resign from the club now."
inside that Mr. O'Sullivan has had a telephone message to go down to
And then he turned back to Maggie.
"Say, Mag," he said, "I'll see you home. And how about next Saturday
night? Will you come to the hop with me if I call around for you?"
a shining brown.
There were two or three things that I wanted to know. I do not care
about a mystery. So I began to inquire.
It took me two weeks to find out what women carry in dress suit cases.
And then I began to ask why a mattress is made in two pieces. This
serious query was at first received with suspicion because it sounded
like a conundrum. I was at last assured that its double form of
construction was designed to make lighter the burden of woman, who makes
up beds. I was so foolish as to persist, begging to know why, then, they
were not made in two equal pieces; whereupon I was shunned.
The third draught that I craved from the fount of knowledge was
enlightenment concerning the character known as A Man About Town. He was
more vague in my mind than a type should be. We must have a concrete
idea of anything, even if it be an imaginary idea, before we can
comprehend it. Now, I have a mental picture of John Doe that is as clear
as a steel engraving. His eyes are weak blue; he wears a brown vest
and a shiny black serge coat. He stands always in the sunshine chewing
something; and he keeps half-shutting his pocket knife and opening it
again with his thumb. And, if the Man Higher Up is ever found, take
my assurance for it, he will be a large, pale man with blue wristlets
showing under his cuffs, and he will be sitting to have his shoes
polished within sound of a bowling alley, and there will be somewhere
about him turquoises.
But the canvas of my imagination, when it came to limning the Man About
Town, was blank. I fancied that he bad a detachable sneer (like the
smile of the Cheshire cat) and attached cuffs; and that was all.
Whereupon I asked a newspaper reporter about him.
a 'clubman.' He isn't exactly--well, he fits in between Mrs. Fish's
receptions and private boxing bouts. He doesn't--well, he doesn't belong
either to the Lotos Club or to the Jerry McGeogheghan Galvanised Iron
Workers' Apprentices' Left Hook Chowder Association. I don't exactly
know how to describe him to you. You'll see him everywhere there's
anything doing. Yes, I suppose he's a type. Dress clothes every evening;
knows the ropes; calls every policeman and waiter in town by their first
names. No; he never travels with the hydrogen derivatives. You generally
see him alone or with another man."
time the 3126 electric lights on the Rialto were alight. People passed,
but they held me not. Paphian eyes rayed upon me, and left me unscathed.
Diners, heimgangers, shop-girls, confidence men, panhandlers, actors,
highwaymen, millionaires and outlanders hurried, skipped, strolled,
sneaked, swaggered and scurried by me; but I took no note of them. I
knew them all; I had read their hearts; they had served. I wanted my Man
About Town. He was a type, and to drop him would be an error--a
typograph--but no! let us continue.
Let us continue with a moral digression. To see a family reading the
Sunday paper gratifies. The sections have been separated. Papa is
earnestly scanning the page that pictures the young lady exercising
before an open window, and bending--but there, there! Mamma is
interested in trying to guess the missing letters in the word N_w Yo_k.
The oldest girls are eagerly perusing the financial reports, for a
certain young man remarked last Sunday night that he had taken a flyer
in Q., X. & Z. Willie, the eighteen-year-old son, who attends the New
York public school, is absorbed in the weekly article describing how to
make over an old skirt, for he hopes to take a prize in sewing on
Grandma is holding to the comic supplement with a two-hours' grip; and
little Tottie, the baby, is rocking along the best she can with the real
estate transfers. This view is intended to be reassuring, for it is
desirable that a few lines of this story be skipped. For it introduces
I went into a cafe to--and while it was being mixed I asked the man
who grabs up your hot Scotch spoon as soon as you lay it down what
he understood by the term, epithet, description, designation,
characterisation or appellation, viz.: a "Man About Town."
all-night push--see? It's a hot sport that you can't bump to the rail
anywhere between the Flatirons--see? I guess that's about what it
I thanked him and departed.
gently against my waistcoat pocket.
character commonly denominated as 'A Man About Town' during your daily
"I think I know whom you mean," she answered, with a gentle smile. "We
see them in the same places night after night. They are the devil's body
guard, and if the soldiers of any army are as faithful as they are,
their commanders are well served. We go among them, diverting a few
pennies from their wickedness to the Lord's service."
She shook the box again and I dropped a dime into it.
In front of a glittering hotel a friend of mine, a critic, was climbing
from a cab. He seemed at leisure; and I put my question to him. He
answered me conscientiously, as I was sure he would.
"There is a type of 'Man About Town' in New York," he answered. "The
term is quite familiar to me, but I don't think I was ever called upon
to define the character before. It would be difficult to point you out
an exact specimen. I would say, offhand, that it is a man who had a
hopeless case of the peculiar New York disease of wanting to see and
know. At 6 o'clock each day life begins with him. He follows rigidly the
conventions of dress and manners; but in the business of poking his nose
into places where he does not belong he could give pointers to a civet
cat or a jackdaw. He is the man who has chased Bohemia about the town
from rathskeller to roof garden and from Hester street to Harlem until
you can't find a place in the city where they don't cut their spaghetti
with a knife. Your 'Man About Town' has done that. He is always on the
scent of something new. He is curiosity, impudence and omnipresence.
Hansoms were made for him, and gold-banded cigars; and the curse of
music at dinner. There are not so many of him; but his minority report
is adopted everywhere.
nocturnal blight upon our city, but I never thought to analyse it
before. I can see now that your 'Man About Town' should have been
classified long ago. In his wake spring up wine agents and cloak models;
and the orchestra plays 'Let's All Go Up to Maud's' for him, by request,
instead of Haendel. He makes his rounds every evening; while you and I
see the elephant once a week. When the cigar store is raided, he winks
at the officer, familiar with his ground, and walks away immune, while
you and I search among the Presidents for names, and among the stars for
addresses to give the desk sergeant."
I seized my advantage.
portrait in the gallery of city types. But I must meet one face to face.
I must study the Man About Town at first hand. Where shall I find him?
How shall I know him?"
waiting for his fare, too.
of Rubber; the concentrated, purified, irrefutable, unavoidable spirit
of Curiosity and Inquisitiveness. A new sensation is the breath in his
nostrils; when his experience is exhausted he explores new fields with
the indefatigability of a--"
"Excuse me," I interrupted, "but can you produce one of this type? It is
a new thing to me. I must study it. I will search the town over until I
find one. Its habitat must be here on Broadway."
"I am about to dine here," said my friend. "Come inside, and if there is
a Man About Town present I will point him out to you. I know most of the
regular patrons here."
"I am not dining yet," I said to him. "You will excuse me. I am going to
find my Man About Town this night if I have to rake New York from the
Battery to Little Coney Island."
I left the hotel and walked down Broadway. The pursuit of my type gave a
pleasant savour of life and interest to the air I breathed. I was glad
to be in a city so great, so complex and diversified. Leisurely and
with something of an air I strolled along with my heart expanding at
the thought that I was a citizen of great Gotham, a sharer in its
magnificence and pleasures, a partaker in its glory and prestige.
then I took a long, pleasant ride with Santos-Dumont.
aloud: "Hasn't it passed yet?"
that was not at all fevered. A young doctor came along, grinned, and
handed me a morning newspaper.
"Want to see how it happened?" he asked cheerily. I read the article.
Its headlines began where I heard the buzzing leave off the night
before. It closed with these lines:
"--Bellevue Hospital, where it was said that his injuries were not
serious. He appeared to be a typical Man About Town."
honk high of nights, and when women without sealskin coats grow kind
to their husbands, and when Soapy moves uneasily on his bench in the
park, you may know that winter is near at hand.
kind to the regular denizens of Madison Square, and gives fair warning
of his annual call. At the corners of four streets he hands his
pasteboard to the North Wind, footman of the mansion of All Outdoors,
so that the inhabitants thereof may make ready.
Soapy's mind became cognisant of the fact that the time had come for
him to resolve himself into a singular Committee of Ways and Means to
provide against the coming rigour. And therefore he moved uneasily
on his bench.
there were no considerations of Mediterranean cruises, of soporific
Southern skies drifting in the Vesuvian Bay. Three months on the Island
was what his soul craved. Three months of assured board and bed and
congenial company, safe from Boreas and bluecoats, seemed to Soapy the
essence of things desirable.
as his more fortunate fellow New Yorkers had bought their tickets to
Palm Beach and the Riviera each winter, so Soapy had made his humble
arrangements for his annual hegira to the Island. And now the time
was come. On the previous night three Sabbath newspapers, distributed
beneath his coat, about his ankles and over his lap, had failed to
repulse the cold as he slept on his bench near the spurting fountain
in the ancient square. So the Island loomed big and timely in Soapy's
mind. He scorned the provisions made in the name of charity for the
city's dependents. In Soapy's opinion the Law was more benign than
Philanthropy. There was an endless round of institutions, municipal and
eleemosynary, on which he might set out and receive lodging and food
accordant with the simple life. But to one of Soapy's proud spirit
the gifts of charity are encumbered. If not in coin you must pay in
humiliation of spirit for every benefit received at the hands of
philanthropy. As Caesar had his Brutus, every bed of charity must have
its toll of a bath, every loaf of bread its compensation of a private
and personal inquisition. Wherefore it is better to be a guest of the
law, which though conducted by rules, does not meddle unduly with a
gentleman's private affairs.
accomplishing his desire. There were many easy ways of doing this.
The pleasantest was to dine luxuriously at some expensive restaurant;
and then, after declaring insolvency, be handed over quietly and
without uproar to a policeman. An accommodating magistrate would do
level sea of asphalt, where Broadway and Fifth Avenue flow together. Up
Broadway he turned, and halted at a glittering cafe, where are gathered
together nightly the choicest products of the grape, the silkworm and
Soapy had confidence in himself from the lowest button of his vest
upward. He was shaven, and his coat was decent and his neat black,
ready-tied four-in-hand had been presented to him by a lady missionary
on Thanksgiving Day. If he could reach a table in the restaurant
unsuspected success would be his. The portion of him that would show
above the table would raise no doubt in the waiter's mind. A roasted
mallard duck, thought Soapy, would be about the thing--with a bottle of
Chablis, and then Camembert, a demi-tasse and a cigar. One dollar for
the cigar would be enough. The total would not be so high as to call
forth any supreme manifestation of revenge from the cafe management; and
yet the meat would leave him filled and happy for the journey to his
fell upon his frayed trousers and decadent shoes. Strong and ready hands
turned him about and conveyed him in silence and haste to the sidewalk
and averted the ignoble fate of the menaced mallard.
island was not to be an epicurean one. Some other way of entering
limbo must be thought of.
At a corner of Sixth Avenue electric lights and cunningly displayed
wares behind plate-glass made a shop window conspicuous. Soapy took a
cobblestone and dashed it through the glass. People came running around
the corner, a policeman in the lead. Soapy stood still, with his hands
in his pockets, and smiled at the sight of brass buttons.
"Where's the man that done that?" inquired the officer excitedly.
"Don't you figure out that I might have had something to do with it?"
said Soapy, not without sarcasm, but friendly, as one greets good
The policeman's mind refused to accept Soapy even as a clue. Men who
smash windows do not remain to parley with the law's minions. They take
to their heels. The policeman saw a man half way down the block running
to catch a car. With drawn club he joined in the pursuit. Soapy, with
disgust in his heart, loafed along, twice unsuccessful.
On the opposite side of the street was a restaurant of no great
pretensions. It catered to large appetites and modest purses. Its
crockery and atmosphere were thick; its soup and napery thin. Into
this place Soapy took his accusive shoes and telltale trousers without
challenge. At a table he sat and consumed beefsteak, flapjacks,
doughnuts and pie. And then to the waiter be betrayed the fact that
the minutest coin and himself were strangers.
"Now, get busy and call a cop," said Soapy. "And don't keep a gentleman
an eye like the cherry in a Manhattan cocktail. "Hey, Con!"
Soapy. He arose, joint by joint, as a carpenter's rule opens, and beat
the dust from his clothes. Arrest seemed but a rosy dream. The Island
seemed very far away. A policeman who stood before a drug store two
doors away laughed and walked down the street.
Five blocks Soapy travelled before his courage permitted him to woo
capture again. This time the opportunity presented what he fatuously
termed to himself a "cinch." A young woman of a modest and pleasing
guise was standing before a show window gazing with sprightly interest
at its display of shaving mugs and inkstands, and two yards from the
window a large policeman of severe demeanour leaned against a water
It was Soapy's design to assume the role of the despicable and execrated
"masher." The refined and elegant appearance of his victim and the
contiguity of the conscientious cop encouraged him to believe that he
would soon feel the pleasant official clutch upon his arm that would
insure his winter quarters on the right little, tight little isle.
Soapy straightened the lady missionary's ready-made tie, dragged his
shrinking cuffs into the open, set his hat at a killing cant and sidled
toward the young woman. He made eyes at her, was taken with sudden
coughs and "hems," smiled, smirked and went brazenly through the
impudent and contemptible litany of the "masher." With half an eye Soapy
saw that the policeman was watching him fixedly. The young woman moved
away a few steps, and again bestowed her absorbed attention upon the
shaving mugs. Soapy followed, boldly stepping to her side, raised his
hat and said:
"Ah there, Bedelia! Don't you want to come and play in my yard?"
The policeman was still looking. The persecuted young woman had but to
beckon a finger and Soapy would be practically en route for his insular
haven. Already he imagined he could feel the cozy warmth of the
station-house. The young woman faced him and, stretching out a hand,
caught Soapy's coat sleeve.
"Sure, Mike," she said joyfully, "if you'll blow me to a pail of suds.
I'd have spoke to you sooner, but the cop was watching."
past the policeman overcome with gloom. He seemed doomed to liberty.
district where by night are found the lightest streets, hearts, vows and
librettos. Women in furs and men in greatcoats moved gaily in the wintry
air. A sudden fear seized Soapy that some dreadful enchantment had
rendered him immune to arrest. The thought brought a little of panic
upon it, and when he came upon another policeman lounging grandly in
front of a transplendent theatre he caught at the immediate straw of
harsh voice. He danced, howled, raved and otherwise disturbed the
The policeman twirled his club, turned his back to Soapy and remarked to
Hartford College. Noisy; but no harm. We've instructions to lave them
Disconsolate, Soapy ceased his unavailing racket. Would never a
policeman lay hands on him? In his fancy the Island seemed an
unattainable Arcadia. He buttoned his thin coat against the chilling
In a cigar store he saw a well-dressed man lighting a cigar at a
swinging light. His silk umbrella he had set by the door on entering.
Soapy stepped inside, secured the umbrella and sauntered off with it
slowly. The man at the cigar light followed hastily.
"My umbrella," he said, sternly.
"Oh, is it?" sneered Soapy, adding insult to petit larceny. "Well, why
don't you call a policeman? I took it. Your umbrella! Why don't you call
a cop? There stands one on the corner."
The umbrella owner slowed his steps. Soapy did likewise, with a
presentiment that luck would again run against him. The policeman
looked at the two curiously.
"Of course," said the umbrella man--"that is--well, you know how these
mistakes occur--I--if it's your umbrella I hope you'll excuse me--I
picked it up this morning in a restaurant--If you recognise it as yours,
why--I hope you'll--"
blonde in an opera cloak across the street in front of a street car that
was approaching two blocks away.
Soapy walked eastward through a street damaged by improvements. He
hurled the umbrella wrathfully into an excavation. He muttered against
the men who wear helmets and carry clubs. Because he wanted to fall into
their clutches, they seemed to regard him as a king who could do no
At length Soapy reached one of the avenues to the east where the glitter
and turmoil was but faint. He set his face down this toward Madison
Square, for the homing instinct survives even when the home is a park
But on an unusually quiet corner Soapy came to a standstill. Here was an
old church, quaint and rambling and gabled. Through one violet-stained
window a soft light glowed, where, no doubt, the organist loitered over
the keys, making sure of his mastery of the coming Sabbath anthem. For
there drifted out to Soapy's ears sweet music that caught and held him
transfixed against the convolutions of the iron fence.
The moon was above, lustrous and serene; vehicles and pedestrians were
few; sparrows twittered sleepily in the eaves--for a little while the
scene might have been a country churchyard. And the anthem that the
organist played cemented Soapy to the iron fence, for he had known it
well in the days when his life contained such things as mothers and
roses and ambitions and friends and immaculate thoughts and collars.
about the old church wrought a sudden and wonderful change in his soul.
He viewed with swift horror the pit into which he had tumbled, the