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A short story by George V. Hobart

You Should Worry About An Automobile

Title:     You Should Worry About An Automobile
Author: George V. Hobart [More Titles by Hobart]

Say! did you ever have to leave the soothing influence of your own rattling radiators in the Big City and go romping off to a rich relation's for the week-end?

Well, don't do it, if you can help it, and if you can't help it get back home as soon as possible.

When Uncle Gilbert Hawley sent us an invitation to run up to Hawleysville for a day or two I looked at Peaches and she looked at me--then we both looked out the window.

We knew what a wildly hilarious time we'd have splashing out small talk to the collection of human bric-a-brac always to be found at Uncle Gilbert's, but what is one going to do when the richest old gink in the family waves a beckoning arm?

I'll tell you what one is going to do--one is going to take to one's o'sullivans, beat it rapidly to a choo-choo, and float into Uncle Gilbert's presence with a business of being tickled to death--that's what one is going to do.

You know Nature has a few immutable laws, and one is that even a rich old uncle must in the full course of time pass on and leave nephews and nieces. Leave them what? Ah! that's it! Where's that timetable?

Hawleysville is about forty miles away on the P. D. & Q., and it is some burg. Uncle Gilbert wrote it all himself.

Uncle Gilbert has nearly all the money there is in the world. Every time he signs a check a national bank goes out of existence. He tried to count it all once, but he sprained his wrists and had to stop.

On the level, when he goes into a bank all the government bonds get up and yell, "Hello, Papa!"

When he cuts coupons it's like a sheep shearing.

He has muscles all over him like a prizefighter just from lifting mortgages.

When Peaches and I finally reached the Hawley mansion on the hill we found there a scene of great excitement. Old and distant relations were bustling up and down the stone steps, talking in whispers; servants with scared faces and popping eyes were peeping around the corner of the house, and in the roadway in front of a sobbing automobile stood Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Miranda, made up to look like two members of the Peary expedition at the Pole.

After the formal greetings we were soon put hep to the facts in the case.

"You see, John," bubbled Aunt Miranda, while a pair of green goggles danced an accompaniment on her nose, "your Uncle Gilbert loaned the money to a man to open a garage in Hawleysville. But automobilists never got any blowouts or punctures going through here because there isn't a saloon in the town, so the garage failed and the man left town in an awful hurry, and all your Uncle Gilbert got for the money he loaned was this car. We've been four years making up our minds to buy one and now we have one whether we want it or not."

"Fine!" I said; "going out for a spin, Uncle Gilbert?"

"Possibly," he answered, never taking his eyes off the man-killer in front of him, which stood there trembling with anger.

"What car is it?" I inquired politely.

"It's a Seismic," Uncle Gilbert said.

"Oh, yes, of course; made by the Earthquake Brothers in Powderville--good car for the hills, especially coming down," I volunteered. "Know how to run it?"

"I guess so; I was always a good hand at machinery," Uncle Gilbert answered.

"Don't you think you should have a chauffeur?" Peaches suggested.

"Chauffeur! Why?" Uncle Gilbert snapped back; "what do I want with one of those fellows sitting around, eating me out of house and home."

Now you know why he has so much money.

"We'll be back in a little while," Aunt Miranda explained; "just make yourselves at home, children."

Uncle Gilbert continued to eye the car for another minute, then he turned to me and said, "Want to try it, John?"

"Nix, Uncle Gilbert," I protested; "what would the townspeople say? You with a new motor car, afraid to run it yourself, had to send to New York for your nephew--nix! Where's your family pride?"

"My family pride is all right," answered Uncle Gilbert; "but there's a lot of contraptions in that machine I don't seem to recognize."

"Oh, that's all right; you're a handy little guy with machinery," I reminded him. "Hop in now and break forth. Don't let the public think that you're afraid to blow a Bubble through the streets of your native town. The rubber sweater buttoned to the chin and the Dutch awning over the forehead for yours, and on your way!"

Finally and reluctantly Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Miranda climbed into the kerosene wagon and I gave him his final instructions.

"Now, Uncle Gilbert," I said, "grab that wheel in front of you firmly with both hands and put one foot on the accelerator. Now put the other foot on the rheostat and let the left elbow gently rest on the deodorizer. Keep the rubber tube connecting with the automatic fog whistle closely between the teeth and let the right elbow be in touch with the quadruplex while the apex of the left knee is pressed over the spark coil and the right ankle works the condenser."

Uncle Gilbert grunted. "Why don't you put my left shoulder blade to work," he muttered; "it's the only part of my anatomy that hasn't got a job."

"John," whispered the nervous Aunt Miranda, "do you really think your Uncle Gilbert knows enough about the car?"

"Sure," I answered, and I was very serious about it. "Now, Uncle Gilbert, keep both eyes on the road in front of you and the rest of your face in the wagon. Start the driving wheels, repeat slowly the name of your favorite coroner, and leave the rest to Fate!"

And away they started in the Whiz Wagon.

Before they had rolled along for half a mile through town the machine suddenly began to breathe fast, and then, all of a sudden, it choked up and stopped.

"Will it explode?" whispered Aunt Miranda, pleadingly.

"No," said Uncle Gilbert, jumping out; "I think the cosmopolitan has buckled with the trapezoid," and then, with a monkey wrench, he crawled under the hood to see if the trouble was stubbornness or appendicitis.

Uncle Gilbert took a dislike to a brass valve and began to knock it with the monkey wrench, whereupon the valve got mad at him and upset a pint of ancient salad oil all over his features.

When Uncle Gilbert recovered consciousness the machine was breathing again, so he jumped to the helm, pointed the bow at Tampico, Mex., and began to cut the grass.

Alas! however, it seemed that the demon of unrest possessed that Coal-oil Coupe, for it soon began to jump and skip, and suddenly, with a snort, it took the river road and scooted away from town.

Uncle Gilbert patted it on the back and spoke soothingly, but it was no use.

Aunt Miranda pleaded with him to keep in near the shore, because she was getting seasick; but her tears were in vain.

"You must appear calm and indifferent in the presence of danger," muttered Uncle Gilbert as they rushed madly into the bosom of a flock of cows.

But luck was with them, for with a turn of the wrist Uncle Gilbert jumped the machine across the road, and all he could feel was the sharp swish of an old cow's tail across his cheek as they rushed on and out of that animal's life forever.

Aunt Miranda tried to be brave and to chat pleasantly. "How is Wall Street these days?" she asked, and just then the machine struck a stone and she went up in the air.

"Unsettled," answered Uncle Gilbert when she got back, and then there was an embarrassing silence.

To try to hold a polite conversation, on a motor car in full flight is very much like trying to repeat the Declaration of Independence while falling from a seventh-story window.

Then, all of a sudden, the machine struck a chord in G, and started for Newfoundland at the rate of 7,000,000 miles a minute.

Aunt Miranda threw her arms around Uncle Gilbert's neck, he threw his neck around the lever, the lever threw him over, and they both threw a fit.

Down the road ahead of them a man and his wife were quarreling. They were so much in earnest that they did not hear the machine sneaking swiftly up on rubber shoes.

As the Benzine Buggy was about to fall upon the quarreling man and wife Uncle Gilbert squeezed a couple of hoarse "Toot toots" from the horn, whereupon the woman in the road threw up both hands and leaped for the man. The man threw up both feet and leaped for the fence.

The last Aunt Miranda saw of them they were entering their modest home neck and neck, and the divorce court lost a bet.

Then the machine began to climb a telegraph pole, and as it ran down the other side Aunt Miranda wanted to know for the tenth time if it would explode.

"How did John tell you to handle it?" she shrieked, as the Rowdy Cart bit its way through a stone fence and began to dance a two-step over a strange man's lawn.

"The only way to handle this infernal machine is to soak it in water," yelled Uncle Gilbert as they hit the main road again.

"I don't see what family pride has to do with it; there isn't a soul looking," moaned Aunt Miranda.

"Oh if I could only be arrested for fast riding and get this thing stopped," wailed Uncle Gilbert as they headed for the river.

"Let me out, let me out," pleaded Aunt Miranda, and the machine seemed to hear her, for it certainly obliged the lady.

I found out afterwards that in order to make good with Aunt Miranda the machine jumped up in the air and turned a double handspring, during the course of which friend Uncle and his wife fell out and landed in the most generous inclined mud puddle in that part of the state.

Then the Buzz Buggy turned around and barked at them, and with an excited wag of its tail scooted for home and left them flat.

Late that evening Uncle Gilbert explained that there would have been no trouble at all if he had removed a defective spark plug.

But I think if Uncle Gilbert would go to Dr. Leiser and have his parsimony removed he'd have more fun as he breezes through life.

Peaches thinks just as I do, but she won't say it out loud--she's a fox, that Kid.

[The end]
George V. Hobart's short story: You Should Worry About An Automobile