Without a doubt much of the spirit and genius of the Caliph Harun Al
Rashid descended to the Margrave August Michael von Paulsen Quigg.
Quigg's restaurant is in Fourth Avenue--that street that the city seems
to have forgotten in its growth. Fourth Avenue--born and bred in the
Bowery--staggers northward full of good resolutions.
Where it crosses Fourteenth Street it struts for a brief moment proudly
in the glare of the museums and cheap theatres. It may yet become a fit
mate for its high-born sister boulevard to the west, or its roaring,
polyglot, broad-waisted cousin to the east. It passes Union Square; and
here the hoofs of the dray horses seem to thunder in unison, recalling
the tread of marching hosts--Hooray! But now come the silent and
terrible mountains--buildings square as forts, high as the clouds,
shutting out the sky, where thousands of slaves bend over desks all day.
On the ground floors are only little fruit shops and laundries and book
shops, where you see copies of "Littell's Living Age" and G. W. M.
Reynold's novels in the windows. And next--poor Fourth Avenue!--the
street glides into a mediaeval solitude. On each side are shops devoted
Let us say it is night. Men in rusty armor stand in the windows and
menace the hurrying cars with raised, rusty iron gauntlets. Hauberks and
helms, blunderbusses, Cromwellian breastplates, matchlocks, creeses, and
the swords and daggers of an army of dead-and-gone gallants gleam dully
in the ghostly light. Here and there from a corner saloon (lit with
Jack-o'-lanterns or phosphorus), stagger forth shuddering, home-bound
citizens, nerved by the tankards within to their fearsome journey adown
that eldrich avenue lined with the bloodstained weapons of the fighting
dead. What street could live inclosed by these mortuary relics, and trod
by these spectral citizens in whose sunken hearts scarce one good whoop
or tra-la-la remained?
Not Fourth Avenue. Not after the tinsel but enlivening glories of the
Little Rialto--not after the echoing drum-beats of Union Square. There
need be no tears, ladies and gentlemen; 'tis but the suicide of a
street. With a shriek and a crash Fourth Avenue dives headlong into the
tunnel at Thirty-fourth and is never seen again.
Near the sad scene of the thoroughfare's dissolution stood the modest
restaurant of Quigg. It stands there yet if you care to view its
crumbling red-brick front, its show window heaped with oranges,
tomatoes, layer cakes, pies, canned asparagus--its papier-mâché lobster
and two Maltese kittens asleep on a bunch of lettuce--if you care to
sit at one of the little tables upon whose cloth has been traced in the
yellowest of coffee stains the trail of the Japanese advance--to sit
there with one eye on your umbrella and the other upon the bogus bottle
from which you drop the counterfeit sauce foisted upon us by the cursed
charlatan who assumes to be our dear old lord and friend, the "Nobleman
Quigg's title came through his mother. One of her ancestors was a
Margravine of Saxony. His father was a Tammany brave. On account of
the dilution of his heredity he found that he could neither become
a reigning potentate nor get a job in the City Hall. So he opened a
restaurant. He was a man full of thought and reading. The business gave
him a living, though he gave it little attention. One side of his house
bequeathed to him a poetic and romantic adventure. The other gave him
the restless spirit that made him seek adventure. By day he was Quigg,
the restaurateur. By night he was the Margrave--the Caliph--the Prince
of Bohemia--going about the city in search of the odd, the mysterious,
the inexplicable, the recondite.
One night at 9, at which hour the restaurant closed, Quigg set forth
upon his quest. There was a mingling of the foreign, the military and
the artistic in his appearance as he buttoned his coat high up under his
short-trimmed brown and gray beard and turned westward toward the more
central life conduits of the city. In his pocket he had stored an
assortment of cards, written upon, without which he never stirred out of
doors. Each of those cards was good at his own restaurant for its face
value. Some called simply for a bowl of soup or sandwiches and coffee;
others entitled their bearer to one, two, three or more days of full
meals; a few were for single regular meals; a very few were, in effect,
meal tickets good for a week.
Of riches and power Margrave Quigg had none; but he had a Caliph's
heart--it may be forgiven him if his head fell short of the measure of
Harun Al Rashid's. Perhaps some of the gold pieces in Bagdad had put
less warmth and hope into the complainants among the bazaars than had
Quigg's beef stew among the fishermen and one-eyed calenders of
Continuing his progress in search of romance to divert him, or of
distress that he might aid, Quigg became aware of a fast-gathering crowd
that whooped and fought and eddied at a corner of Broadway and the
crosstown street that he was traversing. Hurrying to the spot he beheld
a young man of an exceedingly melancholy and preoccupied demeanor
engaged in the pastime of casting silver money from his pockets in the
middle of the street. With each motion of the generous one's hand the
crowd huddled upon the falling largesse with yells of joy. Traffic was
suspended. A policeman in the centre of the mob stooped often to the
ground as he urged the blockaders to move on.
The Margrave saw at a glance that here was food for his hunger after
knowledge concerning abnormal working of the human heart. He made his
way swiftly to the young man's side and took his arm. "Come with me at
once," he said, in the low but commanding voice that his waiters had
learned to fear.
"Pinched," remarked the young man, looking up at him with expressionless
eyes. "Pinched by a painless dentist. Take me away, flatty, and give me
gas. Some lay eggs and some lay none. When is a hen?"
Still deeply seized by some inward grief, but tractable, he allowed
Quigg to lead him away and down the street to a little park.
There, seated on a bench, he upon whom a corner of the great Caliph's
mantle has descended, spake with kindness and discretion, seeking to
know what evil had come upon the other, disturbing his soul and driving
him to such ill-considered and ruinous waste of his substance and
"I was doing the Monte Cristo act as adapted by Pompton, N. J., wasn't
I?" asked the young man.
"You were throwing small coins into the street for the people to
scramble after," said the Margrave.
"That's it. You buy all the beer you can hold, and then you throw
chicken feed to-- Oh, curse that word chicken, and hens, feathers,
roosters, eggs, and everything connected with it!"
"Young sir," said the Margrave kindly, but with dignity, "though I do
not ask your confidence, I invite it. I know the world and I know
humanity. Man is my study, though I do not eye him as the scientist
eyes a beetle or as the philanthropist gazes at the objects of his
bounty--through a veil of theory and ignorance. It is my pleasure
and distraction to interest myself in the peculiar and complicated
misfortunes that life in a great city visits upon my fellow-men. You may
be familiar with the history of that glorious and immortal ruler, the
Caliph Harun Al Rashid, whose wise and beneficent excursions among his
people in the city of Bagdad secured him the privilege of relieving so
much of their distress. In my humble way I walk in his footsteps. I seek
for romance and adventure in city streets--not in ruined castles or in
crumbling palaces. To me the greatest marvels of magic are those that
take place in men's hearts when acted upon by the furious and diverse
forces of a crowded population. In your strange behavior this evening
I fancy a story lurks. I read in your act something deeper than the
wanton wastefulness of a spendthrift. I observe in your countenance the
certain traces of consuming grief or despair. I repeat--I invite your
confidence. I am not without some power to alleviate and advise. Will
you not trust me?"
"Gee, how you talk!" exclaimed the young man, a gleam of admiration
supplanting for a moment the dull sadness of his eyes. "You've got the
Astor Library skinned to a synopsis of preceding chapters. I mind that
old Turk you speak of. I read 'The Arabian Nights' when I was a kid. He
was a kind of Bill Devery and Charlie Schwab rolled into one. But, say,
you might wave enchanted dishrags and make copper bottles smoke up coon
giants all night without ever touching me. My case won't yield to that
kind of treatment."
"If I could hear your story," said the Margrave, with his lofty, serious
"I'll spiel it in about nine words," said the young man, with a deep
sigh, "but I don't think you can help me any. Unless you're a peach at
guessing it's back to the Bosphorus for you on your magic linoleum."
THE STORY OF THE YOUNG MAN AND THE HARNESS MAKER'S RIDDLE
"I work in Hildebrant's saddle and harness shop down in Grant Street.
I've worked there five years. I get $18 a week. That's enough to marry
on, ain't it? Well, I'm not going to get married. Old Hildebrant is
one of these funny Dutchmen--you know the kind--always getting off bum
jokes. He's got about a million riddles and things that he faked from
Rogers Brothers' great-grandfather. Bill Watson works there, too. Me and
Bill have to stand for them chestnuts day after day. Why do we do it?
Well, jobs ain't to be picked off every Anheuser bush-- And then there's
"What? The old man's daughter. Comes in the shop every day. About
nineteen, and the picture of the blonde that sits on the palisades of
the Rhine and charms the clam-diggers into the surf. Hair the color of
straw matting, and eyes as black and shiny as the best harness
blacking--think of that!
"Me? well, it's either me or Bill Watson. She treats us both equal. Bill
is all to the psychopathic about her; and me?--well, you saw me plating
the roadbed of the Great Maroon Way with silver to-night. That was on
account of Laura. I was spiflicated, Your Highness, and I wot not of
what I wouldst.
"How? Why, old Hildebrandt says to me and Bill this afternoon: 'Boys,
one riddle have I for you gehabt haben. A young man who cannot riddles
antworten, he is not so good by business for ein family to provide--is
not that--hein?' And he hands us a riddle--a conundrum, some calls
it--and he chuckles interiorly and gives both of us till to-morrow
morning to work out the answer to it. And he says whichever of us
guesses the repartee end of it goes to his house o' Wednesday night to
his daughter's birthday party. And it means Laura for whichever of us
goes, for she's naturally aching for a husband, and it's either me or
Bill Watson, for old Hildebrant likes us both, and wants her to marry
somebody that'll carry on the business after he's stitched his last pair
"The riddle? Why, it was this: 'What kind of a hen lays the longest?
Think of that! What kind of a hen lays the longest? Ain't it like a
Dutchman to risk a man's happiness on a fool proposition like that?
Now, what's the use? What I don't know about hens would fill several
incubators. You say you're giving imitations of the old Arab guy that
gave away--libraries in Bagdad. Well, now, can you whistle up a fairy
that'll solve this hen query, or not?"
When the young man ceased the Margrave arose and paced to and fro by the
park bench for several minutes. Finally he sat again, and said, in grave
and impressive tones:
"I must confess, sir, that during the eight years that I have spent in
search of adventure and in relieving distress I have never encountered
a more interesting or a more perplexing case. I fear that I have
overlooked hens in my researches and observations. As to their
habits, their times and manner of laying, their many varieties and
cross-breedings, their span of life, their--"
"Oh, don't make an Ibsen drama of it!" interrupted the young man,
flippantly. "Riddles--especially old Hildebrant's riddles--don't have
to be worked out seriously. They are light themes such as Sim Ford and
Harry Thurston Peck like to handle. But, somehow, I can't strike just
the answer. Bill Watson may, and he may not. To-morrow will tell. Well,
Your Majesty, I'm glad anyhow that you butted in and whiled the time
away. I guess Mr. Al Rashid himself would have bounced back if one of
his constituents had conducted him up against this riddle. I'll say good
night. Peace fo' yours, and what-you-may-call-its of Allah."
The Margrave, still with a gloomy air, held out his hand.
"I cannot express my regret," he said, sadly. "Never before have I
found myself unable to assist in some way. 'What kind of a hen lays the
longest? It is a baffling problem. There is a hen, I believe, called
the Plymouth Rock that--"
"Cut it out," said the young man. "The Caliph trade is a mighty serious
one. I don't suppose you'd even see anything funny in a preacher's
defense of John D. Rockefeller. Well, good night, Your Nibs."
From habit the Margrave began to fumble in his pockets. He drew forth
a card and handed it to the young man.
"Do me the favor to accept this, anyhow," he said. "The time may come
when it might be of use to you."
"Thanks!" said the young man, pocketing it carelessly. "My name is
* * * * * *
Shame to him who would hint that the reader's interest shall altogether
pursue the Margrave August Michael von Paulsen Quigg. I am indeed astray
if my hand fail in keeping the way where my peruser's heart would
follow. Then let us, on the morrow, peep quickly in at the door of
Hildebrant, harness maker.
Hildebrant's 200 pounds reposed on a bench, silver-buckling a raw
Bill Watson came in first.
"Vell," said Hildebrant, shaking all over with the vile conceit of the
joke-maker, "haf you guessed him? 'Vat kind of a hen lays der longest?'"
"Er--why, I think so," said Bill, rubbing a servile chin. "I think so,
Mr. Hildebrant--the one that lives the longest-- Is that right?"
"Nein!" said Hildebrant, shaking his head violently. "You haf not
guessed der answer."
Bill passed on and donned a bed-tick apron and bachelorhood.
In came the young man of the Arabian Night's fiasco--pale, melancholy,
"Vell," said Hildebrant, "haf you guessed him? 'Vat kind of a hen lays
Simmons regarded him with dull savagery in his eye. Should he curse this
mountain of pernicious humor--curse him and die? Why should-- But there
Dogged, speechless, he thrust his hands into his coat pockets and stood.
His hand encountered the strange touch of the Margrave's card. He drew
it out and looked at it, as men about to be hanged look at a crawling
fly. There was written on it in Quigg's bold, round hand: "Good for one
roast chicken to bearer."
Simmons looked up with a flashing eye.
"A dead one!" said he.
"Goot!" roared Hildebrant, rocking the table with giant glee. "Dot is
right! You gome at mine house at 8 o'clock to der party."