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_café_, where he ordered a green mint and a heavy, black, and
expensive cigar, and seated himself at the window, where he felt that
he should always have sat if the fates had been just. The smoke hung
in light clouds about him, and the lights shone and glistened on the
white cloths and the broad shirt-fronts of the smart young men and
distinguished foreign-looking older men at the surrounding tables.

And then, in the midst of his dreamings, he heard the soft, careless
drawl of his master, which sounded at that time and in that place like
the awful voice of a condemning judge. Van Bibber pulled out a chair
and dropped into it. His side was towards Walters, so that he did not
see him. He had some men with him, and he was explaining how he had
missed his train and had come back to find that one of the party had
eaten the dinner without him, and he wondered who it could be; and
then turning easily in his seat he saw Walters with the green mint and
the cigar, trembling behind a copy of the London _Graphic_.

"Walters!" said Van Bibber, "what are you doing here?"

Walters looked his guilt and rose stiffly. He began with a feeble "If
you please, sir - "

"Go back to my rooms and wait for me there," said Van Bibber, who was
too decent a fellow to scold a servant in public.

Walters rose and left the half-finished cigar and the mint with the
ice melting in it on the table. His one evening of sublimity was over,
and he walked away, bending before the glance of his young master and
the smiles of his master's friends.

When Van Bibber came back he found on his dressing-table a note from
Walters stating that he could not, of course, expect to remain longer
in his service, and that he left behind him the twenty-eight dollars
which the dinner had cost.

"If he had only gone off with all my waistcoats and scarf-pins, I'd
have liked it better," said Van Bibber, "than his leaving me cash
for infernal dinner. Why, a servant like Walters is worth
twenty-eight-dollar dinners - twice a day."




THE HUNGRY MAN WAS FED


Young Van Bibber broke one of his rules of life one day and came
down-town. This unusual journey into the marts of trade and finance
was in response to a call from his lawyer, who wanted his signature to
some papers. It was five years since Van Bibber had been south of the
north side of Washington Square, except as a transient traveller to
the ferries on the elevated road. And as he walked through the City
Hall Square he looked about him at the new buildings in the air, and
the bustle and confusion of the streets, with as much interest as a
lately arrived immigrant.

He rather enjoyed the novelty of the situation, and after he had
completed his business at the lawyer's office he tried to stroll along
lower Broadway as he did on the Avenue.

But people bumped against him, and carts and drays tried to run him
down when he crossed the side streets, and those young men whom he
knew seemed to be in a great hurry, and expressed such amused surprise
at seeing him that he felt very much out of place indeed. And so he
decided to get back to his club window and its quiet as soon as
possible.

"Hello, Van Bibber," said one of the young men who were speeding by,
"what brings you here? Have you lost your way?"

"I think I have," said Van Bibber. "If you'll kindly tell me how I can
get back to civilization again, be obliged to you."

"Take the elevated from Park Place," said his friend from over his
shoulder, as he nodded and dived into the crowd.

The visitor from up-town had not a very distinct idea as to where Park
Place was, but he struck off Broadway and followed the line of the
elevated road along Church Street. It was at the corner of Vesey
Street that a miserable-looking, dirty, and red-eyed object stood
still in his tracks and begged Van Bibber for a few cents to buy food.
"I've come all the way from Chicago," said the Object, "and I haven't
tasted food for twenty-four hours."

Van Bibber drew away as though the Object had a contagious disease in
his rags, and handed him a quarter without waiting to receive the
man's blessing.

"Poor devil!" said Van Bibber. "Fancy going without dinner all day!"
He could not fancy this, though he tried, and the impossibility of it
impressed him so much that he amiably determined to go back and hunt
up the Object and give him more money. Van Bibber's ideas of a dinner
were rather exalted. He did not know of places where a quarter was
good for a "square meal," including "one roast, three vegetables, and
pie." He hardly considered a quarter a sufficiently large tip for the
waiter who served the dinner, and decidedly not enough for the dinner
itself. He did not see his man at first, and when he did the man did
not see him. Van Bibber watched him stop three gentlemen, two of whom
gave him some money, and then the Object approached Van Bibber and
repeated his sad tale in a monotone. He evidently did not recognize
Van Bibber, and the clubman gave him a half-dollar and walked away,
feeling that the man must surely have enough by this time with which
to get something to eat, if only a luncheon.

This retracing of his footsteps had confused Van Bibber, and he made a
complete circuit of the block before he discovered that he had lost
his bearings. He was standing just where he had started, and gazing
along the line of the elevated road, looking for a station, when the
familiar accents of the Object again saluted him.

When Van Bibber faced him the beggar looked uneasy. He was not sure
whether or not he had approached this particular gentleman before, but
Van Bibber conceived an idea of much subtlety, and deceived the Object
by again putting his hand in his pocket.

"Nothing to eat for twenty-four hours! Dear me!" drawled the clubman,
sympathetically. "Haven't you any money, either?"

"Not a cent," groaned the Object, "an' I'm just faint for food, sir.
S'help me. I hate to beg, sir. It isn't the money I want, it's jest
food. I'm starvin', sir."

"Well," said Van Bibber, suddenly, "if it is just something to eat you
want, come in here with me and I'll give you your breakfast." But the
man held back and began to whine and complain that they wouldn't let
the likes of him in such a fine place.

"Oh, yes, they will," said Van Bibber, glancing at the bill of fare in
front of the place. "It seems to be extremely cheap. Beefsteak fifteen
cents, for instance. Go in," he added, and there was something in his
tone which made the Object move ungraciously into the eating-house.

It was a very queer place, Van Bibber thought, and the people stared
very hard at him and his gloves and the gardenia in his coat and at
the tramp accompanying him.

"You ain't going to eat two breakfasts, are yer?" asked one of the
very tough-looking waiters of the Object. The Object looked uneasy,
and Van Bibber, who stood beside his chair, smiled in triumph.

"You're mistaken," he said to the waiter. "This gentleman is starving;
he has not tasted food for twenty-four hours. Give him whatever he
asks for!"

The Object scowled and the waiter grinned behind his tin tray, and
had the impudence to wink at Van Bibber, who recovered from this in
time to give the man a half-dollar and so to make of him a friend for
life. The Object ordered milk, but Van Bibber protested and ordered
two beefsteaks and fried potatoes, hot rolls and two omelettes,
coffee, and ham with bacon.

"Holy smoke! watcher think I am?" yelled the Object, in desperation.

"Hungry," said Van Bibber, very gently. "Or else an impostor. And, you
know, if you should happen to be the latter I should have to hand you
over to the police."

Van Bibber leaned easily against the wall and read the signs about
him, and kept one eye on a policeman across the street. The Object was
choking and cursing through his breakfast. It did not seem to agree
with him. Whenever he stopped Van Bibber would point with his stick to
a still unfinished dish, and the Object, after a husky protest, would
attack it as though it were poison. The people sitting about were
laughing, and the proprietor behind the desk smiling grimly.

"There, darn ye!" said the Object at last. "I've eat all I can eat for
a year. You think you're mighty smart, don't ye? But if you choose to
pay that high for your fun, I s'pose you can afford it. Only don't let
me catch you around these streets after dark, that's all."

And the Object started off, shaking his fist.

"Wait a minute," said Van Bibber. "You haven't paid them for your
breakfast."

"Haven't what?" shouted the Object. "Paid 'em! How could I pay him?
Youse asked me to come in here and eat. I didn't want no breakfast,
did I? Youse'll have to pay for your fun yerself, or they'll throw yer
out. Don't try to be too smart."

"I gave you," said Van Bibber, slowly, "seventy-five cents with which
to buy a breakfast. This check calls for eighty-five cents, and
extremely cheap it is," he added, with a bow to the fat proprietor.
"Several other gentlemen, on your representation that you were
starving, gave you other sums to be expended on a breakfast. You have
the money with you now. So pay what you owe at once, or I'll call that
officer across the street and tell him what I know, and have you put
where you belong."

"I'll see you blowed first!" gasped the Object.

Van Bibber turned to the waiter. "Kindly beckon to that officer," said
he.

The waiter ran to the door and the Object ran too, but the tough
waiter grabbed him by the back of his neck and held him.

"Lemme go!" yelled the Object. "Lemme go an' I'll pay you."

Everybody in the place came up now and formed a circle around the
group and watched the Object count out eighty-five cents into the
waiter's hand, which left him just one dime to himself.

"You have forgotten the waiter who served you," said Van Bibber,
severely pointing with his stick at the dime.

"No, you don't," groaned the Object.

"Oh, yes," said Van Bibber, "do the decent thing now, or I'll - "

The Object dropped the dime in the waiter's hand, and Van Bibber,
smiling and easy, made his way through the admiring crowd and out into
the street.

"I suspect," said Mr. Van Bibber later in the day, when recounting his
adventure to a fellow-clubman, "that, after I left, fellow tried to
get tip back from waiter, for I saw him come out of place very
suddenly, you see, and without touching pavement till he lit on back
of his head in gutter. He was most remarkable waiter."




VAN BIBBER AT THE RACES


Young Van Bibber had never spent a Fourth of July in the city, as he
had always understood it was given over to armies of small boys on
that day, who sat on all the curbstones and set off fire-crackers, and
that the thermometer always showed ninety degrees in the shade, and
cannon boomed and bells rang from daybreak to midnight. He had refused
all invitations to join any Fourth-of-July parties at the seashore or
on the Sound or at Tuxedo, because he expected his people home from
Europe, and had to be in New York to meet them. He was accordingly
greatly annoyed when he received a telegram saying they would sail in
a boat a week later.

He finished his coffee at the club on the morning of the Fourth about
ten o'clock, in absolute solitude, and with no one to expect and
nothing to anticipate; so he asked for a morning paper and looked up
the amusements offered for the Fourth. There were plenty of excursions
with brass bands, and refreshments served on board, baseball matches
by the hundred, athletic meetings and picnics by the dozen, but
nothing that seemed to exactly please him.

The races sounded attractive, but then he always lost such a lot of
money, and the crowd pushed so, and the sun and the excitement made
his head ache between the eyes and spoiled his appetite for dinner. He
had vowed again and again that he would not go to the races; but as
the day wore on and the solitude of the club became oppressive and the
silence of the Avenue began to tell on him, he changed his mind, and
made his preparations accordingly.

First, he sent out after all the morning papers and read their tips on
the probable winners. Very few of them agreed, so he took the horse
which most of them seemed to think was best, and determined to back
it, no matter what might happen or what new tips he might get later.
Then he put two hundred dollars in his pocket-book to bet with, and
twenty dollars for expenses, and sent around for his field-glasses.

He was rather late in starting, and he made up his mind on the way to
Morris Park that he would be true to the list of winners he had
written out, and not make any side bets on any suggestions or inside
information given him by others. He vowed a solemn vow on the rail of
the boat to plunge on each of the six horses he had selected from the
newspaper tips, and on no others. He hoped in this way to win
something. He did not care so much to win, but he hated to lose. He
always felt so flat and silly after it was over; and when it
happened, as it often did, that he had paid several hundred dollars
for the afternoon's sport, his sentiments did him credit.

"I shall probably, or rather certainly, be tramped on and shoved,"
soliloquized Van Bibber.

"I shall smoke more cigars than are good for me, and drink more than I
want, owing to the unnatural excitement and heat, and I shall be late
for my dinner. And for all this I shall probably pay two hundred
dollars. It really seems as if I were a young man of little intellect,
and yet thousands of others are going to do exactly the same thing."

The train was very late. One of the men in front said they would
probably just be able to get their money up in time for the first
race. A horse named Firefly was Van Bibber's choice, and he took one
hundred dollars of his two hundred to put up on her. He had it already
in his hand when the train reached the track, and he hurried with the
rest towards the bookmakers to get his one hundred on as quickly as
possible. But while he was crossing the lawn back of the stand, he
heard cheers and wild yells that told him they were running the race
at that moment.

"Raceland!" "Raceland!" "Raceland by a length!" shouted the crowd.

"Who's second?" a fat man shouted at another fat man.

"Firefly," called back the second, joyously, "and I've got her for a
place and I win eight dollars."

"Ah!" said Van Bibber, as he slipped his one hundred dollars back in
his pocket, "good thing I got here a bit late."

"What'd you win, Van Bibber?" asked a friend who rushed past him,
clutching his tickets as though they were precious stones.

"I win one hundred dollars," answered Van Bibber, calmly, as he walked
on up into the boxes. It was delightfully cool up there, and to his
satisfaction and surprise he found several people there whom he knew.
He went into Her box and accepted some _pâté_ sandwiches and iced
champagne, and chatted and laughed with Her so industriously, and so
much to the exclusion of all else, that the horses were at the
starting-post before he was aware of it, and he had to excuse himself
hurriedly and run to put up his money on Bugler, the second on his
list. He decided that as he had won one hundred dollars on the first
race he could afford to plunge on this one, so he counted out fifty
more, and putting this with the original one hundred dollars, crowded
into the betting-ring and said, "A hundred and fifty on Bugler
straight."

"Bugler's just been scratched," said the bookie, leaning over Van
Bibber's shoulder for a greasy five-dollar bill.

"Will you play anything else?" he asked, as the young gentleman stood
there irresolute.

"No, thank you," said Van Bibber, remembering his vow, and turning
hastily away. "Well," he mused, "I'm one hundred and fifty dollars
better off than I might have been if Bugler hadn't been scratched and
hadn't won. One hundred and fifty dollars added to one hundred makes
two hundred and fifty dollars. That puts me 'way ahead of the game. I
am fifty dollars better off than when I left New York. I'm playing in
great luck." So, on the strength of this, he bought out the man who
sells bouquets, and ordered more champagne to be sent up to the box
where She was sitting, and they all congratulated him on his winnings,
which were suggested by his generous and sudden expenditures.

"You must have a great eye for picking a winner," said one of the
older men, grudgingly.

"Y-e-s," said Van Bibber, modestly. "I know a horse when I see it, I
think; and," he added to himself, "that's about all."

His horse for the third race was Rover, and the odds were five to one
against him. Van Bibber wanted very much to bet on Pirate King
instead, but he remembered his vow to keep to the list he had
originally prepared, whether he lost or won. This running after
strange gods was always a losing business. He took one hundred dollars
in five-dollar bills, and went down to the ring and put the hundred up
on Rover and returned to the box. The horses had been weighed in and
the bugle had sounded, and three of the racers were making their way
up the track, when one of them plunged suddenly forward and went down
on his knees and then stretched out dead. Van Bibber was confident it
was Rover, although he had no idea which the horse was, but he knew
his horse would not run. There was a great deal of excitement, and
people who did not know the rule, which requires the return of all
money if any accident happens to a horse on the race-track between the
time of weighing in and arriving at the post, were needlessly alarmed.
Van Bibber walked down to the ring and received his money back with a
smile.

"I'm just one hundred dollars better off than I was three minutes
ago," he said. "I've really had a most remarkable day."

Mayfair was his choice for the fourth race, and she was selling at
three to one. Van Bibber determined to put one hundred and
seventy-five dollars up on her, for, as he said, he had not lost on
any one race yet. The girl in the box was very interesting, though,
and Van Bibber found a great deal to say to her. He interrupted
himself once to call to one of the messenger-boys who ran with bets,
and gave him one hundred and seventy-five dollars to put on Mayfair.

Several other gentlemen gave the boy large sums as well, and Van
Bibber continued to talk earnestly with the girl. He raised his head
to see Mayfair straggle in a bad second, and shrugged his shoulders.
"How much did you lose?" she asked.

"Oh, 'bout two hundred dollars," said Van Bibber; "but it's the first
time I've lost to-day, so I'm still ahead." He bent over to continue
what he was saying, when a rude commotion and loud talking caused
those in the boxes to raise their heads and look around. Several
gentlemen were pointing out Van Bibber to one of the Pinkerton
detectives, who had a struggling messenger-boy in his grasp.

"These gentlemen say you gave this boy some money, sir," said the
detective. "He tried to do a welsh with it, and I caught him just as
he was getting over the fence. How much and on what horse, sir?"

Van Bibber showed his memoranda, and the officer handed him over one
hundred and seventy-five dollars.

"Now, let me see," said Van Bibber, shutting one eye and calculating
intently, "one hundred and seventy-five to three hundred and fifty
dollars makes me a winner by five hundred and twenty-five dollars.
That's purty good, isn't it? I'll have a great dinner at Delmonico's
to-night. You'd better all come back with me!"

But She said he had much better come back with her and her party on
top of the coach and take dinner in the cool country instead of the
hot, close city, and Van Bibber said he would like to, only he did
wish to get his one hundred dollars up on at least one race. But they
said "no," they must be off at once, for the ride was a long one, and
Van Bibber looked at his list and saw that his choice was Jack Frost,
a very likely winner, indeed; but, nevertheless, he walked out to the
enclosure with them and mounted the coach beside the girl on the back
seat, with only the two coachmen behind to hear what he chose to say.

And just as they finally were all harnessed up and the horn sounded,
the crowd yelled, "They're off," and Van Bibber and all of them turned
on their high seats to look back.

"Magpie wins," said the whip.

"And Jack Frost's last," said another.

"And I win my one hundred dollars," said Van Bibber. "It's really very
curious," he added, turning to the girl. "I started out with two
hundred dollars to-day, I spent only twenty-five dollars on flowers, I
won six hundred and twenty-five dollars, and I have only one hundred
and seventy-five dollars to show for it, and yet I've had a very
pleasant Fourth."




AN EXPERIMENT IN ECONOMY


Of course, Van Bibber lost all the money he saved at the races on the
Fourth of July. He went to the track the next day, and he saw the
whole sum melt away, and in his vexation tried to "get back," with the
usual result. He plunged desperately, and when he had reached his
rooms and run over his losses, he found he was a financial wreck, and
that he, as his sporting friends expressed it, "would have to smoke a
pipe" for several years to come, instead of indulging in Regalias. He
could not conceive how he had come to make such a fool of himself, and
he wondered if he would have enough confidence to spend a dollar on
luxuries again.

It was awful to contemplate the amount he had lost. He felt as if it
were sinful extravagance to even pay his car-fare up-town, and he
contemplated giving his landlord the rent with keen distress. It
almost hurt him to part with five cents to the conductor, and as he
looked at the hansoms dashing by with lucky winners inside he groaned
audibly.

"I've got to economize," he soliloquized. "No use talking; must
economize. I'll begin to-morrow morning and keep it up for a month.
Then I'll be on my feet again. Then I can stop economizing, and enjoy
myself. But no more races; never, never again."

He was delighted with this idea of economizing. He liked the idea of
self-punishment that it involved, and as he had never denied himself
anything in his life, the novelty of the idea charmed him. He rolled
over to sleep, feeling very much happier in his mind than he had been
before his determination was taken, and quite eager to begin on the
morrow. He arose very early, about ten o'clock, and recalled his idea
of economy for a month, as a saving clause to his having lost a
month's spending money.

He was in the habit of taking his coffee and rolls and a parsley
omelette, at Delmonico's every morning. He decided that he would start
out on his road of economy by omitting the omelette and ordering only
a pot of coffee. By some rare intuition he guessed that there were
places up-town where things were cheaper than at his usual haunt, only
he did not know where they were. He stumbled into a restaurant on a
side street finally, and ordered a cup of coffee and some rolls.

The waiter seemed to think that was a very poor sort of breakfast, and
suggested some nice chops or a bit of steak or "ham and eggs, sah,"
all of which made Van Bibber shudder. The waiter finally concluded
that Van Bibber was poor and couldn't afford any more, which, as it
happened to be more or less true, worried that young gentleman; so
much so, indeed, that when the waiter brought him a check for fifteen
cents, Van Bibber handed him a half-dollar and told him to "keep the
change."

The satisfaction he felt in this wore off very soon when he
appreciated that, while he had economized in his breakfast, his vanity
had been very extravagantly pampered, and he felt how absurd it was
when he remembered he would not have spent more if he had gone to
Delmonico's in the first place. He wanted one of those large black
Regalias very much, but they cost entirely too much. He went carefully
through his pockets to see if he had one with him, but he had not, and
he determined to get a pipe. Pipes are always cheap.

"What sort of a pipe, sir?" said the man behind the counter.

"A cheap pipe," said Van Bibber.

"But what sort?" persisted the man.

Van Bibber thought a brier pipe, with an amber mouth-piece and a
silver band, would about suit his fancy. The man had just such a pipe,
with trade-marks on the brier and hall-marks and "Sterling" on the
silver band. It lay in a very pretty silk box, and there was another
mouth-piece you could screw in, and a cleaner and top piece with which
to press the tobacco down. It was most complete, and only five
dollars. "Isn't that a good deal for a pipe?" asked Van Bibber. The


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Online LibraryRichard Harding DavisVan Bibber and Others → online text (page 3 of 12)