All of a sudden the green sedan slackened speed. “Tricked!” said I. “Worse than tricked,” said Jim, looking out the window.

By Gregory Clark, Illustrated by James Frise, February 26, 1938.

“Oh, oh, did you see that?” shouted Jimmie Frise.

“It was an accident,” I assured him. “At this season of the year, everybody ought to expect to get splashed a little.”

“Oh, yeah?” cried Jim. “Why, that car deliberately swerved to one side to slash through that big puddle. And he shot up sheet of muddy slush and water all over those two poor girls.”

Jim was craning his neck to look back.

“They’re standing there,” said Jim, “soaked and filthy, with a lot of passers-by. What a shame!”

“They sure got a slather,” I admitted, slowing our car slightly so as to ooze through a puddle. “But it’s easy to forget about puddles. If we hadn’t noticed the guy splash those girls, I would have just sailed right through that last puddle.”

“The onus is on the motorist,” stated Jim.

“Why?” I demanded. “Isn’t there some responsibility on the pedestrian to look out for puddles?

“Listen,” said Jim, “all law boils down to common sense. There have always been puddles and slush at this time of the year. There were puddles before there were people. There were people before there were cars. The cars make the splash. Therefore it is the car’s fault.”

“No,” I said, slowing down for another big puddle, for which kindness several ladies and gentlemen on foot smiled gratefully at me, “the onus is on the community. Cars are no longer an incident or an accident. They are here to stay. Therefore, the community should eliminate puddles. It is the duty of the city to keep the streets drained. In a modern city, slush and puddles are as preposterous as corduroy roads would be.”

“But people,” explained Jimmie, “move at lot faster than society. It will be years before any city reaches the point of spending enough money to keep its streets drained so that nobody can be splashed. Meantime, thousands of people are going to be subjected to the indignity of being sprayed with filth, not to mention the damage done to their clothes. I say, until society reaches that stage of development, the onus should be on the motor car, and we ought to have a by-law against splashing. A car that splashes ought to be made to pay for the damage it does.”

“No, Jim,” I explained patiently, “that isn’t the way society develops. What we really want is streets so free of puddles, so beautifully drained at all seasons, that nobody can splash and nobody can be splashed. Isn’t that, right?”

“In the meantime…” started Jim.

“No, no,” I cried. “If we merely take the half-measure of a little law that allows injured parties to collect damages for ruined clothes, we won’t get anywhere. Some will use the law and others will just let it pass. Some will abuse the law, deliberately getting themselves splashed or even accusing the wrong car of splashing them. There will be measly people, who will stand for hours around a puddle waiting for a big wealthy car to come by, and then they’ll accuse the big car of ruining their clothes and collect.”

“We Must Have Outrages”

“Do you prefer that splashing go right on?” said Jim drily.

“To get reform,” I informed him, “we must have outrages. Good, strong, vigorous outrages. If there is anything I hate, it is a meek and half-hearted outrage. Or an outrage partly healed with lukewarm by-laws. Let the splashing continue, say I, until the outrage rouses the whole city, and they demand the true cure – which is, proper street cleaning and drainage, in recognition of the mutual rights of motor cars and of pedestrians.”

“You’re a Fascist,” accused Jimmie. “You want all or nothing. We democrats are satisfied with a partial cure, which at least gives us hope of healing.”

“Democrats,” I suggested, “must be mostly lawyers. Democracy is an evasive middle ground, with lots of room for argument and plenty of scope for smart guys to beat the rules.”

“Then, if you’re so fond of outrages,” inquired Jim, “why do you slow up for all the puddles? I’d expect you, from your talk, to be going around looking for big puddles and crowds of people to splash. Thus promoting the great reform.”

“My humanity always gets the better of my beliefs,” I confessed.

“Yah,” taunted Jim, “then you’re nothing but a democrat after all.”

“Pardon me,” I protested, “but some of the kindliest and most humane people in the world splash their fellow men unwittingly. And some of the most tolerant and Christian people in the world, the minute they get splashed, turn into raging bolsheviks. It isn’t what you believe that matters in life, it’s what happens to you.”

“Then,” said Jim, “all your feelings about this annual splashing bee in our fair city depend upon the fact that you are now driving a car and in a position to be a splasher. If you were a splashee, walking in the street, your ideas would be the opposite.”

“We’re getting somewhere,” I admitted, “at last.”

“No, Jim,” I said, settling more comfortably behind the wheel, “this whole field of traffic and motor cars and driving needs to be organized. We educate our children for nearly twelve compulsory years of school, in all the human relations, so that when they go out into the world, they will be social-minded. Without much more delay, we will have to introduce into our schools classes and courses in traffic.”

“When a boy or girl leaves school,” agreed Jim, “at 16 years of age, he ought to have his driver’s permit.”

“Precisely,” I cried. “That’s it. We give them training in public speaking and manual training and domestic science, but the one field in which they are most likely to get into trouble in life, either as drivers or pedestrians, we completely ignore.”

“If we started now,” declared Jim, “with a half-hour period on traffic every day from the kindergarten right through to the high schools, we would have the most perfect city in the world in 12 years.”

“Jim,” I declared, “you ought to run for the board of education. I tell you, you’ve got hold of a wonderful idea there.”

“Public life,” said Jim, off-handedly, “doesn’t appeal to me.”

Depends on Who’s Splashed

But still, it is a nice feeling to sit in a car full of imposing ideas and gratifying notions such as running for the board of education. Jim and I were sitting there, enjoying the sensation which is not unlike the sensation of a fine big dinner, when without warning, a large green sedan swerved past us at 35 miles an hour, we hitting our usual 25. And to pass us, the green sedan had to swipe through a large puddle on the off-side of the street.

From the fat tires of the sedan a sheet of filthy and muddy slush and water rose eight feet in the air. Like a fire hose, it lashed that filth all over us, making a loud sound. And a few cupfuls of the muck came through the slightly open window all over both of us. Our windshield was darkened with it. We were inundated.

I snapped on the windshield wiper.

“Look,” I shouted. “The beggar’s laughing at us.”

The green sedan had slacked speed, and we could see its driver and the lady with him turn to peer through the rear-view mirror. The man’s shoulders were shaking in mirth, and he waved an insolent hand at us.

“Git him,” grated Jimmie.

I stepped on the gas.

“I’ll git him,” I vowed, “there’s some swell puddles farther along.”

We gathered speed in the wake of the green sedan. But the driver of it, glancing in his mirror, saw us speeding up and he put on speed too.

“Boy,” I said, “will I ever give you a bath, my pretty lad!”

His car was shiny and svelte, despite the weather.

“As you pass him,” said Jim excitedly, “sort of curve around him and put on your brakes slightly. That will pick up a deluge.”

“Leave it to me,” I assured. “I know the very puddle.”

The green sedan allowed me to approach within a couple of car lengths.

“He thinks it’s a swell joke.” I muttered.

But when I started to draw ahead, he too stepped a little on the gas, with that air of ease that seems to go with green sedans.

“It isn’t going to be easy to catch that guy,” suggested Jim.

“This old crate,” I stated, “can catch anything.”

“What I’ll do,” I planned, “is make a few false starts to pass him, and that will give him a sense of security. Then suddenly I’ll really give her the gun.”

“Strategy,” agreed Jim. “Does it ever pay to be an old soldier?”

And with a gloating inside us, we began to make false starts after our green sedan friends. With a sudden tramp on the gas, I would start to creep up and swerve out as if to pass, and he, watching in his mirror, would step on the gas and leap ahead.

Four times I did this, until, the fourth time, he was so amused at what he believed to be his superior power that he barely speeded at all.

“Hah, hah,” I laughed, “now, my little playmate, comes the deluge.”

And this time tramping on the gas with all my weight and leaving it there, I had the supreme pleasure of feeling the old schooner plunge ahead and start to overhaul the enemy. Ahead, I glimpsed a gleaming sheet of slush and water. But our eyes were glued on the green shining body of the sedan.

“Watch, Jim, watch!” I exulted, as we started to come level with the now racing sedan.

“Oh, boy, what timing!” shouted Jim.

“I Saw the Whole Thing”

But all of a sudden the sedan slacked speed so that it fairly shot out of sight behind us.

“Tricked, by heaven!” I shouted as we crashed through the puddle, heaving a vast curve of mud and slush up beside us.

“Ouch,” hissed Jim. “Worse than tricked.”

“Huh?” I asked, braking.

“A policeman,” said Jim, brokenly. “An officer was sitting on his motorcycle just at the curb.

Through my rear view mirror, I saw, indeed, a motorcycle officer just rousing to action.

“Oh dear!” said I, panicky for a moment. We hit a series of bumps in the road. I skidded and twisted dizzily then shot ahead.

“Look out,” said Jim, “the officer’ll think you’re a hit-and-run driver!”

Looking in the mirror I could see a broad smile on the face of the man in the green sedan.

“Jim,” said I. “Do you know what I think?”

“Yes,” said Jim, “that green sedan deliberately tricked you into splashing the motorcycle officer.”

The green sedan, with a slight ironic toot of its horn, went decorously past us. I did not follow it with my eyes. My eyes were rearward. At 12 miles an hour, I let her chug. And sure as fate itself, the officer followed, drew alongside, signalled us and we pulled to the side of the road.

“Oh, oh, oh,” I said with pain, as I beheld the policeman all slush from helmet to feet.

“Oh, oh,” said Jim.

The policeman heaved himself stiffly off the cycle. He shook himself laboriously, like a St. Bernard. He stood looking down at himself, his arms stiff, his fingers stiff, letting it drip.

Patiently he drew a handkerchief from within the bosom of his coat and stiffly wiped his face. Then he advanced.

“Well?” he said. Grief not anger filled his mien.

“Officer,” I said. “I can’t tell you how sorry…”

“It wasn’t your fault,” said the officer sadly. “I saw the whole thing.”

Jim and I sat speechless.

“Yes, sir,” said the officer, “I saw the whole thing. The car ahead of you seeing the puddle suddenly slacked and you had to pull out around him. On account of him you couldn’t see me. Yet even if you had of seen me, what could you of done?”

Jim and I sat speechless.

“Yes,” sighed the officer, still wiping his face and the back of his neck and digging in his ears. “I saw it all.”

“We’re dreadfully sorry, none the less,” I said warmly.

“Oh, I shouldn’t wonder,” agreed the officer at last putting his dark hanky away and reaching back for his little book.

“I’ll just take your name, anyway,” he said, “in case I ever need witnesses as to how I come to get all wet like that.”

He slowly licked the pages of his little book open and found a lovely clean spot.

“Let’s just take a look at your driver’s permit,” he said, kindly, “so as to get the spelling right, and that sort of thing.”

I showed him my permit. He took down my name, carefully, and checked front and back license plates and wrote down my number thoughtfully.

Jim nudged me sharply.

“Well,” sighed the policeman, closing his book. “Thank you, gents, I guess you can be on your way.”

“Good day, officer,” I said, anxiously.

“Toot, toot,” said he, languidly wiggling his fingers at us.

We drove off. Slowly.

“How fast was I going when we hit that puddle, Jim?” I asked harshly.

“Fifty,” said Jim.

“H’m,” said I.

So now we are waiting for the blue paper.

Editor’s Notes: A corduroy road is an old pioneer type road made of logs lain next to the other.

They use the terms fascist and bolshevik (communist) fairly loosely here, but in 1938 there were still fascist and communist governments.

I’m assuming the blue paper would be a traffic ticket or summons? Maybe back then the police only took your information and the official ticket came in the mail later?

When the Greg-Jim stories started and they were still figuring out the format, it was not uncommon to have more than one illustration. That there were two drawings in this story, 6 years after they started, is unusual.