Tales of the Argonauts HTML version

A Passage In The Life Of Mr. John Oakhurst
He always thought it must have been fate. Certainly nothing could have been
more inconsistent with his habits than to have been in the Plaza at seven o'clock
of that midsummer morning. The sight of his colorless face in Sacramento was
rare at that season, and, indeed, at any season, anywhere publicly, before two
o'clock in the afternoon. Looking back upon it in after-years in the light of a
chanceful life, he determined, with the characteristic philosophy of his profession,
that it must have been fate.
Yet it is my duty, as a strict chronicler of facts, to state that Mr. Oakhurst's
presence there that morning was due to a very simple cause. At exactly half-past
six, the bank being then a winner to the amount of twenty thousand dollars, he
had risen from the faro- table, relinquished his seat to an accomplished assistant,
and withdrawn quietly, without attracting a glance from the silent, anxious faces
bowed over the table. But when he entered his luxurious sleeping-room, across
the passage-way, he was a little shocked at finding the sun streaming through an
inadvertently opened window. Something in the rare beauty of the morning,
perhaps something in the novelty of the idea, struck him as he was about to
close the blinds; and he hesitated. Then, taking his hat from the table, he
stepped down a private staircase into the street.
The people who were abroad at that early hour were of a class quite unknown to
Mr. Oakhurst. There were milkmen and hucksters delivering their wares, small
tradespeople opening their shops, housemaids sweeping doorsteps, and
occasionally a child. These Mr. Oakhurst regarded with a certain cold curiosity,
perhaps quite free from the cynical disfavor with which he generally looked upon
the more pretentious of his race whom he was in the habit of meeting. Indeed, I
think he was not altogether displeased with the admiring glances which these
humble women threw after his handsome face and figure, conspicuous even in a
country of fine-looking men. While it is very probable that this wicked vagabond,
in the pride of his social isolation, would have been coldly indifferent to the
advances of a fine lady, a little girl who ran admiringly by his side in a ragged
dress had the power to call a faint flush into his colorless cheek. He dismissed
her at last, but not until she had found out--what, sooner or later, her large-
hearted and discriminating sex inevitably did--that he was exceedingly free and
open-handed with his money, and also--what, perhaps, none other of her sex
ever did--that the bold black eyes of this fine gentleman were in reality of a
brownish and even tender gray.
There was a small garden before a white cottage in a side-street, that attracted
Mr. Oakhurst's attention. It was filled with roses, heliotrope, and verbena,--
flowers familiar enough to him in the expensive and more portable form of
bouquets, but, as it seemed to him then, never before so notably lovely. Perhaps
it was because the dew was yet fresh upon them; perhaps it was because they