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The Motor Maid

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One hears of people whose hair turned white in a single night. Last night I thought mine was turning. I had a creepy feeling in the roots, which seemed to crawl all the way down inside each separate hair, wriggling as it went. I suppose you couldn't have nervous prostration of the hair? I worried dreadfully, it kept on so long; and my hair is so fair it would be almost a temptation for it, in an emergency, to take the one short step from gold to silver. I didn't dare switch on the light in the wagon-lit and peep at my pocket-book mirror (which reflects one's features in sections of a square inch, giving the survey of one's whole face quite a panorama effect) for fear I might wake up the Bull Dog.

I've spelt him with capitals, after mature deliberation, because it would be nothing less than lèse majesté to fob him off with little letters about the size of his two lower eye-tusks, or chin-molars, or whatever one ought to call them.

He was on the floor, you see, keeping guard over his mistress's shoes; and he might have been misguided enough to think I had designs on them—though what I could have used them for, unless I'd been going to Venice and wanting a private team of gondolas, I can't imagine.

I being in the upper berth, you might (if you hadn't seen him) have fancied me safe; but already he had once padded half-way up the step-ladder, and sniffed at me speculatively, as if I were a piece of meat on the top shelf of a larder; and if half-way up, why not all the way up? Il était capable du tout.

I tried to distract my mind and focus it hard on other things, as Christian Scientists tell you to do when you have a pin sticking into your body for which les convenances forbid you to make an exhaustive search.

I lay on my back with my eyes shut, trying not to hear any of the sounds in the wagon-lit (and they were not confined to the snoring of His Majesty), thinking desperately. "I will concentrate all my mentality," said I to myself, "on thoughts beginning with P, for instance. My Past. Paris. Pamela."

Just for a few minutes it was comparatively easy. "Dear Past!" I sighed, with a great sigh which for divers reasons I was sure couldn't be heard beyond my own berth. (And though I try always even to think in English, I find sometimes that the words group themselves in my head in the old patterns—according to French idioms.) "Dear Past, how thou wert kind and sweet! How it is brutalizing to turn my back upon thee and thy charms forever!"

"Oh, my goodness, I shall certainly die!" squeaked a voice in the berth underneath; and then there was a sound of wallowing.

She (my stable-companion, shall I call her?) had been giving vent to all sorts of strange noises at intervals, for a long time, so that it would have been hopeless to try and drown my sorrows in sleep.

Away went the Gentle Past with a bump, as if it had knocked against a snag in the current of my thoughts.

Paris or Pamela instead, then! or both together, since they seem inseparable, even when Pamela is at her most American, and tells me to "talk United States."

It was all natural to think of Pamela, because it was she who gave me the ticket for the train de luxe, and my berth in the wagon-lit. If it hadn't been for Pamela I should at this moment have been crawling slowly, cheaply, down Riviera-ward in a second-class train, sitting bolt upright in a second-class carriage with smudges on my nose, while perhaps some second-class child shed jammy crumbs on my frock, and its second-class baby sister howled.

"Oh, why did I leave my peaceful home?" wailed the lady in the lower berth.

Heaven alone (unless it were the dog) knew why she had, and knew how heartily I wished she hadn't. A good thing Cerberus was on guard, or I might have dropped a pillow accidentally on her head!

Just then I wasn't thanking Pamela for her generosity. The second-class baby's mamma would have given it a bottle to keep it still; but there was nothing I could give the fat old lady; and she had already resorted to the bottle (something in the way of patent medicine) without any good result. Yet, was there nothing I could give her?

"Oh, I'm dying, I know I'm dying, and nobody cares! I shall choke to death!" she gurgled.

It was too much. I could stand it and the terrible atmosphere no longer....