XVI. The Accident
 

But the boys didn't get back after Joel--not just then. A big tallyho coach, in swinging around a corner, bore down upon the struggling crowd, the driver halloing and the horn blowing lustily, by way of a signal to clear the road. This would have been all well enough and easy to avoid, if a string of bicyclists had not selected that very identical moment to appear from the opposite direction. And Larry, whose uncle was in the last-mentioned procession, having a laudable desire to see him and make his relation aware of the fact, turned, waved his cap and his arms with a, "Hi, there, Uncle Jack!" and in another second was under the big wheels, the whole merry party going over him and the laughter and chat still filling the air.

Miss Mary Taylor, having an outside seat, looked over quickly. Hamilton Dyce, sitting next, clambered down.

"Don't be frightened," he said into her pale face.

Half a dozen men were on the ground with him, and the boys swarmed around wildly, getting in everybody's way. The bicyclists, not catching the idea of any accident, were swiftly coasting down the hill, for after all their leader had suddenly changed his mind and veered off just before reaching the scene of the accident.

"Help me down," said Miss Taylor hoarsely.

"Ugh, don't!" said Beth Cameron, with a shiver, poking her parasol well down over her eyes. "I wouldn't see it for all the world"--shivering.

"You can't do any good; better not," said Mr. Dyce, looking up at Miss Taylor.

But Miss Mary continued to say, "Help me down," and she so evidently displayed the intention of getting down without any assistance if it weren't forthcoming, that Mr. Dyce did as he was bidden, and she was on the spot by the time that Larry was drawn out from under the wheels and laid on the roadside grass.

"I'm afraid he's done for, poor beggar," said one of the men.

Mr. Dyce turned Miss Mary completely around and marched her off to the middle of the road before she knew that such summary treatment was to be accorded her. Then she caught her breath.

"You needn't think to save me," she said, with a little gasp: "I'm--I'm quite strong. I must go. Oh, don't stop me. Think of poor Mrs. Keep!" and she was back in among the group of men and the frantic boys. "Send for Doctor Fisher," she cried, kneeling down by Larry's side.

"No use--" began another man, but Hamilton Dyce cried, "Which one can run the fastest for Doctor Fisher?"

Little Porter Knapp could, there was no doubt of that. All arms and legs was he, and able to get over more ground a minute than any other boy of their set, not excepting Joel Pepper. So, before Mr. Dyce had finished speaking, he was off like a shot, leaving Miss Taylor sitting on the grass holding Larry's poor head, while the whole crowd of men revolved around her, nervous to do something, but not seeing their way clear to find out what would be expedient.

"If those chaps would stop howling!" exclaimed one of the men, in desperation, stalking off a bit to cram his hands in his pocket, and ejaculate this to a companion.

"It's pretty hard on the kids," remarked the friend, with a glance over his shoulder at Frick and the rest of the boys, who added to the misery by crowding up to the scene and impeding the progress of all would-be helpers.

"He's dead, it's easy to see," observed the first man, nodding over to the group.

"That's a fact, it looks like it," nodded the friend. "Well, it's a bad thing, but no one's at fault. Mac couldn't help it. The little beggar ran right under the horses."

"Oh, Mac's not to blame," said the first speaker hastily, "but it's an awful calamity just the same, to run down a kid. Well, we must pacify the ladies." So the two walked back and up to the side of the coach, when the big hats under the parasols leaned over and allowed their fair owners to be diverted with all sorts of comforting things. And presently little Doctor Fisher came rushing along in his gig, out of which sprang Porter Knapp before the horse could be persuaded to stop.

No one said a word, least of all Miss Taylor, except the Doctor, who ordered them to right and to left, as assistants. And before long, Larry opened his blue eyes.

"Why--where?" he began. He didn't even know he had been hurt--not till afterward when the pain and suffering set in.

"Easy--easy there," said little Doctor Fisher.

"Great Scott!" The young man who had pronounced him dead crammed those hands of his deeper yet in their pockets and gave a whistle.

"Oh, Larry," said Miss Taylor gently, bending over him.

"What is it?" Larry tried to move, and felt a strong hand laid on him just where it made any motion impossible. Beside, a great wave of pain swept him suddenly into such astonishment as well as suffering that all he could do was to shut his eyes and let his head sink back.

"Now, then!" Doctor Fisher glanced up to the coach-load. "All of you get down," he said curtly, and before the women quite knew how, the pretty gowns and hats and parasols were all descending, a gay, fluttering bevy all chattering together.

"Miss Mary, I'll trouble you to hop up there," and a dozen hands helped her into position on the coach. "Now, then, Mr. Dyce, and you"; he nodded over to Harry Delafield, the little doctor did, then rapidly picked out two more men. "Up with you, please," and quicker than it takes to tell it all, they were in position, and Larry had been lifted gently into their laps, his head on Miss Taylor's arm.

"Ugh!" Betty Cameron gave a worse shiver than before. "How Mary Taylor can!" she exclaimed, with a grimace. "Oh, dear me! I'm as faint as I can be, just to think of it. I should die outright to be up there with him."

"Well, we've got to walk home, I suppose," observed one of the other girls disconsolately, who, now that Larry could really speak, thought it quite time to turn attention to her own discomfort, and she thrust out her dainty shoe.

The boys, when they saw that Larry was really alive, stopped howling, especially as each and all had felt the glare of the eyes back of Doctor Fisher's big spectacles. And they set off on a run by the side of the coach, and as far ahead of that vehicle as possible, as Mac handled the ribbons with his best style, trying to drive as gently as possible for the patient.

"To his home, of course," said the little doctor, turning his spectacles up to Mac. Then he got into his gig, whipped up, and took the lead.

Porter Knapp went across streets and got there first and was leaning over the stone gateway when the little doctor's gig drove up.

"Eh!" exclaimed Doctor Fisher, looking at him over his glasses. "Well, you have a pair of legs! Joel was right; he says you beat everything in running."

Porter looked much pleased and glanced down at his legs affectionately. Then he remembered Larry and sobered at once.

Doctor Fisher, while going up the steps, said in passing:

"Larry'll pull through all right, I think."

"She's here," cried Porter suddenly. He had heard the words, but something had abruptly come in between, and he wildly dashed at the little doctor. Doctor Fisher turned around and saw, flourishing up to the gateway, a gay little runabout, and in it Larry's mother and sister.

"My goodness!" He was down by its side. And off in the distance, but coming surely and steadily on, was the coach bearing Larry to his home.

"Yes, yes, how do you do? Don't stop," cried the little doctor, waving his hand that was free from his bag of instruments; "go on to the stable."

"Oh, no, I'll stop here." Mrs. Keep had her foot on the step, and put out the hand not occupied with her flowing draperies. "Eleanor is going on to see a friend. Well, how do you do?"

"You had better drive on to the stable," said the little doctor, "both of you."

This time he had such an imperative manner that, thoroughly bewildered, Mrs. Keep stepped back into her seat and motioned Eleanor to obey.

"Isn't he awfully funny!" said Eleanor, turning in at the driveway, more puzzled, if possible, than her mother.

"Yes," said Mrs. Keep, "he is, but then I suppose he has a good deal on his mind. You know they say his practice is getting to be tremendous. Well, we must run in and see him," as they drove down to the stable. "And you can go afterward to see Mary Taylor."

"All right," said Eleanor, and one of the stable boys coming out to meet the pony, they both jumped out of the runabout and ran up the back veranda steps.

"It's funny he didn't come down this way, if he wanted us to drive to the stable," cried Eleanor. "Mamma, do say you think it's queer. It would be some comfort if you would."

"Well, I will, then," laughed Mrs. Keep, and there stood Doctor Fisher at the dining-room door, and the minute she saw his face she knew that something dreadful had happened.

"Well, Joel, my boy." Old Mr. King, who had been consulting his watch every five minutes, whirled around in his big chair. "Time to lay down the work," he called cheerily.

"Yes, sir," called Joel back, from the alcove.

"And I'm sure if ever an hour was long, this last one has been," the old gentleman was saying to himself. Joel, who was rather stiff in the joints when first getting up from his work on the carpet, now came out feeling his arms, and then indulging in a good long stretch.

"It seems rather good--eh, Joe?--to swing your arms," cried Grandpapa with a laugh, and a keen glance into the black eyes.

"Yes, sir," declared Joel, with another stretch, and wondering if ever anything was so good in this world as to be told the hour was up.

"Take care," warned the old gentleman; "those long arms of yours will have things off from my table. My goodness, Joe! you must really go out of doors and stretch, you make such a sweep," and he laughed again.

"I can reach so far." Joel ran all around the table and stretched out his brown arms. "See, Grandpapa," he cried; then he got on his tiptoes and leaned over to achieve greater and more astonishing results.

"You'll be over on your nose, if I don't rescue you and the things on my table," said Mr. King, bursting into a heartier laugh than ever. "Come on, Joey, my boy, let's get out of doors, in a larger place." So he gathered up one of the sprawling sets of fingers, and summarily marched him out.

"Now I suppose the next thing in order is to race after Frick and those boys," observed old Mr. King, when the garden walk was attained.

"Yes, sir," cried Joel, his black eyes alight and his feet dancing.

"Well, be off with you."

No need to say more; Joel's heels beat the hastiest of retreats, as he scuttled off at the liveliest pace of which he was capable.

Old Mr. King, left alone, nodded to himself two or three times, and smiled in a pleased way. "The very thing," he said at last, and in as great satisfaction as if he had been talking to a good listener.