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The Venturers
by [?]

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 smile.

“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. Herre 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 door.

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 voayge 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.”