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The voice of the city; further stories of the four million online

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Author of " Tlie Four Million," " Th Trimmtd

Lamp," "Strictly Business," " WJdrligigs"

" Sixes and Sevens," Etc.





Acknowledgment is made to the New York World and to Ainsled
Magazine for permission to republish these stories

Copyright, 1908, by Doubleday, Page Sf Company

Copyright, IBOS, 1908, by Ainslee Magazine Company
Copyright, 1904, 1905, 1906, by Press Publishing Company






























TWENTY-FIVE years ago the school children used
to chant their lessons. The manner of their delivery
was a singsong recitative between the utterance of an
Episcopal minister and the drone of a tired sawmill.
I mean no disrespect. We must have lumber and

I remember one beautiful and instructive little
lyric that emanated from the physiology class. The
most striking line of it was this :

" The shin-bone is the long-est bone in the hu-man

What an inestimable boon it would have been if
all the corporeal and spiritual facts pertaining to
man had thus been tunefully and logically inculcated
in our youthful minds! But what we gained in
anatomy, music and philosophy was meagre.

The other day I became confused. I needed a
ray of light. I turned back to those school days for
aid. But in all the nasal harmonies we whined forth
from those hard benches I could not recall one that
treated of the voice of agglomerated mankind.

In other words, of the composite vocal message of
massed humanity.

4 The Voice of the City

In other words, of the Voice of a Big City.

Now, the individual voice is not lacking. We can
understand the song of the poet, the ripple of the
brook, the meaning of the man who wants $5 until
next Monday, the inscriptions on the tombs of the
Pharaohs, the language of flowers, the " step lively "
of the conductor, and the prelude of the milk cans at
4 A. M. Certain large-eared ones even assert that
they are wise to the vibrations of the tympanum pro-
duced by concussion of the air emanating from Mr.
H. James. But who can comprehend the meaning
of the voice of the city?

I went out for to see.

First, I asked Aurelia. She wore white Swiss and a
hat with flowers on it, and ribbons and ends of things
fluttered here and there.

" Tell me," I said, stammeringly, for I have no
voice of my own, " what does this big er
enormous er whopping city say ? It must have
a voice of some kind. Does it ever speak to you?
How do you interpret its meaning? It is a tremen-
dous mass, but it must have a key."

" Like a Saratoga trunk ? " asked Aurelia.

" No," said I. " Please do not refer to the lid. I
have a fancy that every city has a voice. Each one
has something to say to the one who can hear it.
What does the big one say to you? "

All cities," said Aurelia, judicially, " say the


The Voice of the City 5

same thing. When they get through saying it
there is an echo from Philadelphia. So, they are

" Here are 4,000,000 people," said I, scholastic-
ally, " compressed upon an island, which is mostly
lamb surrounded by Wall Street water. The conjunc-
tion of so many units into so small a space must
result in an identity or, or rather a homogeneity
that finds its oral expression through a common chan-
nel. It is, as you might say, a consensus of transla-
tion, concentrating in a crystallized, general idea
which reveals itself in what may be termed the Voice
of the City. Can you tell me what it is ? "

Aurelia smiled wonderfully. She sat on the high
stoop. A spray of insolent ivy bobbed against her
right ear. A ray of impudent moonlight flickered
upon her nose. But I was adamant, nickel-

" I must go and find out," I said, " what is the
Voice of this city. Other cities have voices. It is an
assignment. I must have it. New York," I con-
tinued, in a rising tone, " had better not hand me a
cigar and say : * Old man, I can't talk for publication.'
No other city acts in that way. Chicago says, unhes-
itatingly, * I will ; ' Philadelphia says, ' I should ; '
New Orleans says, * I used to ; ' Louisville says,
' Don't care if I do ; ' St. Louis says, * Excuse me ; '
Pittsburg says, * Smoke up.' Now, New York "

6 The Voice of the City

Aurelia smiled.

" Very well," said I, " I must go elsewhere and find

I went into a palace, tile-floored, cherub-ceilinged
and square with the cop. I put my foot on the brass
rail and said to Billy Magnus, the best bartender in
the diocese :

" Billy, you've lived in New York a long time
what kind of a song-and-dance does this old town give
you? What I mean is, doesn't the gab of it seem to
kind of bunch up and slide over the bar to you in a
sort of amalgamated tip that hits off the burg in a
kind of an epigram with a dash of bitters and a slice
of "

" Excuse me a minute," said Billy, " somebody's
punching the button at the side door."

He went away; came back with an empty tin
bucket; again vanished with it full; returned and
said to me:

" That was Mame. She rings twice. She likes a
glass of beer for supper. Her and the kid. If you
ever saw that little skeesicks of mine brace up in his

high chair and take his beer and But, say, what

was yours? I get kind of excited when I hear them
two rings was it the baseball score or gin fizz you
asked for ? '*

" Ginger ale," I answered.

I walked up to Broadway. I saw a cop on the cor-

The Voice of the City 7

ner. The cops take kids up, women across, and men
in. I went up to him.

" If I'm not exceeding the spiel limit," I said, " let
me ask you. You see New York during its vocative
hours. It is the function of you and your brother
cops to preserve the acoustics of the city. There must
be a civic voice that is intelligible to you. At night
during your lonely rounds you must have heard it.
What is the epitome of its turmoil and shouting?
What does the city say to you ? "

" Friend," said the policeman, spinning his club,
" it don't say nothing. I get my orders from the
man higher up. Say, I guess you're all right. Stand
here for a few minutes and keep an eye open for the

The cop melted into the darkness of the side street.
In ten minutes he had returned.

" Married last Tuesday," he said, half gruffly.
" You know how they are. She comes to that corner
at nine every night for a comes to say * hello ! ' I
generally manage to be there. Say, what was it you
asked me a bit ago what's doing in the city ? Oh,
there's a roof-garden or two just opened, twelve
blocks up."

I crossed a crow's-foot of street-car tracks, and
skirted the edge of an umbrageous park. An
artificial Diana, gilded, heroic, poised, wind-ruled,
on the tower, shimmered in the clear light of her

8 The Voice of the City

namesake in the sky. Along came my poet, hurry-
ing, hatted, haired, emitting dactyls, spondees and
dactylis. I seized him.

" Bill," said I (in the magazine he is Cleon), " give
me a lift. I am on an assignment to find out the
Voice of the city. You see, it's a special order. Ordi-
narily a symposium comprising the views of Henry
Clews, John L. Sullivan, Edwin Markham, May Ir-
win and Charles Schwab would be about all. But this
is a different matter. We want a broad, poetic,
mystic vocalization of the city's soul and meaning.
You are the very chap to give me a hint. Some years
ago a man got at the Niagara Falls and gave us its
pitch. The note was about two feet below the lowest
G on the piano. Now, you can't put New York into
a note unless it's better indorsed than that. But give
me an idea of what it would say if it should speak. It
is bound to be a mighty and far-reaching utterance.
To arrive at it we must take the tremendous crash of
the chords of the day's traffic, the laughter and music
of the night, the solemn tones of Dr. Parkhurst, the
rag-time, the weeping, the stealthy hum of cab-wheels,
the shout of the press agent, the tinkle of fountains
on the roof gardens, the hullabaloo of the strawberry
vender and the covers of Everybody's Magazine, the
whispers of the lovers in the parks all these sounds
must go into your Voice not combined, but mixed,
and of the mixture an essence made; and of the es-

The Voice of the City 9

sence an extract an audible extract, of which one
drop shall form the thing we seek."

" Do you remember," asked the poet, with a
chuckle, " that California girl we met at Stiver's
studio last week? Well, I'm on my way to see her.
She repeated that poem of mine, ' The Tribute of
Spring,' word for word. She's the smartest proposi-
tion in this town just at present. Say, how does this
confounded tie look? I spoiled four before I got one
to set right."

" And the Voice that I asked you about ? " I in-

" Oh, she doesn't sing," said Cleon. " But you
ought to hear her recite my * Angel of the Inshore
Wind.' "

I passed on. I cornered a newsboy and he flashed
at me prophetic pink papers that outstripped the
news by two revolutions of the clock's longest hand.

" Son," I said, while I pretended to chase coins in
my penny pocket, " doesn't it sometimes seem to you
as if the city ought to be able to talk ? All these ups
and downs and funny business and queer things hap-
pening every day what would it say, do you think,
if it could speak ? "

" Quit yer kiddin'," said the boy. " Wot paper yer
want? I got no time to waste. It's Mag's birthday,
and I want thirty cents to git her a present."

Here was no interpreter of the city's mouthpiece.

10 The Voice of the City

I bought a paper, and consigned its undeclared
treaties, its premeditated murders and unfought bat-
tles to an ash can.

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 de-
lights! 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."


1 HERE is a saying that no man has tasted the full
flavor 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 condi-
tions 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 con-
ditions; 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 con-
tests 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

The Hopkins flat was like a thousand others.

There was a rubber plant in one window; a flea-


12 The Voice of the City

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 En-
gines, Chiropody, Loans, Pulleys, Boas Renovated,
Waltz Guaranteed in Five Lessons, or Artificial
Limbs. It is not for us to wring Mr. Hopkins's avo-
cation from these outward signs that be.

Mrs. Hopkins was like a thousand others. The
auriferous tooth, the sedentary disposition, the Sun-
day 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 vigi-
lant 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

One moment yet of sententiousness and the story

In the Big City large and sudden things happen.
You round a corner and thrust the rib of your um-
brella into the eye of your old friend from Kootenai
Falls. You stroll out to pluck a Sweet William in the

The Complete Life of John Hopkins 13

park and lo ! bandits attack you you are am-
bulanced to the hospital you marry your nurse ;
are divorced get squeezed while short on U. P. S.
and D. O. W. N. S. stand in the bread line marry
an heiress, take out your laundry and pay your club
dues seemingly all in the wink of an eye. You
travel the streets, and a finger beckons to you, a
handkerchief is dropped for you, a brick is dropped
upon you, the elevator cable or your bank breaks, a
table d'hote or your wife disagrees with you, and Fate
tosses you about like cork crumbs in wine opened by
an un-feed waiter. The City is a sprightly young-
ster, and you are red paint upon its toy, and you get
licked off.

John Hopkins sat, after a compressed dinner, in
his glove-fitting straight-front flat. He sat upon a
hornblende couch and gazed, with satiated eyes, at
Art Brought Home to the People in the shape of
" The Storm " tacked against the wall. Mrs. Hop-
kins discoursed droningly of the dinner smells from
the flat across the hall. The flea-bitten terrier gave
Hopkins a look of disgust, and showed a man-hating

Here was neither poverty, love, nor war ; but upon
such barren stems may be grafted those essentials of
a complete life.

John Hopkins sought to inject a few raisins of
conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.

14 The Vdce of the City

" Putting a new elevator in at the office," he said,
discarding the nominative noun, " and the boss has
turned out his whiskers."

" You don't mean it ! " commented Mrs. Hopkins.

" Mr. Whipples," continued John, " wore his new
spring suit down to-day. I liked it fine. It's a gray

with " He stopped, suddenly stricken by a need

that made itself known to him. " I believe I'll walk
down to the corner and get a five-cent cigar," he

John Hopkins took his hat and picked his way
down the musty halls and stairs of the flat-house.

The evening air was mild, and the streets shrill
with the careless cries of children playing games con-
trolled by mysterious rhythms and phrases. Their
elders held the doorways and steps with leisurely pipe
and gossip. Paradoxically, the fire-escapes sup-
ported lovers in couples who made no attempt to fly
the mounting conflagration they were there to fan.

The corner cigar store aimed at by John Hopkins
was kept by a man named Freshmayer, who looked
upon the earth as a sterile promontory.

Hopkins, unknown in the store, entered and called
genially for his " bunch of spinach, car-fare grade."
This imputation deepened the pessimism of Fresh-
mayer; but he set out a brand that came perilously
near to filling the order. Hopkins bit off the roots of
his purchase, and lighted up at the swinging gas

The Complete Life of John Hopkins 15

jet. Feeling in his pockets to make payment, he
found not a penny there.

" Say, my friend," he explained, frankly, " I've
come out without any change. Hand you that nickel
first time I pass."

Joy surged in Freshmayer's heart. Here was cor-
roboration of his belief that the world was rotten and
man a peripatetic evil. Without a word he rounded
the end of his counter and made earnest onslaught
upon his customer. Hopkins was no man to serve as
a punching-bag for a pessimistic tobacconist. He
quickly bestowed upon Freshmayer a colorado-
maduro eye in return for the ardent kick that he
received from that dealer in goods for cash only.

The impetus of the enemy's attack forced the
Hopkins line back to the sidewalk. There the con-
flict raged; the pacific wooden Indian, with his
carven smile, was overturned, and those of the street
who delighted in carnage pressed round to view the
zealous joust.

But then came the inevitable cop and imminent in-
convenience for both the attacker and attacked.
John Hopkins was a peaceful citizen, who worked at
rebuses of nights in a flat, but he was not without the
fundamental spirit of resistance that comes with the
battle-rage. He knocked the policeman into a gro-
cer's sidewalk display of goods and gave Freshmayer
a punch that caused him temporarily to regret that

16 The Voice of the City

he had not made it a rule to extend a five-cent line
of credit to certain customers. Then Hopkins took
spiritedly to his heels down the sidewalk, closely fol-
lowed by the cigar-dealer and the policeman, whose
uniform testified to the reason in the grocer's sign
that read : " Eggs cheaper than anywhere else in
the city."

As Hopkins ran he became aware of a big, low,
red, racing automobile that kept abreast of him in
the street. This auto steered in to the side of the
sidewalk, and the man guiding it motioned to Hopkins
to jump into it. He did so without slackening his
speed, and fell into the turkey-red upholstered seat
beside the chauffeur. The big machine, with a dimin-
uendo cough, flew away like an albatross down the
avenue into which the street emptied.

The driver of the auto sped his machine without a
word. He was masked beyond guess in the goggles
and diabolic garb of the chauffeur.

" Much obliged, old man," called Hopkins, grate-
fully. " I guess you've got sporting blood in you,
all right, and don't admire the sight of two men
trying to soak one. Little more and I'd have been

The chauffeur made no sign that he had heard.
Hopkins shrugged a shoulder and chewed at his
cigar, to which his teeth had clung grimly through-
out the melee.

The Complete Life of John Hopkins 17

Ten minutes and the auto turned into the open
carriage entrance of a noble mansion of brown stone,
and stood still. The chauffeur leaped out, and said :

" Come quick. The lady, she will explain. It is
the great honor you will have, monsieur. Ah, that
milady could call upon Armand to do this thing!
But, no, I am only one chauffeur."

With vehement gestures the chauffeur conducted
Hopkins into the house. He was ushered into a small
but luxurious reception chamber. A lady, young, and
possessing the beauty of visions, rose from a chair.
In her eyes smouldered a becoming anger. Her high-
arched, thread-like brows were ruffled into a delicious

" Milady," said the chauffeur, bowing low, " I have
the honor to relate to you that I went to the house of
Monsieur Long and found him to be not at home. As
I came back I see this gentleman in combat against
- how you say greatest odds. He is fighting with
five ten thirty men gendarmes, aussi. Yes,
milady, he what you call ' swat ' one three eight
policemans. If that Monsieur Long is out I say to
myself this gentleman he will serve milady so well, and
I bring him here."

" Very well, Armand," said the lady, " you may
go." She turned to Hopkins.

" I sent my chauffeur," she said, " to bring my
cousin, Walter Long. There is a man in this house

18 The Voice of the City

who has treated me with insult and abuse. I have
complained to my aunt, and she laughs at me. Ar-
mand says you are brave. In these prosaic days men
who are both brave and chivalrous are few. May I
count upon your assistance ? "

John Hopkins thrust the remains of his cigar into
his coat pocket. He looked upon this winning
creature and felt his first thrill of romance. It was a
knightly love, and contained no disloyalty to the flat
with the flea-bitten terrier and the lady of his choice.
He had married her after a picnic of the Lady Label
Stickers' Union, Lodge No. 2, on a dare and a bet of
new hats and chowder all around with his friend, Billy
McManus. This angel who was begging him to
come to her rescue was something too heavenly for
chowder, and as for hats golden, jewelled crowns
for her!

" Say," said John Hopkins, " just show me the guy
that you've got the grouch at. I've neglected my
talents as a scrapper heretofore, but this is my busy

" He is in there," said the lady, pointing to a
closed door. " Come. Are you sure that you do not
falter or fear ? "

" Me? " said John Hopkins. " Just give me one of
those roses in the bunch you are wearing, will you ? "

The lady gave him a red, red rose. John Hopkins
kissed it, stuffed it into his vest pocket, opened the

The Complete Life of John Hopkins 19

door and walked into the room. It was a handsome
library, softly but brightly lighted. A young man
was there, reading.

" Books on etiquette is what you want to study,"
said John Hopkins, abruptly. " Get up here, and I'll
give you some lessons. Be rude to a lady, will you? "

The young man looked mildly surprised. Then he
arose languidly, dextrously caught the arms of John
Hopkins and conducted him irresistibly to the front
door of the house.

" Beware, Ralph Branscombe," cried the lady, who
had followed, " what you do to the gallant man who
has tried to protect me."

The young man shoved John Hopkins gently out
the door and then closed it.

" Bess," he said calmly, " I wish you would quit
reading historical novels. How in the world did that
fellow get in here? "

** Armand brought him," said the young lady. " I
think you are awfully mean not to let me have that
St. Bernard. I sent Armand for Walter. I was so
angry with you."

" Be sensible, Bess," said the young man, taking
her arm. " That dog isn't safe. He has bitten two
or three people around the kennels. Come now, let's
go tell auntie we are in good humor again."

Arm in arm, they moved away.

John Hopkins walked to his flat. The janitor's

20 The Voice of the City

five-year-old daughter was playing on the steps.
Hopkins gave her a nice, red rose and walked up-

Mrs. Hopkins was philandering with curl-papers.

" Get your cigar? " she asked, disinterestedly.

" Sure," said Hopkins, " and I knocked around a
while outside. It's a nice night."

He sat upon the hornblende sofa, took out the
stump of his cigar, lighted it, and gazed at the grace-
ful figures in " The Storm " on the opposite wall.

" I was telling you," said he, " about Mr.
Whipple's suit. It's a gray, with an invisible check,
and it looks fine."


THERE were 3,000 girls in the Biggest Store.
Masie was one of them. She was eighteen and a
saleslady in the gents' gloves. Here she became
versed in two varieties of human beings the kind of
gents who buy their gloves in department stores and
the kind of women who buy gloves for unfortunate
gents. Besides this wide knowledge of the human
species, Masie had acquired other information. She
had listened to the promulgated wisdom of the 2,999
other girls and had stored it in a brain that was as
secretive and wary as that of a Maltese cat. Per-
haps nature, foreseeing that she would lack wise
counsellors, had mingled the saving ingredient of
shrewdness along with her beauty, as she has endowed
the silver fox of the priceless fur above the other

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