The other day a poet friend of mine, who has lived in close communion
with nature all his life, wrote a poem and took it to an editor.
It was a living pastoral, full of the genuine breath of the fields, the
song of birds, and the pleasant chatter of trickling streams.
When the poet called again to see about it, with hopes of a beefsteak
dinner in his heart, it was handed back to him with the comment:
Several of us met over spaghetti and Dutchess County chianti, and
swallowed indignation with slippery forkfuls.
And there we dug a pit for the editor. With us was Conant, a
well-arrived writer of fiction--a man who had trod on asphalt all his
life, and who had never looked upon bucolic scenes except with
sensations of disgust from the windows of express trains.
Conant wrote a poem and called it "The Doe and the Brook." It was a
fine specimen of the kind of work you would expect from a poet who had
strayed with Amaryllis only as far as the florist's windows, and whose
sole ornithological discussion had been carried on with a waiter. Conant
signed this poem, and we sent it to the same editor.
But this has very little to do with the story.
Just as the editor was reading the first line of the poem, on the next
morning, a being stumbled off the West Shore ferryboat, and loped slowly
up Forty-second Street.
The invader was a young man with light blue eyes, a hanging lip and
hair the exact color of the little orphan's (afterward discovered to be
the earl's daughter) in one of Mr. Blaney's plays. His trousers were
corduroy, his coat short-sleeved, with buttons in the middle of his
back. One bootleg was outside the corduroys. You looked expectantly,
though in vain, at his straw hat for ear holes, its shape inaugurating
the suspicion that it had been ravaged from a former equine possessor.
In his hand was a valise--description of it is an impossible task; a
Boston man would not have carried his lunch and law books to his office
in it. And above one ear, in his hair, was a wisp of hay--the rustic's
letter of credit, his badge of innocence, the last clinging touch of the
Garden of Eden lingering to shame the gold-brick men.
Knowingly, smilingly, the city crowds passed him by. They saw the raw
stranger stand in the gutter and stretch his neck at the tall buildings.
At this they ceased to smile, and even to look at him. It had been
done so often. A few glanced at the antique valise to see what Coney
"attraction" or brand of chewing gum he might be thus dinning into his
memory. But for the most part he was ignored. Even the newsboys looked
bored when he scampered like a circus clown out of the way of cabs and
At Eighth Avenue stood "Bunco Harry," with his dyed mustache and shiny,
good-natured eyes. Harry was too good an artist not to be pained at the
sight of an actor overdoing his part. He edged up to the countryman, who
had stopped to open his mouth at a jewelry store window, and shook his
"Too thick, pal," he said, critically--"too thick by a couple of inches.
I don't know what your lay is; but you've got the properties too thick.
That hay, now--why, they don't even allow that on Proctor's circuit any
"I don't understand you, mister," said the green one. "I'm not lookin'
for any circus. I've just run down from Ulster County to look at the
town, bein' that the hayin's over with. Gosh! but it's a whopper. I
thought Poughkeepsie was some punkins; but this here town is five times
"Oh, well," said "Bunco Harry," raising his eyebrows, "I didn't mean
to butt in. You don't have to tell. I thought you ought to tone down
a little, so I tried to put you wise. Wish you success at your graft,
whatever it is. Come and have a drink, anyhow."
"I wouldn't mind having a glass of lager beer," acknowledged the other.
They went to a café frequented by men with smooth faces and shifty eyes,
and sat at their drinks.
"I'm glad I come across you, mister," said Haylocks. "How'd you like to
play a game or two of seven-up? I've got the keerds."
He fished them out of Noah's valise--a rare, inimitable deck, greasy
with bacon suppers and grimy with the soil of cornfields.
"Bunco Harry" laughed loud and briefly.
"Not for me, sport," he said, firmly. "I don't go against that make-up
of yours for a cent. But I still say you've overdone it. The Reubs
haven't dressed like that since '79. I doubt if you could work Brooklyn
for a key-winding watch with that layout."
"Oh, you needn't think I ain't got the money," boasted Haylocks. He drew
forth a tightly rolled mass of bills as large as a teacup, and laid it
on the table.
"Got that for my share of grandmother's farm," he announced. "There's
$950 in that roll. Thought I'd come to the city and look around for a
likely business to go into."
"Bunco Harry" took up the roll of money and looked at it with almost
respect in his smiling eyes.
"I've seen worse," he said, critically. "But you'll never do it in them
clothes. You want to get light tan shoes and a black suit and a straw
hat with a colored band, and talk a good deal about Pittsburg and
freight differentials, and drink sherry for breakfast in order to work
off phony stuff like that."
"What's his line?" asked two or three shifty-eyed men of "Bunco Harry"
after Haylocks had gathered up his impugned money and departed.
"The queer, I guess," said Harry. "Or else he's one of Jerome's men.
Or some guy with a new graft. He's too much hayseed. Maybe that his--I
wonder now--oh, no, it couldn't have been real money."
Haylocks wandered on. Thirst probably assailed him again, for he dived
into a dark groggery on a side street and bought beer. At first sight
of him their eyes brightened; but when his insistent and exaggerated
rusticity became apparent their expressions changed to wary suspicion.
Haylocks swung his valise across the bar.
"Keep that a while for me, mister," he said, chewing at the end of a
virulent claybank cigar. "I'll be back after I knock around a spell. And
keep your eye on it, for there's $950 inside of it, though maybe you
wouldn't think so to look at me."
Somewhere outside a phonograph struck up a band piece, and Haylocks was
off for it, his coat-tail buttons flopping in the middle of his back.
"Divvy, Mike," said the men hanging upon the bar, winking openly at one
"Honest, now," said the bartender, kicking the valise to one side. "You
don't think I'd fall to that, do you? Anybody can see he ain't no jay.
One of McAdoo's come-on squad, I guess. He's a shine if he made himself
up. There ain't no parts of the country now where they dress like that
since they run rural free delivery to Providence, Rhode Island. If he's
got nine-fifty in that valise it's a ninety-eight cent Waterbury that's
stopped at ten minutes to ten."
When Haylocks had exhausted the resources of Mr. Edison to amuse he
returned for his valise. And then down Broadway he gallivanted, culling
the sights with his eager blue eyes. But still and evermore Broadway
rejected him with curt glances and sardonic smiles. He was the oldest of
the "gags" that the city must endure. He was so flagrantly impossible,
so ultra rustic, so exaggerated beyond the most freakish products of the
barnyard, the hayfield and the vaudeville stage, that he excited only
weariness and suspicion. And the wisp of hay in his hair was so genuine,
so fresh and redolent of the meadows, so clamorously rural that even a
shell-game man would have put up his peas and folded his table at the
sight of it.
Haylocks seated himself upon a flight of stone steps and once more
exhumed his roll of yellow-backs from the valise. The outer one, a
twenty, he shucked off and beckoned to a newsboy.
"Son," said he, "run somewhere and get this changed for me. I'm mighty
nigh out of chicken feed. I guess you'll get a nickel if you'll hurry
A hurt look appeared through the dirt on the newsy's face.
"Aw, watchert'ink! G'wan and get yer funny bill changed yerself. Dey
ain't no farm clothes yer got on. G'wan wit yer stage money."
On a corner lounged a keen-eyed steerer for a gambling-house. He saw
Haylocks, and his expression suddenly grew cold and virtuous.
"Mister," said the rural one. "I've heard of places in this here town
where a fellow could have a good game of old sledge or peg a card at
keno. I got $950 in this valise, and I come down from old Ulster to see
the sights. Know where a fellow could get action on about $9 or $10? I'm
goin' to have some sport, and then maybe I'll buy out a business of some
The steerer looked pained, and investigated a white speck on his left
"Cheese it, old man," he murmured, reproachfully. "The Central Office
must be bughouse to send you out looking like such a gillie. You
couldn't get within two blocks of a sidewalk crap game in them Tony
Pastor props. The recent Mr. Scotty from Death Valley has got you beat
a crosstown block in the way of Elizabethan scenery and mechanical
accessories. Let it be skiddoo for yours. Nay, I know of no gilded halls
where one may bet a patrol wagon on the ace."
Rebuffed once again by the great city that is so swift to detect
artificialities, Haylocks sat upon the curb and presented his thoughts
to hold a conference.
"It's my clothes," said he; "durned if it ain't. They think I'm a
hayseed and won't have nothin' to do with me. Nobody never made fun of
this hat in Ulster County. I guess if you want folks to notice you in
New York you must dress up like they do."
So Haylocks went shopping in the bazaars where men spake through their
noses and rubbed their hands and ran the tape line ecstatically over the
bulge in his inside pocket where reposed a red nubbin of corn with an
even number of rows. And messengers bearing parcels and boxes streamed
to his hotel on Broadway within the lights of Long Acre.
At 9 o'clock in the evening one descended to the sidewalk whom Ulster
County would have foresworn. Bright tan were his shoes; his hat the
latest block. His light gray trousers were deeply creased; a gay blue
silk handkerchief flapped from the breast pocket of his elegant English
walking coat. His collar might have graced a laundry window; his blond
hair was trimmed close; the wisp of hay was gone.
For an instant he stood, resplendent, with the leisurely air of a
boulevardier concocting in his mind the route for his evening pleasures.
And then he turned down the gay, bright street with the easy and
graceful tread of a millionaire.
But in the instant that he had paused the wisest and keenest eyes in the
city had enveloped him in their field of vision. A stout man with gray
eyes picked two of his friends with a lift of his eyebrows from the row
of loungers in front of the hotel.
"The juiciest jay I've seen in six months," said the man with gray eyes.
It was half-past eleven when a man galloped into the West Forty-seventh
Street Police Station with the story of his wrongs.
"Nine hundred and fifty dollars," he gasped, "all my share of
The desk sergeant wrung from him the name Jabez Bulltongue, of Locust
Valley farm, Ulster County, and then began to take descriptions of the
When Conant went to see the editor about the fate of his poem, he was
received over the head of the office boy into the inner office that is
decorated with the statuettes by Rodin and J. G. Brown.
"When I read the first line of 'The Doe and the Brook,'" said the
editor, "I knew it to be the work of one whose life has been heart to
heart with Nature. The finished art of the line did not blind me to that
fact. To use a somewhat homely comparison, it was as if a wild, free
child of the woods and fields were to don the garb of fashion and walk
down Broadway. Beneath the apparel the man would show."
"Thanks," said Conant. "I suppose the check will be round on Thursday,
The morals of this story have somehow gotten mixed. You can take your
choice of "Stay on the Farm" or "Don't Write Poetry."