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The Man Who Drove the Car   By: (1863-1950)

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[Illustration: Cover art]

THE MAN WHO

DROVE THE CAR

BY

MAX PEMBERTON

AUTHOR OF

"THE GIRL WITH THE RED HAIR"

"THE IRON PIRATE" ETC.

LONDON

EVELEIGH NASH

FAWSIDE HOUSE

1910

Printed by BALLANTYNE & Co. LIMITED

Tavistock Street, Coven Garden, London

CONTENTS

I. THE ROOM IN BLACK II. THE SILVER WEDDING III. IN ACCOUNT WITH DOLLY ST. JOHN IV. THE LADY WHO LOOKED ON V. THE BASKET IN THE BOUNDARY ROAD VI. THE COUNTESS

I

THE ROOM IN BLACK

They say that every man should have a master, but, for my part, I prefer a mistress. Give me a nice young woman with plenty of money in her pocket, and a bit of taste for seeing life, and I'll leave you all the prying "amatoors" that ever sniffed about a gear box without knowing what was inside that same.

I have driven plenty of pretty girls in my life; but I don't know that the prettiest wasn't Fauny Dartel, of the Apollo. This story isn't about her except in a way so it doesn't much matter; but when I first knew Fauny she was getting thirty bob a week in "The Boys of Boulogne," and, as she paid me three pound ten every Saturday, and the car cost her some four hundred per annum to run, she must have been of a saving disposition. Certainly a better mistress no man wants not Lal Britten, which is yours truly. I drove her for five months, and never had a word with her. Then a man, who said he was a bailiff, came and took her car away, and there was no money for me on the Saturday. So I suppose she married into the peerage.

My story isn't about Fauny Dartel, though it's got to do with her. It's about a man who didn't know who he was at least, he said so and couldn't tell you why he did it. We picked him up outside the Carlton Hotel, Fauny and me,[1] three nights before "The Boys of Boulogne" went into the country, and "The Girls" from some other shop took their place. She was going to sup with her brother, I remember astonishing how many brothers she had, too and I was to return to the mews off Lancaster Gate, when, just as I had set her down and was about to drive away, up comes a jolly looking man in a fine fur coat and an opera hat, and asks me if I was a taxi. Lord, how I stared at him!

"Taxi yourself," says I, "and what asylum have you escaped out of?"

"Oh, come, come," says he, "don't be huffy. I only wanted to go as far as Portman Square."

"Then call a furniture van," says I, "and perhaps they'll get you aboard."

My dander was up, I tell you, for I was on the box of as pretty a Daimler landaulette as ever came out of Coventry, and if there's anything I never want to be, it's the driver of a pillar box with a flag in his left ear. No doubt I should have said much more to the gentleman, when what do you think happens why, Fauny herself comes up and tells me to take him.

"I'm sure we should like some one to do the same for us if no taxis were about," says she very sweetly; "please take the gentleman, Britten, and then you can go home."

Well, I sat there as amazed a man as any in the Haymarket. It's true there weren't any taxis on the rank at the minute; but he could have got one by walking a hundred yards along Trafalgar Square, and she must have known it as well as he did. All the same, she smiled sweetly at him and he at her and then, with a tremendous sweep of his hat, he makes a gallant speech to her.

"I am under a thousand obligations," says he; "really, I couldn't intrude."

"Oh, get in and go off," says she, almost pushing him. "I shall lose my supper if you don't."

He obeyed her immediately, and away we went. You will remember that his talk had been of a house in Portman Square; but no sooner had I turned the corner by the Criterion than he began speaking through the tube, and telling me to go to Playford's in Berkeley Square. There he stopped, notwithstanding that it was getting on for twelve o'clock; and when he had rung the bell and entered the house, I had to wait a good fifteen minutes before he was ready for the second stage... Continue reading book >>




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