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Selected Short Stories of William Le Queux

A Move on the Forty, a Run with Rosalie, a Sentimental Swindle, the Six New Novels, and the Story of a Secret

380 pages
Library of Alexandria
IN Paris, in Rome, in Florence, in Berlin, in Vienna- in fact, over half the face of Europe, from the Pyrenees to the Russian frontier- I am now known as "The Count's Chauffeur." An Englishman, as my name, George Ewart denotes, I am of cosmopolitan birth and education, my early youth being spent on the Continent, where my father was agent for a London firm. When I was fourteen, my father, having prospered, came to London, and established himself as an agent in Wood Street, City, representing a great firm of silk manufacturers in Lyons. At twenty I tried City life, but an office with a high stool, a dusty ledger, and sandwich lunches, had no attraction for me. I had always had a turn for mechanics, but was never allowed to adopt engineering as a profession, my father's one idea being that I should follow in his footsteps- a delusive hope entertained by many a fond parent. Six months of office life sufficed me. One day I went home to Teddington and refused to return again to Wood Street. This resulted in an open quarrel between my father and myself, with the result that a week later I was on my way to Canada. In a year I was back again, and, after some months of semi-starvation in London, I managed to obtain a job in a motor factory. I was then entirely in my element. During two years I learned the mechanism of the various petrol-driven cars until I became classed as an expert driver and engineer. Where I was employed there was manufactured one of the best and most expensive makes of English car, and, being at length placed on the testing staff, it was my duty to take out each new chassis for its trial-run before being delivered to a customer. Upon my certificate each chassis was declared in perfect running order, and then handed over to the body-makers indicated by the purchaser. Being an expert driver, my firm sent me to drive in the Tourist Trophy races in the Isle of Man, and I likewise did the Ardennes Circuit and came in fourth in the Brescia race for the Florio Cup, my successes, of course, adding glory and advertisement to the car I drove. Racing, however, aroused within me, as it does in every motorist, an ardent desire to travel long distances. The testing of those chassis in Regent's Park, and an occasional run with some wealthy customer out on the Great North road or on the Bath or Brighton roads, became too quiet a life for me. I was now seized by a desire to tour and see Europe. True, in my capacity of tester, I met all classes of men. In the seat beside me have sat Cabinet Ministers, Dukes, Indian Rajahs, Members of Parliament, and merchant princes, customers or prospective purchasers, all of whom chatted with me, mostly displaying their ignorance of the first principles of mechanics. It was all pleasant enough- a merry life and good pay. Yet I hated London, and the height of my ambition was a good car to drive abroad.