One may hope, in spite of the metaphorists, to
avoid the breath of the deadly upas tree; one may, by
great good fortune, succeed in blacking the eye of the
basilisk; one might even dodge the attentions of Cer-
berus and Argus, but no man, alive or dead, can es-
cape the gaze of the Rubberer.
New York is the Caoutchouc City. There are
many, of course, who go their ways, making money,
without turning to the right or the left, but there is a
tribe abroad wonderfully composed, like the Martians,
solely of eyes and means of locomotion.
These devotees of curiosity swarm, like flies, in a
moment in a struggling, breathless circle about the
scene of an unusual occurrence. If a workman opens
a manhole, if a street car runs over a man from
North Tarrytown, if a little boy drops an egg on
his way home from the grocery, if a casual house or
two drops into the subway, if a lady loses a nickel
through a hole in the lisle thread, if the police drag
a telephone and a racing chart forth from an Ibsen
Society reading-room, if Senator Depew or Mr.
Chuck Connors walks out to take the air - if any of
these incidents or accidents takes place, you will see
the mad, irresistible rush of the "rubber" tribe to
The importance of the event does not count. They
gaze with equal interest and absorption at a cho-
rus girl or at a man painting a liver pill sign. They
will form as deep a cordon around a man with a club-
foot as they will around a balked automobile. They
have the furor rubberendi. They are optical glut-
tons, feasting and fattening on the misfortunes of
their fellow beings. They gloat and pore and glare
and squint and stare with their fishy eyes like goggle-
eyed perch at the book baited with calamity.
It would seem that Cupid would find these ocular
vampires too cold game for his calorific shafts, but
have we not yet to discover an immune even among
the Protozoa? Yes, beautiful Romance descended
upon two of this tribe, and love came into their
hearts as they crowded about the prostrate form
of a man who had been run over by a brewery wagon.
William Pry was the first on the spot. He was an
expert at such gatherings. With an expression of in-
tense happiness on his features, be stood over the vic-
tim of the accident, listening to his groans as if to
the sweetest music. When the crowd of spectators
had swelled to a closely packed circle William saw a
violent commotion in the crowd opposite him. Men
were hurled aside like ninepins by the impact of some
moving body that clove them like the rush of a tor-
nado. With elbows, umbrella, hat-pin, tongue, and
fingernails doing their duty, Violet Seymour forced
her way through the mob of onlookers to the first row.
Strong men who even had been able to secure a seat
on the 5.30 Harlem express staggered back like chil-
dren as she bucked centre. Two large lady spectators
who bad seen the Duke of Roxburgh married and
had often blocked traffic on Twenty-third Street
fell back into the second row with ripped shirtwaists
when Violet had finished with them. William Pry
loved her at first sight.
The ambulance removed the unconscious agent of
Cupid. William and Violet remained after the crowd
had dispersed. They were true Rubberers. People
who leave the scene of an accident with the ambulance
have not genuine caoutchouc in the cosmogony of
their necks. The delicate, fine flavor of the affair is
to be bad only in the after-taste - in gloating over
the spot, in gazing fixedly at the houses opposite, in
hovering there in a dream more exquisite than the
opium-eater's ecstasy. William Pry and Violet Sey-
mour were connoisseurs in casualties. They knew bow
to extract full enjoyment from every incident.
Presently they looked at each other. Violet had a
brown birthmark on her neck as large as a silver
half-dollar. William fixed his eyes upon it. William
Pry had inordinately bowed legs. Violet allowed her
gaze to linger unswervingly upon them. Face to face
they stood thus for moments, each staring at the
other. Etiquette would not allow them to speak; but
in the Caoutchouc City it is permitted to gaze with-
out stint at the trees in the parks and at the physi-
cal blemishes of a fellow creature.
At length with a sigh they parted. But Cupid had
been the driver of the brewery wagon, and the wheel
that broke a leg united two fond hearts.
The next meeting of the hero and heroine was in
front of a board fence near Broadway. The day had
been a disappointing one. There had been no fights
on the street, children had kept from under the wheels
of the street cars, cripples and fat men in negligee
shirts were scarce; nobody seemed to be inclined to
slip on banana peels or fall down with heart disease.
Even the sport from Kokomo, Ind., who claims to
be a cousin of ex-Mayor Low and scatters nickels
from a cab window, had not put in his appearance.
There was nothing to stare at, and William Pry had
premonitions of ennui.
But he saw a large crowd scrambling and pushing
excitedly in front of a billboard. Sprinting for it,
he knocked down an old woman and a child carrying
a bottle of milk, and fought his way like a demon into
the mass of spectators. Already in the inner line
stood Violet Seymour with one sleeve and two gold fill-
ings gone, a corset steel puncture and a sprained
wrist, but happy. She was looking at what there
was to see. A man was painting upon the fence:
"Eat Bricklets - They Fill Your Face."
Violet blushed when she saw William Pry. William
jabbed a lady in a black silk raglan in the ribs, kicked
a boy in the shin, bit an old gentleman on the left ear
and managed to crowd nearer to Violet. They stood
for an hour looking at the man paint the letters.
Then William's love could be repressed no longer.
He touched her on the arm.
"Come with me," he said. "I know where there
is a bootblack without an Adam's apple."
She looked up at him shyly, yet with unmistakable
love transfiguring her countenance.
"And you have saved it for me?" she asked,
trembling with the first dim ecstasy of a woman be-
Together they hurried to the bootblack's stand.
An hour they spent there gazing at the malformed
A window-cleaner fell from the fifth story to the
sidewalk beside them. As the ambulance came clang-
ing up William pressed her hand joyously. "Four
ribs at least and a compound fracture," he whispered,
swiftly. "You are not sorry that you met me, are
"Me?" said Violet, returning the pressure. "Sure
not. I could stand all day rubbering with you."
The climax of the romance occurred a few days
later. Perhaps the reader will remember the intense
excitement into which the city was thrown when Eliza
Jane, a colored woman, was served with a subpoena.
The Rubber Tribe encamped on the spot. With his
own hands William Pry placed a board upon two beer
kegs in the street opposite Eliza Jane's residence.
He and Violet sat there for three days and nights.
Then it occurred to a detective to open the door and
serve the subpoena. He sent for a kinetoscope and
Two souls with such congenial tastes could not long
remain apart. As a policeman drove them away with
his night stick that evening they plighted their troth.
The seeds of love bad been well sown, and had grown
up, hardy and vigorous, into a - let us call it a rub-
The wedding of William Pry and Violet Seymour
was set for June 10. The Big Church in the Middle
of the Block was banked high with flowers. The
populous tribe of Rubberers the world over is ram-
pant over weddings. They are the pessimists of the
pews. They are the guyers of the groom and the
banterers of the bride. They come to laugh at your
marriage, and should you escape from Hymen's
tower on the back of death's pale steed they will
come to the funeral and sit in the same pew and cry
over your luck. Rubber will stretch.
The church was lighted. A grosgrain carpet lay
over the asphalt to the edge of the sidewalk. Brides-
maids were patting one another's sashes awry and
speaking of the Bride's freckles. Coachmen tied
white ribbons on their whips and bewailed the space
of time between drinks. The minister was musing
over his possible fee, essaying conjecture whether it
would suffice to purchase a new broadcloth suit for
himself and a photograph of Laura Jane Libbey for
his wife. Yea, Cupid was in the air.
And outside the church, oh, my brothers, surged
and heaved the rank and file of the tribe of Rubberers.
in two bodies they were, with the grosgrain carpet
and cops with clubs between. They crowded like
cattle, they fought, they pressed and surged and
swayed and trampled one another to see a bit of a
girl in a white veil acquire license to go through a
man's pockets while be sleeps.
But the hour for the wedding came and went, and
the bride and bridegroom came not. And impatience
gave way to alarm and alarm brought about search,
and they were not found. And then two big police-
men took a band and dragged out of the furious mob
of onlookers a crushed and trampled thing, with a
wedding ring in its vest pocket and a shredded and
hysterical woman beating her way to the carpet's
edge, ragged, bruised and obstreperous.
William Pry and Violet Seymour, creatures of
habit, had joined in the seething game of the specta-
tors, unable to resist the overwhelming desire to gaze
upon themselves entering, as bride and bridegroom,
the rose-decked church.
Rubber will out.