"During the recent warmed-over spell," said my
friend Carney, driver of express wagon No. 8,606,
"a good many opportunities was had of observing
human nature through peekaboo waists.
"The Park Commissioner and the Commissioner
of Polis and the Forestry Commission gets together
and agrees to let the people sleep in the parks until
the Weather Bureau gets the thermometer down again
to a living basis. So they draws up open-air resolu-
tions and has them 0. K.'d by the Secretary of Agri-
culture, Mr. Comstock and the Village Improvement
Mosquito Exterminating Society of South Orange,
"When the proclamation was made opening up to
the people by special grant the public parks that be-
long to 'em, there was a general exodus into Central
Park by the communities existing along its borders.
In ten minutes after sundown you'd have thought
that there was an undress rehearsal of a potato
famine in Ireland and a Kishineff massacre. They
come by families, gangs, clambake societies, clans,
clubs and tribes from all sides to enjoy a cool sleep on
the grass. Them that didn't have oil stoves brought
along plenty of blankets, so as not to be upset with
the cold and discomforts of sleeping outdoors. By
building fires of the shade trees and huddling together
in the bridle paths, and burrowing under the grass
where the ground was soft enough, the likes of 5,000
head of people successfully battled against the night
air in Central Park alone.
"Ye know I live in the elegant furnished apart-
ment house called the Beersheba Flats, over against
the elevated portion of the New York Central Rail-
"When the order come to the flats that all hands
must turn out and sleep in the park, according to the
instructions of the consulting committee of the City
Club and the Murphy Draying, Returfing and Sod-
ding Company, there was a look of a couple of fires
and an eviction all over the place.
"The tenants began to pack up feather beds, rub-
ber boots, strings of garlic, hot-water bags, porta-
ble canoes and scuttles of coal to take along for the
sake of comfort. The sidewalk looked like a Russian
camp in Oyama's line of mareb. There was waiting
and lamenting up and down stairs from Danny Geog-
hegan's flat on the top floor to the apartments of
Missis Goldsteinupski on the first.
"'For why," says Danny, coming down and raging
in his blue yarn socks to the janitor, 'should I be
turned out of me comfortable apartments to lay in
the dirty grass like a rabbit? 'Tis like Jerome to
stir up trouble wid small matters like this instead
of -- "
"'Whist!' says Officer Reagan on the sidewalk,
rapping with his club. ''Tis not Jerome. 'Tis by
order of the Polis Commissioner. Turn out every
one of yez and hike yerselves to the park.'
"Now, 'twas a peaceful and happy home that all
of us had in them same Beersheba Flats. The
O'Dowds and the Steinowitzes and the Callahans and
the Cohens and the Spizzinellis and the McManuses
and the Spiegelmayers and the Joneses -- all nations
of us, we lived like one big family together. And
when the hot nights come along we kept a line of
children reaching from the front door to Kelly's on the
corner passing along the cans of beer from one to
another without the trouble of running after it. And
with no more clothing on than is provided for in the
statutes, sitting in all the windies, with a cool growler
in every one, and your feet out in the air, and the
Rosenstein girls singing on the fire-escape of the sixth
floor, and Patsy Rourke's flute going in the eighth,
and the ladies calling each other synonyms out the win-
dies, and now and then a breeze sailing in over Mister
Depew's Central -- I tell you the Beersheba Flats was
a summer resort that made the Catskills look like
a bole in the ground. With his person full of beer
and his feet out the windy and his old woman frying
pork chops over a charcoal furnace and the children
dancing in cotton slips on the sidewalk around the
organ-grinder and the rent paid for a week -- what
does a man want better on a hot night than that?
And then comes this ruling of the polis driving people
out o' their comfortable homes to sleep in parks --
'twas for all the world like a ukase of them Rus-
sians -- 'twill be heard from again at next election
"Well, then, Officer Reagan drives the whole lot
of us to the park and turns us in by the nearest
gate. 'Tis dark under the trees, and all the children
sets up to howling that they want to go home.
"'Ye'll pass the night in this stretch of woods
and scenery,' says Officer Reagan. ''Twill be fine
and imprisonment for insoolting the Park Commis-
sioner and the Chief of the Weather Bureau if ye re-
fuse. I'm in charge of thirty acres between here and
the Agyptian Monument, and I advise ye to give no
trouble. 'Tis sleeping on the grass yez all have been
condemned to by the authorities. Yez'll be permitted
to leave in the morning, but ye must retoorn be night.
Me orders was silent on the subject of bail, but I'11
find out if 'tis required and there'll be bondsmen at
"There being no lights except along the automo-
bile drives, us 179 tenants of the Beersheba Flats
prepared to spend the night as best we could in the
raging forest. Them that brought blankets and kin-
dling wood was best off. They got fires started and
wrapped the blankets round their heads and laid
down, cursing, in the grass. There was nothing to
see, nothing to drink, nothing to do. In the dark we
had no way of telling friend or foe except by feeling
the noses of 'em. I brought along me last winter
overcoat, me toothbrush, some quinine pills and the
red quilt off the bed in me flat. Three times during
the night somebody rolled on me quilt and stuck his
knees against the Adam's apple of me. And three
times I judged his character by running me hand over
his face, and three times I rose up and kicked the in-
truder down the hill to the gravelly walk below. And
then some one with a flavor of Kelly's whiskey snug-
gled up to me, and I found his nose turned up the
right way, and I says: ' Is that you, then, Patsey?
and he says, 'It is, Carney. How long do you think
"' I'm no weather-prophet,' says I, 'but if they
bring out a strong anti-Tammany ticket next fall it
ought to get us home in time to sleep on a bed once
or twice before they line us up at the polls.'
"A-playing of my flute into the airshaft, I says
Patsey Rourke, 'and a-perspiring in me own windy
to the joyful noise of the passing trains and the smell
of liver and onions and a-reading of the latest mur-
der in the smoke of the cooking is well enough for
me,' says he. 'What is this herding us in grass for,
not to mention the crawling things with legs that walk
up the trousers of us, and the Jersey snipes that
peck at us, masquerading under the name and denom-
ination of mosquitoes. What is it all for Carney, and
the rint going on just the same over at the flats?'
"Tis the great annual Municipal Free Night
Outing Lawn Party,' says I, 'given by the polis,
Hetty Green and the Drug Trust. During the heated
season they hold a week of it in the principal parks.
'Tis a scheme to reach that portion of the people
that's not worth taking up to North Beach for a
"' I can't sleep on the ground,' says Patsey, 'wid
any benefit. I have the hay fever and the rheuma-
tism, and me car is full of ants.'
"Well, the night goes on, and the ex-tenants of
the Flats groans and stumbles around in the dark,
trying to find rest and recreation in the forest. The
children is screaming with the coldness, and the jan-
itor makes hot tea for 'em and keeps the fires going
with the signboards that point to the Tavern and the
Casino. The tenants try to lay down on the grass by
families in the dark, but you're lucky if you can sleep
next to a man from the same floor or believing in
the same religion. Now and then a Murpby, acci-
dental, rolls over on the grass of a Rosenstein, or
a Cohen tries to crawl under the O'Grady bush, and
then there's a feeling of noses and somebody is rolled
down the hill to the driveway and stays there. There
is some hair-pulling among the women folks, and
everybody spanks the nearest howling kid to him by
the sense of feeling only, regardless of its parentage
and ownership. 'Tis hard to keep up the social dis-
tinctions in the dark that flourish by daylight in the
Beersheba Flats. Mrs. Rafferty, that despises the
asphalt that a Dago treads on, wakes up in the morn-
ing with her feet in the bosom of Antonio Spizzinelli.
And Mike O'Dowd, that always threw peddlers down-
stairs as fast as he came upon 'em, has to unwind old
Isaacstein's whiskers from around his neck, and wake
up the whole gang at daylight. But here and there
some few got acquainted and overlooked the discom-
forts of the elements. There was five engagements to
be married announced at the flats the next morning.
About midnight I gets up and wrings the dew out
of my hair, and goes to the side of the driveway
and sits down. At one side of the park I could see
the lights in the streets and houses; and I was thinking
how happy them folks was who could chase the duck
and smoke their pipes at their windows, and keep cool
and pleasant like nature intended for 'em to.
Just then an automobile stops by me, and a fine-
looking, well-dressed man steps out.
'Me man,' says he, 'can you tell me why all these
people are lying around on the grass in the park?
I thought it was against the rules.'
"''Twas an ordinance,' says I, 'just passed by
the Polis Department and ratified by the Turf Cut-
ters' Association, providing that all persons not car-
rying a license number on their rear axles shall keep
in the public parks until further notice. Fortu-
nately, the orders comes this year during a spell of
fine weather, and the mortality, except on the borders
of the lake and along the automobile drives, will not
be any greater than usual.'
"'Who are these people on the side of the bill?'
asks the man.
"'Sure,' says I, 'none others than the tenants of
the Beersheba Flats -- a fine home for any man,
especially on hot nights. May daylight come soon!'
"'They come here be night,' says be, 'and breathe
in the pure air and the fragrance of the flowers and
trees. They do that,' says be, 'coming every night
from the burning beat of dwellings of brick and stone.'
"'And wood,' says I. 'And marble and plaster
"'The matter will be attended to at once,' says the
man, putting up his book.
"'Are ye the Park Commissioner?' I asks.
"'I own the Beersheba Flats,' says he. 'God
bless the grass and the trees that give extra benefits
to a man's tenants. The rents shall be raised fifteen
per cent. to-morrow. Good-night,' says he."