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Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking
It was with much caution that Whistling Dick slid back the door of the box-car, for
Article 5716, City Ordinances, authorized (perhaps unconstitutionally) arrest on
suspicion, and he was familiar of old with this ordinance. So, before climbing out, he
surveyed the field with all the care of a good general.
He saw no change since his last visit to this big, alms-giving, long-suffering city of the
South, the cold weather paradise of the tramps. The levee where his freight-car stood was
pimpled with dark bulks of merchandise. The breeze reeked with the well-remembered,
sickening smell of the old tarpaulins that covered bales and barrels. The dun river slipped
along among the shipping with an oily gurgle. Far down toward Chalmette he could see
the great bend in the stream, outlined by the row of electric lights. Across the river
Algiers lay, a long, irregular blot, made darker by the dawn which lightened the sky
beyond. An industrious tug or two, coming for some early sailing ship, gave a few
appalling toots, that seemed to be the signal for breaking day. The Italian luggers were
creeping nearer their landing, laden with early vegetables and shellfish. A vague roar,
subterranean in quality, from dray wheels and street cars, began to make itself heard and
felt; and the ferryboats, the Mary Anns of water craft, stirred sullenly to their menial
morning tasks.
Whistling Dick's red head popped suddenly back into the car. A sight too imposing and
magnificent for his gaze had been added to the scene. A vast, incomparable policeman
rounded a pile of rice sacks and stood within twenty yards of the car. The daily miracle of
the dawn, now being performed above Algiers, received the flattering attention of this
specimen of municipal official splendour. He gazed with unbiased dignity at the faintly
glowing colours until, at last, he turned to them his broad back, as if convinced that legal
interference was not needed, and the sunrise might proceed unchecked. So he turned his
face to the rice bags, and, drawing a flat flask from an inside pocket, he placed it to his
lips and regarded the firmament.
Whistling Dick, professional tramp, possessed a half-friendly acquaintance with this
officer. They had met several times before on the levee at night, for the officer, himself a
lover of music, had been attracted by the exquisite whistling of the shiftless vagabond.
Still, he did not care, under the present circumstances, to renew the acquaintance. There
is a difference between meeting a policeman on a lonely wharf and whistling a few
operatic airs with him, and being caught by him crawling out of a freight-car. So Dick
waited, as even a New Orleans policeman must move on some time—perhaps it is a
retributive law of nature—and before long "Big Fritz" majestically disappeared between
the trains of cars.
Whistling Dick waited as long as his judgment advised, and then slid swiftly to the
ground. Assuming as far as possible the air of an honest labourer who seeks his daily toil,
he moved across the network of railway lines, with the intention of making his way by
quiet Girod Street to a certain bench in Lafayette Square, where, according to