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MAL DE MER(E)

BY HARRY COWELL

R

OUGHLY SPEAKING, there is only one kind of sea-sickness, the unkind, but gently be it spoken, there is another and less cruel. The insufferable former is most often suffered in mid-ocean; the sufferable latter, in mid-land, at an immeasurable distance from the sea, and by reason thereof.

'Tis a strange malady, this latter, and not altogether bitter, affecting one very much after the manner of sad poetry, with its nostalgia of other lives in fatherlands forgot. The sufferer is sea-sick as one is love-sick or home-sick; and that, though his home be not on the sea, but by it; though his first-and-last love, and the habitation of his heart, be the land. "Tis one with, or akin to, the sea-madness of which Fiona Macleod writes with such authority; and in his delirium the patient hears as if audibly the clamorous call of the wild waves, to which, like a wounded soldier, he makes piteous attempts to respond; and the musical lure of the ripples irresistibly draws his soul seaward.

In aesthetics, as elsewhere, the point of view is everything-at least, means much. Personally, I prefer the beauty of the sea from the land to that of the land from the sea; a lake is lovelier to me than is an island, unless! When altogether out of sight of land, my sense of the beautiful, in common with my appreciation thereof, is quite at sea. The porpoise that breaks the monotonous magnificence is a pleasure. to the eye, the sail, the gull, a god-send; while the cry of "Land ho!" brings tears thereto.

As to me, I spend more of my time in the sea than on it. Though outwardly in every respect a land animal, and no odd fish, my memory yet breathes through gill

slits in a manner refreshing as mysterious. Along with swimming have I learned to love my old mother, the sea, and the more familiar I become with her, the better I love her. Cold, queenly and inhospitable as she is reputed to ride hereabouts through her Golden Gate, I, for one stranger, have received a royal welcome from her, health at her hands; sweet rest, and O, such a feeling of buoyancy! in her arms. Not that she mollycoddles me by any means. On the contrary, the very first thing she taught me was to strike out for myself. Only, come to know her, she is not cruel. She but remembers man as her lost child, and forgets that he has long since forgotten her and her ways. With the death of tens of thousands whom Panic Fear slays, or Wilful Neglect, is she wrongfully charged. Like the rest of the lower creation, her carnivorous monsters tend to keep at a respectful distance from living man. Sharks are in effect sea-vultures which batten off the conqueror only after Death has first first conquered him. Theirs is the victim, not the victory.

Life-giving is the sea. Life, at any rate, myself have received at her hands, and, if the worst by means of her befall, death at her hands is said even by her enemies to be a gentle thing, much like falling on sleep. Not for death's sake, however; but for life's, I'd fain teach the young of both sexes-those of the timid sex equally with those of the brave-to know her and love her and feel at home with her, and hugely to enjoy her seemingly inhospitable hospitality. This would I do, though thereafter forever the sounds of inland waters would be in their ears as the ranz-des-vaches in those of self-expatriated Swiss mountaineers.

THE SPIRIT SPIRIT GIRL

BY JOHN S. LOPEZ

T

O OBSERVE Dicky Peterson, alert, businesslike, as he fought his way against the storm, you would never have surmised that he had just succumbed to romantic yearnings of a most peculiar sort. But for all his prosaic exterior, Dicky was a poetnot of the obvious type that wears long hair and pensively transforms the soulstirrings of mankind into the wherewithal to live or starve; but a dreamer of flesh and blood beauties, who built up romances for his own use.

Though you would never suspect it, Dicky was a victim of contradictory characteristics, emotions and attainments,

which were as inconsistent as they were strangely refreshing and harmonious-in Dicky. Not that he took pains to conceal his vagaries, in fact Dicky never took pains about much of anything. Certain industrious ancestors had thoughtfully garnered enough worldly wealth to relieve him of the necessity; and having accomplished this early enough, they had bequeathed him in addition the unassailable social position assured by long lineage. So there was no hypocrisy in the sporadic attacks of ambition that held Dicky's nose to business. They were simply to satisfy himself that he was a man of action, of some use in the community. And this in itself was but the outcropping of Dicky's poetic temperament, if one might judge from his indefatigable though erratic industry compared with the poverty of the results achieved.

The bane of Dicky's existence around which all his poetic yearnings radiated was the Spirit Girl, a creature as strange as the method by which he had evolved her. It was always to bring her into being that he had sidetracked business, outrageously overthrew conventions and indulged in the vagaries that would have branded any one else but Dicky as an idiot.

His irresponsibilities

were notorious among his friends; although the causethe Spirit Girl-was a secret that he held to his own soul.

She was a composite creature, this Spirit Girl, built up since his calf-days of those things that were most beautiful in his eyes about all the alluring womankind he had ever met. One had furnished the Spirit Girl with masses of ruddy brown hair just hinting strands of gold; another had given big blue eyes of just the tint and depth that combine soulfulness with mirth; the delicately uptilted nose and the ravishing mouth and teeth that just appealed to Dicky had been sacrificed by others. Ruthlessly he had maimed the feminine world, building up the Spirit Girl, not only in form, but even thoughts, emotions and character.

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Not that he ever expected to see her realization such a thought he dismissed as absurd. Nor that he would have wanted her if such a miracle had occurred. For Dicky was engaged to a flesh and blood maiden not at all like the Spirit Girl, and that he was really fond of her none questioned-least of all Dicky himself. But the fact remained that the Spirit Girl had him enthralled-in a purely impersonal way, of course-just as a man might pay homage to a beautiful painting or statue or an impossible ideal he had conceived.

And Dicky could never cease searching for human fragments with which to piece. together the object of his soul soarings. The thought that there was any harm, save that it interfered with business, never entered Dicky's mind. Else he would never have turned on that stormy winter afternoon and retraced his steps to the Grand Central Station. He had long since discovered that of all other places and at this particular time of day, here he could build up the Spirit Girl entire.

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And so, after he had shaken the snow from his hat and coat, he roamed through the Station for half an hour, finding here and there the things for which he searched without the real owners being a bit the wiser. For this quest of Dicky's was really impersonal. There was nothing of the flirt in his method, and behind seemingly uninterested glances he cast about, none could suspect that he was conducting an aesthetic vivisection. Not but that Dicky himself drew forth some scarcely concealed looks of interest from his victims. He was big and good to look upon, and, from a feminine standpoint that in itself is distinction. None would have suspected the poet in the frank, dancing, brown eyes that lifted his face above the commonplace, and in their search for the Spirit Girl, had played havoc with many impressionable maidens who could. not know they offered only part of what he sought.

Dicky had finally stepped out into the train shed to add the stimulus of a cigarette to the critical study of a pair of eyebrows on a striking girl in gray, when out of the hurry and bustle came the Spirit Girl herself, working her way toward the door through which he was gazing. He realized it instantly with a shock of blended delight and consternation that forced his heart up into his throat and sent alternate waves of sinking and tingling throughout his whole body, as he stepped aside from the door to let her pass. knew she was the Spirit Girl, not only in body, but in soul as well. The voice and the merry way in which she cheered the porter, who was struggling under her luggage told him that. Even to the fetching hat and the dainty traveling dress which fell just to her shoe tops she was the personification of his dream.

He

But there was no time to stand in idle wonder. The Spirit Girl was making her way toward a gate, and he followed, fascinated, in her wake. He did not stop to reason the matter at all; he just ac

cepted it as a certainty that he was going to see the thing out. Quickly she passed through the gate with Dicky close behind. Then he noticed that the train was for Chicago and he paused for a moment. But there was no time to lose; the passengers were being hurried aboard. Murmuring a hasty excuse to the guard for his lack of tickets, he pushed through just as they were closing the gate, and made his way to the sleeper she had entered. Then before he had gained either breath or reason, the train was speeding on its way.

One cautious glance about the car disclosed the Spirit Girl busily engaged in making herself comfortable, some seats ahead on the opposite side of the coach. He noted with satisfaction that there were only three others in the car on this stormy afternoon. At least his half-formed determination to know the Spirit Girl in the flesh would suffer no interference if he was careful. Dicky never even stopped to consider that she herself might have objections; the matter was so impersonal and respectful in his own mind. Methods of procedure were just taking shape when the approach of the conductor presented the first unpoetic quandary.

He did not know his destination. At any rate she must be going as far as Buffalo, he reasoned, and so it was Buffalo he told the conductor, inventing a plausible yarn to explain the absence of tickets.

It was when he came to pay for these that Dicky had a real shock. One dollar and sixty cents was the sum total of what remained when the conductor had been satisfied. It was the first time he had ever realized the importance of money, and it took the nerve out of him as nothing else could. But could he do-how could he fix it? He knew no one in Buffalo, and clearly it was impossible to have money telegraphed ahead at night. Ah, it was easy, after all! He laughed as an expedient unique to him flashed across his mind. He would simply go into a pawn shop and pledge his diamond ring. The relief was positively exhilarating, and keen delight in his adventure grew apace with barriers overcome.

During all this unrest that assailed Dicky, he had not neglected to observe the Spirit Girl. By now she was deep in a novel-he wondered what it was-and

seemingly oblivious to her surroundings. Each glance at her strengthened Dicky's determination to see the chase to a finish now that he had started. Any less important mortal he would have approached with that easy grace of his that courted welcome and drew the sting from rebuff. But something warned him that this would not do with the Spirit Girl, even if he dared to take the chance. The proceedings must be tempered with finesse.

As his mind took up the thread of his conjectures, a benumbing thought suddenly crept into Dicky's mind. How did he know she was going to Buffalo at all. She might drop off at some God-forsaken wilderness in the middle of the night, or, worse still, go further on the road. He must find out and that quickly. But how?

With a shock of shame at his lack of perception, the simple solution flashed across Dicky's mind. The conductor had seemed a good-natured, garrulous individual: he could be made to supply the information without ever realizing it.

Two minutes later he was chatting with that official back in the smoking compartment.

"Not many passengers in the coach," said Dicky, with an air of utter indifference. "Short riders, I suppose ?"

"Never do have many this kind of weather, somehow," said the man in blue. "And you can't blame people" He went into a long series of reminiscences of the discomforts of winter traveling.

"That's right," agreed Dicky, who had been impatiently waiting for an opening; "and I suppose these are all short riders to-night?"

"Nope," was the reply. "Old man and woman go to Buffalo, fellow with whiskers to Cleveland, and the young dame on through to Chicago."

"Chicago!" gasped Dicky weakly, for the moment swept off his guard. But the conductor did not seem to notice his agitation.

"Sure," he continued, "although heaven knows when she'll get there if this blizzard has been piling up west of Buffalo."

Dicky's mind was working at express speed.

"My, my," he said with hypocritical concern, "hope I don't find instructions to continue to Chicago when I get to Buf

falo! May not, of course," he left a loophole in case of financial impediment. "But it's mighty likely. By the way, how long do we lay over in Buffalo?" He was thinking of the pawning operation.

"'Bout an hour," was the reply that made him happy. There would be plenty of time. He decided to attack the problem candidly-that is, with reservations.

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"Is there do you know if anywhere near the station there is a- began Dicky apologetically. Then he grew bold: "Fact is, I may have to find a pawn shop quick. I left New York so suddenly that I didn't bring enough money in case I need fare to Chicago."

"Sure," said the conductor, with interest, "there's plenty of 'em, but the trouble is they'll all be closed between the time we get in and leave."

"But-but," said Dicky, desperately, "I have to do it. Isn't there any way to fix it on good security?" He exposed his fine solitaire diamond ring. "Can't you do it? I'll make it worth a ten dollar bill. I'll telegraph ahead for money and it'll be there when we get in."

"It's a peach," ejaculated the conductor with enthusiasm, carefully examining the ring. "It isn't usual, but I'll take a chance, and you can redeem it whenever you want. Besides, I'll stake you to five or ten if you need it."

Dicky was so grateful he could have fallen on his Samaritan's neck and embraced him. He took the ten gladly and passed over the ring. And then, after they had made arrangements for its redemption, the conductor went off on duty and left Dicky to his own reflections.

Now that his mind was at rest, Dicky's thoughts returned to the Spirit Girl. Still, there was plenty of time for overtures, and so he stopped to meditate. Realizing that his present security was but temporary, he placed her to one side for the time being and began to plan future provisions. This resulted in a telegram, scratched on the back of an envelope, as follews:

"Percival G. Harding,

"2896 Michigan Ave., Chicago. "Meet me at station; arrival N. Y. C. train from N. Y.; due six o'clock Friday evening. Bring $200; very important. "Richard W. Peterson."

This completed, brought up a feeling of semi-remorse in Dicky's thoughts. Percy Percy Harding was the brother-in-law of Ruth Perkins, the flesh-and-blood maiden in in New York with whom he had plighted troth. It was a very cheap thing to do, he realized, to use her influence to further his own unfaithfulness. And now he thought with a twinge of conscience, while he was speeding along, he was breaking a promise he had made to spend that evening with her. He had been neglecting her, but he would make it up later. Why, he had not gone near her for a week. He had justified himself on the ground that he did not want to be bored by meeting her sister, Harding's wife, who was in New York on a visit. Dicky scourged himself into an easier frame of mind, and then sent a conscience sop in the form of a telegram to his fiancee. It read:

"Called suddenly to Chicago. Sorry to disappoint you. Telegraph forgiveness care of Harding.

"Dicky."

These he copied on telegraph blanks secured from the porter who came through calling dinner. He made arrangements that they be sent from Buffalo.

Thus having satisfied scruples, Dicky's mind reverted to the cause of it all. She solved the problem of procedure by passing through to the dining car, and a moment later Dicky followed close behind. Surely at dinner would be the propitious time if she was to be receptive at all. Carelessly, he dropped into a seat at a table just opposite her's, and looked about with studied unconcern. It was a glorious vantage from which he could watch without attracting attention, and for the first time he had full opportunity for studying the Spirit Girl at close range. Sheer delight such as he had never before experienced, had never hoped to feel, thrilled him as his hungry eyes and ears drank in her every gesture, her every word. She was more than the embodiment of his Spirit Girl; she was the quintessence, the refinement of his dream-just as virgin gold is refined from baser alloys. There were some deviations from his spirit conception, it is true; but the changes were improvements, if anything. Dicky's common sense told

him he was a silly fool-building air castles that would probably collapse; but the vision was ravishing, and he allowed himself to drift on its superambient tide.

But drop by drop, his self-confidence oozed away and gave place to a positive feeling of awe. Perhaps this was because she represented the apex of his dreams; largely it was due to the girl herself. Obviously she was not one to be lightly approached, although there was nothing of the prude in her demeanor. It was just that certain indefinable something that protects some women like a danger signal that warns off impertinent overtures. Several times she looked at Dicky with frank interest, but there was nothing of invitation in her eyes. It was that impersonal interest that all women worth while find in any man that is good to look upon -not in the individual, but in the species. Dicky realized this and was baffled. proved that she was worthy of his dreams, and after all, that was what he most desired. He must think and watch and plan and, above all, wait for an opening that would permit of respectful approach.

It

He could observe her every movement, and he sat speculating and watching for the merest crumb of probability, but none fell. Had it been another girl, he would long since have asked for the loan of one of the magazines she had carried with her, or commented on the blizzard that was sweeping the country, or offered to lift her hand-bags when she struggled with them, or even put to use the time-worn subterfuge of mistaken identity; but while he thought of these, he passed them by as not worthy of the risk of offending her. But although he racked his mind waiting for the propitious time through the dinner and back to the coach, until the porter had made up the berths and she had turned in, the moment did not arrive.

But as he lay in his berth he was thinking-thinking and tossing about; not until long after they had pulled into Buffalo and out again did he sink into a mockery of slumber in which countless Spirit Girls led him a chase through all eternity. And so smooth and consistent was the transition from wakefulness to sleep and out again that it served to shatter any shred of self-confidence that had survived the day before.

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