The Motor Girls by Margaret Penrose
Chapter I. Cora and Her Car
"Now you've got it, what are you going to do with it?" asked Jack Kimball, with a most significant smile at his sister Cora.
"Do with it?" repeated the girl, looking at her questioner in surprise; then she added, with a fine attempt at sarcasm: "Why, I'm going to have Jim break it up for kindling wood. It will make such a lovely blaze on the library hearth. I have always loved blazing autos."
"Now, sis," objected the tall, handsome boy, as he swung his arm about the almost equally tall, and even handsomer girl, "don't get mad."
"Oh, I'm not in the least angry."
"Um! Maybe not. Put I honestly thought--well, maybe you would like some of the boys to give you a lesson or two in driving the new car. There's Wally, you know. Ahem! I thought perhaps Wally--"
"Walter can run a machine--I'm perfectly willing to grant you that, Jack. But this is my machine, and I intend to run it."
The girl stepped over to a window and looked out. There, on the driveway, stood a new automobile. Four-cylindered, sliding-gear transmission, three speeds forward and reverse, long-wheel base, new ignition system, and all sorts of other things mentioned in the catalogue. Besides, it was a beautiful maroon color, and the leather cushions matched. Cora looked at it with admiration in her eyes.
An hour, before, Jack Kimball and his chum Walter Pennington, had brought the car from the garage to the house, following Mrs. Kimball's implicit instructions that the new machine should not be driven an unnecessary block between the sales-rooms and the Kimball home.
"The car must come to Cora on the eve of her birthday," Jack's mother had stipulated to him, "and I want it to come to her brand new, with the tires nice and white. Hers must be the first ride in it."
So it was, after "digesting her surprise," as she expressed it, and spending the intervening hour in admiring the beautiful machine, climbing in and out of it, testing the levers, turning the steering wheel, and seeing Jack start the engine, that Cora was able to leave it and enter the house.
"It's--it's just perfect;" she said, with a longing look back at the car.
"Yes, and isn't it a shame mother won't let you go out in it to-night?" spoke Jack as he joined his sister at the window. "If they had only unpacked it a little earlier--it's too bad not to have a run in it while it's fresh. But," he concluded with a sigh, "I suppose I'll have to push it back in the shed."
"Yes," assented Cora, also sighing. "But mother must be humored, and if she insists that I shall not take a trial spin after dark, I'll simply have to wait until daylight. Jack, you're a dear! I know perfectly well that you influenced mother to give me this," and Cora brushed her flushed a cheek against Jack's bronzed face.
"Well, I know a little sister when I see one," replied the lad; "and though she may want to drive a motor-car, she's all right, for all that," and Jack rather awkwardly slipped his arm around his sister's waist again, for she did seem a "little sister" to him, even if she was considered quite a young lady by others.
"Girls coming up to-night?" asked Jack after a pause, during which they both had been silently admiring the car and its graceful lines.
"I don't know," replied Cora. "They haven't heard about my new auto, or they'd be sure to come."
"Let's run over and tell them," proposed Jack.
Cora thought for a moment. She had plans for the evening, but they did not include Jack.
She said finally: "I have to write a few letters--acknowledging some birthday gifts. Don't wait for me if you intend to go over to Walter's. You might call at the Robinsons', however, to fetch me; say at half-past nine."
"Oh, then I'm not to see Bess or Belle--or--well, there are plenty of other girls just as keen on ice cream sodas as those mentioned," and he pretended to leave the room, as if his feelings had been hurt.
"Now; you know, Jack, I always want you with me, but--"
"But just to-night you don't. All right, little sister. After me running that machine up from the garage for you, and not even scraping the tires; after me--even kissing you! Fie! fie! little girl. Some day you may want another machine--or a kiss--"
"Children, children," called Mrs. Kimball, "are you coming to dinner? And are you going to put that machine in the shed before dark, Jack?"
"Both--both, mum! We were just discussing a discussion about the--the machine, girls and ice cream sodas."
"What nonsense!" exclaimed his mother with a laugh. "Come to dinner, do. But, Jack, run the machine in first, please."
The car was put under a shed attached to the barn, Cora looking enviously at Jack as he manipulated the levers and wheels, she sitting on the seat beside him, on the short run up the driveway. She would not venture to operate it herself in such cramped quarters.
"There!" exclaimed Cora as Jack locked the shed door. "I hope nobody steals it to-night. Did you take out the plug, Jack?"
"Here you are," and he handed her the brass affair that formed the connection for the ignition system, and without which the car could not be run. "Put it under your pillow, sis," he added. "Maybe you'll have a gasolene dream."
They went into the house, where dinner was waiting for them. The meal was a simple one, although the means of the little family were ample for a most elaborate affair. But Mrs. Kimball preferred the elegance of simplicity.
Mrs. Grace Kimball was a wealthy widow, a member of one of the oldest and best known families in Chelton, which was a New England town, not far from the New York boundary. Her husband had been Joseph Kimball, a man of simple tastes and sterling principles. When he had to leave her, with the two children, he said as he was passing away:
"Grace, I know you will bring them up rightly--plainly and honestly."
Plain in character, upright and fair, the two children had grown, but, in personality, nothing could make either Jack or Cora Kimball "plain." They were just simply splendid.
"Then I can't take out the machine to-night, mother dear?" asked Cora after dinner.
"Not to-night, daughter. I know you can run a car, but this is a new one, and I would feel better to have you give it a test run in daylight. You must get the man at the garage to show you all about it. Do you like it very much, Cora?"
"Like it! Oh, mother, I perfectly love it! I can scarcely believe it is all mine--that Jack has no mortgage on it and that it's my very own."
"I don't know about that," put in Jack. "A fine car like that is rather a dangerous thing for a handsome young lady of seventeen summers, and some incidental winters, to go sporting about in. Some one else may get a mortgage on it, and want to foreclose."
"Now, I don't tease you, Jack," objected his, sister, "and a girl has just as much right to tease a boy as a boy has to tease a girl."
"Goodness me! You don't call that teasing, do you? The girls have all the rights now. But help yourself! I'm not particular. Did you say I was to call at the Robinsons' at nine?"
"Oh, exactly. Well, I'll try to be there. You might make it a point not to be waiting on the drive for me. A fellow wants to get a look at a girl like Bess once in a while--just for practice, you know."
"Oh, Cora! What's the matter?"
"All right. Then I'm going off and read a horrible tale about pirates, and walking the plank, and all that. I'll be on hand at the time and place mentioned. Hoping this will find you well, remain, yours very truly, Jack." And he hurried out of the room amid the laughter of his mother and sister.
"What a boy!" exclaimed Mrs. Kimball.
It was a pleasant, summer evening, and when Cora hurried down the avenue toward the Robinson home, she actually seemed to have wings. For she was not running, and her pace could hardly be called walking.
Her tall, straight figure was clad in a simple linen gown. She had need to disregard frills now, for she was a motor girl.
"Oh, come on, and don't ask a single question!" she exclaimed as the Robinson twins--Bess and Belle--hastened to meet her in response to her ring. "Come on! We must go over to the garage, quick! I've got a new machine, and I've got to learn all about it."
She had to pause for breath, and Belle managed to say
"Cora! A new machine! All for yourself! Oh, you dear! Who gave it to you?"
"Why Jack found it," Cora laughed. "It was running along the street, you know, and he lassoed it. It was going like mad, but he whirled the lash of his riding-whip about it and--and--"
"Now, Cora, dear!" and Belle dropped her voice to one of aggrieved tones. "You know what I meant."
"Of course I do, girly; but hurry--do! I want the man at the garage to teach me all about my new machine. I call it the Whirlwind.' You know it's different from Jack's small runabout, and there are several new points to be posted on. I want to be all ready, so that when we go out to-morrow morning we can surprise the boys."
"Oh, how perfectly lovely!" exclaimed Bess.
Delighted and excited, the three girls hurried over the railroad hill, on a short cut to the garage.
"Do you think he'll show you?" asked Bess. "He might want you to hire a chauffeur."
"Well, we'll see," responded Cora. "If we can manage to find a nice, agreeable, elderly gentleman--the story-book kind of machinist, you know. I fancy he will be sufficiently interested-- ahem! well, you know--" and she finished with a little laugh; in which her chums joined.
They had reached the small door of the office of the garage. A notice on the glass directed them to "Push."
Cora put both hands to the portal, and it swung back. She almost stumbled into the room.
"We would like to see some one who will teach us how to run an auto," she began. "I know something of one, but I have a new kind."
The three girls drew back.
"A nice, agreeable, elderly gentleman!" whispered Belle to Cora.
Cora could not repress a smile.
Instead of the "story-book machinist," a handsome young lad stood before them, smiling at their discomfiture.
"What is it?" he asked in a pleasant voice, and Cora noticed how white and even his teeth were.
"We--er--I--that is, we--I want to learn some points about my new car," she stammered. "It's a--"
"I understand," replied the handsome chap. "I will be very glad to show you. Just step this way, please," and, with a little bow, he motioned to them to follow him into the semi-dark machine shop back of the office.