“There was a certain man who lived in the suburbs of New York. And every week-day morning, for years, he took the 7:45 train to the great city; and every day on the 5:15 came home. He owned, we guess, a little house. It had a furnace to be his winter care and a front lawn for summer. He had a radio set and a motor car, and a wife. One night they would play bridge, another they would go tot the movies; and on Sunday afternoon they would go motoring. It seemed as if things would go on and on like this, always; until at last he would die. And that would have been his life.
Now there are certain islands in the South sea so far away that everyone believes them to be paradise. Summer is eternal there. And in the cool shadows of their groves recline fair youths and maidens happy in being and through happiness forever young.
When the vision of these islands broke upon the commuter suddenly the little round of his activities became unendurable. His imagination took fire and in the aura of the conflagration he saw himself sailing the broad Pacific, landing, a sunburned mariner, on those flowering coral shores. He closed his eyes; the newspaper fell from his hands. Love, love enveloped him; soft hands and lips caressed him; the air was laden with sweet perfume and the song of birds. Oh Paradise!
So he must build a boat; about them he know nothing. He began to study. With unwearying purpose he gave himself to the reading of every authority on boat design, he filled himself with lore and facts. He studied catalogues, he looked at craft. And he came to know them. He came to know, moreover, what he wanted. It must be a small boat and a staunch boat; roomy and broad of beam. It must be a safe boat, seaworthy and able. And he drew a plan.
her keel was laid in a little ship-yard on the Hudson; and from that day to the day of the boat’s completion her designer watched her growth as only a man about the sail the seven seas for Paradise would watch his magic craft evolve. He combed the lumber yards for the soundest planks and timbers that the forests yielded. He followed them through the hands of the carpenters, saw the timbers cut and joined and bolted into place. No little detail could escape his scrutiny, no defect elude him.
And what it cost! And how he could have justified that cost at home! What could he say that would conceal the truth of his exalted plans?
And so in the growing excitement of the enterprise the years flew by; the boat was nearly done. What hope must then have beamed in the commuter’s countenance, what intimation of approaching glory! If these signs sought concealment through a special tenderness at home, that tenderness was their betrayal. Was not the boat itself an unfoldment of his own spirit, and opening of the book of his own dreams, the materializing in such symbol as the world might understand of his most secret self? Just as all men must someday put off the drab clothes of this world to put on the shining raiment of immortality, and in that moment for a moment stand in nakedness revealed before their Maker, so at almost the very moment that this poor man was to step into his swan boat, his wife, we only guess, confronted him.
“What,” –arms akimbo –“do you think you’re going to do in that boat?”
“I was going,” he answered with quiet determination, “to sail to Par–to the South Seas.”
And there, true or not, ends one of the saddest stories in the world.”