As we came chugging up to the house, several faces appeared in the doorway as if to welcome and scold the runaway. I saw old King with his pipe in his mouth; and there were Aunt Lodema and Weaver. They were all smiling at the escapade—Beryl’s escapade, that is—and I don’t think they realized just at first who I was, or that I was in any sense a menace to their peace of mind.
When we came opposite and showed no disposition to stop, or even to slow up, I saw the smiles freeze to amazement, and then—but I hadn’t the time to look. Old King yelled something, but by that time we were skidding around the first shed, where Shylock had been shot down on my last trip through there. It was a new shed, I observed mechanically as we went by. I heard much shouting as we disappeared, but by that time we were almost through the gantlet. I made the last turn on two wheels, and scudded away up the open trail of the pass.
One More Race.
A faint toot-toot warned from behind.
“They’ve got out the other car,” said Beryl, a bit tremulously; and added, “it’s a much bigger one than this.”
I let her out all I dared for the road we were traveling; and then there we were, at that blessed gate. I hadn’t thought of it till we were almost upon it, but it didn’t take much thought; there was only one thing to do, and I did it.
I caught Beryl by an arm and pulled her down to the floor of the car, not taking my eyes from the trail, or speaking. Then I drove the car forward like a cannon-ball. We hit that gate like a locomotive, and scarcely felt the jar. I knew the make of that motor, and what it could do. The air was raining splinters and bits of lamps, but we went right on as if nothing had happened, and as fast as the winding trail would allow. I knew that beyond the pass the road ran straight and level for many a mile, and that we could make good time if we got the chance.
Beryl sat half-turned in the seat, glancing back; but for me, I was busy watching the trail and taking the sharp turns in a way to lift the hair of one not used to traveling by lightning. I will confess it was ticklish going, at that pace, and there were places when I took longer chances than I had any right to take. But, you see, I had Beryl—and I meant to keep her.
That Weaver fellow must have had a bigger bump of caution than I, or else he’d never raced. I could hear them coming, but they didn’t seem to be gaining; rather, they lost ground, if anything. Presently Beryl spoke again, still looking back.
“Don’t you think, Mr. Carleton, this joke has gone far enough? You have demonstrated what you could do, if—”
I risked both our lives to glance at her. “This joke,” I said, “is going to Osage. I want to marry you, and you know it. The Lord and this car willing, I’m going to. Still, if you really have been deceived in my intentions, and insist upon going back, I shall stop, of course, and give you back to your father. But you must do it now, at once, or—marry me.”