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Strictly Business by O. Henry

Part 4 out of 5

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"Tommy," said Celia. "I'm no parlor maid. I've been fooling you. I'm
Miss Spraggins--Celia Spraggins. The newspapers say I'll be worth forty
million dollars some day."

Thomas pulled his cap down straight on his head for the first time since
we have known him.

"I suppose then," said he, "I suppose then you'll not be marrying me
next week. But you _can_ whistle."

"No," said Celia, "I'll not be marrying you next week. My father would
never let me marry a grocer's clerk. But I'll marry you to-night, Tommy,
if you say so."

Old Jacob Spraggins came home at 9:30 P. M., in his motor car. The make
of it you will have to surmise sorrowfully; I am giving you unsubsidized
fiction; had it been a street car I could have told you its voltage
and the number of wheels it had. Jacob called for his daughter; he had
bought a ruby necklace for her, and wanted to hear her say what a kind,
thoughtful, dear old dad he was.

There was a brief search in the house for her, and then came Annette,
glowing with the pure flame of truth and loyalty well mixed with envy
and histrionics.

"Oh, sir," said she, wondering if she should kneel, "Miss Celia's just
this minute running away out of the side gate with a young man to be
married. I couldn't stop her, sir. They went in a cab."

"What young man?" roared old Jacob.

"A millionaire, if you please, sir--a rich nobleman in disguise. He
carries his money with him, and the red peppers and the onions was only
to blind us, sir. He never did seem to take to me."

Jacob rushed out in time to catch his car. The chauffeur had been
delayed by trying to light a cigarette in the wind.

"Here, Gaston, or Mike, or whatever you call yourself, scoot around the
corner quicker than blazes and see if you can see a cab. If you do, run
it down."

There was a cab in sight a block away. Gaston, or Mike, with his eyes
half shut and his mind on his cigarette, picked up the trail, neatly
crowded the cab to the curb and pocketed it.

"What t'ell you doin'?" yelled the cabman.

"Pa!" shrieked Celia.

"Grandfather's remorseful friend's agent!" said Thomas. "Wonder what's
on his conscience now."

"A thousand thunders," said Gaston, or Mike. "I have no other match."

"Young man," said old Jacob, severely, "how about that parlor maid you
were engaged to?"

A couple of years afterward old Jacob went into the office of his
private secretary.

"The Amalgamated Missionary Society solicits a contribution of $30,000
toward the conversion of the Koreans," said the secretary.

"Pass 'em up," said Jacob.

"The University of Plumville writes that its yearly endowment fund of
$50,000 that you bestowed upon it is past due."

"Tell 'em it's been cut out."

"The Scientific Society of Clam Cove, Long Island, asks for $10,000 to
buy alcohol to preserve specimens."

"Waste basket."

"The Society for Providing Healthful Recreation for Working Girls wants
$20,000 from you to lay out a golf course."

"Tell 'em to see an undertaker."

"Cut 'em all out," went on Jacob. "I've quit being a good thing. I need
every dollar I can scrape or save. I want you to write to the directors
of every company that I'm interested in and recommend a 10 per cent. cut
in salaries. And say--I noticed half a cake of soap lying in a corner of
the hall as I came in. I want you to speak to the scrubwoman about
waste. I've got no money to throw away. And say--we've got vinegar
pretty well in hand, haven't we?'

"The Globe Spice & Seasons Company," said secretary, "controls the
market at present."

"Raise vinegar two cents a gallon. Notify all our branches."

Suddenly Jacob Spraggins's plump red face relaxed into a pulpy grin. He
walked over to the secretary's desk and showed a small red mark on his
thick forefinger.

"Bit it," he said, "darned if he didn't, and he ain't had the tooth
three weeks--Jaky McLeod, my Celia's kid. He'll be worth a hundred
millions by the time he's twenty-one if I can pile it up for him."

As he was leaving, old Jacob turned at the door, and said:

"Better make that vinegar raise three cents instead of two. I'll be back
in an hour and sign the letters."

The true history of the Caliph Harun Al Rashid relates that toward the
end of his reign he wearied of philanthropy, and caused to be beheaded
all his former favorites and companions of his "Arabian Nights" rambles.
Happy are we in these days of enlightenment, when the only death warrant
the caliphs can serve on us is in the form of a tradesman's bill.



HABIT--a tendency or aptitude acquired by custom or frequent

The critics have assailed every source of inspiration save one. To that
one we are driven for our moral theme. When we levied upon the masters
of old they gleefully dug up the parallels to our columns. When we
strove to set forth real life they reproached us for trying to imitate
Henry George, George Washington, Washington Irving, and Irving
Bacheller. We wrote of the West and the East, and they accused us
of both Jesse and Henry James. We wrote from our heart--and they
said something about a disordered liver. We took a text from Matthew
or--er--yes, Deuteronomy, but the preachers were hammering away at the
inspiration idea before we could get into type. So, driven to the wall,
we go for our subject-matter to the reliable, old, moral, unassailable
vade mecum--the unabridged dictionary.

Miss Merriam was cashier at Hinkle's. Hinkle's is one of the big
downtown restaurants. It is in what the papers call the "financial
district." Each day from 12 o'clock to 2 Hinkle's was full of hungry
customers--messenger boys, stenographers, brokers, owners of mining
stock, promoters, inventors with patents pending--and also people with

The cashiership at Hinkle's was no sinecure. Hinkle egged and toasted
and griddle-caked and coffeed a good many customers; and he lunched
(as good a word as "dined") many more. It might be said that Hinkle's
breakfast crowd was a contingent, but his luncheon patronage amounted
to a horde.

Miss Merriam sat on a stool at a desk inclosed on three sides by a
strong, high fencing of woven brass wire. Through an arched opening at
the bottom you thrust your waiter's check and the money, while your
heart went pit-a-pat.

For Miss Merriam was lovely and capable. She could take 45 cents out of
a $2 bill and refuse an offer of marriage before you could--Next!--lost
your chance--please don't shove. She could keep cool and collected while
she collected your check, give you the correct change, win your heart,
indicate the toothpick stand, and rate you to a quarter of a cent better
than Bradstreet could to a thousand in less time than it takes to pepper
an egg with one of Hinkle's casters.

There is an old and dignified allusion to the "fierce light that beats
upon a throne." The light that beats upon the young lady cashier's cage
is also something fierce. The other fellow is responsible for the slang.

Every male patron of Hinkle's, from the A. D. T. boys up to the
curbstone brokers, adored Miss Merriam. When they paid their checks
they wooed her with every wile known to Cupid's art. Between the meshes
of the brass railing went smiles, winks, compliments, tender vows,
invitations to dinner, sighs, languishing looks and merry banter that
was wafted pointedly back by the gifted Miss Merriam.

There is no coign of vantage more effective than the position of young
lady cashier. She sits there, easily queen of the court of commerce; she
is duchess of dollars and devoirs, countess of compliments and coin,
leading lady of love and luncheon. You take from her a smile and a
Canadian dime, and you go your way uncomplaining. You count the cheery
word or two that she tosses you as misers count their treasures; and
you pocket the change for a five uncomputed. Perhaps the brass-bound
inaccessibility multiplies her charms--anyhow, she is a shirt-waisted
angel, immaculate, trim, manicured, seductive, bright-eyed, ready,
alert--Psyche, Circe, and Ate in one, separating you from your
circulating medium after your sirloin medium.

The young men who broke bread at Hinkle's never settled with the cashier
without an exchange of badinage and open compliment. Many of them went
to greater lengths and dropped promissory hints of theatre tickets
and chocolates. The older men spoke plainly of orange blossoms,
generally withering the tentative petals by after-allusions to Harlem
flats. One broker, who had been squeezed by copper proposed to Miss
Merriam more regularly than he ate.

During a brisk luncheon hour Miss Merriam's conversation, while she took
money for checks, would run something like this:

"Good morning, Mr. Haskins--sir?--it's natural, thank you--don't be
quite so fresh . . . Hello, Johnny--ten, fifteen, twenty--chase along
now or they'll take the letters off your cap . . . Beg pardon--count
it again, please--Oh, don't mention it . . . Vaudeville?--thanks;
not on your moving picture--I was to see Carter in Hedda Gabler on
Wednesday night with Mr. Simmons . . . 'Scuse me, I thought that
was a quarter . . . Twenty-five and seventy-five's a dollar--got
that ham-and-cabbage habit yet. I see, Billy . . . Who are you
addressing?--say--you'll get all that's coming to you in a
minute . . . Oh, fudge! Mr. Bassett--you're always fooling--no--?
Well, maybe I'll marry you some day--three, four and sixty-five
is five . . . Kindly keep them remarks to yourself, if you
please . . . Ten cents?--'scuse me; the check calls for seventy--well,
maybe it is a one instead of a seven . . . Oh, do you like it that
way, Mr. Saunders?--some prefer a pomp; but they say this Cleo de
Merody does suit refined features . . . and ten is fifty . . . Hike
along there, buddy; don't take this for a Coney Island ticket
booth . . . Huh?--why, Macy's--don't it fit nice? Oh, no, it isn't too
cool--these light-weight fabrics is all the go this season . . . Come
again, please--that's the third time you've tried to--what?--forget
it--that lead quarter is an old friend of mine . . . Sixty-five?--must
have had your salary raised, Mr. Wilson . . . I seen you on Sixth
Avenue Tuesday afternoon, Mr. De Forest--swell?--oh, my!--who
is she? . . . What's the matter with it?--why, it ain't
money--what?--Columbian half?--well, this ain't South
America . . . Yes, I like the mixed best--Friday?--awfully
sorry, but I take my jiu-jitsu lesson on Friday--Thursday,
then . . . Thanks--that's sixteen times I've been told that this
morning--I guess I must be beautiful . . . Cut that out, please--who
do you think I am? . . . Why, Mr. Westbrook--do you really think
so?--the idea!--one--eighty and twenty's a dollar--thank you ever so
much, but I don't ever go automobile riding with gentlemen--your
aunt?--well, that's different--perhaps . . . Please don't get
fresh--your check was fifteen cents, I believe--kindly step aside and
let . . . Hello, Ben--coming around Thursday evening?--there's a
gentleman going to send around a box of chocolates, and . . . forty
and sixty is a dollar, and one is two . . ."

About the middle of one afternoon the dizzy goddess Vertigo--whose other
name is Fortune--suddenly smote an old, wealthy and eccentric banker
while he was walking past Hinkle's, on his way to a street car. A
wealthy and eccentric banker who rides in street cars is--move up,
please; there are others.

A Samaritan, a Pharisee, a man and a policeman who were first on the
spot lifted Banker McRamsey and carried him into Hinkle's restaurant.
When the aged but indestructible banker opened his eyes he saw a
beautiful vision bending over him with a pitiful, tender smile, bathing
his forehead with beef tea and chafing his hands with something frappé
out of a chafing-dish. Mr. McRamsey sighed, lost a vest button, gazed
with deep gratitude upon his fair preserveress, and then recovered

To the Seaside Library all who are anticipating a romance! Banker
McRamsey had an aged and respected wife, and his sentiments toward
Miss Merriam were fatherly. He talked to her for half an hour with
interest--not the kind that went with his talks during business hours.
The next day he brought Mrs. McRamsey down to see her. The old couple
were childless--they had only a married daughter living in Brooklyn.

To make a short story shorter, the beautiful cashier won the hearts
of the good old couple. They came to Hinkle's again and again; they
invited her to their old-fashioned but splendid home in one of the East
Seventies. Miss Merriam's winning loveliness, her sweet frankness and
impulsive heart took them by storm. They said a hundred times that Miss
Merriam reminded them so much of their lost daughter. The Brooklyn
matron, née Ramsey, had the figure of Buddha and a face like the ideal
of an art photographer. Miss Merriam was a combination of curves,
smiles, rose leaves, pearls, satin and hair-tonic posters. Enough of the
fatuity of parents.

A month after the worthy couple became acquainted with Miss Merriam, she
stood before Hinkle one afternoon and resigned her cashiership.

"They're going to adopt me," she told the bereft restaurateur. "They're
funny old people, but regular dears. And the swell home they have got!
Say, Hinkle, there isn't any use of talking--I'm on the à la carte to
wear brown duds and goggles in a whiz wagon, or marry a duke at least.
Still, I somehow hate to break out of the old cage. I've been cashiering
so long I feel funny doing anything else. I'll miss joshing the fellows
awfully when they line up to pay for the buckwheats and. But I can't let
this chance slide. And they're awfully good, Hinkle; I know I'll have a
swell time. You owe me nine-sixty-two and a half for the week. Cut out
the half if it hurts you, Hinkle."

And they did. Miss Merriam became Miss Rosa McRamsey. And she graced the
transition. Beauty is only skin-deep, but the nerves lie very near to
the skin. Nerve--but just here will you oblige by perusing again the
quotation with which this story begins?

The McRamseys poured out money like domestic champagne to polish their
adopted one. Milliners, dancing masters and private tutors got it.
Miss--er--McRamsey was grateful, loving, and tried to forget Hinkle's.
To give ample credit to the adaptability of the American girl, Hinkle's
did fade from her memory and speech most of the time.

Not every one will remember when the Earl of Hitesbury came to East
Seventy---- Street, America. He was only a fair-to-medium earl, without
debts, and he created little excitement. But you will surely remember
the evening when the Daughters of Benevolence held their bazaar in the
W----f-A----a Hotel. For you were there, and you wrote a note to Fannie
on the hotel paper, and mailed it, just to show her that--you did not?
Very well; that was the evening the baby was sick, of course.

At the bazaar the McRamseys were prominent. Miss Mer--er--McRamsey was
exquisitely beautiful. The Earl of Hitesbury had been very attentive to
her since he dropped in to have a look at America. At the charity bazaar
the affair was supposed to be going to be pulled off to a finish. An
earl is as good as a duke. Better. His standing may be lower, but his
outstanding accounts are also lower.

Our ex-young-lady-cashier was assigned to a booth. She was expected to
sell worthless articles to nobs and snobs at exorbitant prices. The
proceeds of the bazaar were to be used for giving the poor children of
the slums a Christmas din----Say! did you ever wonder where they get the
other 364?

Miss McRamsey--beautiful, palpitating, excited, charming,
radiant--fluttered about in her booth. An imitation brass network, with
a little arched opening, fenced her in.

Along came the Earl, assured, delicate, accurate, admiring--admiring
greatly, and faced the open wicket.

"You look chawming, you know--'pon my word you do--my deah," he said,

Miss McRamsey whirled around.

"Cut that joshing out," she said, coolly and briskly. "Who do you think
you are talking to? Your check, please. Oh, Lordy!--"

Patrons of the bazaar became aware of a commotion and pressed around a
certain booth. The Earl of Hitesbury stood near by pulling a pale blond
and puzzled whisker.

"Miss McRamsey has fainted," some one explained.



Spring winked a vitreous optic at Editor Westbrook of the _Minerva
Magazine_, and deflected him from his course. He had lunched in his
favorite corner of a Broadway hotel, and was returning to his office
when his feet became entangled in the lure of the vernal coquette. Which
is by way of saying that he turned eastward in Twenty-sixth Street,
safely forded the spring freshet of vehicles in Fifth Avenue, and
meandered along the walks of budding Madison Square.

The lenient air and the settings of the little park almost formed a
pastoral; the color motif was green--the presiding shade at the creation
of man and vegetation.

The callow grass between the walks was the color of verdigris, a
poisonous green, reminiscent of the horde of derelict humans that had
breathed upon the soil during the summer and autumn. The bursting tree
buds looked strangely familiar to those who had botanized among the
garnishings of the fish course of a forty-cent dinner. The sky above
was of that pale aquamarine tint that ballroom poets rhyme with "true"
and "Sue" and "coo." The one natural and frank color visible was the
ostensible green of the newly painted benches--a shade between the color
of a pickled cucumber and that of a last year's fast-black cravenette
raincoat. But, to the city-bred eye of Editor Westbrook, the landscape
appeared a masterpiece.

And now, whether you are of those who rush in, or of the gentle
concourse that fears to tread, you must follow in a brief invasion of
the editor's mind.

Editor Westbrook's spirit was contented and serene. The April number of
the _Minerva_ had sold its entire edition before the tenth day of the
month--a newsdealer in Keokuk had written that he could have sold fifty
copies more if he had 'em. The owners of the magazine had raised his
(the editor's) salary; he had just installed in his home a jewel of a
recently imported cook who was afraid of policemen; and the morning
papers had published in full a speech he had made at a publishers'
banquet. Also there were echoing in his mind the jubilant notes of a
splendid song that his charming young wife had sung to him before he
left his up-town apartment that morning. She was taking enthusiastic
interest in her music of late, practising early and diligently. When
he had complimented her on the improvement in her voice she had fairly
hugged him for joy at his praise. He felt, too, the benign, tonic
medicament of the trained nurse, Spring, tripping softly adown the wards
of the convalescent city.

While Editor Westbrook was sauntering between the rows of park benches
(already filling with vagrants and the guardians of lawless childhood)
he felt his sleeve grasped and held. Suspecting that he was about to be
panhandled, he turned a cold and unprofitable face, and saw that his
captor was--Dawe--Shackleford Dawe, dingy, almost ragged, the genteel
scarcely visible in him through the deeper lines of the shabby.

While the editor is pulling himself out of his surprise, a flashlight
biography of Dawe is offered.

He was a fiction writer, and one of Westbrook's old acquaintances.
At one time they might have called each other old friends. Dawe had
some money in those days, and lived in a decent apartment house near
Westbrook's. The two families often went to theatres and dinners
together. Mrs. Dawe and Mrs. Westbrook became "dearest" friends.
Then one day a little tentacle of the octopus, just to amuse itself,
ingurgitated Dawe's capital, and he moved to the Gramercy Park
neighborhood where one, for a few groats per week, may sit upon one's
trunk under eight-branched chandeliers and opposite Carrara marble
mantels and watch the mice play upon the floor. Dawe thought to live
by writing fiction. Now and then he sold a story. He submitted many
to Westbrook. The _Minerva_ printed one or two of them; the rest were
returned. Westbrook sent a careful and conscientious personal letter
with each rejected manuscript, pointing out in detail his reasons
for considering it unavailable. Editor Westbrook had his own clear
conception of what constituted good fiction. So had Dawe. Mrs. Dawe was
mainly concerned about the constituents of the scanty dishes of food
that she managed to scrape together. One day Dawe had been spouting to
her about the excellencies of certain French writers. At dinner they sat
down to a dish that a hungry schoolboy could have encompassed at a gulp.
Dawe commented.

"It's Maupassant hash," said Mrs. Dawe. "It may not be art, but I do
wish you would do a five-course Marion Crawford serial with an Ella
Wheeler Wilcox sonnet for dessert. I'm hungry."

As far as this from success was Shackleford Dawe when he plucked Editor
Westbrook's sleeve in Madison Square. That was the first time the editor
had seen Dawe in several months.

"Why, Shack, is this you?" said Westbrook, somewhat awkwardly, for the
form of his phrase seemed to touch upon the other's changed appearance.

"Sit down for a minute," said Dawe, tugging at his sleeve. "This is my
office. I can't come to yours, looking as I do. Oh, sit down--you won't
be disgraced. Those half-plucked birds on the other benches will take
you for a swell porch-climber. They won't know you are only an editor."

"Smoke, Shack?" said Editor Westbrook, sinking cautiously upon the
virulent green bench. He always yielded gracefully when he did yield.

Dawe snapped at the cigar as a kingfisher darts at a sunperch, or a girl
pecks at a chocolate cream.

"I have just--" began the editor.

"Oh, I know; don't finish," said Dawe. "Give me a match. You have just
ten minutes to spare. How did you manage to get past my office-boy and
invade my sanctum? There he goes now, throwing his club at a dog that
couldn't read the 'Keep off the Grass' signs."

"How goes the writing?" asked the editor.

"Look at me," said Dawe, "for your answer. Now don't put on that
embarrassed, friendly-but-honest look and ask me why I don't get a job
as a wine agent or a cab driver. I'm in the fight to a finish. I know I
can write good fiction and I'll force you fellows to admit it yet. I'll
make you change the spelling of 'regrets' to 'c-h-e-q-u-e' before I'm
done with you."

Editor Westbrook gazed through his nose-glasses with a sweetly
sorrowful, omniscient, sympathetic, skeptical expression--the
copyrighted expression of the editor beleagured by the unavailable

"Have you read the last story I sent you--'The Alarum of the Soul'?"
asked Dawe.

"Carefully. I hesitated over that story, Shack, really I did. It had
some good points. I was writing you a letter to send with it when it
goes back to you. I regret--"

"Never mind the regrets," said Dawe, grimly. "There's neither salve nor
sting in 'em any more. What I want to know is _why_. Come now; out with
the good points first."

"The story," said Westbrook, deliberately, after a suppressed sigh, "is
written around an almost original plot. Characterization--the best you
have done. Construction--almost as good, except for a few weak joints
which might be strengthened by a few changes and touches. It was a good
story, except--"

"I can write English, can't I?" interrupted Dawe.

"I have always told you," said the editor, "that you had a style."

"Then the trouble is--"

"Same old thing," said Editor Westbrook. "You work up to your climax
like an artist. And then you turn yourself into a photographer. I don't
know what form of obstinate madness possesses you, but that is what you
do with everything that you write. No, I will retract the comparison
with the photographer. Now and then photography, in spite of its
impossible perspective, manages to record a fleeting glimpse of truth.
But you spoil every dénouement by those flat, drab, obliterating strokes
of your brush that I have so often complained of. If you would rise to
the literary pinnacle of your dramatic senses, and paint them in the
high colors that art requires, the postman would leave fewer bulky,
self-addressed envelopes at your door."

"Oh, fiddles and footlights!" cried Dawe, derisively. "You've got that
old sawmill drama kink in your brain yet. When the man with the black
mustache kidnaps golden-haired Bessie you are bound to have the mother
kneel and raise her hands in the spotlight and say: 'May high heaven
witness that I will rest neither night nor day till the heartless
villain that has stolen me child feels the weight of another's

Editor Westbrook conceded a smile of impervious complacency.

"I think," said he, "that in real life the woman would express herself
in those words or in very similar ones."

"Not in a six hundred nights' run anywhere but on the stage," said Dawe
hotly. "I'll tell you what she'd say in real life. She'd say: 'What!
Bessie led away by a strange man? Good Lord! It's one trouble after
another! Get my other hat, I must hurry around to the police-station.
Why wasn't somebody looking after her, I'd like to know? For God's sake,
get out of my way or I'll never get ready. Not that hat--the brown one
with the velvet bows. Bessie must have been crazy; she's usually shy of
strangers. Is that too much powder? Lordy! How I'm upset!'

"That's the way she'd talk," continued Dawe. "People in real life don't
fly into heroics and blank verse at emotional crises. They simply can't
do it. If they talk at all on such occasions they draw from the same
vocabulary that they use every day, and muddle up their words and ideas
a little more, that's all."

"Shack," said Editor Westbrook impressively, "did you ever pick up the
mangled and lifeless form of a child from under the fender of a street
car, and carry it in your arms and lay it down before the distracted
mother? Did you ever do that and listen to the words of grief and
despair as they flowed spontaneously from her lips?"

"I never did," said Dawe. "Did you?"

"Well, no," said Editor Westbrook, with a slight frown. "But I can well
imagine what she would say."

"So can I," said Dawe.

And now the fitting time had come for Editor Westbrook to play the
oracle and silence his opinionated contributor. It was not for an
unarrived fictionist to dictate words to be uttered by the heroes and
heroines of the _Minerva Magazine_, contrary to the theories of the
editor thereof.

"My dear Shack," said he, "if I know anything of life I know that every
sudden, deep and tragic emotion in the human heart calls forth an
apposite, concordant, conformable and proportionate expression of
feeling. How much of this inevitable accord between expression and
feeling should be attributed to nature, and how much to the influence of
art, it would be difficult to say. The sublimely terrible roar of the
lioness that has been deprived of her cubs is dramatically as far above
her customary whine and purr as the kingly and transcendent utterances
of Lear are above the level of his senile vaporings. But it is also true
that all men and women have what may be called a sub-conscious dramatic
sense that is awakened by a sufficiently deep and powerful emotion--a
sense unconsciously acquired from literature and the stage that prompts
them to express those emotions in language befitting their importance
and histrionic value."

"And in the name of the seven sacred saddle-blankets of Sagittarius,
where did the stage and literature get the stunt?" asked Dawe.

"From life," answered the editor, triumphantly.

The story writer rose from the bench and gesticulated eloquently but
dumbly. He was beggared for words with which to formulate adequately his

On a bench nearby a frowzy loafer opened his red eyes and perceived that
his moral support was due a downtrodden brother.

"Punch him one, Jack," he called hoarsely to Dawe. "W'at's he come
makin' a noise like a penny arcade for amongst gen'lemen that comes in
the square to set and think?"

Editor Westbrook looked at his watch with an affected show of leisure.

"Tell me," asked Dawe, with truculent anxiety, "what especial faults in
'The Alarum of the Soul' caused you to throw it down?"

"When Gabriel Murray," said Westbrook, "goes to his telephone and is
told that his fiancée has been shot by a burglar, he says--I do not
recall the exact words, but--"

"I do," said Dawe. "He says: 'Damn Central; she always cuts me off.'
(And then to his friend) 'Say, Tommy, does a thirty-two bullet make a
big hole? It's kind of hard luck, ain't it? Could you get me a drink
from the sideboard, Tommy? No; straight; nothing on the side.'"

"And again," continued the editor, without pausing for argument, "when
Berenice opens the letter from her husband informing her that he has
fled with the manicure girl, her words are--let me see--"

"She says," interposed the author: "'Well, what do you think of that!'"

"Absurdly inappropriate words," said Westbrook, "presenting an
anti-climax--plunging the story into hopeless bathos. Worse yet; they
mirror life falsely. No human being ever uttered banal colloquialisms
when confronted by sudden tragedy."

"Wrong," said Dawe, closing his unshaven jaws doggedly. "I say no man
or woman ever spouts 'high-falutin' talk when they go up against a real
climax. They talk naturally and a little worse."

The editor rose from the bench with his air of indulgence and inside

"Say, Westbrook," said Dawe, pinning him by the lapel, "would you have
accepted 'The Alarum of the Soul' if you had believed that the actions
and words of the characters were true to life in the parts of the story
that we discussed?"

"It is very likely that I would, if I believed that way," said the
editor. "But I have explained to you that I do not."

"If I could prove to you that I am right?"

"I'm sorry, Shack, but I'm afraid I haven't time to argue any further
just now."

"I don't want to argue," said Dawe. "I want to demonstrate to you from
life itself that my view is the correct one."

"How could you do that?" asked Westbrook, in a surprised tone.

"Listen," said the writer, seriously. "I have thought of a way. It is
important to me that my theory of true-to-life fiction be recognized as
correct by the magazines. I've fought for it for three years, and I'm
down to my last dollar, with two months' rent due."

"I have applied the opposite of your theory," said the editor, "in
selecting the fiction for the _Minerva Magazine_. The circulation has
gone up from ninety thousand to--"

"Four hundred thousand," said Dawe. "Whereas it should have been boosted
to a million."

"You said something to me just now about demonstrating your pet theory."

"I will. If you'll give me about half an hour of your time I'll prove to
you that I am right. I'll prove it by Louise."

"Your wife!" exclaimed Westbrook. "How?"

"Well, not exactly by her, but _with_ her," said Dawe. "Now, you know
how devoted and loving Louise has always been. She thinks I'm the only
genuine preparation on the market that bears the old doctor's signature.
She's been fonder and more faithful than ever, since I've been cast for
the neglected genius part."

"Indeed, she is a charming and admirable life companion," agreed the
editor. "I remember what inseparable friends she and Mrs. Westbrook once
were. We are both lucky chaps, Shack, to have such wives. You must bring
Mrs. Dawe up some evening soon, and we'll have one of those informal
chafing-dish suppers that we used to enjoy so much."

"Later," said Dawe. "When I get another shirt. And now I'll tell you my
scheme. When I was about to leave home after breakfast--if you can call
tea and oatmeal breakfast--Louise told me she was going to visit her
aunt in Eighty-ninth Street. She said she would return at three o'clock.
She is always on time to a minute. It is now--"

Dawe glanced toward the editor's watch pocket.

"Twenty-seven minutes to three," said Westbrook, scanning his

"We have just enough time," said Dawe. "We will go to my flat at once. I
will write a note, address it to her and leave it on the table where she
will see it as she enters the door. You and I will be in the dining-room
concealed by the portières. In that note I'll say that I have fled from
her forever with an affinity who understands the needs of my artistic
soul as she never did. When she reads it we will observe her actions and
hear her words. Then we will know which theory is the correct one--yours
or mine."

"Oh, never!" exclaimed the editor, shaking his head. "That would be
inexcusably cruel. I could not consent to have Mrs. Dawe's feelings
played upon in such a manner."

"Brace up," said the writer. "I guess I think as much of her as you do.
It's for her benefit as well as mine. I've got to get a market for my
stories in some way. It won't hurt Louise. She's healthy and sound. Her
heart goes as strong as a ninety-eight-cent watch. It'll last for only a
minute, and then I'll step out and explain to her. You really owe it to
me to give me the chance, Westbrook."

Editor Westbrook at length yielded, though but half willingly. And in
the half of him that consented lurked the vivisectionist that is in all
of us. Let him who has not used the scalpel rise and stand in his place.
Pity 'tis that there are not enough rabbits and guinea-pigs to go

The two experimenters in Art left the Square and hurried eastward and
then to the south until they arrived in the Gramercy neighborhood.
Within its high iron railings the little park had put on its smart coat
of vernal green, and was admiring itself in its fountain mirror. Outside
the railings the hollow square of crumbling houses, shells of a bygone
gentry, leaned as if in ghostly gossip over the forgotten doings of the
vanished quality. _Sic transit gloria urbis_.

A block or two north of the Park, Dawe steered the editor again
eastward, then, after covering a short distance, into a lofty but narrow
flathouse burdened with a floridly over-decorated façade. To the fifth
story they toiled, and Dawe, panting, pushed his latch-key into the door
of one of the front flats.

When the door opened Editor Westbrook saw, with feelings of pity, how
meanly and meagerly the rooms were furnished.

"Get a chair, if you can find one," said Dawe, "while I hunt up pen and
ink. Hello, what's this? Here's a note from Louise. She must have left
it there when she went out this morning."

He picked up an envelope that lay on the centre-table and tore it open.
He began to read the letter that he drew out of it; and once having
begun it aloud he so read it through to the end. These are the words
that Editor Westbrook heard:

"Dear Shackleford:

"By the time you get this I will be about a hundred miles away and
still a-going. I've got a place in the chorus of the Occidental
Opera Co., and we start on the road to-day at twelve o'clock. I
didn't want to starve to death, and so I decided to make my own
living. I'm not coming back. Mrs. Westbrook is going with me. She
said she was tired of living with a combination phonograph, iceberg
and dictionary, and she's not coming back, either. We've been
practising the songs and dances for two months on the quiet. I hope
you will be successful, and get along all right! Good-bye.


Dawe dropped the letter, covered his face with his trembling hands, and
cried out in a deep, vibrating voice:

_"My God, why hast thou given me this cup to drink? Since she is false,
then let Thy Heaven's fairest gifts, faith and love, become the jesting
by-words of traitors and fiends!"_

Editor Westbrook's glasses fell to the floor. The fingers of one hand
fumbled with a button on his coat as he blurted between his pale lips:

_"Say, Shack, ain't that a hell of a note? Wouldn't that knock you off
your perch, Shack? Ain't it hell, now, Shack--ain't it?"_



Only on the lower East Side of New York do the houses of Capulet and
Montagu survive. There they do not fight by the book of arithmetic. If
you but bite your thumb at an upholder of your opposing house you have
work cut out for your steel. On Broadway you may drag your man along a
dozen blocks by his nose, and he will only bawl for the watch; but in
the domain of the East Side Tybalts and Mercutios you must observe the
niceties of deportment to the wink of any eyelash and to an inch of
elbow room at the bar when its patrons include foes of your house and

So, when Eddie McManus, known to the Capulets as Cork McManus, drifted
into Dutch Mike's for a stein of beer, and came upon a bunch of
Montagus making merry with the suds, he began to observe the strictest
parliamentary rules. Courtesy forbade his leaving the saloon with his
thirst unslaked; caution steered him to a place at the bar where the
mirror supplied the cognizance of the enemy's movements that his
indifferent gaze seemed to disdain; experience whispered to him that the
finger of trouble would be busy among the chattering steins at Dutch
Mike's that night. Close by his side drew Brick Cleary, his Mercutio,
companion of his perambulations. Thus they stood, four of the Mulberry
Hill Gang and two of the Dry Dock Gang, minding their P's and Q's so
solicitously that Dutch Mike kept one eye on his customers and the other
on an open space beneath his bar in which it was his custom to seek
safety whenever the ominous politeness of the rival associations
congealed into the shapes of bullets and cold steel.

But we have not to do with the wars of the Mulberry Hills and the Dry
Docks. We must to Rooney's, where, on the most blighted dead branch of
the tree of life, a little pale orchid shall bloom.

Overstrained etiquette at last gave way. It is not known who first
overstepped the bounds of punctilio; but the consequences were
immediate. Buck Malone, of the Mulberry Hills, with a Dewey-like
swiftness, got an eight-inch gun swung round from his hurricane deck.
But McManus's simile must be the torpedo. He glided in under the guns
and slipped a scant three inches of knife blade between the ribs of the
Mulberry Hill cruiser. Meanwhile Brick Cleary, a devotee to strategy,
had skimmed across the lunch counter and thrown the switch of the
electrics, leaving the combat to be waged by the light of gunfire alone.
Dutch Mike crawled from his haven and ran into the street crying for the
watch instead of for a Shakespeare to immortalize the Cimmerian shindy.

The cop came, and found a prostrate, bleeding Montagu supported by three
distrait and reticent followers of the House. Faithful to the ethics of
the gangs, no one knew whence the hurt came. There was no Capulet to be

"Raus mit der interrogatories," said Buck Malone to the officer. "Sure I
know who done it. I always manages to get a bird's eye view of any guy
that comes up an' makes a show case for a hardware store out of me. No.
I'm not telling you his name. I'll settle with um meself. Wow--ouch!
Easy, boys! Yes, I'll attend to his case meself. I'm not making any

At midnight McManus strolled around a pile of lumber near an East Side
dock, and lingered in the vicinity of a certain water plug. Brick Cleary
drifted casually to the trysting place ten minutes later. "He'll maybe
not croak," said Brick; "and he won't tell, of course. But Dutch Mike
did. He told the police he was tired of having his place shot up. It's
unhandy just now, because Tim Corrigan's in Europe for a week's end with
Kings. He'll be back on the _Kaiser Williams_ next Friday. You'll have
to duck out of sight till then. Tim'll fix it up all right for us when
he comes back."

This goes to explain why Cork McManus went into Rooney's one night and
there looked upon the bright, stranger face of Romance for the first
time in his precarious career.

Until Tim Corrigan should return from his jaunt among Kings and Princes
and hold up his big white finger in private offices, it was unsafe for
Cork in any of the old haunts of his gang. So he lay, perdu, in the high
rear room of a Capulet, reading pink sporting sheets and cursing the
slow paddle wheels of the _Kaiser Wilhelm_.

It was on Thursday evening that Cork's seclusion became intolerable to
him. Never a hart panted for water fountain as he did for the cool touch
of a drifting stein, for the firm security of a foot-rail in the hollow
of his shoe and the quiet, hearty challenges of friendship and repartee
along and across the shining bars. But he must avoid the district where
he was known. The cops were looking for him everywhere, for news was
scarce, and the newspapers were harping again on the failure of the
police to suppress the gangs. If they got him before Corrigan came back,
the big white finger could not be uplifted; it would be too late then.
But Corrigan would be home the next day, so he felt sure there would be
small danger in a little excursion that night among the crass pleasures
that represented life to him.

At half-past twelve McManus stood in a darkish cross-town street looking
up at the name "Rooney's," picked out by incandescent lights against
a signboard over a second-story window. He had heard of the place
as a tough "hang-out"; with its frequenters and its locality he was
unfamiliar. Guided by certain unerring indications common to all such
resorts, he ascended the stairs and entered the large room over the

Here were some twenty or thirty tables, at this time about half-filled
with Rooney's guests. Waiters served drinks. At one end a human
pianola with drugged eyes hammered the keys with automatic and furious
unprecision. At merciful intervals a waiter would roar or squeak a
song--songs full of "Mr. Johnsons" and "babes" and "coons"--historical
word guaranties of the genuineness of African melodies composed by red
waistcoated young gentlemen, natives of the cotton fields and rice
swamps of West Twenty-eighth Street.

For one brief moment you must admire Rooney with me as he receives,
seats, manipulates, and chaffs his guests. He is twenty-nine. He
has Wellington's nose, Dante's chin, the cheek-bones of an Iroquois,
the smile of Talleyrand, Corbett's foot work, and the poise of an
eleven-year-old East Side Central Park Queen of the May. He is assisted
by a lieutenant known as Frank, a pudgy, easy chap, swell-dressed, who
goes among the tables seeing that dull care does not intrude. Now,
what is there about Rooney's to inspire all this pother? It is more
respectable by daylight; stout ladies with children and mittens and
bundles and unpedigreed dogs drop up of afternoons for a stein and a
chat. Even by gaslight the diversions are melancholy i' the mouth--drink
and rag-time, and an occasional surprise when the waiter swabs the suds
from under your sticky glass. There is an answer. Transmigration! The
soul of Sir Walter Raleigh has traveled from beneath his slashed doublet
to a kindred home under Rooney's visible plaid waistcoat. Rooney's is
twenty years ahead of the times. Rooney has removed the embargo. Rooney
has spread his cloak upon the soggy crossing of public opinion, and any
Elizabeth who treads upon it is as much a queen as another. Attend to
the revelation of the secret. In Rooney's ladies may smoke!

McManus sat down at a vacant table. He paid for the glass of beer
that he ordered, tilted his narrow-brimmed derby to the back of his
brick-dust head, twined his feet among the rungs of his chair, and
heaved a sigh of contentment from the breathing spaces of his innermost
soul; for this mud honey was clarified sweetness to his taste. The sham
gaiety, the hectic glow of counterfeit hospitality, the self-conscious,
joyless laughter, the wine-born warmth, the loud music retrieving the
hour from frequent whiles of awful and corroding silence, the presence
of well-clothed and frank-eyed beneficiaries of Rooney's removal of the
restrictions laid upon the weed, the familiar blended odors of soaked
lemon peel, flat beer, and _peau d'Espagne_--all these were manna to
Cork McManus, hungry for his week in the desert of the Capulet's high
rear room.

A girl, alone, entered Rooney's, glanced around with leisurely
swiftness, and sat opposite McManus at his table. Her eyes rested upon
him for two seconds in the look with which woman reconnoitres all men
whom she for the first time confronts. In that space of time she will
decide upon one of two things--either to scream for the police, or that
she may marry him later on.

Her brief inspection concluded, the girl laid on the table a worn red
morocco shopping bag with the inevitable top-gallant sail of frayed lace
handkerchief flying from a corner of it. After she had ordered a small
beer from the immediate waiter she took from her bag a box of cigarettes
and lighted one with slightly exaggerated ease of manner. Then she
looked again in the eyes of Cork McManus and smiled.

Instantly the doom of each was sealed.

The unqualified desire of a man to buy clothes and build fires for a
woman for a whole lifetime at first sight of her is not uncommon among
that humble portion of humanity that does not care for Bradstreet or
coats-of-arms or Shaw's plays. Love at first sight has occurred a time
or two in high life; but, as a rule, the extempore mania is to be found
among unsophisticated creatures such as the dove, the blue-tailed
dingbat, and the ten-dollar-a-week clerk. Poets, subscribers to all
fiction magazines, and schatchens, take notice.

With the exchange of the mysterious magnetic current came to each of
them the instant desire to lie, pretend, dazzle and deceive, which is
the worst thing about the hypocritical disorder known as love.

"Have another beer?" suggested Cork. In his circle the phrase was
considered to be a card, accompanied by a letter of introduction and

"No, thanks," said the girl, raising her eyebrows and choosing her
conventional words carefully. "I--merely dropped in for--a slight
refreshment." The cigarette between her fingers seemed to require
explanation. "My aunt is a Russian lady," she concluded, "and we often
have a post perannual cigarette after dinner at home."

"Cheese it!" said Cork, whom society airs oppressed. "Your fingers are
as yellow as mine."

"Say," said the girl, blazing upon him with low-voiced indignation,
"what do you think I am? Say, who do you think you are talking to?

She was pretty to look at. Her eyes were big, brown, intrepid and
bright. Under her flat sailor hat, planted jauntily on one side, her
crinkly, tawny hair parted and was drawn back, low and massy, in a
thick, pendant knot behind. The roundness of girlhood still lingered in
her chin and neck, but her cheeks and fingers were thinning slightly.
She looked upon the world with defiance, suspicion, and sullen wonder.
Her smart, short tan coat was soiled and expensive. Two inches below her
black dress dropped the lowest flounce of a heliotrope silk underskirt.

"Beg your pardon," said Cork, looking at her admiringly. "I didn't mean
anything. Sure, it's no harm to smoke, Maudy."

"Rooney's," said the girl, softened at once by his amends, "is the only
place I know where a lady can smoke. Maybe it ain't a nice habit, but
aunty lets us at home. And my name ain't Maudy, if you please; it's Ruby

"That's a swell handle," said Cork approvingly. "Mine's
McManus--Cor--er--Eddie McManus."

"Oh, you can't help that," laughed Ruby. "Don't apologize."

Cork looked seriously at the big clock on Rooney's wall. The girl's
ubiquitous eyes took in the movement.

"I know it's late," she said, reaching for her bag; "but you know how
you want a smoke when you want one. Ain't Rooney's all right? I never
saw anything wrong here. This is twice I've been in. I work in a
bookbindery on Third Avenue. A lot of us girls have been working
overtime three nights a week. They won't let you smoke there, of course.
I just dropped in here on my way home for a puff. Ain't it all right in
here? If it ain't, I won't come any more."

"It's a little bit late for you to be out alone anywhere," said Cork.
"I'm not wise to this particular joint; but anyhow you don't want to
have your picture taken in it for a present to your Sunday School
teacher. Have one more beer, and then say I take you home."

"But I don't know you," said the girl, with fine scrupulosity. "I don't
accept the company of gentlemen I ain't acquainted with. My aunt never
would allow that."

"Why," said Cork McManus, pulling his ear, "I'm the latest thing in
suitings with side vents and bell skirt when it comes to escortin' a
lady. You bet you'll find me all right, Ruby. And I'll give you a tip as
to who I am. My governor is one of the hottest cross-buns of the Wall
Street push. Morgan's cab horse casts a shoe every time the old man
sticks his head out the window. Me! Well, I'm in trainin' down the
Street. The old man's goin' to put a seat on the Stock Exchange in my
stockin' my next birthday. But it all sounds like a lemon to me. What I
like is golf and yachtin' and--er--well, say a corkin' fast ten-round
bout between welter-weights with walkin' gloves."

"I guess you can walk to the door with me," said the girl hesitatingly,
but with a certain pleased flutter. "Still I never heard anything extra
good about Wall Street brokers, or sports who go to prize fights,
either. Ain't you got any other recommendations?"

"I think you're the swellest looker I've had my lamps on in little old
New York," said Cork impressively.

"That'll be about enough of that, now. Ain't you the kidder!" She
modified her chiding words by a deep, long, beaming, smile-embellished
look at her cavalier. "We'll drink our beer before we go, ha?"

A waiter sang. The tobacco smoke grew denser, drifting and rising in
spirals, waves, tilted layers, cumulus clouds, cataracts and suspended
fogs like some fifth element created from the ribs of the ancient four.
Laughter and chat grew louder, stimulated by Rooney's liquids and
Rooney's gallant hospitality to Lady Nicotine.

One o'clock struck. Down-stairs there was a sound of closing and
locking doors. Frank pulled down the green shades of the front windows
carefully. Rooney went below in the dark hall and stood at the front
door, his cigarette cached in the hollow of his hand. Thenceforth
whoever might seek admittance must present a countenance familiar to
Rooney's hawk's eye--the countenance of a true sport.

Cork McManus and the bookbindery girl conversed absorbedly, with their
elbows on the table. Their glasses of beer were pushed to one side,
scarcely touched, with the foam on them sunken to a thin white scum.
Since the stroke of one the stale pleasures of Rooney's had become
renovated and spiced; not by any addition to the list of distractions,
but because from that moment the sweets became stolen ones. The flattest
glass of beer acquired the tang of illegality; the mildest claret punch
struck a knockout blow at law and order; the harmless and genial company
became outlaws, defying authority and rule. For after the stroke of one
in such places as Rooney's, where neither bed nor board is to be had,
drink may not be set before the thirsty of the city of the four million.
It is the law.

"Say," said Cork McManus, almost covering the table with his eloquent
chest and elbows, "was that dead straight about you workin' in the
bookbindery and livin' at home--and just happenin' in here--and--and
all that spiel you gave me?"

"Sure it was," answered the girl with spirit. "Why, what do you think?
Do you suppose I'd lie to you? Go down to the shop and ask 'em. I handed
it to you on the level."

"On the dead level?" said Cork. "That's the way I want it; because--"

"Because what?"

"I throw up my hands," said Cork. "You've got me goin'. You're the girl
I've been lookin' for. Will you keep company with me, Ruby?"

"Would you like me to--Eddie?"

"Surest thing. But I wanted a straight story about--about yourself, you
know. When a fellow had a girl--a steady girl--she's got to be all
right, you know. She's got to be straight goods."

"You'll find I'll be straight goods, Eddie."

"Of course you will. I believe what you told me. But you can't blame me
for wantin' to find out. You don't see many girls smokin' cigarettes in
places like Rooney's after midnight that are like you."

The girl flushed a little and lowered her eyes. "I see that now," she
said meekly. "I didn't know how bad it looked. But I won't do it any
more. And I'll go straight home every night and stay there. And I'll
give up cigarettes if you say so, Eddie--I'll cut 'em out from this
minute on."

Cork's air became judicial, proprietary, condemnatory, yet sympathetic.
"A lady can smoke," he decided, slowly, "at times and places. Why?
Because it's bein' a lady that helps her pull it off."

"I'm going to quit. There's nothing to it," said the girl. She flicked
the stub of her cigarette to the floor.

"At times and places," repeated Cork. "When I call round for you of
evenin's we'll hunt out a dark bench in Stuyvesant Square and have a
puff or two. But no more Rooney's at one o'clock--see?"

"Eddie, do you really like me?" The girl searched his hard but frank
features eagerly with anxious eyes.

"On the dead level."

"When are you coming to see me--where I live?"

"Thursday--day after to-morrow evenin'. That suit you?"

"Fine. I'll be ready for you. Come about seven. Walk to the door with me
to-night and I'll show you where I live. Don't forget, now. And don't
you go to see any other girls before then, mister! I bet you will,

"On the dead level," said Cork, "you make 'em all look like rag-dolls to
me. Honest, you do. I know when I'm suited. On the dead level, I do."

Against the front door down-stairs repeated heavy blows were delivered.
The loud crashes resounded in the room above. Only a trip-hammer or a
policeman's foot could have been the author of those sounds. Rooney
jumped like a bullfrog to a corner of the room, turned off the electric
lights and hurried swiftly below. The room was left utterly dark except
for the winking red glow of cigars and cigarettes. A second volley of
crashes came up from the assaulted door. A little, rustling, murmuring
panic moved among the besieged guests. Frank, cool, smooth, reassuring,
could be seen in the rosy glow of the burning tobacco, going from table
to table.

"All keep still!" was his caution. "Don't talk or make any noise!
Everything will be all right. Now, don't feel the slightest alarm. We'll
take care of you all."

Ruby felt across the table until Cork's firm hand closed upon hers. "Are
you afraid, Eddie?" she whispered. "Are you afraid you'll get a free

"Nothin' doin' in the teeth-chatterin' line," said Cork. "I guess
Rooney's been slow with his envelope. Don't you worry, girly; I'll look
out for you all right."

Yet Mr. McManus's ease was only skin- and muscle-deep. With the police
looking everywhere for Buck Malone's assailant, and with Corrigan still
on the ocean wave, he felt that to be caught in a police raid would mean
an ended career for him. He wished he had remained in the high rear room
of the true Capulet reading the pink extras.

Rooney seemed to have opened the front door below and engaged the police
in conference in the dark hall. The wordless low growl of their voices
came up the stairway. Frank made a wireless news station of himself at
the upper door. Suddenly he closed the door, hurried to the extreme rear
of the room and lighted a dim gas jet.

"This way, everybody!" he called sharply. "In a hurry; but no noise,

The guests crowded in confusion to the rear. Rooney's lieutenant swung
open a panel in the wall, overlooking the back yard, revealing a ladder
already placed for the escape.

"Down and out, everybody!" he commanded. "Ladies first! Less talking,
please! Don't crowd! There's no danger."

Among the last, Cork and Ruby waited their turn at the open panel.
Suddenly she swept him aside and clung to his arm fiercely.

"Before we go out," she whispered in his ear--"before anything happens,
tell me again, Eddie, do you l--do you really like me?"

"On the dead level," said Cork, holding her close with one arm, "when it
comes to you, I'm all in."

When they turned they found they were lost and in darkness. The last
of the fleeing customers had descended. Half way across the yard they
bore the ladder, stumbling, giggling, hurrying to place it against an
adjoining low building over the roof of which their only route to

"We may as well sit down," said Cork grimly. "Maybe Rooney will stand
the cops off, anyhow."

They sat at a table; and their hands came together again.

A number of men then entered the dark room, feeling their way about. One
of them, Rooney himself, found the switch and turned on the electric
light. The other man was a cop of the old régime--a big cop, a thick
cop, a fuming, abrupt cop--not a pretty cop. He went up to the pair at
the table and sneered familiarly at the girl.

"What are youse doin' in here?" he asked.

"Dropped in for a smoke," said Cork mildly.

"Had any drinks?"

"Not later than one o'clock."

"Get out--quick!" ordered the cop. Then, "Sit down!" he countermanded.

He took off Cork's hat roughly and scrutinized him shrewdly. "Your
name's McManus."

"Bad guess," said Cork. "It's Peterson."

"Cork McManus, or something like that," said the cop. "You put a knife
into a man in Dutch Mike's saloon a week ago."

"Aw, forget it!" said Cork, who perceived a shade of doubt in the
officer's tones. "You've got my mug mixed with somebody else's."

"Have I? Well, you'll come to the station with me, anyhow, and be looked
over. The description fits you all right." The cop twisted his fingers
under Cork's collar. "Come on!" he ordered roughly.

Cork glanced at Ruby. She was pale, and her thin nostrils quivered.
Her quick eye danced from one man's face to the other as they spoke or
moved. What hard luck! Cork was thinking--Corrigan on the briny; and
Ruby met and lost almost within an hour! Somebody at the police station
would recognize him, without a doubt. Hard luck!

But suddenly the girl sprang up and hurled herself with both arms
extended against the cop. His hold on Cork's collar was loosened and he
stumbled back two or three paces.

"Don't go so fast, Maguire!" she cried in shrill fury. "Keep your hands
off my man! You know me, and you know I'm givin' you good advice. Don't
you touch him again! He's not the guy you are lookin' for--I'll stand
for that."

"See here, Fanny," said the Cop, red and angry, "I'll take you, too, if
you don't look out! How do you know this ain't the man I want? What are
you doing in here with him?"

"How do I know?" said the girl, flaming red and white by turns. "Because
I've known him a year. He's mine. Oughtn't I to know? And what am I
doin' here with him? That's easy."

She stooped low and reached down somewhere into a swirl of flirted
draperies, heliotrope and black. An elastic snapped, she threw on the
table toward Cork a folded wad of bills. The money slowly straightened
itself with little leisurely jerks.

"Take that, Jimmy, and let's go," said the girl. "I'm declarin' the
usual dividends, Maguire," she said to the officer. "You had your usual
five-dollar graft at the usual corner at ten."

"A lie!" said the cop, turning purple. "You go on my beat again and I'll
arrest you every time I see you."

"No, you won't," said the girl. "And I'll tell you why. Witnesses saw me
give you the money to-night, and last week, too. I've been getting fixed
for you."

Cork put the wad of money carefully into his pocket, and said: "Come on,
Fanny; let's have some chop suey before we go home."

"Clear out, quick, both of you, or I'll--"

The cop's bluster trailed away into inconsequentiality.

At the corner of the street the two halted. Cork handed back the
money without a word. The girl took it and slipped it slowly into her
hand-bag. Her expression was the same she had worn when she entered
Rooney's that night--she looked upon the world with defiance, suspicion
and sullen wonder.

"I guess I might as well say good-bye here," she said dully. "You won't
want to see me again, of course. Will you--shake hands--Mr. McManus."

"I mightn't have got wise if you hadn't give the snap away," said Cork.
"Why did you do it?"

"You'd have been pinched if I hadn't. That's why. Ain't that reason
enough?" Then she began to cry. "Honest, Eddie, I was goin' to be the
best girl in the world. I hated to be what I am; I hated men; I was
ready almost to die when I saw you. And you seemed different from
everybody else. And when I found you liked me, too, why, I thought I'd
make you believe I was good, and I was goin' to be good. When you asked
to come to my house and see me, why, I'd have died rather than do
anything wrong after that. But what's the use of talking about it? I'll
say good-by, if you will, Mr. McManus."

Cork was pulling at his ear. "I knifed Malone," said he. "I was the one
the cop wanted."

"Oh, that's all right," said the girl listlessly. "It didn't make any
difference about that."

"That was all hot air about Wall Street. I don't do nothin' but hang out
with a tough gang on the East Side."

"That was all right, too," repeated the girl. "It didn't make any

Cork straightened himself, and pulled his hat down low. "I could get a
job at O'Brien's," he said aloud, but to himself.

"Good-by," said the girl.

"Come on," said Cork, taking her arm. "I know a place."

Two blocks away he turned with her up the steps of a red brick house
facing a little park.

"What house is this?" she asked, drawing back. "Why are you going in

A street lamp shone brightly in front. There was a brass nameplate at
one side of the closed front doors. Cork drew her firmly up the steps.
"Read that," said he.

She looked at the name on the plate, and gave a cry between a moan and a
scream. "No, no, no, Eddie! Oh, my God, no! I won't let you do that--not
now! Let me go! You shan't do that! You can't--you mus'n't! Not after
you know! No, no! Come away quick! Oh, my God! Please, Eddie, come!"

Half fainting, she reeled, and was caught in the bend of his arm. Cork's
right hand felt for the electric button and pressed it long.

Another cop--how quickly they scent trouble when trouble is on the
wing!--came along, saw them, and ran up the steps. "Here! What are you
doing with that girl?" he called gruffly.

"She'll be all right in a minute," said Cork. "It's a straight deal."

"Reverend Jeremiah Jones," read the cop from the door-plate with true
detective cunning.

"Correct," said Cork. "On the dead level, we're goin' to get married."



Let the story wreck itself on the spreading rails of the _Non Sequitur_
Limited, if it will; first you must take your seat in the observation
car "_Raison d'être_" for one moment. It is for no longer than to
consider a brief essay on the subject--let us call it: "What's Around
the Corner."

_Omne mundus in duas partes divisum est_--men who wear rubbers and pay
poll-taxes, and men who discover new continents. There are no more
continents to discover; but by the time overshoes are out of date and
the poll has developed into an income tax, the other half will be
paralleling the canals of Mars with radium railways.

Fortune, Chance, and Adventure are given as synonymous in the
dictionaries. To the knowing each has a different meaning. Fortune is a
prize to be won. Adventure is the road to it. Chance is what may lurk
in the shadows at the roadside. The face of Fortune is radiant and
alluring; that of Adventure is flushed and heroic. The face of Chance is
the beautiful countenance--perfect because vague and dream-born--that we
see in our tea-cups at breakfast while we growl over our chops and

The VENTURER is one who keeps his eye on the hedgerows and wayside
groves and meadows while he travels the road to Fortune. That is the
difference between him and the Adventurer. Eating the forbidden fruit
was the best record ever made by a Venturer. Trying to prove that it
happened is the highest work of the Adventuresome. To be either is
disturbing to the cosmogony of creation. So, as bracket-sawed and
city-directoried citizens, let us light our pipes, chide the children
and the cat, arrange ourselves in the willow rocker under the flickering
gas jet at the coolest window and scan this little tale of two modern
followers of Chance.

"Did you ever hear that story about the man from the West?" asked
Billinger, in the little dark-oak room to your left as you penetrate
the interior of the Powhatan Club.

"Doubtless," said John Reginald Forster, rising and leaving the room.

Forster got his straw hat (straws will be in and maybe out again long
before this is printed) from the checkroom boy, and walked out of the
air (as Hamlet says). Billinger was used to having his stories insulted
and would not mind. Forster was in his favorite mood and wanted to go
away from anywhere. A man, in order to get on good terms with himself,
must have his opinions corroborated and his moods matched by some one
else. (I had written that "somebody"; but an A. D. T. boy who once took
a telegram for me pointed out that I could save money by using the
compound word. This is a vice versa case.)

Forster's favorite mood was that of greatly desiring to be a follower of
Chance. He was a Venturer by nature, but convention, birth, tradition
and the narrowing influences of the tribe of Manhattan had denied him
full privilege. He had trodden all the main-traveled thoroughfares and
many of the side roads that are supposed to relieve the tedium of life.
But none had sufficed. The reason was that he knew what was to be found
at the end of every street. He knew from experience and logic almost
precisely to what end each digression from routine must lead. He found a
depressing monotony in all the variations that the music of his sphere
had grafted upon the tune of life. He had not learned that, although the
world was made round, the circle has been squared, and that it's true
interest is to be in "What's Around the Corner."

Forster walked abroad aimlessly from the Powhatan, trying not to tax
either his judgment or his desire as to what streets he traveled. He
would have been glad to lose his way if it were possible; but he had no
hope of that. Adventure and Fortune move at your beck and call in the
Greater City; but Chance is oriental. She is a veiled lady in a sedan
chair, protected by a special traffic squad of dragonians. Crosstown,
uptown, and downtown you may move without seeing her.

At the end of an hour's stroll, Forster stood on a corner of a broad,
smooth avenue, looking disconsolately across it at a picturesque old
hotel softly but brilliantly lit. Disconsolately, because he knew that
he must dine; and dining in that hotel was no venture. It was one of his
favorite caravansaries, and so silent and swift would be the service and
so delicately choice the food, that he regretted the hunger that must be
appeased by the "dead perfection" of the place's cuisine. Even the music
there seemed to be always playing _da capo_.

Fancy came to him that he would dine at some cheap, even dubious,
restaurant lower down in the city, where the erratic chefs from all
countries of the world spread their national cookery for the omnivorous
American. Something might happen there out of the routine--he might come
upon a subject without a predicate, a road without an end, a question
without an answer, a cause without an effect, a gulf stream in life's
salt ocean. He had not dressed for evening; he wore a dark business suit
that would not be questioned even where the waiters served the spaghetti
in their shirt sleeves.

So John Reginald Forster began to search his clothes for money; because
the more cheaply you dine, the more surely must you pay. All of the
thirteen pockets, large and small, of his business suit he explored
carefully and found not a penny. His bank book showed a balance of five
figures to his credit in the Old Ironsides Trust Company, but--

Forster became aware of a man nearby at his left hand who was really
regarding him with some amusement. He looked like any business man of
thirty or so, neatly dressed and standing in the attitude of one waiting
for a street car. But there was no car line on that avenue. So his
proximity and unconcealed curiosity seemed to Forster to partake of the
nature of a personal intrusion. But, as he was a consistent seeker after
"What's Around the Corner," instead of manifesting resentment he only
turned a half-embarrassed smile upon the other's grin of amusement.

"All in?" asked the intruder, drawing nearer.

"Seems so," said Forster. "Now, I thought there was a dollar in--"

"Oh, I know," said the other man, with a laugh. "But there wasn't. I've
just been through the same process myself, as I was coming around the
corner. I found in an upper vest pocket--I don't know how they got
there--exactly two pennies. You know what kind of a dinner exactly two
pennies will buy!"

"You haven't dined, then?" asked Forster.

"I have not. But I would like to. Now, I'll make you a proposition.
You look like a man who would take up one. Your clothes look neat and
respectable. Excuse personalities. I think mine will pass the scrutiny
of a head waiter, also. Suppose we go over to that hotel and dine
together. We will choose from the menu like millionaires--or, if you
prefer, like gentlemen in moderate circumstances dining extravagantly
for once. When we have finished we will match with my two pennies to
see which of us will stand the brunt of the house's displeasure and
vengeance. My name is Ives. I think we have lived in the same station
of life--before our money took wings."

"You're on," said Forster, joyfully.

Here was a venture at least within the borders of the mysterious country
of Chance--anyhow, it promised something better than the stale
infestivity of a table d'hôte.

The two were soon seated at a corner table in the hotel dining room.
Ives chucked one of his pennies across the table to Forster.

"Match for which of us gives the order," he said.

Forster lost.

Ives laughed and began to name liquids and viands to the waiter with the
absorbed but calm deliberation of one who was to the menu born. Forster,
listening, gave his admiring approval of the order.

"I am a man," said Ives, during the oysters, "Who has made a lifetime
search after the to-be-continued-in-our-next. I am not like the ordinary
adventurer who strikes for a coveted prize. Nor yet am I like a gambler
who knows he is either to win or lose a certain set stake. What I want
is to encounter an adventure to which I can predict no conclusion.
It is the breath of existence to me to dare Fate in its blindest
manifestations. The world has come to run so much by rote and
gravitation that you can enter upon hardly any footpath of chance in
which you do not find signboards informing you of what you may expect
at its end. I am like the clerk in the Circumlocution Office who always
complained bitterly when any one came in to ask information. 'He wanted
to _know_, you know!' was the kick he made to his fellow-clerks. Well,
I don't want to know, I don't want to reason, I don't want to guess--I
want to bet my hand without seeing it."

"I understand," said Forster delightedly. "I've often wanted the way I
feel put into words. You've done it. I want to take chances on what's
coming. Suppose we have a bottle of Moselle with the next course."

"Agreed," said Ives. "I'm glad you catch my idea. It will increase the
animosity of the house toward the loser. If it does not weary you, we
will pursue the theme. Only a few times have I met a true venturer--one
who does not ask a schedule and map from Fate when he begins a journey.
But, as the world becomes more civilized and wiser, the more difficult
it is to come upon an adventure the end of which you cannot foresee. In
the Elizabethan days you could assault the watch, wring knockers from
doors and have a jolly set-to with the blades in any convenient angle of
a wall and 'get away with it.' Nowadays, if you speak disrespectfully to
a policeman, all that is left to the most romantic fancy is to
conjecture in what particular police station he will land you."

"I know--I know," said Forster, nodding approval.

"I returned to New York to-day," continued Ives, "from a three years'
ramble around the globe. Things are not much better abroad than they are
at home. The whole world seems to be overrun by conclusions. The only
thing that interests me greatly is a premise. I've tried shooting big
game in Africa. I know what an express rifle will do at so many yards;
and when an elephant or a rhinoceros falls to the bullet, I enjoy it
about as much as I did when I was kept in after school to do a sum in
long division on the blackboard."

"I know--I know," said Forster.

"There might be something in aeroplanes," went on Ives, reflectively.
"I've tried ballooning; but it seems to be merely a cut-and-dried affair
of wind and ballast."

"Women," suggested Forster, with a smile.

"Three months ago," said Ives. "I was pottering around in one of the
bazaars in Constantinople. I noticed a lady, veiled, of course, but with
a pair of especially fine eyes visible, who was examining some amber and
pearl ornaments at one of the booths. With her was an attendant--a big
Nubian, as black as coal. After a while the attendant drew nearer to me
by degrees and slipped a scrap of paper into my hand. I looked at it
when I got a chance. On it was scrawled hastily in pencil: 'The arched
gate of the Nightingale Garden at nine to-night.' Does that appear to
you to be an interesting premise, Mr. Forster?"

"I made inquiries and learned that the Nightingale Garden was the
property of an old Turk--a grand vizier, or something of the sort. Of
course I prospected for the arched gate and was there at nine. The same
Nubian attendant opened the gate promptly on time, and I went inside and
sat on a bench by a perfumed fountain with the veiled lady. We had quite
an extended chat. She was Myrtle Thompson, a lady journalist, who was
writing up the Turkish harems for a Chicago newspaper. She said she
noticed the New York cut of my clothes in the bazaar and wondered if
I couldn't work something into the metropolitan papers about it."

"I see," said Forster. "I see."

"I've canoed through Canada," said Ives, "down many rapids and over many
falls. But I didn't seem to get what I wanted out of it because I knew
there were only two possible outcomes--I would either go to the bottom
or arrive at the sea level. I've played all games at cards; but the
mathematicians have spoiled that sport by computing the percentages.
I've made acquaintances on trains, I've answered advertisements, I've
rung strange door-bells, I've taken every chance that presented itself;
but there has always been the conventional ending--the logical
conclusion to the premise."

"I know," repeated Forster. "I've felt it all. But I've had few
chances to take my chance at chances. Is there any life so devoid of
impossibilities as life in this city? There seems to be a myriad of
opportunities for testing the undeterminable; but not one in a thousand
fails to land you where you expected it to stop. I wish the subways and
street cars disappointed one as seldom."

"The sun has risen," said Ives, "on the Arabian nights. There are
no more caliphs. The fisherman's vase is turned to a vacuum bottle,
warranted to keep any genie boiling or frozen for forty-eight hours.
Life moves by rote. Science has killed adventure. There are no more
opportunities such as Columbus and the man who ate the first oyster had.
The only certain thing is that there is nothing uncertain."

"Well," said Forster, "my experience has been the limited one of a city
man. I haven't seen the world as you have; but it seems that we view
it with the same opinion. But, I tell you I am grateful for even this
little venture of ours into the borders of the haphazard. There may
be at least one breathless moment when the bill for the dinner is
presented. Perhaps, after all, the pilgrims who traveled without scrip
or purse found a keener taste to life than did the knights of the Round
Table who rode abroad with a retinue and King Arthur's certified checks
in the lining of their helmets. And now, if you've finished your coffee,
suppose we match one of your insufficient coins for the impending blow
of Fate. What have I up?"

"Heads," called Ives.

"Heads it is," said Forster, lifting his hand. "I lose. We forgot to
agree upon a plan for the winner to escape. I suggest that when the
waiter comes you make a remark about telephoning to a friend. I will
hold the fort and the dinner check long enough for you to get your hat
and be off. I thank you for an evening out of the ordinary, Mr. Ives,
and wish we might have others."

"If my memory is not at fault," said Ives, laughing, "the nearest police
station is in MacDougal Street. I have enjoyed the dinner, too, let me
assure you."

Forster crooked his finger for the waiter. Victor, with a locomotive
effort that seemed to owe more to pneumatics than to pedestrianism,
glided to the table and laid the card, face downward, by the loser's
cup. Forster took it up and added the figures with deliberate care. Ives
leaned back comfortably in his chair.

"Excuse me," said Forster; "but I thought you were going to ring Grimes
about that theatre party for Thursday night. Had you forgotten about

"Oh," said Ives, settling himself more comfortably, "I can do that later
on. Get me a glass of water, waiter."

"Want to be in at the death, do you?" asked Forster.

"I hope you don't object," said Ives, pleadingly. "Never in my life have
I seen a gentleman arrested in a public restaurant for swindling it out
of a dinner."

"All right," said Forster, calmly. "You are entitled to see a Christian
die in the arena as your _pousse-café_."

Victor came with the glass of water and remained, with the disengaged
air of an inexorable collector.

Forster hesitated for fifteen seconds, and then took a pencil from his
pocket and scribbled his name on the dinner check. The waiter bowed and
took it away.

"The fact is," said Forster, with a little embarrassed laugh, "I doubt
whether I'm what they call a 'game sport,' which means the same as a
'soldier of Fortune.' I'll have to make a confession. I've been dining
at this hotel two or three times a week for more than a year. I always
sign my checks." And then, with a note of appreciation in his voice: "It
was first-rate of you to stay to see me through with it when you knew I
had no money, and that you might be scooped in, too."

"I guess I'll confess, too," said Ives, with a grin. "I own the hotel.
I don't run it, of course, but I always keep a suite on the third floor
for my use when I happen to stray into town."

He called a waiter and said: "Is Mr. Gilmore still behind the desk? All
right. Tell him that Mr. Ives is here, and ask him to have my rooms made
ready and aired."

"Another venture cut short by the inevitable," said Forster. "Is there
a conundrum without an answer in the next number? But let's hold to our
subject just for a minute or two, if you will. It isn't often that I
meet a man who understands the flaws I pick in existence. I am engaged
to be married a month from to-day."

"I reserve comment," said Ives.

"Right; I am going to add to the assertion. I am devotedly fond of
the lady; but I can't decide whether to show up at the church or
make a sneak for Alaska. It's the same idea, you know, that we were
discussing--it does for a fellow as far as possibilities are concerned.
Everybody knows the routine--you get a kiss flavored with Ceylon tea
after breakfast; you go to the office; you come back home and dress for
dinner--theatre twice a week--bills--moping around most evenings trying
to make conversation--a little quarrel occasionally--maybe sometimes a
big one, and a separation--or else a settling down into a middle-aged
contentment, which is worst of all."

"I know," said Ives, nodding wisely.

"It's the dead certainty of the thing," went on Forster, "that keeps me
in doubt. There'll nevermore be anything around the corner."

"Nothing after the 'Little Church,'" said Ives. "I know."

"Understand," said Forster, "that I am in no doubt as to my feelings
toward the lady. I may say that I love her truly and deeply. But there
is something in the current that runs through my veins that cries out
against any form of the calculable. I do not know what I want; but I
know that I want it. I'm talking like an idiot, I suppose, but I'm sure
of what I mean."

"I understand you," said Ives, with a slow smile. "Well, I think I will
be going up to my rooms now. If you would dine with me here one evening
soon, Mr. Forster, I'd be glad."

"Thursday?" suggested Forster.

"At seven, if it's convenient," answered Ives.

"Seven goes," assented Forster.

At half-past eight Ives got into a cab and was driven to a number in one
of the correct West Seventies. His card admitted him to the reception
room of an old-fashioned house into which the spirits of Fortune, Chance
and Adventure had never dared to enter. On the walls were the Whistler
etchings, the steel engravings by Oh-what's-his-name?, the still-life
paintings of the grapes and garden truck with the watermelon seeds
spilled on the table as natural as life, and the Greuze head. It was
a household. There was even brass andirons. On a table was an album,
half-morocco, with oxidized-silver protections on the corners of the
lids. A clock on the mantel ticked loudly, with a warning click at five
minutes to nine. Ives looked at it curiously, remembering a time-piece
in his grandmother's home that gave such a warning.

And then down the stairs and into the room came Mary Marsden. She was
twenty-four, and I leave her to your imagination. But I must say this
much--youth and health and simplicity and courage and greenish-violet
eyes are beautiful, and she had all these. She gave Ives her hand with
the sweet cordiality of an old friendship.

"You can't think what a pleasure it is," she said, "to have you drop in
once every three years or so."

For half an hour they talked. I confess that I cannot repeat the
conversation. You will find it in books in the circulating library. When
that part of it was over, Mary said:

"And did you find what you wanted while you were abroad?"

"What I wanted?" said Ives.

"Yes. You know you were always queer. Even as a boy you wouldn't play
marbles or baseball or any game with rules. You wanted to dive in water
where you didn't know whether it was ten inches or ten feet deep. And
when you grew up you were just the same. We've often talked about your
peculiar ways."

"I suppose I am an incorrigible," said Ives. "I am opposed to the
doctrine of predestination, to the rule of three, gravitation, taxation,
and everything of the kind. Life has always seemed to me something like
a serial story would be if they printed above each instalment a synopsis
of _succeeding_ chapters."

Mary laughed merrily.

"Bob Ames told us once," she said, "of a funny thing you did. It was
when you and he were on a train in the South, and you got off at a town
where you hadn't intended to stop just because the brakeman hung up a
sign in the end of the car with the name of the next station on it."

"I remember," said Ives. "That 'next station' has been the thing I've
always tried to get away from."

"I know it," said Mary. "And you've been very foolish. I hope you didn't
find what you wanted not to find, or get off at the station where there
wasn't any, or whatever it was you expected wouldn't happen to you
during the three years you've been away."

"There was something I wanted before I went away," said Ives.

Mary looked in his eyes clearly, with a slight, but perfectly sweet

"There was," she said. "You wanted me. And you could have had me, as you
very well know."

Without replying, Ives let his gaze wander slowly about the room. There
had been no change in it since last he had been in it, three years
before. He vividly recalled the thoughts that had been in his mind then.
The contents of that room were as fixed, in their way, as the everlasting
hills. No change would ever come there except the inevitable ones
wrought by time and decay. That silver-mounted album would occupy that
corner of that table, those pictures would hang on the walls, those
chairs be found in their same places every morn and noon and night while
the household hung together. The brass andirons were monuments to order
and stability. Here and there were relics of a hundred years ago which
were still living mementos and would be for many years to come. One
going from and coming back to that house would never need to forecast or
doubt. He would find what he left, and leave what he found. The veiled
lady, Chance, would never lift her hand to the knocker on the outer

And before him sat the lady who belonged in the room. Cool and sweet
and unchangeable she was. She offered no surprises. If one should pass
his life with her, though she might grow white-haired and wrinkled, he
would never perceive the change. Three years he had been away from her,
and she was still waiting for him as established and constant as the
house itself. He was sure that she had once cared for him. It was the
knowledge that she would always do so that had driven him away. Thus
his thoughts ran.

"I am going to be married soon," said Mary.

On the next Thursday afternoon Forster came hurriedly to Ive's hotel.

"Old man," said he, "we'll have to put that dinner off for a year or so;
I'm going abroad. The steamer sails at four. That was a great talk we
had the other night, and it decided me. I'm going to knock around the
world and get rid of that incubus that has been weighing on both you and
me--the terrible dread of knowing what's going to happen. I've done one
thing that hurts my conscience a little; but I know it's best for both
of us. I've written to the lady to whom I was engaged and explained
everything--told her plainly why I was leaving--that the monotony of
matrimony would never do for me. Don't you think I was right?"

"It is not for me to say," answered Ives. "Go ahead and shoot elephants
if you think it will bring the element of chance into your life. We've
got to decide these things for ourselves. But I tell you one thing,
Forster, I've found the way. I've found out the biggest hazard in the
world--a game of chance that never is concluded, a venture that may end
in the highest heaven or the blackest pit. It will keep a man on edge
until the clods fall on his coffin, because he will never know--not
until his last day, and not then will he know. It is a voyage without
a rudder or compass, and you must be captain and crew and keep watch,
every day and night, yourself, with no one to relieve you. I have found
the VENTURE. Don't bother yourself about leaving Mary Marsden, Forster.
I married her yesterday at noon."



The gods, lying beside their nectar on 'Lympus and peeping over the edge
of the cliff, perceive a difference in cities. Although it would seem
that to their vision towns must appear as large or small ant-hills
without special characteristics, yet it is not so. Studying the habits
of ants from so great a height should be but a mild diversion when
coupled with the soft drink that mythology tells us is their only
solace. But doubtless they have amused themselves by the comparison of
villages and towns; and it will be no news to them (nor, perhaps, to
many mortals), that in one particularity New York stands unique among
the cities of the world. This shall be the theme of a little story
addressed to the man who sits smoking with his Sabbath-slippered feet
on another chair, and to the woman who snatches the paper for a moment
while boiling greens or a narcotized baby leaves her free. With these I
love to sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of Kings.

New York City is inhabited by 4,000,000 mysterious strangers; thus
beating Bird Centre by three millions and half a dozen nine's. They
came here in various ways and for many reasons--Hendrik Hudson, the art
schools, green goods, the stork, the annual dressmakers' convention, the
Pennsylvania Railroad, love of money, the stage, cheap excursion rates,
brains, personal column ads., heavy walking shoes, ambition, freight
trains--all these have had a hand in making up the population.

But every man Jack when he first sets foot on the stones of Manhattan
has got to fight. He has got to fight at once until either he or his
adversary wins. There is no resting between rounds, for there are no
rounds. It is slugging from the first. It is a fight to a finish.

Your opponent is the City. You must do battle with it from the time the
ferry-boat lands you on the island until either it is yours or it has
conquered you. It is the same whether you have a million in your pocket
or only the price of a week's lodging.

The battle is to decide whether you shall become a New Yorker or turn
the rankest outlander and Philistine. You must be one or the other. You
cannot remain neutral. You must be for or against--lover or enemy--bosom
friend or outcast. And, oh, the city is a general in the ring. Not only
by blows does it seek to subdue you. It woos you to its heart with the
subtlety of a siren. It is a combination of Delilah, green Chartreuse,
Beethoven, chloral and John L. in his best days.

In other cities you may wander and abide as a stranger man as long
as you please. You may live in Chicago until your hair whitens, and
be a citizen and still prate of beans if Boston mothered you, and
without rebuke. You may become a civic pillar in any other town but
Knickerbocker's, and all the time publicly sneering at its buildings,
comparing them with the architecture of Colonel Telfair's residence in
Jackson, Miss., whence you hail, and you will not be set upon. But in
New York you must be either a New Yorker or an invader of a modern Troy,
concealed in the wooden horse of your conceited provincialism. And this
dreary preamble is only to introduce to you the unimportant figures of
William and Jack.

They came out of the West together, where they had been friends. They
came to dig their fortunes out of the big city.

Father Knickerbocker met them at the ferry, giving one a right-hander on
the nose and the other an upper-cut with his left, just to let them know
that the fight was on.

William was for business; Jack was for Art. Both were young and
ambitious; so they countered and clinched. I think they were from
Nebraska or possibly Missouri or Minnesota. Anyhow, they were out for
success and scraps and scads, and they tackled the city like two
Lochinvars with brass knucks and a pull at the City Hall.

Four years afterward William and Jack met at luncheon. The business man
blew in like a March wind, hurled his silk hat at a waiter, dropped into
the chair that was pushed under him, seized the bill of fare, and had
ordered as far as cheese before the artist had time to do more than nod.
After the nod a humorous smile came into his eyes.

"Billy," he said, "you're done for. The city has gobbled you up. It has
taken you and cut you to its pattern and stamped you with its brand. You
are so nearly like ten thousand men I have seen to-day that you couldn't
be picked out from them if it weren't for your laundry marks."

"Camembert," finished William. "What's that? Oh, you've still
got your hammer out for New York, have you? Well, little old
Noisyville-on-the-Subway is good enough for me. It's giving me mine.
And, say, I used to think the West was the whole round world--only
slightly flattened at the poles whenever Bryan ran. I used to yell
myself hoarse about the free expense, and hang my hat on the horizon,
and say cutting things in the grocery to little soap drummers from
the East. But I'd never seen New York, then, Jack. Me for it from the
rathskellers up. Sixth Avenue is the West to me now. Have you heard this
fellow Crusoe sing? The desert isle for him, I say, but my wife made me
go. Give me May Irwin or E. S. Willard any time."

"Poor Billy," said the artist, delicately fingering a cigarette. "You
remember, when we were on our way to the East how we talked about this
great, wonderful city, and how we meant to conquer it and never let it
get the best of us? We were going to be just the same fellows we had
always been, and never let it master us. It has downed you, old man. You
have changed from a maverick into a butterick."

"Don't see exactly what you are driving at," said William. "I don't wear
an alpaca coat with blue trousers and a seersucker vest on dress
occasions, like I used to do at home. You talk about being cut to a
pattern--well, ain't the pattern all right? When you're in Rome you've
got to do as the Dagoes do. This town seems to me to have other alleged
metropolises skinned to flag stations. According to the railroad
schedule I've got in mind, Chicago and Saint Jo and Paris, France, are
asterisk stops--which means you wave a red flag and get on every other
Tuesday. I like this little suburb of Tarrytown-on-the-Hudson. There's
something or somebody doing all the time. I'm clearing $8,000 a year
selling automatic pumps, and I'm living like kings-up. Why, yesterday, I
was introduced to John W. Gates. I took an auto ride with a wine agent's
sister. I saw two men run over by a street car, and I seen Edna May
play in the evening. Talk about the West, why, the other night I woke
everybody up in the hotel hollering. I dreamed I was walking on a board
sidewalk in Oshkosh. What have you got against this town, Jack? There's
only one thing in it that I don't care for, and that's a ferryboat."

The artist gazed dreamily at the cartridge paper on the wall. "This
town," said he, "is a leech. It drains the blood of the country. Whoever
comes to it accepts a challenge to a duel. Abandoning the figure of the
leech, it is a juggernaut, a Moloch, a monster to which the innocence,
the genius, and the beauty of the land must pay tribute. Hand to hand
every newcomer must struggle with the leviathan. You've lost, Billy. It
shall never conquer me. I hate it as one hates sin or pestilence or--the
color work in a ten-cent magazine. I despise its very vastness and
power. It has the poorest millionaires, the littlest great men, the
lowest skyscrapers, the dolefulest pleasures of any town I ever saw. It
has caught you, old man, but I will never run beside its chariot wheels.
It glosses itself as the Chinaman glosses his collars. Give me the
domestic finish. I could stand a town ruled by wealth or one ruled by
an aristocracy; but this is one controlled by its lowest ingredients.
Claiming culture, it is the crudest; asseverating its pre-eminence,
it is the basest; denying all outside values and virtue, it is the
narrowest. Give me the pure and the open heart of the West country.
I would go back there to-morrow if I could."

"Don't you like this _filet mignon_?" said William. "Shucks, now, what's
the use to knock the town! It's the greatest ever. I couldn't sell
one automatic pump between Harrisburg and Tommy O'Keefe's saloon, in
Sacramento, where I sell twenty here. And have you seen Sara Bernhardt
in 'Andrew Mack' yet?"

"The town's got you, Billy," said Jack.

"All right," said William. "I'm going to buy a cottage on Lake
Ronkonkoma next summer."

At midnight Jack raised his window and sat close to it. He caught his
breath at what he saw, though he had seen and felt it a hundred times.

Far below and around lay the city like a ragged purple dream. The
irregular houses were like the broken exteriors of cliffs lining deep
gulches and winding streams. Some were mountainous; some lay in long,
desert cañons. Such was the background of the wonderful, cruel,
enchanting, bewildering, fatal, great city. But into this background
were cut myriads of brilliant parallelograms and circles and squares
through which glowed many colored lights. And out of the violet and
purple depths ascended like the city's soul sounds and odors and
thrills that make up the civic body. There arose the breath of gaiety
unrestrained, of love, of hate, of all the passions that man can know.
There below him lay all things, good or bad, that can be brought from
the four corners of the earth to instruct, please, thrill, enrich,
despoil, elevate, cast down, nurture or kill. Thus the flavor of it came
up to him and went into his blood.

There was a knock on his door. A telegram had come for him. It came from
the West, and these were its words:

"Come back and the answer will be yes.


He kept the boy waiting ten minutes, and then wrote the reply:
"Impossible to leave here at present." Then he sat at the window again
and let the city put its cup of mandragora to his lips again.

After all it isn't a story; but I wanted to know which one of the heroes
won the battle against the city. So I went to a very learned friend and
laid the case before him. What he said was: "Please don't bother me; I
have Christmas presents to buy."

So there it rests; and you will have to decide for yourself.



Night had fallen on that great and beautiful city known as
Bagdad-on-the-Subway. And with the night came the enchanted glamour
that belongs not to Arabia alone. In different masquerade the streets,
bazaars and walled houses of the occidental city of romance were filled
with the same kind of folk that so much interested our interesting old
friend, the late Mr. H. A. Rashid. They wore clothes eleven hundred
years nearer to the latest styles than H. A. saw in old Bagdad; but they
were about the same people underneath. With the eye of faith, you could
have seen the Little Hunchback, Sinbad the Sailor, Fitbad the Tailor,

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