At two in the morning, on Main Street of a Nebraska prairie town that ought to have been asleep since ten, a crowd was packed under a lone arc-light, chattering, laughing, and every moment peering down the dim street to westward.
Out in the road were two new automobile tires, and cans of gasoline, oil, water. The hose of a pressure air-pump stretched across the cement sidewalk, and beside it was an air-gauge in a new chamois case. Across the street a restaurant was glaring with unshaded electric lights; and a fluffy-haired, pert-nose girl alternately ran to the window and returned to look after the food she was keeping warm. The president of the local motor club, who was also owner of the chief garage, kept stuttering to a young man in brown union overalls, “Now be all ready — for land’s sake, be ready. Remember, gotta change those casings in three minutes.” They were awaiting a romantic event — the smashing of the cross-continent road-record by a Mallard car driven by J. T. Buffum.
Everyone there had seen pictures of Buffum in the sporting and automobile pages of the Lincoln and Kansas City papers; everyone knew that face, square, impassive, heavy-cheeked, kindly, with the unsmoked cigar between firm teeth, and the almost boyish bang over a fine forehead. Two days ago he had been in San Francisco, between the smeared gold of Chink dens and the tumult of the Pacific. Two days from now he would be in distant New York.
Miles away on the level prairie road a piercing jab of light grew swiftly into two lights, while a distant drum-roll turned into the burring roar of a huge unmuffled engine. The devouring thing burst into town, came fulminating down on them, stopped with a clashing jerk. The crowd saw the leather-hooded man at the mighty steering wheel nod to them, grinning, human, companionable — the great Buffum.
“Hurray! Hurray!” came the cries, and the silence changed to weaving gossip.
Already the garage youngster, with his boss and three men from another garage, was yanking off two worn casings, filling the gas tank, the oil well, the radiator. Buffum stiffly crawled from the car, stretched his shoulders, his mighty arms and legs, in a leonine yawn. “Jump out, Roy. Eats here,” he muttered to the man in the passenger seat. This man the spectators did not heed. He was merely Buffum’s mechanic and relay driver, a poor thing who had never in his life driven faster than ninety miles an hour.
The garage owner hustled Buffum across to the lunchroom. The moment the car had stormed into town the pretty waitress, jumping up and down with impatience, had snatched the chicken from the warming oven, poured out the real coffee, proudly added real cream. The lunch and the changing of casings took three and a quarter minutes.
The clatter of the motor smote the quiet houses and was gone. The town became drab and dull. The crowd yawned and fumbled its way home.
Buffum planned to get in two hours of sleep after leaving this Nebraska town. Roy Bender, the relay driver, took the wheel. Buffum sat with his relaxed body swaying to the leaping motion, while he drowsily commented in a hoarse, slow shout that pushed through the enveloping roar: “Look out for that hill, Roy. Going to be slippery.”
“How can you tell?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I smell it. But watch out, anyway. Good night, little playmate. Wake me up at four-fifteen.”
That was all of the conversation for seventy-two miles.
It was dawn when Buffum drove again. He was silent; he was concentrated on keeping the speedometer just two miles higher than seemed safe. But for a mile or so, on straight stretches, he glanced with weary happiness at the morning meadows, at shimmering tapestry of grass and young wheat, and caught half a note of the song of a meadowlark. His mouth, so grimly tight in dangerous places, rose at the corners.
Toward noon, as Buffum was approaching the village of Apogee, Iowa, the smooth blaring of the motor was interrupted by a noise as though the engine was flying to pieces.
He yanked at the switch; before the car had quite halted, Roy and he had tumbled out at opposite sides, were running forward to lift the hood. The fan-guard, a heavy wire soldered on the radiator, had worked loose and bent a fan-blade, which had ripped out a handful of honeycomb. The inside of the radiator looked as though it had been hacked with a dull knife. The water was cascading out.
Buffum speculated: “Apogee next town. Can’t get radiator there. None nearer ‘n Clinton. Get this soldered. Here! You!”
The “Here! You!” was directed at the driver of an ancient roadster. “Got to hustle this boat into next town. Want you to haul me in.”
Roy Bender had already snatched a tow-rope from the back of the racing car, was fastening it to the front axle of the Mallard, the rear of the roadster.
Buffum gave no time for disputes. “I’m J. T. Buffum. Racin’ ‘cross continent. Here’s ten dollars. Want your machine ten minutes. I’ll drive.” He had crowded into the seat. Already, with Roy steering the Mallard, they were headed for Apogee.
A shouting crowd ran out from house and store. Buffum slowly looked them over. Of a man in corduroy trousers and khaki shirt, who had plumped out of a garage, he demanded: “Who’s the best solderer in town?”
“I am. Good as anybody in Iowa.”
“Now, wait! Know who I am?”
“Sure! You’re Buffum.”
“My radiator is shot to thunder. Got to be soldered. I want six hours’ work done in one hour, or less. How about the hardware store? Isn’t there a solderer there that’s even better than you?”
“Yes, I guess maybe old Frank Dieters is.”
“Get him, and get the other good man, and get busy. One of you work on each side. Roy Bender here will boss you.” Already Roy was taking down the radiator. “One hour, remember. Hurry! Plenty of money in it —”
“Oh, we don’t care anything about the money!”
“Thanks, old man. Well, I might as well grab a little sleep. Where’ll I get a long-distance connection?” he yawned.
“Across the street at Mrs. Rivers’. Be less noise than in the garage, I guess.”
Over the way was a house that was a large square box with an octagonal cupola on the mansard roof. It was set back in a yard of rough grass and old crabapple trees. At the gate were a smallish, severe woman, in spectacles and apron, and a girl of twenty-five or — six. Buffum looked at the girl twice, and tried to make out what it was that distinguished her from all the other women in the crowd that had come pushing and giggling to see the famous car.
She was sharply individualized. It was not that she was tall and blazing. She was slight — and delicate as a drypoint etching. Her chin was precise though soft; she had a Roman nose, a feminized charming version of the Roman nose. The thing that made her distinctive, Buffum reflected, was her poise. The girl by the gate was as quietly aloof as the small cold moon of winter.
He plodded across the road. He hesitated before speaking.
“I hope there hasn’t been an accident,” she murmured to him.
“No, just a small repair.”
“But, why does everyone seem so much concerned?”
“Why, it’s — it’s — I’m J. T. Buffum.”
“Mr.— uh — Buffum?”
“I reckon you never heard of me.”
“Why, uh — should I have?” Her eyes were serious, regretful at discourtesy.
“No. You shouldn’t. I just mean — Motor-fans usually have. I’m a racer. I’m driving from San Francisco to New York.”
“Really? It will take you — ten days?”
“Four to five days.”
“In two days you will be in the East? See the — the ocean? Oh!”
In her voice was wistfulness. Her eyes saw far-off things. But they came back to Apogee, Iowa, and to the big, dusty man in leather, with a penitent: “I’m ashamed not to have heard of you, but I— we haven’t a car. I hope they will make your repair quickly. May Mother and I give you a glass of milk or something?”
“I’d be glad if you’d let me use your telephone. So noisy at —”
“Of course! Mother, this is Mr. Buffum, who is driving across the country. Oh — my name is Aurilla Rivers.”
Buffum awkwardly tried to bow in two directions at once. Then he followed Aurilla Rivers’ slender back. He noticed how smooth were her shoulder-blades. They were neither jagged nor wadded. It seemed to him that the blue silk of her waist took life from the warm and eager flesh beneath. In her studied serenity she had not lost her youth.
As he drew away from the prying crowd and the sound of hasty hammers and wrenches, he was conscious of clinging peace. The brick of the walk was worn to a soft rose, shaded by gently moving branches of lilac bushes. At the end was a wild-grape arbor and an ancient bench. The arbor was shadowy, and full of the feeling of long and tranquil years. In this land of new houses and new red barns and blazing miles of wheat, it seemed mysterious with antiquity.
And on the doorstep was the bleached vertebra of a whale. Buffum was confused. He traveled so much and so swiftly that he always had to stop to think whether he was East or West, and now — Yes, this was Iowa. Of course. But that vertebra belonged to New England.
And to New England belonged the conch shell and the mahogany table in the wide hall with its strip of rag-carpet down which Miss Rivers led him to the telephone — an old-fashioned wall instrument. Buffum noticed that Miss Rivers conscientiously disappeared through the wide door at the end of the hall into a garden of pinks and pansies and sweet William.
“Please get me long distance.”
“I’m long distance and short distance and —”
“All right. This is Buffum, the transcontinental racer. I want to talk to Detroit, Michigan — Mallard Motor Company — office of the president.”
He waited ten minutes. He sat on the edge of a William and Mary chair, and felt obese, clumsy, extremely dirty. He ventured off his chair — disapproving of the thunder of his footsteps — and stood at the door of the parlor. The corner by the bow window seemed to be a shrine. Above a genuine antediluvian haircloth sofa were three pictures. In the center was a rather good painting of a man who was the very spirit of 1850 in New England — burnsides, grim white forehead, Roman nose, prim triangle of shirt-front. On the right was a watercolor of a house, white doored, narrow eaved, small windowed, standing out against gray sand and blue water, with a moored motor-dory beyond. On the woodshed ell of the pictured house was nailed up the name-board of a ship — Penninah Sparrow.
On the left of the portrait was a fairly recent enlarged photograph of a man somewhat like the granther of 1850, so far as Romanness of nose went, but weaker and more pompous, a handsome old buck, with a pretentious broad eyeglass ribbon and hair that must have been silvery over a face that must have been deep-flushed.
By the sofa was a marble-topped stand on which were fresh sweet peas.
Then central called, and Buffum was talking to the president of the Mallard Motor Company, who for two days and nights had sat by the ticker, watching his flashing progress.
“Hello, chief. Buffum speaking. Held up for about an hour. Apogee, Iowa. Think I can make it up. But better move the schedule up through Illinois and Indiana. Huh? Radiator leak. ‘By!”
He inquired the amount of toll, and rambled out to the garden. He had to hurry away, of course, and get some sleep, but it would be good for him to see Aurilla Rivers again, to take with him the memory of her cool resoluteness. She was coming toward him. He meekly followed her back through the hall, to the front steps. There he halted her. He would see quite enough of Roy Bender and the car before he reached New York.
“Please sit down here a moment, and tell me —”
“Oh, about the country around here, and uh — Oh! I owe you for the telephone call.”
“Please! It’s nothing.”
“But it’s something. It’s two dollars and ninety-five cents.”
“For a telephone call?”
He caught her hand and pressed the money into it. She plumped down on the steps, and he discreetly lowered his bulk beside her. She turned on him, blazing;
“You infuriate me! You do things I’ve always wanted to — sweep across big distances, command men, have power. I suppose it’s the old Yankee shipmasters coming out in me.”
“Miss Rivers, I noticed a portrait in there. It seemed to me that the picture and the old sofa make a kind of shrine. And the fresh flowers.” She stared a little before she said:
“Yes. It’s a shrine. But you’re the first one that ever guessed. How did you —”
“I don’t know. I suppose it’s because I went through some California missions a few days ago. Tell me about the people in the pictures.”
“You wouldn’t — Oh, some day, perhaps.”
“Some day! Now, you see here, child! Do you realize that in about forty minutes I’ll be kiting out of here at seventy miles an hour? Imagine that I’ve met you a couple of times in the bank or the post office, and finally after about six months I’ve called here, and told your mother I like pansies. All right. All that is over. Now, who are you, Aurilla Rivers? Who and what and why and how and when?”
She smiled. She nodded. She told.
She was a school teacher now, but before her father had died — well, the enlarged photograph in there was her father, Bradley Rivers, pioneer lawyer of Apogee. He had come out from Cape Cod, as a boy. The side-whiskered man of the central portrait was her grandfather, Captain Zenas Rivers, of West Harlepool, on the Cape. The house in the picture was the Rivers’ mansion, birthplace of her father.
“Have you been on the Cape yourself?” Buffum queried. “I remember driving through Harlepool, but I don’t recall anything but white houses and a meeting-house with a whale of a big steeple.”
“The dream of my life has been to go to Harlepool. Once when Father had to go to Boston he did run down there by himself. That’s when he brought back the portrait of Grandfather, and the painting of the old house, and the furniture and all. He said it made him so melancholy to see the changes in the town, and he never would go again. Then — he died. I’m saving up money for a trip back East. I do believe in democracy, but at the same time I feel that families like the Riverses owe it to the world to set an example, and I want to find my own people again. My own people!”
“Maybe you’re right. I’m from the soil. Di-rect! But somehow I can see it in you, same as I do in the portrait of your grandfather. I wish I— Well, never mind.”
“But you are an aristocrat. You do things that other people don’t dare to. While you were telephoning, I saw our school principal, and he said you were a Vi-king and all kinds of —”
“Here! Now! You! Quit! Stop! Wait! A lot of people, especially on newspapers, give me a lot of taffy just because I can drive fast. What I need is someone like you to make me realize what a roughneck I am.”
She looked at him clear-eyed, and pondered: “I’m afraid most of the Apogee boys think I’m rather prim.”
“They would! That’s why they’re stuck in Apogee.” Buffum searched her eyes and speculated: “I wonder if we aren’t alike in this way: Neither of us content to plod. Most people never think of why they’re living. They reckon and guess and s’pose that maybe some day they’ll do better, and then — bing!— they’re dead. But you and I— I seem — I’ve known you a long time. Will you remember me?”
“Oh, yes. There aren’t so many seventy-an-hour people in Apogee!”
From the gate Roy Bender was bellowing: “Ready in two minutes, boss!”
Buffum was on his feet, drawing on his gauntlets and leather coat. She looked at him gravely, while he urged:
“Going on. Day from now, the strain will begin to kind of get me. Will you think about me then? Will you wireless me some good thoughts?”
“Yes!”— very quietly. He yanked off his big gauntlet. He felt her hand fragile in his. Then he was gone, marching down the walk, climbing into the car, demanding of Roy: “Look over oil and battery and ev’thing?”
“You bet. We did everything,” said the garage man, “Get a little rest?”
“Yes. Had a chance to sit in the shade and loaf.”
“Saw you talking to Aurilla Rivers —”
Roy interrupted: “All right, all right, boss. Shoot!”
Buffum heard the garage man out:
“Fine girl, Aurilla is. Smart’s a whip. She’s a real swell. Born and brought up here, too.”
“Who’s this that Miss Rivers is engaged to?” Buffum risked.
“Well, I guess probably she’ll marry Reverend Dawson. He’s a dried-up old stick but he comes from the East. Some day she’ll get tired of school teaching, and he’ll grab her. Marry in haste and repent at Reno, like the fellow says.”
“That’s right. Fix up the bill, Roy? G’by.”
Buffum was off. Five minutes later he was six and three-quarters miles away. In his mind was but one thought — to make up the lost time; in his eyes was no vision save speedometer and the road that rushed toward him.
A little after dark he rumbled at Roy: “Here. Take her. Going to get some sleep.” He did sleep, for an hour, then struggling into full wakefulness he dug his knuckles into his eyes like a sleepy boy, glanced at the speedometer, laid a hand on the steering wheel and snapped at Roy: “All right. Move over.”
At dawn nothing existed in the world save the compulsion to keep her at top speed. The earth was shut off from him by a wall of roar and speed. He did not rouse to human feeling even when he boomed into Columbus Circle, the breaker of the record.
He went instantly to bed: slept twenty-six and one-quarter hours, then attended a dinner given to himself, and made a speech that was unusually incoherent, because all through he remembered that he was due in San Francisco in eight days. He was to sail for Japan, and a road race round the shore of Hondo. Before he returned, Aurilla Rivers would undoubtedly have married the Reverend Mr. Dawson, have gone to Cape Cod on her wedding trip. She would think only with disgust of large men with grease on their faces.
He could take one day for the trip up and back. He could get to Cape Cod more quickly by motor than by train. He was going to have one more hour with Aurilla, on his way to San Francisco. He would be more interesting to her if he could gossip of her ancestral background. He could take pictures of the place to her, and perhaps an old chair from the mansion. As he drove down Front Street, in West Harlepool, he saw the house quite as it had appeared in Aurilla’s picture with the name-board of a wrecked ship over the woodshed, the Penninah Sparrow.
Down the road was a one-room shop with the sign “Gaius Bearse, Gen’l Merchandise. Clam Forks, Windmills, and Souvenirs.” Out on the porch poked a smallish man. Buffum ambled toward him and saw that the man was very old.
“Good morning. This Cap’n Bearse?” inquired Buffum.
“Uh, uh! Say — uh, Cap’n, can you tell me who’s living in the Rivers mansion now?”
“The which mansion?”
“Rivers. The house across there.”
“Huh! That’s the Kendrick house.”
“But it was built by a Rivers.”
“No, ‘twa’n’t. That house was built by Cap’n Cephas. Kendricks living in it ever since. Owned now by William Dean Kendrick. He’s in the wool business, in Boston, but his folks comes down every summer. I ought to know. The Kendricks are kin of mine.”
“B-but where did the Riverses live?”
“The Riverses? Oh, them! Come from the West, don’t ye? Spend the summer here?”
“No. What makes you think I come from the West?”
“Rivers went out there. Bradley Rivers. He the one you’re thinking of?”
“Friend of yours —”
“No. Just happened to hear about him.”
“Well, I’ll tell you. There never was any Rivers family.”
“The father of this here Bradley Rivers called himself Zenas Rivers. But land, Zenas’ right name was Fernao Ribeiro. He was nothing but a Portygee deckhand. Fernao, or Zenas, became a wrecker. He was a good hand in a dory, but when he was drinking, he was a caution for snakes. He come straight from the Cape Verde Islands.”
“I understand Bradley Rivers’ ancestors were howling aristocrats, and came over on the Mayflower.”
“Maybe so, maybe so. Aristocrats at drinking Jamaica rum, I guess. But they didn’t come on no Mayflower. Zenas Rivers came over on the brig Jennie B. Smith!”
“I understand Zenas owned this — this Kendrick House?”
“Him? Why, boy, if Zenas or Brad either ever set foot across the threshold of that house, it was to fill the wood box, or maybe sell lobsters!”
“B-but — what kind of looking man was Zenas?”
“Thick-set, dark-complected fellow — real Portygee.”
“Didn’t he have a Roman nose?”
“Him? Huh! Had a nose like a herring.”
“But Bradley had a Roman nose. Where’d he get it?”
“From his maw. She was a Yankee, but her folks wa’n’t much account. So she married Zenas. Brad Rivers always was an awful liar. He came back here about seven-eight years ago, and he boasted he was the richest man in Kansas or maybe ’twas Milwaukee.”
“Did he buy a picture of the Kendrick mansion while he was here?”
“Believe he did. He got one of these artists to paint a picture of the Kendrick house. And he bought a couple of things of me — a horsehair sofy, and a picture of old Cap’n Gould that May Gould left here.”
“Did — did this Captain Gould in the portrait have a Roman nose? And side whiskers? Stern looking?”
“That’s him. What’s Brad been telling you, boy?”
“Nothing!” sighed Buffum. “Then Rivers was just a plain dub? Like me?”
“Plain? Brad Rivers? Well, Zenas sent Brad to school to Taunton for a year or so, but just the same, we always allowed he was so ordinary that there wa’n’t a dog belonging to a Kendrick or a Bearse or a Doane that would bite him. Ask any of the old codgers in town.”
“I will, but — thanks.”
He came down from the Apogee street, inconspicuously creeping through the dust, a large, amiable man in a derby.
He had only fifty-one minutes before the return of the Apogee branch train to the junction to connect with the next express westward.
He rang; he pounded at the front door; he went round to the back; and there he discovered Aurilla’s mother, washing napkins. She looked at him over her spectacles, and she sniffed: “Yes?”
“Do you remember I came through here recently? Racing car? I wanted to see Miss Rivers for a moment.”
“You can’t. She’s at school, teaching.”
“When will she be back? It’s four now.”
“Maybe right away, maybe not till six.”
His train left at four-forty-nine. He waited on the front steps. It was four-twenty-one when Aurilla Rivers came along the walk. He rushed to her, his watch in his hand, and before she could speak, he was pouring out:
“‘Member me? Darn glad! Got less ‘n twenty-eight minutes before have to catch train San Francisco steamer Japan possibly India afterwards glad to see me please oh please don’t be a Rivers be Aurilla just got twenty-seven ‘n’ half minutes glad?”
“Why — why — ye-es —”
“Thought about me?”
“Ever wish I might come shooting through again?”
“You’re so egotistical!”
“No, just in a hurry. Only got twenty-seven minutes more! Ever wish I’d come back? Oh — please! Can’t you hear the Japan steamer whistling — calling us?”
“Like to see it?”
“Will you come with me? I’ll have a preacher meet us on the train. If you’ll phone to Detroit, find out all about me. Come! Quick! Marry me! Just twenty-six and a half more.”
She could only whisper in answer: “No. I mustn’t think of it. It tempts me. But Mother would never consent.”
“What has your mother to do —”
“Everything! With our people, the individual is nothing, the family’s sacred. I must think of Bradley Rivers, and old Zenas, and hundreds of fine old Yankees, building up something so much bigger than just one individual happiness. It’s, oh, noblesse oblige!” How could he, in face of her ancestor worship, tell the truth? He burst out:
“But you’d like to? Aurilla! Just twenty-five minutes now!” He chucked his watch into his pocket. “See here. I want to kiss you. I’m going seven thousand miles away, and I can’t stand it, unless — I’m going to kiss you, there under the grape arbor!” His fingers slipped under her elbow.
She came reluctantly, appealing, “No, no, please, no!” till he swept the words away with a kiss, and in the kiss she forgot all that she had said, and clung to him, begging: “Oh, don’t go away. Don’t leave me here in this dead village. Stay here — catch the next steamer! Persuade Mother —”
“I must catch this one. I’m due there — big race. Come!”
“With — without clothes?”
“Buy ’em on way — San Francisco!”
“No, I mustn’t. And there are others to consider besides Mother.”
“Mr. Dawson? Really care for him?”
“He’s very gentle and considerate and really such a good scholar. Mother wants Mr. Dawson to get a pastorate on Cape Cod, and she thought that way I might pick up with the old threads, and be a real Rivers again. As Mrs. Dawson, I could find the old house and all —” She was interrupted by his two hands behind her shoulders, by his eyes searching hers with a bitter honesty.
“Don’t you ever get tired of ancestors?” he cried.
“I do not! Whatever I may be — they were splendid. Once in a mutiny on the clipper that he was commanding, Zenas Rivers —”
“Dear, there wasn’t any Zenas Rivers. He was a Portuguese immigrant named Ribeiro, Fernao Ribeiro. The picture there in the house is a Captain Gould.”
She had slipped from his embrace. But he went steadily on, trying with eyes and voice to make her understand his tenderness:
“Old Zenas was a squat, dark chap, a wrecker, and not very nice. The first real aristocrat in your family is you.”
“Wait! You mean that — that it wasn’t any of it true? But the Rivers’ mansion?”
“There isn’t any. The house in the picture has always belonged to the Kendricks. I’ve just been on Cape Cod, and I found —”
“It isn’t true? Not any of it, about the Rivers —”
“None of it. I didn’t mean to tell you. If you don’t believe me, you can write.”
“Oh, don’t! Wait!” She turned, looked to the right. He remembered that down the street to the right was a rise of ground with a straggly village cemetery. She murmured:
“Poor Dad! I loved him, oh, so much, but — I know Dad told fibs. But never to harm people. Just because he wanted us to be proud of him. Mr.— what is your name?”
He followed her swift steps into the house, into the room of the shrined portraits. She looked from “Zenas Rivers” to the sketch of the “Rivers’ Mansion.” She patted the glass over her father’s photograph. She blew the dust from her fingers. She sighed: “It smells musty in here, so musty!” She ran to the mahogany chest of drawers and took out a sheet of parchment. On it, he saw, was a coat of arms. She picked up a pencil, turned over the parchment, and drew a flying motor car.
She turned and thrust the sketch at him, crying: “There’s the coat of arms of the family to come, the crest of a new aristocracy that knows how to work!” With a solemnity that wasn’t solemn at all, he intoned: “Miss Rivers, would you mind marrying me, somewhere between here and California?”
“Yes,” he kissed her —“if you can make”— she kissed him —“Mother understand. She has friends and a little money. She can get along without me. But she believes the aristocracy fable.”
“May I lie to her?”
“Why, once might be desirable.”
“I’ll tell her my mother was a Kendrick of Harlepool, and I’ll be terribly top-lofty, but in a hurry — especially the hurry! Just got thirteen minutes now!”
From the hall sounded Mrs. Rivers’ petulant voice: “Aurilly!”
“If you and that man are going to catch the train, you better be starting.”
“W-w-why,” Aurilla gasped; then, to Buffum: “I’ll run right up and pack my bag.”
“It’s all ‘tended to, Aurilly. Minute I saw that dratted man coming again, I knew he’d be in a hurry. But I do think you might let me know my son-inlaw’s name before you go. You only got eleven minutes. You better hurry — hurry — hurry!”