The City of Fire (Chapter 6, page 2 of 10)


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Chapter 6

Billy watched anxiously for a streak of light in the East, but none had
come as yet. The moon had left the earth darker than darkness when it
went.

He tried to think what he should do. His bicycle was lying in the
bushes and he ought to get it before daylight. If they went near the
station he would drop off and pick it up. Then he would scuttle through
the woods and get to the Crossroads, and beat it down to the Blue Duck
Tavern. That was the only place open all night where he could
telephone. He didn't like to go to the Blue Duck Tavern on account of
his aunt. She had once made him promise most solemnly, bringing in
something about his dead mother, that he would never go to the Blue
Duck Tavern. But this was a case of necessity, and dead mothers, if
they cared at all, ought to understand. He had a deep underlying faith
in the principle of what a mother--at any rate a dead mother--would be
like. And anyhow, this wasn't the kind of "going" to the Tavern his
aunt had meant. He was keeping the spirit of the promise if not the
letter. In his code the spirit meant much more than the letter--at
least on this occasion. There were often times when he rigidly adhered
to the letter and let the spirit take care of itself, but this was not
one.

But if, on the other hand they did not take Pat all the way back to the
crossing by the station it would be even better for him, for the road
on which they now were passed within a quarter of a mile of the Blue
Duck Tavern, and he could easily beat the car to the state line, by
dropping off and running.

But suddenly and without warning it became apparent that Pat was to be
let out to walk to the station crossing, and Billy had only a second to
decide what to do, while Pat lumbered swearing down from the car. If he
got off now he would have to wait till Pat was far ahead before he
dared go after his wheel, and he would lose so much time there would be
no use in trying to save the car. On the other hand if he stayed on the
car he was liable to be seen by Pat, and perhaps caught. However, this
seemed the only possible way to keep the car from destruction and loss,
so he wriggled himself into his seat more firmly, tucked his legs
painfully up under him, covered his face with his cap, and hid his
hands in his pockets.

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