The Lightning Conductor - November 15
In which Molly learns to drive the motor-car - haberdashers beware!
I was proud of the car when I went out on it yesterday. Aunt Mary wouldn't go, because she doesn't wish to be the "victim of an experiment." Rattray drove for a long way, but when we got beyond the traffic, towards Richmond, I took his place, and my lesson began. It's harder than I thought it would be, because you have to do so many things at once. You really ought to have three or four hands with this car, Rattray says. When I asked him if it was different with other cars, he didn't seem to hear. Already I've noticed that he's subject to a sort of spasmodic deafness, but I suppose I must put up with that, as he is such a fine mechanic. One can't have everything.
With your left hand you have to steer the car by means of a kind of tiller, and to this is attached the horn to warn creatures of all sorts that you're coming. I blow this with my right hand, but Rattray says I ought to learn to do it while steering with the left, as there are quantities of other things to be done with the right hand. First there is a funny little handle with which you change speeds whenever you come to a hill; then there is the "jockey-pulley-lever," which gives the right tension to the belts (this is very important); the "throttle-valve-lever," on which you must always keep your hand to control the speed of the car; and the brake which you jam on when you want to stop. So there are two things to do with the left hand, and four things with the right, and often most of these things must be done at the same time. No wonder I was confused and got my hands a little mixed, so that I forgot which was which, and things went wrong for a second! Just then a cart was rude enough to come round a corner. I tried to steer to the right, but went to the left - and you can't think how many things can happen with a motor-car in one second.
Now, don't be worried! I wasn't hurt a bit; only we charged on to the side-walk, and butted into a shop. It was my fault, not a bit the car's. If it weren't a splendid car it would have been smashed to pieces, and perhaps we with it, instead of just breaking the front - oh, and the shop too, a little. I shall have to pay the man something. He's a "haberdasher," whatever that is, but it sounds like the sort of name he might have called me if he'd been very angry when I broke his window.
The one bad consequence of my stupidity is that the poor, innocent, sinned-against car must lie up for repairs. Rattray says they may take some days. In that case Aunt Mary and I must do our shopping in a hired brougham - such an anti-climax; but Rattray promises that the dear thing shall be ready for our start to France on the 19th. Meanwhile, I shall console myself for my disappointment by buying an outfit for a trip - a warm coat, and a mask, and a hood, and all sorts of tricky little things I've marked in a perfectly thrilling catalogue.
Now, if you fuss, I shall be sorry I've told you the truth. Remember the axiom about the bad penny. That's
Compiler’s Note: As her dear father is well aware, Molly is an inconsistent correspondent. We patiently await her next missive many days from now…
Thanks to Project Gutenberg and Distributed Proofreaders for providing the text for this work of public domain literature - and many, many others.
I'm tempeted to start using haberdasher as an insult now
this is so me when i first got my license