Man by the Name
of Mud by Stephen Crane
Deep in a leather chair, the Kid sat looking out at where the rain
slanted before the dull brown houses and hammered swiftly upon an
occasional lonely cab. The happy crackle from the great and glittering
fireplace behind him had evidently no meaning of content for him. He
appeared morose and unapproachable, and when a man appears morose and
unapproachable it is a fine chance for his intimate friends. Three or
four of them discovered his mood, and so hastened to be obnoxious.
What's wrong, Kid? Lost your thirst?
He can never be happy again. He has lost his thirst.
That's right, Kid. When you quarrel with a man who can whip you,
resort to sarcastic reflection and distance.
They cackled away persistently, but the Kid was mute and continued
to stare gloomily at the street.
Once a man who had been writing letters looked up and said, I saw
your friend at the Comique the other night. He waited a moment and
then added, In back.
The Kid wheeled about in his chair at this information, and all the
others saw then that it was important. One man said with deep
intelligence, Ho, ho, a woman, hey? A woman's come between the two
Kids. A woman. Great, eh? The Kid launched a glare of scorn across the
room, and then turned again to a contemplation of the rain. His friends
continued to do all in their power to worry him, but they fell
ultimately before his impregnable silence.
As it happened, he had not been brooding upon his friend's
mysterious absence at all. He had been concerned with himself. Once in
a while he seemed to perceive certain futilities and lapsed them
immediately into a state of voiceless dejection. These moods were not
An unexplained thing in his mind, however, was greatly enlightened
by the words of the gossip. He turned then from his harrowing scrutiny
of the amount of pleasure he achieved from living, and settled into a
comfortable reflection upon the state of his comrade, the other Kid.
Perhaps it could be indicated in this fashion: Went to Comique, I
suppose. Saw girl. Secondary part, probably. Thought her rather
natural. Went to Comique again. Went again. One time happened to meet
omnipotent and good-natured friend. Broached subject to him with great
caution. Friend said'Why, certainly, my boy, come round to-night, and
I'll take you in back. Remember, it's against all rules, but I think
that in your case, etc.' Kid went. Chorus girls winked same old wink.
'Here's another dude on the prowl.' Kid aware of this, swearing under
his breath and looking very stiff. Meets girl. Knew beforehand that the
footlights might have sold him, but finds her very charming. Does not
say single thing to her which she naturally expected to hear. Makes no
reference to her beauty nor her voiceif she has any. Perhaps takes it
for granted that she knows. Girl don't exactly love this attitude, but
then feels admiration, because after all she can't tell whether he
thinks her nice or whether he don't. New scheme this. Worked by
occasional guys in Rome and Egypt, but still, new scheme. Kid goes
away. Girl thinks. Later, nails omnipotent and good-natured friend.
'Who was that you brought back?' 'Oh, him? Why, he' Describes the
Kid's wealth, feats, and virtuesvirtues of disposition. Girl
propounds clever question'Why did he wish to meet me?' Omnipotent
person says, 'Damned if I know.'
Later, Kid asks girl to supper. Not wildly anxious, but very evident
that he asks her because he likes her. Girl accepts; goes to supper.
Kid very good comrade and kind. Girl begins to think that here at last
is a man who understands her. Details ambitionslong, wonderful
ambitions. Explains her points of superiority over the other girls of
stage. Says their lives disgust her. She wants to work and study and
make something of herself. Kid smokes vast number of cigarettes.
Displays and feels deep sympathy. Recalls, but faintly, that he has
heard it on previous occasions. They have an awfully good time. Part at
last in front of apartment house. Good-night, old chap. Good-night.
Squeeze hands hard. Kid has no information at all about kissing her
good-night, but don't even try. Noble youth. Wise youth. Kid goes home
and smokes. Feels strong desire to kill people who say intolerable
things of the girl in rows. Narrow, mean, stupid, ignorant, damnable
people. Contemplates the broad, fine liberality of his experienced
Kid and girl become very chumy. Kid like a brother. Listens to her
troubles. Takes her out to supper regularly and regularly. Chorus girls
now tacitly recognise him as the main guy. Sometimes, may be, girl's
mother sick. Can't go to supper. Kid always very noble. Understands
perfectly the probabilities of there being others. Lays for 'em, but
makes no discoveries. Begins to wonder whether he is a winner or
whether she is a girl of marvellous cleverness. Can't tell. Maintains
himself with dignity, however. Only occasionally inveighs against the
men who prey upon the girls of the stage. Still noble.
Time goes on. Kid grows less noble. Perhaps decides not to be noble
at all, or as little as he can. Still inveighs against the men who prey
upon the girls of the stage. Thinks the girl stunning. Wants to be dead
sure there are no others. Once suspects it, and immediately makes the
colossal mistake of his life. Takes the girl to task. Girl won't stand
it for a minute. Harangues him. Kid surrenders and pleads with
herpleads with her. Kid's name is mud.