From the Car Behind

From the Car Behind

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THE KID AMATEUR

Gerard paused on the steps of the cement plateau overlooking the racetrack, his eyebrows lifting in the wave of humor glinting across his face like sunlight over quiet water.

"What?" he wondered. "Who——"

The grinning mechanician who had just come across from the row of training-camps opposite supplied the information.

"Oh, that's Rose's rose. Ain't he awful tweet?" he mocked.

Gerard continued to smile, but his clear amber eyes grew keenly appraising as they followed the flight of the rose-colored racing car around the circular track.

"He can drive," he gave laconic verdict.

"Sure," assented the mechanician. "But he'll be the last rose of summer, all right, when the race comes off. He'll not last twenty-four hours—a kid amateur. If you ain't coming over, I'll lead myself back to my job."

"You never can tell," warned Gerard, tolerantly. "No, I'm not coming over, Rupert; run along."

He moved over to one of the grand-stand seats, as he spoke, and sat down, leaning on the rail with an easy movement of his supple figure. That was the first characteristic strangers usually noted in him: an exquisite Hellenic grace of strength and faultless proportion. He was a man's beauty, as distinguished from a beauty-man; other men were given to admiring him extravagantly and unresentfully. Unresentfully, because of his utter practicality and matter-of-fact atmosphere.

The afternoon sunshine glittered goldenly across the huge, green field and the mile track circling it, where four racing cars sped in practice contest. Two of them were painted gray, one was dingy-white; the fourth shone in delicate pink enamel touched here and there with silver-gilt. Its driver and mechanician were clad in pink also, adding the completing stroke to an effect suggesting the circus rather than the race track. There was much excuse for the laughter of the camps, and that reflection of it lying in Gerard's eyes.

Yet, the rose-colored machine was well driven. More than once the watcher nodded in quick approval of a skilful turn or deft manœuvre. Once he rose and changed his position to see more distinctly, and it was then that he first noticed the girl.

She was so beautifully and expensively gowned as to draw even masculine notice of the fact, the veil that fell from her silk hood to the hem of her cloak would alone have purchased the motor costume of the average woman. Against this filmy drapery her intent face showed as a study in concentration; her dark-blue eyes wide behind their black lashes, her soft lips apart, she too was watching the pink racer. But there was no laughter in her expression, instead there was the most deep and earnest tenderness, a blending of the childish and the maternal that made Gerard catch his breath and glance enviously at the driver of the gaudy car.

The afternoon was almost ended; as Gerard looked, the pink machine finished its last circuit and plunged through the paddock entrance, to come to a halt before its own tent in the "white city" of training camps....