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Roads of Destiny

The Enchanted Profile
There are few Caliphesses. Women are Scheherazades by birth, predilection, instinct, and
arrangement of the vocal cords. The thousand and one stories are being told every day by
hundreds of thousands of viziers' daughters to their respective sultans. But the bowstring
will get some of 'em yet if they don't watch out.
I heard a story, though, of one lady Caliph. It isn't precisely an Arabian Nights story,
because it brings in Cinderella, who flourished her dishrag in another epoch and country.
So, if you don't mind the mixed dates (which seem to give it an Eastern flavour, after all),
we'll get along.
In New York there is an old, old hotel. You have seen woodcuts of it in the magazines. It
was built—let's see—at a time when there was nothing above Fourteenth Street except
the old Indian trail to Boston and Hammerstein's office. Soon the old hostelry will be torn
down. And, as the stout walls are riven apart and the bricks go roaring down the chutes,
crowds of citizens will gather at the nearest corners and weep over the destruction of a
dear old landmark. Civic pride is strongest in New Bagdad; and the wettest weeper and
the loudest howler against the iconoclasts will be the man (originally from Terre Haute)
whose fond memories of the old hotel are limited to his having been kicked out from its
free-lunch counter in 1873.
At this hotel always stopped Mrs. Maggie Brown. Mrs. Brown was a bony woman of
sixty, dressed in the rustiest black, and carrying a handbag made, apparently, from the
hide of the original animal that Adam decided to call an alligator. She always occupied a
small parlour and bedroom at the top of the hotel at a rental of two dollars per day. And
always, while she was there, each day came hurrying to see her many men, sharp-faced,
anxious-looking, with only seconds to spare. For Maggie Brown was said to be the third
richest woman in the world; and these solicitous gentlemen were only the city's
wealthiest brokers and business men seeking trifling loans of half a dozen millions or so
from the dingy old lady with the prehistoric handbag.
The stenographer and typewriter of the Acropolis Hotel (there! I've let the name of it
out!) was Miss Ida Bates. She was a hold-over from the Greek classics. There wasn't a
flaw in her looks. Some old-timer paying his regards to a lady said: "To have loved her
was a liberal education." Well, even to have looked over the black hair and neat white
shirtwaist of Miss Bates was equal to a full course in any correspondence school in the
country. She sometimes did a little typewriting for me, and, as she refused to take the
money in advance, she came to look upon me as something of a friend and protégé. She
had unfailing kindliness and a good nature; and not even a white-lead drummer or a fur
importer had ever dared to cross the dead line of good behaviour in her presence. The
entire force of the Acropolis, from the owner, who lived in Vienna, down to the head
porter, who had been bedridden for sixteen years, would have sprung to her defence in a
moment.
 
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