Soapy sat on a seat in Madison Square, New
York, and looked up at the sky. A dead leaf fell onto his arm. Winter
was coming, and Soapy knew that he must make his plans. He moved
unhappily on his seat.
He wanted three months in a nice, warm prison, with food and good
friends. This was how he usually spent his winters. And now it was time,
because, at night on his seat in the square, three newspapers did not
keep out the cold.
So Soapy decided to go to prison, and at once began to try his
first plan. It was usually easy. He ate dinner in an expensive
restaurant. Then he told them he had no money and they called a
policeman. Nice and easy, with no trouble.
So Soapy left his
seat, and walked slowly along the street. Soon he came to a
bright restaurant on Broadway. Ah! This was all right. He just
had to get to a table in the restaurant and sit down. That was
all, because, when he sat down, people could only see his coat
and his shirt, which were not very old. Nobody could see his
trousers. He thought about the meal - not too expensive, but
But when Soapy went into the restaurant, the
waiter saw Soapy's dirty old trousers and terrible shoes.
Strong hands turned him round and helped him out into the street
again. So now he had to think of something different. Soapy walked
away from Broadway and soon he found himself on Sixth Avenue. He
stopped in front of a shop window and looked at it.
It was nice and bright, and everybody in the street could see
him. Slowly and carefully he picked up a stone and threw it at
the window. The glass broke with a loud noise. People ran round
the corner and Soapy was happy, because the man in front was a
policeman. Soapy did not move. He stood there with his hands in
his pockets, and he smiled. 'I'll soon be in prison now,' he
The policeman came up to Soapy. 'Who did that?' he asked.
'Perhaps I did,' Soapy replied.
But the policeman knew that people who break windows do not stop to talk to
policemen. They run away. And just then the policeman saw another man, who was
running to catch a bus. So the policeman ran after him. Soapy watched for a
minute. Then he walked away. No luck again! He began to feel cross.
But on the opposite side
of the road he saw a little restaurant. 'Ah, that'll be all right,' he thought,
and he went in. This time nobody looked at his trousers and his shoes. He
enjoyed his meal, and then he looked up at the waiter, smiled and said, 'I
haven't got any money, you know. Now, call the police. And do it quickly. I'm
'No police for you!' the waiter answered. 'Hey! Jo!'
Another waiter came, and together they threw Soapy out into the cold street.
Soapy lay there, very angry. With difficulty, he stood up. His nice warm prison
was still far away, and Soapy was very unhappy. He felt worse because a
policeman, who was standing near, laughed and walked away.
Soapy moved on, but he walked for a long time before he tried again. This time
it looked easy.
A nice young woman was standing in front of a shop window.
Not very far away there was also a policeman. Soapy moved nearer to the young
woman. He saw that the policeman was watching him. Then he said to the young
woman, with a smile, 'Why don't you come with me, my dear? I can give you a good
The young woman moved away a little and looked more carefully into the shop
window. Soapy looked at the policeman. Yes, he was still watching.
Then he spoke to the young woman again. In a minute she would
call the policeman. Soapy could almost see the prison doors. Suddenly, the young
woman took hold of his arm.
'OK,' she said happily. 'If you buy me a drink. Let's go
before that policeman sees us.'
And poor Soapy walked away with the young woman, who still held on to his arm.
He was very unhappy.
At the next corner he ran away from the woman. Suddenly he was afraid. 'I'm
never going to get to prison,' he thought.
Slowly, he walked on and came to a street with a lot of
theatres. There were a lot of people there, rich people in their best clothes.
Soapy had to do something to get to prison. He did not want to spend another
night on his seat in Madison Square. What could he do? Then he saw a policeman
near him, so he began to sing and shout and make a lot of noise. This time they
must send him to prison. But the policeman turned his back to Soapy and said to
a man who was standing near, 'He's had too much to drink, but he's not
dangerous. We'll leave him alone tonight.'
What was the matter with the police? Soapy was really unhappy now, but he
stopped making a noise. How could he get to prison? The wind was cold, and he
pulled his thin coat around him.
But, just then, inside a shop, he saw a man with an expensive umbrella. The man
put his umbrella down near the door, and took out a cigarette. Soapy went into
the shop, picked up the umbrella, and, slowly, he began to walk away. The man
came quickly after him.
'That's my umbrella,' he said.
'Oh, is it?' Soapy replied. 'Then why don't you call a policeman? I took it, and
you say it's your umbrella. Go on, then. Call a policeman! Look! There's one on
The umbrella man looked unhappy. 'Well, you know, perhaps I've made a mistake. I
took it from a restaurant this morning. If it's yours, well, I'm very sorry...'
'Of course it's my umbrella,' Soapy said.
The policeman looked at them - and the umbrella man walked away. The policeman
went to help a beautiful young girl to cross the road.
Soapy was really angry now. He threw the umbrella away and said many bad things
about policemen. Just because he wanted to go to prison, they did not want to
send him there. He could do nothing wrong!
He began to walk back to Madison Square and home - his seat.
But on a quiet corner, Soapy suddenly stopped. Here, in the
middle of the city, was a beautiful old church. Through one purple window he
could see a soft light, and sweet music was coming from inside the church. The
moon was high in the sky and everything was quiet. For a few seconds it was like
a country church and Soapy remembered other, happier days. He thought of the
days when he had a mother, and friends, and beautiful things in his life.
Then he thought about his life now - the empty days, the
dead plans. And then a wonderful thing happened. Soapy decided to change his
life and be a new man. 'Tomorrow,' he said to himself, 'I'll go into town and
find work. My life will be good again. I'll be somebody important. Everything
will be different. I'll...'
Soapy felt a hand on his arm. He jumped and looked round quickly - into the face
of a policeman! 'What are you doing here?' asked the policeman. 'Nothing,' Soapy
answered. 'Then come with me,' the policeman said. 'Three months in prison,'
they told Soapy the next day.