home | authors | books | about

Home -> O. Henry -> Rus in Urbe

Rus in Urbe

Short Stories


A Bird of Bagdad

A Blackjack Bargainer

A Call Loan

A Chaparral Christmas Gift

A Chaparral Prince

A Comedy in Rubber

A Cosmopolite in a Cafe

A Departmental Case

A Dinner at--------*

A Double-Dyed Deceiver

A Fog in Santone

A Harlem Tragedy

A Lickpenny Lover

A Little Local Colour

A Little Talk about Mobs

A Madison Square Arabian Night

A Matter of Mean Elevation

A Midsummer Knight's Dream

A Midsummer Masquerade

A Municipal Report

A Newspaper Story

A Night in New Arabia

A Philistine in Bohemia

A Poor Rule

A Ramble in Aphasia

A Retrieved Reformation

A Ruler of Men

A Sacrifice Hit

A Service of Love

A Snapshot at the President

A Strange Story

A Technical Error

A Tempered Wind

According to Their Lights

After Twenty Years

An Adjustment of Nature

An Afternoon Miracle

An Apology

An Unfinished Christmas Story

An Unfinished Story

Aristocracy Versus Hash

Art and the Bronco

At Arms With Morpheus

Babes in the Jungle


Between Rounds

Bexar Scrip No. 2692

Blind Man's Holiday

Brickdust Row

Buried Treasure

By Courier

Calloway's Code


Cherchez La Femme

Christmas by Injunction

Compliments of the Season

Confessions of a Humorist

Conscience in Art

Cupid a La Carte

Cupid's Exile Number Two


Dougherty's Eye-Opener

Elsie in New York

Extradited from Bohemia

Fickle Fortune or How Gladys Hustled

Friends in San Rosario

From Each According to His Ability

From the Cabby's Seat

Georgia's Ruling


He Also Serves

Hearts and Crosses

Hearts and Hands

Helping the Other Fellow

Holding Up a Train

Hostages to Momus

Hygeia at the Solito

Innocents of Broadway

Jeff Peters as a Personal Magnet

Jimmy Hayes and Muriel

Law and Order

Let Me Feel Your Pulse

Little Speck in Garnered Fruit

Lord Oakhurst's Curse

Lost on Dress Parade

Madame Bo-Peep, of the Ranches

Makes the Whole World Kin

Mammon and the Archer

Man About Town

Masters of Arts

Memoirs of a Yellow Dog

Modern Rural Sports

Money Maze

Nemesis and the Candy Man

New York by Camp Fire Light

Next to Reading Matter

No Story

October and June

On Behalf of the Management

One Dollar's Worth

One Thousand Dollars

Out of Nazareth

Past One at Rooney's


Proof of the Pudding

Psyche and the Pskyscraper

Queries and Answers

Roads of Destiny

Roses, Ruses and Romance

Rouge et Noir

Round the Circle

Rus in Urbe

Schools and Schools

Seats of the Haughty

Shearing the Wolf



Sisters of the Golden Circle


Sociology in Serge and Straw

Sound and Fury

Springtime a La Carte

Squaring the Circle

Strictly Business

Strictly Business

Suite Homes and Their Romance

Telemachus, Friend

The Admiral

The Adventures of Shamrock Jolnes

The Assessor of Success

The Atavism of John Tom Little Bear

The Badge of Policeman O'Roon

The Brief Debut of Tildy

The Buyer From Cactus City

The Caballero's Way

The Cactus

The Caliph and the Cad

The Caliph, Cupid and the Clock

The Call of the Tame

The Chair of Philanthromathematics

The Champion of the Weather

The Church with an Overshot-Wheel

The City of Dreadful Night

The Clarion Call

The Coming-Out of Maggie

The Complete Life of John Hopkins

The Cop and the Anthem

The Count and the Wedding Guest

The Country of Elusion

The Day Resurgent

The Day We Celebrate

The Defeat of the City

The Detective Detector

The Diamond of Kali

The Discounters of Money

The Dog and the Playlet

The Door of Unrest

The Dream

The Duel

The Duplicity of Hargraves

The Easter of the Soul

The Emancipation of Billy

The Enchanted Kiss

The Enchanted Profile

The Ethics of Pig

The Exact Science of Matrimony

The Ferry of Unfulfilment

The Fifth Wheel

The Flag Paramount

The Fool-Killer

The Foreign Policy of Company 99

The Fourth in Salvador

The Friendly Call

The Furnished Room

The Gift of the Magi

The Girl and the Graft

The Girl and the Habit

The Gold That Glittered

The Greater Coney

The Green Door

The Guardian of the Accolade

The Guilty Party - An East Side Tragedy

The Halberdier of the Little Rheinschloss

The Hand that Riles the World

The Handbook of Hymen

The Harbinger

The Head-Hunter

The Hiding of Black Bill

The Higher Abdication

The Higher Pragmatism

The Hypotheses of Failure

The Indian Summer of Dry Valley Johnson

The Lady Higher Up

The Last Leaf

The Last of the Troubadours

The Lonesome Road

The Lost Blend

The Lotus And The Bottle

The Love-Philtre of Ikey Schoenstein

The Making of a New Yorker

The Man Higher Up

The Marionettes

The Marquis and Miss Sally

The Marry Month of May

The Memento

The Missing Chord

The Moment of Victory

The Octopus Marooned

The Passing of Black Eagle

The Pendulum

The Phonograph and the Graft

The Pimienta Pancakes

The Plutonian Fire

The Poet and the Peasant

The Pride of the Cities

The Princess and the Puma

The Prisoner of Zembla

The Proem

The Purple Dress

The Ransom of Mack

The Ransom of Red Chief

The Rathskeller and the Rose

The Red Roses of Tonia

The Reformation of Calliope

The Remnants of the Code

The Renaissance at Charleroi

The Roads We Take

The Robe of Peace

The Romance of a Busy Broker

The Rose of Dixie

The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Highball

The Rubber Plant's Story

The Shamrock and the Palm

The Shocks of Doom

The Skylight Room

The Sleuths

The Snow Man

The Social Triangle

The Song and the Sergeant

The Sparrows in Madison Square

The Sphinx Apple

The Tale of a Tainted Tenner

The Theory and the Hound

The Thing's the Play

The Third Ingredient

The Trimmed Lamp

The Unknown Quantity

The Unprofitable Servant

The Venturers

The Vitagraphoscope

The Voice of the City

The Whirligig of Life

The World and the Door

Thimble, Thimble


To Him Who Waits

Tobin's Palm

Tommy's Burglar

Tracked to Doom

Transformation of Martin Burney

Transients in Arcadia

Two Recalls

Two Renegades

Two Thanksgiving Day Gentlemen

Ulysses and the Dogman

Vanity and Some Sables

What You Want

While the Auto Waits

Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking

Witches' Loaves

Considering men in relation to money, there are three kinds whom I
dislike: men who have more money than they can spend; men who have
more money than they do spend; and men who spend more money than they
have. Of the three varieties, I believe I have the least liking for
the first. But, as a man, I liked Spencer Grenville North pretty
well, although he had something like two or ten or thirty millions--
I've forgotten exactly how many.

I did not leave town that summer. I usually went down to a village on
the south shore of Long Island. The place was surrounded by duck-
farms, and the ducks and dogs and whippoorwills and rusty windmills
made so much noise that I could sleep as peacefully as if I were in my
own flat six doors from the elevated railroad in New York. But that
summer I did not go. Remember that. One of my friends asked me why I
did not. I replied:

"Because, old man, New York is the finest summer resort in the world."
You have heard that phrase before. But that is what I told him.

I was press-agent that year for Binkly & Bing, the theatrical managers
and producers. Of course you know what a press-agent is. Well, he is
not. That is the secret of being one.

Binkly was touring France in his new C. & N. Williamson car, and
Bing had gone to Scotland to learn curling, which he seemed to
associate in his mind with hot tongs rather than with ice. Before
they left they gave me June and July, on salary, for my vacation,
which act was in accord with their large spirit of liberality. But I
remained in New York, which I had decided was the finest summer resort

But I said that before.

On July the 10th, North came to town from his camp in the Adirondacks.
Try to imagine a camp with sixteen rooms, plumbing, eiderdown quilts,
a butler, a garage, solid silver plate, and a long-distance telephone.
Of course it was in the woods--if Mr. Pinchot wants to preserve the
forests let him give every citizen two or ten or thirty million
dollars, and the trees will all gather around the summer camps, as the
Birnam woods came to Dunsinane, and be preserved.

North came to see me in my three rooms and bath, extra charge for
light when used extravagantly or all night. He slapped me on the back
(I would rather have my shins kicked any day), and greeted me with
out-door obstreperousness and revolting good spirits. He was
insolently brown and healthy-looking, and offensively well dressed.

"Just ran down for a few days," said he, "to sign some papers and
stuff like that. My lawyer wired me to come. Well, you indolent
cockney, what are you doing in town? I took a chance and telephoned,
and they said you were here. What's the matter with that Utopia on
Long Island where you used to take your typewriter and your villanous
temper every summer? Anything wrong with the--er--swans, weren't
they, that used to sing on the farms at night?"

"Ducks," said I. "The songs of swans are for luckier ears. They swim
and curve their necks in artificial lakes on the estates of the
wealthy to delight the eyes of the favorites of Fortune."

"Also in Central Park," said North, "to delight the eyes of immigrants
and bummers. I've seen em there lots of times. But why are you in
the city so late in the summer?"

"New York City," I began to recite, "is the finest sum--"

"No, you don't," said North, emphatically. "You don't spring that old
one on me. I know you know better. Man, you ought to have gone up
with us this summer. The Prestons are there, and Tom Volney and the
Monroes and Lulu Stanford and the Miss Kennedy and her aunt that you
liked so well."

"I never liked Miss Kennedy's aunt," I said.

"I didn't say you did," said North. "We are having the greatest time
we've ever had. The pickerel and trout are so ravenous that I believe
they would swallow your hook with a Montana copper-mine prospectus
fastened on it. And we've a couple of electric launches; and I'll
tell you what we do every night or two--we tow a rowboat behind each
one with a big phonograph and a boy to change the discs in 'em. On
the water, and twenty yards behind you, they are not so bad. And
there are passably good roads through the woods where we go motoring.
I shipped two cars up there. And the Pinecliff Inn is only three
miles away. You know the Pinecliff. Some good people are there this
season, and we run over to the dances twice a week. Can't you go back
with me for a week, old man?"

I laughed. "Northy," said I--"if I may be so familiar with a
millionaire, because I hate both the names Spencer and Grenville--your
invitation is meant kindly, but--the city in the summer-time for me.
Here, while the bourgeoisie is away, I can live as Nero lived-barring,
thank heaven, the fiddling-while the city burns at ninety in the
shade. The tropics and the zones wait upon me like handmaidens. I
sit under Florida palms and eat pomegranates while Boreas himself,
electrically conjured up, blows upon me his Arctic breath. As for
trout, you know, yourself, that Jean, at Maurice's, cooks them better
than any one else in the world."

"Be advised," said North. "My chef has pinched the blue ribbon from
the lot. He lays some slices of bacon inside the trout, wraps it all
in corn-husks--the husks of green corn, you know--buries them in hot
ashes and covers them with live coals. We build fires on the bank of
the lake and have fish suppers."

"I know," said I. "And the servants bring down tables and chairs and
damask cloths, and you eat with silver forks. I know the kind of
camps that you millionaires have. And therc are champagne pails set
about, disgracing the wild flowers, and, no doubt, Madame Tetrazzini
to sing in the boat pavilion after the trout."

"Oh no," said North, concernedly, "we were never as bad as that. We
did have a variety troupe up from the city three or four nights, but
they weren't stars by as far as light can travel in the same length of
time. I always like a few home comforts even when I'm roughing it.
But don't tell me you prefer to stay in the city during summer. I
don't believe it. If you do, why did you spend your summers there for
the last four years, even sneaking away from town on a night train,
and refusing to tell your friends where this Arcadian village was?"

"Because," said I, "they might have followed me and discovered it.
But since then I have learned that Amaryllis has come to town. The
coolest things, the freshest, the brightest, the choicest, are to be
found in the city. If you've nothing on hand this evening I will show

"I'm free," said North, "and I have my light car outside. I suppose,
since you've been converted to the town, that your idea of rural sport
is to have a little whirl between bicycle cops in Central Park and
then a mug of sticky ale in some stuffy rathskeller under a fan that
can't stir up as many revolutions in a week as Nicaragua can in a

"We'll begin with the spin through the Park, anyhow," I said. I was
choking with the hot, stale air of my little apartment, and I wanted
that breath of the cool to brace me for the task of proving to my
friend that New York was the greatest--and so forth.

"Where can you find air any fresher or purer than this?" I asked, as
we sped into Central's boskiest dell.

"Air!" said North, contemptuously. "Do you call this air?--this muggy
vapor, smelling of garbage and gasoline smoke. Man, I wish you could
get one sniff of the real Adirondack article in the pine woods at

"I have heard of it," said I. "But for fragrance and tang and a joy
in the nostrils I would not give one puff of sea breeze across the
bay, down on my little boat dock on Long Island, for ten of your
turpentine-scented tornadoes."

"Then why," asked North, a little curiously, "don't you go there
instead of staying cooped up in this Greater Bakery?"

"Because," said I, doggedly, "I have discovered that New York is the
greatest summer--"

"Don't say that again," interrupted North, "unless you've actually got
a job as General Passenger Agent of the Subway. You can't really
believe it."

I went to some trouble to try to prove my theory to my friend. The
Weather Bureau and the season had conspired to make the argument
worthy of an able advocate.

The city seemed stretched on a broiler directly above the furnaces of
Avernus. There was a kind of tepid gayety afoot and awheel in the
boulevards, mainly evinced by languid men strolling about in straw
hats and evening clothes, and rows of idle taxicabs with their flags
up, looking like a blockaded Fourth of July procession. The hotels
kept up a specious brilliancy and hospitable outlook, but inside one
saw vast empty caverns, and the footrails at the bars gleamed brightly
from long disacquaintance with the sole-leather of customers. In the
cross-town streets the steps of the old brownstone houses were
swarming with "stoopers," that motley race hailing from sky-light room
and basement, bringing out their straw doorstep mats to sit and fill
the air with strange noises and opinions.

North and I dined on the top of a hotel; and here, for a few minutes,
I thought I had made a score. An east wind, almost cool, blew across
the roofless roof. A capable orchestra concealed in a bower of
wistaria played with sufficient judgment to make the art of music
probable and the art of conversation possible.

Some ladies in reproachless summer gowns at other tables gave
animation and color to the scene. And an excellent dinner, mainly
from the refrigerator, seemed to successfully back my judgment as to
summer resorts. But North grumbled all during the meal, and cursed
his lawyers and prated so of his confounded camp in the woods that I
began to wish he would go back there and leave me in my peaceful city

After dining we went to a roof-garden vaudeville that was being much
praised. There we found a good bill, an artificially cooled
atmosphere, cold drinks, prompt service, and a gay, well-dressed
audience. North was bored.

"If this isn't comfortable enough for you on the hottest August night
for five years," I said, a little sarcastically, "you might think
about the kids down in Delancey and Hester streets lying out on the
fire-escapes with their tongues hanging out, trying to get a breath of
air that hasn't been fried on both sides. The contrast might increase
your enjoyment."

"Don't talk Socialism," said North. "I gave five hundred dollars to
the free ice fund on the first of May. I'm contrasting these stale,
artificial, hollow, wearisome 'amusements' with the enjoyment a man
can get in the woods. You should see the firs and pines do skirt-
dances during a storm; and lie down flat and drink out of a mountain
branch at the end of a day's tramp after the deer. That's the only
way to spend a summer. Get out and live with nature."

"I agree with you absolutely," said I, with emphasis.

For one moment I had relaxed my vigilance, and had spoken my true
sentiments. North looked at me long and curiously.

"Then why, in the name of Pan and Apollo," he asked, "have you been
singing this deceitful paean to summer in town?"

I suppose I looked my guilt.

"Ha," said North, "I see. May I ask her name?"

"Annie Ashton," said I, simply. "She played Nannette in Binkley &
Bing's production of The Silver Cord. She is to have a better part
next season."

"Take me to see her," said North.

Miss Ashton lived with her mother in a small hotel. They were out of
the West, and had a little money that bridged the seasons. As press-
agent of Binkley & Bing I had tried to keep her before the public. As
Robert James Vandiver I had hoped to withdraw her; for if ever one was
made to keep company with said Vandiver and smell the salt breeze on
the south shore of Long Island and listen to the ducks quack in the
watches of the night, it was the Ashton set forth above.

But she had a soul above ducks--above nightingales; aye, even above
birds of paradise. She was very beautiful, with quiet ways, and
seemed genuine. She had both taste and talent for the stage, and she
liked to stay at home and read and make caps for her mother. She was
unvaryingly kind and friendly with Binkley & Bing's press-agent.
Since the theatre had closed she had allowed Mr. Vandiver to call in
an unofficial role. I had often spoken to her of my friend, Spencer
Grenville North; and so, as it was early, the first turn of the
vaudeville being not yet over, we left to find a telephone.

Miss Ashton would be very glad to see Mr. Vandiver and Mr. North.

We found her fitting a new cap on her mother. I never saw her look
more charming.

North made himself disagreeably entertaining. He was a good talker,
and had a way with him. Besides, he had two, ten, or thirty millions,
I've for gotten which. I incautiously admired the mother's cap,
whereupon she brought out her store of a dozen or two, and I took a
course in edgings and frills. Even though Annie's fingers had pinked,
or ruched, or hemmed, or whatever you do to 'em, they palled upon me.
And I could hear North drivelling to Annie about his odious Adirondack

Two days after that I saw North in his motor-car with Miss Ashton and
her mother. On the next afternoon he dropped in on me.

"Bobby," said he, "this old burg isn't such a bad proposition in the
summer-time, after all. Since I've keen knocking around it looks
better to me. There are some first-rate musical comedies and light
operas on the roofs and in the outdoor gardens. And if you hunt up
the right places and stick to soft drinks, you can keep about as cool
here as you can in the country. Hang it! when you come to think of
it, there's nothing much to the country, anyhow. You get tired and
sunburned and lonesome, and you have to eat any old thing that the
cook dishes up to you."

"It makes a difference, doesn't it?" said I.

"It certainly does. Now, I found some whitebait yesterday, at
Maurice's, with a new sauce that beats anything in the trout line I
ever tasted."

"It makes a difference, doesn't it?" I said.

"Immense. The sauce is the main thing with whitebait."

"It makes a difference, doesn't it?" I asked, looking him straight in
the eye. He understood.

"Look here, Bob," he said, "I was going to tell you. I couldn't help
it. I'll play fair with you, but I'm going in to win. She is the
'one particular' for me."

"All right," said I. "It's a fair field. There are no rights for you
to encroach upon."

On Thursday afternoon Miss Ashton invited North and myself to have tea
in her apartment. He was devoted, and she was more charming than
usual. By avoiding the subject of caps I managed to get a word or two
into and out of the talk. Miss Ashton asked me in a make-
conversational tone something about the next season's tour.

"Oh," said I, "I don't know about that. I'm not going to be with
Binkley & Bing next season."

"Why, I thought," said she, "that they were going to put the Number
One road company under your charge. I thought you told me so."

"They were," said I, "but they won't.. I'll tell you what I'm going
to do. I'm going to the south shore of Long Island and buy a small
cottage I know there on the edge of the bay. And I'll buy a catboat
and a rowboat and a shotgun and a yellow dog. I've got money enough
to do it. And I'll smell the salt wind all day when it blows from the
sea and the pine odor when it blows from the land. And, of course,
I'll write plays until I have a trunk full of 'em on hand.

"And the next thing and the biggest thing I'll do will be to buy that
duck-farm next door. Few people understand ducks. I can watch 'em
for hours. They can march better than any company in the National
Guard, and they can play 'follow my leader' better than the entire
Democratic party. Their voices don't amount to much, but I like to
hear 'em. They wake you up a dozen times a night, but there's a
homely sound about their quacking that is more musical to me than the
cry of 'Fresh strawber-rees!' under your window in the morning when
you want to sleep.

"And," I went on, enthusiastically, "do you know the value of ducks
besides their beauty and intelligence and order and sweetness of
voice? Picking their feathers gives you an unfailing and never
ceasing income. On a farm that I know the feathers were sold for $400
in one year. Think of that! And the ones shipped to the market will
bring in more money than that. Yes, I am for the ducks and the salt
breeze coming over the bay. I think I shall get a Chinaman cook, and
with him and the dog and the sunsets for company I shall do well. No
more of this dull, baking, senseless, roaring city for me."

Miss Ashton looked surprised. North laughed.

"I am going to begin one of my plays tonight," I said, "so I must be
going." And with that I took my departure.

A few days later Miss Ashton telephoned to me, asking me to call at
four in the afternoon.

I did.

"You have been very good to me," she said, hesitatingly, "and I
thought I would tell you. I am going to leave the stage."

"Yes," said I, "I suppose you will. They usually do when there's so
much money."

"There is no money," she said, "or very little. Our money is almost

"But I am told," said I, "that he has something like two or ten or
thirty millions--I have forgotten which."

"I know what you mean," she said. "I will not pretend that I do not.
I am not going to marry Mr. North."

"Then why are you leaving the stage ?" I asked, severely. "What else
can you do to earn a living?"

She came closer to me, and I can see the look in her eyes yet as she

"I can pick ducks," she said.

We sold the first year's feathers for $350.

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary