At Ogden I hustled into the Shasta and felt a grain of comfort in its familiar atmosphere, and a sense of companionship in the solemn face of Cromwell Jones, our porter. I had taken many a jaunt in the old car, with Crom, and Rankin, and Tony, the best cook that ever fed a hungry man, and it seemed like coming home just to throw myself into my pet chair again, with Crom to fetch me something cold and fizzy.
From him I learned that it was pneumonia, and that if I got there in time it would be considered a miracle of speed and a triumph of faultless railroad system. If I had been tempted to take my ease and to sleep a bit, that settled it for me. The Shasta had no more power to lull my fears or to minister to my comfort. I refused to be satisfied with less than a couple of hundred miles an hour, and I was sore at the whole outfit because they refused to accommodate me.
Still, we got over the ground at such a clip that on the third day, with screech of whistle and clang of bell, we slowed at Oakland pier, where a crowd was cheering like the end of a race—which it was—and kodak fiends were underfoot as if I’d been somebody.
A motor-boat was waiting, and the race went on across the bay, where Crawford met me with the Yellow Peril at the ferry depot. I was told that I was in time, and when I got my hand on the wheel, and turned the Peril loose, it seemed, for the first time since leaving home, that fate was standing back and letting me run things.
Policemen waved their arms and said things at the way we went up Market Street, but I only turned it on a bit more and tried not to run over any humans; a dog got it, though, just as we whipped into Sacramento Street. I remember wishing that Frosty was with me, to be convinced that motors aren’t so bad after all.
It was good to come tearing up the hill with the horn bellowing for a clear track, and to slow down just enough to make the turn between our bronze mastiffs, and skid up the drive, stopping at just the right instant to avoid going clear through the stable and trespassing upon our neighbor’s flower-beds. It was good—but I don’t believe Crawford appreciated the fact; imperturbable as he was, I fancied that he looked relieved when his feet touched the gravel. I was human enough to enjoy scaring Crawford a bit, and even regretted that I had not shaved closer to a collision.
Then I was up-stairs, in an atmosphere of drugs and trained nurses and funeral quiet, and knew for a certainty that I was still in time, and that dad knew me and was glad to have me there. I had never seen dad in bed before, and all my life he had been associated in my mind with calm self-possession and power and perfect grooming. To see him lying there like that, so white and weak and so utterly helpless, gave me a shock that I was quite unprepared for. I came mighty near acting like a woman with hysterics—and, coming as it did right after that run in the Peril, I gave Crawford something of a shock, too, I think. I know he got me by the shoulders and hustled me out of the room, and he was looking pretty shaky himself; and if his eyes weren’t watery, then I saw exceedingly, crooked.