Young Van Bibber broke one of his rules of life one day and came down-town. This unusual journey into the marts of trade and finance was in response to a call from his lawyer, who wanted his signature to some papers. It was five years since Van Bibber had been south of the north side of Washington Square, except as a transient traveller to the ferries on the elevated road. And as he walked through the City Hall Square he looked about him at the new buildings in the air, and the bustle and confusion of the streets, with as much interest as a lately arrived immigrant.
He rather enjoyed the novelty of the situation, and after he had completed his business at the lawyer’s office he tried to stroll along lower Broadway as he did on the Avenue.
But people bumped against him, and carts and drays tried to run him down when he crossed the side streets, and those young men whom he knew seemed to be in a great hurry, and expressed such amused surprise at seeing him that he felt very much out of place indeed. And so he decided to get back to his club window and its quiet as soon as possible.
“Hello, Van Bibber,” said one of the young men who were speeding by, “what brings you here? Have you lost your way?”
“I think I have,” said Van Bibber. “If you’ll kindly tell me how I can get back to civilization again, be obliged to you.”
“Take the elevated from Park Place,” said his friend from over his shoulder, as he nodded and dived into the crowd.
The visitor from up-town had not a very distinct idea as to where Park Place was, but he struck off Broadway and followed the line of the elevated road along Church Street. It was at the corner of Vesey Street that a miserable-looking, dirty, and red-eyed object stood still in his tracks and begged Van Bibber for a few cents to buy food. “I’ve come all the way from Chicago,” said the Object, “and I haven’t tasted food for twenty-four hours.”
Van Bibber drew away as though the Object had a contagious disease in his rags, and handed him a quarter without waiting to receive the man’s blessing.
“Poor devil!” said Van Bibber. “Fancy going without dinner all day!” He could not fancy this, though he tried, and the impossibility of it impressed him so much that he amiably determined to go back and hunt up the Object and give him more money. Van Bibber’s ideas of a dinner were rather exalted. He did not know of places where a quarter was good for a “square meal,” including “one roast, three vegetables, and pie.” He hardly considered a quarter a sufficiently large tip for the waiter who served the dinner, and decidedly not enough for the dinner itself. He did not see his man at first, and when he did the man did not see him. Van Bibber watched him stop three gentlemen, two of whom gave him some money, and then the Object approached Van Bibber and repeated his sad tale in a monotone. He evidently did not recognize Van Bibber, and the clubman gave him a half-dollar and walked away, feeling that the man must surely have enough by this time with which to get something to eat, if only a luncheon.