“‘Ere, I’ve bin lookin’ for you,” he begins accusingly.
The Rolls-Royce owner takes the cigar from his mouth and gazes in astonishment at the accusing apparition before him.
“A hour ago,” pursues the newcomer relentlessly, “you was driving along the front here in the whackin’ great car. It ain’t no good denyin’ it, ’cos I took the number.”
“What d’ye mean—denying it?” exclaims Rolls-Royce. “Who’s denying anythink?”
“It ain’t no good tryin’ to deny it,” retorts the other. “An’ it ain’t no good denyin’ wot you did neether, ’cos I’ve got my missus ’ere to prove it.”
“What I did?” echoes the astonished man. “What did I do?”
“Ran over my child’s b’loon,” states the accuser, fixing him with a pitiless eye. For the moment the object of this serious charge is too taken aback to be capable of speech.
“‘Ran over my child’s b’loon,’” repeats the other inexorably. “Leastways your chauffer did. An’ when we ’ollered out to yer to stop you just rushed on like a runaway railway-train.”
Rolls-Royce, conscious of the curious gaze of the entire company, pulls himself together and regards his accuser unfavourably.
“First I’ve ’eard of it,” he growls. “Where was the balloon anyway? In the road, I s’pose?”
“Yes, it was in the road,” retorts the other defiantly, “where it’s got every right to be. Road’s there for the convenience of b’loon-fliers just as much as for motor-cars. More.”
“Look ’ere, that’s enough of it,” says the car-owner harshly. “If the balloon got run over it’s yer own fault for letting it go in the road.”
“That’s a nice way to talk,” suddenly comes in shrill tones from the woman below, who has edged her way to the foot of the steps. “We don’t go buyin’ balloons for you to run over in yer cars. We’re respectable people, we are, an’ we work for our livin’.”
“Drivin’ about in a car like an express train, runnin’ over other people’s b’loons,” corroborates her husband bitterly. “Wot country d’yer think yer in? Prussia?”
By this time a small crowd has gathered on the pavement and is gazing up at the protagonists with ghoulish interest. The lady in the diamonds, a prey to mingled indignation and alarm, has leant towards her spouse and is whispering to him urgently, but he shakes her off with an impatient movement.
“Not on yer life,” he snaps. “They won’t get a cent out o’ me.”
“Ho, won’t we!” exclaims his accuser hotly. “We’ll soon see about that. We’re English people, we are—we don’t allow people to go about destroyin’ our b’loons.”
“No wonder they’re so rich,” cries the woman at the bottom of the steps in satirical tones. “That’s the way to get rich, that is—destroyin’ other people’s prop’ty an’ then refusin’ to pay for it. Anybody could get rich that way.”
Reflections on the feasibility of this novel financial scheme are cut short by the appearance at the top of the steps of the hotel porter, who touches the originator of the disturbance on the shoulder.