THE PRIDE OF THE CITIES
by O. Henry
Said Mr. Kipling, "The cities are full of pride, challenging
each to each." Even so.
New York was empty. Two hundred thousand of its people
were away for the summer. Three million eight hundred
thousand remained as caretakers and to pay the bills
of the absentees. But the 200,000 are an expensive lot.
The New Yorker sat at a roof-garden table, ingesting
solace through a straw. His panama lay upon a chair.
The July audience was scattered among vacant seats as
widely as outfielders when the champion batter steps
to the plate. Vaudeville happened at intervals. The
breeze was cool from the bay; around and above--everywhere
except on the stage--were stars. Glimpses were to be
had of waiters, always disappearing, like startled
chamois. Prudent visitors who had ordered refreshments
by 'phone in the morning were now being served. The New
Yorker was aware of certain drawbacks to his comfort,
but content beamed softly from his rimless eyeglasses.
His family was out of town. The drinks were warm; the
ballet was suffering from lack of both tune and talcum--but
his family would not return until September.
Then up into the garden stumbled the man from Topaz City,
Nevada. The gloom of the solitary sightseer enwrapped
him. Bereft of joy through loneliness, he stalked with
a widower's face through the halls of pleasure. Thirst
for human companionship possessed him as he panted in
the metropolitan draught. Straight to the New Yorker's
table he steered.
The New Yorker, disarmed and made reckless by the lawless
atmosphere of a roof garden, decided upon utter abandonment
of his life's traditions. He resolved to shatter with one
rash, dare-devil, impulsive, hairbrained act the conventions
that had hitherto been woven into his existence. Carrying
out this radical and precipitous inspiration he nodded
slightly to the stranger as he drew nearer the table.
The next moment found the man from Topaz City in the list
of the New Yorker's closest friends. He took a chair at the
table, he gathered two others for his feet, he tossed his
broad-brimmed hat upon a fourth, and told his life's history
to his new-found pard.
The New Yorker warmed a little, as an apartment-house furnace
warms when the strawberry season begins. A waiter who came
within hail in an unguarded moment was captured and paroled
on an errand to the Dr. Wiley experimental station. The
ballet was now in the midst of a musical vagary, and danced
upon the stage programmed as Bolivian peasants, clothed in
some portions of its anatomy as Norwegian fisher maidens,
in others as ladies-in-waiting of Marie Antoinette, historically
denuded in other portions so as to represent sea nymphs, and
presenting the tout ensemble of a social club of Central
Park West housemaids at a fish fry.
"Been in the city long?" inquired the New Yorker, getting
ready the exact tip against the waiter's coming with large
change from the bill.
"Me?" said the man from Topaz City. "Four days. Never in
Topaz City, was you?"
"I!" said the New Yorker. "I was never further west than
Eighth Avenue. I had a brother who died on Ninth, but I
met the cortege at Eighth. There was a bunch of violets
on the hearse, and the undertaker mentioned the incident
to avoid mistake. I cannot say that I am familiar with
"Topaz City," said the man-who-occupied-four-chairs, "is
one of the finest towns in the world."
"I presume that you have seen the sights of the metropolis,"
said the New Yorker, "Four days is not a sufficient length
of time in which to view even our most salient points of
interest, but one can possibly form a general impression.
Our architectural supremacy is what generally strikes
visitors to our city most forcibly. Of course you have
seen our Flatiron Building. It is considered--"
"Saw it," said the man from Topaz City. "But you ought to
come out our way. It's mountainous, you know, and the ladies
all wear short skirts for climbing and--"
"Excuse me," said the New Yorker, "but that isn't exactly
the point. New York must be a wonderful revelation to a
visitor from the West. Now, as to our hotels--"
"Say," said the man from Topaz City, "that reminds me--there
were sixteen stage robbers shot last year within twenty miles
"I was speaking of hotels," said the New Yorker. "We lead
Europe in that respect. And as far as our leisure class
is concerned we are far--"
"Oh, I don't know," interrupted the man from Topaz City.
"there were twelve tramps in our jail when I left home.
I guess New York isn't so--"
"Beg pardon, you seem to misapprehend the idea. Of course,
you visited the Stock Exchange and Wall Street, where the--"
"Oh, yes," said the man from Topaz City, as he lighted a
Pennsylvania stogie, "and I want to tell you that we've
got the finest town marshal west of the Rockies. Bill Rainer
he took in five pickpockets out of the crowd when Red Nose
Thompson laid the cornerstone of his new saloon. Topaz City
"Have another Rhine wine and seltzer," suggested the New
Yorker. "I've never been West, as I said; but there can't
be any place out there to compare with New York. As to the
claims of Chicago I--"
"One man," said the Topazite--"one man only has been
murdered and robbed in Topaz City in the last three--"
"Oh, I know what Chicago is," interposed the New Yorker.
"Have you been up Fifth Avenue to see the magnificent
residences of our mil--"
"Seen 'em all. You ought to know Reub Stegall, the assessor
of Topaz. When old man Tilbury, that owns the only two-story
house in town, tried to swear his taxes from $6,000 down
to $450.75, Reub buckled on his forty-five and went down
"Yes, yes, but speaking of our great city--one of its greatest
features is our superb police department. There is no body
of men in the world that can equal it for--"
"That waiter gets around like a Langley flying machine,"
remarked the man from Topaz City, thirstily. "We've got
men in our town, too, worth $400,000. There's old Bill
Withers and Colonel Metcalf and--"
"Have you seen Broadway at night?" asked the New Yorker,
courteously. "There are few streets in the world that can
compare with it. When the electrics are shining and the
pavements are alive with two hurrying streams of elegantly
clothed men and beautiful women attired in the costliest
costumes that wind in and out in a close maze of expensively--"
"Never knew but one case in Topaz City," said the man from
the West. "Jim Bailey, our mayor, had his watch and chain
and $235 in cash taken from his pocket while--"
"That's another matter," said the New Yorker. "While you
are in our city you should avail yourself of every opportunity
to see its wonders. Our rapid transit system--"
"If you was out in Topaz," broke in the man from there, "I
could show you a whole cemetery full of people that got
killed accidentally. Talking about mangling folks up! why,
when Berry Rogers turned loose that old double-barrelled
shotgun of his loaded with slugs at anybody--"
"Here, waiter!" called the New Yorker. "Two more of the
same. It is acknowledged by every one that our city is the
centre of art, and literature, and learning. Take, for
instance, our after-dinner speakers. Where else in the
country would you find such wit and eloquence as emanate
from Depew and Ford, and--"
"If you take the papers," interrupted the Westerner, "you
must have read of Pete Webster's daughter. The Websters
live two blocks north of the court-house in Topaz City.
Miss Tillie Webster, she slept forty days and nights
without waking up. The doctors said that--"
"Pass the matches, please," said the New Yorker. "Have
you observed the expedition with which new buildings are
being run up in New York? Improved inventions in steel
"I noticed," said the Nevadian, "that the statistics of
Topaz City showed only one carpenter crushed by falling
timbers in 1903 and he was caught in a cyclone."
"They abuse our sky line," continued the New Yorker, "and
it is likely that we are not yet artistic in the construction
of our buildings. But I can safely assert that we lead in
pictorial and decorative art. In some of our houses can be
found masterpieces in the way of paintings and sculpture.
One who has the entree to our best galleries will find--"
"Back up," exclaimed the man from Topaz City. "There was a
game last month in our town in which $90,000 changed hands
on a pair of--"
"Ta-romt-tara!" went the orchestra. The stage curtain,
blushing pink at the name "Asbestos" inscribed upon it,
came down with a slow midsummer movement. The audience
trickled leisurely down the elevator and stairs.
On the sidewalk below, the New Yorker and the man from Topaz
City shook hands with alcoholic gravity. The elevated crashed
raucously, surface cars hummed and clanged, cabmen swore,
newsboys shrieked, wheels clattered ear-piercingly. The New
Yorker conceived a happy thought, with which he aspired to
clinch the pre-eminence of his city.
"You must admit," said he, "that in the way of noise New York
is far ahead of any other--"
"Back to the everglades!" said the man from Topaz City. "In
1900, when Sousa's band and Billy Bryan were in town you
The rattle of an express wagon drowned the rest of the words.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~