Moonlight At The Crossroads by Earl Derr Biggers
First published in The Saturday Evening Post, Oct 7, 1922
"YOU lie, Hilary," said the woman in the deck chair. She
looked very lovely but a bit weary in the light of the dying sun. Behind a
she stifled a little yawn. "You know you lie."
"My dear Isabelle, isn't that rather unfair?" The tall,
distinguished-looking man stood with his back to the rail, his hands thrust
deep into the pockets of a tweed coat. His thin, handsome face was calm;
though he stared down at the pale-gold hair, the violet eyes of a famous
beauty, he appeared unmoved.
A famous beauty, yes, he was thinking, but a beauty past her noontime. Too
bad that even the loveliest flowers must fade.
"Unfair? I think not," the woman answered. "You were always a
that now. That wonderful time at Mentone?"
The man shrugged. "Why go back to Mentone?"
"Why not? I believed you then, because I wanted to believe. But now I
know—when you said there was no other
"Isabelle!" He knelt by her chair, but she looked away, down the deck, at
a middle-aged man who stood by the rail, idly swinging a monocle over the
side and staring off to where the sun dipped down into a sea as crimson as
his own complexion. "Isabelle, if we must go back to Mentone, let's go back
to the happiness of those weeks—the perfume of the roses, the pale
the star-decked sky, those warm nights on the terrace."
"Sir James!" called the woman. The man down the deck galvanized into life.
"Sir James enters on the word 'terrace'" she explained.
"Ah—er—ah—yes—pardon me," remarked Sir James,
arriving promptly. "I
was admiring the sunset."
He stuck the monocle in his eye and was suddenly an actor.
"Er—er—ter-race." He clattered his feet on the spotless deck. "I
My line, old chap. Here you are, like two love birds, and so and so and so,
"Just a moment." The tall man had risen quickly to his feet. "I—I
understand. According to my part"—he took a rumpled roll of manuscript
his pocket—"I have a scene here—a rather good scene—"
The woman sighed wearily. "That stupid fool of a Nixon—he gave you
original part. The scene you speak of was never played in the London
production. Mr. Thatcher can tell you." She glanced at Sir James. "He was
with me in London."
"Quite true," agreed Mr. Thatcher, dropping the monocle. "The scene was
struck out at the first rehearsal, old chap—the first rehearsal at which
Miss Clay appeared, I mean. I enter on the word 'terrace.'"
The tall man smiled. "I see," he said. "A corking good scene for Hilary, I
thought it. He recalls to her all that they meant to each other at Mentone;
for a brief moment he has almost won her again. She is very nearly in his
"I'm sorry," said the woman coldly.
"My one chance in the piece," persisted the tall man.
The woman's eyes narrowed, her mouth hardened. "The scene is out," she
said. "You understand that, Mr. Wayne?"
"Naturally," bowed the man. "Naturally, it's out."
Her eyes flashed. "Just what do you mean by that?"
"You are the star," he replied. He paused. "Your word is law." He took out
a pencil and scribbled something on the script. "There, the scene is out. And
doubtless it won't matter particularly—in Australia."
Two young people came suddenly upon them—a slender girl with sleek,
bobbed, coal-black hair, an English boy with rosy cheeks and frank gray eyes.
They stopped. "Rehearsal?" cried the boy. "I say, did you want us?"
"No," said the star. The couple moved on; the girl called back over her
shoulder, "Isn't it a glorious evening?"
The three by the rail looked after them. "All their evenings are
glorious," Wayne remarked gently. "Their days too. They're going to be
married in Sydney, they tell me. And young Mixell was about at the end of his
rope when this engagement offered. You see, Miss Clay, what happiness your
tour is bringing to others."
The woman shrugged. "Happiness, you say? I wonder. It happens that I was
married once, myself. Happiness, perhaps, for a little time." It was
characteristic of her that though she was speaking now of her own experience,
what she said still had the ring of lines from a play.
"Ah—er—yes," said Wayne. "But to continue—let me get
Isabelle, if we must go back to Mentone—and so and so—warm
nights on the
Mr. Thatcher restored his monocle. "Here you are, like two love birds.
Frightfully silly line, that. I always hated it. I don't suppose I could
The ship's clock spoke sharply, four times. Passengers were appearing on
deck with that air of bright expectancy those on shipboard wear as the dinner
"Six o'clock," remarked Sibyl Clay. "We may as well drop it. I must dress,
even for one of these beastly dinners." Her face lighted suddenly with a
charming smile. Swinging about, Wayne saw the cause. A good-looking, tanned
man of thirty-five or so was drawing near. "Come here, Mr. Maynard,"
continued the famous star. "I am very, very angry with you. You have
neglected me all day."
The newcomer obeyed. He was flattered, as any man would have been. "I was
punishing myself," he told her, "for my sins."
"What tiny, unimportant sins they must be," said Sibyl Clay.
"On the contrary," he answered, "I have to-day endured the ultimate in
torture. I'm sure you gentlemen agree?"
"Quite," said Thatcher. Wayne merely smiled.
"Rather nice evening," Maynard remarked. "A sample of our Hawaiian
climate. I hope you're going to like Honolulu. It's my home town, you
"I shall love it," the actress promised.
"You're stopping over, I trust," ventured Maynard.
The lovely lips pouted. "Hardly at all. So stupidly arranged—my
should like to have played in Honolulu, but we spent nearly a week in Los
Angeles, and now we must hurry on to Australia at once. They're so eager for
me over there. Isn't it sweet of them?"
Maynard seemed disappointed. "Then it's only between boats?" he
"Yes," Wayne told him. "We land at ten Tuesday morning, I believe. The
boat from Vancouver comes in at two and sails for Sydney at ten that night.
We shall have only twelve hours in your Honolulu, Mr. Maynard."
Maynard shook his head regretfully. "Not enough," he said. "Twenty-four
hours—and none of you would ever leave us. But twelve—why,
hardly a taste of our moonlight!"
"Sit down—do," urged Sibyl Clay, "and tell me about your moonlight,
The tanned young man dropped quickly into the chair at her side. She
looked up at the two members of her company.
"Our rehearsal will be resumed to-morrow morning in the lounge. We'll take
this piece from the beginning."
Wayne bowed. "By the way," he said, holding out his part, "it seems rather
useless my learning lines that are no longer in the piece."
"See Nixon," advised the woman sharply. "He will give you the part as
Bentley played it in London." Her eyes went back to Dan Maynard's face, their
expression altered magically.
"I've heard so much of your Hawaiian moonlight " she began.
Norman Wayne and Thatcher strolled off to a distant part of the deck.
Wayne's mouth was set in rather grim lines.
"So that scene's out," he said. "I might have known."
Thatcher nodded. "Of course," he replied. "A selfish little beast, this
Clay woman. I've played with her—I know. But one doesn't rise to the
without a bit of trampling, old chap."
"I suppose not."
"Rather surprising—her mention of her marriage. He wasn't a bad
husband, I mean. She killed his spirit, squandered his money, tossed him
aside like a flattened orange. Oh, she's been on the make, my lad. You'll
have very little opportunity I was surprised when you took the engagement, a
bully good actor like you."
"Oh, one wants a change. I've always hankered to take a look about, down
yonder. The South Seas—they fascinate me. Travel and see the world, I
thought. I presume your reasons were quite different. You've been in
Australia before, you said."
"Started there," nodded Thatcher. "No, I'm not precisely going for the
ride. But engagements are none too plentiful at home, you know."
"We've all learned that," admitted Wayne. "Rather rough time for the
artist. Ah, yes, whether our sweet star fancies the role or not, she's a
great philanthropist. A year in repertoire in Australia—it's a life-
for some of us. For instance—"
He nodded toward a little old lady who approached at a rapid gait. "And
how's our Nellie to-night?" he inquired as she came up.
A beautiful smile appeared on the lined old face. "Keen as mustard," said
Nellie Fortesque. "Working again. Bless you, I thought my run had ended for
ever. Working, and the weather's perfect, and my tired heart has stopped
jumping about. I don't think I've ever been so happy."
"Wayne here," remarked Thatcher, "has just discovered that his best scene
is out of our opening piece."
The old lady tapped Wayne on the shoulder.
"Don't you care," she comforted. "Don't you worry. You'll play second
fiddle, my boy, and a very soft music at that. We all will. But what of it?
We're working. And if our star is a little touchy, can you blame her?
Australia for a year—it makes us happy, but it makes her sad. She's
the hilltop; she's coasting down. Poor child! I was on that hilltop once
myself. But I mustn't stop here chatting. I'm walking two miles before
She went on down the deck, and Wayne smiled after her. "It's added ten
years to her life, this engagement," he said. "It's rescued Harry Buckstone
at the very door of the almshouse. It's given young Mixell and that girl
their chance to marry. It's showing me the world. Odd turn, isn't it, that so
notably selfish a woman should be the instrument of so much happiness? ...
Well, I must go below."
As he passed Sibyl Clay's deck chair he saw that she was leaning very
close to Dan Maynard's broad shoulder and talking in a low voice. Wayne
smiled. The great star was playing Juliet again—Juliet, so young, so
* * * * *
THE Pacific, an ocean of many moods, was still beneficently
calm the following morning. They gathered in the lounge at ten o'clock, as
happy a group of players as one could have found on land or sea: Wayne,
studying an amended part; Thatcher, gay old Nellie Fortesque, the veteran
Harry Buckstone, the two young lovers, a few quiet Britishers who had minor
roles in the plays Sibyl Clay was to offer to Australia. The sun poured
through the port-holes; the creaking ship plowed westward toward the
"Feeling younger every minute," Nellie said. She smiled at the girl with
the bobbed hair. "Look out, Zell, my dear, I shall be asking for your roles
by the time we reach Sydney."
"They're yours without a struggle," said the girl. She spoke to the old
woman, but it was at the boy she looked.
"I may even try to take Tommy away from you," warned Nellie
"At that point," said the girl, "the struggle would begin."
"Living's cheap in Australia, they tell me," remarked Harry Buckstone.
"Compared with London, I mean. We shall be able to lay by a bit. I shall try,
at any rate. Starting rather late, but I realize it now. Laying by a
bit—that's the great idea."
Nixon bustled in; he was a little cockney, always flurried and rushed. Not
only did he manage the stage but he was Sibyl Clay's business manager as
"'Morning, everybody. Bit of all right, this weather, what? I've had a
radio from Sydney. We open there the third of October—the day after we
land—with Isabelle. Six months in that city alone—that's the
all goes well. And after—Melbourne, Auckland—there's no limit,
the way I
see it. Sibyl Clay's a big name down there. We may not go home for two years,
"Two years?" Tom Mixell looked inquiringly at the girl. "Would you like
"Why, Tommy," she said, "I'd love it! Home's wherever you and I
Sibyl Clay came in. She looked fresh and cool in a marvelous blue gown
that matched her eyes. With her came Dan Maynard, good-natured, genial. "I've
invited Mr. Maynard to watch us rehearse," the star explained.
"If you people don't mind," said Maynard. Amid a little chorus of polite
reassurance, he took a chair near the door.
"Shall we start?" said Miss Clay graciously. She rehearsed the plays
herself. "Zell, my dear—Tom—you two are on at the rise. We'll
say this is
the stage, the exit to the garden over here. Now your first line, Zell
They had never seen her more considerate. A little later poor old Harry
Buckstone fumbled a line; he fumbled it again and again. Worried, Thatcher
watched the star's expressive face. He looked for an explosion that would
rock the boat. But Sibyl Clay was infinitely patient, amazingly sweet and
kind. The actor who had been with her in London was at a loss to explain
it—until his eye fell suddenly on Dan Maynard, intently watching in the
background. They rehearsed until one o'clock and the man from Honolulu
remained to the end.
After luncheon Norman Wayne sat in a chair outside his stateroom, a pile
of books by his side. Maynard came along, stopped. "You look rather
literary," he remarked.
Wayne laughed. "Reading up on the South Seas," he explained. "A part of
the world that interests me hugely—always has—those lonely
down there at the jumping-off place."
Maynard dropped into a chair. "Not quite so romantic as the authors make
them out to be," he suggested.
"You've seen them then?" Wayne asked.
"I've run down there occasionally."
"Lucky devil!" said Wayne. "I suppose they are touched up a bit in the
stories. Still, environment has its effect, and there must be something in
these tales, after all. A forgotten beach beneath the palms—a few
in a land meant only for the brown—hot sun, hot blood, hate, greed,
A violent landscape would naturally breed violent deeds."
"Oh, yes, of course. Strange things have happened in the South Seas."
Maynard lighted a cigarette. "By the way, I was very much interested in your
rehearsal. A charming woman, Miss Clay."
"I recall seeing her act five years ago in London. Never dreamed I'd meet
her some day."
"A great favorite in London," Wayne said; "for—for quite some
added, with meaning.
"And so sweet and unspoiled, despite her big success."
"Absolutely," agreed Wayne, who was a gentleman.
"Must be a great privilege to work with her," suggested Maynard.
"One learns constantly." Wayne thought of the lines missing from his part
"Sorry you're not going to stop longer in Honolulu," Maynard went on.
"We all regret it," answered Wayne. "You were born there, I believe you
"In business there?"
"Well, in a way. Look after the interests my father left—a few sugar
plantations, a trust company."
"Some one told me your name was quite well known in Hawaii."
"I guess it is. My grandfather came there as a missionary."
"You're not—you're not married, I take it?"
Maynard laughed. "No. Unlucky that way—or lucky, however you care
He rose and tossed his cigarette over the side. "I live in bachelor
comfort in a big house on the beach. Speaking of that, I'd be honored if you
and Mr. Thatcher would dine with me to-morrow night. Let's make it
early—six- thirty—since you're sailing at ten."
"Very kind of you, I'm sure."
"I hope to persuade Miss Clay to come too."
"I'm sure she will. Speaking for myself, I'll be delighted."
"Then that's fixed," said Maynard. "I'll leave you now to your lurid
He went on down the deck. The afternoon drifted lazily by. At eight that
night Wayne came upon Nellie Fortesque, seated beside Tom Mixell and the girl
in the shadow of a lifeboat on the after deck.
"Come and join us," said the old lady. "It's night, and the moon is
shining, and we're all in love. We're planning our future. It's wonderful.
We're all going to be married in Sydney—at least, these children are.
going to save our money and go back with full pockets and take London by
storm. How does it sound to you?"
Wayne smiled ruefully. "Sounds beautiful—for the children. You come
now, Nellie. They want to be alone."
"Oh, no!" cried the girl. "Nellie, don't listen to him!"
But the old lady stood up. "Oh, he's quite right. I was just stealing a
little of your happiness—you have so much, my dear." She and Wayne
down the deck.
"Beautiful—for the children," said Wayne. "But for—"
"Nonsense! You're a mere boy."
"I'm forty-five, Nellie."
"Think of me. I'm seventy-two—seventy-two, and sailing off into the
moonlight—the Hawaiian moonlight they say's so dangerous. Oh, well,
my fun. And now I'm safe—secure—for another year at least.
at my age. Bless you, it's everything!"
"It's something, even at forty-five," Wayne agreed. They stopped by the
starboard rail. Through a long silence they watched the waves moving
restlessly in the white path of the moon. From the lounge came the sad,
plaintive strains of a Hawaiian melody. Wayne looked at the woman beside
"I remember you, Nellie," he said gently. "I was just a youngster—you
won't mind my saying it? I remember—at the old theater in York—how
beautiful you were. Your Viola—"
"Dear boy." Her voice broke. "Those were great days—great days for
Nellie. If I'd only saved something for the future; but I thought youth
lasted for ever. These children think that too. I'm glad they do."
Another silence. "I think I'll go below," the woman said. "To-morrow will
be an exciting day. Good night—and thank you for remembering."
"Thank you for the memory," said Wayne.
Alone again, he moved aimlessly about the ship. On the upper deck, at a
corner of the wireless operator's cabin, he heard low voices. One he
recognized—a magic voice that had held thousands enraptured in the
stalls. He paused for a moment; he was a gentleman, but he lingered.
"Yes, it's quite true," Sibyl Clay was saying. "I've had everything I
wanted out of life. Every one has been so good to me. Fame,
of the heap, always."
"It must have been a great satisfaction to you," came Dan Maynard's
"Oh, it has been. I've loved it—reveled in it. That's why I think
"What is so strange?"
"There must be something in the air out this way—I don't
explain it. I only know that if you were to come to me to-night and tell me
that this boat would never reach port, that my career was ended, that I'd
just go sailing on through eternity over a sea like glass, I—I wouldn't
mind, Dan. Not with you aboard."
Wayne lingered for Maynard's answer. When it came, the voice of the
Honolulu man was calm, unmoved. "It's the tropics," he explained evenly.
"You're just on the edge, but they've got you already. Wait until you see
Waikiki.... By the way, I want you to come to dinner at my house to-morrow
"That will be thrilling—dinner with you."
"Wayne and Thatcher are coming too."
"But " There was disappointment in that magic voice.
"I've already asked them," Maynard went on. "And that reminds me, I
promised Thatcher I'd join the two of them for bridge this evening. He said I
must bring you—for a very charming fourth."
"But it's so much nicer on deck." Wayne could not see, but he knew that
pout of her lips. "Can't we stay here?"
Maynard had risen. "A promise is a promise," Wayne heard him saying.
Norman Wayne slipped away. When, a few moments later, he entered the
smoking- room, the three of them were already at a table. Thatcher was
dealing the cards.
"I much preferred the deck," Sibyl Clay said. "This stuffy old room But
men are all alike. They have no appreciation."
"On the contrary," said Wayne, "I'm thrilled to the depths. There's a
drizzle in London, no doubt, and little pools of water in the dark alley that
leads to the stage door. But to-morrow we shall stand in the Honolulu
"At the crossroads of the Pacific," added Maynard.
"At the crossroads," repeated Wayne. He glanced at his hand. "I make it
two hearts," he said.
* * * * *
AT nine the next morning the boat from Los Angeles came to a
stop in Honolulu harbor. The air was warm and moist and heavy, uncooled by
any breeze. The little group of players gathered at the rail, and with that
keen interest characteristic of British tourists the world over, stared at
the unfamiliar scene. Beyond the water-front, unromantic and commercial, they
saw the white tops of buildings, like islands in a sea of brilliant green,
and still beyond, blue peaks against a cloudless sky.
Nixon moved among them, worried as always. "You'll have to look after your
own hand luggage," he admonished. "I'll have your trunks aboard the Princess
Irene as soon as she comes in. Don't forget, we sail at ten sharp, and for
God's sake, don't any of you miss the boat."
A gleaming limousine with a Japanese chauffeur was waiting for Dan
Maynard, and at his invitation Miss Clay, Wayne and Thatcher rode with him to
the Alexander Young Hotel. There the three players engaged rooms for the
"You'll be comfortable here," said Maynard. "I've just told the clerk to
take special care of you. I'd like to have you at the house, but I've been
away for months, and no doubt things are rather upset there. However, I'll
have everything running on schedule by dinnertime. And if you don't mind, I'm
going to call for you all at two o'clock and show you round a bit."
Sibyl Clay nodded. "You're too good," she said. There was a noticeable
lack of enthusiasm in her tone.
For three hours that afternoon Maynard motored them about the island. His
high spirits at being home again were contagious. He was no longer a boy, but
his manner was boyish and charming, and Wayne found himself liking the man
more and more the longer he knew him. No host could have been more gracious.
They saw and they admired, and when the Honolulu man set them down at their
hotel at five, he told them that his chauffeur would call for them in about
Wayne dressed with care, then repacked his bags and rang for a bell-boy.
It was a bit after six when he descended to the lobby. He settled his account
with the smiling little Chinese clerk and directed that his luggage be piled
near the desk.
"I'll call for it later this evening," he explained.
"Yes, sir," agreed the clerk. "It will be very safe."
He went over and, lighting a cigarette, dropped into a wicker chair. Women
tourists turned to stare at him, and no wonder. A leading man on the London
stage for many years, he had in his day set many feminine hearts to beating
Thatcher appeared, his face more crimson than ever above his white shirt-
front, the eternal monocle in his eye. His luggage, too, came with him, and
when he had paid his bill, he strolled over to Wayne.
"Clay's late as usual, I see," he remarked.
As he spoke, the great star stepped from the elevator. She had made good
use of her brief time, Wayne thought as he looked at her. Well into the
forties, he knew that, but marvelous are the possibilities of make-up when
intelligently applied. And well she understood the virtue of the perfect
costume. About her pale chiffon dinner gown she had wrapped a Spanish shawl,
as flamboyantly colored as the Honolulu scene.
"I believe the car's outside," said Wayne, rising.
"I am ready," answered the star. He looked into her violet eyes and saw a
great general going into battle.
Beautiful, yes, Wayne thought, but unkind of the setting sun to be so
hideously bright in the limousine. Did she realize that she had passed the
hilltop, that she was coasting down, that her days of fame were numbered? Of
course she did. Hard lines on that lovely face, tired lines. At a
candle-lighted dinner table, however, they would not show, and under the
Hawaiian moon Anything could happen under the Hawaiian moon.
They rolled along between rows of tall coconut palms, over the lowlands,
past rice fields and taro patches, and came presently to Waikiki, with its
huge hotels and its vast rambling houses. Through a gateway and along a drive
that skirted a garden all crimson and gold, and so up to Dan Maynard's big
Maynard was waiting in his living-room, a great apartment furnished in
expensive native woods, with greenery everywhere. One side of it was open,
save for a protecting screen, to the white beach. About the whole
establishment there was an air of wealth, security. To these gypsies of the
theater it was a new environment, and their hearts stirred in a mild envy.
What would it be like, to have a home, to stop all worry over money,
engagements, to sit here by the murmuring surf and feel that disaster could
never reach them?
Maynard was looking at Sibyl Clay with keen admiration. "You're
wonderful," he said. "My poor house has never had such a visitor before.
Hundreds of people here would have been thrilled to meet you, but I'm being
"I'm glad you are," she smiled. "I shall enjoy the memory more. Just you
and I—and Waikiki."
Wayne and Thatcher felt rather out of it, but cocktails restored them. The
Japanese butler announced dinner.
The quick tropic dusk was falling. Wayne's premonition came true—the
table was candle-lighted, and in that kindly glow the great Sibyl Clay was
young again; young as Juliet, and as lovely. The silver of the Maynard
family, famous for generations, sparkled no brighter than her violet eyes;
the linen was no whiter than her slim, girlish shoulders. Again Wayne had the
feeling of a general going into battle, fighting—for what? For security,
perhaps; for peace and safety; for a new sort of happiness in this strange
corner of the world.
Wayne found it difficult to take his eyes from her face, and seemingly Dan
Maynard was in the same predicament. The Honolulu man saw, sitting across
from him at his own table as though she belonged there, the most strikingly
beautiful woman he had ever met. A sort of intoxication seemed to sweep over
him; he talked faster and faster, stories of the islands, tales of his
forebears' early adventures. Sibyl Clay had never been known as a good
listener, but she listened now; she led him on, she smiled upon him.
Intoxicated—he was all of that.
"Ah, but you're not the first, my boy," Wayne thought.
The perfect dinner ended at last, and they retired to the drawing-room
for coffee. Wayne took his cup and strode to the screen. Beyond, in the
scented night, he saw the white parade of the breakers, line after foamy line
in a sea of molten silver.
"Always wanted to visit this spot," he remarked, coming back into the
room. "The crossroads." He sat down. "I've been thinking to-night—each
of us stands at the crossroads at some time in his life. I stood there myself
once, long ago—twenty-five years ago. Yes, I was at the crossroads,
word—one little word—decided my course for ever after."
"How was that?" asked Thatcher, putting down his cup.
"Twenty-seven years ago, to be exact," Wayne went on. He glanced at his
host and Sibyl Clay; they appeared to be interested. "I was a boy of eighteen
at the time, born and reared in a strict household in the cathedral city of
York—in the very shadow of the minster, in fact. My father was a stern
man; he dominated us all, my mother—all of us. His hardness had already
driven my elder brother from home. And I, the second son, his last
wanted to go on the stage.
"You can imagine his horror at that. The theater was the house of the
devil, he said, and he meant it too. He ranted and stormed, but—well, a
traveling troupe came our way; they were doing Gilbert and Sullivan in the
provinces. There was an opening in the company and I ran away from home in
He looked at Maynard. "My dear sir, you can never appreciate the life I
got into. For a short time all went well; then the houses fell off. We didn't
play to the gas. Our salaries stopped, our pitiful luggage was seized for
hotel bills, we ate but rarely. Somehow, we struggled on. I had never dreamed
such misery could exist in the world. We managed to reach Dublin, and there
my resistance gave out. I wired a friend for money to go home.
"I got back to York on Sunday morning—they were ringing the minster
bells. It seemed like heaven to me. I was sick and weary. I wanted no more of
the theater; I had been cured of my madness. For a time I was afraid to go to
the house, but along about noon my courage returned and I went.
"I entered the little drawing-room. My father and mother were sitting
there, reading. For a long while I stood just inside the door. They never
looked at me. Miserably unhappy, I went to my room, freshened up, came back
down-stairs. Again I stood there, a young boy, hungry for sympathy, for a
kind word. Finally my father looked up. His eyes were stony and cold.
"'Well,' he said through his teeth, 'have you had enough of the
"'No!' I cried. Just one little word, sharp with anger and bitterness.
Mind you, I had been at the point of forswearing the stage for ever. I was at
the crossroads. One kind word, one friendly look—But at that tone in my
father's voice, something broke inside me. 'No, no, no!' I fairly shouted,
and went out of that house for all time. I borrowed money to get to London.
More misery, more heartbreak—but there was no turning back now. I
our family name of Harkness. I became Norman Wayne, an actor, and—and
Maynard shook his head. "Poor little kid," he said pityingly. "It was
cruel—cruel. Tell me, have you ever regretted—"
Wayne smiled. "Sometimes," he said. "Sometimes I've wondered, if my poor
mother had spoken Oh, well, what's the use? It's all over now."
Thatcher was thoughtfully swinging his monocle on its black ribbon. "By
the way," he began, "you say your family name was Harkness?"
"Yes. Naturally, I dropped it. I wanted no more of my father, not even his
"Years ago," continued Thatcher slowly, "I knew a chap named Harkness. A
Yorkshire man he was too. It was in the South Seas."
"In the South Seas?"
"Yes. I told you I'd been out there, you know, as a young chap. This
"That was his name. I knew him rather well. We were alone for some months
on the island of Apiang, in the Gilbert group. As a matter of fact, I was the
last white man to see him alive."
Wayne got slowly to his feet. "You were the last white man to see old
Bertie alive?" he repeated. His face had paled.
"Why, yes. You knew him?"
"He was my elder brother, the one my father had driven from home before I
"Not really?" Thatcher was silent for a moment. "Odd, isn't it? We've
traveled all the way from London together—
I never dreamed Of course, my name is a stage name too. If I'd mentioned
sooner that I was Redfield—"
"Redfield?" said Wayne. "Ah, yes, Henry Redfield. You were with my brother
"Precisely. We were traders there."
"And he died—of a fever?" Something in the man's voice brought a
electric silence to that room.
"Of a fever—yes," said Thatcher. "I buried him myself. We were alone
among the natives, save for a Chinese cook."
Wayne sat down. "Ah, yes," he said. "So you are Red-field. You knew old
Bertie. We must have a talk about this, my friend—a long talk."
Sibyl Clay had risen; she stood tall and fair and shining. Dan Maynard
felt a little catch in his throat as he looked at her. "All very interesting,
I'm sure," she said. "But, Mr. Maynard, the time is going so quickly, and you
have promised to show me Waikiki in the moonlight."
"Of course," cried Maynard, leaping up. "You fellows seem to have
something to talk over, so if you don't mind—"
"By all means," agreed Wayne, and Thatcher nodded.
Maynard held open the screen door and Sibyl Clay went out. The night was
magic, and filled with the odors of exotic plants, flaming with the crimson
blossoms of the poinciana trees. They heard the breakers whispering on the
beach. Side by side, very close, they walked together down a shadowy
Maynard was dazed, bewitched. Thirty-five, rich, powerful, women had been
near him before; they had tried to win him, but in vain.
Always he had guarded his freedom, his independence. But now—he was
so sure of himself now. Many women, yes, but never a woman like this
He led her to a bench under a hau tree, some thirty feet from the house.
Out toward the reef twinkled the lights of Japanese fishing boats; just above
the horizon hung the Southern Cross. A cool breeze swept in from the sea, and
the hau tree dropped a yellow blossom in her lap.
"Is it what you expected?" Maynard asked.
"It's wonderful," she answered softly. "I know now—I
people come and never want to go away. Life must be beautiful here—and
age always round the corner—the corner one never needs to turn."
"I was born in that house," he told her. "I learned to swim in these
waters. It's home, and I love it."
"I love it, too," she told him. "I'm seeing it for the first time, and I
adore it. How happy you must be here. But—you are alone. Surely nights
this— How does it come that you live here in this paradise alone?"
"It may be," he answered, "because I've never met a woman I cared to ask
to—to share it with me."
She was very close. "We must find that woman for you. Tell me, have you
ever thought—what sort of woman—"
The cool breeze touched his face. He hesitated, drew back a little.
"Promise me," he began—"you'll be going home one of these
that on your way back you'll stop over for a longer stay."
She shook her head. "No, I shan't go home this way. It's all arranged.
When the Australian tour is ended, we return to England by way of Suez.
Around the world, you see."
"Then," he said, "this is your only night at Waikiki."
"Yes. Just once in a lifetime—at the crossroads."
"It's a wonderful night, for me at least," said Maynard. "I shall remember
it always. But you, when you're back in London—"
London! She shuddered inwardly. It was true, what they whispered about
her—she knew it. She was through. The thought of London appalled
faces, new favorites, Sibyl Clay forgotten. But, of course, Dan Maynard must
"Yes, London will be glorious," she said brightly. "They'll give me a
marvelous welcome home; they were all so sorry to see me go. And
Australia—there's a big triumph waiting there, I know. But even
"It's just as I told you last night on the boat. Something has happened to
me, something very strange. I don't care about my career any more, Dan. I
don't care about Australia, or even London."
"Sibyl," he cried—his voice trembled—"do you mean that?
He stopped. From his drawing-room came the sharp crack of a revolver,
followed by the crash of breaking glass.
* * * * *
DAN MAYNARD leaped to his feet and ran along the path to the
house, while Sibyl Clay followed more slowly at his heels. As they entered
the drawing-room, the Japanese butler, badly frightened, appeared from the
Maynard gasped in amazement as he looked about that usually quiet and
peaceful room, for he saw the marks of a terrific struggle. Chairs were
overturned, rugs were displaced. Indeed, the struggle was still going on. In
the center of the room Wayne and Thatcher fought desperately for possession
of a pistol held in Wayne's right hand. In another moment Wayne broke away;
he raised the pistol and pointed it at his panting antagonist. But Maynard
was too quick for him. He leaped forward, and after a moment of brief effort,
wrenched the weapon away.
"For God's sake," he cried, "what does this mean?"
Wayne staggered back against a table. His face was deathly pale, his mouth
twitched convulsively, his eyes were blazing. "I'll get you, Redfield," he
muttered. "I missed that time, but I'll get you yet."
"What does this mean, I say?" repeated Maynard. He slipped the revolver
into his pocket, and going over, laid a hand on Wayne's arm. "Pull yourself
together, man. Tatu"—he turned to the butler—"whisky-and-soda,
The butler went out. Wayne sank weakly into a chair.
"I—I'm sorry, Mr. Maynard," he said. "I broke your window. I'm
a rotten bad shot. I owe you an explanation and an apology. In—in a
please." He buried his head in his arms.
Sibyl Clay came and stood before him. Her eyes were cold; hard lines had
appeared about her mouth. "What is this silly melodrama?" she demanded.
"Come, speak up!"
"Just a moment," Wayne repeated.
"Take your time," said Maynard. "And try to calm yourself, if you
A long silence. The butler appeared with a tray. Maynard himself poured a
drink and offered it to Wayne. The actor's hand trembled as he reached for
it; the glass tinkled against his teeth. At a safe distance, Thatcher, his
face verging on the purple now, watched with a wary eye.
"Yes," said Wayne slowly, "I must explain. I told you I was interested in
the South Seas, Mr. Maynard. I was interested because of my older brother,
who ran away from home several years before I did. For a time he drifted
about down there, and finally settled down as a trader on the lonely island
of Apiang. His partner was a man named Redfield—this creature who calls
himself Thatcher. The same man; he doesn't deny it. You heard him
"I do not deny it," said Thatcher. "We were together on that island, Bert
Harkness and I."
"On that lonely island, the only two white men for miles around. Some sort
of feud grew up between them—"
"It's a lie!" cried Thatcher.
"Until finally this swine shot poor old Bertie in the back."
"A lie, I tell you!" Thatcher shouted.
"Shot him in the back, like the yellow coward he is, and then reported
poor Bertie had died of a fever."
"Mr. Maynard, I appeal to you," said Thatcher. "The man is mad. What proof
"Proof enough," cut in Wayne. "You thought you were safe, didn't you? You
forgot that Chinese cook. You thought he didn't know, but he did, and two
years after, he told the whole story to a missionary named McCandless. The
missionary wrote it all to me."
"This happened a long time ago?" inquired Maynard.
"Over twenty years ago," Wayne told him. "When I heard the true story of
Bertie's death, it was too late. Redfield had disappeared utterly. The earth
had swallowed him up. But I've been waiting. That's why I took this
engagement. I've been waiting, and now, as luck will have it, I meet Redfield
in your drawing-room—and I'll never leave him again, not until I've
back, not until—"
"Ridiculous!" said Sibyl Clay. "In all my life I've never heard anything
so ridiculous. Mr. Thatcher, I'm sure Mr. Maynard will furnish you with a
car. Go to the boat and wait for us."
Thatcher stood up. "Pardon me," he said, "I'll do nothing of the sort.
This idiot has called me a coward, but I'm not, and I'll not run away like
one. No, we'll have this out here and now."
"I'll get you, Redfield," muttered Wayne. "I'll get you, I promise you
"Try it!" sneered Thatcher. "I'm an older man than you, yet I'm not
afraid. Try it, but look out I don't get you!"
"In the back," said Wayne. "A shot in the back—that's your
"You lie!" Thatcher cried.
"Just a moment," pleaded Maynard. "Wayne, I thought you were a sensible
man. Suppose you do get him, as you say. Think of what it will mean."
"I've got to get him," said Wayne pitifully. "Poor old Bertie—we were
more than brothers. The only member of my family I ever loved. Why, when we
"Rubbish!" cried Sibyl Clay. Her face was drawn, old. Maynard looked at
her in wonder. He brought forward a chair.
"Sit down," he said.
"Why should I sit down?" she demanded.
"You seem rather tired, that's all," he answered gently. For a long moment
their eyes met. Sibyl Clay was a great general, but she knew when her
campaign was lost. She dropped into the chair.
"Now let's talk this over quietly," Maynard said. "I can understand how
you feel, Wayne, old man. Naturally, in the moment of meeting this
recognizing him, I mean—you lost your head. But you must calm down. I
you; you're a good fellow, and if you take the law into your own hands like
this, you know the end. Your whole life wrecked, and what will you have
"An eye for an eye," muttered Wayne stubbornly.
"Nonsense! That's archaic. Besides, if you'll pardon my saying so, your
evidence seems a bit flimsy."
"It's all of that," put in Thatcher. "I remember now—I had a row with
that Chinaman about his wages after Harkness died. This absurd story of his
is the Oriental idea of revenge."
"Precisely," said Maynard. "You hear, Wayne? That's quite
"Chinese don't lie," objected Wayne. "We all know that."
"Do we?" said Maynard. "Most of them don't, that's true. The Chinese
reputation for truthfulness is built upon a pretty solid foundation. But
there are about half a billion of them, and there are black sheep in that
race as in all others. I speak from experience. I haven't lived all my life
in Hawaii without knowing the Chinese. Why, my dear fellow, I could give you
"For instance," said Thatcher eagerly.
Maynard sat down. "A good many years ago," he began, "we had a house-
Sibyl Clay interrupted. "Now," she said bitterly, "I suppose we are to
have your life-story too."
Maynard regarded her coolly. "I am trying to avert a catastrophe," he
said. "Kindly remember that." He turned to Wayne. "This boy of ours was very
young—twenty, I think—a Cantonese and a splendid servant. He
obsessed with some fancied grievance and we let him go. He went away and
spread the most fantastic lies about us. We had to drag him into court in the
end. He broke down and confessed he had been trying to save his face." Wayne
listened stubbornly. "What I'm trying to get at is, if one Chinese would do
that, another would. How do you know that in this instance—"
Wayne shook his head.
"You mean well, Maynard. But this man is guilty; he's guilty as the devil.
Look at him!"
"I see no evidence of his guilt," protested Maynard. "On the contrary, I
see several things that point to his innocence—and so would you, in a
mood. For example, he was under no compulsion to tell you he was
"Precisely," cried Thatcher. "If I'd killed poor Bert, do you think I'd
have revealed myself to his brother?"
"You thought you were safe," said Wayne. "You never dreamed that Chinese
knew what was going on at Apiang."
"Even so," persisted Maynard, "I think he would have remained silent.
Wayne, will you take my advice?"
"I promise nothing," answered Wayne.
"That missionary is still alive?"
"He was a few years ago—living in Sydney."
"Sydney—your next stop. And the Chinese?"
"He was in Sydney too."
"There you are. Remember, there are courts to settle this sort of thing.
Let the matter rest for the present. Admit like a man that your evidence
against this chap is hone too good. When you get to Sydney, investigate;
learn how that story has stood the test of time."
"A splendid idea," cried Thatcher. "Give me a chance. I'll help with your
investigation. I'll prove your story is rot, and I'll prove other things.
That brother of yours—you think he was a saint. Well, he was a dirty
Wayne leaped to his feet. "You liar!" he cried. "You contemptible liar!
Shoot a man in the back, and then besmirch his name!"
Maynard got between them just in time. Sibyl Clay sighed wearily. "Will
this never end?" she said.
"He'll apologize for that!" Wayne shouted.
"Yes, yes, of course he will," said Maynard. "Come on, Thatcher, you
didn't mean it."
"Oh, didn't I?" Thatcher stood glaring through his monocle. Somewhere in
the distance a bell tinkled. "I meant every word of it—a blackbirder!
that beside the things he's accused me of here to-night?"
The butler entered. "Telephone ring for Miss Clay," he announced.
The woman followed the butler out. Maynard went to Thatcher and spoke in a
low voice. Thatcher stepped toward Wayne.
"Very good," he said, "I apologize. I withdraw what I said."
Wayne nodded. "I've got a beastly temper," he murmured. "I inherited it.
The actress returned, walking slowly. "That was Nixon," she remarked, in a
dead tired voice. "It's twenty-five minutes before ten, and he's frantic.
He's picked up our luggage at the hotel. We—we had better go." She
"Of course." Maynard went to the hall, and they followed. He gave the men
their hats and sticks; he wrapped the Spanish shawl about Sibyl Clay. "The
car is just outside." In the drive, he turned to them. "I'm taking you down
myself. Wayne, get in front with me. Thatcher, you ride in the back with Miss
Kalakaua Avenue was deserted, an ideal speedway, and Dan Maynard's idea
appeared to be speed. They tore on through the brilliant Hawaiian night. As
they went, the Honolulu man talked in a low voice to Wayne. In the rear seat,
Sibyl Clay sat haughty and aloof beside the erstwhile Sir James. She was
thinking of London, despairingly.
Nixon was pacing the dim pier shed, a man distraught. "Well, you nearly
missed it, didn't you?" he cried. "Every one's on board but you. In heaven's
name, get on!"
"Thatcher," said Maynard, "I've had a talk with Wayne. He's going to make
an investigation down in Sydney. Until then, there's a truce between
"Thanks," said Thatcher. "That suits me perfectly. I'll help with the
investigation, as I promised."
Maynard stood with Wayne's pistol in the palm of his hand. "Do you carry
this about with you all the time?" he asked.
Wayne nodded. "For the past few weeks—yes," he said.
"I think I'd better keep it," Maynard suggested.
"I fancy you had," Wayne agreed. "Thank you for what you've done—and
He followed Thatcher up the gangplank.
Maynard turned to Sibyl Clay. He felt a little pang of regret as he saw
her white face. "Better reconsider," he said. "If you'll come back this
She shook her head. "No," she answered wearily. "There are some moments,
Dan—they come once, and never again. This was my only stop in
held out her hand. "Good night."
"Good-by, and good luck," said Maynard gently.
The plank was drawn in as she reached the deck, and a few moments later
the big ship crept from the pier. Slowly it drew away from the harbor lights,
swung round and headed for Australia.
* * * * *
AN hour later Norman Wayne stood in a friendly shadow near
the prow of the boat. A pipe was between his teeth, and he was staring at the
dim shore-line of Oahu.
A short, stocky man came creeping out of the dark, slowly, silently. For a
moment he stood at Wayne's back, unperceived. Then he stepped to the rail at
Wayne's side. They looked at each other. Neither spoke. The stout man took
out his own pipe and began to fill it.
"You're a damned good actor, Wayne," he remarked softly. "I've always
thought so, but I was never surer of it than I was back there to-night."
"Thanks," said Wayne. "I give every part my best. My one rule of life. We
weren't a moment too soon with our bit of melodrama, old chap."
Thatcher nodded. "I know. I saw it in her face when they came in."
"I've been suffering a few moments of remorse," went on Wayne. "Are you
quite sure we did the right thing?"
"Of course we did. It's just as I told you this noon. I know Sibyl
Clay—selfish, utterly selfish. She'd have hooked that chap in another
moment—married him to-morrow, probably. And what would have become of
lot she'd care. The tour would have ended before it began. She'd have thrown
us all over, stranded us nine thousand miles from home, all our hopes
smashed—poor old Nellie, Harry Buckstone, the two kids—oh, we
did the right
"I was thinking of Maynard."
"Ah, yes, Maynard. A fine chap. She'd have ruined his life, just as she's
ruined others. Yes, young Maynard was very near to taking the wrong turn at
the crossroads to-night. But we dragged him back. He'll be grateful to us in
Thatcher lighted his pipe. "We'd best be careful," said Wayne, glancing
over his shoulder. "Mustn't act too chummy until I can pretend to dig up new
evidence at Sydney and tell Sibyl Clay I was wrong."
"Of course." Thatcher started to move away. "You added a few details to
the scenario we worked out at luncheon," he said.
"Naturally. The excitement of the moment, you know. Yes, I had several
"There was one in particular I didn't much care for," Thatcher
continued—"that about my shooting poor old Bertie in the back. I
shoot any man in the back. You know it."
"Nonsense!" said Wayne. "I've read more South Sea stories than you have.
Men are always shot in the back down there. And if it comes to that, I didn't
like what you said about Bertie—a dirty blackbirder."
Thatcher laughed. "You don't mean you've actually got a brother named
Bertie?" he inquired.
"Certainly I have. He's a bookseller directly across from the Mitre, in
Oxford." Wayne looked up at the star-strewn sky. "How he would enjoy a tour
like this. Poor old Bertie has never been out of England in his