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Muffles–The Bar-Keep
by [?]

My friend Muffles has had a varied career. Muffles is not his baptismal name–if he were ever baptized, which I doubt. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and the brewer–especially the brewer–knew him as Mr. Richard Mulford, proprietor of the Shady Side on the Bronx–and his associates as Dick. Only his intimates knew him as Muffles. I am one of his intimates. This last sobriquet he earned as a boy among his fellow wharf-rats, by reason of an extreme lightness of foot attended by an equally noiseless step, particularly noticeable when escaping from some guardian of the peace who had suddenly detected him raiding an apple-stand not his own, or in depleting a heap of peanuts the property of some gentleman of foreign birth, or in making off with a just-emptied ash-barrel–Muffles did the emptying–on the eve of an election.

If any member of his unknown and widely scattered family reached the dignity of being considered the flower of the clan, no stretch of imagination or the truth on the part of his acquaintances–and they were numerous–ever awarded that distinction to Muffles. He might have been a weed, but he was never a flower. A weed that grew up between the cobbles, crouching under the hoofs of horses and the tramp of men, and who was pulled up and thrown aside and still lived on and flourished in various ways, and all with that tenacity of purpose and buoyancy of spirit which distinguishes all weeds and which never by any possibility marks a better quality of plant, vegetable or animal.

The rise of this gamin from the dust-heap to his present lofty position was as interesting as it was instructive. Interesting because his career was a drama–instructive because it showed a grit, pluck, and self-denial which many of his contemporaries might have envied and imitated: wharf-rat, newsboy, dish-washer in a sailor’s dive, bar-helper, bar-tender, bar-keeper, bar-owner, ward heeler, ward politician, clerk of a district committee–go-between, in shady deals, between those paid to uphold the law and those paid to break it–and now, at this time of writing, or was a year or so ago, the husband of “the Missus,” as he always calls her, the father of two children, one three and the other five, and the proprietor of the Shady Side Inn, above the Harlem River and within a stone’s throw of the historic Bronx.

The reaching of this final goal, the sum of all his hopes and ambitions, was due to the same tenacity of purpose which had characterized his earlier life, aided and abetted by a geniality of disposition which made him countless friends, a conscience which overlooked their faults, together with a total lack of perception as to the legal ownership of whatever happened to be within his reach. As to the keeping of the other commandments, including the one of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you—-

Well, Muffles had grown up between the cobbles of the Bowery, and his early education had consequently been neglected.

The Shady Side Inn, over which Muffles presided, and in which he was one-third owner–the Captain of the Precinct and a “Big Pipe” contractor owned the other two-thirds–was what was left of an old colonial mansion. There are dozens of them scattered up and down the Bronx, lying back from the river; with porches falling into decay, their gardens overrun with weeds, their spacious rooms echoing only the hum of the sewing-machine or the buzz of the loom.

This one belonged to some one of the old Knickerbockers whose winter residence was below Bleecker Street and who came up here to spend the summer and so escape the heat of the dog-days. You can see it any day you drive up the Speedway. It has stood there for over a hundred years and is likely to continue. You know its history, too–or can, if you will take the trouble to look up its record. Aaron Burr stopped here, of course–he stopped about everywhere along here and slept in almost every house; and Hamilton put his horse up in the stables–only the site remains; and George Washington dined on the back porch, his sorrel mare tied to one of the big trees. There is no question about these facts. They are all down in the books, and I would prove it to you if I could lay my hand on the particular record. Everybody believes it–Muffles most of all.