A Gambler’s Chance

Montague Glass May 1 1913

A Gambler’s Chance

Montague Glass May 1 1913

A Gambler’s Chance

eadsrs of the April issue enjoyed “A Transaction in Bonds,” written by Mr. Glass. This author was marked by many readers in that issue as especially clever in the field of business stories. “A Gambler’s Chance” will be found to portray certain characteristics in the office and street life of the modern city which will particularly appeal to our readers.

Montague Glass

LITTLE did it avail Jakie Feinberg that he sold more Tageblatts than any other boy in Seward Park, for the Semitic ancestry that determined the quality of his business ability had endowed him with an inordinate lust for gambling, which consumed all the profits of his newspaper vending.

Now, Jimmie Brennan’s attitude toward gambling was different. He played craps because it was the vogue. If you didn’t shoot dice, you weren’t one of the gang, he reasoned ; and so he continued to risk not only the small sum at stake, but a good licking from his mother to boot.

Mrs. Brennan allowed Jimmie out of

his weekly stipend sixty cents for lunches, which he was permitted to spend at the rate of ten cents daily; and to the end that none of it should go for riotous living, he was obliged each night to display the correct unexpended balance, or suffer the penalty. Karely did he exceed his daily allowance, for his mother’s hand was heavy and, laid on in correction, potent for good. Accordingly, one Monday morning it was an untoward destiny that confronted Jimmie with the tempter, Jakie Feinberg, and he arrived a half hour late at Mr. Goodel’s office, with but twenty of the hebdomadal sixty cents remaining in his trousers.

Only the necessity of reaching the office before his employer had brought the game to a reluctant close, and it was with the promise to renew the contest on the dock at the foot of Wall Street between one and two that Jimmie had hastened down-town to his labor. He arrived breathless, to find his employer, Mr. Goodel, seated in the private office. Mr. Goodel frowned severly as Jimmie tiptoed to his little desk in the outer room.

“Boy,” he cried in an awful voice, “you’re late !”

Jimmie gulped and made no reply.

“Where have you been?” Mr. Goodel continued, and waited for a reply.

At last Jimmie’s excuse found husky enunciation.

“I was sick,” he muttered. His cheeks, already flushed by the exertion, became crimson in his effort to stem the impending tears; but do as he •might, a large drop formed in the corner of his eye and rolled slowly down his cheek.

Mr. Goodel plunged behind the extended sheets of his morning paper and grew suddenly interested in the editorial columns.

“Well, sit down in your chair and take it easy,” he said, in tones of gruff kindliness. “Maybe you’ll feel better after a while.”

Then from the editorial page he turned to the stock quotations. In the transaction of his business of investment securities Mr. Goodel at all times displayed a conservative moderation. He dreaded wildcat enterprises, and in reading the market report it was his custom to skim over in the most cursory fashion all references to mining securities, and rarely did he give more than passing notice to the quotations of industrials. To-day, however, his eye wandered over the financial page, and, caught by the leaded heading, “United Chocolate and Cocoa,” he read with interest the item that followed:

In United Chocolate and Cocoa there was a resumption of the phenomenal activity which developed yesterday on the agreement between both caucuses of the House to increase the duty on manufactured cocoa fifty per cent, ad valorem. It is expected that the tariff-revision bill will pass the House by a

large majority, this afternoon, and in anticipation of the result, the price of the preferred stock rose thirty points yesterday. Conservative operators predict that it will touch par before the close of the market to-day.

Thus read Mr. Goodel. He made a rapid calculation by which he found that in selling five hundred N. Y. S. fours at ninety-nine, and investing the proceeds in “Chocolate,” as the abbreviated term has it, he would net a profit of something like goodness knows how many thousand dollars before breakfast the next morning. Then his better judgment prevailed and he laid down the paper with a sigh.

New York Southern bonds are as tangible as gold eagles, but “Chocolate”— well, “Chocolate” was an unlisted security dealt in by curb-brokers on Broad Street—and, to Mr. Goodel, a curbbroker was even as a dissenting minister to a clergyman of the Church of England.

II.

AT this juncture Goodel’s brother-inlaw, one Rushmore Luddington, entered and greeted him noisily. Luddington was a dealer in commercial paper— the dealer in commercial paper, and hail-fellow-well-met with every bank president in Wall Street. His conversation was studded with allusions to dialogues between himself and these executive officers, wherein he addressed each one of them by his abbreviated Christian name, and they called him in return, “Luddy, old boy.”

He hid a shrewd temperament beneath a boyish and jovial exterior that in an old man might be thought a trifle unbecoming. Goodel, however, had a high opinion of his brother-in-law’s judgment, and could always gauge the importance of the information which Luddington could, if he would, disclose, by the degree of hilarity he developed.

This morning he was particularly boisterous, and Goodel scented a valuable market-tip under the cloak of his brother-in-law’s merriment.

“II’lo, Luddy,” he cried. “How’s the market? Sit down ’n’ make yourself comfortable.”

Luddy sank into the chair with a

grunt. His two hundred pounds, contained within a trifle more than five feet, were further compressed hy a frock-coat, which fitted without a wrinkle and made almost an acrobatic feat out of the simple act of sitting down.

“Look here, Goodel,” he said, in tones of melting confidential timbre. “There’s the opportunity of a life-time to-day. The House is sure to pass the tariff-revision bill, and when it does, there will be some astounding developments.”

Goodel blew clouds of smoke that expressed his interest more eloquently than speech alone.

“I see you’re been reading the financial page,” Luddy went on ; “but their prediction isn’t half bright enough.”

His voice sank to a whisper.

“I have K. P.’s word for it, Chocolate will touch one hundred and fifty by next week.”

Goodel shook his head.

“It’s no use Luddy,” he said. “I haven’t the available funds, and if I had, speculation is not in my line.”

Luddingtoii made an impatient gesture.

“The opportunity of a lifetime,” he repeated. “You know I never take a flier, for I couldn’t buy a hundred shares without every one on Wall Street knowing it; but really, my dear Goodel, it would be criminal to neglect this splendid occasion.”

“I tell you what I’ll do.” Goodel interrupted. “Come and take lunch with me. In the meantime I’ll think it over, and if I decide on anything, I’ll let you know then.”

Luddington arose and fairly wafted himself out of the office, for, despite his weight, he was remarkably light on his feet, and dashed around from bank to bank, peddling his commercial paper, with all the agility of a man half his age.

“I’ll see you at twelve,” he said, going out. He left a faint odor of violets behind him, for Luddy’s boutonnière was as much a part of him as his little spiked beard.

Goodel smoked furiously at his cigar until the ends of his moustache were

perilously near to scorching.

“Boy,” he called, flinging away the end, “how do you feel now?”

Jimmie arose and murmured that he was better.

“Then go out and buy me three evening papers, ^ showing the opening prices,” he said. “Be sure to get one showing the opening prices. Do you understand?”

“Yessir,” Jimmie replied, and ran for the elevator.

He returned ten minutes later with three papers, one of them pink. Goodel to^k them into his room and shut the door. He turned them over and over, but not a trace of any market news was visible.

“Boy,” he roared, “didn’t I tell you to buy me a paper with the opening prices in it?”

“Yessir,” said Jimmie.

“Well, where are they?”

Jimmie folded the first page and grinned triumphantly.

“Here they are, sir.” he cried, and pointed to a double heading: “To-day’s Entries and Probable Odds.”

Goodel seemed to be on the verge of apoplexy.

“You take these papers back,” he yelled, “and get me the edition showing the stock-market opening.”

When Jimmie came back, Mr. Goodel ascertained that “Chocolate” had opened at ninety with ten sales in the first three minutes. He paced up and down the room, and then, with an air of determination, he put on his hat and went down to the office of Matthews & Company, his brokers, where he watched the ticker for a good three-quarters of an hour.

“Chocolate” advanced on thousandshares sales to ninety-five, and had Mr. Goodel been a man of nervous temperament, his excitement might have conquered his judgment and he would have loaded himself up with every share of chocolate available.

As it was, when he entered his office it need little pressure on the part of Mr. Luddington, for he had about made up his mind to buy a thousand shares. The utmost confidence prevailed in Wall Street that the tarin-révision bill

would go through before two o’clock, and not only “Chocolate” but many other industrials on the list reflected, by a sharp advance in prices, the excited tone of the market.

Luddington arrived promptly at twTelve, and Goodel and he left immediately, nor did they return until nearly one. Luddington’s strident laughter testified to a successful luncheon, with at least two quarts of wine, while even Goodel was a trifle flushed and garrulous. He sat down immediately and drew a check for a large amount, which, together with an order to purchase two thousand “Chocolate,” he enclosed in an envelope addressed to Matthews & Company.

III.

IT was now ten minutes past one, and Jimmie chafed at the delay. No doubt Jakie Feinberg would wait for him, but one hour was a trifling period in which to recoup his morning’s losses. At length Mr. Goodel called him into his office.

“Boy,” he said, “you go to lunch now, and while vou’re out take this letter to Matthews & Company. Be sure to go there first.”

Jimmie seized the envelope and was off like a flash.

“Be careful,” Mr. Goodel called after him. “Don’t lose it.”

Luddington rose, and they shook hands with such cordiality as a bottle of wine will engender.

“Wish you luck, old man,” he said. “You’re in for a good thing.”

Goodel smiled a little vacuously and, as Luddington closed the door, sighed heavily. Speculation, he reflected, plays the deuce with a man’s money and peace of mind. His lip? uttered and re-uttered the words till a faint drowsiness came over him and, induced by his unwonted intemperance at luncheon, his head lurched forward on his breast and he sank into a profound slumber.

Jnnmie hastened down to the foot of Wall Street, the note tucked in his breast pocket, and the thought of Jakie waiting there spurred him on, so that he arrived at about half past one. For once Jakie’s luck stayed with him while they shook the dice and threw again and again until Jimmie’s twenty cents dwindled to five, mounted to fifteen, diminished once more. At last, at a quarter to three, fortune entirely deserted him,

and he was obliged to declare himself flat broke.

He retraced his steps to the office, plunged in despondency. As he reached the corner of Broad street, an excited mob surged around the curb-brokers’ enclosure. Messengers ran hither and thither, and overgrown newsboys _ with husky bass voices were yelling their extras.

His hands were thrust deep into his trousers pockets and his mind dwelt on the licking to come, so that when Luddington bounded down the steps of the Industrial Trust Company building, Jimmie not only failed to see him, but was knocked squarely into the gutter as well.

Luddington rushed over to Goodel’s quarters and burst into the private office like a whirlwind. Its occupant snored in oblivion of the disaster that awaited him as Luddington entered and shook him by the shoulder.

“Goodel wake up,” Luddington yelled. There was no trace of the debonair “Luddy, old man” in the perspiring and disheveled figure that fairly danced with excitement.

“What’s the matter?” gasped the rudely awakened Goodel.

“Awful, awful!” Luddy ejaculated. “The tariff-revision bill was defeated.

Some misunderstanding among the leading; ‘Chocolate’ dropped to fifty, and the bottom’s fallen out of the whole market.” Goodel turned white and almost fainted.

“Let’s get a paper. Here you, boy,” he yelled.

There was no answer.

^ Goodel jumped up and reached the outer office just as the forlorn Jimmie entered, all dusty from his tumble, and attempted to reach his desk unnoticed.

“Here, you boy, where’ve you been?” he said.

“To lunch,” Jimmie croaked, “Did you deliver that letter?” Goodel asked.

Jimmie jumped as though he had been shot.

Oh, gee!” he muttered. “I forgot all about it,” and reaching down into his breast pocket, he pulled out the crumpled missive addressed to Matthews & Company.

“Give it to me, give it to me !” Goodel shrieked hysterically, and without waiting to open it, tore envelope, check, and order to a thousand pieces. He sank into a chair utterly exhausted with excitement.

“What delayed you all this time?” he said weakly, trying to maintain a semblance of composure.

Jimmie hung his head.

“I met a kid I know and we were shooting craps,” he almost whispered.

“What!” roared Goodel. “Gambling, hey? And you lost, too, I’ll bet a million.”

Jimmie nodded dolefully.

“Well,” said his employer, reaching down into his pocket, “here’s a ten-dollar bill for you. Don’t ever gamble again. It’s a terrible thing to do. It loses your money and destroys your peace of mind, by gad !”

He turned to Luddington with a smile.

“And now, Luddington,” he said cheerfully. “Let’s go down and steady our nerves.”