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The Four Million

The Green Door
Suppose you should be walking down Broadway after dinner, with ten minutes allotted to
the consummation of your cigar while you are choosing between a diverting tragedy and
something serious in the way of vaudeville. Suddenly a hand is laid upon your arm. You
turn to look into the thrilling eyes of a beautiful woman, wonderful in diamonds and
Russian sables. She thrusts hurriedly into your hand an extremely hot buttered roll,
flashes out a tiny pair of scissors, snips off the second button of your overcoat, meaningly
ejaculates the one word, "parallelogram!" and swiftly flies down a cross street, looking
back fearfully over her shoulder.
That would be pure adventure. Would you accept it? Not you. You would flush with
embarrassment; you would sheepishly drop the roll and continue down Broadway,
fumbling feebly for the missing button. This you would do unless you are one of the
blessed few in whom the pure spirit of adventure is not dead.
True adventurers have never been plentiful. They who are set down in print as such have
been mostly business men with newly invented methods. They have been out after the
things they wanted—golden fleeces, holy grails, lady loves, treasure, crowns and fame.
The true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate.
A fine example was the Prodigal Son—when he started back home.
Half-adventurers—brave and splendid figures—have been numerous. From the Crusades
to the Palisades they have enriched the arts of history and fiction and the trade of
historical fiction. But each of them had a prize to win, a goal to kick, an axe to grind, a
race to run, a new thrust in tierce to deliver, a name to carve, a crow to pick—so they
were not followers of true adventure.
In the big city the twin spirits Romance and Adventure are always abroad seeking worthy
wooers. As we roam the streets they slyly peep at us and challenge us in twenty different
guises. Without knowing why, we look up suddenly to see in a window a face that seems
to belong to our gallery of intimate portraits; in a sleeping thoroughfare we hear a cry of
agony and fear coming from an empty and shuttered house; instead of at our familiar
curb, a cab-driver deposits us before a strange door, which one, with a smile, opens for us
and bids us enter; a slip of paper, written upon, flutters down to our feet from the high
lattices of Chance; we exchange glances of instantaneous hate, affection and fear with
hurrying strangers in the passing crowds; a sudden douse of rain—and our umbrella may
be sheltering the daughter of the Full Moon and first cousin of the Sidereal System; at
every corner handkerchiefs drop, fingers beckon, eyes besiege, and the lost, the lonely,
the rapturous, the mysterious, the perilous, changing clues of adventure are slipped into
our fingers. But few of us are willing to hold and follow them. We are grown stiff with
the ramrod of convention down our backs. We pass on; and some day we come, at the
end of a very dull life, to reflect that our romance has been a pallid thing of a marriage or
two, a satin rosette kept in a safe-deposit drawer, and a lifelong feud with a steam
radiator.
 
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