From a Bench in Our Square
Plooie Of Our Square
Whenever Plooie went shuffling by my bench, I used to think of an old and melancholy
song that my grandfather sang:
"And his skin was so thin
You could almost see his bones
As he ran, hobble--hobble--hobble
Over the stones."
Before I could wholly recapture the quaint melody, my efforts would invariably be
nullified by the raucous shriek of his trade which had forever fixed the nickname
whereby Our Square knew Plooie:
"Parapluie-ee-ee-ee-ees à raccommoder!" He would then recapitulate in English, or rather
that unreproducible dialect which was his substitute for it. "Oombrella for mend? Annie
oombrella for mend?"
So he would pass on his way, shattering the peaceful air at half-minute intervals with his
bilingual disharmonies. He was pallid, meagerly built, stoop-shouldered, bristly-haired,
pock-marked, and stiff-gaited, with a face which would have been totally insignificant
but for an obstinate chin and a pair of velvet-black, pathetically questioning eyes; and he
was incurably an outlander. For five years he had lived among us, occupying a cubbyhole
in Schepstein's basement full of ribs, handles, crooks, patches, and springs, without
appreciably improving his speech or his position. It was said that his name was Garin--
nobody really knew or cared--and it was assumed from his speech that he was French.
Few umbrellas came his way. Those of us affluent enough to maintain such non-
essentials patch them ourselves until they are beyond reclamation. Why Plooie did not
starve is one of the mysteries of Our Square, though by no means the only one of its kind.
I have a notion that the Bonnie Lassie, to whom any variety of want or helplessness is its
own sufficient recommendation, drummed up trade for him among her uptown friends.
Something certainly enlisted his gratitude, for he invariably took off his frowsy cap when
he passed her house, whether or not she was there to see, and he once unbosomed himself
to me to the extent of declaring that she was a kind lady. This is the only commentary I
ever heard him make upon any one in Our Square, which in turn completely ignored him
until the development of his love affair stimulated our condescending and contemptuous
The object of Plooie's addresses was a little Swiss of unknown derivation and obscure
history. She appeared to be as detached from the surrounding world as the umbrella-
mender himself. An insignificant bit of a thing she was, anaemic and subdued, with a sad
little face, soft hazel eyes slightly crossed, and the deprecating manner of those who
scrub other people's doorsteps at fifteen cents an hour.