The Four Million HTML version
Man About Town
There were two or three things that I wanted to know. I do not care about a mystery. So I
began to inquire.
It took me two weeks to find out what women carry in dress suit cases. And then I began
to ask why a mattress is made in two pieces. This serious query was at first received with
suspicion because it sounded like a conundrum. I was at last assured that its double form
of construction was designed to make lighter the burden of woman, who makes up beds. I
was so foolish as to persist, begging to know why, then, they were not made in two equal
pieces; whereupon I was shunned.
The third draught that I craved from the fount of knowledge was enlightenment
concerning the character known as A Man About Town. He was more vague in my mind
than a type should be. We must have a concrete idea of anything, even if it be an
imaginary idea, before we can comprehend it. Now, I have a mental picture of John Doe
that is as clear as a steel engraving. His eyes are weak blue; he wears a brown vest and a
shiny black serge coat. He stands always in the sunshine chewing something; and he
keeps half-shutting his pocket knife and opening it again with his thumb. And, if the Man
Higher Up is ever found, take my assurance for it, he will be a large, pale man with blue
wristlets showing under his cuffs, and he will be sitting to have his shoes polished within
sound of a bowling alley, and there will be somewhere about him turquoises.
But the canvas of my imagination, when it came to limning the Man About Town, was
blank. I fancied that he bad a detachable sneer (like the smile of the Cheshire cat) and
attached cuffs; and that was all. Whereupon I asked a newspaper reporter about him.
"Why," said he, "a 'Man About Town' something between a 'rounder' and a 'clubman.' He
isn't exactly—well, he fits in between Mrs. Fish's receptions and private boxing bouts. He
doesn't—well, he doesn't belong either to the Lotos Club or to the Jerry McGeogheghan
Galvanised Iron Workers' Apprentices' Left Hook Chowder Association. I don't exactly
know how to describe him to you. You'll see him everywhere there's anything doing. Yes,
I suppose he's a type. Dress clothes every evening; knows the ropes; calls every
policeman and waiter in town by their first names. No; he never travels with the hydrogen
derivatives. You generally see him alone or with another man."
My friend the reporter left me, and I wandered further afield. By this time the 3126
electric lights on the Rialto were alight. People passed, but they held me not. Paphian
eyes rayed upon me, and left me unscathed. Diners, heimgangers, shop-girls, confidence
men, panhandlers, actors, highwaymen, millionaires and outlanders hurried, skipped,
strolled, sneaked, swaggered and scurried by me; but I took no note of them. I knew them
all; I had read their hearts; they had served. I wanted my Man About Town. He was a
type, and to drop him would be an error—a typograph—but no! let us continue.