The goddess of fortune sometimes blesses the persistent even before they begin to persist--perhaps from sheer weariness at the remembrance of previous importuning. Victoria, on a brand-new and somewhat sensitive five-year-old, was coming out of the stone archway when Mr. Crewe (without any signal this time!) threw on his brakes. An exhibition of horsemanship followed, on Victoria's part, which Mr. Crewe beheld with admiration. The five-year-old swung about like a weathercock in a gust of wind, assuming an upright position, like the unicorn in the British coat of arms. Victoria cut him, and he came down on all fours and danced into the wire fence that encircled the Fairview domain, whereupon he got another stinging reminder that there was some one on his back.
"Bravo!" cried Mr. Crewe, leaning on the steering wheel and watching the performance with delight. Never, he thought, had Victoria been more appealing; strangely enough, he had not remembered that she was quite so handsome, or that her colour was so vivid; or that her body was so straight and long and supple. He liked the way in which she gave it to that horse, and he made up his mind that she would grace any position, however high. Presently the horse made a leap into the road in front of the motor and stood trembling, ready to bolt.
"For Heaven's sake, Humphrey," she cried, "shut off your power? Don't sit there like an idiot--do you think I'm doing this for pleasure?"
Mr. Crewe good-naturedly turned off his switch, and the motor, with a dying sigh, was silent. He even liked the notion of being commanded to do a thing; there was a relish about it that was new. The other women of his acquaintance addressed him more deferentially.
"Get hold of the bridle," he said to the chauffeur. "You've got no business to have an animal like that," was his remark to Victoria.
"Don't touch him!" she said to the man, who was approaching with a true machinist's fear of a high-spirited horse. "You've got no business to have a motor like that, if you can't handle it any better than you do."
"You managed him all right. I'll say that for you," said Mr. Crewe.
"No thanks to you," she replied. Now that the horse was comparatively quiet, she sat and regarded Mr. Crewe with an amusement which was gradually getting the better of her anger. A few moments since, and she wished with great intensity that she had been using the whip on his shoulders instead. Now that she had time to gather up the threads of the situation, the irresistibly comic aspect of it grew upon her, and little creases came into the corners of her eyes--which Mr. Crewe admired. She recalled--with indignation, to be sure--the conversation she had overheard in the dining room of the Duncan house, but her indignation was particularly directed, on that occasion, towards Mr. Tooting. Here was Humphrey Crewe, sitting talking to her in the road--Humphrey Crewe, whose candidacy for the governorship impugned her father's management of the Northeastern Railroads--and she was unable to take the matter seriously! There must be something wrong with her, she thought.