SHORT STORIES

An Aeroplane for Two

A Love Romance of the Future

J. HURST HAYES November 1 1909
SHORT STORIES

An Aeroplane for Two

A Love Romance of the Future

J. HURST HAYES November 1 1909

An Aeroplane for Two

A Love Romance of the Future

SHORT STORIES

J. HURST HAYES

From Pall Mall Magazine

ENID asked me how high we were, and, looking at the altometer, I told her ninety-seven feet. She said she didn't think we ought to go beyond a hundred without a chaperone, considering that we were only second cousins once removed.

“That’s just the advantage of an aero only holding two,” said I; “it dispenses with the necessity or possibility of a chaperone. And even if we are only second cousins once removed, I’ve often told you I’m willing to make the relationship a closer one, Enid.” Enid didn’t reply, and her face still wore that cross look that it had borne all morning. Something was obviously worrying her, and I wondered what. Even when I had called for her at the Hampstead landing-stage at the early hour of ten-thirty I had noticed that she was incensed about some-

thing, and I had a very distinct impression that the something was me. What I had done to annoy her I could not conceive, nor did I try at the time to discover. I knew it would come out in the course of conversation, and my one desire was to get her on board. Her mother was there as well, and she looked my new machine over critically, or as critically as a woman can. What appealed to her chiefly of course was the gilt outlining on the framework and the monogram on the elevating plane, and she condescended to commend them both. Enid said nothing. “I think it is going to be fine,” said Enid's mother, “and I do hope you will have a nice fly. I shall expect you both back to dinner at seven ; and don’t go too high, James: there are still the proprieties to consider.” Then Enid got in. She was very

prettily dressed in a close-fitting tailormade gown and a hat that could not possibly catch the wind and get blown away, and I saw the mechanics standing round give her an admiring glance. There were two or three other aeros on the stage, but none were quite as smart as my new Dexter & Banbury, and certainly none had got such a pretty passenger as I. I pulled the lever and let her slip down the slope, contented with myself, the world, and my machine.

We rose quickly and flew over the heath. A light breeze was stirring the tree-tops, and on the roads beneath us we could see one or two cumbersome motors dragging wearily their occupants to the city. The knowledge that there was plenty of business awaiting me at my office and that I had no right to be taking this holiday off only added zest to the outing. I listened to the throb of the engine, running as smoothly and easily as engine could, with a pure delight.

For a time neither of us spoke. I was too occupied with testing the different points of my new machine, its turning powers, its angles of dip, the ease with which it rose and fell. It was a great improvement on my old Bollendorf, which had done me such yeoman service for the last two years, and in which Enid and I had had such delightful trips together.

I couldn't help speaking my enthusiasm to my companion after I had just made a particularly sharp hairpin turn. “Isn’t she a beauty, Enid?” I said. “The dear old Bollendorf wouldn’t have done that, steady old flier though she was.”

Enid was gazing fixedly into the infinity of space before her. “I didn’t see any necessity for attempting it at all,” she answered. “It simply took us half a mile out of our course. If any one else had done it, I should have said he was—showing off!”

I gave a little gasp. I knew that if any one was keen on aeros and their different capabilities flight, Enid was. Hadn’t I INITIALJ her into the

mysteries of them myself, and taught her so that she could drive one almost as well as I could? And here she was accusing me of showing off!

“I like that, Enid!” I exclaimed, “when I made that turn simply to amuse and please you.”

“Trick driving!” she commented, with infinite scorn. And then she asked the question about the altitude, and received my reply. Afterwards there was another lengthy silence. We bad passed over St. Albans, and were making for Leighton Buzzard. The day was a glorious one, and. I watched the thin strings of smoke from the chimneys make their way eastward. I had planned out a very nice little round for the day, intending to lunch at an inn in Thrapston, where they have the best beef in the woríd, to go on through the Dukeries, and, finally, to have a fine, fast fly back in the cool of the evening. But with Enid as monosyllabic as she was, the prospect had lost some of its delight.

“All the same,” I remarked, feeling that I must make conversation somehow, “considering that I have only had this machine out once before, she is going wonderfully well.”

Beneath Enid’s veil I could see the pout of her rosy lips. “Oh ! so you have had her out once before?” said she.

“Yesterday,” I answered. “I wanted to tune her up a bit, so I went for a short spin.”

“All by yourself, I suppose?”

“All by myself,” I replied.

Enid did not speak for a moment, but her eyes were terribly angry. “That isn’t the truth,” she said suddenly.

I looked round at her quickly. “Enid what do you mean ?” I exclaimed.

“Precisely what I say,” she answered. “You weren’t out by yourself.”

I was on the point of making a heated reply at the idea of her daring to dispute my veracity, when I thought that it might be better to rehearse to myself my doings of the previous day. One did occasionally go out with a companion without re-

membering the fact accurately the next day. Then is suddenly occurred to me. I had gone out, it was quite true, by myself ; but at the end of the fly, when I had returned to the Embankment landing-stage, I had seen Doris Applethorpe there, and at her request had taken her for a ten-minutes’ spin, to show her how well the machine was going. Then I had returned her to terra firm safe and sound and had gone on my way rejoicing. After all, there was nothing very sinful in it, and we had made the shortest little excursion over the West End and Holland Park. Still there was

a trace of nervousness in my voice, I don’t doubt, as I made my reply to Enid.

“You’re quite right,” I said. “I wasn’t alone all the time, Enid, though I had completely forgotten the fact. For ten minutes I had a companion.” “Precisely. Dorris Applethorpe !” “Ye-es — Doris Applethorpe,” I agreed ; “though I don’t know how you know.”

“I saw you,” said Enid.

“Where were you, then?”

Enid showed a trace of nervousness herself when I asked the question. She tried to hide it in a flow of words.

“It doesn't matter where I was,” she answered. “It is sufficient that I saw you, and that I consider you behave disgracefully. You profess to be fond of me . . .”

“I am, Enid—I am.”

“. . . to want to marrv me . . .”

“I do, Enid—I do.”

“. . . which, of course, you have not the slightest chance of doing, and yet you go out alone in an aero at mid-day in mid-summer with a girl who is old enough to be your mother

“She’s only twenty-eight, Enid,” I protested.

“. . . and I haven’t the slightest doubt flirt with her outrageously for, as you say, ten minutes. It’s a scandal !”

“My dearest girl . . .” I began.

“I’m not your ‘dearest girl,’ ” said Enid.

“It’s absurd to talk like that,” I replied ; “you know quite well that you are.”

“If I were, you wouldn't go flying with other girls.”

“But you have just confessed that the other girl is old enough to be my mother,” I said.

I wondered what she would reply to that.

“You needn’t think to exonerate your conduct bv sophistries,” she remarked loftilv. “And really I think the discussion had better close. You will only get more deeply involved in excuses and prevarications.”

I opened the throttle and let the aero whiz through the air at its full pace.

“Very well—just as you like,” I replied angrily.

“And, under the circumstances, I think it would be as well if we immediately returned home,” she decided.

“I'll do no such thing,” I said. “I took this day off at immense personal inconvenience, and I intend to stay out until nightfall.”

"If we were a little closer to the ground,” said Enid, “I would jump.”

I altered the elevating plane and we rose quickly another hundred feet.

“You haven’t the foolhardiness or —the courage,” I remarked.

“Of course, you have me in your power,” said Enid pathetically—“a woman always is in a man’s power; but at least if you profess any gentlemanly feelings, you will kindly desist from speaking to me.”

“I shall be only too glad,” I answered.

Things could not go on like this for long. The idea of spending a whole day in. Enid’s company without speaking to her was unthinkable, but for the life of me I didn’t know what to do. At last the solution occurred to me. We wouldn’t go to Thrapston to lunch, but to Huntingdon, where Doris Applethorpe lived, and there the denouement could be fought out.

Doris had told me something the previous day which Enid did not know.

At Olnev, therefore, I circled round to the right and made for the sleepy little town on the Ouse. At half-past twelve we were there, and the big white circle placed high on the top of a building announced to me the municipal aerodrome. We alighted }.T

easily and got out of the car. Then, when I had given orders about its housing for a few hours, we went down the steps and into the town.

At last Enid spoke. I am sure she was, like myself, getting hungry. “This isn’t Thrapston,” she said.

“No; this is Huntingdon,” I replied.

“Where?” she asked in alarm.

I repeated the information.

“Isn't Huntingdon where that—girl lives?”

“If you mean Doris Applethorpe, it is,” I answered ; “and what is more, we are going to lunch with her.” Enid stood still in the middle of the pavement. “You know I am going to do no such thing!” she exclaimed. “The indignity of the suggestion!” “If you are sensible, you will. You know you are hungry.”

“Thank you ; bread and cheese at an inn are sufficient for us.”

“And a tankard of ale?” I suggested.

“Don’t be vulgar,” said Enid. Curiously enough, we were at that moment in front of the Applethorpes' house, and through the hedge we saw Doris walking in the garden with a young fellow whom we all knew, Arnold Ross by name. They saw us too, and came rushing out. I explained our presence, finishing up by saying: “And we want lunch, please.” Doris, who didn’t look a day older than five-and-twenty in her white muslin dress and garden hat, spoke up at once. “I should just think you do. We are going in to it this minute. Enid, I do believe you look prettier than ever ! It’s horrid of you.”

I looked at my second cousin once removed, and felt inclined to echo Doris’s opinion. What Enid was thinking, I cannot tell. But I saw her glance at Arnold Ross and blush slightly, and though she was doubtless righteously enraged with Doris and me—one could see that by the way she held her chin in the air—she said no more about bread and cheese at the inn.

Lunçh was a. delightful repast. Old

Mr. Applethorpe, who is a widower, was there, and Doris did the honors of the table. She seemed amazingly happy to-day, and gave no sign of noticing, if she did notice, Enid's somewhat preternatural quietness. The latter spoke not a word to me, but confined her remarks to the old gentleman and Arnold. But when lunch was over and we three men sat at the table over a cigarette and an extra glass of Moselle cup, the two girls strolled out into the garden together.

When we joined them half an hour later, I was a little surprised to notice that Enid had passed her arm through Doris's, that she was smiling happily and talking with the greatest animation. Something had happened, and I thought I could guess what. Then old Mr. Applethorpe disappeared into the summer-house for his afternoon siesta, and we four stood on the lawn together.

Arnold, who seemed a trifle nervous about something, as though he was the possessor of some secret he could not bring himself to the point of imparting, looked plaintively across at Doris. “Have you told Enid?” he asked.

“Yes, she has,” said Enid, “and I am too happy for words. You dears.”

“Why, what’s happened?” I asked, putting on a look of blank astonishment.

“These two are engaged !” exclaimed Enid delightedly.

“You don’t say so?” cried I. “Well, of all the pleasant pieces of news I could hear, this is the pleasantest.”

Doris looked at me amazedly. “But, Jim,” she said, “you knew. Don’t you remember yesterday, when we were up in—”

I knocked my foot against a croquet hoop close by and emitted a yell of pain.

“What?” said Enid.

“What?” echoed Arnold. They were both referring to Doris’s uncompleted remark. I distracted their attention by the vigor of my expressions.

“Jim,” said Enid, “I believe you are swearing.”

“It’s enough to make one,” I replied. giving a glance at Doris for her thoughtless remark. Arnold might not like my aerial excursions with his fiancee. “Anyhow, I congratulate the two of you most—most heartily,” and I shook hands in turn with them, very quickly.

Then we paired off, Doris and I. Enid and Arnold, and strolled along the path towards the paddock, but taking different ways.

“Jim,” said my companion, “why did you knock your foot against the croquet hoop?"

“They will get so in the way.”

“No. but the real reason?”

“Well, I didn’t know if Arnold would like the idea of your accompanying me yesterday, even though it was only for a ten-minutes’ trip, especially as you had only been engaged twenty-four hours.”

Doris thought for a moment. Then she gave a sigh. “Men are so unreasonable . . .” she began.

“Aren’t they?” I said.

“. . . and perhaps it was foolish of me to mention it.”

“By the bye,” I remarked, “where was Arnold lunching yesterday?”

“I don’t know,” said Doris. “I felt a little hurt about it. I hoped he would lunch with me, but he said hev had an important business engagement which he couldn’t get off.”

I nodded and said no more. Round the next turning of the path we came across the other two. They were engaged in very earnest conversation, and I remembered that I had noticed Enid blush unnecessarily when she had met Arnold in the morning.

I looked at my watch. “Enid, it is time we were going,” I said. “Dinner’s at seven o’clock.”

“Yes, I suppose we must,” she answered. “And I have enjoyed myself.”

They came to see us off and waved their handkerchiefs as we started down the plane. A little crowd of the townspeople were there as well, examining with interest my new ma-

chine. Aeroplanes were rare enough in the country districts to make their arrival somewhat of an event. They liked the comfortable red leather seats, the nickel-plated propeller, and the huge sidelights that lookd like big eyes staring out of the head of some new-fangled bird.

We cut through the air swiftly, enjoying the finest of sensations that the ingenuity of man has devised for himself. For quite a long time we were content to say nothing, but at length Enid’s mind flew back to our little quarrel of the morning.

“Jim, I don’t think it makes your behavior much better,” she said, “just because Doris happened to be engaged.”

“Surely it does, Enid,” I replied, not exactly knowing why.

“From my point of view perhaps, but not from Arnold’s,” Enid urged. “And anyhow, I think you might have told me that you knew about the engagement.”

“If you remember, you said you preferred that there should be absolute silence between us. I gave in to your preference. But if you wish to reopen the subject, I am entitled to ask from what place you saw Doris and me.”

Enid turned her head away. “Look at the sun over the hills, Jim,” she said—“isn’t it beautiful ?”

“Lovely,” I answered ; “but it does not answer my question.”

“Neither shall I,” said Enid, after a pause, her face beginning to wear its determined expression.

“Then I will answer it myself. You were seated on the new terrace of the Savoy, lunching with Arnold,” I knew he always lunched his friends there.

“Tim !” said Enid.

“Deny it, if you can,” I replied.

She gave a scornful little laugh.

“Precisely! You can’t,” I said. “Nice sort of behavior.”

We flew on for another half-hour in a conversationless atmosphere. I had just cause of resentment against Enid, and it was only my kindness of heart that stopped me from express-

ing it. When vve were within about five miles of Hampstead, however, Enid gave a sigh.

“Jim,” she said, “don’t you think that perhaps our—our two mistakes balance ?”

“I am quite willing to say so,” I answered. “Shall we do what children do?”

“What is that?”

“Kiss and make it up.”

“I will make it up.”

“And kiss?”

Enid lifted her veil from her face. “Isn't it nice to feel the air on one’s cheek?” she remarked.

I kept one hand on the steering wheel, and with the other drew her towards me.

“There’s something nicer than air, Enid,” I said, and showed her that there was. After a moment she drew away again. “Enid,” I urged, “don’t you think that, after that, we might be engaged?”

“Engaged ? Certainly not !” exclaimed Enid. “Why, that’s only—a

“A what?” said I.

“A—a labial understanding,” answered Enid.