Battersby's Valedictory

AT thirty-five, Battersby awakened to the realization that he was a newspaper hack. To some men this realization might have come five years earlier, but it was none the less bitter to Battersby because it had arrived tardily. The “ clever Battersby ” they had called him when he was an undergraduate. And he was thirty-five and a hack, with a dingy office at Police Headquarters, where he lived at the end of a jangling telephone wire, and emerged now and then to “ cover ” suicides and “ twoalarm ” fires.

Stodgy, good-natured fellows, whom he had looked down upon, had plodded along into secure responsibilities. The more gilded youth, with whom his taste for comfortable things had made him congenial at college, by virtue of their family and inheritance had assumed their proper places in the scheme of New York butterfly existence. Battersby had done neither. He had shunned the first, and the second had, in the nature of things, been beyond him. Instead, he had burst into journalism with a fresh, unterrified enthusiasm, and had found, alas, that when his enthusiasm had fled Park Row he could not flee after it. So he had stayed.

Perhaps there are no more bitter dregs in the cup of life than those to which one must touch lip when he realizes that he is at the tail end of the procession of prospects, which in the flush of youth he had headed. When such realization comes to a man he shuns his friends and old companionships turn sour.

So it had been with Battersby. For the first year he had kept in touch with social things, and his presence was welcomed as the company of a socially “fit,” clever man is always welcomed in a drawing-room. There had been a club or two to keep up, and accounts at an Avenue florist’s shop, — indications of being worth while. Débutantes, after meeting him, whispered to one another, “ That was the clever Battersby,” and if he chanced to overhear the murmur, he accepted it as a truthful tribute. People said he was writing a book, something much better than the sketches which had given him a village fame at Cambridge. He really had intended to write one, — but then the most stupendous libraries in the world are the mental shelves of masterpieces all unwritten. And now Battersby’s share in this sort of literature, he reflected, was a shabby array of cynicism and resentment.

When the first yoke-sore of his work was fresh upon him, he had burned Society’s bridges behind him. And after a time — a very brief time — the cards and dainty envelopes which had let a whiff of fragrance into the closeness of his little third-floor room in Stuyvesant Square had ceased to come. Society is not burdened with an over-long memory. Given average neglect, its remembering will wither. Battersby had watched the fragile remembrance he had left behind him shrivel utterly. He had not been sorry as he watched his effacement. He had been sorry many times afterward, for when one does really burn the scaffolding that convention has reared for his crossing the chasm between the “ in ” and “ out ” of things social there is rarely the timber for building a new one.

Once, Battersby could recall, Murray Hill of a November afternoon, with the fall thinness in the air, which only comes to New York between its rivers, had made his pulses leap for the joy of living. To stroll from the club — slowly, down to Madison Square and back again, pausing for a moment to scan the window diners at the rose-decked tables of the Waldorf-Astoria ; nodding occasionally to a woman leaning far back upon the carriage cushions as her emotionless footmen whirled her by, — all this had been to him more intoxicating than wine. Older men than he could have told him this was the surest sign of a rank outsider, the badge of one who has merely snatched a glimpse at the open door of Fashion before being displaced by another eager gazer. Battersby himself thought it was because he was meant for it. He had not known that what one is really meant for, one never really enjoys. He knew now.

Taking all of these things into consideration, he found himself somewhat agitatedly drawing near to Larchmont on a New York and New Haven train for the Larchmont Yacht Club races. He had not wished to come. He had said so at the office very decidedly. But the regular yachting man was sick, and the desk had replied rather impatiently, “You know a lot of those yachting people anyway, and you ’ll get along all right.” Battersby, nodding his head in submission, had gone. At the station he had half slunk into a day coach, fearing to go into the chair car lest he should meet some one he knew— or, rather, some one whom he had known. And yet he reflected, as he tried in vain to find comfort in the straight, plush-backed seat, most of the people he had known would have gone up the night before on their own craft. He knew that Larchmont sail. He had often taken it, with Larry Goodwin’s Berserker, the queen of the fleet, showing her heels to the rest. He shut his eyes, and again he felt the cool embrace of a rattan deck chair, and heard the murmur of talk from the group along the rail. And the girl in the chair next his own, — who could it be but Madge Starrett ? He was saying — no matter what he was saying. The recollection of just that did not come as easily as the rest of it. And after all it was immaterial. For he fancied she half understood, and he knew she once had faith in him — in his future. She had said so. Battersby roused himself from his reverie with a half-uttered oath, drowned, luckily for the peace of the little old lady with the bundles at his side, in the call of the brakeman shouting the station.

It is all very well for a man to sneer at your being afraid of getting off a train and stepping into the midst of a crowd of men you know, — all of them better dressed than you are, — whom you have seen, but who have not seen you for years. But to a man of torturedly keen sensibilities this is agony. You dread the unspoken query, the inquiry that dwells within the focus of an eye that is searching your face, while the lips of its owner are uttering commonplaces which are far away from the thoughts of both. And then, if there should be women whom you have known in better days, equanimity and all pretenses unto it flee, and your little Miss Philosophy — whom you have been striving to rear into stately maidenhood — forgets her lessons, and, lapsing into her old wild kindergarten ways, giggles and runs away.

All of these things had run through the brain of Battersby in much less time than it takes to write them down. Therefore he groaned as he stepped from the car platform and surveyed the waiting line of smart traps hedging the station. The memory of former times turned the knife in the old wound, which he had fancied was half healed. And yet, even with the memory, his head went up higher, and the cloak of his employmentenveloping mediocrity half slipped from his shoulders with the movement.

Battersby saw old Bradley, the Goodwins’ coachman, erect and severely critical of adjacent horseflesh, upon the box of the red-splotched wagonette in which Virginia Goodwin was oftenest seen. He edged toward the wagonette as he walked along the board platform, with the vaguely formed wish that the old servant might recognize him. But Bradley’s gaze rested upon the passers-by, impassively unrecognizing. The wagonette was empty. Battersby had known long ago that his inner self was altered beyond all hope of recognition. But that he had been transformed to the same degree in outward appearance, startled him.

He had discovered himself in the act of longing for the old respectful bow of a servant. And the greeting from a menial had been denied him. He had passed by unremarked in the crowd of people he had often heard Virginia Goodwin term “ middlers.” A flush burned both cheeks and brow as he felt the knowledge stab his consciousness. Yet he hailed the hurt as a sign that there was still a shred of the old spirit within him. When a man can flush angrily over a slight, even if it be given by an unwitting English coachman, his dignity is not entirely unfrocked.

He paused before one of the penny-inthe-slot weighing machines, glass covered to keep meddlesome children from its fascinatingly wheely interior, and instinctively viewed his reflection with a newly born curiosity. Not exactly shabby, he stood revealed to himself. Not exactly that, but devoid of any of the atmosphere of clothes, — which have an atmosphere all their own, as once upon a time he had been well aware. He was conscious of a disconcerting realization of coat shoulders not well cut, and he distinctly observed a shiny, worn spot in the knot of the black four-in-hand tie. No, he was not quite shabby, but what was almost worse — non-individual. Bradley was not to blame for missing his face among those of the passing middlers. At least a dozen other men had got off the train in the duplicate of his suit of cheap, ready-made blue serge, with the paucity of breadth in the three-button, doublebreasted coat.

A heavy but hearty hand falling upon his shoulder roused him from his contemplative reverie. “ Battersby, by all that’s gilded! ” he heard uttered in a loud voice coincident with the hand smite. Almost guiltily he looked into the eyes of Larry Goodwin, freshly attired in yachting rig, in which, no doubt, he had trod the deck of the Berserker an hour before. “ What’s brought you back to smell bilge water with us again ? ” the loud voice continued with insistent heartiness. “ You ’re in luck, for most of the old lot are on board the Berserker. We ’re all a bit aged but frisky as colts still, especially the girls. Virginia says she has solved the secret of perpetual childishness, but she won’t give me the prescription.”

To it all, Battersby had been allowed no opportunity for reply. And for the moment he was grateful because of the respite. He was fairly caught as he had feared. There would be no denying of Larry Goodwin, who had laid hold of his elbow and was urging him along the platform. Battersby broke protestingly into his whirl of questions and expressions of pleasure at their meeting. “ I can’t do it, Larry,” he said. “ I ’m sorry — the worst sort. But I’m here to work, you know.”

“ What are you doing ? ” demanded Goodwin. “ There’s nothing on here to-day except the races.” He stared at his friend thoughtfully. “ Look here,” he asked, “ you are n’t mixed up with any of these designing chaps, are you ? I thought you went in for some sort of scribbling when you left Cambridge.”

Battersby could not help smiling at the other’s earnestness in the pursuit of things nautical. “ It’s not sloop keels,” he answered.

“ I ’m sorry,” said Goodwin. “ Maybe you could have helped me out a bit. I’ve got an entry in the thirty-footer class, and they say that Blake has put out a boat that’s going to be sprung on the lot of us and make us look silly.” The big man’s voice rumbled on while Battersby found himself being dragged willy nilly toward the waiting wagonette. “There’s Virginia with Madge Starrett,” ejaculated Goodwin explosively. “ Come on. Madge came up on your train. It’s funny you missed her.” Then he broke off awkwardly, and the sunburn on his cheeks turned a deeper color slowly. “ Oh, I say,” he said, as if remembering. “ You don’t — it’s been some time since you saw Madge Starrett?”

Battersby’s gaze was fixed upon the girl who was grasping Virginia Goodwin’s outstretched hand at the wagonette. She was a girl yet, for all the seven years, and she still wore violets tucked into her belt. The Milo-like curve of her throat was still there, despite the knot of white fichu, which she had not worn in the old days. He reflected bitterly that it had all been long enough gone for the styles to have changed. “ Seven years — seven years,” thought Battersby. Then he heard her laugh—it angered him at first, until the very softness of it charmed him the way it had always done — as she answered Virginia Goodwin, the dip of whose green sun umbrella half hid them both. And then he looked into Larry Goodwin’s troubled eyes. “ Yes,” he said, “ it’s been a long time.” had thinned away, and the waiting traps were dispersing with their gay freights. Battersby could see Mrs. Goodwin’s green umbrella waved at her jolly skipper husband, as she caught sight of his broad blue shoulders. It was too far for other recognition, he thought, and again he recalled how Bradley had stared at him unknowingly. The memory made him smile not merrily. “ Mrs. Goodwin wants you,” he said. “ And if I don’t hurry I ’ll lose my job.”

The groups upon the station siding

The Berserker’s skipper frowned uncertainly. “ You can’t cut away like this, Phil,” he said. “ The old crowd will want to see you — Virginia and — Madge, and the rest. They would n’t forgive me if I told them I had seen you and had then let you slip away. There’s going to be a little dinner on board the Berserker after the races.” He waved his yachting cap to the green umbrella reassuringly as he spoke. Even at this distance it was becoming observedly impatient. “ You’ve got to come, old man,” he went on. His eyes left Battersby’s face, and for the first time since his greeting, traveled up and down. “ Good God, Phil,” he said in a whisper, “ there is n’t anything the matter, is there? You are n’t — hard up or anything like that ? ” The big man’s confusion was painful.

Battersby’s heart tightened as he listened. He winced as it came over him that he was actually grateful for the sympathetic, clumsy speech and the touch of his friend’s arm. He laughed uneasily. “ Not that, Larry,” he said. “ Pay day comes around regular as clockwork once a week. And I’ve got my working clothes on.”

“ Please, sir, Mrs. Goodwin is ready to drive down to the Berserker.” A ceremonious groom was at Goodwin’s elbow. He nodded in response to his master’s " All right,” and walked stiffly back to the wagonette.

It was Goodwin who finally broke the strained silence. He spoke unevenly. “ Phil, there’s a dinner jacket and my evening coat. You can have your pick. And Johnson always fills the locker with shirts when we cruise. I don’t know what sort of a game you ’re playing now. I ’m a stupid sort; always was as you know. But you ’ll come aboard the Berserker for the dinner. Virginia won’t forgive me if you fail us.”

Battersby watched him clamber into the wagonette, which his bulk seemed to overload. Bradley touched the whip to his hat, and the mettlesome pair whirled the skipper of the Berserker away with the two women.

“ You’ve been a most neglectful host, dear,” said Mrs. Goodwin, after she had rested the handle of her green sun umbrella to her liking. “ You missed Madge when she got out of the first chair car, and now you’ve kept us waiting ten minutes when you ought to have known we ’re anxious to get to the Berserker and change our frocks for luncheon and the Smith-Terrills.”

“ If you break out any more baby balloon jib topsails, Virginia,” said her husband, looking at the tugging umbrella, " Bradley won’t be able to drive us without tacking into the wind.”

“Larry’s always nautical the moment he puts on a yachting cap,” said Madge Starrett, laughing.

“ And besides,” Goodwin went on, “I had a good reason for delaying. I stumbled across ” —

“ Phil Battersby,” interpolated the girl by his wife’s side.

Goodwin turned toward her in astonishment. “ How did you know ? ” he asked. “ He said he had n’t seen you on the train.”

“ He’s changed a great deal,” said the girl unresponsively. “ He’s older for one thing.”

“ And positively shabby, if you mean the man you were talking to when I sent Watson to call you,” interrupted Mrs. Goodwin. “ Now I recall Phil Battersby as the best dressed man in our set. He was always clever, and I liked him for that after I got to know him. But what really made me like him at first was because he was always so smart looking.”

Madge Starrett laughed quietly. “You’re talking as if you were a débutante again,” she said. “ And we ’re both long past that sort of thing.”

“ That’s the vainest thing you’ve ever said to me! ” exclaimed Mrs. Goodwin triumphantly. “ Larry shall hear me convict you.”

“ All right, Virginia. But go easy,” said her husband rather apprehensively, for he was one of those men who regard feminine repartee with uneasiness, not knowing how keen the thrusts will be.

“No woman ever talks lightly about her age unless she is quite sure she does n’t look it,” finished Virginia Goodwin laughingly. Bradley drew the wagonette up to the pier with a flourish. The launch was waiting, and both women were well through dressing for the SmithTerrills before the Berserker’s skipper, at ease astern with brandy and soda conveniently placed, roared loudly in appreciative understanding.

Goodwin’s merriment reached faintly to his wife and Madge Starrett in Mrs. Goodwin’s cabin. “ Larry has the kindest heart in the world,” said Mrs. Goodwin contemplatively. “ But he lacks appreciation.”

Madge Starrett paused, patting a ribbon into place at the glass. “ A joke is always better when thoroughly digested,” she said.

“ I did n’t mean that,” said Mrs. Goodwin. “ You know I did n’t, dear. I meant about Phil Battersby. The idea of asking him to dinner! Why, Madge, you know he’s quite impossible since he dropped out of sight. He’s not the same Phil Battersby.”

“ He’s making a living, I fancy — unlike the rest of us.”

“ Nonsense, Madge.” Mrs. Goodwin’s tone was severe. “ He’s a disappointed man. Disappointed men are always disagreeable. A few years ago every one was saying he had a brilliant career. What happened ? He failed utterly. He had the impulse once. I know that. But somehow he lost it. Oh, what’s the use of inspecting wrecked hopes and shattered dreams that we can’t help, anyway ? One has too much broken china of her own.”

The girl turned from the glass quickly and went over to her friend, placing a hand upon her shoulder. “ Virginia, promise me something,” she said.

Mrs. Goodwin looked into her face and saw that she was in earnest. “ Go on, dear,” she said.

“ Don’t ever talk to me about Phil Battersby again,” Madge Starrett whispered. “ Will you ? ”

Mrs. Goodwin’s face darkened regretfully. “ I ’m getting to be as clumsy as Larry,” she replied. “ But I ’ll make up for it by being particularly nice at dinner.”

Her husband’s voice, echoing down the companion-way, came as a relief to both women. “ I’ve sent the launch over to the Thisbe for the Smith-Terrills,” it said. “ They ’re coming over the side now.”

For Battersby the day dragged cruelly. Now that he was touching elbows with old times he found himself longing for some respite from the grind of things. His resolution to refuse Goodwin’s hearty invitation to dine upon the Berserker weakened before he had sent his first dispatch, and had utterly fled before the judges’ boat churned back to the wharf for good. All through the races his mind had been occupied by visions of that dinner, with the old faces around him, and Madge Starrett smiling at him. At least Battersby liked to think she would smile at him as she had used to do. By the time he had filed his last copy at the little and hopelessly incapable telegraph office the river was scarletstreaked with the reflected glow of the sunset. He laughed happily to himself because even the weather was to aid his momentary return to the pale of things social.

The Berserker lay in midstream in the yacht club cove. Her awnings were stretched, — tawdry lines of red and white duck, — and Battersby could see the steward busy with the chairs and the bamboo deck tabourets. He looked at his watch. It was a bit after 6.30. The women were probably dressing for dinner. Now and then during the races he had swung his glasses toward the Goodwin yacht to catch a glimpse of her jolly passengers. Once, when Goodwin’s boat was winning the cup in the thirty-footer class, Battersby’s binoculars had let him see Madge Starrett, radiant-faced, turn from the rail and shake hands with Larry Goodwin, whose big face was one wide grin of content. Virginia Goodwin, Battersby recalled, had not even risen from her chair as the finish gun boomed out. But her husband had gone over to her as the Berserker was headed for her moorings, and they had had a quiet little talk until the anchor-chains rattled.

Battersby had reflected then that all women were different, each showing her happiness in her own individual way. He envied Goodwin for that quiet talk with his wife. But he would have preferred Madge Starrett’s quick and frank gladness had he owned the winning thirtyfooter. The thought brought him up with a wrench. It was not a pretty thing — this making believe long after one had grown into a manhood unillumined with success. He could remember once standingin front of a shop window when he was a boy and telling his nurse what he would do with each and every toy if he had it. It came into his thinking now that all children do that sort of thing, but only the unsuccessful ones play at make-believe when they are grown men. And his tremulousness at the thought of what he was going to do now angered him. “ Like a cursed child afraid of Santa Claus,” he sneered half aloud.

A gig shot out from the Berserker’s stern, the two sailors bending to the stroke as if they enjoyed it. Battersby knew it was coming for him. His gaze swept the club anchorage. A score of sleek yachts swayed at anchor. The white hulls looked black against the sunglow. Upon the decks were men and women who were happy. Now and then from the deck of the boat moored nearest the pier came the sound of laughter. The miracle of it all smote Battersby hip and thigh. Here were people who were utterly happy, — people with no weight of unattained success to bear them down ; people who were not successful really, because they had not achieved success ; but who had accepted successful conditions of existence as their heritage. And, after all, was not the equivocal station of a hanger-on amid this arc of utter untroubledness a better thing — a less galling chain to clank — than the hallmark of unrealized ambition ? If they had not been busy making fast to a stringpiece, the crew of the gig would have marked the bitterness in the laugh of the man who stepped into the stern sheets and sat smiling oddly during the pull back to the Berserker.

Larry Goodwin was at the rail as the gig drew alongside, with broad welcome upon his face. Battersby found no women upon deck and was glad. “ Come down to my cabin and try on clothes,” said Goodwin, leading the way. “ The crowd ’ll be here before you are done. I’m lucky all around to-day. There’s going to be a moon.”

Battersby looked over at his friend, who was tossing the contents of a locker upon the bunk. “ I’m getting to be a dog in manners, Larry,” he said, extending his hand. “ But no one was gladder than I was to see the Spindrift get that cup.”

Goodwin’s face glowed with delight. “ I knew you would be, Phil,” he said. “We’ve showed ’em that these newfangled keels are n’t quite express trains, after all. And although the cup will look nice on the smoking-room mantelshelf, it’s done me more good to have you eat dinner on board than winning a dozen of ’em would.”

Battersby finished dressing—he had chosen the dinner jacket—with disinterred sensations stirring within him. Even a bitterness, year - hardened and uncouth, softens quickly when it comes into contact with the disintegrating touch of a real friendship. And although the man who stood at the oval glass let into the cabin wall, tying the string knot to wear with the first dinner jacket he had worn in years, despised himself for it, — saying, “ Like a cur, cringing at a kind word,” —he nevertheless went upon deck with a keen eagerness which absorbed him utterly.

There had been a subtle change in him during the last half hour in Goodwin’s cabin. His host, with a wisdom instinctive to his kind, and unresentfully discernible by Battersby, had insisted upon his guest’s pledging himself and the Spindrift in two stirrup cups of champagne before he left him to dress. Battersby knew the infusion of energy one or two glasses of champagne could instill into a tired brain, and he had drunk the wine as he would have taken the drug of a doctor who had been asked to tide him over a critical emergency. Once, when a Fifth Avenue hotel was burning up, and the dead were being laid upon the sidewalk by the scores, he had sat all night writing revamped stories of the horror to bring the last edition up to date, that a placidly heartless cityful might drink in a shudder with their breakfast coffee. And his written touch had been certain and even brilliant because of a dozen cups of drip coffee from the Astor House, into each of which had been poured a pony of brandy. As he walked astern he felt that, almost, he was the Battersby of old. The warmth of returning self-confidence permeated him. Had any one reminded him at this moment that on the morrow there was Mulberry Street and the sordidness of news-gathering, he would have been inclined to call him a liar. As his steps clicked upon the scoured deck planks in unison with the heavier tread of Larry Goodwin, he repeated to himself, “ This is what I was meant for. I was meant to be a part of it.”

Goodwin paused somewhat awkwardly as they came upon the laughing group in the chairs under the striped awnings. And Battersby smiled momentarily, realizing that his host was ill at ease. As for himself, there was no hesitation, no floundering for the proper thing to say, or reaching awkwardly, clumsily after the proper thing to do. No man who has learned to swim, be he away from water for a generation, forgets how to cleave his way with the powerful breast stroke. And no man who has learned to revolve in the social orbit without damaging the bricabrac of convention ever quite loses the lip facility and plastic attitudes which mark the socially popular.

Virginia Goodwin may have been surprised at the transformed friend of years past. At least there was no suggestion of the commonplace man on the station platform in the Phil Battersby who responded easily to her low words of welcome. But she, too, was expert in facial masking, and it was she who engineered Battersby’s rejoining of his old friends with a laughing reminiscence as she led him from chair to chair. Goodwin watched his graceful wife with a species of awe. He had never ceased to wonder why her very fragility had not shivered at the thought of marrying him in all his bulkiness ; the skipper of the Berserker cherished no illusions concerning his mortal make-up. He could not have piloted his old friend through the maze of deck chairs without mishap, not for a round dozen of cups for the Spindrift. It was beyond him. He simply watched it all thankfully. He liked Battersby, and, therefore, he would have winced more keenly than his friend had anything untoward marred his appearance as his guest.

Madge Starrett, at the taffrail, was the last woman to whom Mrs. Goodwin led her captive. She watched Battersby’s approach with a hastily forming feeling of apprehension. In the dusk of the deepening river shadows his face was partially blurred. But her pulses leaped at the firm touch of his hand and the certain ring in his voice as he greeted her. Possibly not until that moment had she realized quite how much interest Phil Battersby had inspired within her in the old times. It had been to her that he had come when the first freshness of his great enthusiasm had laid hold upon him. No woman is ever happier than when helping a man she honestly likes—and, more than that, admires and possibly believes in — to wrestle with his vision until he has overcome it.

All this Madge Starrett had done in her glory of budding womanhood. She alone had known the absurdly dizzy heights to which his ambition had soared. Often since, when Phil Battersby’s name revolved before her eyes on the wheel of memory, which never ceases whirring no matter how one may pray that it stop, the recollection of that ambition’s Lucifer fall made her stir in her chair uneasily, and sent a flush of shamed sorrow to flag its way from her cheeks up into the temples. And yet here was Phil Battersby in the flesh before her, standing easily and with a certain greeting. After all who knew ? Perhaps —

Battersby himself, thanking Heaven for the disguise of outward calmness, looked into the eyes of the girl very much after the manner of a lost soul who has been for the moment allowed to return for one final glimpse of Paradise. He listened to his voice saying very correct commonplaces with an almost indignant resentment. He felt like quarreling with himself for his cold-blooded correctness. Instead he drew a chair beside her and talked of the races and of the Spindrift’s gallant finish on the third leg home.

The girl listened to his talk, and, divining its insincerity, was glad. For she knew then that there was latent somewhere a shred of the old enthusiasm. And being woman wise, she waited for its out-drawing, which she knew would come after the dinner and the music, perhaps in these very chairs by the taffrail. So she smiled when Virginia Goodwin came over to them reprovingly. “ Larry did n’t lure you here to be monopolized,” said Mrs. Goodwin, with a laugh. “ And just for penance, Phil, you ’re to take Madge in to dinner.”

Ask the man who has been ranching it for six months, or prospecting a bit up Klondike way, or who has come home from a year’s service in the Philippines, what he yearns for most. They ’ll all tell you the same thing, — a dinnertable with the friends he cares for, with candles and white linen and cut glass and decent talk ; the frippery table talk of little things if you like, but the thing he has dreamed of and prayed that he might once more hear. Battersby sat letting the atmosphere of his surroundings soak into him. Ah, it was good to be where it was again. He eyed the array of silver beside his plate with avid interest. He found himself wondering idly if he knew what all the knives and forks were for. Then he realized that Madge Starrett was beside him, and he turned to her.

A woman regards a man she has once cared for, and has then lost sight of for years, with a slowly widening expectancy when his chair happens to be next hers at dinner after all those years. Madge Starrett was not sure whether she welcomed or resented the quickened heart beats which betokened the presence of Phil Battersby at her elbow. She had believed in his future and his success, — and his failure, his sudden dropping out of it all, had seemed to her cowardly. In thinking it over she had said to herself that she hated a coward. She did not know — there was no reason why she should know — that he had faced harder conditions of existence than those which are the inseparable accompaniment of a frustrate ambition ; faced them in a necessary effort for gaining bread and butter, which had been forced upon him.

She watched his hand as he reached for his wineglass. And although he was draining it eagerly and more often than she cared to see a man do at a dinner-table with women present, the hand was steady enough. Now and then she turned slightly and looked into his eyes, as he rattled on with all the old brilliance of the Phil Battersby of seven years ago. She read nothing in them that told her anything. They met hers frankly, even good-humoredly ; but she felt somehow that there was not genuine frankness back of them. And after a while it came over her that this man, this more than friend of the past, could be helped if there were some woman, a real woman, to stretch out a hand and beckon him on to the fulfillment of early promise. Had she ever been that woman, she wondered.

Battersby was keen enough ordinarily, and more than ever able now, with his wits wine-sharpened, to read much of what was occupying her thoughts. He in turn gazed absorbedly at her as she busied herself with the silver tools of the table, which at times impress one as being altogether grotesque. And as the champagne filliped the nerve centres in his temples, and he felt the old-time impulse to utter clever things radiating from temples to brain, he looked at her and realized that she was no longer a girl, but a woman with her glorious beauty beyond the promise of the débutante bud he had once known. While he had paused, wavered, and at last weakly retrograded, Madge Starrett had developed to fulfill her destiny. He tried to fight off the old dream fancy that, if he had been patient, — if he had been really a man and had fought on for the goal he knew she knew he was striving to attain, — this woman might have been vouchsafed by the gods to bring out the little which was noble within him.

Larry Goodwin, watching him from the head of the table, marked his laughter, and under cover of the chatter of the Smith-Terrills on either side, dispatched his wife an eloquent glance of approval. “ Phil’s getting on,” it said. “He’s the same old fellow. We must have him to dinner when we get back to town. He ’s been working too hard, I guess.”

But Virginia Goodwin, with a woman’s finer though less generous instinct, which spares us so many disasters of drawingroom diplomacy, signaled back by wifely code, “ He’s getting on, my dear, but how far ? Watch Madge. Never watch a man when he meets a woman after all these years. It’s the woman’s face that counts.”

The skipper of the Berserker was not to be gainsaid, however. Was not the Spindrift’s cup gracing the board, banked in orchids, with smilax twining its chased base. “ Your health, Phil,” he called down the linen lane with genial gladness in his smile. “ Your health, my dear fellow. It’s like old times again.”

“ Your health, Phil,” echoed Horace Trevano halfway to Madge Starrett. “ Remember your valedictory when you made Memorial shiver by making the class laugh ? ”

“ And then cry like babies, by Gad,” added Goodwin, as the men’s glasses rose.

Battersby’s smile wavered for an instant, although none but the girl at his side marked it. “ Thank you, Larry,” he replied. “ My valedictory, — I had almost forgot.” Then in the rattle of revived chatter he turned to Madge Starrett. She saw his face was a blank, the light of awakened instinct gone, the old hopeless, shabby look slipping back across his features like a mask. “ Valedictory,” he repeated dully, “ that means farewell, does n’t it ? ”

Fear — vaguely expressed but plainly apparent — crept into his eyes. Beneath the drooping linen of the table his left hand touched her arm tremulously and then drew away again. It had been an unconscious betrayal of appeal, and the girl loathed him for the touch. Even more she despised him for the almost reckless way in which he appropriated the table talk during the rest of the dinner. Again she could not know that the man was hating himself doubly; first,for being weak enough to be stabbed by remembering ; and, second, for being craven enough to let a woman see he shrank from his own destiny, foreordained as it might be.

The men lingered briefly over the coffee, for the saloon was stuffy despite the electric fans, and the thought of a moon with the Berserker’s striped awnings furled was alluring. Larry Goodwin found Battersby stirring his coffee idly while the others were leaving.

“ There are n’t any grounds, Phil,” he said. “ You can’t play at mud pies with the Berserker’s coffee. Have you forgotten that ? ” The well-fed, prosperous master of the yacht lighted a fat, black cigar as he spoke. He blew one or two thin rings into the air and hesitated. When he did speak it was with a curious, boyish shyness that sat oddly upon his sturdy frame. “ Phil,” he said, “ she ’s up there somewhere in a deck chair. Women aren’t any of them charted as far as I know. Their reasons for doing things are tangled up worse than the channels off the Florida coast, and I’ve run the Berserker ashore once or twice myself down there. Madge Starrett’s a girl in a thousand, but she’s never married. And no matter what Virginia says”— Goodwin broke off suddenly, reddening at his clumsiness.

Battersby got out of his chair and put his hand on the other’s shoulder. He was smiling. “ Mrs. Goodwin is right,” he said. “ And Larry, you ’re a good fellow, — a damned good fellow. But you see, you can’t understand, and I’m not quite sure that I don’t misunderstand things, and — Oh well, let’s go on deck.”

Virginia Goodwin rose from Madge Starrett’s side as her husband and Battersby picked their way through the group on deck. “ Larry,” she said, “I’m going to insist that you be an agreeable host. You’ve got to find out what cordials the Smith-Terrills want. Chartreuse and Benedictine are n’t synonyms, and I want you to see that the steward realizes it.”

“ I’m a bungling dog, Virginia,” muttered the skipper of the Berserker as his wife drew him toward the larger group, where Horace Trevano was endeavoring by means of an inverted megaphone to hear what was being said on the yacht moored nearest them. “ It’s wonderful how far you can hear with the things,” Trevano was saying. “ Up at Lake Asquam last summer we used to sit on the boathouse float and eavesdrop on the spoons in canoes. Once I heard ” — Virginia Goodwin smiled in the deck dusk as Trevano’s voice was lost in a murmur of femininely indignant protest. She patted her husband’s arm gently. “ If there were only more like you,Larry,”she whispered, “they’d give it the right name and call it ' honesty.’ ”

Battersby by the moon haze studied the profile of the girl in the chair by his side. The very rattan seemed to touch her lovingly as she gazed over the taffrail at the bobbing lights of the fleet anchored beyond. As he looked, it stung him to feel that he was further removed from her now than he had been in his little hall bedroom in Stuyvesant Square. There he had his memory of her, unfaded, when he would let it appear like the genii in the vase, and unfailingly sympathetic. To-night, with her hand almost touching his, he realized that this memory must henceforth be dead. The earnest faith of the girl, which he had rememberingly cherished, was not. For the girl had turned woman long since, with the gauge of a woman for fitness and unfitness; and that gauge had been of necessity within the last hour applied to him. He could not doubt that he had suffered in the doing.

Madge Starrett was waiting for him to tell her about himself. Of this all women can be reasonably certain, — that the man of the past, when chance mingles his path with hers after a lapse of years, will tell her about himself, if for no other purpose than that of obtaining justification. Somehow at this moment, with her eyes closed to all but the present, with Phil Battersby at her side as he had been, she found herself eagerly ready to listen to what he had to say. The dreams of a girl never quite die. They tint the after life of the woman. And it was so with Madge Starrett. Had Battersby known this it would have been easier.

From one of the yachts came the sound of singing. The saloon portholes were open, and the voice, a woman’s contralto, with its deeper background of piano, came clearly over the water : —

“The swallows are making them ready to fly, Sailing off on a wintry sky. Good-by, Summer. Good-by. Good-by.”

The group farther down the rail were listening too. Virginia Goodwin was leaning forward, her elbow upon the arm of her chair, and her chin upon her clasped hands. Her wrap had slipped from her shoulders, and Battersby saw the gleam of her white neck with its spitfire circlet of diamonds. As she listened, her look fixed upon the watergloom, Battersby saw Larry Goodwin, whose eyes were not upon the boat in the distance, but staring at his wife. There was not the light for seeing quite plainly, but Battersby knew that if there had been, he could have read apprehension in the gaze of the skipper of the Berserker, — the stare of a man of primary emotions when his wife’s mood is far flung and he may not follow her, the unuttered thought that maybe, after all, there has been some other man who could have traveled with her in her mood journeys. “ Good-by, Summer. Good-by. Good-by,” the contralto finished plaintively. Trevano whispered something to the woman nearest him which made her laugh quietly. And Virginia Goodwin turned in her deck chair, too, with what Battersby took to be an undue eagerness to be amused. Her husband pulled her wrap into place about her shoulders awkwardly.

Battersby turned impatiently toward the girl. “ There is n’t much time,” he said. “ I ’ve got to go back to town tonight. It ’s been little enough, but a glimpse of the old friends I’ve lost has been more to me than perhaps any of you will understand. ”

“ Why ‘lost ? ’ ” said the girl. “ Larry is going to weigh anchor at daybreak. He says we ’ll be at the yacht club anchorage by eleven.” Her face never once left off scanning the light-streaked waste of water beyond the rail, and her tones were even and colorless.

“ I shan’t be able to go down with the Berserker,” said Battersby. “ I shall have been busy a good many hours by the time Larry anchors off Twenty-Sixth Street.” The silence which followed made him feel that he should continue speaking. But, as his lips opened, he felt that before they had closed again he might have committed himself to some things which would cause him regret upon the morrow. “Larry ran across me by accident,” he went on. “ I had no idea of seeing you all when I came up. I wonder how Larry knew me, for one changes a great deal in a few years ? I walked past Bradley in the wagonette at the station ; walked past slowly to see if he still knew me, and he did n’t. Then I remembered that it had been seven years since I had seen any of you — seven years since I cut it all.”

Madge Starrett’s voice repeated his words softly. " Seven years,” it said. " Seven years — a long time.” Then she swayed toward him in the chair, and he fancied her eyes were eager. " Why did you ' cut it all,’ as you say ? ” she asked.

“Have n’t you guessed ? ”

“They talked about you,” said the girl. " At first they said you were busy writing, and then that you had never really cared for it — that is, for us all, Virginia and Larry and — the rest of us.”

“And then that I was a failure and ashamed of it,” said Battersby, wincing as he uttered each word of what he knew was truth.

She nodded. " The first reason was the worst — the cruelest — even if the last were true.”

“It was true,” said Battersby.

“And the first?” The girl’s words came reluctantly, forced despite her, from a throat that was tense with the effort to choke them back.

“The first was a lie. It was because I cared for you — for you and Larry, and Mrs. Goodwin, and the rest — that I showed the streak of yellow. Not that this justifies me. The yellow streak must have been there always, only I never guessed at it. I could n’t stiffen against a facer when I came to it. I wonder if you knew the streak was there—if Larry and Mrs. Goodwin knew it ? Good God ! I may have been an open book of cowardice all my life ; may have been despised for it without knowing it.” Battersby’s voice trembled with the rush of sudden thought. The girl threw out her hands with a little deprecating motion. In the white half-reflection the moonlight seemed to drip from her fingers.

“Don’t,” she said. " Don’t talk that way. A man has never the right to tell a woman he has been a coward. He would better — much better — lie about it, if need be, to conceal it.”

“But if he were found out ? ”

“He could never be found out—if the woman cared.”

Beyond, the group was laughing at some of Horace Trevano’s tattle. Goodwin’s deep chuckle was uppermost in the mingled murmur. The creak of the hawsers, as the Berserker dipped to the freshening swells of the bay, was rhythmically regular. Battersby saw that the girl had settled back against the rattan, her eyes hidden in the shadow.

“Listen,” he said. “This is the last time. It was worse than brutal for me to have come to-night. At least grant me your seeing that I have had the courage to be brutal to myself. For I ’ve had to-night a taste of the old times I fancied I had learned how to forget. I shall have to learn all over again. You were a girl when I saw you the last time. You listened to my enthusiasms then, and believed in them because you were a girl. Now you are a woman, and it is different. You can’t judge things in the old girlish way — not even if you wish. A woman must be just despite herself — if she has ever cared.”

The girl put out her hands again, but Battersby’s impulse was inexorable. He found himself a deliberate victim upon the rack of a self-forced torture, yet rising supreme above the pangs of his own agony because of the suffering of his unwilling inquisitor. " And you cared — once, did n’t you ? ” he asked.

Madge Starrett faced him almost indignantly. But when she spoke her words were uttered calmly enough, at which she herself marveled. 44 Yes — I did care — once,” she answered.

“I wanted to hear you say it,” he went on, " because I am doing penance. My atonement has lasted seven years, and to-night will make it deservedly more bitter. And now let me tell you a little about myself, for you will see the poetic justice of things perhaps better than the others. Not that I care what the others think, save Larry. Good old fellow, he is too great-heartedly stupid to see what I really am. And Mrs. Goodwin”—

“ Virginia is expedient,” the girl interrupted hastily.

“ And sees the inexpediency of a burntout rocket stick,” he continued. “ Why, it is merely the righteous caution of a vigilant hostess. She was even anxious about me to-night for those first few minutes at table, until she heard me rattle on in the old way, and knew that I would last until the coffee. And I did last. I did last.” Battersby laughed quietly.

“Ah, don’t do that,” whispered the girl.

“ I m laughing at myself,” he said, “laughing at myself for being afraid to believe that the girl of seven years ago would let a little of the old faith come back.”

Madge Starrett’s fingers tightened upon the arms of the deck chair. “ Does it then mean anything to you still ? ” she asked.

“Even a failure would have a memory to share his exile.” Battersby was vaguely conscious at the moment that tomorrow he would be a lost soul in torment. The launch would be taking him back to shore soon, with Heaven receding. Heaven being as much of the Berserker’s deck as Madge Starrett’s chair was covering.

“ You would smile if I should tell you of what to-night reminds me,” he said. “ I spend a great deal of my time on the East Side these days, for a number of reasons that there is no particular necessity of defining. One morning last winter I went over to a Chrystie Street tenement to find out about an ambulance call that had been posted at Police Headquarters. It was snowing, and just before dawn. A policeman on the corner told me that the child of a Yiddish shoe-lace peddler on the top floor had been fatally scalded by the overturning of a samovar.

“ The family had been breakfasting at four, so that the father could walk to Harlem and begin peddling his shoe-laces in time to catch the down-town crowds at the One Hundred and Twenty-Fifth Street ‘ L ’ station. I climbed upstairs, stumbling along in the pitch dark. At the top landing there was a drunken longshoreman sleeping. My feet trod upon his face, and he stirred to curse me before he dropped off to sleep again. I stepped into the wretched little den they called a home, gasping for breath in the foulness of the room. The mother was rocking to and fro, wailing over the cheap high chair still drawn up to the table, and the father was praying in a despairing jargon of outcries and entreaty. The other children stood awestricken, staring at their parents as if they did not understand. The baby had been taken to Bellevue, and at the mention of the word ‘ hospital ’ they took me for a doctor. The mother fell at my knees and begged me to say that her baby would live. The doorway, full of excitedly sympathetic neighbors, with poor, white-faced, terrorstricken children peering between the legs of their elders, chattered anew as they regarded me. ‘ He is the doctorman. He will make Rachel’s baby well,’ I heard them say.”

Battersby paused. The girl was looking at his face, and this time he was staring out over the rail and smiling oddly. “ I suppose the yellow streak was always there,” he said. “ Trevano would laugh if he heard it. It would make a good story to tell at the club, for I was afraid to tell the truth, — afraid to say that I was not the doctor. It was the yellow streak, for I told them I was from Bellevue, and that the baby was going to get well. And all the time I knew, for the policeman on the corner had told me, that the baby was dying when the ambulance took it away.”

Madge Starrett’s voice wavered as she whispered, “ Poor little baby ! Poor little baby! ”

With the womanly pity in her words, and the tears which could not be seen, but which he knew were moistening her eyelids, Battersby felt a fierce desire to have the girl pity him instead of the child of his story. The knowledge that he was jealous of a dead, East Side Yiddish baby showed him how craven for pity he had become. He turned hastily to her as she lay sunken far back in the chair, her shoulders contracted as if in some real physical pain.

“ So far my story has n’t meant anything,” he said. “ It is the rest of it that will be the object lesson ; that will show you I have fallen so low that even a vulgar gratefulness means much to me. The old peddler, jabbering in his uncouth joy, could not be restrained from lighting me down the crazy stairway. With a lamp held high above his ragged beard, and sending distorted shadows over the face of the drunken longshoreman on the top landing as we passed, he followed me three steps behind all the way. ‘ God will you bless,’ he kept saying over and over again. ‘ The God of Abraham will reward.’ And from far off, somewhere in the fetid tomb of a home I had left behind me on the top story, there came to me cries of joy, cries of, ‘ Oh, the good doctor! The kind hospital! ’ My face burned even in the cruelly cold blasts that swept into the hall from the open door. I was a hypocrite, a brutal mummer. I slunk out into the street taking their heartbroken gratitude with me, a thief, the basest sort of a thief. If the Recording Angel does not sleep at five in the morning, my place in the Rogues’ Gallery of Heaven is secure. And — for I told you I had fallen low — I found myself wishing from the bottom of my soul that I might have deserved their prayers, their benisons of Yiddish jargon. For it came over me in the snow, outside that ramshackle tenement, with red dawn creeping up from the East River and the milk carts clattering over the pavements, that it is a great thing to win the heart-warm gratitude of even a wretched and not quite clean peddler and his wife.”

Battersby ceased speaking abruptly. It came over him very suddenly that he was weary. He stared at the girl crouched low in her chair, and then past her, out into the fleet-lit waters. The hawsers still creaked with the Berserker’s persistent tugging at her moorings. From the nearest yacht came the sound of the same contralto voice, singing this time a rollicking barcarolle. But the music seemed discordant now.

“ The funny thing about it is,” he said slowly, “ that until I saw you — you and Larry and the rest — but mostly seeing you—the stolen thanks of that Yiddish peddler meant more to me than anything else. I had been a failure, the worst kind of a failure, but it taught me I could at least be kind now and then to others if I had not been kind to myself. You see, I told you the yellow streak was there. I suppose it must have been there always. I wonder if you knew it?”

The girl shivered, and he sprang to where her shoulder cloak had slipped to the deck. “ I’ve been bringing my tenement-house manners with me,” he said. “You have been cold in that thin frock, and I have been too selfishly introspective to see.”

“It is n’t that,” she said. “ It is n’t the cold. It’s the baby — the poor little burnt baby.”

“ But I lied, you know,” said Battersby.

The girl smiled faintly. “ I’m glad of it,” she said. “ Your telling that lie has explained a whole lot of things.”

Down by the rail amidships Trevano was laughing again, and Battersby saw Virginia Goodwin stand up, tall and white in the moonlight. She came along the deck toward them, Larry Goodwin following her, with the anxious look of unidentified apprehension in his eyes if they could have been seen, as Battersby knew.

“ Mrs. Goodwin is coming,” said Battersby, turning to the girl quickly. His Lucifer fall was beginning again, and the realization of it startled him. “ It has been my valedictory over again.”

“ Valedictory — that means farewell,” said the girl slowly.

He recalled his unconsciously uttered words at table, and smiled because she had remembered them. That was something. “ I shall not say it,” he said. Then the flush of a new and resolute courage gave way to a certain foreknowledge that, after all, to-morrow would find him the same resentfully inefficacious self. “ Let us leave it unsaid,” he whispered, and there was no time for an answer from her, for Trevano was to preside at the making of a “ chafing-dish confection,” as he called it, in the saloon below ; and Mrs. Goodwin, being a good-natured but none the less cautious hostess, had decreed that Madge Starrett should sit at his right hand.

At eleven o’clock on the following morning Battersby stood on a stringpiece at the foot of East Twenty-Sixth Street. A yard away the sun was beating down upon a dripping object, which two policemen were examining upon bended knees. Another officer stood beside Battersby with a boat-hook in his hand. The sunlight displayed with unreserved brutality the dirty gray masses of stone buildings along the water’s edge, — the Bellevue Hospital tint of hopelessness; and the odor of the disinfectants from the near-by morgue was insistent. The drowned man — this fleshly, unprotesting toy of the whirl of ” Buttermilk ” Channel and the Bridge’s conflicting currents — had lured Battersby from his Police Headquarters’ den to pry into its secrets. He had come that the decencies of burial convention might be achieved, and a true name be chalked upon the pine lid which would cover the face of the silent thing when it was laid at rest in scant-earthed Potter’s Field.

To the group—the four living men and the dead one — there came the rattle of hawsers from midstream. A steam yacht had let go her fluke irons at the yacht club anchorage. The policeman who was searching for letters in the shrunken pockets of the dripping object paused for a moment, and with his hand to his helmet peered across the sunshot, scummy water. The sleek, white sides of the boat glistened, and he could see the glint of yards of polished brass railing and the knot of people in the deck chairs astern. Over it all fluttered Larry Goodwin’s private signal.

“ It’s the Berserker,” said the policeman, spelling out the yellow letters at the bow as the current swung the yacht around. “ She’s a beauty, she is.”

Duck-clad sailors lowered away the staging while the electric launch cleared astern and lay alongside. The occupants of the deck chairs moved down to the rail amidships. A woman’s laugh, with a man’s deeper echo, punctuated faintly the disembarkation. A slim girl in blue yachting cloth stepped into the launch just before it cast loose, and went bobbing off toward shore further down.

In the sun heat, the presence of the disagreeable dead, and the fused odors of hospital and morgue, there came to Battersby the memory of a moon-lighted deck, a girl with bent shoulders, and, woven throbbing through the memory, the wail of a contralto, “ Good-by, Summer. Good-by. Good-by.”

“ Ah,” he said quite unconsciously, “ it was my valedictory.” Then he turned to his friends, the policemen.

Robert MacAlarney.