In the dull hot dusk of a summer's day a green touring-car,
swinging out of the East Drive, pulled up smartly, trembling, at
the edge of the Fifty-ninth Street car-tracks, then more sedately,
under the dispassionate but watchful eye of a mounted member of
the Traffic Squad, lurched across the Plaza and merged itself in
the press of vehicles south-bound on the Avenue.
Its tonneau held four young men, all more or less disguised in
dust, dusters and goggles; forward, by the side of the grimy and
anxious-eyed mechanic, sat a fifth, in all visible respects the
counterpart of his companions. Beneath his mask, and by this I do
not mean his goggles, but the mask of modern manner which the
worldly wear, he was, and is, different.
He was Daniel Maitland, Esquire; for whom no further introduction
should be required, after mention of the fact that he was, and
remains, the identical gentleman of means and position in the
social and financial worlds, whose somewhat sober but sincere and
whole-hearted participation in the wildest of conceivable
escapades had earned him the affectionate regard of the younger
set, together with the sobriquet of "Mad Maitland."
His companions of the day, the four in the tonneau, were in that
humor of subdued yet vibrant excitement which is apt to attend the
conclusion of a long, hard drive over country roads. Maitland, on
the other hand, (judging him by his preoccupied pose), was already
weary of, if not bored by, the hare-brained enterprise which,
initiated on the spur of an idle moment and directly due to a
thoughtless remark of his own, had brought him a hundred miles (or
so) through the heat of a broiling afternoon, accompanied by
spirits as ardent and irresponsible as his own, in search of the
dubious distraction afforded by the night side of the city.
As, picking its way with elephantine nicety, the motor-car
progressed down the Avenue--twilight deepening, arcs upon their
bronze columns blossoming suddenly, noiselessly into spheres of
opalescent radiance--Mr. Maitland ceased to respond, ceased even
to give heed, to the running fire of chaff (largely personal)
which amused his companions. Listlessly engaged with a cigarette,
he lounged upon the green leather cushions, half closing his eyes,
and heartily wished himself free for the evening.