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The Lightning Conductor The Strange Adventures of a Motor-Car

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Dear Shiny-headed Angel,

I hope you won't mind, but I've changed all my plans. I've bought an automobile, or a motor-car, as they call it over here; and while I'm writing to you, Aunt Mary is having nervous prostration on a sofa in a corner at least a hundred years old-I mean the sofa, not the corner, which is a good deal more. But perhaps I'd better explain.

Well, to begin with, some people we met on the steamer (they were an archdeacon, with charming silk legs, and an archdeaconess who snubbed us till it leaked out through that Aunt Mary that you were the Chauncey Randolph) said if we wanted to see a thoroughly characteristic English village, we ought to run out to Cobham; and we ran-to-day.

Aunt Mary had one of her presentiments against the expedition, so I was sure it would turn out nice. When we drove up to this lovely old red-brick hotel, in a thing they call a fly because it crawls; there were several automobiles starting off, and I can tell you I felt small-just as if I were Miss Noah getting out the ark. (Were there any Miss Noahs, by the way?)

One of the automobiles was different from any I've ever seen on our side or this. It was high and dignified, like a chariot, and looked over the heads of the others as the archdeaconess used to look over mine till she heard whose daughter I was. A chauffeur was sitting on the front seat, and a gorgeous man had jumped down and was giving him directions. He wasn't looking my way, so I seized the opportunity to snapshot him, as a souvenir of English scenery; but that tactless Kodak of mine gave the loudest "click" you ever heard, and he turned his head in time to suspect what had been happening. I swept past with my most "haughty Lady Gwendolen" air, talking to Aunt Mary, and hoped I shouldn't see him again. But we'd hardly got seated for lunch in a beautiful old room, panelled from floor to ceiling with ancient oak, when he came into the room, and Aunt Mary, who has a sneaking weakness for titles (I suppose it's the effect of the English climate), murmured that there was her ideal of a duke.

The Gorgeous Man strolled up and took a place at our table. He passed Aunt Mary some things which she didn't want, and then began to throw out a few conversational feelers. If you're a girl, and want fun in England, it's no end of a pull being American; for if you do anything that people think queer, they just sigh, and say, "Poor creature! she's one of those mad Americans," and put you down as harmless. I don't know whether an English girl would have talked or not, but I did; and he knew lots of our friends, especially in Paris, and it was easy to see he was a raving, tearing "swell," even if he wasn't exactly a duke. I can't remember how it began, but really it was Aunt Mary and not I who chattered about our trip, and how we were abroad for the first time, and were going to "do" Europe as soon as we had "done" England.

The Gorgeous Man had lived in France (he seems to have lived nearly everywhere, and to know everybody and everything worth knowing), and, said he, "What a pity we couldn't do our tour on a motor-car!" At that I became flippant, and inquired which, in his opinion, would be more suitable as chauffeur-Aunt Mary or I; whereupon he announced that he was not joking, but serious....