"There!" said Mrs. Markin triumphantly as
she pulled on the emergency brake and shut off the ignition. "Your
nasty remarks about women drivers don't apply to me at any rate. I
didn't have a single accident all day!"
Frank Markin, waiting anxiously
for his wife's return with the brand-new car, breathed a sigh of relief as
she turned into the driveway beside the house.
"Good work, Mary," he admitted.
"Are you sure you didn't so much as scrape fenders with anybody? "
He walked around the car, inspecting it
with a critical eye and then stopped suddenly with his gaze riveted on the
gasoline tank. "So you didn't have any accidents?" he exclaimed.
"Then what put that big dent in the gasoline tank? You're not going to
tell me it dented itself, I hope."
"Oh!" gasped Mary, "I didn't do that!
I know I didn't back into anybody, and I'm sure nobody ran into me. It
must have been done while I was in the stores."
"Humph!" grunted Markin, obviously
puzzled. "I'll be darned if I see how anyone could have dented that
tank so badly without damaging the spare tire or knocking any paint off the
And there doesn't seem to be any
particular spot on the tank that looks as if it had been hit. I'll
drive it down to the service station.
"The foreman of the service station,
after one glance at the apparently dented tank, inspected it with unusual
care. "I know what did that, but it's the first time I've seen it
happen in a dog's age," he finally announced. Let's have a look at the
He unscrewed the cap on the
gasoline tank and examined it minutely.
"The vent hole wasn't drilled all
the way through," he explained, "and the air couldn't get in to replace the
gasoline that was being drawn out by the vacuum in the manifold. There
must have been a little, leaking in around the threads so that the vacuum
created in the gasoline tank was relieved between the fillings of the vacuum
tank, otherwise the motor would have stalled. As it was, the vacuum
ran high enough so that the air pressure outside pushed in the side of the
tank. Run her in and we'll fit a new tank. It's our fault, of
Markin did as directed, relieved to know that it wasn't going to cost him
anything. "It wasn't a smash-up, after all," he told his wife
cheerfully when he reached home.
Their plans for the evening
included dinner at their friends, the Barkers. They had promised to be
there before seven, and it was nearly six now. So they started out
immediately. Markin drove slowly and carefully for five miles, until
the snail's pace began to make Mrs. Markin fidgety.
"If you keep poking along
like this we'll never get there," she worried.
"All right then, we won't!"
retorted Markin. "I'm not going to ruin the car by driving it fast.
You can bet on that. Lots of cars are spoiled just by driving hard the
first few hundred miles, I want you to understand that I know how to handle
an automobile," he finished loftily.
But hardly had he finished
speaking when the regular explosions of the motor stopped completely and the
car coasted to a standstill.
"Now you're giving the motor a
rest so it won't be overstrained, I suppose," Mrs. Markin couldn't resist
remarking as her husband climbed out and raised the hood.
"I am not," snapped Markin.
"It quit on me, and from the sudden way that motor ceased firing it must be
a wire that's come loose somewhere. Don't worry, I'll find it in a
However, a casual inspection
failed to reveal any disconnected wires, so Markin got out the new tool kit
and systematically applied the pliers to one connection after another until
he had tested them all. Every one appeared to be perfectly tight.
"That's funny," he said. "There's nothing wrong with the connections
as far as I can see. I wonder if something has happened to the timer?
Ah, now I've found it. The spring that holds the contacts together is
broken. And I haven't a spare one."
"Standing there looking glum won't
fix it," suggested Mrs. Markin.
"Here, take this safety pin and see if
you can't hold it together somehow."
"This is an automobile - not the
baby's clothes," growled her husband. "Still I might be able to head
up a spring that will work till I can get a new one. Give it to me and
I'll see what I can do."
He worked steadily a few minutes,
then; "I've got it!" he exclaimed jubilantly.
The motor started at once when he
stepped on the self-starter, and ran smoothly, although it did miss a bit
when he speeded up to twenty-five miles an hour.
Auto troubles seem to run in
streaks. The Markins must have been in the midst of a particularly
unlucky streak, for they had gone only a few miles when the motor abruptly
"I suppose that confounded safety
pin has slipped," he grumbled as he raised the hood. "But it seems to
still on the job. The contact works fine. Turn on the ignition
switch again while I see if the current is going through the contacts all
right. Lots of juice here, apparently," he went on. "It even
makes a fat spark at the contacts. The distributor looks perfect, and
certainly all the spark plugs couldn't have gone dead at exactly the same
time. I guess it must be in the carburetor this time - maybe a chunk
of dirt stuck in the needle valve."
Markin cleaned out the carburetor,
taking care to do a thoroughly complete job, for he had experienced a
somewhat similar trouble with his old car. It did no good; the motor
refused to fire. He tried the compression and found it excellent.
Then in desperation he went over the ignition system again, including the
removal and inspection of each spark plug.
"Ouch!" he exclaimed involuntarily
as he got a severe shock. He had carelessly held the distributor in
one hand, working the contact points with the other. "There's some
kick in that spark coil - I felt it shoot clear up my arm!"
Finally he threw down his tools in
disgust. "Aw, rate!" he grunted. "You wait here while I go
telephone for help...