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|The Wheels of Chance||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
XXXVIII. At The Rufus Stone
|Page 1 of 2||
He folded his arms as Dangle and Phipps returned towards him. Phipps was abashed by his inability to cope with the tandem, which he was now wheeling, but Dangle was inclined to be quarrelsome. "Miss Milton?" he said briefly.
Mr. Hoopdriver bowed over his folded arms.
"Miss Milton within?" said Dangle.
AND not to be disturved," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"You are a scoundrel, sir," said Mr. Dangle.
"Et your service," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "She awaits 'er stepmother, sir."
Mr. Dangle hesitated. "She will be here immediately," he said. "Here is her friend, Miss Mergle."
Mr. Hoopdriver unfolded his arms slowly, and, with an air of immense calm, thrust his hands into his breeches pockets. Then with one of those fatal hesitations of his, it occurred to him that this attitude was merely vulgarly defiant he withdrew both, returned one and pulled at the insufficient moustache with the other. Miss Mergle caught him in confusion. "Is this the man?" she said to Dangle, and forthwith, "How DARE you, sir? How dare you face me? That poor girl!"
"You will permit me to observe," began Mr. Hoopdriver, with a splendid drawl, seeing himself, for the first time in all this business, as a romantic villain.
"Ugh," said Miss Mergle, unexpectedly striking him about the midriff with her extended palms, and sending him staggering backward into the hall of the hotel.
"Let me pass said Miss Mergle, in towering indignation. "How dare you resist my passage?" and so swept by him and into the dining-room, wherein Jessie had sought refuge.
As Mr. Hoopdriver struggled for equilibrium with the umbrella-stand, Dangle and Phipps, roused from their inertia by Miss Mergle's activity, came in upon her heels, Phipps leading. "How dare you prevent that lady passing?" said Phipps.
Mr. Hoopdriver looked obstinate, and, to Dangle's sense, dangerous, but he made no answer. A waiter in full bloom appeared at the end of the passage, guardant. "It is men of your stamp, sir," said Phipps, "who discredit manhood."
Mr. Hoopdriver thrust his hands into his pockets. "Who the juice are you?" shouted Mr. Hoopdriver, fiercely.
"Who are YOU, sir?" retorted Phipps. "Who are you? That's the question. What are YOU, and what are you doing, wandering at large with a young lady under age?"
"Don't speak to him," said Dangle.
"I'm not a-going to tell all my secrets to any one who comes at me," said Hoopdriver. "Not Likely." And added fiercely, "And that I tell you, sir."
He and Phipps stood, legs apart and both looking exceedingly fierce at one another, and Heaven alone knows what might not have happened, if the long clergyman had not appeared in the doorway, heated but deliberate. "Petticoated anachronism," said the long clergyman in the doorway, apparently still suffering from the antiquated prejudice that demanded a third wheel and a black coat from a clerical rider. He looked at Phipps and Hoopdriver for a moment, then extending his hand towards the latter, he waved it up and down three times, saying, "Tchak, tchak, tchak," very deliberately as he did so. Then with a concluding "Ugh!" and a gesture of repugnance he passed on into the dining-room from which the voice of Miss Mergle was distinctly audible remarking that the weather was extremely hot even for the time of year.
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|The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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