Putting up the receiver, Dr. Surtaine turned to his desk and sat immersed in thought. Presently he shook his head. He scratched a few notes on a pad, tore off the sheet and thrust it into the small safe at his elbow. Proof of a half-page Certina display beckoned him in buoyant, promissory type to his favorite task. He glanced at the safe. Once again he shook his head, this time more decisively, took the scribbled paper out and tore it into shreds. Turning to the proof he bent over it, striking out a word here, amending there, jotting in a printer’s direction on the margin; losing himself in the major interest.
The “special investigator” of the “Clarion” was committing the unpardonable sin of journalism. He was throwing his paper down.
Misfortunes never come singly—to the reckless. The first mischance breeds the second, apparently by ill luck, but in reality through the influence of irritant nerves. Thus descended Nemesis upon Miss Kathleen Pierce. Not that Miss Pierce was of a misgiving temperament: she had too calm and superb a conviction of her own incontrovertible privilege in every department of life for that. But Esme Elliot had given her a hint of her narrow escape from the “Clarion,” and she was angry. To the Pierce type of disposition, anger is a spur. Kathleen’s large green car increased its accustomed twenty-miles-an-hour pace, from which the police of the business section thoughtfully averted their faces, to something nearer twenty-five. Three days after the wreck of the apple cart, she got results.
Harrington Surtaine was crossing diagonally to the “Clarion” office when the moan of a siren warned him for his life, and he jumped back from the Pierce juggernaut. As it swept by he saw Kathleen at the wheel. Beside her sat her twelve-year-old brother. A miscellaneous array of small luggage was heaped behind them.
“Never mind the speed laws,” murmured Hal softly. “Sauve qui peut. There, by Heavens, she’s done it!”
The car had swerved at the corner, but not quite quickly enough. There was a snort of the horn, a scream that gritted on the ear like the clamor of tortured metals, and a huddle of black and white was flung almost at Hal’s feet. Equally quick with him, a middle-aged man, evidently of the prosperous working-classes, helped him to pick the woman up. She was a trained nurse. The white band on her uniform was splotched with blood. She groaned once and lapsed, inert, in their arms.
“Help me get her to the automobile,” said Hal. “This is a hospital case.”
“What automobile?” said the other.
Hal glanced up the street. He saw the green car turning a corner, a full block away.
“She didn’t even stop,” he muttered, in a paralysis of surprise.
“Stop?” said the other. “Her? That’s E.M. Pierce’s she-whelp. True to the breed. She don’t care no more for a workin’-woman’s life than her father does for a workin’-man’s.”