Said Mr. Kipling, "The cities are full of pride, challenging each to
each." Even so.
New York was empty. Two hundred thousand of its people were away for the
summer. Three million eight hundred thousand remained as caretakers and
to pay the bills of the absentees. But the two hundred thousand are an
The New Yorker sat at a roof-garden table, ingesting solace through a
straw. His panama lay upon a chair. The July audience was scattered
among vacant seats as widely as outfielders when the champion batter steps
to the plate. Vaudeville happened at intervals. The breeze was cool from
the bay; around and above -- everywhere except on the stage -- were
stars. Glimpses were to be had of waiters, always disappearing, like
startled chamois. Prudent visitors who had ordered refreshments by 'phone
in the morning were now being served. The New Yorker was aware of certain
drawbacks to his comfort, but content beamed softly from his rimless
eyeglasses. His family was out of town. The drinks were warm; the ballet
was suffering from lack of both tune and talcum -- but his family would
not return until September.
Then up into the garden stumbled the man from Topaz City, Nevada. The
gloom of the solitary sightseer enwrapped him. Bereft of joy through
loneliness, he stalked with a widower's face through the halls of
pleasure. Thirst for human companionship possessed him as he panted in
the metropolitan draught. Straight to the New Yorker's table he steered.
The New Yorker, disarmed and made reckless by the lawless atmosphere of a
roof garden, decided upon utter abandonment of his life's traditions. He
resolved to shatter with one rash, dare-devil, impulsive, hair-brained act
the conventions that had hitherto been woven into his existence. Carrying
out this radical and precipitous inspiration he nodded slightly to the
stranger as he drew nearer the table.
The next moment found the man from Topaz City in the list of the New
Yorker's closest friends. He took a chair at the table, he gathered two
others for his feet, he tossed his broad-brimmed hat upon a fourth, and
told his life's history to his new-found pard.
The New Yorker warmed a little, as an apartment-house furnace warms when
the strawberry season begins. A waiter who came within hail in an
unguarded moment was captured and paroled on an errand to the Doctor Wiley
experimental station. The ballet was now in the midst of a musical
vagary, and danced upon the stage programmed as Bolivian peasants, clothed
in some portions of its anatomy as Norwegian fisher maidens, in others as
ladies-in-waiting of Marie Antoinette, historically denuded in other
portions so as to represent sea nymphs, and presenting the tout ensemble
of a social club of Central Park West housemaids at a fish fry.
"Been in the city long?" inquired the New Yorker, getting ready the exact
tip against the waiter's coming with large change from the bill.
"Me?" said the man from Topaz City. "Four days. Never in Topaz City, was
"I!" said the New Yorker. "I was never farther west than Eighth Avenue.
I had a brother who died on Ninth, but I met the cortege at Eighth. There
was a bunch of violets on the hearse, and the undertaker mentioned the
incident to avoid mistake. I cannot say that I am familiar with the West."
"Topaz City," said the man who occupied four chairs, "is one of the finest
towns in the world."
"I presume that you have seen the sights of the metropolis," said the New
Yorker, "Four days is not a sufficient length of time in which to view
even our most salient points of interest, but one can possibly form a
general impression. Our architectural supremacy is what generally strikes
visitors to our city most forcibly. Of course you have seen our Flatiron
Building. It is considered --"
"Saw it," said the man from Topaz City. "But you ought to come out our
way. It's mountainous, you know, and the ladies all wear short skirts for
climbing and --"
"Excuse me," said the New Yorker, "but that isn't exactly the point. New
York must be a wonderful revelation to a visitor from the West. Now, as
to our hotels --"
"Say," said the man from Topaz City, "that reminds me -- there were
sixteen stage robbers shot last year within twenty miles of --"
"I was speaking of hotels," said the New Yorker. "We lead Europe in that
respect. And as far as our leisure class is concerned we are far --"
"Oh, I don't know," interrupted the man from Topaz City. "There were
twelve tramps in our jail when I left home. I guess New York isn't so --"
"Beg pardon, you seem to misapprehend the idea. Of course, you visited
the Stock Exchange and Wall Street, where the --"
"Oh, yes," said the man from Topaz City, as he lighted a Pennsylvania
stogie, "and I want to tell you chat we've got the finest town marshal
west of the Rockies. Bill Rainer he took in five pickpockets out of the
crowd when Red Nose Thompson laid the cornerstone of his new saloon.
Topaz City don't allow --"
"Have another Rhine wine and seltzer," suggested the New Yorker. "I've
never been West, as I said; but there can't be any place out there to
compare with New York. As to the claims of Chicago I --"
"One man," said the Topazite -- "one man only has been murdered and robbed
in Topaz City in the last three --"
"Oh, I know what Chicago is," interposed the New Yorker. "Have you been
up Fifth Avenue to see the magnificent residences of our mil --"
"Seen 'em all. You ought to know Reub Stegall, the assessor of Topaz.
When old man Tilbury, that owns the only two-story house in town, tried to
swear his taxes from $6,000 down to $450.75, Reub buckled on his
forty-five and went down to see --"
"Yes, yes, but speaking of our great city -- one of its greatest features
is our superb police department. There is no body of men in the world
that can equal it for --"
"That waiter gets around like a Langley flying machine," remarked the man
from Topaz City, thirstily. "We've got men in our town, too, worth
$400,000. There's old Bill Withers and Colonel Metcalf and --"
"Have you seen Broadway at night?" asked the New Yorker, courteously.
"There are few streets in the world that can compare with it. When the
electrics are shining and the pavements are alive with two hurrying
streams of elegantly clothed men and beautiful women attired in the
costliest costumes that wind in and out in a close maze of expensively --"
"Never knew but one case in Topaz City," said the man from the West. "Jim
Bailey, our mayor, had his watch and chain and $235 in cash taken from his
pocket while --"
"That's another matter," said the New Yorker. "While you are in our city
you should avail yourself of every opportunity to see its wonders. Our
rapid transit system --"
"If you was out in Topaz," broke in the man from there, "I could show you
a whole cemetery full of people that got killed accidentally. Talking
about mangling folks up! why, when Berry Rogers turned loose that old
double-barrelled shot-gun of his loaded 'with slugs at anybody --"
"Here, waiter!" called the New Yorker. "Two more of the same. It is
acknowledged by every one that our city is the centre of art, and
literature, and learning. Take, for instance, our after-dinner speakers.
Where else in the country would you find such wit and eloquence as emanate
from Depew and Ford, and --"
"If you take the papers," interrupted the Westerner, "you must have read
of Pete Webster's daughter. The Websters live two blocks north of the
court-house in Topaz City. Miss Tillie Webster, she slept forty days and
nights without waking up. The doctors said that --"
"Pass the matches, please," said the New Yorker. "Have you observed the
expedition with which new buildings are being run up in New York?
Improved inventions in steel framework and --"
"I noticed," said the Nevadian, "that the statistics of Topaz City showed
only one carpenter crushed by falling timbers last year and he was caught
in a cyclone."
"They abuse our sky line," continued the New Yorker, "and it is likely
that we are not yet artistic in the construction of our buildings. But I
can safely assert that we lead in pictorial and decorative art. In some
of our houses can be found masterpieces in the way of paintings and
sculpture. One who has the entree to our best galleries will find --"
"Back up," exclaimed the man from Topaz City. "There was a game last
month in our town in which $90,000 changed hands on a pair of --"
"Ta-romt-tara!" went the orchestra. The stage curtain, blushing pink at
the name "Asbestos" inscribed upon it, came down with a slow midsummer
movement. The audience trickled leisurely down the elevator and stairs.
On the sidewalk below, the New Yorker and the man from Topaz City shook
hands with alcoholic gravity. The elevated crashed raucously, surface
cars hummed and clanged, cabmen swore, newsboys shrieked, wheels clattered
ear-piercingly. The New Yorker conceived a happy thought, with which he
aspired to clinch the pre-eminence of his city.
"You must admit," said he, "that in the way of noise New York is far ahead
of any other --"
"Back to the everglades!" said the man from Topaz City. "In 1900, when
Sousa's band and the repeating candidate were in our town you couldn't --"
The rattle of an express wagon drowned the rest of the words.