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That Costly Ride
by [?]

The carriage was now far behind. When the horse arrived opposite the Palais de l’Industrie he saw a clear field before him, and, turning to the right, set off at a gallop.

An old woman wearing an apron was crossing the road in leisurely fashion. She happened to be just in Hector’s way as he arrived on the scene riding at full speed. Powerless to control his mount, he shouted at the top of his voice:

“Hi! Look out there! Hi!”

She must have been deaf, for she continued peacefully on her way until the awful moment when, struck by the horse’s chest as by a locomotive under full steam, she rolled ten paces off, turning three somersaults on the way.

Voices yelled:

“Stop him!”

Hector, frantic with terror, clung to the horse’s mane and shouted:

“Help! help!”

A terrible jolt hurled him, as if shot from a gun, over his horse’s ears and cast him into the arms of a policeman who was running up to stop him.

In the space of a second a furious, gesticulating, vociferating group had gathered round him. An old gentleman with a white mustache, wearing a large round decoration, seemed particularly exasperated. He repeated:

“Confound it! When a man is as awkward as all that he should remain at home and not come killing people in the streets, if he doesn’t know how to handle a horse.”

Four men arrived on the scene, carrying the old woman. She appeared to be dead. Her skin was like parchment, her cap on one side and she was covered with dust.

“Take her to a druggist’s,” ordered the old gentleman, “and let us go to the commissary of police.”

Hector started on his way with a policeman on either side of him, a third was leading his horse. A crowd followed them–and suddenly the wagonette appeared in sight. His wife alighted in consternation, the servant lost her head, the children whimpered. He explained that he would soon be at home, that he had knocked a woman down and that there was not much the matter. And his family, distracted with anxiety, went on their way.

When they arrived before the commissary the explanation took place in few words. He gave his name–Hector de Gribelin, employed at the Ministry of Marine; and then they awaited news of the injured woman. A policeman who had been sent to obtain information returned, saying that she had recovered consciousness, but was complaining of frightful internal pain. She was a charwoman, sixty-five years of age, named Madame Simon.

When he heard that she was not dead Hector regained hope and promised to defray her doctor’s bill. Then he hastened to the druggist’s. The door way was thronged; the injured woman, huddled in an armchair, was groaning. Her arms hung at her sides, her face was drawn. Two doctors were still engaged in examining her. No bones were broken, but they feared some internal lesion.

Hector addressed her:

“Do you suffer much?”

“Oh, yes!”

“Where is the pain?”

“I feel as if my stomach were on fire.”

A doctor approached.

“Are you the gentleman who caused the accident?”

“I am.”

“This woman ought to be sent to a home. I know one where they would take her at six francs a day. Would you like me to send her there?”

Hector was delighted at the idea, thanked him and returned home much relieved.

His wife, dissolved in tears, was awaiting him. He reassured her.

“It’s all right. This Madame Simon is better already and will be quite well in two or three days. I have sent her to a home. It’s all right.”

When he left his office the next day he went to inquire for Madame Simon. He found her eating rich soup with an air of great satisfaction.

“Well?” said he.

“Oh, sir,” she replied, “I’m just the same. I feel sort of crushed–not a bit better.”