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The Gates of Chance   By: (1861-1945)

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First Page:

The Gates of Chance

by

Van Tassel Sutphen

Contents

I THE GENTLEMAN'S VISITING CARD II THE RED DUCHESS III HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK IV THE PRIVATE LETTER BOX V THE NINETY AND NINE KISSES VI THE QUEEN OF SPADES VII THE OPAL BUTTON VIII THE TIP TOP TIP IX THE BRASS BAGGAGE CHECK X THE UPSET APPLE CART XI THE PHILADELPHIA QUIZZING GLASS XII THE ADJUSTER OF AVERAGES

I

The Gentleman's Visiting Card

The card that had been thrust into my hand had pencilled upon it, "Call at 4020 Madison Avenue at a quarter before eight this evening." Below, in copper plate, was engraved the name, Mr. Esper Indiman.

It was one of those abnormally springlike days that New York sometimes experiences at the latter end of March, days when negligee shirts and last summer's straw hats make a sporadic appearance, and bucolic weather prophets write letters to the afternoon papers abusing the sun spots. Really, it was hot, and I was anxious to get out of the dust and glare; it would be cool at the club, and I intended dining there. The time was half past six, the height of the homeward rush hours, and, as usual, there was a jam of vehicles and pedestrians at the Fourth Avenue and Twenty third Street crossing. The subway contractors were still at work here, and the available street space was choked with their stagings and temporary footwalks. The inevitable consequent was congestion; here were two of the principal thoroughfares of the city crossing each other at right angles, and with hardly enough room, at the point of intersection, for the traffic of one. The confusion grew worse as the policemen and signalmen stationed at the crossing occasionally lost their heads; every now and then a new block would form, and several minutes would elapse before it could be broken. In all directions long lines of yellow electric cars stood stalled, the impatient passengers looking ahead to discover the cause of the trouble. A familiar enough experience to the modern New Yorker, yet it never fails to exasperate him afresh.

The impasse looked hopeless when I reached the scene. A truck loaded with bales of burlap was on the point of breaking down at the crossing, and it was a question of how to get it out of the way in the shortest possible time consistent with the avoidance of the threatened catastrophe. Meanwhile, the jam of cars and trucks kept piling up until there was hardly space for a newsboy to worm his way from one curb to another, and the crowd on the street corners began to grow restive. They do these things so much better in London.

Now, I detest being in the mob, and I was about to back my way out of the crowd and seek another route, even if a roundabout one. But just then the blockade was partially raised, an opening presented itself immediately in front of me, and I was forced forward willy nilly. Arrived at the other side of the street, I drew out of the press as quickly as possible, and it was then that I discovered Mr. Indiman's carte de visite tightly clutched in my left hand. Impossible to conjecture how it had come there, and my own part in the transaction had been purely involuntary; the muscles of the palm had closed unconsciously upon the object presented to it, just as does a baby's. "Mr. Esper Indiman and who the deuce may he be?"

The club dining room was full, but Jeckley hailed me and offered me a seat at his table. I loathe Jeckley, and so I explained politely that I was waiting for a friend, and should not dine until later.

"Well, then, have a cocktail while I am finishing my coffee," persisted the beast, and I was obliged to comply.

"I had to feed rather earlier than usual," explained Jeckley.

"Yes," I said, not caring in the least about Mr. Jeckley's hours for meals.

"You see I'm doing the opening at the Globe to night, and I must get my Wall Street copy to the office before the theatre. And what do you think of that by way of an extra assignment?" He took a card from his pocket book and tossed it over... Continue reading book >>




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