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|The Wheels of Chance||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
XXIV. The Moonlight Ride
|Page 2 of 3||
Nowhere was the moon shining quite so brightly as in Mr. Hoopdriver's skull. At the turnings of the road he made his decisions with an air of profound promptitude (and quite haphazard). "The Right," he would say. Or again "The Left," as one who knew. So it was that in the space of an hour they came abruptly down a little lane, full tilt upon the sea. Grey beach to the right of them and to the left, and a little white cottage fast asleep inland of a sleeping fishing-boat. "Hullo!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, sotto voce. They dismounted abruptly. Stunted oaks and thorns rose out of the haze of moonlight that was tangled in the hedge on either side.
"You are safe," said Mr. Hoopdriver, sweeping off his cap with an air and bowing courtly.
"Where are we?"
"Chichester Harbour." He waved his arm seaward as though it was a goal.
"Do you think they will follow us?"
"We have turned and turned again."
It seemed to Hoopdriver that he heard her sob. She stood dimly there, holding her machine, and he, holding his, could go no nearer to her to see if she sobbed for weeping or for want of breath. "What are we to do now?" her voice asked.
"Are you tired?" he asked.
"I will do what has to be done."
The two black figures in the broken light were silent for a space. "Do you know," she said, "I am not afraid of you. I am sure you are honest to me. And I do not even know your name!"
He was taken with a sudden shame of his homely patronymic. "It's an ugly name," he said. "But you are right in trusting me. I would--I would do anything for you. . . . This is nothing."
She caught at her breath. She did not care to ask why. But compared with Bechamel!--"We take each other on trust," she said. "Do you want to know--how things are with me?"
"That man," she went on, after the assent of his listening silence, "promised to help and protect me. I was unhappy at home--never mind why. A stepmother--Idle, unoccupied, hindered, cramped, that is enough, perhaps. Then he came into my life, and talked to me of art and literature, and set my brain on fire. I wanted to come out into the world, to be a human being--not a thing in a hutch. And he--"
"I know," said Hoopdriver.
"And now here I am--"
"I will do anything," said Hoopdriver.
She thought. "You cannot imagine my stepmother. No! I could not describe her--"
"I am entirely at your service. I will help you with all my power."
"I have lost an Illusion and found a Knight-errant." She spoke of Bechamel as the Illusion.
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|The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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