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Synopsis

Upon a certain dreary April afternoon in the year of grace, 1906, the apprehensions of Philip Kirkwood, Esquire, Artist-peintre, were enlivened by the discovery that he was occupying that singularly distressing social position, which may be summed up succinctly in a phrase through long usage grown proverbial: "Alone in London." These three words have come to connote in our understanding so much of human misery, that to Mr. Kirkwood they seemed to epitomize absolutely, if not happily, the various circumstances attendant upon the predicament wherein he found himself. Inevitably an extremist, because of his youth, (he had just turned twenty-five), he took no count of mitigating matters, and would hotly have resented the suggestion that his case was anything but altogether deplorable and forlorn.

    That he was not actually at the end of his resources went for nothing; he held the distinction a quibble, mockingly immaterial,—like the store of guineas in his pocket, too insignificant for mention when contrasted with his needs. And his base of supplies, the American city of his nativity, whence—and not without a glow of pride in his secret heart—he was wont to register at foreign hostelries, had been arbitrarily cut off from him by one of those accidents sardonically classified by insurance and express corporations as Acts of God.

    Now to one who has lived all his days serenely in accord with the dictates of his own sweet will, taking no thought for the morrow, such a situation naturally seems both appalling and intolerable, at the first blush. It must be confessed that, to begin with, Kirkwood drew a long and disconsolate face over his fix. And in that black hour, primitive of its kind in his brief span, he became conscious of a sinister apparition taking shape at his elbow—a shade of darkness which, clouting him on the back with a skeleton hand, croaked hollow salutations in his ear.

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