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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.

“Oh, Beriah!”

On the train she said to him suddenly: 

“I wonder why you came when you got my letter.”

“Oh, shucks!” said Beriah.  “Did you think you could fool me?  How could you be run away to that Bohemia country like you said when your letter was postmarked New York as plain as day?”

XXIII

A PHILISTINE IN BOHEMIA

George Washington, with his right arm upraised, sits his iron horse at the lower corner of Union Square, forever signaling the Broadway cars to stop as they round the curve into Fourteenth Street.  But the cars buzz on, heedless, as they do at the beck of a private citizen, and the great General must feel, unless his nerves are iron, that rapid transit gloria mundi.

Should the General raise his left hand as he has raised his right it would point to a quarter of the city that forms a haven for the oppressed and suppressed of foreign lands.  In the cause of national or personal freedom they have found a refuge here, and the patriot who made it for them sits his steed, overlooking their district, while he listens through his left ear to vaudeville that caricatures the posterity of his proteges.  Italy, Poland, the former Spanish possessions and the polyglot tribes of Austria-Hungary have spilled here a thick lather of their effervescent sons.  In the eccentric cafes and lodging-houses of the vicinity they hover over their native wines and political secrets.  The colony changes with much frequency.  Faces disappear from the haunts to be replaced by others.  Whither do these uneasy birds flit?  For half of the answer observe carefully the suave foreign air and foreign courtesy of the next waiter who serves your table d’hote.  For the other half, perhaps if the barber shops had tongues (and who will dispute it?) they could tell their share.

Titles are as plentiful as finger rings among these transitory exiles.  For lack of proper exploitation a stock of title goods large enough to supply the trade of upper Fifth Avenue is here condemned to a mere pushcart traffic.  The new-world landlords who entertain these offshoots of nobility are not dazzled by coronets and crests.  They have doughnuts to sell instead of daughters.  With them it is a serious matter of trading in flour and sugar instead of pearl powder and bonbons.

These assertions are deemed fitting as an introduction to the tale, which is of plebeians and contains no one with even the ghost of a title.

Katy Dempsey’s mother kept a furnished-room house in this oasis of the aliens.  The business was not profitable.  If the two scraped together enough to meet the landlord’s agent on rent day and negotiate for the ingredients of a daily Irish stew they called it success.  Often the stew lacked both meat and potatoes.  Sometimes it became as bad as consomme with music.

In this mouldy old house Katy waxed plump and pert and wholesome and as beautiful and freckled as a tiger lily.  She was the good fairy who was guilty of placing the damp clean towels and cracked pitchers of freshly laundered Croton in the lodgers’ rooms.

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