Part 2 George Sterling--As I Knew Him, by Charmian London
"Aldebaran and Mars.--Ask Greek." He was here. He is not here. He is away somewhere, and we have not his address. I can never know what memories were called by the verse and story in that Carmel magazine. Our gossiping was only begun... So much left to say. Nor talk with him about Aldeberan and Mars and other deep and dazzling things.
A letter from Cloudesley Johns in the East is on my desk. I had written him when George Sterling went out. "I was shocked," Cloudesley says, "and oppressed by a sense of loneliness. Illogical; but genuine. I had not seen George for years, and talked with him at the Lamb's Club, over the 'phone from the Press Club, and was to have met him in a day or two, when Carrie's death impelled him to return to California. That was my last word with him. But Jack and he and I together were in the midst and part of much colorful life years ago."
"Why illogical?" I return (well knowing that Coudesley will come back with "Logic is logic"). "It seems to me the most logical thing in the world to be lonely when the old guard, the Piedmont-Carmel 'crowd' salutes life and passes, one by one, out of our sight. I feel logically lonely!"
Very close were these three; closest, literally and figuratively, aboard Jack's little sloop Spray up the northern bays and rivers Sacramento and San Joaquin with their connecting cuts and sloughs. Good days, those, all three young men so different yet fadelessly congenial, working forenoon,--George and Jack with tongues and nostrils reminiscent of Cloudesley's talented cuisine prepared on a battered and rusty "Primus" in the restricted cabin. They sailed afternoons; they fished; they hunted, ducks and geese; in the evening it was cards, mostly pedro, the Spray riding at anchor or tied to reedy banks in scenes strange and foreign as anywhere to be found. I know it all. In another small yacht during my own fortunate days to follow, one of these three comrades revisited with me those places of their comings and goings. Yes, Cloudesley, we are lonely for lost companionship by land and sea.
"The fleeting systems lapse like foam," wrote the Poet. Now he, the Poet, has lapsed like his starry foam.
Memories jostle. At this moment I think of that other death. Long before it, Jack had said: "If I should die first, Mate--my ashes on the little hill of old graves on the Ranch. I don't want many there. You might ask George to come." George, sadder than grief, sad beyond despair, walked alone and laid his sprig of rueful cypress and lauren upon the unthinkable grave. Followed a holy hour, in the room where his friend had died. We spoke low. I recall George said with a question rising in this throat: "They think, in the city, that you many not see this through, Charmian." To him I replied: "There is too much to do, George. You wouldn't expect me to be a quitter? Even now, I feel strong to go on."
We were standing beside my case of Jack's first editions, each with its inscription--my most priceless possession. George broke a silence:
"I've wanted to tell you something. It was, oh, maybe two or three years ago, Jack said to me that if anything should happen to you, he would not go on."
It seemed most natural to hear that. "Look!" I took down "The Abysmal Brute" and read what Jack had written in the flyleaf. The date was in May, 1913, in what I have called his bad year. And what Jack had set down shadowed forth that which George was now telling me. Then I said: "It is different with me, Greek. So many things broken--to mend. Jack would count on me... Being so made, as Jack would say, working I shall come to be...not unhappy."
"Dear Chumalums," I heard George say as he turned away. He understood. One cannot forget such moments, when one felt his abiding tenderness. Long afterward, I tried him out concerning his own outlook:
"I think you and I shall see it through, Greek?"
"I think we shall," he mused. "at any rate," brightly, "I shall never give up while there is sex in the world!"
His last verse, found in the death chamber, seems to have been upon the theme of Woman. He adored Woman at her best. Be she treacherous to him or friend of him, never could she retrieve her place. Making little noise about it, back to the wall with the injured he would fight. I know.