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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lion's Share - Chapter 29. Flight
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The Lion's Share - Chapter 29. Flight Post by :mjglad Category :Long Stories Author :Arnold Bennett Date :May 2012 Read :1814

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The Lion's Share - Chapter 29. Flight

CHAPTER XXIX. FLIGHT

"Fast, madam, did you say?" asked the chauffeur, bending his head back from the wheel as the car left the gates of Flank Hall.

"Fast."

"The Colchester road?"

"Yes."

"It's really just as quick to take the Frinton road for Colchester--it's so much straighter."

"No, no, no! On no account. Don't go near Frinton."

Audrey leaned back in the car. And as speed increased the magnificence of the morning again had its effect on her. The adventure pleased her far more than the perils of it, either for herself or for other people, frightened her. She knew that she was doing a very strange thing in thus leaving the Spatts and her luggage without a word of explanation before breakfast; but she did not care. She knew that for some reason which she did not comprehend the police were after her, as they had been after nearly all the great ones of the movement; but she did not care. She was alive in the rushing car amid the magnificence of the morning. Musa sat next to her. She had more or less incompletely explained the situation to him--it was not necessary to tell everything to a boy who depended upon you absolutely for his highest welfare--such boys must accept, thankfully, what they received. And Musa had indeed done so. He appeared to be quite happy and without anxieties. That was the worst He had wanted to be with her, and he was with her, and he cared for nothing else. He had no interest in what might happen next. He yielded himself utterly to the enjoyment of her presence and of the magnificent morning.

And yet Musa, whom Audrey considered that she understood as profoundly as any mother had ever understood any child--even Musa could surprise.

He said, without any preparation:

"I calculate that I shall have 3,040 francs in hand after the concerts, assuming that I receive only the minimum. That is, after paying the expenses of my living."

"But do you know how much it costs you to live?" Audrey demanded, with careless superiority.

"Assuredly. I write all my payments down in a little book. I have done so since some years."

"Every sou?"

"Yes. Every sou."

"But do you save, Musa?"

"Save!" he repeated the word ingenuously. "Till now to save has been impossible for me. But I have always kept in hand one month's subsistence. I could not do more. Now I shall save. You reproached me with having spent money in order to come to see you in England. But I regarded the money so spent as part of the finance of the concerts. Without seeing you I could not practise. Without practice I could not play. Without playing I could not earn money. Therefore I spent money in order to get money. Such, Madame, was the commercial side. What a beautiful lawn for tennis you have in your garden!"

Audrey was more than surprised, she was staggered by the revelation of the attitude of genius towards money. She had not suspected it. Then she remembered the simple natural tome in which Musa had once told her that both Tommy and Nick contributed to his income. She ought to have comprehended from that avowal more than she, in fact, had comprehended. And now the first hopes of worldly success were strongly developing that unsuspected trait in the young man's character. Audrey was aware of a great fear. Could he be a genius, after all? Was it conceivable that an authentic musical genius should enter up daily in a little book every sou he spent?

A rapid, spitting, explosive sound, close behind the car and a little to the right, took her mind away from Musa and back to the adventure. She looked round, half expecting what she should see--and she saw it, namely, the detective on a motor-cycle. It was an "Indian" machine and painted red. And as she looked, the car, after taking a corner, got into a straight bit of the splendid road and the motor-bicycle dropped away from it.

"Can't you shake off that motor-bicycle thing?" Audrey rather superciliously asked the chauffeur.

Having first looked at his mirror, the chauffeur, who, like a horse, could see in two directions at once, gazed cautiously at the road in front and at the motor-bicycle behind, simultaneously.

"I doubt it, madam," he said. And yet his tone and glance expressed deep scorn of the motor-bicycle. "As a general rule you can't."

"I should have thought you could beat a little thing like that," said Audrey.

"Them things can do sixty when they've a mind to," said the chauffeur, with finality, and gave all his attention to the road.

At intervals he looked at his mirror. The motor-bicycle had vanished into the past, and as it failed to reappear he gradually grew confident and disdainful. But just as the car was going down the short hill into the outskirts of Colchester the motor-bicycle came into view once more.

"Where to, madam?" inquired the chauffeur.

"This is Colchester, isn't it?" she demanded nervously, though she knew perfectly well that it was Colchester.

"Yes, madam."

"Straight through! Straight through!"

"The London road?"

"Yes. The London road," she agreed. London was, of course, the only possible destination.

"But breakfast, madam?"

"Oh! The usual thing," said Audrey. "You'll have yours when I have mine."

"But we shall run out of petrol, madam."

"Never mind," said Audrey sublimely.

The chauffeur, with characteristic skill, arranged that the car should run out of petrol precisely in front of the best hotel in Chelmsford, which was about half-way to London. The motor-bicycle had not been seen for several miles. But scarcely had they resumed the journey, by the Epping road, when it came again into view--in front of them. How had the fellow guessed that they would take the longer Epping road instead of the shorter Romford road?

"When shall we be arriving in Frinton?" Musa inquired, beatific.

"We shan't be arriving in Frinton any more," said Audrey. "We must go straight to London."

"It is like a dream," Musa murmured, as it were in ecstasy. Then his features changed and he almost screamed: "But my violin! My violin! We must go back for it."

"Violin!" said Audrey. "That's nothing! I've even come without gloves." And she had.

She reassured Musa as to the violin, and the chauffeur as to the abandoned Gladstone bag containing the chauffeur's personal effects, and herself as to many things. An hour and twenty minutes later the car, with three people in it, thickly dusted even to the eyebrows, drew up in the courtyard of Charing Cross railway station, and the motor-cycle was visible, its glaring red somewhat paled, in the Strand outside. The time was ten-fifteen.

"We shall take the eleven o'clock boat train for Paris," she said to Musa.

"You also?"

She nodded. He was in heaven. He could even do without his violin.

"How nice it is not to be bothered with luggage," she said.

The chauffeur was pacified with money, of which Audrey had a sufficiency.

And all the time Audrey kept saying to herself:

"I'm not going to Paris to please Musa, so don't let him think it! I'm only going so as to put the detective off and keep Jane Foley out of his clutches, because if I stay in London he'll be bound to find everything out."

While Musa kept watch for the detective at the door of the telegraph office Audrey telegraphed, as laconically as possible, to Frinton concerning clothes and the violin, and then they descended to subterranean marble chambers in order to get rid of dust, and they came up to earth again, each out of a separate cellar, renewed. And, lastly, Audrey slipped into the Strand and bought a pair of gloves, and thereafter felt herself to be completely equipped against the world's gaze.

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