Not very long ago some one invented the assertion that there were



Download 0.77 Mb.
Page5/13
Date conversion24.05.2018
Size0.77 Mb.
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   13

resign from the club now."


Dempsey turned to Andy Geoghan.
"Chuck that cheese slicer out of the window," he said, "and tell 'em

inside that Mr. O'Sullivan has had a telephone message to go down to

Tammany Hall."
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?"


It was remarkable how quickly Maggie's eyes could change from dull to

a shining brown.


"With you, Dempsey?" she stammered. "Say--will a duck swim?"
MAN ABOUT TOWN

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.


"Why," said he, "a 'Man About Town' something between a 'rounder' and

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."


My friend the reporter left me, and I wandered further afield. By this

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

graduation day.
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

strong drink.
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."


"Why," said he, carefully, "it means a fly guy that's wise to the

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

means."
I thanked him and departed.


On the sidewalk a Salvation lassie shook her contribution receptacle

gently against my waistcoat pocket.


"Would you mind telling me," I asked her, "if you ever meet with the

character commonly denominated as 'A Man About Town' during your daily

wanderings?"
"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.


"I'm glad you brought up the subject; I've felt the influence of this

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."


My friend, the critic, paused to acquire breath for fresh eloquence.

I seized my advantage.


"You have classified him," I cried with joy. "You have painted his

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?"


Without seeming to hear me, the critic went on. And his cab-driver was

waiting for his fare, too.


"He is the sublimated essence of Butt-in; the refined, intrinsic extract

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.


I turned to cross the street. I heard something buzz like a bee, and

then I took a long, pleasant ride with Santos-Dumont.


When I opened my eyes I remembered a smell of gasoline, and I said

aloud: "Hasn't it passed yet?"


A hospital nurse laid a hand that was not particularly soft upon my brow

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."


THE COP AND THE ANTHEM
On his bench in Madison Square Soapy moved uneasily. When wild geese

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.


A dead leaf fell in Soapy's lap. That was Jack Frost's card. Jack is

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.


The hibernatorial ambitions of Soapy were not of the highest. In them

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.


For years the hospitable Blackwell's had been his winter quarters. Just

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.


Soapy, having decided to go to the Island, at once set about

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

the rest.


Soapy left his bench and strolled out of the square and across the

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

the protoplasm.
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

winter refuge.


But as Soapy set foot inside the restaurant door the head waiter's eye

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.


Soapy turned off Broadway. It seemed that his route to the coveted

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

fortune.
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

waiting."


"No cop for youse," said the waiter, with a voice like butter cakes and

an eye like the cherry in a Manhattan cocktail. "Hey, Con!"


Neatly upon his left ear on the callous pavement two waiters pitched

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

plug.
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."


With the young woman playing the clinging ivy to his oak Soapy walked

past the policeman overcome with gloom. He seemed doomed to liberty.


At the next corner he shook off his companion and ran. He halted in the

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

"disorderly conduct."


On the sidewalk Soapy began to yell drunken gibberish at the top of his

harsh voice. He danced, howled, raved and otherwise disturbed the

welkin.
The policeman twirled his club, turned his back to Soapy and remarked to

a citizen.


"'Tis one of them Yale lads celebratin' the goose egg they give to the

Hartford College. Noisy; but no harm. We've instructions to lave them

be."
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

wind.
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--"


"Of course it's mine," said Soapy, viciously.
The ex-umbrella man retreated. The policeman hurried to assist a tall

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

wrong.
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

bench.
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.


The conjunction of Soapy's receptive state of mind and the influences

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

1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   ...   13


The database is protected by copyright ©dentisty.org 2016
send message

    Main page