Open main menu

Levenson - Butterfly Man - Chapter left.pngXXIVLevenson - Butterfly Man - Chapter right.png

 

TOMMY COOK was, Ken thought, heaven-sent. Every man needs a companion. It isn't good to be lonely. Tommy's interest in him was so warm, so obviously sincere, that he could be trusted with confidences. He could help Ken regain lost ambition; he could keep Ken on the straight and narrow path to success.

Thus Ken defended his choice of Tommy as his friend. The train, swiftly traveling east, bore him toward New York. Each milestone renewed memories, recalled emotions. His dream of relentless adherence to a set plan for success on the stage faltered before the impending reality. He turned to Tommy, to small talk, to laughter, in order to avoid increasing doubt, Tommy would help him. The boy's eyes were worshipful. He gazed at Ken admiringly, following Ken's every word with rapt attention. Willingly he assumed the relationship of a faithful slave. "Don't bother—let me do it," he would say. And Ken, glowing before an appreciative audience, would agree.

In contrast to Joe Durazzo, who was dull and heavy-witted, Tommy was golden, pink, cherubic. His eyes shone. His skin was sprinkled with golden down. His naivete was flavored with ingenuous wit, seasoned with sparkling spice. Obscenity came easily to his tongue, delivered with such nonchalance that Ken was delighted. And the boy's repertory of shocking doggerel and scathing songs seemed endless. Amusing, pleasing, he was, Ken knew. And he could be developed into a living, breathing, glib automaton, responsive to every order of his master, jester, body-servant and slave. Twenty-four hours after Ken had met Tommy he knew that Tommy would accompany him to New York, where they would live together. Ken tried to believe that he would be very happy with Tommy. His attempt to be pleasant to Lou had failed. He wanted no nonsensically gaga daughter with beaming mother attached. Nor did he want an intellectual overlord such as Howard had been. In Tommy he had found a friend, Ken wanted to believe; one who would pay for his keep with honeyed words and devotion. As Ken watched the city engulf the train, speeding past factory towns, thence into marsh lands of New Jersey, deep beneath the river into the Hudson tube and at last in the long concrete and steel underworld of the terminal, doubt assailed him. New York, his again to conquer. New York, city of false friends, ambush where his enemies lay concealed—why could he not face it alone? The question rose unanswered. Why Tommy? Why anyone? Why not be self-sufficient, conserving money and strength for the coming struggle? Who was Tommy? Was he to be trusted? Might he not be another of those lazy do-nothings, parasites, beardless boys who, he knew now, would grow into languid half-men? Was he himself really one of them? Hopelessly so?

It was too late to reconsider. Tommy was his and for the present, his he would remain.

The city seemed much the same, streets as crowded, buildings in their familiar places, the city's cries as varied; taxicabs sped by to the staccato tattoo of riveting, beneath the limited field of a concrete-walled sky.

He decided to live on Seventy-second Street. He chose a small furnished apartment in a new building. Three rooms, shiningly bright with the varnished freshness of a shop-window setting, paint still sticky, chairs yet to be sat upon, tapestries new from factory machines, lithographed reproductions of Remington, Millet, a plaster Rodin "Thinker."

Perhaps the first realization of change came to Ken when he revisited Broadway, a Broadway where the triangle of Times Square lay sulking in a mid-summer sun. Pedestrians crawled. Taxis rolled slowly. The sky was dull, the pavements steamed. Ken went straight to Jimmy Pierce's dance studio. He was eager for a work-out, eager to feel the hard floor beneath his feet, to use again his softening body, to bring back in the dance the rich sensation of hot blood racing through veins.

A season had passed. The colored dance director was breaking in new pupils as Ken appeared. He was received with the warmth due a new client. The stocky negro stood near the window as Ken began a series of setting up exercises.

"I need a few new routines and some tap work," Ken confidently suggested.

When he attempted the aeroplane kicks, oblique lacing of legs in a sweeping arc, he found his muscles heavy, his breath hard. He sat down. "I'm hot," he panted.

"You need plenty of work," said Jimmy Pierce.


Max Price, the agent, was an old-time vaudeville booker. Tall, gray-haired, eyes penetrating as a needle-point, he traded on the Broadway market, shrewdly choosing his human chattel. Price was nearing sixty. He had a reputation for ruthlessness. To be under his management was an accolade for which many actors fought. Ken was flattered to know that Max Price would succeed Leon Shaw as his agent.

"I can get you an engagement in a fall show," Price said. "However, you'll have to stop drinking."

"I haven't touched a drop in nearly a year," Ken told him. Apparently ill-repute is easily remembered, seldom forgot.

"Stay away from it," Price ordered.


It was easy enough to stay away from liquor. Ken was prepared to work, not to play. He reported each day at Pierce's. His body responded slowly, was systematically put through its paces. He made no attempt to work on a new routine. He was not yet ready.

During these first busy days he found in Tommy an agreeable mate. The boy's hair, as Ken exercised at Pierce's, was an aureole, glowing in the shadow of the dingy practice room. He was forever at Ken's side, offering fresh ice water, running to the next-door cafeteria for a sandwich, fanning Ken when the heat overcame him. Nice to have a friend such as Tommy.

It was not difficult for Ken to deceive himself into believing that Tommy's attachment to him was arranged by a benevolent fate. Nevertheless, sturdy resolutions and bitter lessons learned at a terrible price were forgotten. The very presence of Tommy was evidence that Ken was moving again in a familiar orbit, the path of which had been determined and which he, despite the exercise of his free will, could never change. And yet—what price sin?

At home, lying on his bed, a purple silk robe lightly covering his fair body, Tommy seemed the picture of innocence. A baby, a trusting baby, possibly a trifle studied in his attitudes, too ardent in his emotional reactions, too blithe in his quiet acceptance of caresses and contacts. Yet, superficially a trusting, loving child.

What was one to fear from a child?


Ken was unprepared when Max Price's first summons came.

"I can't show anything yet," he told his agent.

"It's for the Commodore," Price said.

"Colman?"

"Gebhardt is branching out for himself. You know, he produced with Vincent Yeager last year. He's taken over the Commodore."

"It's impossible. I'm sorry. I haven't been able to work up a new dance. I can't go."

"Nonsense. You told me Colman always fathered you. He has an interest in the show. Drop in and see him. Maybe he can get Gebhardt to sign you without a tryout."

To return to the Commodore, scene of so many happy days would be like walking through the tomb of an Egyptian Pharoah, a grave above the earth, dustless corpse of a dead dream.

At the Commodore, a new stage-doorman halted Ken. The Colonel, he learned, fading into senility, had gone home to Kentucky to die amid the mingled scent of blue grass and Bourbon whiskey.

On the stage, the same little stage, where he had danced so brilliantly with Norah, half darkness, a pilot lamp casting tall, eerie shadows into the cavernous corners of the auditorium. Through the aisles to the balcony stairs, a door marked "Private" and Ken stood in the offices.

Frail ghosts, echoes of youthful voices, barely heard, the full strong step of his friend—these memories made Ken strain, his senses attempting to re-people the void created by the passing of time.

In the front office, Henry Colman, older, less portly, his skin thinner, a delicate scarlet line beneath eye pouches; he rose.

"Dear boy," he said.

"Boss," said Ken.

They talked of the past. Howard, it appeared, was in England. He had produced no new show. Henry Colman apologized for not visiting Ken during his long stay at the hospital.

"How's your leg?" he asked.

"Well as ever," said Ken.

"Can you do a step or two for Gebhardt?"

"I'd rather not," Ken said. "I'm working on some new numbers now."

"If I were you, I'd dance your old specialty. You can still do that, I suppose. He won't remember it. Then when you go into rehearsal about a month from now you can build something new."

Ken hesitated. Henry Colman was insistent. "I like you, son. I drink, too, once in a while, you know."

"I haven't touched a drop in nearly a year," said Ken.


He danced for Gebhardt. A pianist played the time-step number from "Sweeter Than Sweet." He was on the stage of the Commodore Theatre, where that very dance had stopped the show, night after night. Yet everything was changed. He could not keep time. He could not kick above his head. His oblique side-kicks were impossible.

Moreover, his body was heavy, sluggish, a soft mass of slow-moving flesh. It had lost its youthful grace. One felt, watching it, that the legs were no longer finely drawn, the stomach no longer lay quite flat, the joints were almost perceptibly swollen.

Ken returned to the apartment. He dropped upon a couch. He lay exhausted. Gebhardt had said, 'Til call Max Price about you." Ken had not talked again to Henry Colman. Now his muscles ached. Hard lumps seemed knotted in the leg he had lamed. His fingers probed the tendons. Scars were there but no tangible swelling. His eyes became heavy. Tommy brought him a glass of water.

"I'm sick," Ken murmured. "I think I really need a drink."

"Shall I buy some gin?" Tommy asked.

"No," Ken abruptly decided. "Go to the drug store and buy a few bromides. I'll try to sleep."

In the morning, his throat ached; he was still heavy lidded. His muscles were stiff. He postponed his appointment with Jimmy Pierce. He lay inert until past noon.


In the wise friendly face of Leo Murrell was understanding. He was more like a father—a real father—Ken thought, than a physician. Broadway's physician, he was called. Doctor to stars and to chorus people, skillful surgeon, his ear ever filled with intimate secrets, Leo Murrell occupied a unique place in the theatrical world. His apartment was divided into two parts, office and club. His door was never latched. Visitors dropped in at all hours. In a cabinet was liquor; ice in the kitchen. If Dr. Murrell was busy with his practise, the visitor might prepare his own drinks, meet Leo's friends, discuss pertinent affairs of the street. To Dr. Murrell came elegant young women, rising stars of Broadway, the beauty of their bodies, the slim perfection of them was both a source of pride and of fear. Were they growing old? Had they been indiscreet? How could they avoid the consequences of love? How destroy its after-effects?

Men, thoughtless, willful men, came, too, to the doctor, whose narrow eyes and firm lips could open in full robust laughter at a topical jest. He knew these men so well. He had been their sort, lusty, strong in passion, careless of consequences.

He studied Ken. "You're a finely poised individual," he said. "I know all about you. Heard of your accident."

"It wasn't an accident. I was drunk," Ken said. "I did it myself."

"Didn't you want to dance again?"

"I wanted to destroy myself."

"I've heard you are homosexual. Is it true?"

Ken blinked at the bald question. "Yes."

"You surprise me. Not by the fact, but because you admit it—"

"I—"

Dr. Murrell interrupted: "I am speaking to you as a physician now. You have nothing to fear from your inability to conform. You diverge from normal, of course. But that is not to say that you are abnormal. Perhaps you are a more complex organism than we others. Don't worry about that."

"But my physical condition—?"

"I'll look into that thoroughly. We'll try everything, metabolism, blood tests, sputum analysis, urinalysis, and so on. Let's get under way."

With the swiftness of a hammer stroke, the blow fell. He had held the card in his hand. It was attached to a long sheet of paper, columns divided by fine lines, subdivided into narrow boxes.

"The sum of human misery," Dr. Murrell had said. He had been cheerful. "It isn't anything," he added. "That is, anything of importance. Normal heart, lungs, metabolism on the minus side. And then a red circle—danger. Wasserman plus one."

Leisurely spoken words. "That means?" Ken asked.

"A local syphilitic condition. Easy to treat. A few months' care. Occasional treatment for a year or so. I suspected as much the other day."

"But—but will I be able to dance?"

"By January, yes."

Ken had left Dr. Murrell's office with firm step, head up. His homeward path took him through Central Park. Anger, blind red anger was rising within him as he strode along, pulse accentuated into trip-hammer beat against his ears. The day was uncommonly cool for late August. Boys were kicking and passing footballs on the playground field. A short cut traversed a mass of rock. Ken breathlessly trod the tall grass at the base of the pile. Beyond, past the iron railing, the road, motor cars hurrying, the bridle path vanishing behind a softly carpeted green knoll and emerging straight and dusty, before the sheep meadow.

Ken quit the park at Seventy-second Street. The door of his apartment was open. No one was in the living room. Shades drawn, heavy red curtain shutting out even a faint reflected light, the room was dark and cool. In the bedroom, Tommy lay sleeping. He wore a pair of Ken's pajamas. The sleeves were too long, the legs drooped oddly over his feet. On his lips contentment, his eyes peacefully closed.

"Tommy," Ken called. He moved. Ken shook him. "Wake up!"

"What's up? What's the matter?" the boy asked, rising quickly from the bed.

"You rotten filthy pig!" Ken cried. "You stinking, disgusting, unclean bitch. Get the hell out of here. Pick up your things. Pick 'em up. Get out. Get out quick—before I kill you!"

"But why?"

"Don't you know? Don't you know what you've done to me?"

The boy seemed to understand. His blue wondering eyes filled with terror. Ken struck him, slapped him, tossed him to the floor, kicked him. He crouched, hands over head. "Don't, please don't!" he whined. "I—I thought it was all over. I didn't mean—I—oh, Ken—oh, I'm so sorry—"

"Get out!" Ken shrieked. "I don't want to kill you—I don't want to kill you!"

His own voice rose hysterically. He ran into the bathroom, locked the door. His shoulders, as he leaned against the wall, shook with the vast tidal flood of his emotion.


Drink, Dr. Murrell had said, would feed the enemy within. He must live temperately, sanely.

How, he asked himself, could he live at all? For many months he had earned nothing. If he had not stayed at his father's home during his period of recuperation, he would have been penniless long ago. Without money, he would have been helpless.

He had heard of Dr. Murrell's "bread-line," the backwash of Broadway which flowed up to the door of the warm-hearted physician. To borrow meant to lose caste, to become dependent, to become the object of derision or—worse—of pity.

And how would he live without human contact, without companionship, friendly counsel, the sympathy he craved, the applause that was tonic to him? In the first shocking knowledge of his downfall, Ken had been driven deep into the secret chambers of his own mind. The festering wound was his own, to nurse, to temper with soothing oils, to bind and to cure. He would, he believed, hide. Day would find him secure behind his bolted door. At night, late at night, he would walk through deserted streets or into the park, where only the homeless hid the shame of their poverty.

Of course, there was always the Other World. Vague world now, unreal, peopled by fantasies. The key to that world he had mislaid down there in Texas, where spacious prairies were too wide to conceal its monstrous figures. To meet his own kind was impossible now. To meet them and not to notice their frailties was impossible—unless he drank. And, for the present, he would not drink.


And yet, as time passed heavily, as the loathesome appearance of the disease became noticeable, as he avoided even the casual glance of the hall boy, the newsman, the soda jerker at the corner drug store, as his face, pale in the half light of his apartment, was encrusted with a hard powdery film, he felt the insistent desire rise. Life was empty as an old egg shell and as brittle. Time, jerkily moving forward, sleepless nights, sober days succeeding one another in the dragging pace of a funeral procession, was the enemy. To flee from the gripping reality of time, to feel black solace of exhaustion, the vacuum of depleted nerves, the annihilation of bruising impacts—would be happiness.

One day Dr. Murrell said: "There. That's better. A trifling case. You're lucky."

That night, alone, the bed unmade, kitchen piled high with dishes, his shirt open at the neck, his lips twisted over set teeth, Ken drank. One drink. Cool white alcohol. Hot. Sharp. The sweetness of the aftertaste. Head larger. Eyes wider.

"I don't like it," he said aloud. He put the bottle aside.

Then smiling with the shy, youthful smile so long neglected, now so seldom revealed, he added: "But I've got to like it." He drank another thimbleful. "'Cause it's all I can afford."


Broadway at dawn was still a busy street. As the eastern sky paled, bringing violet gloom to streets hitherto clad in rich night, lights were extinguished. Warm pools of orange and yellow poured through the windows of the twenty-four-hour restaurants. Laborers were astir. Late home-seeking revellers raced over deserted pavements. A drunk reeled against a building, staggered uneasily, slid down upon the wall. He lay there for a long time, just beneath stairs leading to a dance hall. The iron gate was closed at the foot of the stairs. A kitten slept, head upon its fore-feet. A truck, first of the morning's caravan, rumbled by.

The drunk slept soundly. Rising sun peered above rooftops. A policeman sauntered along, trying door locks, whistling, ignoring—or pretending to ignore the drunk.

"I can afford to be very gay," Ken told Jules Monroe. "I've got nothing to lose. I'm ready for heaven or hell or both."

The dance director was cool and steady. His eyes bore into Ken's skin like gimlets. His bald head shone with sickly pallor.

"You talk like a fool, Gracey," he said, with a faint flavor of effeminacy in the inflection of his voice. "You overdo everything."

"Come, Julie, let's go places. Let's do plenty."

"I'm sorry," said Jules Monroe. "I'm working now and I must attend to business."


The hell of it was that Joe Durazzo had disappeared, Frankie was not to be found and Jean Pond was, as usual, broke. Others—there had been others, but he hated them. They had been his friends because he could pay for their entertainment and lend them money. In the old days, when life was easier, companions were a dime a dozen. Now he could find none. To drink alone was abominable and now that he had started, he intended to finish his drinking in a big way. Alcohol was cheap, water was free. Alcohol and water were ample substitutes for ham and eggs, coffee and toast. Alcohol, burning slowly, kept his fires of energy from diminishing. He must find someone who liked to drink.

On Fifth Avenue, in a white-tiled restaurant, wasp-waisted, narrow-shouldered youths gathered each night after midnight. The price of coffee and cakes purchased a cane-seated chair. Secure in the knowledge that they were among their fellows, they joyfully prattled, indulging in a penchant for flippant jokes and current tid-bits of gossip.

At Ferris's, Ken met Verne Dennett. Chance brought them together, the desire for a cup of coffee on the part of Verne, Ken's need of a companion. Ferris's was crowded. The headwaiter seated Ken at the narrow tile-topped table opposite the hollow-cheeked youth whose pallor was accentuated by deep purplish circles beneath his eyes. Black hair fell to his black brows.

Ken was drunk. He had been drunk ever since he had tasted that first mouthful of alcohol. For hours, he had wanted to cry out, to proclaim the glorious news that he was again alive.

"I'm drunk," he told Verne.

"And I'm a poet," the other said. "Name Verne Dennett."

"Can you make a good rhyme about a bad boy?"

"You're not really bad," Verne said.

"I'm awful," Ken winked. "Too awful. I—" He whispered loudly across the table.

"Tsh—" Verne said. "You lack taste, dear one. You are devoid of the recherché. You need someone to take you home."

"Yes—take me home," Ken pleaded.

"Drink coffee first."

Warm coffee and a hand leading him out of Ferris's past knowing eyes, lips rouged over cynical smiles. A voice slanted: "Verne Dennett's sleeping again." And others laughed.


Verne Dennett called himself the American Baudelaire.

"My favorite mood is green. My favorite drink is absinthe. And I believe definitely in onomatopoeia."

"Pour me some gin," Ken said.


"Les sanglots longs d'un violon d'automne
Blessent mon coeur
D'une langueur monotone—"


The flat on Washington Street was bare. Wooden chairs. An iron army cot. Where Verne lived.

"That's Verlaine," said Dennett. "Nice, too. Onomatopoeia."

Another in the room. A tawny negro. Picked him up on Sixth Avenue.

"Nothing cheaper than a thrill," Dennett said. "Drink."

The door opened.

"It's Feathers," said Verne. "How's trade?"

Feathers was pale. A black shirt. White suspenders. Bell-bottom trousers. A ragged white dog on a leather thong.

"Zigzag," muttered Ken, swallowing gin.

"He comes not from the Boul' Miche, Ella—he drops into the Silver Pig for trade where Zigzag is the name of a movement—and I'm not saying what kind."

"I met a sailor in Willie's, but he'd spent last night with a slut," Feathers explained.

"Dear Willie, couldn't he steer you to anything worth while?"

Feathers flicked ashes from an imaginary cigarette.

"Willie is sorta offa me and I can't explain why."

"Did you pay your percentage, lover?"

"Old Auntie Willie eats regular. She makes plenty in that tea-room of hers. Who's this?"

He pointed to the negro.

"Margie Mills, of the Harlem Mills. Margie changed her name to Mills when Florence died, didn't you, Margie?"

"I did." The dark skinned youth was thin, hollow-cheeked, the cuff of a trouser leg torn.

"And he can do the black bottom quite nicely," Verne winked.

On a table in the center of the room was a china bowl. Verne poured gin into it, two bottles of clear liquid, then heavy orange juice from a milk bottle.

"Who's this?" Feathers asked, pointing to Ken.

"My buddy."

"I get it. Marge, have you got the makings?"

"Marge has the divine afflatus, I have the gin. Together we shall seek heaven."

"Dear me," said Feathers. "I'm afraid I forgot my compact. Margie, do you use lavender rouge? I've often wondered."

"I smoke marajuana," said Marge.

"I know. But do you eat?"

"Permit me, Feathers," Verne said. "Me, a Baudelairean, to quote one the early free verse writers of the horrible nineteen-teens—Margie is now eating ham and eggs in the Harlem of your sexuality."

"Not mine," said Feathers.

"I smoke marajuana," Marge repeated.

Lights low, curtains drawn. The bare floor softened by a pillow. Ken dipped a cup into the bowl.

"I don't like orange juice," he said, and spat the liquor out. A bottle touched his palm.

Knock at the door. Verne opened. Grizzled, gray-hair, matted.

"Hello, Captain," Verne said. "You sent a sliver of shivers down my back. Who's with you?"

In the shadow, against the door, a large man. Deep voice …

"It's Willie."

Feathers jumped up. "Sit right here, darling," he urged. Willie was small, stoop-shouldered. Body like a girl. Down on the upper lip. Voice soft and girlish.

"I'm with the Captain."

"It cost me enough to close down the joint for the night," said the Captain. "Willie, behave."

"You're through with me, then?" Feathers stood at Willie's side.

"I'm with the Captain," Willie repeated, voice pleading.

Feathers' hands, nails pointed, streaked across Willie's face. Willie shrieked. The little white dog yipped.

"Sit down, my lovely ones," Verne calmly said. "Marge is ready."

Willie wept a little on the Captain's shoulder. Feathers trembled. The dog snapped.

"And put that dog in the closet," Verne ordered.

"Not Rover," Feathers pleaded. "He'll howl."

"Let him howl. Let him be the voice in the wilderness calling to you, my children."

Ken poured straight gin into his cup.

"You'll all be happy soon," the poet smiled. "Take your places. Marge, pass the cigarettes."

Marge sighed and obeyed. Ken placed a cigarette at the side of his mouth. "I'll light it, Bud," Verne slipped beside him. The little white box went from hand to hand.

"No music," complained Verne. "No divine music. No silvery strains of the strings, no sobbing dulcet moan of the basses, not even the bassoon choir nor the angelic tinkling of the harp—"

"I smoke marajuana," said Marge, with a grunt of satisfaction. Ken puffed, inhaled …

Rocked gently on a tree-top, cradled softly, oh, so softly, the crooning of a lullaby in his ears—very happy, very happy, very … happy.

"A drink?" Verne asked.

"I smoke marajuana," said Ken. "It's sorta, very sorta good."


The little room in the Yorkshire was all he had. Narrow room, in the hotel at Seventy-sixth Street and Broadway. Clean, walls green as in the fine hotels on Fifth Avenue. Excellent furniture and a tiny balcony facing the court. Small, very small.

Verne and Feathers could edge their way into it. They could sit on the bed. Ken liked the morris chair, green, near the French window. They would sit. Talk. Drink.

Occasionally Feathers, no longer permitted entree at Willie's, would bring his casual acquaintances of an evening to the room. Kewpie Lorraine, vendor of obscene postcards, fluffy haired, pre-Raphaelitish in appearance, familiar figure in the lobbies of burlesque theatres, would frequently drop in.

Kewpie lived down the hall. He worked as a photographer's model in his spare moments. He was ever cheerful. "I use gin to gargle with but not to put in the old stomach, dear," he told Ken. "What's the matter?"

It was noon, on a day early in the spring. Ken lay in bed. Feathers was asleep in the morris chair. Verne was curled under the balcony awning.

"I'm broke," Ken said.

"How broke?"

"Three weeks in the hotel. Feathers loaned me two bucks Saturday."

"I've got an idea," said Kewpie. "Will you pose for Uncle?"

"Who's Uncle?"

"Uncle is going to take some more peep-show frolics this week. Would you work at it?"

Ken understood. "No. I couldn't."

"You've seen the pictures. You wear a black mask."

"How much does he pay?"

"Twenty-five a day."

Ken tried to recall the figures on the hotel bill. How much did he owe? Over twenty? Over thirty?

"I'm sorta sleepy," he said. "Call me tonight—I'll let you know."


That afternoon Ken went for a walk. He had eaten nothing, a spoonful of gin had touched his tongue—all that was left of a dozen bottles.

Walking erectly, head light, Ken crossed Broadway and traversed the two blocks to Riverside Drive. Tied to the pier at the foot of Seventy-sixth Street was an old-fashioned three-masted schooner. Ken breathed deeply, as he trod the rotting boards of the pier. He was tired, hungry. He decided to sit down. Near the stern of the sailing vessel he sat; below the ornate prow, the oily water of the river lapped lazily at the pier. Salt sea smell rising from the old hulk, Ken's feet dangling over the water.

An old man approached Ken. He wanted to talk of other days. "Used to have plenty of them three-masters in the harbor in my time," he said. "This old girl—she's one of the last. 'Buccaneer,' she is. Firm bankrupt. No one wants her now. Wish I could buy her. What I'd—say, young fellow, look out!"

Ken was fainting. The old man's cane hooked his arm or he would have fallen into the slimy water.