TALES OF THE BOWERY.
(Creator of "Mickey Finn.")
WITH AN INTRODUCTORY POMC IT
COFyn'ght, 1903, by J. S. Ogilvie Publishing CoagUtJ
NEW YOKE :
J. S. OGALVIE PUBLISHING COMPANY, 67 kosb stbebt.
These tales are old as the Eden tree—as new as the
new-cut tooth; For each man knows, ere his lip-thatch grows, he is
master of art and truth; And each man hears, as the twilight nears, to the
beat of his dying heart, The devil drums on the darkened pane: "You did
it, but was it art ?"
TALE THE FIRST.
"He will have mercy and abundantly pardon." —Holy Writ .......................... 13
TALE THE SECOND. How the iron sow was banished from Tipper-ary .................................. 24
TALE THE THIRD.
"The passion and ardor and yearning of a soul aflame," etc. .......................... 34
TALE THE FOURTH. Upon the baby's breast was perched a white dove with outspread wings .............. 43
TALE THE FIFTH.
In which the defendant shows Exhibit "A," recently detached from her person. ....... 51
TALE THE SIXTH. His lashes were wet with the tears of a joyous reunion ............................... 53
TALE THE SEVENTH.
Carried upstairs to the fourth floor of a tenement ................................. 64
TALE THE EIGHTH. 'Mid pleasures and palaces there's no place like home ................................ 73
TALE THE NINTH. In which Madden says he does not believe that man was originally a Prognosaurus, a tadpole, or a vegetable .................... 80
TALE THE TENTH. In which Victor Emmanuel is taken for St. Patrick ............................... 90
TALE THE ELEVENTH. Wherein shame, love, and music are commingled .............................. 101
TALE THE TWELFTH. Why Mug's baby failed to get the squawking balloon ............................... 107
TALE THE THIRTEENTH. How Mulcahy played hookey from Calvary .. 115
TALE THE FOURTEENTH.
How Empty Charley released himself from hunger, contumely, and rheumatiz ........ 125
TALE THE FIFTEENTH. A veracious history of the big wind in Ireland . 133
TALE THE SIXTEENTH.
As the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. —Holy Writ ......................... 140
TALE THE SEVENTEENTH.
Wherein Spider Anderson throws himself forcibly upon the abdomen of Mr. Longfellow . 146
TALE THE EIGHTEENTH.
In which Billy Fangs gets temporary lockjaw from chewing gum .................... 158
TALE THE NINETEENTH. How Peg-Leg became "a" actor for one night . 169
TALE THE TWENTIETH.
An Irish description of the vermiform appendix .................................. 182
Tales of the Bowery.
A SONG OF HOME.
In the dreamy Eastern evening, gazing out across the bay
O'er the lantern-lighted waters, where the heaving vessels lay.
Sat we in the English quarter, with cigars and pipes aglow,
While the punkah, plunging slowly, swept the smoke wreaths to and fro.
Then, with whiffs of tar and rigging carried from the crowded quays,
With the breath of flowers and spices—oddly mingled odors these—
Through the long verandah wafted came the cadence of a song,
And our hearts beat high at hearing "On the Bowery" in Hong-Kong.
10 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
From the fort across the harbor rolled the sunset
cannon's boom; 'Rick'shas, dog-carts, chairs, and chaises rattled
hillward through the gloom; Up the Peak the lamps were flashing, one by one,
from villas gray: One by one the lights were leaping all along the
Queen's Highway; Wrinkled natives, queued and yellow, passed us with
averted eye; Gangs of sailors, shrieking coolies, naked urchins
hurried by; Still above the roar and bustle of the wondrous
Rose the well-remembered chorus, "On the Bowery," in Hong-Kong.
Far away in dear old Gotham, at the waning of the
year, oft the strains of "On the Bowery" smote upon the
weary ear; All day long the organs ground it through each
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 11
All night long the lone policeman hummed it as
he strolled his beat; All our little brothers loved it, all our sisters learned
the air; Till the wretched, lilting measure seemed to linger
everywhere; Till we shunned the haunting doggerel, till we grew
to loathe the song; Oh, how earnestly we wished it, "On the Bowery,"
But since then our feet had trodden many an unfamiliar shore,
And the dear old Bowery music it was good to hear once more;
Good it was to see in fancy double lines of gas lamps flare,
Lighting up the crowded pavements all the way to Chatham Square. ******
Just a crew of Yankee sailors, weighing anchor near
the bar, But their chorus seemed a greeting from our
homes and friends afar,
12 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
And we caught the stirring measure, sang it loud and clear and strong.
Thus we gave it hearty welcome—"On the Bowery," in Hong-Kong.
To hear this song and read the lyrics, click here
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 13
THE PASSING OF BLONDE MAG.
it was 8 o'clock on an evening late in July. Everybody was out of doors in Pell Street. There were strange, Oriental suggestions in the scene. The Joss House was illuminated like a Chinese pagoda on a festal night. Furtive Mongolians slipped along the street wrapped in gravity and mystery. Slattern women, blear-eyed and disheveled, disappeared into dirty hallways, carrying foam-crested pitchers.
On the top floor of an old wooden tenement-house at the corner of Pell and Doyer streets Blonde Mag was dying. She belonged to that class which, by contrast, makes ordinary reputable women seem angels of light. The destroyer had hung his hectic banner in Mag's cheeks, and her eyes shone with unnatural brilliancy. There were violet hues about her mouth, and marks of premature decay upon her face, which indicated that the Merciful One was quickly coming to save her from
14 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
deeper degradation. From an accordeon on the street came floating in at the open window the sighing strains of "Sweet Marie." The girl moved uneasily upon the pillow and opened her eyes. Then she raised herself upon her elbow and hummed feebly, in concert with the music:
"But your soul, so pure and sweet, Makes my happiness complete,"
which was pulled out of an animated camera by the amateur downstairs. Turning to Mame, the short-haired girl with the indurated face, who was seated at the window viewing the panorama of life in the street, Mag said:
"Mame, come here en sing fer me; me t'roat is husky!"
The girl turned her head and exclaimed:
"Wat was y' sayin', Mag?"
"I wisht ye'd come en sing fer me," came the whisper, in thin, piping tones. "De 'cordion music makes me think of de shadder dances in Walhalla Hall las' winter."
Mame left the window, and crossing the room, sat on the side of the bed, passing her cool hand over
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 15
the heated brow of the girl who had reached the border of earth's mysterious land. Those were pleasant recollections of Walhalla Hall evidently, for Mag resumed:
"D'ye remember, Mame, de night we went t' de Soup Green's racket? De maskerade, I mean! Chuck Connors took me. He had a wad dat night. Y' couldn't make a dent in it wid yer heel, 'twas so solid. He licked somebody en had lots o' de stuff. We was in de front row in de grand march. I had on a nun's dress. Wasn't I a corkin' nun, Mame, d'y remember?"
Mame shook her head encouragingly and Mag resumed:
"And when dey turned de calcium light on de march it made me blink. Chuck was awful good to me."
There was a silence for a minute, broken only by the noises from the street. Then Mag continued querulously:
"Where is Chuck now, Mame? Why don't he come to see me when I am on my back! Eh ?"
"He's in de hospital, Mag," replied Mame. "He got hurted in a scrap. On'y fer dat he'd be here,
16 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
you kin betcherlife. Chuck was dead stuck on you,
This confirmation of an old-time tenderness caused the girl to smile feebly. Gone for the time was the weariness of impending dissolution. Again she was in the burly pugilist's arms as they whirled down the wide hall to the languorous music of "Sweet Marie," while the gas jets shone dimly through a nimbus of tobacco smoke. The memory of colored lights, silken banners, pulsing music, and the intoxication of delicious motion again stirred Mag's failing pulses, as she reached out her thin hand and, clutching Mame's dress, said:
"Sing, Mame, sing."
Mame was no Patti. She had smoked so many cigarettes and drank so much mixed ale that her vocal chords were seriously impaired. But in a voice which sadly needed filing, she began to relate the musical story of the girl whose soul was pure and sweet. And as she sang Mag whispered all over and over again words indicative of purity, until she fell asleep and dreamed of the loved music. Mame looked down at the wasted face, and muttered with a sigh:
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 17
"I must write to Chuck to-night before she
Then she turned the kerosene lamp down so that the flame burned feebly, and tip-toed out into the night.
Jack McTierney, the bartender in the Doyer Street saloon, was dressed with unusual care. The rhinestone in his shirt front, which had been in the window of his "uncle" until the pawnticket had expired, shone in the gaslight, a real truly jewel. Jack had just wiped the slippery bar when the green baize door swung inward and a bareheaded woman entered.
"Gimme a thimble o' beer, Jack," she said, "and lend me dat pen o' yours wid de ink in de handle."
"Now, don't get gay, Mame," said Jack, with an aggravating smile. "Drink yer hofs, pet, while yer waiting. Who told you you could have a pen ?"
"Oh, shake yer funny business, Jack," protested Mame gently. "Don't y' know dat Mag is near croakin'? I want to write a note to Chuck."
"Is dat so!" exclaimed Jack, forgetting in his surprise to survey his closely shaven face in the mir-
18 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
ror behind the bar. "Why don't y' give her more booze? It'll brace her up."
"Oh, booze won't do her no good no more. She's got her dose fer sure," said Mame, as she took the fountain pen. "Hurry up, Jack, gimme some paper. I want to write to Chuck."
Love messages have been written on cream-laid paper, bathed in violet water, and couched in the most endearing terms of literary art. But, perhaps this humble letter, written on half a letter-sheet, and blotted with the tears of a Magdalen, was quite as potent and fully as eloquent. It required nearly half an hour of the combined efforts of Mame and Jack to complete it, and when finished it read:
"Dear Chuck—You better get a gait on if you
want to see Mag before she passes in her checks. De bloke in de dispensary says her jig is nearly up, and she's cryin' fer you. She wakes up in de night and says is dat Chuck. Hustle down, lively, ole man, cause de undertaker is waitin' for her. "Yours in a hurry,
"Now, gimme 50 cents, Jack," said Mame, as she
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 19
put a stamp on the envelope and hammered it in place with her small fist, upon the bar.
"What'll I give y' fifty cents for?" said Jack. "Youse rags make me tired. You're always pullin'
"Cause Mag ain't got no money, you duffer! Y' ain't goin' to leave her starve, are ye ?"
Jack grumblingly hauled out a silver piece, which Mame put in her pocket, threw a kiss to the bartender, and was out of the door on her way to other saloons to levy a like tribute upon sympathetic bartenders.
Chuck Conners, the pugilist, had come out of a battle two weeks previously with an injury to his left side which resulted in a tumor. This necessitated an operation in Bellevue Hospital, which greatly reduced his strength. It was twilight on the day after Mame's letter had been written that it reached him. He spelled it out laboriously, and set up in bed groaning with pain. He knew he risked his life if he left the hospital, yet the thought of Mag crying in the night nerved him to the effort. On the post of his cot hung his coat and trousers, but his shoes and stockings were gone. In the tern-
20 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
porary absence of the nurse he drew on his trousers and coat. Slipping from his cot, he hopped upon his hands and knees and crawled slowly toward the door. He got out of the ward without detection, and hurried downstairs as fast as his feeble limbs would permit. On reaching the lower floor he gathered his failing strength for a final effort, shot past the startled orderly, and dashed into the street, dropping under a truck, where he lay panting and bleeding upon the cobblestones. He heard the outcry of pursuit, and saw the orderly run down the street to inform the police. Then he fainted.
Meanwhile Mame had gone on her collecting tour. It is customary on the Bowery when an unfortunate woman becomes seriously ill for her sisters in misery to support her by soliciting alms from the saloonkeepers, with whom she has become acquainted during her vicious career. When Mame had made her rounds she was richer by $6.50. With the spoils she hurried back to the room where the sufferer lay, a little more hilarious than when she went away, for each of the bartenders, with mistaken kindness, had insisted on giving her several glasses of stimulating mixtures. When Mame en-
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 21
tered the room she found there several female friends of the invalid. A large growler stood upon the table. "Sheeny" Rachel, who is alleged to have discovered the Bowery twenty-five years ago, sat upon the bed fanning the sick girl with more zeal than discretion. Hattie Van Horton, who is a temperance advocate from physically prudential reasons, was speculating upon municipal reform, while "Talk" Stretmyer was living up to her nickname in a most strident fashion. "Soldier" Jennie, six feet of depravity, had dropped in to see the sick girl, and incidentally to get her share of the contents of the can. Mame put the money under Mag's pillow. The suffering girl was paler and weaker than when Mame went away. The two women whispered together for a few seconds. Then Mame arose, and lifting her hand to stay the gabble, said:
"I wisht youse rags would close yer traps for a minute. Mag says she's tired, and she thinks a little music would kind o' brace her up. She wants to know if ye won't all sing 'Sweet Marie,' 'cause she's dead stuck on de song. Stand up and all o' ye come close t' de bed and sing low, 'cause de coppers is dead crazy since de reform."
22 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
That was a motley crew of outcasts which ranged itself around the bed. Not one of the girls knew any of the stanzas of the song, but each could sing the chorus. From throats burned by the fierce flames of alcohol, and in voices laden with the fumes of opium and cigarettes, came the words:
"Sweet Marie, Sweet Marie, come to me, Not because your face is fair, love, to see; But your soul, so pure and sweet, Makes my happiness complete, Makes me linger at your feet, Sweet Marie."
Over and over again they repeated the chorus like the intonation of a strange requiem. While "Soldier" Jennie stopped to yawn and look longingly at the growler, the music was interrupted by the opening of the door. A bareheaded man, livid with pain, whose bare feet were bloodstained, staggered into the room. He fell upon his knees beside the bed. Mag threw her arms around his neck with a feeble, exultant cry:
* * *****
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 23
When they loosed Blonde Mag's uncertain clasp from the neck of the pugilist there lay upon her face the ineffable serenity of that peace which passeth the boundaries of the dreams of men.
"Soldier" Jennie staggered when she rounded the corner of Pell street into the Bowery an hour later. The growler had mercifully given her temporary oblivion of contumely. She hummed blithely in a cracked falsetto, as she zig-zagged up the Bowery:
"But 'er soul—hie—so pure———"
Her solo was interrupted by a policeman, who touched her on the shoulder and said:
"Come, 'Soldier,' you're too husky for serenadin'. Quit it or I'll take you in."
24 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
THE IRON PIG.
Four men sat around the stove in the rear of a cigar store on the Bowery. It was the eve of St. Patrick's day, and the night was chilly. Gilligan, the wit, turned to Hughes, the boxmaker, saying:
"Are ye goin' to parade to-morrow?"
"Faith, I am not, thin," replied Hughes. "Not that I have less respect than I have always had for the good saint, but I'm through expressin' my feel-in's on a baker's horse with a green sash around me waist."
"And I'm wid ye," said Mulcahy, the calciminer. "'Tain't bekase I'm not patriotic, but I have rheuma-tiz, and the doctor says that me epigastrium is out av order, whatever the devil that is. How about ye, Rafferty?"
"Well, I'll celebrate the day quietly over a mug av ale and an onion," replied Rafferty. "It may not be fashionable, but 'tis more comfortable. I'll say a prayer or two for the repose av the saint—not
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 25
that he needs it, for he's dead a long time now. How long is it, Gilligan?"
"Bechune 900 and 1,000 years. St. Patrick lived in the eighth dynasty av the Irish race, and he intro-juced Christianity into Ireland in the year 800."
"When was it that he druv the snakes and the dragons and the centipeds and the tarantulas out av Ireland?" asked Hughes.
"He never druv anny av them things away," replied Gilligan. "There niver was a snake av anny kind in Ireland, 1'ave alone a centiped or baste that crawled on its belly."
"Why?" asked Hughes.
"Bekase everything that had life in ould Ireland always walked on two or four legs, wid its head and tail up in nobility," replied Gilligan impulsively.
"Well, I don't want to argufy the question wid ye, Gilligan. There are things in the world that I want to believe, even if I have me doubts. It pleases me to think av the good St. Patrick goin' to the bogs and swamps av ould Ireland wid a tin whistle and play in' wan av thim reel or jig steps that would make a corpse dance, and seein' the boa constructors and the rattlesnakes and the pythons and
26 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
the lizards come dancin' out on their tails to the music of 'Garryowen' or 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley.' Now, I suppose ye'd say that Clancy never banished the iron sow from Tipperary, eh?"
"If there was an iron sow in Tipperary," said Gilligan ironically, "I suppose Clancy might have banished her wid the help av a pair av mules and an ash cart."
"Eggsactly," said Hughes. "Now, this banishin' business began in Ireland two hundred years before St. Patrick was born, and it was first practiced by Clancy, who was an Irish blacksmith livin' in the village of Tipperary, in the heart av the Golden Vale. You'll swally that, won't ye, Gilligan?"
"I dunno whether I will or no," said Gilligan, shaking his head dubiousy. "Swallyin' a blacksmith in the sixth cinchury makes me gag a little."
"To be sure it do, me boy. Ye have that gregious thing, a scientific palate. But pepper it wid imagination, and it'll go down all right. Now, as I was sayin', Clancy lived in the reign av King Cornac. He had his little shop at the crossroads, and when he wasn't helpin' the village tinker to be makin' potheen stills he was takin' care av the garden at the
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 27
back av the forge and feedin' the pigs, bekase he was a very industrious man."
"Did he forge the sow?" asked Mulcahy impatiently.
"No; that's the quare part av it. The sow was a sort av a mirrakle. She drunk the water that Clan-cy cooled his iron in wan day, and——"
"Got iron in her blood," broke in Gilligan, cynically.
"Yis," resumed the narrator gravely; "the moly-cules av the iron mingled wid her vital fluid, and in a little while she became pigiron, as they say in the foundry."
"Like turnin' a ham into an anvil by hypnotism, I suppose?" said Gilligan inquiringly.
"The very thing!" exclaimed Hughes joyfully. "Tis kind av ye to help me out, Gilligan. Yis, and as I was about to tell ye she lost her appetite for swill after that. As the Yogis over in India say, she was in a new Karma, glory be, and she'd eat nothin' but iron. Faith, they had the divil's own time wid her. She chewed up Mrs. Clancy's poker the same as if 'twas a carrot, and a hammer was only a mouthful for her."
28 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
"She must have been an ojous animal entirely," said Gilligan. "Did her joints creak ?"
The question staggered Hughes for an instant, but he scratched his head and replied:
"Whin she wint out in the rain and got rusty, they did for awhile, but Clancy soon fixed her up wid lard from the body av one av her daughters."
"Some tender pork chops from yer pig, wid spuds and greens, wouldn't go bad for a Patrick's-day dinner, I suppose?" asked Gilligan, with a grin.
"Don't mind him, Hughes," said Mulcahy, who was anxious to find out what became of the sow. "Go on wid yer story."
"I'm sorry to hear ye have doubts av my veracity," said Hughes mildly.
"There's no question about the voracity av the sow, and she eatin' scrap iron!" exclaimed Gilligan.
"But all this happened in a mirrakle age, ye must remimber," continued Hughes. "Poor Clancy was soon crazy wid trying to satisfy the hunger av the baste, and so he put a chain around her neck and took her to market to see could he sell her."
"That's the first time I ever heard av pigiron walkin'," interrupted Gilligin.
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 29
"Well, he took her to market," resumed Hughes, "but divil the man or woman would pay a cint for the sow, although she attracted a grate dale av at-tintion, till King Comae's eyes fell upon her. Ye see, the king was tired av eatin strawberries and cream, and playin' checkers wid the leddies av the coort, and so he came to the market to see if he could find a new sinsation, as the man did that wint from beer to whisky. Those av ye who have eddica-shun will remimber that wanst upon a time the Sooltan av Bagdad wint out disguised on the same kind av a trip. Well, King Cornac disguised himself wid a high hat and a pair av galways."
"I'm thinkin' that would be a fine disguise for an Irishman in Tipperary," said the iconoclast.
"As I was sayin'," resumed the story-teller, "King Cornac looked at the sow, wid a tail like a crowbar and teeth like a rake, atin' scrap iron. 'Bad cess to me, but I niver saw the likes av that before!' he says. 'She's both a sinsation and a curiosity. She's a dignacious baste. What's her price?' h£ asks, turnin' to Clancy.
" 'Wan cint a pound,' says Clancy.
"'What does she weigh?'
30 TALES OF THE BOWERY,
" 'Wan ton.'
" Til take her,' says the king. 'What does she ate?'
" 'She's very fond av horseshoes and horseshoe nails, wid an odd stove leg now and ag'in by way av variety,' says Clancy.
"When he saw what a wonderful animal it was," said Hughes, "the king bought her and took her to the royal palace. But he had the divil's own time gettin' food for her. He sint runners to all the blacksmith shops to get horseshoes for her."
"Horseshoes must be nice, soft food, they're so soothin' to the gums, I dunno," said Gilligan, with liis eyes on the ceiling.
"Yis," responded Hughes, "and in two weeks she had eaten all the horseshoes, and the blacksmiths \vere on strike ag'in the sow, and the horses were walkin' around barefooted."
"And all this time I suppose the sow was turnin' shoes and nails into tinder pork chops and tenderloins," said Gilligan.
"Ye're right, Gilligan," said Hughes. "She had a mouth for iron like you have for beer, and the blacksmiths, made crazy by hunger, wint to the
32 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
royal palace, and the walkin' dilegates told the king he must kill the sow or they would kill him."
"Begorra, 'twas a shame to kill such a gentle cra-tur as that!" said Gilligan.
"Will ye quit, Gilligan?" said Mulcahy irritably. "I want to hear what happened to the sow."
"The mornin' of the I7th day av March, 889, was very wet," resumed Hughes. "The rain fell in torrents. 'Twas the day set by the king for the execution av the sow. From all over Ireland came the peofle in jauntin' cars and jingles."
"Did they choke her wid a silk handkercher ?" asked Gilligan.
"No," replied Hughes. '"Twas an aught-to-de-fee, as they say in the Frinch. They tried to kill her wid fire. She was tied to an iron post wid a chain, and kerosene oil was poured over her, and she was covered wid turf and pitch. Whin they lit the pitch she became red hot and then white hot."
"She was roasted in her own grease, I suppose," said Gilligan.
"Faith, she was," Hughes resumed. "Her chains melted in the fire, and she ran down the bank into the river."
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 33
"And was drowned?" anticipated Gilligan.
"No, you ignorant gommoch—to cool herself off! And whin she came out, still smokin', Clancy, who was standin' on the bank, crazy wid rage be-kase she ate up his horseshoes, gave her a kick in the ribs, and she flew into a thousand pieces."
"And may I ask what made her die that aisy?" asked Gilligan, with a sneer.
"Bekase the water took the timper out av her, and made her brittle, you thick-head!"
34 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
THE CUCKOO IN THE BOWERY.
The rail around the bar shone in the gaslight like polished silver. The rosewood bar itself, with its heavy mouldings and its exquisite mechanical finish, would have been regarded by a Prohibitionist as a lamentable instance of art work misplaced. The gleaming mirror, fit for a king's palace, reflected the shining back of the bartender's head, which had been newly barbered, and the faces of two men standing before the bar. One of these faces was seamed with purple rivulets, and in the eyes there was a wolfish glare as they looked upon the tempting array of bottles bearing such suggestive golden mottoes as "Old Rye," "Old Crow," "Kentucky Sour Mash," and others equally alluring. The bartender wore a white apron and an immaculate shirt front, upon which glistened a diamond as large as a baby's little finger-nail. His black mustache was waxed to a painfully acute stiffness. He looked rosy, fresh, and smiling until his eye took in the forlorn figure at
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 35
the bar. Then his face assumed a hard, cynical look as he said:
"Say, Jack, ain't it about your bedtime?" Jack tried to smile, for the cuckoo had just come out of the expensive clock on the shelf and announced the fact that it was only nine o'clock. Besides, Jack's bedtime had no fixed status in the order of time. Jack meant that smile to be cheerful and profitiatory. He intended it to be understood as
evoked by the wit of the bartender. But somehow it didn't convey such a meaning, for he continued:
"It's no use, Jack; you won't get a mouthful o' gin or brandy or beer here to-night. That's the kind of a huckleberry I am, an' that's the kind of a raspberry you are. See!"
"Billy, ole chap, jist a mouthful for the sake of old times! Hey, what d'ye say? You know an' the boss knows that hundreds o' dollars o' my rocks has slid into that till. Come, Billy, jist a little taste. Only a spoonful. The fires of hell is burnin' me up."
There were tears in his voice, but the bartender was obdurate. Then Jack raised his clenched hand toward the ceiling and said:
"May the curse———"
36 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
He was interrupted by the appearance of another man from the end of the room which was in shadow. The man caught Jack's hand in a powerful grip and led him outside the door. Turning to a stranger, who had been an interested spectator of the scene, the barkeeper said:
"Stranger, I suppose you got onto that feller what took Jack out. Do you know what he's a-doin' now ? He's a-takin' Jack 'round to the Y. M. C. A. to get some coffee. Who is he? Why, he's Wilk, what cleans out the spittoons and sweeps up the floor. He polished the rail you're leanin' on, he did. Kin ye find any fly-specks on that mirror? But I'm afraid I'm goin' to lose him. Fact is, stranger, he's in love an' he's got religion. Kind o' funny to have two diseases like them to once, ain't it? Well, Wilk's got 'em both, an' they've struck inside. An' they landed a mighty fine fish when they struck Wilk. for he can sing like a nightingale. Ha, ha, ha! Makes me laugh when T think of it. Ye see, the other night there was a party o' bucks in here, an' they knowed Jack was a corkin' singer, 'cause they'd heard him before.
"They jerked him out in front o' the bar, just
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 37
where you're standin', and said he'd got to sing. 'Well, gentlemen,' said he, 'I'll sing, but maybe you won't like the song.' It didn't make a bit of difference to them, they said, only he must sing. He took a little book out o' his pocket, kind o' hawked to clear his throat, and began to sing. What d'ye s'pose he sung, stranger? 'Twas a little gospel song. So thunderin' pooty it was that I learned the first verse myself.
" 'I will sing of a beautiful city,
Far away in the mansions of light; I will tell how its walls are of jasper, How its streets are all golden and bright.'
"That's all I can remember. But them chaps didn't want any more songs, an' they got kind o' quiet like after that an' went out."
The stranger remarked in a casual and disinterested manner something to the effect that he thought he had heard the bartender speak about love in connection with Wilk.
"You're right, stranger," said the loquacious dispenser of liquids. "I did say Wilk was stuck on a girl, an' that's just what galls me, for I'm kind o'
38 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
gone on the same fairy myself. She lives up the street with an old English widder what likes her glass o' beer afore she turns in at night. Just about the time every night that the cuckoo comes out o' the clock and sings ten times, Mag—that's the short of her name for Margaret—comes 'round to the family entrance with a can in a basket. Lord love you, sir, she wouldn't carry the can in her fist; not she. Mag gets one pint; no more, no less. You'd ought to see her, stranger. She's a little mite, not much bigger'n a pint of cider; but they do say as how the best goods come done up in the smallest parcels. Her eyes is brown, sir; just the color o' beer when you looks at it under the white collar o' foam. I'll bet this here di'mon' pin that you'd fall in love with her yourself if you seen her once. An' her hair! I'll be ham-strung if I don't believe it would reach to her feet if she once took the pins out! An' when she smiles—say, stranger, you've seen rainbows, hain't you? Well, that's what her smile is, a rainbow smile. You know there's smiles an' smiles. Some gals yawp when they grins as if their heads would drof off when their mouth ofens, but Mag ain't none o' that kind. Her cheeks just widen a
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 39
little an' dimples comes in 'em like your mother used to make in a green loaf o' bread with her little finger before she put it in the oven. An' them cheeks o' hers! Why, they're just the color o' Jersey peaches. To tell the truth, stranger, I'm dead stuck on her myself. Now, I asks you, if it's a fair question, what right Wilk, who's only a supe round here, has got to git mashed on a girl like that?
"Look here, he ain't got nothin'! Then look at me. Now, I'm a darn sight better lookin' than Wilk, ain't I, stranger? I'll leave it to you, honest! You seen him an' you seen me. If I ain't got more style in my little finger than Wilk's got in his whole body, I'll eat my shirt, buttons and all."
The long finger of the clock had been slowly swinging around the circle, and it was near the time for the cuckoo to come out and sing 10. The jangle of the elevated road came in at the latticed door. An ambulance went by ringing its alarm. There was a quick step on the sidewalk, the door flew ofen, and in came Wilk, reeking with perspiration. The bartender grinned and whispered, while his hand described a circle over the left side of his mouth.
40 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
"It's about time for the fairy to come. See him look at the clock. He thinks he's late."
Wilk took a seat near the family entrance. Taking a little book from his pocket he looked at the pages with an abstracted gaze, for his attention was really given up to listening.
"D'ye know what he's a readin' now? No? Why, that's the new part of the Bible. Hush! Look at him now."
The bartender held up his hand in a warning gesture. Wilk had put the book in his pocket and was leaning over. His eyes shone, and his lips were parted. There was a lull in the noises in the street, and the two men, by straining their sense of hearing, became aware that the door of the family entrance had ofened. The cuckoo came out of the clock and made its usual hourly announcement. Wilk's face was flushed and he stepped quickly to the little compartment which now contained the object of his heart's desire. A low ripple of laughter floated into the barroom.
"Hear that?" said the bartender. "He's giving her some of his guff!"
Then followed an interval of whispering, and the
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 41
door leading into the barroom ofened and Wilk came out. He carried in his hand a neat little basket. This he set carefully upon the floor, lifted the cover and removed a shining one-quart tin pail. Walking to the brazen spigot projecting from the beer keg in the ice-box, he drew the pail full of a brown liquid capped with foam. Then he returned the pail to the basket and closed the lid. After the door had closed behind him there was more whispering, but the only words which the two men could distinguish were, "Oh, ain't you awful!" in a woman's voice. The outer door closed and the bartender said:
''He's gone home with her."
Ten minutes elapsed, during which time the bartender seemed moody and busied himself rearranging the already orderly bottles. Then Wilk returned. He walked straight to the bar. The passion and yearning and ardor of a soul aflame was about him. It shone in his eyes. It glorified the face marked with lines of dissipation. Holding his hand across the rosewood counter which he had polished so often, Wilk said:
"Good-by, Jim, old man; I'm goin' to leave you.
42 TALES of THE BOWERY.
The Young Men's Christian Association folks has got a job for me down on West Street, watchin' nights, an' I'm goin' to get $12 a week. I've got a hundred o' them green slips o' paper with Uncle Sam's name on 'em in the bank, an'——"
"Glad to hear it, old chap. Hofe you'll come to see me once in a while."
Wilk flushed and ran his eye over the familiar bottles. Then he stammered out:
"J-J-Jirn, I won't be able t-t-to come very often."
"Why not? You'll have all your days to yourself."
"Well, the fact is—the facts, Jim, is—that—that Mag and me is goin' to git hitched next Sunday, an' I'll have to stay with her most of the time when I ain't workin'."
The bartender bent his head and busied himself under the bar. When he raised his head his face was pale, and he winked his eyes suspiciously. This he explained by saying there was a Bermuda onion behind the bar. Just as the cuckoo came out with a soft cooing to the effect that another sixty minutes had gone by, three men touched glasses in a parting drink, and Wilk took ginger ale.
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 43
AN ITALIAN FUNERAL.
Angelo Fales first made his appearance in Park Street about seven months ago. He was not so strong as Italian children usually are, but by careful nursing he lived to be five months old. Angelo got along nicely until the cold winds of October came. Then he caught a cold, and in one week was dead. Angelo's death occurred at 8 o'clock in the evening, on the second floor of No. 94 Park Street, over a lager beer saloon. The mother of the child drew the kitchen table to the middle of the room and spread over it a sheet taken from the tof bureau drawer in the corner. Over the sheet she placed a wide piece of cheap lace, which at some time had evidently done duty as a window curtain. The lace-work reached down to the floor. Upon the lace was laid a pillow lengthwise of the table. Another pillow was laid at right angles with the first at the head of the table. Each pillow was trimmed with cheap lace. When the lonely bier was all ready, the mother, with reverent hands, lifted the child upon
44 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
the- pillows. The little cheap shoes, badly worn at the toes and heels, were then removed, and white slippers were put upon the baby's feet. The useless shoes were placed in the tof bureau drawer bedewed with tears.
By this time the news had spread, and the neighbors began to come in. These began to decorate the room in a manner usual among the Neapolitans. A bedsheet was tacked upon the ceiling. Then three more sheets were hung from the ceiling in such a manner as to inclose the dead child on three sides, By this time the father of the infant had returned from a millinery store in Division Street with some artificial flowers and mortuary ornaments. One of these consisted of a bouquet of white flowers mingled with red and green blossoms of a most vivid hue. Upon the bouquet was perched a white dove with outspread wings. This was placed upon the baby's breast. A chaplet of artificial flowers was placed over the brow of the dead baby. Bright-colored handkerchiefs were hung upon the sheets. The whole scene was picturesque and striking. The infant's face wore a peaceful expression, as if he had fallen asleep.
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 45
As the night wore on the watchers drofped asleep in their chairs. But the mother, who sat near the head of the baby, rocked to and fro, and at intervals called to the infant in Italian to return to her. It is the custom among the poorer classes of Italians for the mother not to eat anything until after the funeral is over. Sometimes the mothers go without food for three days. In the morning a male Italian learned of the child's death. He also learned from the family that an undertaker was needed. He turned across the street to the shof of Charles Bace-galupo, and informed the undertaker that his services were required. By so doing he secured ten per cent, of the money derived from the funeral expenses. The undertaker placed a bow knot and streamers of white crape upon the outer door of the tenement. Over this he hung a silver cord, indicating that the silver chord of life was broken, as spoken in the book of Ecclesiastes, He also placed a brazen sconce, in which seven candles were burning, at the head of the table upon which the baby lay, together with a figure of Christ upon the cross. The undertaker also hired four coaches to convey the mourners to Calvary Cemetery, paying $4.50 apiece
46 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
for them. These were sublet to the mourners at the rate of $1.25 a head.
The father of the dead baby thought a brass band was necessary in order to make the funeral complete. The band was secured at its headquarters in a lager beer saloon in Mulberry Street. Fifteen pieces were hired at $2 per man. The itinerary of the band included a walk around the block, and thence to James Slip, a distance of about one mile.
At 10 o'clock the coffin was carried under the undertaker's arm across the street to the room where the body lay. It was about three feet long, and was made of cheap white wood covered with papier-mache. At intervals upon the sides and tof of the coffin were little decorations evidently cut with a die oat of block tin. These were made to represent Roman urns, with a lion asleep upon the tof. While the undertaker was putting the baby in the coffin the band came straggling up the street.
The men wore no uniforms. They went into the saloon under the room where lay the baby. A white hearse, made to carry babies, also came to the door, followed by the four coaches. The band came out of the saloon, and each man blew a few preliminary
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 47
toots upon his instrument. Then a swarthy Italian came down the stairs with the little coffin in his arms. He was followed by a bareheaded woman carrying the bouquets and the dove. These were placed on tof of the coffin as it lay in the hearse. The band ranged itself in irregular fashion in the middle of the street. It struck up a spirited Strauss waltz, and the procession started. The only one who showed any symptoms of grief was the mother of the baby. At the first sound of the music children began to gather from every direction. Every window was filled with heads. The crowd filled the sidewalks and literally crowded the mourners. There was a halt at the corner of Baxter Street by the band to permit the coaches to catch up.
When the procession started again fifty children, from five to ten years old, marched ahead, keeping time to the music, which was of the most jubilant kind. Among these children were two little girls about eight years old. Each carried over her shoulder an infant about as old as the baby in the hearse. The living babies were as rosy as red apples. They looked with wondering eyes at the brass band spilling music all over the muddy street. Both of the
48 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
girls who carried the babies were barefooted and bareheaded. The visible flesh was browned from constant exposure to the sun. By the time the cortege had gone a distance of three hundred yards from the starting point, the sidewalks of Baxter street had become impassable on account of the crowd. The procession went around the block bounded by Park, Baxter, Mulberry, and Bayard Streets. All the time the advance guard of little children tramped along just in front of the musicians, the two caretakers staggering along almost under the nose of the cornet player.
The narrow escapes of these children from being crushed under the hoofs of truck horses and vegetable wagon wheels which filled the streets were alarmingly frequent. Meanwhile, one of the babies had fallen asleep in its juvenile guardian's arms. Not even the blare of the big bass horn could keep it awake. The baby wobbled about in its sister's arms like a small sack of meal. She shifted it from shoulder to shoulder to obtain rest for her aching arms, for by this time the baby had become very heavy. The procession emerged from Baxter street into the Bowery. It did not evidently occur to the children
TALES of THE BOWERY. 49
that they were straying far away from home. The child who carried the sleeping baby was perspiring freely when the cortege entered Roosevelt street. Her feet slipped on the cobblestones, and several times on the journey down the street she was jostled by clumsy boys into the gutter. With a frightened glance over her shoulder she resumed her journey. She was satisfied to endure any contumely so long as she was near to the blissful music which filled her palpitating heart with delight.
There were groups of little girls in the ragged advance guard who held tightly to each other's hands. All were bareheaded, and bore that mature womanly appearance peculiar to Italian children. They clustered together like frightened partridges whenever a truck horse came near. Several times the little girl with the sleeping baby tried to keep step with the music, but her burden was too great for any such rhythmic gayety.
It was eleven o'clock when the ragged and unkempt advance guard, the blaring band, and the shining coaches emerged into South Street. The band now stofped playing. The hearse and coaches were driven on board the ferryboat. The cheer-
50 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
ing influence of the music being gone, the sleeping child weighed like lead on the arms of her sister. She looked around at the buildings and realized that she was lost. Then she began to cry. The band dispersed and each man went home by a different route. The advance guard vanished like the morning mist. The two children were left alone. The baby slept as peacefully as if it had been in its cradle at home.
While standing in the middle of the street the mingled tears and perspiration ran down the little mother's face, and her feeble knees bent under her heavy burden like those of a baby learning to walk. Her home was half a mile away, and she did not know how to reach it. Down Roosevelt Street a brawny Italian came running, her loosened hair flying out behind her. She looked wildly here and there, and at last caught sight of the disconsolate child crying in the square near the ferry. One minute later the baby lay securely in the haven of its mother's arms, and the tired child was hanging to her mother's skirt with the grip of a drowning man.
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 61
when Mrs. Katherine Dorsey, of Middle Alley, walked up to the bar her left eye was decorated in marine blue, fading into Nile green.
"What's the matter with you?" asked the Justice.
Kate did not reply for a minute. She carefully unrolled a piece of dirty paper and displayed a large fist full of blonde hair. Looking at the justice in an impressive manner, she turned her head so that a small barren patch on her skull about north by northeast of her right ear was exposed.
"She did that!" exclaimed Kate in a vitriol tone, pointing to Mrs. Mary O'Shaughnessy, whose face looked as if it had been sandpapered. "I went down to her house to get the pair of slippers her little boy stole from me and pawned, Yeranner, and her husband took me by the hair, and that's what he plucked out by the roots. Me beauty's spoiled entirely, judge. You know, and I know, and Judge McMa-hon knows that hair'll never grow on that bare spot again, not if I used bear's oil or vassaline, or lard, Yeranner, and be the holy powers, I want me rights;
52 TALES of THE BOWERY.
that's what I want, and I'll have them if there's law in the land! There's the evidince right before ye, judge. If that ain't larceny from the person, I'll ate me head, so I will."
Here the winsome Kate ran out of breath, and she was shoved aside by Mrs. O'Shaughnessy, who took from the bosom of her dress two pieces of cotton saturated with a red fluid.
"That's the blood of Cock-Eyed Welch, Yer-anner," she said, placing the exhibits in evidence. "That woman has two husbands. Wan o' them she married twelve years ago, and the other is her suspected husband. She's all the time scrappin', and the red on thim rags is Cock-Eyed Welch's blood, which she spilt out his veins, bad scran to her, for he's in nade of all the blood he had this cold weather! Oh, but she's the sthrap; she's the dog's 1'av-in's ; she's the onnatural woman !"
Justice Simms did not see any humor in this tirade. He did not seem to appreciate the delicate irony and sarcasm of Mary's remarks. And so he discharged the case. They collided again at th€ door, but were rudely shoved out into the cola by the hard-hearted policeman.
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 53
THROUGH LEADEN HAIL.
mrs. williams was leaning over the washtub when the postman came. She dried her hands on her apron and took the postal card from his hand. The message was brief but eloquent. It read:
"dear mother.—I have enlisted in the Seventy-
First Regiment. I was ashamed to look you in the
face because I am such an utter failure. I will send
you all my wages. We have already started for
the front. Good-by, roger williams."
The postal card fluttered to the floor. The daylight seemed to fade into a gray mist before the eyes of the stricken mother. She sat, white-lipped and tearless, gazing at the wall, but seeing nothing. Her little boy Roger gone to the war to be killed! It was incredible. Why, it seemed only yesterday that he was playing on the floor at her feet, his childish chatter an inspiration, his laugh a symphony. Oh, how could he leave her ? Vaguely, wondering-ly, she looked at her hands. Those callouses on her
54 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
palms! Those large, ugly knuckles! The washtub had left its ineffaceable impression that Roger might wear creased trousers and patent leather shoes.
He was not a bad boy, she mused; only careless, indifferent, and selfish through thoughtlessness. He might have been different if she had forced him to learn a trade. He was her only son, the image of his father. Her sin lay in loving him with much zeal, but little knowledge. There on the mantel stood the bottle of ammonia with which she had cleaned his trousers only the day before. Who would clean his trousers now ? she wondered. And when the buttons came off his clothing who would sew them on ? She had noticed for some time past that Roger was uneasy. The instincts of manhood were striving within him. He had tried to secure a situation, but had failed for want of an education in a specific line. Then he had become moody and despondent. She had detected the odor of alcohol on his breath and had reproved him gently, she thought. Perhaps she had been unkind. She had not meant to be. God, the all-merciful, only knew the sacrifices she had made for her boy's comfort. A tear ran down her face into her mouth. It tasted
56 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
bitter like aloes. She slid inert, like a bag of meal, to the floor. Burying her face in her hands, she tried to pray. Brokenly, incoherently, but aglow with the sanctity of maternal love, her prayer flew upward full of sighs and heavy with the weight of her despair. The fire went out. The water in the washtub grew cold. It was nine o'clock in the morning when she knelt to pray. When she arose, wan-eyed and trembling, night had come.
For a month the newsboys in Rivington Street spoke of Mrs. Williams as "great graft." She bought all the papers they brought her. Late into the night she sat up reading every line relating to the war. Each line about the Seventy-First Regiment she read over and over again. Twice she received cheery letters from Roger, the last one containing a money order for his first month's pay. He apologized for keeping $2, and went into a pitiful explanation of the things he had bought with the money, the account including needles and thread with which to sew on his buttons. It was the first money he had ever earned, and his mother knew
TALES of THE BOWERY. 57
the supreme satisfaction which it afforded him to send it to her. She did not send it back, being aware that its return would pain him.
It was not until the regiment left Tampa for Santiago that the idea of joining her boy in Cuba came to her. But when the idea had found a lodgment in her brain it never left her. Day and night she brooded over it. Once her hofes were raised high by the thought that she might become a Red Cross nurse, only to be crushed when she learned that experienced nurses only were accepted. For several days she was depressed. Then it occurred to her that she might disguise herself as a man and attain some menial employment on one of the vessels, which would enable her to reach her son. Early the next morning she went to a costumer's shof on the Bowery. By the payment of $3 she was instructed in all the arts necessary to transform herself into a man.
That night she laughed for the first time since Roger had left her. She was standing before a mirror in her rooms, clothed in a cast-off suit of her boy's. Upon her head was perched a slouch hat well drawn down over her eyes. Her hands and
58 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
face were stained a brown color from a preparation which the costumer had given her. She had cut off her hair close up to the roots. She laid the long black tresses carefully away in the bureau drawer. Parading up and down before the mirror, a little of her native coquetry awoke, and she laughed softly as she thought :
"He'll never know me!"
When she stepped out upon the sidewalk on the following morning, carrying a large hand bag, she glanced nervously up and down the street, expecting to be recognized. But no one paid her any attention, and in a little while her fears passed away, and she felt secure in her disguise.
It was the evening before the assault on the earthworks at Santiago. The triopical night air was heavy with miasmatic dew, and the heavens gleamed with a million jewel stars. Plodding wearily along over a narrow wagon road, famished with hunger and reeling with weakness, was Mrs. Williams, still wearing her disguise. The terrors of that night recurred to her afterward as a nightmare. The rain had filled the narrow road with water, in which she
TALES of THE BOWERY. 59
sank up to her knees only -to flounder out into a sandy loam where every step was a torture. Frightened almost into a fainting condition by enormous land crabs, whose rapid movements in the grass sounded in her affrighted ears like the rattle of musketry, she at last fell in the underbrush utterly exhausted.
Then came the daybreak over the hills, the sun throwing out his lances of gold as if to guide her faltering footsteps. New vigor was infused into her failing heart by the sound of a bugle over the ridge in front of her. Her heart leaped in her bosom as she heard the neighing of a horse. At last her search was over. She would soon be in the arms of her boy. She was near the camp. A faint hurrah, mellowed by the distance, reached her ears. This was followed by the boom of artillery, and the earth trembled. The sharp "zip" of a bullet caused her to look up as a small tree branch fell at her feet. Still she pressed on until as she mounted an elevation the whole panorama of war burst upon her sight. In the distance she could see the roofs of the houses in Santiago. Between were rifle pits vomiting flame. On her right she heard a cheer, and out
60 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
of the grass there sprang a legion of men, who charged up a long, green slope.
"What regiment is that ?" she asked, passing forward, of a soldier who lay in the grass with a broken leg.
"The Seventy-First," he replied. "They're charging San Juan. You fool, lie down! Do you want a hole through your head ?"
She did not wait to hear the warning, but ran toward the slope. Her only fear was that she might be too late to save her boy. She did not know how she could serve him even if in all that ruck she could find him. Still forward she went. Now she was among the soldiers charging up the slope. She felt none pf the thrill of battle which inspired her comrades ; but, eager-eyed, expectant, she watched for j the one face in which lay for her the sum of human • hofe and happiness. Men fell all around her. She bent over to look at their faces, and passed on. At last she found him near the crest of the hill, lying on his face in the grass. She did not recognize him until she had turned him over upon his back. There was a crimson spot upon his shirt front. She rippe'i ofen the shirt and found a bullet hole in his right
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 61
breast. She was strangely calm. Taking his sunny head in her lap, unmindful of the rain of lead all about her, she whispered:
"Roger, my boy, ofen your eyes! It's your mother! Don't you know me?"
But the shock of the bullet, the heat and excitement, had made Roger partially unconscious. He moaned feebly, and muttered:
The heat was frightful. It beat down upon the battlefield like the stroke of a flail upon a barn floor. Mrs. Williams looked around helplessly. Seeing no succor in sight, she took her boy in her strong arms, and partly dragged, partly carried him down the long hill, the target for a hundred bullets. By a miracle she escaped injury. The surgeon examined Roger's wound as he lay in the improvised hospital, but shook his head when Mrs. Williams looked at him inquiringly. The bullet had traversed the lung, he said, and he could hold out no hofe. Meanwhile Roger was delirious. He babbled in his unconsciousness about childish things, and sang snatches of songs about how mother kissed him in his dreams. Then followed twenty-four hours of
63 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
fever, during which his mother never left his side. There was no luxury procurable which Mrs. Williams did not get for her boy, but he could not eat. But to the surprise of the surgeons Roger began to get stronger, and on the fourth day he ofened his eyes a sane man. His mother had preserved her disguise all through this trying season. Reason had returned to Roger in the afternoon of an unsuf-ferably hot day. His mother, exhausted by her long vigil, had fallen asleep sitting on a stool by the side of his cot. Her head was buried in the coarse pillow so that he could not see her face, but the back of her waistcoat was exposed, showing a peculiar patch which he remembered to have seen before. Then he fell asleep, and when he awoke it was night. In the gloom of the tent he noticed the form of a man sitting by his bedside.
"Old chap," he murmured, "are you one of the nurses?"
"Yes," was the husky reply.
"Ah!" said Roger, peering through the gloom of the tent. "It seems to me I have heard your voice before. But never mind; I want you to do me a favor. I may never get away from here alive. If
TALES of THE BOWERY, 63
I should die I wish you would write to Mrs. Roger Williams, 242 Rivington Street, New York. I was never of much use to her, and I ran away from her to come here. Break the news to her gently, because she was very fond of me."
Here a tear fell on his hand. Roger thought there was a leak in the roof. He resumed:
"Tell her I wanted to be a man among men, and——"
A hospital attendant came into the tent with a lantern in his hand. Its rays fell across the face bending above the cot. Roger, glancing upward, saw a pallid face, worn and wasted with night vigils, from which the cofious tears of joy had washed the costumer's coloring. He felt the tender caress of familiar calloused fingers in his tousled brown curls, and heard the gentle voice of his mother say:
"Hush, hush, my child! The surgeon says you will get well."
When Roger fell asleep half an hour later his lashes were wet with the tears of a joyous reunion, while there rested upon his mother's face that look of serenity which only those who have come up out of deep tribulation can ever wear.
TALES of THE BOWERY. 65
"Faith, I've been tryin' to tell you aisy-like for tin minutes. She became famous for makin' a bonfire of a pocketful of love letters, and bein' carried upstairs wan night to the fourth floor of a tiniment house by an Irishman, all by way of a joke."
"Who was the Irishman?"
"His name was Jack Gassin; a fine lump of a lad from County Clare."
"Didn't he tind bar-r over in Fourteenth street?"
"The very man. Ye see, Jack met Saffo at the reception of the Soup Greens in Walhalla Hall. 'Twas one o' them shadder dances where they threw a calchum light on the grand mar-rch from the gallery."
"Was it a maskerade?"
"'Twas that, and a great wan at that. Well, Saffo was the queen o' the ball. She was dressed like a flower-gur-rl, wid red roses in her hair and a big bokay in her fisht, and she won the pair o' prize 0. K. corsets on account of her shape."
"And Jack got stuck on her, I suppose?"
"of coorse he did. All the lads were crazy about her. Jack was dressed like a Turk. He wore big, baggy pants, and he carried wan o' thim murther-
66 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
in' swoords that curve like the hoofs of a barrel."
"How did Jack get acquainted wid her?"
"Oh, that was aisy enough. She made him a prisoner wid wan wink of her wicked eye."
"Oh, I see," interrupted Madden. "She gev him wan wink like Cleofatra gev Sar-din-a-polis, and he was gone."
"Will you hold yer whist, Madden ? She put the comether on him wid a single glance. And when she went by him in the march she stuck the bokay in his face, and said: 'Ah, there! stay there!' "
"He had no more chance thin than a heritic would have at Heavin's gate," said Madden, with a mournful shake of the head.
"Thrue for you. Jack didn't stay there, as she told him to, but he followed her around until she promised to dance wan o' thim Frinch dances—a soovranna, I think they call it."
"If he was caught before, I suppose he was cruci-j fied after that," said Madden. "Thim Frinch dances does play the divvil wid a man's resolutions and his prayers."
"They danced polkas and round dances till they was tired, and afther they wint to the ladies' parlor
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 67
and drank beer, and danced more, and had more beer, till Saffo was tired and said she must go home bekase her mother would be sittin' up for her."
"What time was this?"
"About half-past wan. They stopped over on the Bowery and had some oyster stew and more beer, and when they wint out on the sidewalk they were feelin' very good-natured."
"And singin' 'How Can I Bear to L'ave Thee,'" I suppose. 'Tis a great song afther a ball."
"Yis. They took the Third avenya cable up to Eighty-Seventh Sthreet, and Saffo went to sleep in the corner o' the car. Whin they got out o' the car they had a beer or two at Fogarty's, and by the time they got to Saffo's house the sidewalk wasn't wide enough for thim."
"They didn't care for man nor divvil," said Madden.
"No, but whin they got in the hallway Jack axed her would she give him a kiss."
"And what did she say?" asked Madden in a whisper, while the clock stopped ticking to listen.
"She said she would give him jist wan if he'd carry her upstairs."
68 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
"How many flights?" asked Madden.
"Faith, kisses come very high in Har-rlem! I wouldn't pay that price."
"What! Not wid a red-headed woman ? You're crazy, man! You wouldn't now bekase you're fifty and have rheumatiz, but whin you were twenty-wan you'd carry a woman to the top o' the Ifel Tower and be glad o' the job, kiss or no kiss."
"Well, mebbe I would, Rafferty. She wouldn't put a callous on yer shoulder like a hod o' mortar, anyway. Did Jack take the job?"
"of course he did. Was there iver an Irishman that failed whin a woman dared him? Besides, he was the captain of the Kickem football team, and his honor was at stake, as they say in the classics."
"I see, I see. He had to do it whether he would or no."
"Yis; Jack took her on his back and star-rted up."
"On his back, did you say? Begorra! a man could carry that kind of a load in that way up a kofje—as they say in the Dootch."
"Twas aisy goin' up to the first landin'," Rafferty
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 69
continued. "Her arrums were around his neck, and her soft cheek agin the back of his neck, and——"
"Dear, dear! Look at that now!"
"———they laughed 'til they woke up the janitor. But 'twas a big chunk Jack bit off, an' 'twas har-rd chewin', as he found out before he got to the tof o' the four flights. You must know, Madden, that a man's heart beats siven times as fasht when he's goin' upstairs as it do when he's walkin' on the sidewalk. And when ye have a fine lump of a lass, purty well loaded wid beer and oysters, on yer back, your heart beats fourteen times as fasht."
"I know, I know; but a man don't mind little things like that whin a colleen has her arrums around his neck."
"They were laughin' whin they got on the first landin'," continued Rafferty, "but whin they got half way up to the second Jack began to puff like a hard-workin' tug. Saffo had Bowery dimons in her ears that only tickled him goin' up the first flight; but now they were cuttin' holes in his neck."
"It's good they'll cut something. Sure, they won't cut glass," interrupted Madden. • "I wish you'd sthop your malvatherin', Madden,"
70 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
said Rafferty, angrily. "I'll niver get them up the stairs if you don't quit."
"Arrah, don't mind an ould fool like me," said Madden, soothingly. "You were sayin' they 'wakened the janitor."
"I did," replied Rafferty. "Hearin' the laughin' he kem runnin' up afther them, axin' why they were wakin' dacent people in the middle o' the night. That gave Jack a good chance to take a breath o' wind. So, leanin' over the bannisters, he roared out, as well as he could: 'Go back in yer hole, ye ould ash-handler, ye!' By this time ivery man, woman, and child in the house was awake, and doors were openin' on ivery landin'."
"A sort of nightgown parade," said Madden.
"You're right, Madden. When Jack got up to the third landin', who should come out in the hall but Mrs. Maloney, wid a lamp in her hand. Seein' a woman on the back of a bloody Turk, wid a big swoord danglin' by his side, she let a yell out of her that 'ud wake the dead. 'Glory be!' says she; "tis a murtherer wid a corp on his back!' Take that, thin, from the corp,' says Saffo, and wid that she hit the
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 71
lamp wid her slipper and knocked the chimbly to smithereens."
"Served her right," said Madden. "No man wants a light whin he's tryin' to earn a kiss."
"Hearin" the jinglin' o' the glass, the janitor yelled 'Fire!' and the man on the first floor ran down the street and turned on the fire alarm at the corner."
"But where was Saffo all the time?" asked Madden.
"On the back o' Jack, laughin' till she near fell down the stairs, and Jack gaspin' like a dyin' codfish. 'Oh, Jack!' says Saffo, 'this is more fun nor ridin' on the merry-go-round at Coney Island.
" 'Will ye hold yersel' quiet, gur-rl, ye baggage, ye,' said Jack, clutchin' at the bannisters. 'Ye have me back near broke wid yer rigglin' and twistin'."
"A woman is a sore burden on a man's back," said Madden, sympathetically.
"Whin Jack climbed the lasht o' the stairs," said Rafferty, "and got to the top, Saffo hopped off his back like a bird off a twig, and ran in the door, sayin', 'Ta, ta, Jack,' and locked it behind her. Jack losht his feet and went rowlin' down the top flight, and before he could get his breath the janitor threw
72 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
him down the next flight. By this time the firemen had him, and they were that angry bekase it was a false alarm that they flung him out in the street, where the coppers grabbed him and locked him up for wearin' maskeradin' clothes in the street. And Jack was sayin' to me the other day that whin he gits married he's goin' to tell the story to his little boy whin he's twenty-one years old, as a warnin' about red-headed Frinch wimmin!"
"That may all be true, Rafferty," exclaimed Madden, "but I'm like a great manny other min I could mintion. I wouldn't mind havin' just wan kiss from that kind of a woman, as a sort of a sample, to see how it tastes."
• TALES OF THE BOWERY. 73
the tremolo stop.
the old man's smile was the sunniest in Naples. It began with a merry twinkle in his eyes, and ran down his cheeks in gentle ripples, softening the wrinkles, and irradiating his swart face as apple blossoms light up an orchard. This smile was the outward expression of a cheery philosofhy born of varied fortunes. In his youth the old man had sung in the chorus of an ofera company, and he looked back through the forty intervening years with pleasure to the night when he had been permitted to sing a solo. But disease had injured the delicate music-box in his throat, and his hofes of becoming a famous tenor were crushed. Then he enlisted and fought with Garibaldi and left a leg on the battlefield.
On his sixtieth birthday he stood in the shade of an ilex tree in the city of Naples, the possessor of a long gray beard, a wooden leg, and a barrel organ. The organ was a beautiful instrument, rich in tone, and ornamented with gilding. When the old
74 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
man pulled aside the red silken curtain which hung on a brass rod in front of the organ, he displayed to the delighted eyes of children a number of quaint little wooden figures, which danced and curtsied with the grace of courtiers. When he turned the handle of the organ out came the misery song from "La Trovatore," followed by the jocund hilarity of "Rory O'More," the plaintive sweetness of "Annie Laurie," the inspiriting strains of the "Watch on the Rhine," the warlike measures of "Rule Britannia," and last, that most cosmofolitan of airs, "Home, Sweet Home." But the wonderful thing about the organ was the tremolo stof, which was a mechanical contrivance of the old man's invention. It was used only in connection with the song of home, and when he touched this stof it imparted a tremulous, wavering movement to the music. The old man found the tremolo stof to be very profitable, because it made travelers feel homesick, and so the home song brought him more pennies than all the other tunes in his organ. But as the summer wore away and the travelers became few in Naples, the sunlight in his smile faded and left an anxious look in the old man's face. For he had been carefully saving his
TALES of THE BOWERY 75
pennies toward ofening a cafe. He reasoned that it would be easy to dish out macaroni when he could no longer carry around a heavy organ. One day two friends of his youth, who had just returned from America with what in his estimation were snug fortunes, met him. These friends were bootblacks. They were attracted by the tremolo stof, and knowing that Americans were always in search of a novelty, they advised the old man to go to America, and assured him that he could return within a year with enough money to ofen a cafe.
The old man listened eagerly to the advice of his friends, but he hesitated about leaving his native land; besides, he was growing old, and all he desired was rest and comfort. But there was no prospect of realizing his hofes in Italy, and so, after counting his money carefully, and finding that he had a little more than enough to pay for his passage, he resolved to go to America. As he stood on the deck of the vessel, steaming across the moonlit bay, it seemed to the old man's fancy that the column of smoke rising from his loved Vesuvius waved him a farewell. When he landed at Castle Garden he was a little disappointed that his service with
76 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
Garibaldi did not bring him a patriot's welcome among his countrymen. His success with his organ, however, was even greater than he had been led to expect. The native dignity of the old man, his infectious smile—into which as his fortunes rose the sunlight had returned—and the tremolo stof, attracted attention, and the pennies came to him as easily as oats run out of a bin. The aptness with which the puppet who held out the little brass plate discriminated between pennies and pieces of coal was marvellous to the children, and their trials of its working were profitable to the old man. He frequented Mulberry Street because there were so many children there. Once a tall, handsome man put a big silver dollar on the plate of the mannikin, who was so surprised at the magnitude of the gift that he could neither reject nor dump it into the box. The old man hoarded his money with jealous care, looking forward to the time when he could return to his sunny land.
But the autumn passed away, and the weather grew cold. The children were kept indoors now; although he could see their noses flattened against the window panes, he missed their pennies. To buy
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 77
coal and wood he had to spend the money he had laid away. Besides, the gilding upon the organ had become tarnished, the red silken curtain was faded and torn, the funny little figures refused to dance and curtsey with their old time ease, and the tremolo stof failed to impart melancholy sweetness to the home song. On bitter days the cold wind stole through his thin clothing, and his teeth chattered. Rough policemen hustled him from the sidewalk, the boys threw snowballs at him, he lost his pennies in the snow, and the bleak winter wind froze his cheery smile into a look of despair. When he climbed the six flights of stairs leading to his room at the tof of a big tenement the cisterns of his heart began to leak as he saw the vision of his cherished cafe fading away. One morning he could not get out of bed. Hunger, and fever, and disappointment had made him delirious. The kindly rays of the sun came in the window and did what they could to cheer him, but the grim fellow was buffeting him, and fever was drinking his blood. He raved in the night about his youth and the solo he had sung at the ofera. He saw in his delirium the flaring campfires of his early days, and raised his feeble
78 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
hands to catch the gleaming dark lanterns of the fireflies which seemed dancing over his bed. On the evening of the third day the grim fellow relaxed his clutch about the old man's throat; he breathed easier and awoke out of his delirium. Reaching his hand out from under the bedclothes, with trembling fingers he seized the handle of the organ. As he turned it there faltered out, broken and disjointed:
"Ah, I have sighed to rest me, Deep in the quiet grave——"
Then the rollicking revelry of "Rory O'More" seemed to peofle the room with Irish lovers. His desire to reach the song of home quickened his waning strength as he conjured up the footfa's of "Annie Laurie." Again he heard the blare of trumpets and the rattle of drums as he feebly ground out the " Watch on the Rhine " and " Rule Britannia." When he reached the home song his strength was almost gone. The plaintive tremor which had been lent to the tune in olden days by the tremolo stof was now imparted by his shaking hand. Slowly and feebly the song came out, but a shadow of its former self—like the emaciated player—fluttered in failing
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 79
cadences through pleasures and palaces, and stopped. The old man had gone to the sunny land.
The next morning the coroner came. Loosening the death clasp, he turned the handle of the organ, and the end of the song came out into the room—
"—no place like home."
80 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
THE ORIGIN OF MAN.
"I see by the papers, Madden," said Rafferty to the bartender, "that Professor Haeckel, the great Dootchman, has proved that the Garden of Eden story is all nonsense, and that the first man was a tadpole, and not Adam at all."
"Arrah, man, what talk have you ?" said Madden in disgust.
"Well, 'tis no use of your losin' your temper, Mike," responded Rafferty. "I can prove it to you by the words of Professor Haeckel himself."
Here Rafferty adjusted his spectacles and read the following extract from the German scientist's paper, read before the Cambridge School of Zoology recently:
"The monofhyletic origin of all mammalia—that is to say, their origin from one common parent form, from monotremata upward to man—is no longer a vague hypothesis, but an established fact. All the living and extinct mammalia which we know are de-
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 81
scended from a single common ancestral form, which lived in the Triassic or Permian period, and this form must be derived from some Permian, or perhaps carboniferous, reptile allied to the Progno-sauria and Theriodontia, which was derived from a carboniferous amphibian of the group Stegocephala. These amphibians in turn descend from Devonian fishes, and these again from lower vertebrates."
"That sounds all very well, Rafferty," said Madden, "but you'll never make me believe that the first man was a prognosaurus, nor a tadpole, or lower vegetable, bekase 'tis not true in rayson."
"Well, I don't care to argufy the case with you, Madden; 'tis all a question of anthrofogy, anny-way."
"There's no 'progeny about it, Rafferty," continued the bartender in a rage. "It's nothin' but history in a book, and I can prove it to you."
"How can you prove it?" asked Rafferty, ironically.
"Well, 'tis a long story," said Madden. "You must know that manny years ago, before I came to America, that I lived in a little village in the County of Kerry called Lack-a-Beg, which is the Irish for
82 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
a sterile place. There was the ruins of an ould castle in the village, and wan day, when a gossoon was pokin' in the ruins lookin' for ould iron, he found a tin box with a bundle o' papers in it. He sold the papers to the village schoolmaster, who was a learned man like yourself, Rafferty, for a shillin', and the schoolmaster found 'twas a great discovery he had made—all about how the first man and the first woman were made, and all written out fair and free in the ould Irish language."
"Faith, 'tis quare I never heerd about thim papers, and I am an archolologist," said Rafferty. "Were they ever placed in the arkives of Aristotle or Sardonofolus ? I dunno."
"It's meself cannot tell you that, Rafferty," continued Madden. "But the writin' was all about how St. Patrick was walking around in the Garden of Paradise one day smokin' his pipe and lookin' for di-vershun, when he came to the big wall and looked over. And what should he see whirlin' along like a big balloon but the earth.
" 'What ho!' says he to St. Peter at the gate. 'What's that I see below?'
" 'Oh/ says St. Peter, aisy like, 'that's a taste o'
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sod I'm afther throwin' at a dirty heretic that tried to climb over the wall.'
" 'It must be a fair-sized sod, Peter,' said St. Patrick.
" 'Only a trifle, your reverence,' said Peter. 'A matter of about 8,000 miles thick. Don't mind it, agra.'
" 'Well, I don't mind, Peter, my boy; but plaze be a little careful how you throw anny more sods around, bekase I'm afeerd they might interfere with my planetary system. But L think I'll take a look at that lump o' dirt,' says he. So he saddles Al Borak. the milk-white mare of incredible swiftness that was given to him by the Profhet Mohamet. The mare was a beautiful beast, that had eagle's wings shinin' with light. St. Patrick jumped on her back and in four leaps he was on the earth. And where do you suppose he landed. Rafferty?"
"Faith, I dunno," replied Rafferty. "Was it in Harlem?"
"No," replied the historian. '"Twas in the Vale of Avoca in Ireland.
" 'Sure, this is a tidy place,' says St. Patrick, turnin' his horse out to grass and takin' a drink from
84 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
a well o' potheen that bubbled up from the ground. Til put a barbed-wire fence around this, and call it the Garden of Eden, which means a place of pleasure and delight.' "
"I see, I see," said Rafferty, helping- himself to a liberal draught of mixed ale.
"Well," continued Madden, "St. Patrick looked around, and seeing there was no living thing in the place, he whistled and chaffinches and linnets flew into the garden, and swans and goats and elephants and every kind of animal were there before you could wink twice. 'Twas a gorgeous place, Rafferty, filled with palm trees and bananna trees and beautiful ferns and cocoanut trees, with monkeys in them and parrots.
"And when 'twas all finished and St. Patrick looked around, he found he had everything there to make life comfortable and nobody to enjoy it. So he made up his mind he'd try an experiment and make a new kind of an animal with two legs and put a few brains in the tof of his head so he'd know a little more nor the monkey. So he took a big piece of clay and shaped it like a man and stood it up agin the wire fence to dry. And when it was dry he
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 85
poured a noggin o' potheen over it and the clay was turned to life, and St. Patrick called him Adam."
"That made a man of spirit of him, I suppose," said Rafferty.
"Troth, it did, then," said Madden. "And when he had Adam made he was thirty-six feet tall. That's where the talk about the descent o' man comes from. Adam was that strong he could crack cocoanuts with his teeth.
" 'You have everything that a raysonable man could wish for,' says St. Patrick to Adam, 'mush-melons and water-melons, and here's a pipe for you. Before I 1'ave you to go and drive the dragons off the planet Vaynus, I want to give you a warning. Mind and be aisy with the potheen. 'Tis a good thing when you're cowld or hot, but don't take too much of it. Too much will make your liver hard. And mind, Adam, don't be too free with the 'baccy. If you do you will get a cigarette heart. I'm only givin' you fair warnin' if you are careless. And now, before I 1'ave you I'm goin' to put only wan more word on you. If you disobey I'll put upon you the most awful curse that was ever put upon
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man. I'm after plantin' a fine winter pippin apple tree in the middle of the garden. Thim pippins are for my own use. Don't you lay finger on them, or I'll punish you severely.'
"So St. Patrick went away in a cloud of fire and smoke, and Adam was left alone. For about two weeks Adam had a great time all by himself. He rode bareback on the elephants———"
"So he was the first circus rider," interrupted Rafferty.
"Troth he was. And, what's more, he invented football, which he played with cocoanuts in his idle moments. But when he got tired of drinkin' potheen and suckin' oranges and atin' watermelons he became onaisy."
"Tis hard to plaze an Irishman intirely," said Rafferty.
"So Adam began to look around for some new kind of divershun," resumed Madden. "When St. Patrick came back he asked Adam how was he get-tin' along, and Adam said he was very lonely. All the animals and birds, he said, had mates, but he had none, and wouldn't St. Patrick be good enough to make a mate for him."
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 87
"Sorra day was that for poor Adam," said Rafferty, mournfully.
"So 'twas," continued Madden, "as St. Patrick told him. But Adam was so anxious that St. Patrick made a wife for him. She was lovely, Rafferty. Her eyes were blue, her hair hung down to her feet, and she fair spurned the ground when she walked.
" 'Take her,' said St. Patrick, when he handed her over to Adam, 'and much good may she do you. Faix, you can't get along with her and you can't get along without her.' "
"St. Patrick was a very wise man," interrupted Rafferty.
"Yes," replied Madden, "for the woman led poor Adam the divvil's own life. She made him swim in the lake to get lotus leaves for bokays. For hours at a time she made him comb her hair. Night and day she had him waitin' on her, till the poor man was worn out with her whims and fancies. But they managed to get along till Eve got her eye on the apple tree."
"Oh, God help him then!" groaned Rafferty in sympathy for Adam.
"True for you," resumed Madden. "She had
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oranges and every kind of fruit, but nothin' would do her but she must have some of them apples."
" 'Don't be foolish, woman,' says Adam. 'Leave them alone. You'll get us in trouble.'
" 'Arrah, don't talk nonsense,' says Eve. 'There's four barrels of apples on the tree. St. Patrick will never miss an odd peck or so.' And she wheedled him, and the poor fool went to do her will, as all men have gone ever since when women have smiled on them. Adam and Eve were clubbin' the tree—Eve could throw a club like a man, havin' Tipperary blood in her—and the apples were fallin' like rain, when St. Patrick came back to the garden to see how they were gettin' along. He looked around, but he could not find them. Then he climbed up Raspberry Hill and shouted in an awful voice through a megaphone:
" 'Adam, you spalpeen, where are you ?'
"Eve hid herself in the tree, and Adam ran as hard as he could toward the Saint. He threw himself at St. Patrick's feet, for he was afraid. Then St. Patrick spoke soft to Adam, for he was sorry for him on account of the woman, knowin' how she had ballyragged him, sayin':
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 89
" 'Adam, is there anny wish you would like me to grant for you, me bouchal?'
"Adam looked up from where he was lyin' on the ground. There was a great hofe shinin' in his two eyes, for he thought the wish of his heart was goin' to be granted.
" 'Your riverence,' says he, 'you have been very kind to me. I have only one more wish to ask of you. Will you make ten more wives for me?'
"Here the brow of the good saint grew dark. He jumped up and down with rage.
" 'Out of my sight, ye onnatural man!' he shouted. 'Ain't wan wife enough for you ? You are not content with stealin' my apples, but you want to make a dirty Turk of yourself. Here, cherubin and seraphin! What ho! Come here with your flamin' swoords and drive this woman and man out into the world and make them work!' That's the most awful curse that was ever invented!"
90 TALES of THE BOWERY.
AN IRISH RUSE.
when Patrick Connors stepped out of the "Ker-rymen's Retreat" upon the sidewalk, he was in that condition when a man feels upward for the ground. He had celebrated not wisely, but too well. Half his week's wages had vanished over the bar, and Patrick had a very well defined impression that Mrs. Connors' reception of him would be both hearty and vituperative. Saturated, but contemplative, he stood in the middle of the sidewalk, with his legs wide apart, his hat on the back of his head and his hands thrust deep down into his pockets. He swayed gently back and forth as he sadly realized that all the old lies were of no use. Besides, there was the $5 to be accounted for. Before he could arrive at the solution of the problem he found that he must keep moving in order that he might keep an upright position. The question of gravity engaged his whole attention for several minutes as he zigzagged and crawfished along the walk until, when perception returned to him, he was leaning against the
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front of a picture store in the window of which was displayed a large chromo of Victor Emmanuel. Patrick focused his wandering gaze upon the picture until there dawned upon his sodden brain such an idea as has often changed defeat into victory, and smoothed the troubled domestic waters. Looking into the store and hanging to the door with both hands, he said to the clerk:
"How much d'ye want for that picture o' St. Patrick in the windy ?"
"My dear sir," said the clerk, "I do not want to take advantage of your condition. That picture is not——"
"Niver mind my condition, me bold bucko," said Patrick. "I'll give ye $1.50 for the picture if it plazes ye. Take it or 1'ave it. What d'ye say?"
"The price is satisfactory, but I ought to tell you——"
"Ye ought to tell me nothin'. I know me own business. Ye see, I have a great admiration for the saint that's in heaven these many years. He was a great hero, was St. Patrick, me lad, and, what's more, he was a countryman o' mine. I suppose ye heerd all about how he druv the snakes out o' Ire-
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land? Shure, ivery wan knows that. But that was aisy work for him bekase the snakes were all small
—garter-snakes, and black snakes, and the like. Faith, there niver was anny big snakes like andy-conners in Ireland. But 'twas killin' the dragons that made him the man he was, me lad. Some o' the dragons were 500 feet long. Think o' that! He druv thim into the say. But there was wan dragon
—the daddy o' thim all—that the saint put the comether on in quare fashion."
"Indeed!" said the clerk. "How did he do it ?" "Oh, he was a dignacious baste intirely. Every wan o' his forty feet would fill a bushel basket. St. Patrick was walkin' along the shore o' Costello bay whin he saw the dragon comin' toward him like a caythadral in motion. 'Ho, ho!' says the saint. 'Where ar-re ye goin'? I thought I had ye all killed!' 'Axin yer pardon, yer highness,' says the dragon, 'but I'm still able to sit up and take nourishment, and I intend to have ye for brekquist!' 'Oh, ye do, do ye ?' said the saint, wid sarcasm. 'I like yer impidence. Will ye take me head or feet first?' 'Ye can have yer choice,' says the dragon. 'Ar-re ye ready?' 'I am,' says the saint, and with
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that he lay down on the sand, and the dragon ofened his mouth wide, like a barn door, and the saint said 'Sic semper tyrannis!' and there stood the poor dragon wid the lockjaw. That's the rayson I like the saint, and I think the picture'll plaze Biddy. Tie a paper around it for fear I might break it. But I'll want another picture to go wid it on the wall. Now, if I had wan of Dan'1 O'Connell or Patrick Sarsfield or—hoult on there, young man! What'll ye take for that picture o' Robert Emmet, there be-yant on the nail?" said Patrick, pointing to the chromatic resemblance of Prince Bismarck. "Put it down here till I look at it."
The clerk took the picture from its nail and laid it in front of Patrick upon the showcase. The Irishman looked at it long and earnestly. Then he broke into a eulogy of the dead:
"Arrah, there ye are, poor lad! And did the dirty Sassenach kill ye ? May they sup in torment, bad luck to thim! Shure. ye've changed a great dale since I saw yer picture lasht, acushla. They have a helmet on ye like the cofpers', and it's white whiskers ye have under yer nose. But never fear, me lad; ye'll soon be where there will be no dust on ye.
94 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
Here, me lad, cover Robert up well, and give me St. Patrick till I'll be goin' home."
Mrs. Connors was in a towering rage when her husband entered their apartments on the third floor rear of a tenement in Chrystie Street.
"Ah, but you're the bad man, Connors!" said she with uplifted arm and voice. "Where will you go when you die, you unnatural man? You ought to be under a spile driver, so you had, smashed flat, you baste!"
"Don't be goin' on like that, Biddy," said Patrick in a conciliatory tone. "Ye'll be offendin' the company I'm after bringin' home wid me."
"An' where's your company, you big loafer?" asked Mrs. Connors sarcastically.
"There's wan o' them," replied Patrick with quiet assurance as he laid Victor Emmanuel face up on the kitchen table.
"And who's he?" asked Biddy, still suspicious.
"Mrs. Connors," said Patrick, as impressively as he could, "I'm afeerd yer eddicashun has been neglected, my dear. Faith, I'm sorry to see that ye don't recognize the pathron saint o' Ireland when he's starin' ve in the face."
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 95
"Oh, glory be! What an ould fool I am! To be sure, 'tis St. Patrick himself, whiskers and all! Look, Paddy, dear. He has an eye in his head like a coal o' fire! No wonder the snakes ran when they saw him comin'! Don't you touch the holy man wid your dirty fingers, you drunken idjit!" Mrs. Connors concluded as she grabbed the picture from the table and hung it on the wall beside a newspaper cut of Admiral Dewey. Meanwhile Patrick had placed the picture of Germany's grim chancellor on the table and was looking at it with blinking but appreciative eyes.
"There he is, Biddy," said he, stepping back from the table and pointing to the picture in a somewhat shaky, dramatic manner. "There's the man that was breakin' the chains on the legs and arms of poor Ireland wid a hammer when bloody King George struck him from behind wid a pickax! There he is! Take a good look at him, allanna."
."Who the divil is he?" said Mrs. Connors anxiously. "Sure, he looks like the Dootch baker on the corner."
'"Tis aisy seein' ye're ignorant o' nolledge, Biddy," said Patrick in a patronizing tone. "That's
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the great hero o' the siventeenth cinchury in Ireland. That's Robert Emmet. Look at the shtrong
jaw he has, indicatin' inflinchible courage and dig-nasity ! Look at the hat on him, Biddy ! Shure, ye
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 97
couldn't break that in wid a crowbar! Oh, he was a great hero intirely!"
"Well," said Biddy doubtfully, "I suppose he's all right, Paddy, but he's too Dootchy an Irishman to suit me. How and ever, we'll hang him forninst the holy saint, and 1'ave it go at that."
Having escaped the tongue lashing he had expected, Patrick went to bed chuckling to himself. Scarcely had he begun to snore when Mary Ellen, his sixteen-year-old daughter, came home from night school. She bustled in fresh and rosy, and warmed her hands at the stove. Her eyes roved around the familiar apartment until her gaze fell upon the picture of the Italian.
"Where'd you get the dago king, mother?" she said.
"What talk have you, Mary Ellen ?" replied her mother. "Is it insultin' the blessed St. Patrick you ar-re? Bad scram to your impidence, gur-rl! I'll clout you wid the dishrag! Can't your father make me a present of the holy man of old widout your ballyraggin' nonsinse ?"
Mary Ellen went up to the picture and examined it attentively. She saw the name "Victor Em-
98 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
manual" printed on the canvas. Pointing to the name triumphantly, she exclaimed:
"There! I knew I was right! The name is on the picture. He was an Eyetalian king. So there, now!"
"And mebbe you'd say that other picture wasn't Robert Emmet, now?" said Mrs. Connors ironically.
Mary Ellen took a single glance at the chromo and then burst into hysterical laughter. Indeed, so hearty was her mirth that it awakened her father, who came running into the room partially dressed.
"Has the gur-rl a fit ?" he asked anxiously of his wife.
"No," replied Mrs. Conners; "she says some wan fooled you wid the pictures, and they're not Irish at all—only Dootchmen and dagoes."
"Mary Ellen," said Connors, "ye're big enough to know how to behave yerself wid St. Patrick and Robert Emmet lookin' at ye. Don't ye see that the saint is worried by the way ye're actin'? Look at the sorrowful face he has. Ye're a smar-rt little gur-rl, Mary Ellen, and yer father is proud o' ye, but ye're too young, acushla, to know anything about gogerfy and heroes. Whin ye're a little older
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 99
they'll put ye in the science class, and thin ye'll learn all about gyants and saints and dragons and min that fought for ould Ireland."
"But, father, I know all about St. Patrick and Robert Emmet. The saint never wore a crown. He wasn't a king. Besides, saints never wear gal-ways like that dago king has on. He might wear chin whiskers and be in the fashion, but galways never were the style with any of the saints I ever seen."
"Nivernnind, Mary Ellen. Ye'll be wiser before ye die. Now, go to bed like a good gur-rl before ye make a fool o' yourself."
While saying this Connors gently shoved his daughter out into the hall and closed the door. She ran downstairs and told Tim Cloney, the policeman, that both her father and mother had become crazy, and he rushed up the stairs three steps at a time. He found the Connors in a heated discussion. To clinch his side of the dispute, Connors turned to the officer:
"Now, on yer oath, Tim Cloney, ain't that St. Patrick there on the wall forninst ye?"
Tim examined the picture attentively, and re-
100 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
plied: "No, Connors. St. Patrick never wore white whiskers like Oom Paul, nor a crown on his head. That's the king of the chestnut roasters and bananna sellers, and——"
Cloney's speech was cut short by Connors, who called him a liar, and they went at it in the old traditional fashion. In the struggle both pictures were swept from the wall and crushed under scuffling feet. The whole tenement was in an uproar. The fight ended with Connors lying on his back on the floor and Cloney astride his prostrate body. But even this humiliation did not equal the debasement of Connors on the following morning, when his wife said, in that sweet way wives have:
"Paddy, the next time you are bringin' Irish pictures home mind they don't wear Dootch helmets and dago whiskers!"
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 101
SHE TOOK THE NIGHTINGALE'S TURN.
there were four in the party, two men and two women. They belonged to the ultra-swell set. The women were modish in dress as Felix could make them, the men Lispenard Stewarts in grooming and manners. They had dined at the Astoria.
Svelte Elizabeth, heiress to a million, whose contralto voice was like the music of a silver flute, said:
"I'm tired of the opera. I've seen all the wicked plays; concert halls weary me. Let us go to a Bowery music hall."
"Horrors!" said Jack, startled out of his poise. "You know, 'Lisbeth, your mother expects me to return her bud untainted even with tobacco smoke."
"Well, Jack, a little lie for my sake will look white compared with the rest of your calendar," laughed Elizabeth, with a glance at Jack such as has unmanned kings and captured cities.
So down to the Bowery they went.
108 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
Elizabeth paled perceptibly as Jack led the way through a narrow hallway into a long room, reeking with the odor of beer and stagnant with tobacco smoke.
The place was comfortably filled with men. A few women upon whom the blight had fallen were also present.
The party seated themselves at a round table where sat a young woman with an indurated face, who wore a short pink skirt, decollete waist, and a wilted rose.
"Excuse me," said Elizabeth, "are you employed here?"
"Yes, ma'am," replied the girl. "I'm the Bowery Nightingale. Didn't ye see me piccher at the door when ye come in? Youse swells is slummin'," she continued, turning to Jack, "and I'm fearful dry. I've done ten turns to-day, and me t'roat is like a fire, and me tonsils is hot, honest to God."
Jack took the hint and ordered a drink for the cantatrice, which was at once hot, brown, and inviting, but it was not lemonade. Elizabeth looked on with mingled contempt and compassion.
"How many turns do you have to sing each day ?"
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 103
she asked of the Nightingale, who was looking at her over the half-empty glass.
"Well, I'm doin' Big Liz, the Tyrolean Warbler's turn, besides me own, 'cause she's gone to her mother's funeral. That makes fourteen times I've sung 'Take Back Your Gold' to-day. I'm dead sore on the song. Me voice is husky as a corn-cob."
The Nightingale rattled on in her ingenuous fash-
ion, but Elizabeth was not listening. She was thinking that this tawdry, bedraggled Nightingale was really a more useful member of society than herself; in her feeble, mawkish way the concert-hall singer did more to lift the heavy load of monot-
104 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
onous existence, even if ft were only to add to the gayety of a concert hall.
A sudden impulse seized her, such as comes only to emotional women, and vibrating inwardly like a wire in a storm, she said:
"Will you permit me to take your place when your next turn comes?"
"Now, see here, Elizabeth," interrupted Jack, decidedly. "This has gone far enough. Quixotism has its limits. It is time we were going."
"You have not answered," she said to the girl.
"Why, of course you can sing if you like," she replied; "and there goes me number now. You'd better get a gait on if youse goin'."
Before Jack could interfere Elizabeth was well up the aisle.
Glasses were held half way to lips parted with astonishment as the vision of youth, culture, and beauty swept past. Before Jack could overtake her Elizabeth had darted through the stage door, ran up a flight of steps through the wings, and was seated on the faded plush of the stool before the piano. Even the waiters were agape.
«An expectant hush fell upon the audience.
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 105
Her hat fell off upon the floor, revealing the cameo face, elate, impassioned.
The white hands stole over the ivory and conjured a rippling prelude of notes from the overworked keys. Then there came from her lips a stream of music, half recitation, half vocalism:
"If I were a voice, a persuasive voice,
That could travel the wide world through, I would fly on the beams of the morning light. And speak to men with gentle might And tell them to be true.
"I would fly, I would fly over land and sea, Wherever a suffering heart might be,
Telling a tale or singing a song,
In praise of the right, in blame of the wrong.
I would fly, I would fly, Over land and sea.
When the lingering cadence of the song had vanished there was a moment of silence. Then a pandemonium ensued of pounding beer mugs and shouts of acclaim.
The audience was on its feet in a frenzy of emotion.
106 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
But now that the song was finished Elizabeth came back to earth again, and pride of caste asserted itself ruthlessly. She was in a half-fainting condition as Jack supported her to the carriage.
When they were all seated not a word was uttered for several blocks. Then Elizabeth raised her head from Jack's shoulder and murmured:
"Oh, dear, Jack! The shame of it! The shame of it!" and one bright, jewel-tear, flashing in the gaslight, attested at once the weakness and the glory of her womanhood.
Jack was strangely moved as he and Elizabeth stood in the vestibule of her father's house half an hour later. Their hands were clasped.
"You don't despise me, Jack?" she pleaded. "I felt that I ought to whisper a little hofe to those arid, bestial souls. You are not grieved, Jack, dear, you——"
"My love," whispered Jack, and his voice was only half articulate, "Satan frowned when you sang that song. I kiss your hand at parting. To touch your lips now would be a profanation. Goodnight."
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 107
MUG AND HIS LITTLE GIRL.
"what's yours, sir? Rye. Take a little gum in it, sir ? A trifle; yes, sir. How'11 that do ? Good whisky! I should say so. You'll go up to the Hoff-man and pay a quarter for worse whisky than that, a darned sight. Now, Wilkins, go away from the gentleman. He don't want to be bothered with the likes of you. Do you hear, Wilk? Sit down; sit down, I tell you, or I'll hit you with this bung-starter. Whisper, sir. He's the man as cleans the spittons and sweeps out in the mornin'. I'm afraid I'll have to get rid of him, 'cause he bothers my customers so, suckin' for drinks. The best you do for them fellows they're ungrateful. Why, you'd hardly believe it, sir, but I give that old bum five straight whiskies every day. Ah, I'm sorry old Mug died. He was the best supe ever I seen around a barroom. You wouldn't find no cigar stubs under the chairs when he got through sweeping, and the spittoons was washed so clean you could use 'em for a looking-glass. And so quiet was Mug, too.
108 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
None of that hanging around customers and snivelling for drinks, and telling 'em about that horrible gnawing pain in his innards for the want of something soothing. Oh, no! Mug wasn't any of them kind, wasn't Mug. He'd sit over there in the corner and take his five whiskies just as quiet as a baby'd take its milk. Mighty handy man to have around, was Mug. He used to write letters for me to my girl, too. Was Mug an educated man? Well, I should twitter. He could give points to some of these fellers around here what thinks they can shove a pen. Kind of put me in a hole, sir, when Mug shifted his quarters over to Potter's Field last week. Haven't wrote to my girl since he was planted. Fact, sir; and I know she's just aching to hear from me. Don't dare to write 'em now Mug's gone, 'cause all the while I've been courting her he wrote my letters, an' they was beautiful, sir. Just full of nice pieces of poetry. None o' that rot about hearts a-bustin', and bleeding affections, and all that, but something choice and genuine like. 'Thine eyes so blue and tender.' How's that, eh? No insects on that. Well, I guess not. That's clear wool, a yard wide, and warranted not to fade in the light of any
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 109
girl's eyes. Then Mug'd seal the letters—with sealing-wax, mind ye; he said it was the style—and directed them with kerleques on the end of the letters. But there's one thing I didn't let him do, and that was lick the stamp, 'cause I thought my gal would smell the hardware he'd been drinking. Lord love you, sir, she don't know I'm slinging gin. Would she shake me if she knew it? Well, ha, ha! I should volunteer! She'd drof me quicker'n Wilk over there'd mosey on to a horn of brandy. Why, bless you, sir, her father's a bald-headed deacon in a church. He hates ginslingers worse'n my boss hates the excise law. You want to hear something about Mug? All right. Wait till I give these two chaps their milk. Fifteen cents, please; ten for the shandygaff and five for the pony. Only charge five for the shandygaff downtown ? Can't help that, sir; ten is our price. Here, Wilk, go and shut that door. I'd like to put a bunch of fives under that feller's horn. He's no good. What's that, sir? Oh, about Mug. How old was he? I don't believe he was more'n thirty-five. of course, he looked a good deal older. A feller natcherally will when his blood runs spirits. He was tall and slim, and he. always wore a
110 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
faded light overcoat buttoned up to his chin in cold weather, and a slouch hat drawed down over his eyes, as though he was ashamed somebody would see him as knowed him. Every morning I'd find him out here on the sidewalk waiting for me, a-trem-bling and a-shaking for the want of his bitters. Ye see, sir, he didn't have any money to spend for his booze, 'cause he used to give all his rocks to the woman as took care of his girl Mollie, a little bit of a tot with yellow hair just the color of that Scotch whisky, and great big eyes like a camel's I seen up at Barnum's. Only she was a little bow-legged 'cause they let her walk too soon. A man told me as knowed Mug before he got in a hole that the little girl was just the picture of her mother before she ran away with an actor and broke Mug nil up.
"Mug hung around here all day and did odd jobs for customers, and I used to brace him up with a dime or two once in a while; but he never spent any of his boodle—always kept it, as careful as I keep this di'mond pin for Mollie. Every night at nine o'clock he went around to see her and bid her goodnight. I've knowed him to go out of here, sir, when
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 111
his legs was twisted together like cable wire, and hang on to the lamp-posts and the sides of the buildings till he got to the house. Mollie was always glad to see him, 'cause, being a baby, she didn't know no better. Besides, he always had a nickel's worth of candy or a toy balloon, or a doll, or something or other for Mollie. He'd stay around to the house for maybe an hour, and then he'd go to his lodging-house in Pell Street and get a bed for seven cents. Towards the last, sir, Mug couldn't get enough whisky to satisfy him. 'Twas just like pouring the stuff through a sieve—didn't seem to do him no good, though the whisky I gave him was as hot as the hinges of h— Excuse me, sir; 'twas hotter'n cayenne pepper. After awhile he got the jimjams. Kind of mild, though. Used to sit over there in the corner and play with the little white elephants he'd see running up his pants leg. Queer, wasn't it ? Then he'd sing songs about the land beyond the sea, and how close it seemed. I guess he must have come from England. Hey, sir; did you say anything? No! I thought you said 'twasn't England. He got so famished for the pizen that he'd get up at three o'clock in the morning and come
112 TALES of THE BOWERY.
around here and sit and shiver on the doorstep till I'd come. When I got here his lips would be blue and his hands shaking like a loose window when the wind blows. And the famished look there was in Mug's eyes; like as if he was all gone inside. Have another drink, sir? What'll it be? The same. That's the real mountain dew; now, ain't it? Well, long about the middle of last week—I think it was Wednesday—we had a rush at night, and I didn't notice that Mug didn't go out at his usual time. He was sitting quiet over in his corner at 10 o'clock. There happened to be a slack-up in the trade just then, and I noticed the door kind of creaking as though somebody outside wanted to get in. I sings out, 'Push hard!' and who should come in but Mug's baby! She was kind of frightened at the lights at first, but I laffed and took her up in my arms. Then she said: :
" 'Where's my papa ? He said he was goin' to buy me one o' them squawkin' b'lunes.'
"Then I says: 'Your papa's over there in the corner asleep. We'll go and wake him.'
"Mollie clapped her hands and laffed just like that prime whisky gurgling out of the bottle. I set her
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 113
down upon the floor and stood back to see the fun. Mug was sitting kind of in the shadow, with his head leaning against the wall, and his slouched hat drawed down over his eyes, as usual. Mollie ran up to him, and caught hold of his hand as it lay on his knee, but there didn't seem to be any feeling in his hand. Then Mollie shook him a little and said:
" 'Papa, wake up! Where's my squawkin' b'lune?'
"Then I went over to help wake him up, but as soon as I lifted his hat I saw he was as dead as a sugar-cured ham. Died sitting in his chair, sir, and never made a moan. I guess he must have thought something was going to happen to him, sir, for he wrote a letter two days before he went off on the counter, just where you're standing. 'Twas directed to George Muggins, Shandaken, Ulster County, N. Y. I sent the letter, but I got it back yesterday saying there was nobody lived in Shandaken by that name. Would you like to look at it, sir? Mebbe you might know something about his friends. Here it is. It says:
" 'dear brother.—I feel a premonition that
114 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
the end is near. I cannot say that I hail it with de
light, neither do I fear it. Hell is raging within
me, and I daily pour upon the fires a liquid which
only feeds the flames. Nature must be requited for
her losses, and I am paying her insatiable usury. I
shall have gone unshriven and unknelled when you
read this scrawl, and all I have to bequeath to you
is little Mollie. May her purity and innocence prove
a slight atonement for her father's weakness!
Yours, john muggins."
"Reads kind of nice, don't it ? Give the letter to you? What for? You're Mug's brother! Well, I'll be hamstrung if there ain't more curious things happening right here in the Bowery than you can find in a book. Good-night, sir. Wilk, confound you, wake up and shut the door!"
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 115
there was an unwonted air of gloom in the little cigar store as the twilight settled down on the Bowery.
"Mulcahy has been gone two weeks," exclaimed Hughes, the boxmaker. "There will be no Thanksgiving without him."
"True for you," responded Gilligan, the wit. "I wonder did he go to Cuba or the Klondike?"
"Neither," said Hughes, "for if I'm not much mistaken here he comes now. Or is it his ghost?"
Sure enough, it was James Mulcahy, bricklayer, mason, calciminer, whatever was to be done, and in his white overalls spick and span.
"It seems, James," said the boxmaker, "that you have a very summery costume for this time of year."
"Well, I have my red flannels beneath them. But that's all I have."
"Sit down, man, and tell us your predicament. Where have you been since last I saw you?"
116 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
"I've been dead and buried," was the remarkable statement made by the man in white.
"What!" gasped the group.
"I have, and I'll prove it!"
"Well, then," said Gilligan, "let's first commune with the spirits."
"Well, it was this way," said Mulcahy. "I had been out of work for some time. All my earnings outside the $300 in the Bowery bank were gone. So I determined to go down to Castle Garden, and perhaps there I might get a job, with influence, mind you. Armed with a letter from a friend of mine to the superintendent of the labor bureau, I placed myself in his hands. I had hofes that his interest, combined with my own personal appearance—for I had on my Sunday clothes—might get me a good and perhaps a permanent job.
"I will say I had not very long to wait, for a gentleman from Flushing, who entered the office, said he wanted a handy man, one having a knowledge of raising and caring for flowers preferred. Well, now, you know I had some experience in the old country in flower gardening, and I told him I was just the man he wanted. He seemed impressed
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 117
by my appearance, and I closed with him at his own price, $30 a month. Then when I said I'd like to go home and tell my wife about where I was going he said that I was the fourteenth man he had hired who had given him the same story and had never come back. However, he said I could inform my wife by a postal card. So I wrote to her at once telling her not to be uneasy, as I would be back on Saturday evening. This was Monday. I was so agitated with the prospect of $30 a month clear of my board and lodging that I forgot to put the address on the postal card.
"Well, my wife never got it, and to that I attribute my misfortunes. Believing that poor Mary's mind was easy, I entered upon my duties, and got along all right, when the divvil put it into my head to stay two weeks and then surprise Mary with my $15. You can imagine her feelings in the meantime;
"of course, not hearing from me, she made up her mind I had met with some accident. So she went to all the hospitals and the morgue looking for me. You can imagine the state of despair the poor soul—God bless her!—was in, for she knew that
118 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
nothing but death or serious injury could keep me from her. But it might have been all right if Mrs. Mulroony, who lives on the tof floor, had not on the tenth day of my absence entered the room where my poor wife was brooding and wailing over her misfortunes and begged Mary to compose herself."
"Which got her all worked up the more!" said Hughes cheerfully.
"Right you are," said Mulcahy, "for then, saying she would read something that might throw a light upon the mystery, she sprung this extract from a newspaper on poor Mary: 'Picked up in the Hudson River at the foot of Desbrosses Street, the body of a man supposed to have been in the water six or eight days; diagonal coat and vest, gray trousers, congress gaiters, white socks, mustache and goatee, about forty-five years old and five feet eight inches in height.' It was a perfect description of myself and my dress when I left home," continued Mulcahy dolefully, "and I am informed that poor Mary went up and down like a rubber ball and screeched like a fire engine."
"Wet your throat, James. Your eyes are getting moist!" said the boxmaker.
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 119
"Finally, after a lapse of hours to gain strength from the shock, she was led out dazed like by Mrs. Mulroony to the foot of Desbrosses Street, and then over to the morgue. I'm told that Mary, though the tears were streaming out of her eyes so she could not see very well, bore up bravely at the identification, so glad was she to get my body back. Then she notified ex-Alderman McLarney, who is an undertaker, to put on the body a dress suit and place it in a casket and bring it to the house. She gave me a fine wake and a fine funeral. She bedecked herself in deep mourning. The interment was on the second Saturday after I left home, at three o'clock, in Calvary cemetery."
"The very day you were coming home," said the boxmaker wisely.
"True for you! I got off with my two weeks' wages, intending to return to work on Monday morning. I walked from Flushing by way of Calvary toward the ferry. I was so full of delight at the thought of the reception I would get when I reached home that I began to hum to myself a familiar tune."
130 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
"Fifteen dollars in my inside pocket?" interpolated Gilligan, the wit.
"All went well on the road," continued Mulcahy, "until I arrived at the gate of Calvary. I thought I would go into McMahon's, ofposite the entrance, and get a glass of beer. On entering, who did I run up against but my poor wife, whom I did not recognize owing to the long veil extending to her feet. I'll never forget the yell she let out of her. It was a horrible sound."
"Evidently calculated to wake the dead!" persisted Gilligan, the irrepressible.
"Well, I was frightened nearly out of my wits. Not only from my wife but from Mrs. Mulroony and two neighbors did I get this greeting in succession. So with that they got into the carriage. When I recovered from my bewilderment I started for the coach, but the four of them screeched together, which frightened the horses to a gallof."
"And you started on a dead run after them," said Gilligan.
"You're right I did! I ran with all my might. And then the driver began to whip the horses. So I wended my way home, much disturbed in mind,
TALES of THE BOWERY. 121
determined to find out the cause of my wife's and neighbors' strange actions. When I reached home I went up the stairs and found the door locked. I knocked, sharp-like. To the question, 'Who's there?' I said 'It's me!' 'That voice!' and then a shriek and a dull thud. I knew from this that my poor wife had gone into highsterrics from fright. So I called out to the others to come to the door or I would break it in. But only Mrs. Mulroony faced me.
" 'In God's name tell me what you are? Are you a ghost or a mirrickle?' said she.
" 'I'm neither one nor the other, Mrs. Mulroony. I'm plain James Mulcahy.'
" 'But how do you explain that you're here when you're buried there in Calvary?'
" 'What!' I said. 'Have I been waked and buried and I alive?' scarcely believing what I had heard. 'Answer me, and quickly, too, Mrs. Mulroony!' and I looked her square in the eye.
" 'James,' she said, 'are you sure you are alive ?'
"This was more than I could stand. So I put my shoulder to the door and burst it ofen. When I entered, the crowd of mourners consoling my poor
122 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
wife broke away and fought with each other to get through the door, uttering shrieks and calling on their Maker for help. It was with great difficulty that I convinced Mary that I was still alive. She took to sobbing and lamenting, and told me she had spent all but $15 of the $300, but said that I should not find fault with her, as she had no care for the money, thinking I was gone. I told her I found no fault indeed with her. Rather did I regard her with greater affection, and was thankful that it had been my peculiar misfortune to be enabled to find out how much I was thought of."
"Splendid sentiments, James," said the boxmaker. "Ah, it was a bad mistake, all in all!"
"Say, rather, a grave one," said Gilligan, who was in great form.
"Well, I'm going to get McLarney to build a fire over that tramp and thaw him out."
"You can bet, Jimmy, that there's a fire under him," commented Gilligan.
"The truest thing you ever said," replied Mulcahy. "There's too many tramps around nowadays, and they make trouble, dead or alive. My tramp has left me penniless, and is now sleeping in a fine casket
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 123
in a grave in Calvary that cost me $25, and McLar-ney says he won't take back the casket. Faith, I wouldn't be surprised if at the last day the tramp could get by the gate in my place."
"Never fear that, Jimmy," said the boxmaker soothingly. "St. Peter would be sure to recognize those beautiful red galways."
"Well, gentlemen," resumed Mulcahy, "the locality is alive with the incident. Some of the neighbors pretend yet to believe that I'm Mulcahy's spirit. A friend called across the street to me to-day, 'Hello, corpsy; come over and take a drink,' and when I went in the place he said, 'Take something strong to keep you from turning to dust.' Only last night I was passing along the street when a crowd of ruffians called out, 'Look at Mulcahy, playing hookey from Calvary!' "
Mulcahy's lips were becoming parched and dry. There was also a cadaverous look about him which excited the sympathy of Gilligan, who said:
"Mulcahy, my lad, we are all sorry for the misfortune which has made you so spiritual and grave in appearance. But now that you are safely returned to us both in the flesh and in the spirit I profose
124 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
that we all take a wee drof of spirits fru-menti."
"I'll have nothing more to do with spirits!" said Mulcahy in a rage. "I've had spooks and spirits and mirrickJes enough to last me the rest of my life. I'll take rye whisky."
TALES of THE BOWERY. 125
EMPTY CHARLIE'S HIATUS.
empty charlie stood in the doorway of a Bowery saloon at three o'clock on Sunday morning. His nickname was suggested by his physical condition. It is a difficult matter to get fat on free lunch, especially when the profrietor is lynx-eyed.
Charlie's overcoat was thinner than sliced smoked beef. His broken shoes were covered with a pair of rubbers which leaked at the heels. As the holy day had been ushered in with sleet and snow, an amalgamation of Bowery mud and water had worked inside the rubbers. Charlie felt as if his feet were in an ice-box. His teeth chattered and hot words came from between his lips, already cracked by hotter liquor.
Empty Charlie was on guard. He was a sort of Bowery watch-dog. It was his duty, as his employer expressed it, "to pike off de blokes wot wants a drink, and see dat dey wasn't cofpers in disguise." Charlie went on duty at twelve o'clock Saturday night, and remained at his post until one o'clock
126 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
Monday morning. He was selected for this important office because of his wide acquaintanceship. Several times in the course of three years he had "saved the ranch from bein' pulled," and the proprietor was correspondingly grateful.
Charlie received $1.50 per week for his services, which he was unreasonable enough to think was small pay. But then, he had only to stand in the doorway and watch. He couldn't sit down, for then his posture would reveal his mission. Besides, he didn't care to sit down, for the February nights were cool, and he had to dance a hornpipe now and then to keep his blood in circulation. During the week his time was taken up in tapping fresh kegs of beer and in helping to drink their contents when introduced by the profrietor to a customer as "me frien'."
Embruited as Charlie had been from the suckling period of his existence, he still retained a spark of the divine essence. So when an outcast clog with drooping head and tail snuffed wistfully at his trouser-legs, he patted the brute tenderly upon the head and wished that he had access to the lunch-counter.
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On the night in question Empty Charlie had tried to dance a jig, but the sloshing sound of the water in his rubbers had made him feel damp and melancholy, so he gave it up. A short distance down the street he could see the cheerful light shining through the transparency in front of a lodging-house. An inviting legend, outlined in letters of fire, read: "Nice, clean bed, 25 cents." It was so long since Charlie had slept anywhere but on a beer-table or a sawdusted floor that he vaguely wondered how it would feel to lie between clean sheets once more.
It happened that in his three years of service as a buffer between the police and his employer Charlie had contracted inflammatory rheumatism. He walked now 'with two canes. This was one reason why he didn't do more dancing. Misery and Empty Charlie were shaking hands. As he crawled into the doorway, now and then uttering the talismanic words which admitted a customer, he had a vague perception that after all there were more exalted spheres of action in life than his. The blissful music of clinking glasses leaked through the crack of the door. Now and then the fragrant odor of the steaming stuff that had killed his father saluted his
128 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
eager nostrils. Now, if he could only be a bartender! Then his thoughts strayed to the Elysian Fields in which walked the pugilists. If he could banish his rheumatiz and "lick" somebody he might secure a job as a boxer at the Oriental or the Windsor! Visions of wildly-applauding pits filled his mind with Tantalus delights. Hully gee, how his leg did hurt! Who invented the rheumatiz, anyhow? A horrible gnawing sensation at the pit of the stomach made him feel faint for a moment. He fought it off and tried to whistle a stave of "Sunday Morning," which he had heard a charming vocalist sing at Tony Pastor's. But he was so cold that his lips wouldn't pucker. He slid back the panel which concealed a round hole in the door, and putting his lips to the hole, muttered in a hoarse, trembling whisper:
"B-b-b-illy, gi' me a little taste o' booze!"
"Have ye got the price, Empty?"
"Kind o' chilly out dere, ain't it, Empty ?"
"Me backbone is like an icicle."
"Well, wait a minute, Empty; I'll fill ye."
Charlie closed the panel and waited. The minutes
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were freighted with impatience and longing. Laughter and song came to his ears from the other side of the door. At last the door opened on a crack. A hand holding a tumbler was thrust out into the Bowery. Ah! here was the magic fluid which would banish hunger and steal from rheuma-tiz its sting! Here was the nepenthe which so oft had agitated his nerves with delightful sensation. It was rich and brown, and a faint, inviting odor arose from the tumbler as his eager, trembling fingers closed around it.
"Drink lively, Empty," said Billy. He raised the brimming tumbler to his lips and poured its contents down his throat. A look of speechless amazement overspread his face. The glass fell upon the stones and was shattered into a thousand fragments. In answer to its tingling a shout of mocking laughter came from the saloon. The glass was filled with hot, colored water!
Wicked words have polluted the Bowery ever since its discovery in the dim past, but Empty Charlie could swear with the best of them. In the next sulphurous five minutes he proved it. He swore by all his high hopes of one day owning a gin
130 TALES of THE BOWERY.
palace that he would get square with Billy, "bime
It was four o'clock. The electric lights hissed a protest at the sleet, still falling. Madison Avenue was asleep, but the Bowery was wide awake. Windows shone in the advertising electric light, resplendent with second-hand watches, paste diamonds, $5 overcoats, and the tarnished flotsam of the pawnshof. A tall man wrapped in a heavy overcoat walked leisurely up to Charlie and asked politely if he could get a drink inside. Charlie was not deceived by the stranger's decorous speech. There was something, too, in his carriage which suggested discipline. Knowing full well who the man was, he uttered the magic word and the door ofened. In the hurry of serving out drinks to the thirsty crowd already within, Billy did not look closely at his new customer, trusting to the guardianship of the human watch-dog outside. Only when he had committed himself by serving a drink of whisky did he discover that he had supplied an officer with evidence to convict him.
Meanwhile Charlie chuckled and shivered outside and awaited developments. After the officer had
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gone Billy came rushing out, and without a word of explanation proceeded to pitch the recreant watchdog into the middle of the street.
It was several minutes before the wretch managed to get back to the sidewalk, bruised and panting. He realized that he was out of a job. Still he laughed. Revenge is sweet. He lit a cigarette, and standing under a lamp-post searched his pockets. A careful inventory showed his assets to consist of twenty-four cents in nickels and cents.
He slipped the coins back into his clothes and hobbled around into Forsyth Street. He was badly shaken up. His progress was very slow. In the course of fifteen minutes he came to a saloon where rum was sold for three cents a glass. He was well known and easily gained admission. He had eaten nothing for twenty-four hours but a soda-cracker and a slice of bologna sausage. Stepping up to the bar he ordered whisky and poured the glass half full.
"Here's the stuff that has no bones," he muttered as he tossed it off. With a recklessness which was really criminal considering his financial condition, Empty called for another glass, and still another,
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until his money was all gone, and with it his sense of weariness.
His nickname didn't fit him now. He was full. "Fuller'n a goat," the bartender said, as Charlie zig-zagged out upon the sidewalk. He braced his back against a lamp-post and tried to focus his wondering gaze upon the east, already soft with the first faint blush of the day. There was a buzzing in his ears, as of a thousand bees. The sidewalk rocked, and his heart beat against his ribs like a trip-hammer. His veins were filled with molten lava. Some sort of heaven of delight revolved like a kaleidoscofe in his whirling brain. His head fell forward upon his breast. His legs bowed outward like those of a baby who has learned to walk too soon, and inert, like a bag of meal, he slid to the ground.
Half an hour later, when the ambulance surgeon placed his hand upon Empty Charlie's heart he found that in getting full he had inadvertently released himself from hunger, contumely, and rheu-matiz forever.
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 133
THE BIG WIND.
it was Christmas eve. A roaring blaze of hickory logs sent fiery sparks through the wide-mouthed chimney out into the night. Snow and hail beat upon the cottage, and angry winds banged the shutters to and fro. Outside were darkness and the tempest, but inside were warmth, mirth, fraternity.
"Tis a wild night," said Mrs. Madden as she peered into the darkness through the frosted window panes. "I hofe the goat will take no harrum."
"You needn't worry about him, mother," said her son Larry. "Sure I gave him two bundles of hay and an ould straw hat. He'll not be cold or hungry the night."
"Sit you down, Mary," said her husband. "Tis no time for worry, woman. Here's a glass of punch. Tickle your tongue with that. Here, chil-der, come here till I give you some sarsaparilla. Come, Grady, and Moriarty, and Mrs. Malone, and Ellen. Bring- your 'cordion, O'Connor. Hurroo! Ellen, your foot is light as a thistle on a spider's
134 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
web. Whack the flure, your trotters shake! Good luck to you! I'm glad the good saints let me live to see this Christmas eve."
'Twas a goodly sight to see. The kitchen was crowded with the neighbors. O'Connor sat upon the wood box, jerking the animated camera. Rheumatic Mrs. Malone and Ellen Riley were dancing in the middle of the floor. The children were huddled, with hands on knees, in a circle around the lively couple. But above the squeaking of the accordion and the jocund laughter of youth boomed the thunder of the tempest outside.
The music came to a sudden stof as two bricks fell down the chimney into the fire, and a crashing blow almost broke the door from its hinges.
"'Tis the big wind of Ireland comin' again," groaned Mrs. Malone, just as another assault smashed a panel in the door and the goat's head came through. A roar of laughter saluted him, and confidence was again restored.
"He was lonely out there in the cold," said Mr. Madden sympathetically, as he pulled the goat's head out of the hole. "Come inside, Billy."
The goat accepted the invitation, and lying down
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on the hearthstone, began complacently to chew on Mrs. Malone's dress.
"You were speakin' about the big wind in Ireland, Mrs. Malone," said Madden encouragingly. "How long ago was that, now?"
'"Twas sixty-two year ago to-night, jist, and I remember the same as if 'twas yesterday."
"How old are you, granny?" asked Grady, the doubter.
"I'm sixty-three last May, and every tooth in me head."
"You have a good memory," said Grady.
"Sure, I have a betther memory nor you have manners, you scut, you," replied Mrs. Malone angrily.
"Don't mind him, granny," said O'Connor soothingly. "That must be a terrible wind entirely you were talkin' about."
"Indeed, thin, it was," resumed the story-teller. "There never was such a wind in the world."
"Did it do much harrum?" eagerly queried Mo-riarty.
"Harrum, man! Well, I'll tell you. My poor ould father was comin' home wid a jug of whisky to
136 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
make Christmas punch, when the wind cotch him as he was comin' around the corner and druv every sup of the liquor out of the jug into—into———"
"Your father?" asked Brady, with a grin.
"Now, see here, Grady," said Mrs. Malone, "I'll not be ballyragged by you anny more, wid your goat whiskers and pig eyes, bad scran to you. Now, you tell the story. Mebbe you know what the wind done to the drake?"
"It didn't blow the toe-nails off himjdid it ?" asked Grady innocently.
"No," said Mrs. Malone sarcastically, "but it blew every blessed feather off the poor baste as clane as if he was plucked, glory be, and he came waddlin' in the door as smooth shaven as a monk, and sat down on the hearthstone to warrum himself widout sayin' as much as 'Merry Christmas.'"
"And well he might, bein' undressed, the poor craytur," said O'Connor, sympathetically.
"And when he had himself warrumed to his likin' I suppose he flew in the boilin' pot and cooked himself for the Christmas dinner," observed Grady, adding, as an afterthought, "or baked himself in the ashes."
TALES of THE BOWERY. 137
"And quacked himself to death sayin' 'Roast duck! Roast duck!' why don't you say?" added Mrs. Malone, while the company burst into a chorus of laughter, which was drowned by the angry blast sweeping down the chimney with cyclonic force, and the cottage shook like a lighthouse in a tornado.
"But, whisper, childer," resumed the story-teller, as the gale went shrieking away over the meadow. "Whisper, till I tell you what happened the praties. They were bubblin' in the pot when the wind came down the chimney and blew them, wather and all. out upon the flure, and skinned the jackets off them as clane as you'd do it wid a knife and fork. 'Twas terrible to see the skins flyin' around the ceilin' like bats in July, and the praties doin' a jig on the flure."
"You had a fine chance to be playin' golluf wid the poker, thin, Mrs. Malone," said the irrepressible Grady.
"If I had your wit and your galways, Grady, I'd sell them both for a button to fasten me lip. An ass always brays the loudest when he is empty. Is it hungry you are?"
"I'm starvin' for nolledge, ma'am. Sure, I didn't mean to hurt your feelin's, Mrs. Malone. To lis-
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ten to you is a liberal historical eddicashun, so it is. But I'm curious to know did the big wind blow the varnish off the clock?"
"No, it did not, for the rayson that it had no fair chance at the clock, bekase it was inside the house. But I'm free to tell you that it blew the paint off the fence and the barn, whether you believe it or no, and Murphy's pig was found in the next county, four miles away."
"Begorra, that's the first pig I ever heard of that had wings," said Grady.
"I wish you wouldn't be interferin' wid Mrs. Ma-lone," said Madden to the doubter. "Tis Christmas, and the childer must be amused. Now, keep a still tongue between your teeth, Grady. Here, Mrs. Malone, allanna, take Another sup of punch, and thin go on wid your story. We are all waitin' to hear you. What else did the pig do ?"
"Oh, I couldn't tell you all of it if I talked for a week," resumed the historian. "It blew all night, and in the mornin' the straw in the barn was driven through boards an inch thick. There was so much of the wind that the donkey swallowed a lot of it, swelled up and sailed away like a balloon, and——"
TALES of THE BOWERY. 139
Mrs. Malone's story was stofped by the bell in St. Mary's steeple, indicating that another Christmas had come. The storm had passed away, and stars shone in the vault of heaven as if presaging peace and good will to men. The little company listened with bowed heads to the clear notes of the bell ringing down the valley and dying away in falling cadences. The silence was broken by Mrs. Malone, who said:
"Grady, I hofe before another Christmas comes that you will not be so unlucky as our goat was on the night of the big wind."
"He didn't begin to talk and tell the truth, did he?" said Grady.
"Faith, he did not. Sure, neither goats nor Gradys ever did that. But we found the goat in the mornin' held up ag'in the house by the wind till he froze to death, and when the sun shone on his whiskers, covered with icicles, he looked like a shan-delier in a ballroom. You had better shave yourself, Grady!"
140 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
THE ITINERANT'S OASIS.
it was Easter eve. The rain was falling heavily. The light and warmth of Silvio's Cafe furnished a cheerful contrast to the darkness and dampness of the street. The murmur of men's voices, the low laughter of women, and the gurgling of wine filled the room.
The company at the tables was not so large as usual, but it was more select. There were fewer Philistines present, that being the term used by the Bohemian habitues of the place to indicate men in commercial pursuits.
One table attracted a great deal of attention because around it sat eight witty and talented men\ At the head of the table sat a man about thirty-five years old, who wore spectacles, and whose sallies kept the table in a roar. Every man in the circle had traveled widely, and was well stocked with incident and story.
The soup had been discussed and the fish was fast disappearing, when the door ofened, and a most
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disreputable looking man stepped inside. The rain dripped from his tattered garments. In his right hand was clasped a dirty clay pipe. His face wore the stereotyped hard luck expression, and was lit up faintly by a deprecatory smile.
He had just begun the usual whining supplication when the man at the head of the table, whom for convenience we will call Robinson, jumped to his feet and exclaimed:
"Oh, Mortimer, my boy, where have you kept yourself? Gentlemen, permit me to introduce my old friend, Harold Mortimer, late of Oxford. Harold, you are late, but the soup is still warm. Tera-sina, a plate of soup and some wine for my friend! Quick, he is hungry!"
The tramp looked as if he had been struck with a crowbar. He was incredulous at first, but when he saw a place made for him at the table, he began to believe in his good fortune.
"I ain't fit to sit at the table wid youse gents," he said, apologetically.
"Tut, tut, man; an Oxford man is good enough to sit at any table. Eat, drink, and be merry. This is the gladsome Easter time, a time for rejuvena-
142 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
tiori, for joy, for taking a new grip on life. Feed yourself, man, and be thankful you are alive."
The tramp began to eat ravenously, glancing suspiciously now and then at the circle of bright faces surrounding him, as if he could not believe in his good fortune. But confidence returned to him with the wine, and he entered with alacrity into the genial spirit prevailing at the table. As the dinner progressed Robinson engaged the tramp in conversation, to the keen delight of the men present.
"Pardon me, Harold—have you paid any attention to theosofhy of late? If I remember rightly, your theory used to be that theosofhy, dissociated*"" from its occultism, would be the ne plus ultra of religion."
"Faith, thin, sir, I didn't pay much attention to thim things lately, sir. Now, if ye axed me was I still interested in hepterology, I might say I am. I am very fond of thim dark, saycret things that does be buried in mystery and wonderment, so there!"
The laugh was turned on Robinson for the moment, but this did not trouble him in the least. When it came time to mix the salad a charming woman model prepared the dish for the tramp, who
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looked at her with such an expression of admiration and amazement that Robinson tried to elicit the tramp's views on inernational politics and other difficult questions, and at last switched him off on sentiment in the story of his own life.
The story was eloquent with feeling, and several times the tramp was on the verge of tears, only to be recalled to himself by the warning of Robinson, who exclaimed:
"Now, Harold, any such exhibition of feeling will be the signal for cutting off the supply of wine, so be careful."
The tramp was roaring out an Irish come-all-ye a few minutes later, one verse of which was:
"Mush-a-cree, mush-a-cree, why did ye die,
Wid your purty white face and your shinin' black
Mush-a-ding-a-di-a, shillaleh and all; My blessing go wid you, sweet Erin-go-bragh."
The poor fellow looked around the board into the faces of the bright men beside him, and vaguely thought he was in Paradise. At last, when he had eaten and drunk to repletion, the tramp leaned back
144 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
in his chair with a Henry Clay between his lips, that were wreathed in a smile. He was in a beatific condition. This was the one oasis of luxury in the desert of his nomadic career, and he enjoyed it to the lees.
And while he beamed on the men around him, Robinson arose at the head of the table, and, in a manner which would have done credit to a D'Orsay, said:
"Ladies and gentlemen, a new Easter is about to be born. Let us hofe it may mean a resurrection of hofe and faith in each of our hearts. But, unfoj/ tunately, we have become so brutalized by our environment that the higher entities of life are forgotten, and we are all given up to the pursuit of the purely material. And I am prompted to remark just here, ladies and gentlemen, that Harold Mortimer, my old college friend, has had a great deal of experience on foot as a financier. He has been looking, with little success, I conclude, judging from the condition of his linen, for the elusive 'frog skin,' or 'long green,' as it is variously termed in sporting circles. I am about to call upon my friend to address
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this brilliant company on that very interesting theme, 'How to Capture the Nimble Dollar.' "
Every man and woman in the place arose solemnly and drank the health of the tramp. Then, as they resumed their seats, it occurred to him that a speech was expected from him. He arose in a hesitating, deprecatory way, and looked around at the bright faces regarding him so kindly. He felt that it was his duty to acknowledge the kindness that had been shown him.
He ofened his mouth to speak, then felt his utter inadequacy, and a big tear slipped from under his eyelash and plashed clown into his coffee. It began to look showery, but Robinson jumped to his feet and exclaimed:
"Really, Harold, my dear fellow, I am ashamed of you. Silvio's coffee was never noted for its strength, and here you are trying to dilute it."
And, to the music of pealing laughter, the tramp, resurrected for a few joyous hours from his condition of degradation and contumely, faded back into his misery again.
146 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
MR. ARCHER'S CAKEWALK.
when Miss Rosabel Skinner, tall, stately, and graceful as a queen of Ethiofia, swept into the Germania Assembly Rooms she carried the train of her black velvet dress on her arm. Her complexion was a few shades lighter than her dress, but not enough to interfere with the general harmony of color. She wore white slippers, and a dainty lace handkerchief hid the contour of her ruby lipa as she held it to her face.
Miss Skinner was a pleasing object to look at as she toyed negligently with the handle of a glass containing sarsaparilla. Her neck, a slender brown column, arose from a pink environment where the upper part of the gown had been turned over and lined with the gaudy color. The light of her dark eyes shamed the gas jets, and her singularly ofen countenance when she smiled or gave way to coquettish expressions of ennui revealed teeth rivalling sweet corn in whiteness.
Miss Skinner was the belle of the Turf Club Ball
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and Cakewalk. The organization referred to consists of one member, Mr. Paris Archer, a licorice-colored young man who takes care of the bookmakers' booth at the race-tracks. Physically Mr. Archer resembles the interlocutor in a minstrel show, or the man who carries the water-pail behind a target company. Having social and financial aspirations Mr. Archer organized himself into a club, hired the Assembly Rooms, Craig's Band, and four bartenders, and started in to make himself famous and rich.
The Assembly Rooms wore a somewhat jejune appearance. Last year's faded Christmas decorations still hung from the gas jets. It was not until after one o'clock that the affair began to assume an enjoyable aspect. When Prof. Luke Pulley, a member of the Cakewalkers' Trust and composer of the Cakewalk March, walked into the room in a debonair manner under a silk hat he attracted considerable attention. Mr. Pulley has the distinction of being able to play the piano with his knuckles, his elbows, and his nose. He also has a reputation as a cakewalker. He wore a three-button cutaway coat, a silk vest colored blue, brown kids, patent leather
148 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
shoes, and a Jack rose. He resembled an animated cathedral as he swept gracefully down the room to the tune of "Boom-ta-ra," as played by the orchestra. Mr. Pulley gravely acknowledged the salutation of his friend, and then kindly consented to drink a glass of beer with Mr. Spider Anderson. This exchange of courtesies being concluded, the company generally turned their attention to the inspection of Mr. Luke Blackburn, who arrived accompanied by his red necktie. The latter gentleman, it will be remembered, succeeded in winning the piano at the international cakewalk at Madison Square Garden. On that occasion Mr. Blackburn came in as the dark horse, winning by more than a length from his other and more celebrated competitors, Messrs. Proctor, Dandy Jack, and Pulley. Mr. Blackburn was not dressed for the occasion. He had come from Gloucester in answer to a telegram, and had omitted to don his evening dress. This omission sadly handicapped the champion. He referred to the omission in tones of regret, and looked with envy and admiration at Mr. Spider Anderson, whose coat was only two sizes too large for him. Mr. Blackburn mentioned incidentally during
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the preliminary exercises that he had disposed of the prize piano for the sum of $50, It had been originally appraised at $200, but Mr. Blackburn said that when the light of day struck it "it went clean through the cover." He said he had squandered the $50 at the races since.
By two o'clock the ballroom was comfortably filled. Disconsolate female wall flowers of every shade of complexion, from the cinder blonde to the maiden whose complexion resembled the gloomy midnight, were present. The blonde who attracted the most attention was a most charming young lady named Annie Queen, who occupies a somewhat dilapidated residence in West Third Street.
A most delightfully democratic air prevailed everywhere. All shades of color met on equal grounds, and each toasted the other with expressions of mutual admiration. Mr. Blackburn confidentially informed Miss Queen, who was anxious to learn something regarding the function of cake-walking, that the man who had held the championship for many years in New York City, Dandy Jack Smith, had been forced to leave town on account of infractions of the moral law, and had taken up his
150 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
residence in Chicago. Mr. Ike Berry, late of Harlem, who in his brief career on this planet had won many cakes and covered himself with crumbs of glory, had recently moved out to Cincinnati, where he was now engaged in tending bar or some other similarly healthful and pleasant amusement. Mr. John Webster, Mr. Blackburn was sorry to say, had been suffering for some time from rheumatism. This ungracious disease had made him slightly knock-kneed, and his legs bowed out. Consequently, Mr. Blackburn said, Mr. Webster was incapacitated from future cakewalking; and because of his infirmities would naturally lack the necessary grace and dignity in order to carry the cakewalk to its full fruition. But Mr. Billy McPherson was there. His face was slightly marred by a small hole in his forehead, which looked as if somebody had thrown him to the sidewalk and driven a tenpenny nail into his cranium. Mr. McPherson's head had been sandpapered for the occasion. Billy tried to borrow the price of a glass of beer from Mr. Blackburn. The latter would have been only too willing to oblige him but for the fact that he was shy of the necessary nickel himself.
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A little temporary excitement was caused by the appearance of Miss Lucinda Montagu. Miss Lu-cinda is nearly as tall as a telegraph pole. She wore a tailor-made gown of some soft gray material, which fitted her form as the skin does the bananna. Her close-curling hair was surmounted by a Gainsborough hat almost as big as a bicycle. Such admiring exclamations as "Step high, Lucinda," arose from all sides. It was not until three o'clock on Saturday morning that the guests began to become uneasy. They were desirous of seeing the cake-walk, and they called loudly for the appearance of the walkers. In order to allay this uneasiness Mr. Archer brought out the cake and placed it upon a table underneath the big chandelier. It was a beautiful object, three stories in height. The first story was surrounded by an edging of Hamburg lace made of paper. The second story was decorated with two China dolls of ofposite sexes in loving embrace, while the whole sawdust floor and sugar pyramid was surmounted by a saccharine horse named Injy-Rubber, because, as some discriminat ing racing man present said, "He was in de stretch." This diversion kept the grumblers quiet for half an
152 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
hour, but they became impatient again, and insisted on having their money's worth. Then Archer mounted the rostrum, and gravely announced that all competitors would now take their places for the walk. There was some delay in selecting the walkers, which was largely due to the bashfulness of the ladies. Miss Angelina Bethel said that she had "clean forgot" how to turn the corners. Miss Brown—a singularly approfriate name, by the way —was equally reluctant.
When the walkers were arranged in line Mr. Spider Anderson, who was accompanied by the charming and ingenuous Angelina Bethel, took offense at Mr. Longfellow, because he had stepped on the train of Miss Bethel's dress. There was a slight scrimmage then, during which Mr. Anderson, who is a small man, threw himself forcibly upon the abdomen of Mr. Longfellow, disarranging the latter's attire and causing considerable excitement. Miss Bethel also observed with cutting sarcasm that Mr. Longfellow was "a no-count nigger anyhow." Archer succeeded in settling this little difficulty, and the walk began. The procession was headed by the dignified Archer, who escorted Lucinda Montagu.
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He was closely followed by Luke Pulley, with Miss Rosabel Skinner on his arm. Rosabel was by all odds the blackest young lady in the room. But this did not detract from her beauty nor shapeliness. After him came Mr. Spider Anderson in the line. He escorted Miss Angelina Bethel. Miss Bethe! wore an ashes of rose complexion and a white dress. Mr. Anderson was the only gentleman who enjoyed the distinction of evening dress. He wore a celluloid collar, a white necktie, and in one lapel of his coat was a Marshal Niel rose and in the other a arfiall bunch of lettuce. Billy McPherson was the fourth man, accompanied by the blushing Julia Braxton, fit consort of so majestic a figure. McPherson lacked the dignity which more flesh gave to Prof. Pulley. Still he towed the charming Braxton around the room with exquisite grace, while she in turn dragged a yard of steel-colored satin behind her. Up to this time Mr. B. M. Butler, a young man with a sallow complexion, had stood idly by. He had been importuned by various admirers to enter into competition with his more celebrated confreres, but had refused because he said that some of the judges were prejudiced against him. Mean-
154 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
while he had been used as a hat-rack by the rest of the contestants. Mr. Butler watched the procession move around the room several times, but the nuances of motion, grace of carriage, and charming manners of the gentlemen and ladies so gained upon his enraptured vision that his eyes almost bulged out of their sockets. Throwing the hats upon the floor and seizing Miss Mamie Crawford by the arm, he boldly entered the lists. There were now fifteen competing couples, but other than those mentioned the rest were only "fill-ins," as Lulu Montagu said. The band played the celebrated "Washington Post March." Prof. Craig waved his baton, and as the voluptuous strains filled the wide hall the gas jets fluttered, a faint perfume filled the air, caused by the exceeding heat; lace handkerchiefs waved and the loud murmur of applause filled the room as the contestants marched around with the gravity of undertakers. Prof. Pulley was as steady as Eddystone Lighthouse. Serene and impassive as the Sphinx he moved down the lines of gaping spectators. It was only when the noise of 500 applauding voices and 1,000 clapping palms saluted him that the muscles of his face relaxed a little and a faint smile
TALES OF THE BOWERY- 155
wreathed his pouting lips. He was appreciating the acme of cake-walking felicity, Mr. McPherson's legs were not built for cake-walking, consequently he minced his steps. Besides, the excitement of the occasion added to his awkwardness. Mr. Brown unkindly remarked that "he ought to put dem legs on an anvil and have 'em straightened out." He broke badly going around the corners, but the lovely Braxton managed to keep him in equilibrium, although she ungraciously suggested, "You foolish brack man, youse been drinkin'." But Mr. Luke Blackburn's stately appearance, his dignified mien, his little black mustache, his gravity, and the graceful way in which he stuck the knuckles of his left hand in the small of his back excited universal admiration. Loud applause arose on all sides as he swept down the stretch. The spectators crowded closer and closer upon the line of march. The excitement thickened like boiling oatmeal.
Bets were made on the respective champions, and pandemonium reigned when the orchestra switched off to "Ta-ra-ra" for a change. When the couples had been upon the floor for ten minutes all but the creme de la creme had been rejected, and
156 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
only three couples were left. These consisted of the Pulley, Anderson, and Blackburn combinations. Blackburn had the advantage of his reputation, but he was sadly handicapped because of the lack of evening dress. In this respect Anderson had a decided advantage over h'im; for dress is not an inconsiderable part of the cakewalk-ing profession. And when the final heat came, and the three couples were ranged in front of the judges, a deathly stillness prevailed. The music stofped playing, while Archer arose to his feet and commanded attention by lifting his right hand to the ceiling. Then in a deep baritone he said:
"Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Spider Anderson and Miss Angelina Bethel is de mos' gallusest niggers in de hall, and dey takes de cake." Such a shout arose that the subsequent announcement to the effect that Mr. Blackburn had won a gold watch, and Prof. Pulley had come in for a gold-handled umbrella was lost in the loud acclaim which saluted the victor. A mad rush was made by the friends of Spider Ander son, who seized him by the coat tails, lifted hi:v from the floor, and carried him bodily into the refreshment room. Here an admirer of the victor in
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 157
his eagerness to give him a glass of beer poured the [contents down the back of his neck. The three-Istoried cake was carefully placed by Mr. Anderson [in the bottom of a meal sack, and while the band played the mellifluous Mecca march Mr. Anderson walked proudly away with the bag over his shoulder containing the trofhy, and with the ingenuous [Bethel upon his arm.
1He hid the cake behind the bar, from whence it was stolen by Frog-Eyed Lewis, who carried it down to the sidewalk. Surrounded by a dozen watering mouths, Mr. Lewis plunged his knife into the \ke. Jumping backward, he exclaimed vehement-ly:
"Who done fill dat cake wid mahogany wood?"
158 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
THE ART OF CHEWING GUM.
the Bowery saloon was doing a rushing business. Before the polished rosewood bar stood a crowd of shabbily dressed men, in various inelegant postures, who gazed in rapt admiration at the pictures of deceased pugilists papering the walls. The few grains of sand labeled "From Yankee Sullivan's grave," elicited profound interest, while the crude samples of the semi-nude in art created such discriminating criticisms as "It's about time Comstock took a peep in dis ranch!" The profrietor, a steck-ily built man, with furtive eyes, was here, there, and everywhere, like a rat in a cellar. A marble slab, into which had been cut the name "Branigan," lay before the door. At intervals a young and effusive colored man, whom Branigan called his "vallie," came out of the saloon with a pail of water and a mof. In the presence of an admiring crowd he carefully washed the marble slab and then covered it with a piece of second-hand Axminster carpet. This oferation was gone through with eighty times
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 159
every day; not that it was necessary, but because, as Branigan said, "I makes de blokes' eyes ofen like clam shells. Nothin' makes de Bowery gillies' jaw drof like style!"
On a recent evening the "vallie" had washed the marble for the eighty-first time, when a tall, slouchy man saluted him in a tone saturated with rum and plug tobacco. Said he:
"I hear there's goin' to be a chewin'-gum match here to-night. Is that so, Jocko?"
"Who you callin' Jocko, white man! You gra' big, knock-kneed, splay-footed, bow-legged old bag o'oones! I want you to unnerstan' I ain't no common, no 'count Bleecker Street nigger, I ain't. I'm Mr. Branigan's 'vallie.' "
"Now, don't get nifty, cully," replied the white man. "You're workin' for your gin and free lunch, and I ain't a-goin' to take any pickles out o' your mouth. Now, run right along and tell your boss that I can chew more gum in less time than Charley Mitchell, and he's got more jaw than a steer. I've chewed onions, pies, molasses candy, and raw potatoes in matches, and I never got beat yet. If I
160 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
can't beat any man on the Bowery chewin' gum I'll eat my shirt."
"I guess you'd chew railroad iron for a drink," said the "vallie," with a grin, as he ushered the would-be competitor into the august presence of Mr. Branigan. The latter has a cynical faculty of rallying his customers, and in accordance with this sen-sorious practice he exclaimed:
"Hello, Big Mouth Bill! So you want to work your grinders, er! Well, I don't think there's much show for you. Ye see, you ain't been in training like the other entries. They've been practicin' on sole leather and Bowery sandwiches for a week, and their jaws is limber as an old shoe. Gum-chewin' is jest like prize fightin'! You've got to git your muscles in first-class workin' order!"
"Wot's the prize?" said Bill.
"The prize is a di'mon' medal. It's a good stone. I paid $2.50 for it down to the original Co hen's shof, and he says he'll give the winner a dollar on it. You go in the back room and wait till the champeen of Connecticut comes. He'll be here in a little while."
Bill went into the back room, where he found
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 161
lour other contestants. Each of these bore his approfriate nickname. There was Hoboken Pete, with a jaw like a lion; Blinky McMillan, from Cohoes, whose heavy jowls resembled those of a bulldog; while Johnny Hall's Pet, a stalwart negro, and Billy Fangs had been supplied with formidable sets of masticatory machinery. Each contestant looked at his neighbor askance for awhile until the community of interest broke the ice of reserve, and they all drofped into sociable converse. Each related some marvelous experience in the chewing line, johnny Hall's Pet said he had accomplished the feat of eating a i2-cent Bowery custard pie while running around a block in the unprecedented time of a minute and one-quarter. This achievement was offset by the performance of Billy Fangs, who declared that he had chewed and swallowed twelve soda crackers in as many minutes. "Mebbe youse mugs don't think that was much to do," he continued, earnestly, "but you try to chew dry sody crackers without water, and it'll keep you a-gapin like a chicken with the pip."
In this delightful fashion the evening wore away until the arrival of the orchestra, which consisted of
162 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
a black piccolo player and a white guitarist. The news of the impending chewing-gum match had gone abroad, and the saloon began to gradually fill up until there were nearly one hundred sports present. The tedium of waiting for the Connecticut champion was enlivened by the guitar player, who sang a parody on "Maggie Murphy's Home," which was like this
"You can stand in Grogan's alley,
About a mile away. And hear Mag singing church hymns At the breaking of the day. Her head goes in the bucket,
She doesn't mind the foam— For there are not any glasses In Maggie Murphy's home."
This tender little sentiment was received with murmurs of applause, and elicited an encore. While the singer was still warbling about the flower from his angel mother's grave, Mr. Branigan entered in company with Wally Perkins, from Naugatuck, Connecticut. He wore a wide-brimmed straw hat and large-checked trousers. His jaws were wag-
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 163
ging lazily on a piece of practice gum, and a quiet smile of conscious superiority rested on his face. The time had now come for action. The outer door of the saloon was closed, and Branigan cautioned the audience to keep still. Said he:
"I want youse blokes to understand that this ain't no Boor War. It's just a little racket wot I've got up fer to tickle me customers. Keep yer traps closed and everything 'ill be lovely. • But if ennybody gets funny something 'ill drof. I'm a-runnin' this gin-mill, and the first calf that squeals gits a plug in the lanterns and goes out on his head. Now, gents, make yer bets. The orchestry will please play 'Boom-ta-ra!' "
The music arose with its voluptuous swell, while Mr. Branigan began to make the preliminary arrangements for the chewing-gum match. He stood the five contestants up in a row, appointed Billy Costello, a cripple, to act as timekeeper, and announced that he himself would act as referee. When everything was ready he put his hand into his coat pocket and drew out a handful of cubes of chewing gum. It was an impressive scene. The back room was dimly lit by gas. The five men who were about
164 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
to test their chewing powers looked as serious as if they were in attendance at a funeral. Each face in the crowd packed about the room wore an expression of eager expectancy. Now and then some man whose humorous capacity was largely develofed snickered audibly, which breach of decorum was met by an angry frown from the master of ceremonies. Extending his hand, upon which lay some twenty pieces of chewing gum, with the tragic manner of a king about to bestow an order upcfn a subject, Branigan said:
"There's the stuff that wins the di'mon' medal. Its tooty-frooty chewin' gum. The man that chews the most pieces of it will have the name o' bein' the champion tooty-frooty chewer of the Bowery, besides gittin' the medal. D'ye unnerstand? It ain't the man that chews the longest on one piece o' chewin' gum that wins the champeenship, but the feller that gets the most pieces o' gum in his mouth at one time and keeps his jaws vvaggin'. Besides, ye got to keep time with the music. This ain't no go-as-you-please chewin' match. Mr. Weil, president of the Tooty Frooty Club, will beat time with the bungstarter, and the bloke that breaks time with
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 165
his jaws goes out. Now, I'll give each one o' you mugs a piece o' tooty-frooty. You'll hold it in your hands till I start up the music, and Mr. Weil gives you the movement. Then I'll count, and when T say 'three!' you go."
The music struck up at an andante gait. Mr. Weil's bungstarter began to make figure 4's in the air, like the baton of Sousa, and, when Branigan gave the word, the silence was so thick that it could have been cut with a knife. They were off. Five pairs of jaws began to wag with the precision of a Corliss engine. The overstrained nerves of the spectators found relief in an audible sigh. 'Twas an inspiriting sight to see those five able-bodied men working their jaws like threshing machines. Bets began to fly around the room. Hoboken Pete was the favorite at 3 to i, because of the size of his mouth, with Billy Fangs a close second, and the Naugatuck man third. Encouraging remarks arose on all sides such as
"Sock it to 'em, Pete!" "Look at them grinders grind!" "Holy mackerel, McMillan ain't keepiri' time; he's off his beat!"
Branigan kept them chewing on the first cube for
166 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
more than half a minute. Then he handed each man another piece of gum, and as they put it in their mouths simultaneously he ordered the musicians to play faster. The chewers began to feel the strain now. It was quite easy to chew on a single piece of gum, but when the quantity was doubled and the time perceptibly increased the work became much harder. Johnny Hall's Pet tried to enter a protest, but Branigan shook his head sternly and said:
"No kickin'. You keep on waggin' your jaws or drof out!"
The pace was getting to be very hot, and sweat began to roll down the faces of the men. At the expiration of two minutes a third chunk was added to the gum already masticated. The measured beat of "Boom-ta-ra" and of jaws rose and fell together. Johnny Hall's Pet was getting groggy. His eyes rolled, his jaws wobbled, and with a loud groan his gum fell out of his mouth and he gave up exhausted amid roars of laughter. The Naugatuck masticator drofped out in the fourth round and began to bathe his jaws in cold water. By this time Branigan changed the tempo of the music, for it was impossible to keep up a lively
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 167
gait on four chunks of gum. Hoboken Pete was still in the lead, closely followed by Billy Fangs, who might have won in the last round but for the lamentable fact that as his jaws came together his teeth stuck in the plastic mass of gum, and were held there as in a vise. He nearly dislocated his vertebrae in his efforts to separate his molars, but all in vain, and he was knocked out. The contestants had now been chewing for five minutes, which seemed an eternity to them. There were only two left at this stage of the contest—Hoboken Pete and Blinky McMillan. The latter was toiling along bravely, while pandemonium reigned in the saloon. Blinky's backers wanted to bathe his jaws with water, but the referee sternly forbade such relief. But the match was brought almost to a tragic end when Blinky fell over upon the floor, unconscious. His jaws were glued together, and the referee was forced to pry his teeth apart with a knife blade.
Hoboken Pete won the medal with a record of eight pieces of gum in seven minutes. As he leaned on the bar, surrounded by his many backers, and with a huge hunk of ice held tightly against his
168 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
aching jaws, he thus described the closing scenes of the comedy:
"I never seen such a thing in my life. There was Blinky sittin' on the floor, while Branigan held him up by the hair of his head and Johnny Hall's Pet held his mouth ofen. What was that thing that Branigan used to fish the gum out of Blinky's mouth ?"
Thirteen deeply interested spectators replied in chorus
"His wife's button-hook I"
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 169
PEG-LEG, THE MUSICIAN.
the weather had been insufferably hot for a week. But one evening late in August a wind-came out of the north, and with it came rain and hail, which beat down into Theatre Alley with a sharp rattle against the iron window-shutters. The dirty cobble-stones were quickly covered with myriads of melting ice marbles. The wind swept through the alley in sharp gusts, and the rain went through Peg-Leg Pete's clothing as it would through a sieve. Pete was partially sheltered in the doorway of a warehouse. His face and fingers were blue, and he shivered as if from an attack of Indiana chills. Pete was crying. Not because he was cold and hungry, nor because his father and mother were both in Calvary Cemetery. Hardship, hunger, and contumely had been Pete's bedfellows for ten years, and being very well acquainted with grief, he regarded hard luck as his normal condition, and suffered no mental pangs because of his generally forlorn position. But to-night, wet to the skin, empty
170 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
as a pawned wedding-ring, a pariah in the metrofolis of America, Pete was crying because he had lost his mouth-harmonica. His teeth chattered like castanets, to which his sobs furnished a shuddering accompaniment. The instrument had been his inseparable companion for more than a year. Intrinsically the harmonica had no value, for it was battered and tarnished, but to Pete's fancy it was sweeter than the voice of Orpheus's lute. Many a night had the strains of "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true," assuaged the pangs of hunger as they came from the instrument at the bidding of his educated lip, and as Pete hugged closer to the cold doorstep to escape the breath of the infant cyclone, the memory of the gladsome nights when, surrounded by a group of admirers, he had played melting music upon it, only added poignancy to his grief. "Mebbe I lost it in the alley," he sobbed, as he felt in his pockets for the hundredth time without success. But while in search of the harmonica he found some matches which had escaped a wetting. During a lull in the rain he slid from the doorway into the alley, and crawling around on his hands and knees, carefully scanned the stones by the light of
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 171
the matches. But his search was in vain, and just as he had settled himself in his old position the noise of laughter and shouting came to his ears from the entrance to the alley. But the sound of his comrades' voices failed to rouse Pete. Bowing his face to his knees, he cried silently, while the rain ran down the back of his neck. He was awakened by a strain of what seemed seraphic music. It stole in upon his misery like the soft sighing of summer winds in the pine trees. It was the voice of his lost harmonica. Pete jumped to his feet.
"Say, where did you git it? Ah, give it to me, will yer?"
Snorcher, his bosom-friend, held the instrument tantalizingly out of Pete's reach, then relented, and gave it to him. Pete seized the harmonica with trembling eagerness.
"I found it under de boiler in Frankfort Street, where you was sleepin' las' night, Pete," said Snorcher. "Play us 'Daisy.' "
The cripple placed the harmonica to his lips and began to play. He was so cold that his shudders added a tremulous cadence to the music. Oblivious of the rain, which was still falling, the boys stood
172 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
around in silent admiration as the musical description of the wedding-trip on a bicycle was caught up by the wind and carried out into Beekman Street. Now high, now low, the music soared, inexpressibly tender and sweet. A tall man wearing a silk hat and carrying an umbrella was passing the entrance to the alley. In his bosom was a gem whose flamboyant effulgence and tawdry setting suggested the flotsam of the Bowery pawnshof. There was also a counterfeit color to his mustache. Yet a certain cheap dignity of manner gave evidence of authority. The music caught his ear, and he stofped to listen. When the first selection ceased, the crippled musician played "Sweet Marie," the boys joining in the chorus with a fervor which completely drowned the harmonica. The man stepped into the alley and listened more intently. The "Miserere" followed. Then came the "Soldiers' Chorus," from Faust, which Pete had heard at an ofen-air concert in Paradise Park. The man moved out of the shadows and walked up the alley. As he stepped into the gaslight he heard a loud whisper:
"Cheese it, Pete; de cof's comin'!"
When he came to the doorway in»which the boy
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 173
had been seated there was no one to be seen. The boys had disappeared like mice. By the time his eyes had become accustomed to the darkness he saw a small head projecting from the tof of an ash-barrel, and heard a shrill whistle as the owner of the head jumped out of the barrel and exclaimed:
"It's all right, fellers. He ain't no cof. Did y' want anything, mister? Hully gee! where'd y' git de sparkler?"
"Oh, I was just listening to the music," was the reply. "Where's the player ?" The allusion to the gem was totally ignored.
"He t'ought you was de cof, and he drofped in de sewer. Hey, Pete! dere's a man lookin' for ye."
Pete emerged from a yawning hole in the gutter, a little more damp and dishevelled than when he disappeared. Moved by the stimulus of a dime, Pete went through his whole repertoire for the stranger's benefit. By this time the storm had passed over, and the stars were shining.
"Well, boys," said the stranger, "if you'll go with me I'll treat you to supper. How's that?"
This profosal was hailed with delight, and they all filed downstairs into the cheap restaurant on the
174 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
corner. It was known among the newsboys as a "beanery," because beef and beans was the chief dish. There were no cloths upon the tables. The coffee was served in cups nearly half an inch thick to prevent breakage. Some of the boys ordered "collar-buttons"—indigestible wheaten cakes two inches thick served hot from the griddle. Many a newsboy has never recovered from the dyspepsia induced by eating "collar-buttons."
The stranger leaned back in his chair and watched with patronizing pleasure the ten boys eat beef and beans, and wedge their mouths ofen with huge cuts of pie.
"Say, mister, you're a corker," was the consensus of admiring comment, as the boys left the stranger on the corner.
Half an hour later a hack drew up in front of a Bowery theatre blazing with light. The door ofened, and a tall man assisted a boy with a wooden leg to alight. The latter tightly held a small mouth-harmonica. He looked around in a timid manner at the crowd of well-dressed persons at the box-office, and followed his companion down a side
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 175
street for half a block into the stage entrance. Pete gripped his harmonica tightly in a hand that had not touched soap for two weeks, as he passed through a labyrinth of canvas scenery into the greenroom. Here an Irish comedian, made up as a Hottentot, with a bushel of hair and canvas toes of great length, jumped over Pete's frightened head. A young woman, with short skirts and paint on her face, whom Pete thought the prettiest female he had ever seen, asked him sarcastically, "Say, gimpy, where did yer git the mud freckles?" Then a bell tinkled, and everybody disappeared. Pete was gazing about in a bewildered manner, when he found himself jerked quickly into a little box-like room containing two chairs, a wash-bowl, and a mirror. As in a dream he heard his conductor say:
"Now, Pete, brace up. This is the chance of your life. No shenannigin now—see? This is straight biz. You go on next. Step out on the stage and chase yourself up and down that horn o' yours for all you're worth. You'll catch the gallery sure, and that's what you're after. Give 'em 'Sweet Marie,' and 'Mother's Teeth are plugged with Zinc.' You know what them guys want. Catch on, eh?"
176 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
Visions of wildly applauding galleries arose in fancy before Pete's delighted eyes. But his hard struggle for subsistence had taught him a lesson in finance, and he replied, with business cunning:
"How much will I git?"
"Oh, you'll get your dust all right—$10 a week. I'll give you $5 in advance if you make a hit tonight. Now get ready; there goes the curtain."
Far away on the horizon of his perception Pete could hear the announcer cry:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the next number on the programme will be a harmonica solo by Peg-Leg Pete, the newsboy musician."
Pete found himself in the glare of the foot-lights, his heart beating an alarming tattoo. He was a most disreputable-looking object. His hair was tousled. Patches of mud clung to his gaunt face. His trouser bottoms had formed such an intimate acquaintance with the sidewalk that festoons of cassimere hung about his ankles. He could vaguely see through the wall of fire separating him from the audience a wide expense of faces, and a thousand eyes looking at him curiously. Not a sound greeted his appearance. The audience was so much sur-
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 177
prised at the sight of the unkempt boy that it remained silent, and awaited develofments. Pete lifted the harmonica to his lips and blew a long-sustained note, so soft, so sweet and low, that each listener found himself unconsciously leaning forward to hear it. The note gradually swelled in mellow crescendo until the music of "Mollie and I and the Baby" flooded the theatre with persuasive harmony. The music was so eloquent and winning that the boys in the gallery caught up the refrain, and
"Molly, Molly, always so jolly, Always so happy, light-hearted, and gay,"
swept through the theatre like a cyclone, and the harmonica was drowned in the mighty chorus. Pete looked helplessly about, and a stage hand led him behind the scenes. The manager was delighted. He shook the boy's hand warmly, and congratulated him on his success. A French dancer in flesh-colored tights patted him on the head, and looked at him half enviously. The Hottentot beamed on him red-eyed through a shellac of burnt cork, and remarked :
178 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
"Say Pete, there's nuthin' slow about you. You're in it up to the neck. You'll have money to burn if you're cagy. I never heard a kid that could cock a lip with you."
Then the painted woman whom Pete admired came up and kissed him, her lips leaving a smirch of vermilion on a background of sallow cheek. Did ever a boy so ache with delight before!
Pete slept in a bed in a Bowery lodging-house that night, a luxury he had not enjoyed for many months. He lay awake far into the night, looking at the gas-light streaming in at the window. A confused kaleidoscofic panorama of light, music, beauty, and adulation filled his mind. And in his dream a gigantic Hottentot was feeding him cranberry pie and honey.
So Pete found himself on the Bowery at one o'clock on a warm afternoon in August, after a sleep of ten long hours in a bed. Tightly clasped in his right hand, which was shoved deep into his pocket, was his 'beloved harmonica, while in the other hand was the note given him by the manager when he told him he was engaged. Walking around a corner into a quiet street, he took the bill from his
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 179
pocket and examined it. Yes, it was a "fiver," sure enough. He stofped in front of a jeweller's window, and became fascinated with the gleaming gems. He wanted to buy a watch, but compromised on a cane, for which he paid two dollars. Then he bought a pocketful of peanuts, and stumped along on his wooden leg, leaving a trail of peanut shells behind him. At the first Italian stand he took on board a cargo of oranges. But peanuts and oranges were not filling enough to suit him. He went into a restaurant and ordered a big plate of kidney stew and a huge slice of watermelon. To the waiter's look of inquiry he replied: "Oh, yer needn't git gay; I've got de stuff in me clothes. I'm a actor."
Up to this time Pete's mind had been so filled with his success that he had no time to think of anything else. But now that the keen edge of the glamour had worn off, he began to feel lonely. The instinctive human desire seized him to tell his friends of his good fortune. He started for Theatre Alley in a brisk walk, hobbling along on his crutch and new cane. It suddenly occurred to him that he was walking when he had money in his pocket, so he waited with the assurance of a boy who has wealth
180 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
for a car. When the big post-office building, whose friendly corridors had sheltered him on many a bitter night, loomed up ahead, he jumped from the car, and within five minutes he was in Theatre Alley.
Pete had passed all the afternoon on the Bowery, and now the twilight was falling over the canyon of brick and mortar. As the shadows of the tall buildings swallowed his pathetic figure he looked up and saw the stars beginning to twinkle. The alley was deserted. But this did not discourage Pete. He had sat upon the door-step, and the boys had gathered around one by one, and listened with bated breath to his description of his triumph on the previous night. Twelve of his comrades had dined enormously on beef and beans that night at Pete's expense. But now, all unconscious of the hours, Pete sat on an idle truck, going over his triumph, with the proud conviction that he was "a actor"— a hero known to every boy up and down the alley.
Twelve o'clock that night Pete arose to a sitting posture as he lay on the floor under a big boiler in the basement of the printing-office. He rubbed his eyes stupidly, and seizing his friend Snorcher by
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 181
the shoulder, exclaimed, "Say, Snorch, I forgot somethin'."
"What?" inquired his friend.
"I forgot all about me job."
182 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
TIM CONLIN'S 'PINDIX.
"GooD evenin' to you, Rafferty."
"The same to yourself, Madden."
"Is there anything new in the papers to-day ?"
"No; I didn't see anything in the papers, but I'm afther hearin' Mrs. Maloney sayin' that Tim Conlin is out of his head, poor man."
"Dear, dear, I'm sorry for that. Tim was always good to man an' beast. Is it crazy with the heat he is?"
"No, 'tis all on account of his 'pindix."
"His 'pindix, did you say? I dunno what that is. But did he leave it on the ba-ar, or lose it out of his pocket?"
"No, they took it from him in the hospital."
"Oh, the thieves, the butchers! I'd go to me grave before I'd go there. But what is this 'pindix like you were talkin' about ?"
"Wait till I tell you, Madden. Accordin' to science there's several things inside of a man that are
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 183
no use to him. Among them I might mention your spleen. No doctor can tell you of what use that is except to make soap-suds in your insides."
"God'save us, Rafferty! That's terrible."
"True for you, Madden. 'Tis a puzzle annyway. But your 'pindix is a bigger puzzle altogether. 'Tis a little bit of a dingus about as big around as a lead pencil that does be loafin' around inside of you doin' nothin'; but when it gets sarrcastic there's the dev-vil to pay."
"And what do the doctors say about this terrible thing?" asked Madden with breathless attention.
"They say 'tis one of the things left over in a man from the time when men were monkeys. There's manny things you have to learn, Madden, besides how to make mixed drinks. But I was tell-in' you about this Conlin. He felt a terrible pain in his side, and they took him to a hospital. When they got him there they smelt of his breath to see if it was whisky was ailin' him. Thin they examined his teeth to find out how old he was. They looked at his tongue with telescofes and rotten-ray instruments, and then they couldn't make up their minds what was the matter with poor Tim."
184 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
"Do the doctors do all them terrible things to every man that's taken to a hospital, Rafferty?"
"of course they do. They have to be mysterious, like sooth-sayers or astrologians, or nobody would believe thim. When they give you an order for medicine at the drug store don't they write it in dago language or Latin so you won't know what you've takin'?"
"Aye, so they do, so they do," said Madden submissively.
"Well, when they couldn't find anny mikrobes or parasites in poor Tim they called in the whole board of surgeons to examine him."
"I suppose there was nothin' left for him thin but the hearse," said Madden, sadly. "Did they slaughter him right away?"
"No, they waited till they got him strapped down on a board so he couldn't move."
'"TJs well they tied him," said Madden with conviction. "Sure, Tim is in the middle-weight class, and handy with his fists."
"When they had everything strapped tight," resumed Rafferty, "they began to argufy with him."
"Did they ask him would he like to pray, as they
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 185
do with a man when they are goin' to hang him?"
"No, they first went all over his body, kneedin' him as your wife does with dough, Madden. Then they gave him a drink o' whisky to keep up his courage."
"Well, you wouldn't call that cruelty, would you, Rafferty?"
"Oh, no, Madden, that was tinderest compassion. After he had the whisky down, they threw dice to see what was the matter with him, and aces was up, and 'twas the ofinion of the whole board that his 'pindix was agitated, and should be removed."
"Did they cut him then?"
"No, bekase they always have to get the permission of a man before they start to murder him. That's the law, Madden. They can't kill you without your consent. So they asked him did he swallow anny orange seeds or carrupet tacks lately. And Tim. said he hadn't, although he did drink somethin' that tasted like vitriol at your place last week, Madden."
"He's a liar," said Madden. "And he on the edge of death."
"Well," continued Rafferty, paying no attention
186 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
to the interruption, "they argufied with Tim, show-in' him that accordin' to science his 'pindix had no right to be loafin' around inside of him takin' up room that might be better occupied, and likely to be kickin' up a rumpus without rayson ; that his 'pindix wasn't workin' like his jejunum, or his ilium, and that it should be removed for the sake of his childer and of science."
"What did he say to that?"
"He was thinkin' hard, and to clear his brain he asked them would they give him another drink o' whisky."
"I see, I see," said Madden, sympathetically. "of course he wanted a drof o' the cratur to comfort him."
"They gave him the whisky," resumed Rafferty. "Then they went at him again with more raysons. They told him as he had never known that he had a 'pindix, he would never miss it. They made a great point of tellin' him that if his 'pindix was not taken out at that time it might become troublesome later, and cause him no end of pain. That argyment made a great impression on Tim, but still he wouldn't give up."
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"The Conlins were always stubborn," said Madden. "But his 'pindix was his own. He had a right to do \xith it as he pleased, Rafferty."
"True for you, Madden. By this time the surgeons were getting very impatient. Some of them wanted to go to a baseball game, and others had golluf to attend to. So the house surgeon, a fair-spoken man, got at Tim:
"Says he: 'Mr. Conlin, I am very sorry that you are in this position. But I am your sincere friend,' says he, and I would advise you to let us proceed with this business. I should regard it as a personal favor, man to man, because I have an important dinner engagement, and besides, I wish to secure a specimen 'pindix to pickle in alcohol, and to show my friends as a surgical curiosity.' "
"That was a very dacent way to go about it," said Madden. "Did that fetch him?"
"Not quite. It made a great impression on Tim, though. He was always kind-hearted. He was like a mule—you could coax him, but you couldn't drive him. But still he wouldn't talk about annything but the thirst that was on him, and they gave him another drink."
188 TALES OF THE BOWERY.
"There's more rayson in a glass o' whisky than there is in a book full o' talk," said Madden, philosofhically.
"You're right. Madden. But they had an' argy-ment that Tim couldn't answer. They told him that they had him strapped down, and he couldn't get away, and that they intended to cut him anny-way, because that was what hospitals were made for."
"Begorra, they had him then," said Madden, with a grin.
"Yes, poor Tim saw 'twas no use. He made his will, givin' his watch to Maggie, a lock of his hair to Mary Ann, and his bulldog to his brother Mike. 'Twas all over in fifteen minutes."
"And Tim didn't die?"
"Never fear. You couldn't kill Tim Conlin. He'd be in his grave three days, and five tons of coal on tof of him and then he wouldn't be dead. But what do you suppose happened when his 'pindi.-r was cut off, Madden?"
"I suppose Tim wanted more whisky."
"You're mistaken, Madden. They found there
TALES OF THE BOWERY. 189
was nothin' the matter with his 'pindix. 'Twas perfectly healthy."
"Did Tim call in the police?"
"No. Sure, he knew nothin' about it. There was no fuss. Mistakes like that often happen in hospitals and drug stores. D'ye mind how they gave Mary Dooley carbolic acid for cough drofs?
"Well, Tim lay in bed for two weeks, and then he got up as well as he ever was in his life, and walked out of the hospital glad that he got out of the slaughter house alive.
"On the corner he stofped and felt in all his pockets. He had a feelin' that he had lost somethin'. His watch was in his pocket, his money was safe. He never felt better in his life. He tried to shake ofif the queer feelin', but it stuck to him as a burdock sticks to a goat.
"His friends gave him a welcome as if he came from the dead, but still that strange feelin' was with him. He went out into the street and tried to walk it off. Suddenly he clapped his hands to his head like the villain in the play, Madden. He remembered that he had lost his 'pindix!"
"Poor man! Poor man!" muttered Madden.
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"Yes," resumed Rafferty, "he had surely lost it. The doctors told him so, and he was lonely, tonight, love, without you. A feelin' of grief came over him, Madden. The tears gushed out of his eyes like water from a spout. He looked at the smilin' faces crowdin' the street. Yes, they could laugh, they could enjoy the seashore, they were all perfect men and women. All of them had 'pindixes. But he "had none. He was an imperfect man. The beggars in the street were better men than he. And, yellin' like a madman, he rushed along, knockin' over men and women, and groanin' with terror because he had lost somethin' he never knew he had and which was of no use to him when he had it. Arid that's the rayson, Madden, why Tim Conlin went out of his head."