A NEW USE FOR A WATER HOSE
The motor-bus ran up Fifth Avenue, cut across to Broadway, passed Columbus Circle, and swept into the Drive. It was a day divinely young and fair. The fragrance of a lingering spring was wafted to the nostrils. Only the evening before the trees had been given a bath of rain and the refreshment of it showed in every quivering leaf. From its little waves the Hudson reflected a million sparkles of light. Glimpses of the Park tempted Clay. Its winding paths! The children playing on the grass while their maids in neat caps and aprons gossiped together on the benches near! This was the most human spot the man from Arizona had seen in the metropolis.
Somewhere in the early three-figure streets he descended from the top of the bus and let his footsteps follow his inclinations into the Park. A little shaver in a sailor suit ran across the path and fell sprawling at the feet of Clay. He picked up and began to comfort the howling four-year-old.
“That sure was a right hard fall, sonny, but you’re not goin’ to make any fuss about it. You’re Daddy’s little man and—”
A sharp, high voice cut into his consolation.
“Cedric, come here!”
The little boy went, bawling lustily to win sympathy. The nursemaid shook him impatiently. “How many times have I told you to look where you’re going? Serves you just right. Now be still.”
There was a deep instinct in Clay to stand by those in trouble when they were weak. A child or a woman in distress always had a claim on him.
“I reckon the li’l’ fellow was in a hurry, Miss,” he said, smiling. “I ’most always was at his age. But he ain’t hurt much.”
The maid looked Clay up and down scornfully before she turned her back on him and began to talk with another nurse.
Beneath the tan of the range-rider’s cheeks the color flamed. This young woman had not mistaken the friendliness of the West for the impudence of a street masher. The impulse of snobbery had expressed itself in her action.
The cowpuncher followed a path that took him back to the street. He grinned, but there was no smile in his heart. He was ashamed of this young woman who could meet good-will with scorn, and he wanted to get away from her without any unnecessary delay. What were the folks like in this part of the country that you couldn’t speak to them without getting insulted?
He struck across the Drive into a side street. An apartment house occupied the corner, but from the other side a row of handsome private dwellings faced him.
The janitor of the apartment house was watering the parking beyond the sidewalk. The edge of the stream from the nozzle of the hose sprayed the path in front of Clay. He hesitated for a moment to give the man time to turn aside the hose.