the car-barn tracks at a gallop. The cop rode abreast of us now. “Cut it out, Bill,” he warned.
“You see?” she crowed. “You will wind up in jail and give the papers another scandal. Why didn’t you stop at the car barns?”
“Because we are going to Mountaindale,” he explained cheerily; “where the nice people drive. Perhaps we shall see the John Quincy Burtons again—as we come back.”
“If we ever do come back!”
“Or how would you like to have supper with them up there?”
She had gone into one of her silences.
We settled down for the long pull over First Mountain. Todd slowed my spark and gave me my head. Then he addressed the partner of his joy-ride in a new voice: “Amanda, my dear, you and I need to have a frank little understanding.”
“For some years past,” he began, “I have borne without complaint, even without resentment, a certain attitude that you have seen fit to adopt toward me. I have borne it patiently because I felt that to an extent I deserved it.”
My floor boards creaked as she gathered her forces for the counter attack. He went on recklessly:
“In the beginning of our life together, Amanda, you were ambitious. You longed for wealth and position and that sort of thing, in which respect you were like the rest of men and women. Like most people, my dear, you have been disappointed; but unlike most of them you persist in quarrelling with the awards of fortune, just as to-day you are quarrelling with this plebeian car of ours. As you speak of Hilaritas, so you speak of me. At breakfast this morning, for example, you reminded me, for perhaps the tenth time since Sunday, that you are chained to a failure. Those were your words, my dear—chained to a failure.”
“Do you call yourself a dazzling success?” she asked.
“Not dazzling, perhaps,” he replied, “and yet—yes—yes, I believe I do.”
“What I told you at breakfast was that Freddy Burton makes one hundred dollars a week, and he is only twenty-four—not half as old as you.”
“Freddy Burton is engaged in the important occupation of selling pickles,” Todd answered, “and I am only an educator of youth. Long ago I reached my maximum—three thousand dollars. From one point of view I don’t blame you for looking upon me as a futility. I presume I am. Nor will I chide you for not taking the luck of life in a sportsmanlike spirit. But I do insist——”
“At last!” she broke in. “At last I understand some pencil notes that I found yesterday when I cleaned out your desk. A minute ago I thought you were out of your head. Now I see that this—this frightfulness of yours is premeditated. Premeditated, James Todd! You prepared this speech in advance!”
Between you and me, she was right. I had heard him practise it in the barn.