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The Venturers
by [?]

“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 Nghtingale 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.”