Soapy moved uneasily on his park bench. When wild geese honk high at night as they fly overhead, and when women without fur coats become kind to their husbands, and when Soapy moves uneasily on his park bench, you know that winter is coming.


 A dead leaf fell in Soapy’s lap. That was winter’s business card. Winter is kind to the citizens of the park – he gives plenty of warning that he is coming.


 Soapy realized he had to do something about the cold weather. And so he moved uneasily on his park bench.


 He did not have high ambitions. There were no thoughts of Mediterranean cruises, or warm Sourthern skies. He wanted three months in Blackwell prison on the Island. Three months of a warm bed, regular food, and good company semmed perfect.


 For years the prison had been his winter home. Just as rish New Yorkers bought their tickets to Palm Beach and Hawaii each winter, so Soapy made his simple plan to go to the Island. And now the time had come. On the night before, three fat Sunday newspapers had not kept him warm oh his bench. So the Island was the most important thing in Soapy’s mind. He could have gone to the Salvation Army or some other charity, but he preferred prison. The chaities made you take baths. And they asked too many questions at meal times. Prison was better, it was more private.


 Having decided to go to the island, Soapy thought about the best way to get there. It was to eat at an expensive restaurant, then declare he had no money. He would be handed quietly to the police, then a nice judge would send him to prison.


 Soapy left his bench and walked over to Broadway. He stopped before a glittering restaurant. It promised to have the best wine, food, and silk tablecloths. Now he just needed to get past the waiters to a table.


 Soapy’s trousers and shoes were bad. But he was confident about his appearance from the waist upwards. He had shaved, and his coat was clean. He even had a tie, which had been given to him by a missionary. So, if he could sit at a table he would look fine. The part of him the waiters could see would not be suspicious. Then success would be his. Soapy decided he’d order roasted duck, a bottle of champagne, then cheese and a cigar. One dollar for the cigar would be enough. He didn’t want to upset the restaurant’s manager. The meal would leave him full and happy for the trip to his winter home.


 But as Soapy stepped into the restaurant the head waiter saw his torn trousers and ancient shoes. Two waiters quickly turned him around and led him back outside.


 He needed to think of another way to get to the Island. On the corner of Sixth avenue he picked up a stone and threw it through a shop window. A policeman came running around the corner. Soapy stood still, with his hands in his pockets, and smiled.


 “Where’s the man that did that?” asked the officer.


 “Don’t you think it was me?” asked Soapy, in a friendly voice.


 The policeman didn’t think Soapy had broken the window. Any man who breaks a window would not talk with policemen. He would run away. Then the policeman saw a man half way down the block running to catch a cab. He drew his gun and ran after the man. Soapy was disgusted. He’d failed twice now.


 Across the street was another restaurant. It was a cheap place, for hungry people with little money. Soapy’s shoes and trousers were not a problem. He sat down and ate steak, potatoes, donuts and pie. And then he told the waiter he had no money.


 “So please call a cop,” said Soapy, “and quickly.”


 “There’ll be no cop to protect you,” said the waiter, who had eyes as red as cherries. “Hey, Bulldog!”


 The two waiters threw Soapy a long way. He landed in the street on his head. It took a long time for him to get up and brush the dust off his clothes. A policeman standing nearby laughed. Getting arrested was like an impossible dream. The Island seemed very far away.


 Soapy walked slowly for five blocks before he had the courage to try again. He saw a golden opportunity. A pretty young woman was looking in a shop window. Ten meters from her stood a large and grumpy policeman.


 All he had to do was say something rude to the woman. Then he would be sent straight to his winter hotel.


 “Hey baby, do you want to play some games at my house?”


 The policeman was still looking. Soapy imagined the warmth of his cell. But the young woman smiled and grabbed his arm.


 “I’d love to,” she said. “If you buy me a beer first.”


 The young woman joyfully put her arm through his as they walked past the policeman. Soapy was filled with sorrow. He was destined to be free.


 At the next corner he ran away from her. He ran until he came to a romantic part of town. The street was filled with happy couples. The women wore fur, and the men wore greatcoats. A sudden fear hit Soapy. What if some magic spell had made it impossible for him to be arrested? He began to feel panic growing inside him. He saw another policeman, and began to yell nonsense as loud as he could. He pretended he was drunk. He danced and yelled.

 The policeman turned his back to him, and said to one passer-by,

 “He’s one of the Yale University students celebrating their defeat of the Hartford College. Noisy but harmless. The chief told us to leave them alone.”

 Soapy became quiet. Would he ever be arrested again? In his mind the Island became a kind of paradise. He buttoned up his thin coat against the chilly wind.

 In a cigar store Soapy saw a well-dressed man lighting a cigar. The man had left his silk umbrella by the door. Soapy stepped inside, picked up the umbrella, and walked off slowly. The man followed him out.

 “My umbrella,” he said.

 “Oh, is it?” said Soapy. “Well, why don’t you call a policeman? There’s one over there.”

 The man slowed down. Soapy also slowed down. He had a horrible feeling that he’d be unlucky again. The policeman looked at them both curiously.

 “Yes, well, mistakes happen,” said the man. “I – if it’s your umbrella – I’m sorry. I picked it up this morning in a restaurant. If it’s yours, why – I hope you’ll…”

 “Of course it’s mine!” said Soapy angrily. And he walked away.

 As soon as he got around the corner he threw the umbrella away. He cursed quietly against the police as he walked. They were treating him like a king who could do no wrong.

 Soapy gave up. He was in a quiet area near the park, so he began to walk towards home – his park bench.

 But on an unusually quiet corner Soapy stopped. Here was a nice old church. Through one stained window a soft light glowed. The sweetest organ music came out of it. It held him. He leaned against an iron fence and listened.

 The moon was above, bright and calm. There were no people or vehicles. A bird sang sleepily in a tree. It was like a country churchyard. And the anthem the organist played glued Soapy to the iron fence. For he knew it well, from the day when his life was different. From the days when his life held thing like mothers and roses and ambitions and friends and clean thoughts and shirts. He felt a sudden and wonderful change in his soul. He realized, with horror, that he had fallen into a dark hole. His life was filled with wasted days, dead hopes, and worthless desires.

 In a moment his heart changed. He had a powerful desire to battle his desperate fate. He would pull himself out of the gutter. Make a man of himself again. He would conquer the evil that had possessed him. There was enough time – he was still quite young. The sad but sweet organ notes had caused a revolution in him. Tomorrow he would go onto the busy downtown district and find work. A man there had once offered him a places as a driver. He would find that man tomorrow and ask for the job. He would be somebody in the world. He would…

 Soapy felt a hand laid on his arm. He looked up into the face of a policeman.

 “What are you doing here?” asked the officer.

 “Nothing,” said Soapy.

 “Come with me,” said the policeman. “I don’t want you to burgle that church.”

 “Three months on the Island,” said the judge in the police court the next morning.



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