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The Voice of the City: Further Stories of the Four Million eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 156 pages of information about The Voice of the City.

Again I repaired to the park and sat in the moon shade.  I thought and thought, and wondered why none could tell me what I asked for.

And then, as swift as light from a fixed star, the answer came to me.  I arose and hurried—­hurried as so many reasoners must, back around my circle.  I knew the answer and I hugged it in my breast as I flew, fearing lest some one would stop me and demand my secret.

Aurelia was still on the stoop.  The moon was higher and the ivy shadows were deeper.  I sat at her side and we watched a little cloud tilt at the drifting moon and go asunder quite pale and discomfited.

And then, wonder of wonders and delight of delights! our hands somehow touched, and our fingers closed together and did not part.

After half an hour Aurelia said, with that smile of hers: 

“Do you know, you haven’t spoken a word since you came back!”

“That,” said I, nodding wisely, “is the Voice of the City.”

II

THE COMPLETE LIFE OF JOHN HOPKINS

There is a saying that no man has tasted the full flavour of life until he has known poverty, love and war.  The justness of this reflection commends it to the lover of condensed philosophy.  The three conditions embrace about all there is in life worth knowing.  A surface thinker might deem that wealth should be added to the list.  Not so.  When a poor man finds a long-hidden quarter-dollar that has slipped through a rip into his vest lining, he sounds the pleasure of life with a deeper plummet than any millionaire can hope to cast.

It seems that the wise executive power that rules life has thought best to drill man in these three conditions; and none may escape all three.  In rural places the terms do not mean so much.  Poverty is less pinching; love is temperate; war shrinks to contests about boundary lines and the neighbors’ hens.  It is in the cities that our epigram gains in truth and vigor; and it has remained for one John Hopkins to crowd the experience into a rather small space of time.

The Hopkins flat was like a thousand others.  There was a rubber plant in one window; a flea-bitten terrier sat in the other, wondering when he was to have his day.

John Hopkins was like a thousand others.  He worked at $20 per week in a nine-story, red-brick building at either Insurance, Buckle’s Hoisting Engines, Chiropody, Loans, Pulleys, Boas Renovated, Waltz Guaranteed in Five Lessons, or Artificial Limbs.  It is not for us to wring Mr. Hopkins’s avocation from these outward signs that be.

Mrs. Hopkins was like a thousand others.  The auriferous tooth, the sedentary disposition, the Sunday afternoon wanderlust, the draught upon the delicatessen store for home-made comforts, the furor for department store marked-down sales, the feeling of superiority to the lady in the third-floor front who wore genuine ostrich tips and had two names over her bell, the mucilaginous hours during which she remained glued to the window sill, the vigilant avoidance of the instalment man, the tireless patronage of the acoustics of the dumb-waiter shaft—­all the attributes of the Gotham flat-dweller were hers.

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