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The Man Of Grub Street Comes From His Garret
by [?]

I have come to live this winter in New York City and by good fortune I have found rooms on a pleasant park. This park, which is but one block in extent, is so set off from the thoroughfares that it bears chiefly the traffic that is proper to the place itself. Grocery carts jog around and throw out their wares. Laundry wagons are astir. A little fat tailor on an occasion carries in an armful of newly pressed clothing with suspenders hanging. Dogs are taken out to walk but are held in leash, lest a taste of liberty spoil them for an indoor life. The center of the park is laid out with grass and trees and pebbled paths, and about it is a high iron fence. Each house has a key to the enclosure. Such social infection, therefore, as gets inside the gates is of our own breeding. In the sunny hours nurses and children air themselves in this grass plot. Here a gayly painted wooden velocipede is in fashion. At this minute there are several pairs of fat legs a-straddle this contrivance. It is a velocipede as it was first made, without pedals. Beau Brummel–for the velocipede dates back to him–may have walked forth to take the waters at Tunbridge Wells on a vehicle not far different, but built to his greater stature. There is also a trickle of drays and wagons across the park–a mere leakage from the streets, as though the near-by traffic in the pressure had burst its pipes. But only at morning and night when the city collects or discharges its people, are the sidewalks filled. Then for a half hour the nozzle of the city plays a full stream on us.

The park seems to be freer and more natural than the streets outside. A man goes by gesticulating as though he practiced for a speech. A woman adjusts her stocking on the coping below the fence with the freedom of a country road. A street sweeper, patched to his office, tunes his slow work to fit the quiet surroundings. Boys skate by or cut swirls upon the pavement in the privilege of a playground.

My work–if anything so pleasant and unforced can carry the name–is done at a window that overlooks this park. Were it not for several high buildings in my sight I might fancy that I lived in one of the older squares of London. There is a look of Thackeray about the place as though the Osbornes might be my neighbors. A fat man who waddles off his steps opposite, if he would submit to a change of coat, might be Jos Sedley starting for his club to eat his chutney. If only there were a crest above my bell-pull I might even expect Becky Sharp in for tea. Or occasionally I divert myself with the fancy that I am of a still older day and that I have walked in from Lichfield–I choose the name at hazard–with a tragedy in my pocket, to try my fortune. Were it not for the fashion of dress in the park below and some remnant of reason in myself, I could, in a winking moment, persuade myself that my room is a garret and my pen a quill. On such delusion, before I issued on the street to seek my coffee-house, I would adjust my wig and dust myself of snuff.

But for my exercise and recreation–which for a man of Grub Street is necessary in the early hours of afternoon when the morning fires have fallen–I go outside the park. I have a wide choice for my wanderings. I may go into the district to the east and watch the children play against the curb. If they pitch pennies on the walk I am careful to go about, for fear that I distract the throw. Or if the stones are marked for hop-scotch, I squeeze along the wall. It is my intention–from which as yet my diffidence withholds me–to present to the winner of one of these contests a red apple which I shall select at a corner stand. Or an ice wagon pauses in its round, and while the man is gone there is a pleasant thieving of bits of ice. Each dirty cheek is stuffed as though a plague of mumps had fallen on the street. Or there may be a game of baseball–a scampering on the bases, a home-run down the gutter–to engage me for an inning. Or shinny grips the street. But if a street organ comes–not a mournful one-legged box eked out with a monkey, but a big machine with an extra man to pull–the children leave their games. It was but the other day that I saw six of them together dancing on the pavement to the music, with skirts and pigtails flying. There was such gladness in their faces that the musician, although he already had his nickel, gave them an extra tune. It was of such persuasive gayety that the number of dancers at once went up to ten and others wiggled to the rhythm. And for myself, although I am past my sportive days, the sound of a street organ, if any, would inflame me to a fox-trot. Even a surly tune–if the handle be quickened–comes from the box with a brisk seduction. If a dirge once got inside, it would fret until it came out a dancing measure.