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Buchen, Walther (ed.) / The Wisconsin magazine
Vol. VII, No. 7 (April 1910)

Traver, Chalmer B.
Birds that pass in the night,   pp. 26-31

Page 26

Birds That Pass in the Night
                  CHALMER B. TRAVER
  The last three loiterers in the lounging
rooms of the Rooks' club arose, stretched
themselves, and, donning their hats and
coats, clattered noisily down the tiled cor-
ridor to the swinging street door which
sighed as it let them through and then
with another sigh closed upon their re-
treat. This left Clayton, the night por-
ter, who lounged in the little office off
the main corridor, the only man on the
first floor of the building. It was nine
o'clock. Clayton switched off the light
over the secretary's desk and swung about
in the secretary's swivel chair so that his
feet rested on the sill of the open win-
dow, which fronted on a little park across
the street. The warm April breeze, heavy
with the odors of imminent spring,
swayed the curtains slightly and ruffled
the papers on Carberry's, the secretary's,
desk.  Ceaseless footsteps passing below
disturbed the stillness of the night and
blended with the plashing of the fountain
across the street, just released from its
winter's captivity, and the dull growling
of the electric cars farther off in the down-
town section. Beyond the still, leafless
trees in the park and beyond the majestic
Romanesque steeple of St. Paul's oppo-
site, the sky glowed a dull red, not from
a distant fire, as Clayton had thought the
first evening he had taken up his vigil,
but from the thousands of electric and arc
lights downtown with which man at-
tempted to turn the night into day. Those
mysterious regions specified generically
as "downtown," still held out a lure for
Clayton, despite his two weeks' residence
in the city and partial daylight inspec-
tion of the enchanted district. For Clay-
ton had spent all his life in a town where
the youth of the place smoke a cigar in
the lobby of the only hotel when they feel
a bit devilish or repeat the operation in the
bar if they feel even more so and are suf-
ficiently impervious to gossip. A friend
who had "gone before" from the little
place had secured him the position of
night porter and night watchman at the
Rooks' club upon the previous porter's "go-
ing bad" and Clayton had eagerly seized
what he thought would be a chance to see
city life in all its glittering frothiness. He
had been disappointed, and then again he
had not. His belief in the froth and glit-
ter had survived the first week's residence,
but the hours of his confinement in the
club had proved to be the very hours when
the most wicked things and the most
frothy things occurred. Although he felt
positive that unheard of and unmention-
able things transpired within those lighted
precincts every evening, a walk through
the same streets the following afternoon
found things in a very humdrum if very
noisy condition. Every day it grew warm-
er and every night the spring and the
darkness called to Clayton with increas-
ing insistence, and meanwhile he fretted
and chafed in the little office and listened
to the club members as they clattered forth
to the theater, to banquets, to-but specu-
lation only made Clayton's heart jump
faster and the youthful spirit of adventure
go pumping up to his brain with redoubled
force.  If just this one night-thought
Clayton . The telephone bell be-
hind him on the desk shrilled in his ear
with startling abruptness. He gave a vi-
cious push with his feet to the window
sill, which sent him spinning around until
the same feet encountered the desk with a
violent whack. He removed the receiver

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