Read ALONG THE BRONX of A Gentleman Vagabond and Some Others, free online book, by F. Hopkinson Smith, on

Hidden in our memories there are quaint, quiet nooks tucked away at the end of leafy lanes; still streams overhung with feathery foliage; gray rocks lichen-covered; low-ground meadows, knee-deep in lush grass; restful, lazy lakes dotted with pond-lilies; great, wide-spreading trees, their arms uplifted in song, their leaves quivering with the melody.

I say there are all these delights of leaf, moss, ripple, and shade stored away somewhere in our memories, ­dry bulbs of a preceding summer’s bloom, that need only the first touch of spring, the first glorious day in June, to break out into flower.  When they do break out, they are generally chilled in the blooming by the thousand and one difficulties of prolonged travel, time of getting there and time of getting back again, expense, and lack of accommodations.

If you live in New York ­and really you should not live anywhere else! ­there are a few buttons a tired man can touch that will revive for him all these delights in half an hour’s walk, costing but a car-fare, and robbing no man or woman of time, even without the benefits of the eight-hour law.

You touch one of these buttons when you plan to spend an afternoon along the Bronx.

There are other buttons, of course.  You can call up the edges of the Palisades, with their great sweep of river below, the seething, steaming city beyond; or, you can say “Hello!” to the Upper Harlem, with its house-boats and floating restaurants; or you can ring up Westchester and its picturesque waterline.  But you cannot get them all together in half an hour except in one place, and that is along the Bronx.

The Bronx is the forgotten, the overlooked, the “disremembered,” as the provincial puts it.  Somebody may know where it begins ­I do not.  I only know where it ends.  What its early life may be, away up near White Plains, what farms it waters, what dairies it cools, what herds it refreshes, I know not.  I only know that when I get off at Woodlawn ­that City of the Silent ­it comes down from somewhere up above the railroad station, and that it “takes a header,” as the boys say, under an old mill, abandoned long since, and then, like another idler, goes singing along through open meadows, and around big trees in clumps, their roots washed bare, and then over sandy stretches reflecting the flurries of yellow butterflies, and then around a great hill, and so on down to Laguerre’s.

Of course, when it gets to Laguerre’s I know all about it.  I know the old rotting landing-wharf where Monsieur moors his boats, ­the one with the little seat is still there; and Lucette’s big eyes are just as brown, and her hair just as black, and her stockings and slippers just as dainty on Sundays as when first I knew her.  And the wooden bench is still there, where the lovers used to sit; only Monsieur, her father, tells me that Francois works very late in the big city, ­three mouths to feed now, you see, ­and only when petit Francois is tucked away in his crib in the long summer nights, and Lucette has washed the dishes and put on her best apron, and the Bronx stops still in a quiet pool to listen, is the bench used as in the old time when Monsieur discovered the lovers by the flash of his lantern.

Then I know where it floats along below Laguerre’s, and pulls itself together in a very dignified way as it sails under the brand-new bridge, ­the old one, propped up on poles, has long since paid tribute to a spring freshet, ­and quickens its pace below the old Dye-house, ­also a wreck now (they say it is haunted), ­and then goes slopping along in and out of the marshes, sousing the sunken willow roots, oozing through beds of weeds and tangled vines.

But only a very little while ago did I know where it began to leave off all its idle ways and took really to the serious side of life; when it began rushing down long, stony ravines, plunging over respectable, well-to-do masonry dams, skirting once costly villas, whispering between dark defiles of rock, and otherwise disporting itself as becomes a well-ordered, conventional, self-respecting mountain stream, uncontaminated by the encroachments and frivolities of civilized life.

All this begins at Fordham.  Not exactly at Fordham, for you must walk due east from the station for half a mile, climb a fence, and strike through the woods before you hear its voice and catch the gleam of its tumbling current.

They will all be there when you go ­all the quaint nooks, all the delights of leaf, moss, ripple, and shade, of your early memories.  And in the half-hour, too, ­less if you are quick-footed, ­from your desk or shop in the great city.

No, you never heard of it.  I knew that before you said a word.  You thought it was the dumping-ground of half the cast-off tinware of the earth; that only the shanty, the hen-coop, and the stable overhung its sluggish waters, and only the carpet shaker, the sod gatherer, and the tramp infested its banks.

I tell you that in all my wanderings in search of the picturesque, nothing within a day’s journey is half as charming.  That its stretches of meadow, willow clumps, and tangled densities are as lovely, fresh, and enticing as can be found ­yes, within a thousand miles of your door.  That the rocks are encrusted with the thickest of moss and lichen, gray, green, black, and brilliant emerald.  That the trees are superb, the solitude and rest complete.  That it is finer, more subtle, more exquisite than its sister brooks in the denser forest, because that here and there it shows the trace of some human touch, ­and nature is never truly picturesque without it, ­the broken-down fence, the sagging bridge, and vine-covered roof.

But you must go now.

Now, before the grip of the great city has been fastened upon it; before the axe of the “dago” clears out the wilderness of underbrush; before the landscape gardener, the sanitary engineer, and the contractor pounce upon it and strangle it; before the crimes of the cast-iron fountain, the varnished grapevine arbor, with seats to match, the bronze statues presented by admiring groups of citizens, the rambles, malls, and cement-lined caverns, are consummated; before the gravel walk confines your steps, and the granite curbing imprisons the flowers, as if they, too, would escape.

Now, when the tree lies as it falls; when the violets bloom and are there for the picking; when the dogwood sprinkles the bare branches with white stars, and the scent of the laurel fills the air.

Touch the button some day soon for an hour along the Bronx.