The Great Auto Mystery

Jacques Futrelle
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The Great Auto Mystery Jacques Futrelle
WITH a little laugh of sheer light-heartedness on her lips and a twinkle in her blue eyes, Marguerite Melrose bound on a grotesque automobile mask, and stuffed the last strand of her recalcitrant hair beneath her veil. The pretty face was hidden from mouth to brow; and her curls were ruthlessly imprisoned under a cap held in place by the tightly tied veil.
"It's perfectly hideous, isn't it?" she demanded of her companions.
Jack Curtis laughed.
"Well," he remarked, quizzically, "it's just as well that we know you are pretty."
"We could never discover it as you are now," added Charles Reid. "Can't see enough of your face to tell whether you are white or black."
The girl's red lips were pursed into a pout, which ungraciously hid her white teeth, as she considered the matter seriously.
"I think I'll take it off," she said at last.
"Don't," Curtis warned her. "On a good road The Green Dragon only hits the tall places."
"Tear your hair off," supplemented Reid. "When Jack lets her loose it's just a pszzzzt!--and wherever you're going you're there."
"Not on a night as dark as this?" protested the girl, quickly.
"I've got lights like twin locomotives," Curtis assured her, smilingly. "It's perfectly safe. Don't get nervous."
He tied on his own mask with its bleary goggles, while Reid did the same. The Green Dragon, a low, gasoline car of racing build, stood panting impatiently, awaiting them at a side door of the hotel. Curtis assisted Miss Melrose into the front seat and climbed in beside her, while Reid sat behind in the tonneau. There was a preparatory quiver, the car jerked a little and then began to move.
The three persons in it were Marguerite Melrose, an actress who had attracted attention in the West five years before by her great beauty and had afterwards, by her art, achieved a distinct place; Jack Curtis, a friend since childhood, when both lived in San Francisco and attended the same school, and Charles Reid, his chum, son of a mine owner at Denver.
The unexpected meeting of the three in Boston had been a source of mutual pleasure. It had been two years since they had seen one another in Denver, where Miss Melrose was playing. Now she was in Boston, pursuing certain vocal studies before returning West for her next season.
Reid was in Boston to lay siege to the heart of a young woman of society, Miss Elizabeth Dow, whom he first met in San Francisco. She was only nineteen years old, but despite this he had begun a siege and his ardor had never cooled, even after Miss Dow returned East. In Boston, he had heard, she looked with favor upon another man, Morgan Mason, poor but of excellent family, and frantically Reid had rushed, like Lochinvar out of the West, to find the rumor true.
Curtis was one who never had anything to do save seek excitement in a new and novel way. He had come East with Reid. They had been together constantly since their arrival in Boston. He was of a different type from Reid in that his wealth was distinctly a burden, a thing which left him with nothing to do, and opened illimitable possibilities of dissipation. The pace he led was one which caused other young men to pause and think.
Warm-hearted and perfectly at home with both Curtis and Reid, Miss Melrose, the actress, frequently took occasion to scold them. It was charming to be scolded by Miss Melrose, so much so in fact that it was worth while sinning again. Since she had appeared on the horizon Curtis had devoted a great deal of time to her; Reid had his own difficulties trying to make Miss Dow change her mind.
The Green Dragon with its three passengers ran slowly down from the Hotel Yarmouth, where Miss Melrose was stopping, toward the Common, twisting and winding tortuously through the crowd of vehicles. It was half-past six o'clock in the evening.
"Cut across here to Commonwealth Avenue," Miss Melrose suggested. She remembered something and her bright blue eyes sparkled beneath the disfiguring mask. "I know a delightful old-fashioned inn out this way. It would be an ideal place to stop for supper. I was there once five years ago when I was in Boston."
"How far?" asked Reid.
"Fifteen or twenty miles," was the reply.
"Right," said Curtis. "Here we go."
Soon after they were skimming along Commonwealth Avenue, which at that time of day is practically given over to automobilists, past the Vendome, the Somerset and on over the flat, smooth road. It was perfectly light now, because the electric lights were about them; but there was no moon above, and once in the country it would be dark going.
Curtis was intent on his machine; Reid was thoughtful
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