on his seat in Madison Square. There
are certain signs to show that
winter is coming. Birds begin to fly
south. Women who want nice new warm
coats become very
kind to their husbands. And Soapy
moves restlessly on his seat in the
park. When you see
these signs, you know that winter is
A dead leaf fell at Soapy’s
feet. That was a special sign for
him that winter was coming. It was
time for all who lived in Madison
Square to prepare.
Soapy’s mind now realized the
fact. The time had come. He had to
find some way to take care of
himself during the cold weather. And
therefore he moved restlessly on his
Soapy’s hopes for the winter were
not very high. He was not thinking
of sailing away on a ship. He was
not thinking of southern skies, or
of the Bay of Naples. Three months
in the prison on Blackwell’s Island
was what he wanted. Three months of
food every day and a bed every
night. Three months safe from the
cold north wind and safe from
cops. This seemed
to Soapy the most desirable thing in
For years Blackwell’s Island had
been his winter home. Richer New
Yorkers made their large plans to go
to Florida or to the shore of the
Mediterranean Sea each winter. Soapy
made his small plans for going to
And now the time had come. Three
big newspapers, some under his coat
and some over his legs, had not kept
him warm during the night in the
park. So Soapy was thinking of the
There were places in the city
where he could go and ask for food
and a bed. These would be given to
him. He could move from one building
to another, and he would be taken
care of through the winter. But he
liked Blackwell’s Island better.
Soapy’s spirit was proud. If he
went to any of these places, there
were certain things he had to do. In
one way or another, he would have to
pay for what they gave him. They
would not ask him for money. But
they would make him wash his whole
body. They would make him answer
questions; they would want to know
everything about his life. No.
Prison was better than that. The
prison had rules that he would have
to follow. But in prison a
gentleman’s own life was still his
Soapy, having decided to go to
the Island, at once began to move
toward his desire.
There were many easy ways of
doing this. The most pleasant way
was to go and have a good dinner at
some fine restaurant. Then he would
say that he had no money to pay. And
then a cop would be called. It would
all be done very quietly. The cop
would arrest him. He would be taken
to a judge. The judge would do the
Soapy left his seat and walked
out of Madison Square to the place
where the great street called
Broadway and Fifth
meet. He went across this wide space
and started north on Broadway. He
stopped at a large and brightly
lighted restaurant. This was where
the best food and the best people in
the best clothes appeared every
Soapy believed that above his
legs he looked all right. His face
was clean. His coat was good enough.
If he could get to a table, he
believed that success would be his.
The part of him that would be seen
above the table would look all
would bring him what he asked for.
He began thinking of what he
would like to eat. In his mind he
could see the whole dinner. The cost
would not be too high. He did not
want the restaurant people to feel
any real anger. But the dinner would
leave him filled and happy for the
journey to his winter home.
But as Soapy put his foot inside
the restaurant door, the head waiter
saw his broken old shoes and torn
clothes that covered his legs.
Strong and ready hands turned Soapy
around and moved him quietly and
quickly outside again.
Soapy turned off Broadway. It
seemed that this easy, this most
desirable way to get to the Island was not
to be his. He must think of some
other way of getting there.
At a corner of Sixth Avenue was a
shop with a wide glass window,
bright with electric lights. Soapy
picked up a big stone and threw it
through the glass. People came
running around the corner. A cop was
the first among them. Soapy stood
still and smiled when he saw the
“Where’s the man that did that?”
asked the cop.
“Don’t you think that I might
have done it?” said Soapy. He was
friendly and happy. What he wanted
was coming toward him.
But the cop’s mind would not
consider Soapy. Men who break
windows do not stop there to talk to
cops. They run away as fast as they
can. The cop saw a man further along
the street, running. He ran after
him. And Soapy, sick at heart,
walked slowly away. He had failed
Across the street was another
restaurant. It was not so fine as
the one on Broadway. The people who
went there were not so rich. Its
food was not so good. Into this,
Soapy took his old shoes and his
torn clothes, and no one stopped
him. He sat down at a table and was
soon eating a big dinner. When he
had finished, he said that he and
money were strangers.
“Get busy and call a cop,” said
Soapy. “And don’t keep a gentleman
“No cop for you,” said the
waiter. He called another waiter.
The two waiters threw Soapy upon
his left ear on the hard street
outside. He stood up slowly, one
part at a time, and beat the dust
from his clothes. Prison seemed only
a happy dream. The Island seemed
very far away. A cop who was
standing near laughed and walked
Soapy traveled almost half a mile
before he tried again. This time he
felt very certain that he would be
successful. A nice-looking young
woman was standing before a shop
window, looking at the objects
inside. Very near stood a large cop.
Soapy’s plan was to speak to the
young woman. She seemed to be a very
nice young lady, who would not want
a strange man to speak to her. She
would ask the cop for help. And then
Soapy would be happy to feel the
cop’s hand on his arm. He would be
on his way to the Island. He went
near her. He could see that the cop
was already watching him. The young
woman moved away a few steps. Soapy
followed. Standing beside her he
“Good evening, Bedelia! Don’t you
want to come and play with me?”
The cop was still looking. The
young woman had only to move her
hand, and Soapy would be on his way
to the place where he wanted to go.
He was already thinking how warm he
The young woman turned to him.
Putting out her hand, she took his
“Sure, Mike,” she said joyfully,
“if you’ll buy me something to
drink. I would have spoken to you
sooner, but the cop was watching.”
With the young woman holding his
arm, Soapy walked past the cop. He
was filled with sadness. He was
still free. Was he going to remain
At the next corner he pulled his
arm away, and ran.
When he stopped, he was near
several theaters. In this part of
the city, streets are brighter and
hearts are more joyful than in other
parts. Women and men in rich, warm
coats moved happily in the winter
A sudden fear caught Soapy. No
cop was going to arrest him. Then he
came to another cop standing in
front of a big theater.
He thought of something else to
He began to shout as if he’d had
too much to drink. His voice was as
loud as he could make it. He danced,
he cried out.
And the cop turned his back to
Soapy, and said to a man standing
near him, “It’s one of those college
boys. He won’t hurt anything. We had
orders to let them shout.”
Soapy was quiet. Was no cop going
to touch him? He began to think of
the Island as if it were as far away
as heaven. He pulled his thin coat
around him. The wind was very cold.
Then he saw a man in the shop
buying a newspaper. The man’s
beside the door. Soapy stepped
inside the shop, took the umbrella,
and walked slowly away. The man
followed him quickly.
“My umbrella,” he said.
“Oh, is it?” said Soapy. “Why
don’t you call a cop? I took it.
Your umbrella! Why don’t you call a
cop? There’s one standing at the
corner.”The man walked more slowly.
Soapy did the same. But he had a
feeling that he was going to fail
again. The cop looked at the two
“I — ” said the umbrella man —
“that is — you know how these things
happen — I — if that’s your umbrella
I’m very sorry — I — I found it this
morning in a restaurant — if you say
it’s yours — I hope you’ll — ”
“It’s mine!” cried Soapy with
anger in his voice.
The umbrella man hurried away.
The cop helped a lady across the
street. Soapy walked east. He threw
the umbrella as far as he could
throw it. He talked to himself about
cops and what he thought of them.
Because he wished to be arrested,
they seemed to believe he was like a
king, who could do no wrong. At last
Soapy came to one of the quiet
streets on the east side of the
city. He turned here and began to
walk south toward Madison Square. He
was going home, although home was
only a seat in the park.
But on a very quiet corner Soapy
stopped. There was an old, old
church. Through one of the
colored-glass windows came a soft
light. Sweet music came to Soapy’s
ears and seemed to hold him there.
The moon was above, peaceful and
bright. There were few people
passing. He could hear birds high
that came from the church held Soapy
there, for he had known it well long
ago. In those days his life
contained such things as mothers and
flowers and high hopes and friends
and clean thoughts and clean
Soapy’s mind was ready for
something like this. He had come to
the old church at the right time.
There was a sudden and wonderful
change in his soul. He saw with sick
fear how he had fallen. He saw his
worthless days, his wrong desires,
his dead hopes, his lost power of
And also in a moment his heart
answered this change in his soul. He
would fight to change his life. He
would pull himself up, out of the
mud. He would make a man of himself
There was time. He was young
enough. He would find his old
purpose in life, and follow it. That
sweet music had changed him.
Tomorrow he would find work. A man
had once offered him a job. He would
find that man tomorrow. He would be
somebody in the world. He would—
Soapy felt a hand on his arm. He
looked quickly around into the broad
face of a cop.
“What are you doing hanging
around here?” asked the cop.
“Nothing,” said Soapy.
“You think I believe that?” said
Full of his new strength, Soapy
began to argue. And it is not wise
to argue with a New York cop.
“Come along,” said the cop.
“Three months on the Island,”
said the Judge to Soapy the next