“Yes, Mrs. Todd, do be persuaded,” Mrs. Burton chimed in. “After twenty miles with your Barney Oldfield you need nourishment, I’m sure. You and I can talk about his recklessness while he and Mr. Burton have their little conference.”
If Todd had an appointment for a conference there at that hour with Burton, I am positive it was news to Mrs. Todd and me. I could feel her weight growing heavier on my cushion springs.
“Thank you for the invitation,” she replied, “but I am so badly shaken up, I prefer to sit out here.”
To which her husband added, laughingly: “She wouldn’t risk having her new car stolen for anything.”
It was twilight before we started for home, the Burtons pulling out ahead of us. At the beginning of the climb over the mountain I saw the Mammoth stop. We drew alongside.
“Out of gas, confound it,” growled Burton, “and five miles from a service station!”
“I’d lend you some, only I haven’t much myself,” said Todd. “Got a rope?”
“Oh, we can. We can pull you and never know it. Hitch on behind. We like to travel in stylish company, Mrs. Todd and I.”
So we towed them over the mountain and left them at a red pump. John Quincy Burton’s gratitude was immense.
“The pleasure is all ours,” Todd assured him. “But, say, old man!”
“You ought to buy a little old used car like this some time to carry in your tool-box.”
They were still laughing when we drove away.
Not a word did Mrs. Todd utter on the homeward journey; but in the privacy of our humble barn—
“Oh!” she cried. “I could die! Why did you have to say that to Mr. Burton?”
She subsided, but she had not surrendered.
“You didn’t tell me you had an engagement with him. What——”
Todd laughed. “I was chosen this week, my dear, as a grievance committee of one, representing the teaching staff at the college, to put a few cold facts into John Quincy Burton’s ear.”
“Precisely, my dear. I was the only man in the faculty who seemed to have the—the self-confidence necessary. And I made Burton see the point. I have his promise that the college trustees will campaign the state this summer for a half-million-dollar emergency fund, a good slice of which will go toward salary increases.”
“Well! I must say——”
She did not say it. Silently she left us.
He lingered a while in the barn. He opened my hood, for I was quite warm from the towing job. He examined a new cut in one of my tires and loosened my hand-brake a notch. He couldn’t seem to find enough to do for me.
From the house came a hail. I am not sure that he did not hold his breath as he listened.
“James, dear!” again.
“Hello!” he answered.
“James, dear, won’t you bring your automobile pliers, please, and see if you can open this jar of marmalade?”