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  • 1902
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vaguely through folds of scurrying fog. She shone upon a silent street that ran up a moderate hill between far-scattered corporation gas-lamps–a street that having reached the hill top seemed to saunter leisurely across a height which had once been the most aristocratic quarter of the Misty City; the quarter was still pathetically respectable, and for three squares at least its handsome residences stared destiny in the face and stood in the midst of flower-bordered lawns, unmindful of decay. Its fountains no longer played; even its once pampered children had grown up, and the young of the present generation were of a different cast; but the street seemed not to heed these changes; indeed it was growing a little careless of itself and needed replanking. Was it a realization of this fact, I wonder, that caused it on a sudden to run violently down a steep place into the Bay, as if it were possessed of Devils? Well it might be, for the human scum of the town gathered about the base of the hill, and the nights there were unutterably iniquitous.

O that pale watcher, the Moon! She shone on a rude stairway leading up to the bare face of a cliff that topped the hill; and five and forty uncertain steps that had more than once slid down into the street below along with the wreckage of the winter rains, for the cliff was of rock and clay and though the rock may stand until the crack of Doom, the clay mingles with the elements and an annual mud pudding, tons in weight, was deposited on the pavement of the high street, to the joy of the juveniles and the grief of the belated pedestrians. The cliff towering at the junction of the two thoroughfares shared with each its generous mud-flow and half of it descended in lavalike cascades into the depths of a ravine that crossed the high street at right angles, passing under a bridge still celebrated as a triumph of architectural ungainliness.

She shone, my Lady Moon, into that deep ravine which was half filled with shadow and made a weird picture of the place; it seemed like the bed of some dark noiseless river, the source of which was still undiscovered; and as for its mouth, no one would ever find it, or, finding, tell of it, for the few who trusted themselves to its voiceless and invisible current were heard of no more; sometimes a sharp cry for help pierced the midnight silence, and it was known upon the hill that murder was being done down yonder–that was all. Yet day by day the great tide of traffic poured through this subterranean passage, with muffled roar as of a distant sea.

She shone on all that was left of a once beautiful and imposing mansion. It crowned the very brow of the cliff; it proudly overlooked all the neighbors; it was a Gothic ruin girded about with a mantle of ivy and dense creepers, yet not all of the perennial leafage that clothed it, even to the eaves, could disguise the fact that the major portion of the mansion had been razed to the ground lest it should topple and go crashing into that gulf below. There, once upon a time, in a Gothic garden shaded by slender cypresses, walked the golden youth of the land; there, feminine lunch parties, pink teas, highly exclusive musicales and fashionable hops, flourished mightily; now the former side-door served as the front entrance to all that was left of the mansion; the stone that was rejected had become the headstone of the corner, as it were; it was an abrupt corner to be sure, with the upper half of its narrow door filled with small panes of glass; its modest threshold was somewhat worn; but upon the platform before it a large egg-shaped jar of unmistakable Chinese origin encased the roots of a flowing cactus that might have added a grace to the proudest palace in the Misty City. This was the modest portal of the Eyrie; ivy vines sheltered it like a dense thatch; ivy vines clung fast to a deep bay window that nearly filled one side of the library of the old mansion, now a living-room; ivy vines curtained the glazed wall of a conservatory where some one slept as in a bower. A weird dwelling place was this the moon shone upon, where pigeons nested and cooed at intervals in all the green nooks thereof.

She shone on the tall slim panes of glass in the bay window till they shimmered like ice, and brightened the carpet on the floor of the room–a carpet that was faded and frayed; she threw a soft glow upon the three walls beyond the window; where were low, convenient shelves of books; there were books, books, books everywhere–books of all descriptions, neither creed nor caution limited their range. Many pictures and sketches in oil or water-color–some of them unframed–were upon the walls above the book-shelves; there were bronze statuettes, graceful figures of lute-strumming troubadours upon the old-fashioned marble mantel; there were busts and medallions in plaster, and a few casts after the antique. Heaped in corners, and upon the tops of the book-shelves lay bric-a-brac in hopeless confusion; toy canoes from Kamchatka and the Southern seas; wooden masks from the burial places of the Alaskan Indians and the Theban Tombs of the Nile Kings; rude fish-hooks that had been dropped in the coral seas; sharks’ teeth; and the strong beak of an albatross whose webbed feet were tobacco pouches and whose hollow wing-bones were the long jointed stem of a pipe; spears and war-clubs were there, brought from the gleaming shores of reef-girdled islands; a Florentine lamp; a roll of papyrus; an idol from Easter Island, the eyes of which were two missionary shirt buttons of mother-of-pearl, of the Puritan type; your practical cannibal, having eaten his missionary, spits out the shirt buttons to be used as the eyes which see not; carved gourds were there, and calabashes; Mexican pottery; and some of the latest Pompeiian antiquities such as are miraculously discovered in the presence of the amazed and delighted tourist who secretly purchases the same for considerably more than a song.

There were pious objects, many of them resembling the Ex Votos at a shrine; an ebony and bronzed indulgenced crucifix with a history, and Sacred Hearts done in scarlet satin with flames of shining tinsel flickering from their tops.

There were vines creeping everywhere within the room, from jars that stood on brackets and made hanging gardens of themselves; creepers, yards in length that sprung from the mouths of water-pots hidden behind objects of interest, and these framed the pictures in living green; a huge wide-mouthed vase stood in the bay window filled with a great pulu fern still nourished by its native soil–a veritable tropical island this, now basking in the moonlight far from its native clime. Japanese and Chinese lanterns were there; and an ostrich egg brought from Nubia that hung like an alabaster lamp lit by a moonbeam; and fans, of course, but quaint barbaric ones from the Orient and the Equatorial Isles; and framed and unframed photographs of celebrities each bearing an original autograph; and easy chairs, nothing but the easiest chairs from the very far-reaching one with the long arms like a pair of oars over which one throws his slippered feet, and lolls in his pajamas in memory of an East Indian season of exile, to the deep nest-like sleepy hollow quite big enough for two, in which one dozes and dreams, and out of which it is so difficult for one to rise. Over all this picturesque confusion grinned a fleshless human skull with its eye sockets and yawning jaws stuffed full of faded boutonnieres.

The moon shone, but paler now for it was growing late, on a closed coupe that rolled rapidly from the Club House in the early morning after a High Jinks night, and clattered through the streets accompanied by the matutinal milk wagons with their frequent, intermittent pauses; thus it rolled and rolled over the resounding pavement toward that house on the hill top, The Eyrie.

The vehicle zigzagged up the steep grade, and stopped at the foot of the long stairway; some one alighted and exchanged a friendly word or two with the driver, for in that lonely part of the town it was pleasant to hear the sound of one’s own voice even if one was guiltily conscious of making conversation; then with a cheerful “Good-night,” this some-one climbed the steps while the vehicle hurried away with its jumble of hoofs and wheels. A key was heard at the outer door; the door sagged a little in common with everything about the house–and a tenant passed into the Eyrie.

Enter Paul Clitheroe, sole scion of that melancholy house whose foundations had sunk under him, and left him, at the age of five and twenty, master of himself, but slave to fortune.

In the dim light he closed and fastened the outer door; from a hall scarcely large enough for two people to pass in, he entered the inner room with the confident step of a familiar. Having deposited hat, cane and ulster in their respective places–there was a place for everything or it would have been quite impossible to abide in that snuggery–he sank into one of the easy chairs, rolled a cigarette with meditative deliberation, lighted it and blew the smoke into the moonlight where it assumed a thousand fantastic forms.

The silence of the room seemed emphasized by the presence of its occupant; he was one who under no circumstances was likely to disturb the serenity of a house. In most cases a single room takes on the character of the one who inhabits it; this is invariably the case where the apartment is in the possession of a woman; but turn a man loose in a room, and leave him to himself for a season, and he will have made of that room a witness strong enough to condemn or condone him on the Last Day; the whole character of the place will gradually change until it has become an index to the man’s nature; where this is not the case, the man is without noticeable characteristics.

Those who knew Paul Clitheroe, the solitary at the Eyrie, would at once recognize this room as his abode; those of his friends who saw this room for the first time, without knowing it to be his home, would say: “Paul Clitheroe would fit in here.” A kind of harmonious incongruity was the chief characteristic of the man and his solitary lodging.

He sat for some time as silent as the inanimate objects in that singularly silent room. An occasional turn of the wrist, the momentary flash of the ash at the end of his cigarette, the smoke-wreath floating in space–those were all that gave assurance of life; for when this solitary returned into his well-chosen solitude he seemed to shed all that was of the earth earthy, and to become a kind of spectre in a dream.

Having finished his cigarette, Paul withdrew into the conservatory, his sleeping room, half doll’s house and half bower, where the ivy had crept over the top of the casement and covered his ceiling with a web of leaves. Shortly he was reposing upon his pillow, over which his holy-water font–a large crimson heart of crystal with flames of burnished gold, set upon a tablet of white marble–seemed almost to pulsate in the exquisite half-lights of approaching dawn.

It may not have been manly, or even masculine, for him thus literally to curtain his sleep, like a faun, with ivy; it may not have been orthodox for him to admit to his Valhalla some of the false Gods, and to honor them after a fashion; the one true God was duly adored, and all his saints appealed to in filial faith. That was his nature and past changing; if he could not look upon God as a Jealous God visiting His judgments with fanatical justice upon the witted and half-witted, it was because his was a nature which had never been warped by the various social moral and religious influences brought to bear upon it.

He may have lacked judgment, in the eyes of the world, but he had never suffered seriously in consequence. It may not have been wise for him to fondly nourish tastes and tendencies that were usually quite beyond his means; but he did it, and doing it afforded him the greatest pleasure in life.

You will pardon him all this; every one did sooner or later, even those who discountenanced similar weaknesses or affectations–or whatever you are pleased to call them–in anyone else, soon found an excuse for overlooking them in his case.

He was not, thank heaven, all things to all men; all things to a few, he may have been–yea, even more than all else to some, so long as the spell lasted; to the majority, however, he was probably nothing, and less than nothing. And what of that? If he did little good in the world, he certainly did less evil, and, as he lay in his bed, under a white counterpane upon which the dawning light, sifting through the vines that curtained the glazed front of his sleeping room, fell in a mottled Japanese pattern, and while the ivy that covered the Gothic ceiling trailed long tendrils of the palest and most delicate green, each leaf glossed as if it had been varnished, this unheroic-hero, this pantheistic-devotee, this heathenized-Christian, this half-happy-go-lucky aethestic Bohemian, lay upon his pillow, the incarnation of absolute repose.

And so the morning broke, and the early birds began to chirp in the ivy and to prune their plumage and flutter among the leaves; and down the street tramped the feet of the toilers on their way to forge and dock. Over the harbor came the daffodil light from the sun-tipped eastern hills, and it painted the waves that lapped the sleek sides of a yacht lying at anchor under the hill. A yacht that Paul had watched many a day and dreamed of many a night; for he often longed with a great longing to slip cable and hie away, even unto the uttermost parts.

II.

WHAT THE SUN SHONE ON

He shone on the far side of the eastern azure hills and set all the tree tops in the wood beyond the wold aflame; he looked over the silhouette out of a cloudless sky upon a Bay whose breadth and beauty is one of the seven hundred wonders of the world; he paved the waves with gold, a path celestial that angels might not fear to tread. He touched the heights of the Misty City and the sea-fog that had walled it in through the night as with walls of unquarried marble–albeit the eaves had dripped in the darkness as after a summer shower–and anon the opaque vapors dissolved and fled away. There she lay, the Misty City, in all her wasted and scattered beauty; she might have been a picture for Poets to dream on and Artists to love–their wonder and their despair–but she is not; she is hideous to look upon save in the sunset or the after-glow when you cannot see her, but only the dim vision of what she might have been.

He rose as a God refreshed with sleep and called the weary to their work, and disturbed the slumbers of those that toil not and spin not, and have nothing to do but sleep.

There were no secrets from him now; every detail was discovered; and so having gilded for a moment the mossy shingles of the Eyrie he stole into the room where Paul Clitheroe passed most of his waking hours, and through the curtain of ivy and geraniums that screened the conservatory from the eyes of the curious world, and where Paul was at this moment sleeping the sleep of the just. From the bed of the ravine below the Eyrie rose the rumble and roar of traffic. The hours passed by. The sleeper began to turn uneasily on his pillow. The sound of hurrying feet was heard upon the board walks in front of the Eyrie-cliff; many voices, youthful voices, swelled the chorus that told of the regiments of children now hastening to school. From dreamland Paul returned by easy stages to the work-a-day world. He arose, donned a trailing garment with angel sleeves and a large crucifix embroidered in scarlet upon the breast–that robe made of him a cross between a Monk and a Marchioness–slipped his feet into sandals and entered the larger chamber which was at once living-room and library. He opened the shutters in the deep bay window and greeted the day with the silent solemnity of a fire-worshipper; gave drink to his potted palms and ferns and flowering plants; let his eye wander leisurely over the titles of his books; lingered a little while over his favorites and patted some of them fondly on the back. Taking a small key from its nail by the door he opened the mail box without, carrying his letters to his writing table and leaving them there unopened. He loved to speculate as to whom the writers were and what they may have said to him. This piqued his curiosity, and tided him over a scant breakfast at an inexpensive but fly-blown restaurant where he was wont to eat or make a more or less brave effort to eat whenever he had the wherewithal to settle for the same. Breakfast over and gone the young man returned to his Eyrie, and in due course was at his writing table, and at work upon the weekly article that had been appearing in the Sunday issue of one of the popular Dailies for an indefinite period, and the price of which had on several occasions kept him from becoming a conspicuous object of charity.

Having written himself out for the day, as he was apt to in a few hours, he wandered down to the Club for a bit of refreshment which was sure to be forthcoming, for his friends there were ever ready to dine him, or more frequently to wine him, merely for the pleasure of his company.

[Illustration: San Francisco in 1856]

So the afternoon waned and the dinner hour approached; fortunately this hour was usually bespoken and for a little while at least he was lapped in luxury. On his way home he was very apt to turn in at the wicker gates of a typical German Rathskellar where he was unmolested; where the blustering pipes of a colossal orchestrion brayed through an aria from Trovatore with more sound than sentiment and all unmindful of modulation.

He was at home by midnight, for the beer and the bravura ceased to flow at the witching hour. Then he lounged in the easy chair, gradually and not unconsciously shedding all the worldly influences that had been clothing him as with a hair-shirt even since he first went forth that morning. Safely he sank into the silence of the place. Every breath he drew was balm; every moment healing. So he passed into the silence, enfolded by invisible arms that led him gently to his pillow where he sank to sleep with the trustful resignation of a tired babe.

If this routine was ever varied it was a variation with a vengeance. “From grave to gay, from lively to severe” might have been engraved upon his escutcheon. It chanced that the family motto was Festina Lente; this also was appropriate; had he not all his life made haste slowly? For this very reason he had been accounted one of the laziest of his kind; his indolence was a byword merely because he did not throw himself into an easy chair at the Club, of an evening, and bewail his fate; because he did not puff and blow and talk often of the work he had accomplished, was accomplishing, or hastening forward to accomplishment. With all his faults, thank heaven, that sin cannot be charged against him.

III.

BALM OF HURT WOUNDS

He was scrimping in every way; his case was growing desperate. The books, the pictures, the bric-a-brac so precious in his eyes, he was loath to part with; moreover, he was well aware that if he were to trundle his effects down to an auction-room they would not bring him enough to cover his expenses for a single week. “Better to starve in the midst of my household gods,” thought he, “than to part with them for the sake of prolonging this misery.” The situation was in some respects serio-comic. While he seemed to have everything, he really had almost nothing; he was in a certain sense at the mercy of his friends and dependent upon them.

As the dinner hour approached, Paul was called upon to make choice of the character of his table-talk; there were several standing invitations to dine at the houses of old friends, and these were a boon to him, for at such houses the homeless fellow felt much at home. There were special invitations, sometimes an embarrassing profusion of them–all kindly, some persistent, and some even imperative; thus the dinner was a fixed fact; the mood alone was to be consulted in his choice of a table and after all how much of the success of a dinner depends upon the mood of the diner!

Paul’s income was uncertain; while he had written much, and traveled much as a special correspondent, he had never regularly connected himself with any journal, and he knew nothing of the routine of office-work. Sometimes, I may say not infrequently, he could not write at all; yet his pen was his only source of revenue, and often he was without a copper to his credit. He was, therefore, constrained to dine sumptuously with friends, when he would have found a solitary salad a sweet alternative, and independence far more acceptable. The state of the exchequer was very often alarming, and his predicament might have cast a stronger man into the depths; but Paul could fast without complaint, when necessary, for he had fasted often; and, to confess the truth, he would much rather have fasted on and on, than parted with any of the little souvenirs that made his surroundings charming in spite of his privations. The friends who loved and fondled him were wont to send messengers to his door with gifts of flowers, books, pictures and the like, when soup-tickets would have been more serviceable, though by no means more acceptable. It had happened to him more than once, that having failed to break his fast–for he had a judicious horror of debt, born of bitter experience–he received at a late hour as tokens of sincere interest in his welfare, scarf pins, perfumery and scented soap; or it may have been a silk handkerchief bearing the richly wrought monogram of the happy but hungry recipient. At any rate these testimonials of his popularity were never edible. Was this hard luck? He went from one swell dinner to another, day after day, with never so much as a crumb between meals. It of course made some difference to him–this prolonged abstinence–but fortunately, or unfortunately, the effect upon him mentally, morally and physically was hardly visible to the naked eye.

He had a dress coat of the strictly correct type, which he had worn but a few times; he had lectured in it; once or twice, he had recited poems in it to the audiences of admiring lady friends. It was of no use to him now, and he felt that he should never need it again. On the street below him was a small shop, kept by the customary Israelite. Again and again, Paul had noted the sun-faded frock-coat swinging from a hook over the sidewalk in front of this shop; he had said, “I will take this coat to him; it is a costly garment; divide the original price of it by the number of times I have worn it and I find it has cost me about ten dollars an evening. Perhaps this old-clothes dealer will pay me a fair price for it; Jew though he be, he may be possessed of the heart of a Christian!”

Alas and alack! All of Clitheroe’s sufferings could be traced to the cool, calculating hardness of the Christian’s heart. Probably it was prejudice alone that caused him to trust the Christian, and distrust the Jew.

From day to day he passed the shop, striving to muster courage enough to enter and propose his bargain. At first he had imagined the dealer offering him but ten dollars for the coat–it had cost him a goodly sum; a little later he concluded that ten dollars was too little for any one to offer him; he might take twenty; a day later thirty seemed to him a probable offer, and shortly after he imagined himself consenting to receive fifty dollars, since the coat was in such admirable repair.

One day he took it to the dealer; he was not cordially welcomed by the man in shirt sleeves, with whom of late he had held innumerable imaginary conversations. The shop was extremely small and dark; the odor of dead garments pervaded it. With an earnest and kindly glance, Paul invited the sympathy of Abraham the son of Moses who was the son of Isaac; he saw nothing but speculation in those eyes. His coat was examined and tossed aside, as possessing few attractions. Clitheroe’s heart sunk within him; and it sank deeper and deeper as it began to dawn upon him that the Hebrew had no wish to possess the garment, and, if he did so, he did so only to oblige the Christian youth. A bargain was at last struck; Paul departed with five dollars in his pocket–his dress-coat was a thing of the past.

What could he do next to extricate himself from his dubious dilemma? He had a small gold watch, a precious souvenir: “Gold is gold,” said he, “and worth its weight in gold.” He had the address of one who was known far and wide as “Uncle.” He had heard of persons of the highest respectability seeking this uncle when close pressed, and there finding temporary relief at the hands of one who is in some respects a good Samaritan in disguise. Paul found it absolutely impossible for him to enter the not unattractive front of this establishment but there was a “private entrance” in a small dark alley-way; so delicate is the consideration of an uncle whose business it is to nourish those in distress.

One night, it was late at night, Clitheroe stole guiltily in through the private entrance, and sought succor of his uncle: this was an unctuous uncle, who was as sympathetic and emotional as an undertaker. Paul exhibited his watch; not for worlds would he part with it forever; money he must have at once, and surely some good angel would come to his assistance before many days; this state of affairs could not exist much longer. Mine uncle examined the watch with kindly eyes; with a pathetic shake of his head, a pitiful lifting of his bushy eyebrows, a commiserating shrug of his fat shoulders, and a petulant pursing of his plump lips as much as to say, “Well, it is a pity, but we must make the best of it, you know”–he told Clitheroe he would advance him ten dollars on the watch. For this the boy was to pay one dollar per week, and in the end receive his watch, as good as new, for the sum of ten dollars, as originally advanced. Paul hesitated, but consented since he had no choice in the matter.

“What name?” asked the Uncle, benevolently.

“P. Clitheroe,” said Paul under his breath, as if he feared the whole world might know of his disgrace; he looked upon this transaction as nothing short of disgrace, and he wished to keep it a profound secret.

“Oh, yes; I know the name very well. Well, Mr. Clitheroe, here is your ticket; take good care of it; and here is your money–you will always pay your money in advance, and weekly, until you redeem your pledge. I deduct the dollar for the first week.”

Clitheroe took the proffered money, and withdrew. To his surprise and chagrin he found himself possessed of but nine dollars. “It will not go far,” thought he with a heavy sigh; “and where is the dollar to come from? I don’t see that I have gained much by this exchange.”

What he gained was this: for fifteen weeks he managed by the strictest economy to pay his dollar. At the end of that time, he no longer found it possible to even pay a dollar and the affair with the Uncle ended with his having lost, not only his watch, but sixteen dollars into the bargain.

* * * * *

A month has passed: the sun is streaming through the tall narrow windows of a small chapel; the air is flooded with the music that floats from the organ loft, the solemn strains of a requiem chanted by sweet boy-voices; clouds of fragrant incense half obscure the altar, where the priest in black vestments is offering the solemn sacrifice of the Mass for the repose of the soul of one whom Paul had loved dearly ever since he was a child. There is one chief mourner kneeling before the altar–it is Paul Clitheroe.

When the Mass is over, while the exquisite silence of the place is broken only by the occasional note of some bird lodging in the branches of the trees without, Paul lingers in profound meditation. He is not at all the Paul whom we knew but a few months ago; through some mysterious influence he seems to have cast off his careless youth, and to have become a grave and thoughtful man.

From the chapel he wanders into the quiet library on the opposite side of a cloister, where the flowers grow in tangle, and a fountain splashes musically night and day, and the birds build and the bees swarm among the blossoms. Now we see him chatting with the Fathers as they stroll up and down in the sunshine; now musing over the graves of the Franciscan Friars who founded the early missions on the Coast; now dreaming in the ruins of the orchard–wandering always apart from the novices and the scholastics, who sometimes regard him curiously as if he were not wholly human but a kind of shadow haunting the place.

His heart grew warm and mellow as he sat by the adobe wall under the red-baked Spanish tiles, richly mossed with age, and contemplated the statue of the Madonna in the trellised shrine overgrown with passion flowers. There were votive offerings of flowers at her feet, and he laid his tribute there from day to day. Neither did he neglect to pay his visit to the shrine of St. Joseph, in the cloister, or St. Anthony of Padua, whom he loved best of all, and whose statue stood under the willows by the great pool of gold fish.

He used to count the hours and the quarter hours as they chimed in the belfry and he was beginning to grow fond of the inexorable routine and to find it passing sweet and restful.

He was unconsciously falling into a mode of life such as he had never known before, and he seemed to feel a growing repugnance to the world without him; how very far away it seemed now! He realized an increasing sense of security so long as he lodged within those gates. His dark robed companions, the amiable Fathers, cheered him, comforted him, strengthened him; and yet when his ghostly father one day sent word to Clitheroe that he desired to see him immediately, and thereupon insisted that the heart-broken boy accompany him to the retreat of his Order, he had no thought other than to offer Paul the change of scene which alone might help to tide the youth over the first crushing pangs of bereavement.

“Give me a week or two of your time,” pleaded the good priest–“and I will introduce you to a course of life such as you have never known; it should interest and perhaps benefit you; possibly you may find it delightful. At any rate you must be hastened out of the morbid mood which now possesses you, even if we have to drag you by force.”

So Paul went with him, suddenly and in a kind of desperation: his visit was prolonged from day to day, until some weeks had passed. Peace was returning to him–peace such as he had never known before.

* * * * *

Meanwhile certain of the young poet’s friends had called to see him at the Eyrie, and to their amazement found his rooms deserted; in the staring bay window with the inner blinds thrown wide open was notice “To Let.” His landlady knew nothing of his whereabouts. He had said good-bye to no one. His disappearance was perhaps the most mysterious of mysterious disappearances!

* * * * *

Now, what really happened was this. Having packed everything he valued and seen it safely stored, he settled with his landlady and went down to the Club. It was his P.P.C., though no one there suspected it, and with just a touch of sentiment–he walked through the rooms alone; he saw at a glance that the usual habitues of the place were employing themselves in the same old way. Though he had not been there often of late, no one seemed much surprised to see him; he passed through the suite of rooms without addressing himself to any one in particular; a glance of recognition here and there; a smile, a slight nod, now and again, this was all. Having made the rounds he returned to the cloak-room, took his hat and cane and departed.

From that hour dated his disappearance. From that hour the Eyrie saw him no more forever.

* * * * *

IV.

BY THE WORLD FORGOT

For a long while he had been listening to the moan of the sea–the wail and the warning that rise from every reef in that wild waste of waters. There was no moon, but the large stars cast each a wake upon the wave, and the distant surf-lines were faintly illuminated by a phosphorescent glow.

There were reefs on every hand, and treacherous currents that would have imperilled the ribs of any craft depending on the winds alone for its salvation; but the “_Waring_,” its pulse of steam throbbing with a slow measured beat, picked its way in the glimmering night with a confidence that made light of dangers past, present, and to come.

It had struck eight-bells forward; midnight; the air was warm, moist, caressing; it stole forth from invisible but not far distant vales ladened with the unmistakable odor of the land–a fragrance that was at times faint enough, but at other times was almost overwhelming; from the heart of the tropics only, is such perfume distilled; few who inhale it for the first time can resist its subtle charm; its influence once yielded to, the soul is soon enslaved and the dreams that follow are never to be forgotten.

Eight-bells, and silence broken only by the swish of the propeller as it ploughed slowly, deliberately, through the sea; the slap of the ripples under the prow, and an occasional harp-like sigh of the zephyr in the softly-vibrating shrouds; Paul Clitheroe had stolen out of the cabin and was sitting by the companion-way on the port side. A small ladder still hung there, for there had been boating and bathing just before dinner, and there was sure to be more or less fishing whenever the weather was favorable. Moreover, it must be acknowledged that the yacht was liberty-hall afloat, yes, adrift, on a go-as-you-please cruise, and things were not always in ship-shape.

An old half-breed Trader, who knew these seas as the star-gazer knows the skies, was in the wheelhouse; every wakeful eye among officers and crew, was at the prow peering into the depth in search of danger-signals; every ear was listening intently for an order from the lips of the pilot, and for the first whisper of the wave upon the reef. Meanwhile the vessel crept forward with utmost caution, barely ruffling the water under her keel.

_One Bell! Two Bells!_ Clitheroe had for a long time been sitting unobserved by the companion-way. He had dined with a riotous company and withdrew as soon after dinner as possible; this privilege was freely accorded him, for he was at intervals gloomy, or silent, and his companions were quite willing to dispense with his society. Hilarity had ceased for the night, the fact was patent. The truth is, there was apt to be something too much of it aboard that ship. When a young gentleman, on the death of a distant relative, comes suddenly into an almost fabulous fortune, he is apt to set about doing that which pleases him best; in all probability he overdoes it. If he be fond of any society and is willing to pay for the purchase of it, he will find no difficulty in supplying himself, even to the verge of satiety.

A certain gentleman who shall be nameless in these pages but who came to be known among his followers as _The Commodore_, finding himself heir to a fortune, chartered a yacht for a summer cruise, and invited his friends to join him. The yacht had been for some weeks the scene of unceasing festivity; the joyous party on board her had passed from island to island, the feted guests of Kings and Queens and dusky Chiefs; feasting, dancing, and the exchange of gifts–these were the order of entertainment night and day.

It was a novel life for most who were on board, filled with adventure and spectacular surprises. The Commodore’s hospitality was boundless; the appetites of his guests insatiable. But Clitheroe had seen all this from quite another point of view; he had been a native among the natives; admitted into brotherhood with the tribe, he had lived the life they lead until it had become as natural to him as if he had been born to it. Their thoughts were his thoughts, their tongue, his tongue. He was thinking of this as he sat by the companion-way, in the silence, unobserved.

_Three Bells!_ He rose and going to the open transom, looked down into the cabin. The long dinner table had been relieved of dessert-dishes, but the after-dinner bottles were there in profusion, and cigar-boxes and cigarettes within convenient reach; it was an odd scene; a picture of confusion in a dead calm. The lights were burning low and there was no sound save the hoarse breathing of some of the revelers who had subsided into uncomfortable positions and were too heavy with sleep to seek easier ones. Clitheroe saw at the head of the table the Commodore, stretched back in his easy chair; he was fast asleep; there was no doubt about that. His guests one and all were dozing. The drowsy stupor that follows a debauch pervaded the whole company. I venture the assurance that not one person present could have been aroused in season to save himself or herself had the ship at that moment struck a reef, and foundered.

There they were, dimly outlined under the cabin-lamps, the companions with whom for a season Clitheroe had been more or less intimately associated in the Misty City; the Bohemians who had found it an easy and pleasant thing to flock upon the deck of the “_Waring_,” one foggy afternoon, and set sail on a summer cruise. The Commodore invited them for his entertainment, and because he was a mighty good fellow and could afford to. They went for a change of air and scene, in search of adventure–and moreover they were sure of luxurious hospitality for at least six months. Clitheroe joined the company, not only for the reason that there seemed nothing else for him to do, but he was glad of the opportunity of revisiting a quarter of the globe so very dear to him. This voyage, he thought, might re-awaken his interest in life; at any rate, he could lose nothing by taking it, and that settled the question for him.

The singers, the dancers, the painters and poets made life very lively in that summer sea; it was a case of sweet idleness with wine, women and wits, and all the world before them where to choose. It must be confessed that Clitheroe had enjoyed himself in the society of these old comrades–you would recognize most of them were he to name them; but tonight, or rather this early morning he had begun to moralize, as he peered down the transom upon the half-shadowy forms of those feasters who had fallen by the way. He was asking himself if it paid–this high-pressure happiness that knew no respite save temporary insensibility? He began to think that it did not, and with a shrug of his shoulders and a faint sigh, he turned away. He was about to resume his solitary watch, for he could not sleep on such a night, when his eye was attracted by a flitting shadow weaving to and fro astern; it seemed to be soaring upon the face of the waters; was it some broad-winged sea-bird following in their wake? He watched it as it drew near, growing larger and larger every moment. No! it was not a bird; but it was the next thing to one.

Out of the darkness was evolved the slender hull of a canoe, the wide, many ribbed sail, and the dusky forms of three naked islanders. They had not yet taken note of him; with a sudden impulse, he stole up to the transom, and standing over it so that the lights from the cabin-lamps shone full upon him, he waved a signal to the savages, enjoining silence, and bidding them approach with caution.

In a few moments they had wafted themselves noiselessly up under the companion ladder, and there, with suppressed excitement, he was recognized. Old friends these, pals in the past, young chiefs from an island he had loved and mourned.

There was a moment of passionate greeting, and but a moment, in the silence under the stars, then, with a sudden resolve, and with never a glance backward, Clitheroe, descending the ladder, entered the canoe and it swung off into the night.

Two hours later, the “_Waring_,” having run clear of the labyrinthine reefs, steamed up and was out of sight before daybreak.

* * * * *

“_And what is left? Dust and Ash and a Tale–or not even a Tale_!”

MARCUS AURELIUS.