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The Fighting Chance   By: (1865-1933)

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[Illustration: "She was standing beside the fire with Quarrier, one foot on the fender."]

The Fighting Chance

By Robert W. Chambers

Author of "Cardigan," "The Maid at Arms," "The Firing Line," etc.




I. Acquaintance II. Imprudence III. Shotover IV. The Season Opens V. A Winning Loser VI. Modus Vivendi VII. Persuasion VIII. Confidences IX. Confessions X. The Seamy Side XI. The Call of the Rain XII. The Asking Price XIII. The Selling Price XIV. The Bargain XV. The Enemy Listens



The speed of the train slackened; a broad tidal river flashed into sight below the trestle, spreading away on either hand through yellowing level meadows. And now, above the roaring undertone of the cars, from far ahead floated back the treble bell notes of the locomotive; there came a gritting vibration of brakes; slowly, more slowly the cars glided to a creaking standstill beside a sun scorched platform gay with the bright flutter of sunshades and summer gowns.

"Shotover! Shotover!" rang the far cry along the cars; and an absent minded young man in the Pullman pocketed the uncut magazine he had been dreaming over and, picking up gun case and valise, followed a line of fellow passengers to the open air, where one by one they were engulfed and lost to view amid the gay confusion on the platform.

The absent minded young man, however, did not seem to know exactly where he was bound for. He stood hesitating, leisurely inspecting the flashing ranks of vehicles depot wagons, omnibusses, and motor cars already eddying around a dusty gravel drive centred by the conventional railroad flower bed and fountain.

Sunshine blazed on foliage plants arranged geometrically, on scarlet stars composed of geraniums, on thickets of tall flame tinted cannas. And around this triumph of landscape gardening, phaeton, Tilbury, Mercedes, and Toledo backed, circled, tooted; gaily gowned women, whips aslant, horses dancing, greeted expected guests; laughing young men climbed into dog carts and took the reins from nimble grooms; young girls, extravagantly veiled, made room in comfortable touring cars for feminine guests whose extravagant veils were yet to be unpacked; slim young men in leather trappings, caps adorned with elaborate masks or goggles, manipulated rakish steering gears; preoccupied machinists were fussing with valve and radiator or were cranking up; and, through the jolly tumult, the melancholy bell of the locomotive sounded, and the long train moved out through the September sunshine amid clouds of snowy steam.

And all this time the young man, gun case in one hand, suit case in the other, looked about him in his good humoured, leisurely manner for anybody or any vehicle which might be waiting for him. His amiable inspection presently brought a bustling baggage master within range of vision; and he spoke to this official, mentioning his host's name.

"Lookin' for Mr. Ferrall?" repeated the baggage master, spinning a trunk dexterously into rank with its fellows. "Say, one of Mr. Ferrall's men was here just now there he is, over there uncrating that there bird dog!"

The young man's eyes followed the direction indicated by the grimy thumb; a red faced groom in familiar livery was kneeling beside a dog's travelling crate, attempting to unlock it, while behind the bars an excited white setter whined and thrust forth first one silky paw then the other.

The young man watched the scene for a moment, then:

"Are you one of Mr. Ferrall's men?" he asked in his agreeable voice.

The groom looked up, then stood up:

"Yis, Sorr."

"Take these; I'm Mr. Siward for Shotover House. I dare say you have room for me and the dog, too."

The groom opened his mouth to speak, but Siward took the crate key from his fingers, knelt, and tried the lock. It resisted. From the depths of the crate a beseeching paw fell upon his cuff... Continue reading book >>

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