AN UNPREMEDITATED FOLLY
Steve Tolman had done a wrong thing and he knew it.
While his father, mother, and sister Doris had been absent in New York for a week-end visit and Havens, the chauffeur, was ill at the hospital, the boy had taken the big six-cylinder car from the garage without anybody's permission and carried a crowd of his friends to Torrington to a football game. And that was not the worst of it, either. At the foot of the long hill leading into the village the mighty leviathan so unceremoniously borrowed had come to a halt, refusing to move another inch, and Stephen now sat helplessly in it, awaiting the aid his comrades had promised to send back from the town.
What an ignominious climax to what had promised to be a royal holiday! Steve scowled with chagrin and disappointment.
The catastrophe served him right. Unquestionably he should not have taken the car without asking. He had never run it all by himself before, although many times he had driven it when either his father or Havens had been at his elbow. It had gone all right then. What reason had he to suppose a mishap would befall him when they were not by? It was infernally hard luck!
Goodness only knew what was the matter with the thing. Probably something was smashed, something that might require days or even weeks to repair, and would cost a lot of money. Here was a pretty dilemma!
How angry his father would be!
The family were going to use the automobile Saturday to take Doris back to Northampton for the opening of college and had planned to make quite a holiday of the trip. Now it would all have to be given up and everybody would blame him for the disappointment. A wretched hole he was in!
The boys had not given him much sympathy, either. They had been ready enough to egg him on into wrong-doing and had made of the adventure the jolliest lark imaginable; but the moment fun had been transformed into calamity they had deserted him with incredible speed, climbing out of the spacious tonneau and trooping jauntily off on foot to see the town. It was easy enough for them to wash their hands of the affair and leave him to the solitude of the roadside; the automobile was not theirs and when they got home they would not be confronted by irate parents.
How persuasively, reflected Stephen, they had urged him on.
"Oh, be a sport, Steve!" Jack Curtis had coaxed. "Who's going to be the wiser if you do take the car? Anyhow, you have run it before, haven't you? I don't believe your father will mind."
"Take a chance, Stevie," his chum, Bud Taylor, pleaded. "What's the good of being such a boob? Do you think if my father had a car and it was standing idle in the garage when a bunch of kids needed it to go to a school game I would hesitate? You bet I wouldn't!"
"It isn't likely your Dad would balk at your using the car if he knew the circumstances," piped another boy. "We have got that match to play off, and now that the electric cars are held up by the strike how are we to get to Torrington? Don't be a ninny, Steve."
Thus they had ridiculed, cajoled, and wheedled Steve until his conscience had been overpowered and, yielding to their arguments, he had set forth for the adjoining village with the triumphant throng of tempters....