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Mrs. Brashear's rooming-house on Grove Street wore its air of respectability like
a garment, clean and somber, in an environment of careful behavior. Greenwich
Village, not having fully awakened to the commercial advantages of being a
_locale_, had not yet stretched between itself and the rest of New York that
gauzy and iridescent curtain of sprightly impropriety and sparkling intellectual
naughtiness, since faded to a lather tawdry pattern. An early pioneer of the
Villager type, emancipated of thought and speech, chancing upon No. 11 Grove,
would have despised it for its lack of atmosphere and its patent conservatism. It
did not go out into the highways and byways, seeking prospective lodgers. It
folded its hands and waited placidly for them to come. When they came, it
pondered them with care, catechized them tactfully, and either rejected them with
courteous finality or admitted them on probation. Had it been given to self-
exploitation, it could have boasted that never had it harbored a bug or a scandal
within its doors.
Now, on this filmy-soft April day it was nonplussed. A type new to its experience
was applying for a room, and Mrs. Brashear, who was not only the proprietress,
but, as it were, the familiar spirit and incarnation of the institution, sat peering
near-sightedly and in some perturbation of soul at the phenomenon. He was
young, which was against him, and of a winning directness of manner, which was
in his favor, and extremely good to look at, which was potential of complications,
and encased in clothing of an uncompromising cut and neutral pattern (to wit; No.
45 T 370, "an ideal style for a young business man of affairs; neat, impressive
and dignified"), which was reassuring.
"My name is Banneker," he had said, immediately the door was opened to him.
"Can I get a room here?"
"There is a room vacant," admitted the spirit of the house unwillingly.
"I'd like to see it."
As he spoke, he was mounting the stairs; she must, perforce, follow. On the third
floor she passed him and led the way to a small, morosely papered front room,
almost glaringly clean.
"All right, if I can have a work-table in it and if it isn't too much," he said, after one
comprehensive glance around.
"The price is five dollars a week."
Had Banneker but known it, this was rather high. The Brashear rooming-house
charged for its cleanliness, physical and moral. "Can I move in at once?" he
"I don't know you nor anything about you, Mr. Banneker," she replied, but not
until they had descended the stairs and were in the cool, dim parlor. At the
moment of speaking, she raised a shade, as if to help in the determination.
"Is that necessary? They didn't ask me when I registered at the hotel."
Mrs. Brashear stared, then smiled. "A hotel is different. Where are you
"At the St. Denis."