Gonfarone’s, the “Benedetto’s” of the tale, is an old, converted dwelling house. There are the brown-stone steps, flanked by a pair of iron lanterns, giving entrance to a narrow corridor; and, beyond, to the right, the dining room, extending through the house, linoleum underfoot, hat-racks and buffets of oak aligned against the brownish walls, and, everywhere, little tables, each covered with a scanty cloth, set close together. In the days when Felix Piers was in the habit of patronizing the place there floated to his ears such phrases as “bad colour scheme!” “sophomoric treatment!” “miserable drawing!” “no atmosphere!” But all that was years ago. When the writer dined there last, a month or so back, fragments of conversation caught from the clatter of the tongues of the Bohemians were: “Take it from me, kid!” “If old man Weinstein thinks he can put that over, he’s got another guess coming!” “And then I give her the juice and we lost that super-six in the dust!” “Yes, Huggins has got some infield!”
Fifteen or twenty years ago the trail of Bohemia would have inevitably led to Maria’s in West Twelfth Street. For there to be found, among others, was a certain Mickey Finn, as celebrated in his day and town as Aristide Bruant was in a section of Paris of the nineties. About Finn gathered a group of newspaper men and journalists. The distinction was that the newspaper man was one who earned his daily bread on Park Row, while the journalist had written a sketch for the New York “Sun” in 1878, and still carried and proudly exhibited the clipping. The original Maria, a large Italian cook who presided autocratically over the kitchen of the basement restaurant, long since migrated somewhere to the north. She had exacted her share of the homage and the substance of her clients. After her departure there was still the attempt to keep up the ancient fire of witticism, and “la la la la!” was still uttered in what was thought to be the best Parisian accent, and the judgments of magazine editors, and the achievements of the painters who sold their portraits, and the writers whose novels crept into the lists of the “six bestsellers” continued to be damned in no uncertain tones. But the old spirit seems irrevocably gone.
The Slope of Murray Hill
Stretches of the Avenue—Murray Hill: a Slope in Transition—Early Astor Land Purchases—The Brunswick Building—A Deserted Clubland—Churches of the Stretch—The Marble Collegiate—The “Little Church Around the Corner” and its Story—When Grant’s Funeral Procession Passed—The Waldorf and the Astoria—On the Hill in 1776—When the Red-Coats Loitered.