At the curb, the door of the taxicab closed with a slam. Simultaneously the drone of the motor thickened to a rumble. The man with the twisted mouth turned just in time to see it drawing away.
“Hi!” he cried in surprise and dismay.
But the taxi didn’t pause; to the contrary, it stretched out toward Ninth Avenue at a quickening pace.
With profanity appreciating the fact that he had been tricked, he picked up his heels in pursuit. But P. Sybarite had not finished with him. Deftly plucking the man back by the tail of his full-skirted opera coat, he succeeded in arresting his flight before it was fairly started.
“Here!” he protested. “What’s your hurry?”
With a vicious snarl, the man turned and snatched at his cloak. But P. Sybarite adhered tenaciously to the coat.
“We were discussing your nose—”
At discretion, he interrupted himself to duck beneath the swing of a powerful fist. And this last, failing to find a mark, threw its owner off his balance. Tripping awkwardly over the low curbing of the dooryard walk, he reeled and went a-sprawl on his knees, while his hat fell off and (such is the impish habit of toppers) rolled and bounded several feet away.
Releasing the cloak, P. Sybarite withdrew to a respectful remove and held himself coolly alert against reprisals that never came. The other picked himself up quickly, cast about for the taxicab, discovered it swiftly making off—already twenty yards distant—and with a howl of rage bounded through the gate and gave chase at the top of his speed.
Gravely, P. Sybarite retrieved the hat and followed to the curbing.
“Hey!” he shouted after the fast retreating figure—“here’s your hat!”
But he wasted breath. The taxicab was nearing Ninth Avenue, its pursuer sprinting bravely a hundred feet to the rear, and as he watched, both turned the northern corner and vanished like shapes of dream.
Sighing, P. Sybarite went back to the stoop and sat down to consider the state of his soul (which was vain-glorious) and the condition of the hat (which was soiled, rumpled, and disreputable).
WHEELS OF CHANCE
Turning the affair over in his mind, and considering it from every imaginable angle, P. Sybarite decided (fairly enough) that it was, on the whole, mysterious; lending at least some colour of likelihood to George’s gratuitous guess-work.
Certainly it would seem that one had now every right to assume Miss Molly Lessing to be other than as she chose to seem; nowadays the villain in shining evening dress doesn’t pursue the shrinking shop-girl save through the action of the obsolescent mellerdrammer or of the ubiquitous moving-picture reel. So much must at least be said for these great educators: they have broken the villain of his open-face attire; to-day he knows better, and when prowling to devour, disguises himself in the guileless if nobby “sack suit” of the widely advertised Kollege Kut brand....