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August 12 , 2007

Three Elephant Power and Other Stories


Them things, said Alfred the chauffeur, tapping the speed indicator with his fingers, "them things are all right for the police. But, Lord, you can fix 'em up if you want to. Did you ever hear about Henery, that used to drive for old John Bull—about Henery and the elephant?" Alfred was chauffeur to a friend of mine who owned a very powerful car. Alfred was part of that car. Weirdly intelligent, of poor physique, he might have been any age from fifteen to eighty. His education had been somewhat hurried, but there was no doubt as to his mechanical ability. He took to a car like a young duck to water. He talked motor, thought motor, and would have accepted—I won't say with enthusiasm, for Alfred's motto was 'Nil admirari'—but without hesitation, an offer to drive in the greatest race in the world. He could drive really well, too; as for belief in himself, after six months' apprenticeship in a garage he was prepared to vivisect a six-cylinder engine with the confidence of a diplomaed bachelor of engineering. Barring a tendency to flash driving, and a delight in persecuting slow cars by driving just in front of them and letting them come up and enjoy his dust, and then shooting away again, he was a respectable member of society. When his boss was in the car he cloaked the natural ferocity of his instincts; but this day, with only myself on board, and a clear run of a hundred and twenty miles up to the station before him, he let her loose, confident that if any trouble occurred I would be held morally responsible.
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