The Four Million HTML version
The Cop And The Anthem
On his bench in Madison Square Soapy moved uneasily. When wild geese honk high of
nights, and when women without sealskin coats grow kind to their husbands, and when
Soapy moves uneasily on his bench in the park, you may know that winter is near at
A dead leaf fell in Soapy's lap. That was Jack Frost's card. Jack is kind to the regular
denizens of Madison Square, and gives fair warning of his annual call. At the corners of
four streets he hands his pasteboard to the North Wind, footman of the mansion of All
Outdoors, so that the inhabitants thereof may make ready.
Soapy's mind became cognisant of the fact that the time had come for him to resolve
himself into a singular Committee of Ways and Means to provide against the coming
rigour. And therefore he moved uneasily on his bench.
The hibernatorial ambitions of Soapy were not of the highest. In them there were no
considerations of Mediterranean cruises, of soporific Southern skies drifting in the
Vesuvian Bay. Three months on the Island was what his soul craved. Three months of
assured board and bed and congenial company, safe from Boreas and bluecoats, seemed
to Soapy the essence of things desirable.
For years the hospitable Blackwell's had been his winter quarters. Just as his more
fortunate fellow New Yorkers had bought their tickets to Palm Beach and the Riviera
each winter, so Soapy had made his humble arrangements for his annual hegira to the
Island. And now the time was come. On the previous night three Sabbath newspapers,
distributed beneath his coat, about his ankles and over his lap, had failed to repulse the
cold as he slept on his bench near the spurting fountain in the ancient square. So the
Island loomed big and timely in Soapy's mind. He scorned the provisions made in the
name of charity for the city's dependents. In Soapy's opinion the Law was more benign
than Philanthropy. There was an endless round of institutions, municipal and
eleemosynary, on which he might set out and receive lodging and food accordant with the
simple life. But to one of Soapy's proud spirit the gifts of charity are encumbered. If not
in coin you must pay in humiliation of spirit for every benefit received at the hands of
philanthropy. As Caesar had his Brutus, every bed of charity must have its toll of a bath,
every loaf of bread its compensation of a private and personal inquisition. Wherefore it is
better to be a guest of the law, which though conducted by rules, does not meddle unduly
with a gentleman's private affairs.
Soapy, having decided to go to the Island, at once set about accomplishing his desire.
There were many easy ways of doing this. The pleasantest was to dine luxuriously at
some expensive restaurant; and then, after declaring insolvency, be handed over quietly
and without uproar to a policeman. An accommodating magistrate would do the rest.