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The Wheels of Chance H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

XXVII. The Awakening Of Mr. Hoopdriver

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"Might send it back by carrier, of course. Thanking him for the loan. Having no further use--" Mr. Hoopdriver chuckled and lapsed into the silent concoction of a delightfully impudent letter. "Mr. J. Hoopdriver presents his compliments." But the grave note reasserted itself.

"Might trundle back there in an hour, of course, and exchange them. MY old crock's so blessed shabby. He's sure to be spiteful too. Have me run in, perhaps. Then she'd be in just the same old fix, only worse. You see, I'm her Knight-errant. It complicates things so."

His eye, wandering loosely, rested on the sponge bath. "What the juice do they want with cream pans in a bedroom?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, en passant.

"Best thing we can do is to set out of here as soon as possible, anyhow. I suppose she'll go home to her friends. That bicycle is a juicy nuisance, anyhow. Juicy nuisance!"

He jumped to his feet with a sudden awakening of energy, to proceed with his toilet. Then with a certain horror he remembered that the simple necessaries of that process were at Bognor!"Lord!" he remarked, and whistled silently for a space. "Rummy go! profit and loss; profit, one sister with bicycle complete, wot offers?--cheap for tooth and 'air brush, vests, night-shirt, stockings, and sundries.

"Make the best of it," and presently, when it came to hair-brushing, he had to smooth his troubled locks with his hands. It was a poor result. "Sneak out and get a shave, I suppose, and buy a brush and so on. Chink again! Beard don't show much."

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He ran his hand over his chin, looked at himself steadfastly for some time, and curled his insufficient moustache up with some care. Then he fell a-meditating on his beauty. He considered himself, three-quarter face, left and right. An expression of distaste crept over his features. "Looking won't alter it, Hoopdriver," he remarked. "You're a weedy customer, my man. Shoulders narrow. Skimpy, anyhow."

He put his knuckles on the toilet table and regarded himself with his chin lifted in the air. "Good Lord!" he said. "WHAT a neck! Wonder why I got such a thundering lump there."

He sat down on the bed, his eye still on the glass. "If I'd been exercised properly, if I'd been fed reasonable, if I hadn't been shoved out of a silly school into a silly shop--But there! the old folks didn't know no better. The schoolmaster ought to have. But he didn't, poor old fool!--Still, when it comes to meeting a girl like this--It's 'ARD.

"I wonder what Adam'd think of me--as a specimen. Civilisation, eigh? Heir of the ages! I'm nothing. I know nothing. I can't do anything--sketch a bit. Why wasn't I made an artist?

"Beastly cheap, after all, this suit does look, in the sunshine."

"No good, Hoopdriver. Anyhow, you don't tell yourself any lies about it. Lovers ain't your game,--anyway. But there's other things yet. You can help the young lady, and you will--I suppose she'll be going home--And that business of the bicycle's to see to, too, my man. FORWARD, Hoopdriver! If you ain't a beauty, that's no reason why you should stop and be copped, is it?"

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The Wheels of Chance
H. G. [Herbert George] Wells

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