Striving mightily to get her story back on track, Violet Crepuscular plunges into Chapter CCCXXXIX of her epic romance, Oy, Rodney.
At his wit’s end, with his marriage to Lady Margo Cargo still hanging fire (“I am not sure exactly what that means,” Ms. Crepuscular admits), Lord Jeremy Coldsore is desperate for good advice. His boon companion, the American adventurer Willis Twombley, gives him some.
“What about that guy who they locked up for bein’ flat-out crazy, Germy?” Twombley says. “Betcha he can help.”
The man in question is Lord Devius Scrumble, Baronet, who has been locked up for his insane prediction that there will one day be horseless carriages that run on internal combustion engines. As a peer of the realm, he has been locked up at home and is allowed to receive visitors. Jeremy and Twombley go to see him.
Before they can present their problem to him, Lord Devius insists on telling them all about his new invention.
“Once every man in England has his own horseless carriage,” says the mad baronet, “they will all need parking space and there will never be quite enough space to go around. I have therefore invented The Parking Meter. Installed at regular intervals along the streets of all our towns and cities, these devices will ensure that no one just parks his horseless carriage in front of a shop and leaves it there. The Parking Meter, upon the deposition of a penny into this slot, will measure the time; and each horseless carriage that is parked in that space will not be allowed to exceed the time paid for. Thus there will always be spaces that are about to become available, and the towns will acquire a steady source of revenue.”
Lord Jeremy wonders, “What’s so daft about that? It sounds like a good idea.” But Twombley asks, “How much time does your penny buy you, ol’ hoss?”
Lord Devius draws himself up to his full height of three feet, seventeen inches, and proudly replies, “Four seconds, man! Four seconds! If you need another four seconds, you have to put another penny in. This will revolutionize England’s urban life!” He then breaks into uncontrollable laughter.
“The moral of the story,” adds Ms. Crepuscular, “is, ‘Shop fast!'”