Produced by PG Distributed Proofreaders
by GEORGE ADE
FABLES in SLANG
CLYDE J. NEWMAN
Table _of_ Contents
_The_ Fable _of_ How Uncle Brewster was _Too_ Shifty _for the_ Tempter
_The_ Fable _of the_ Grass Widow _and the_ Mesmeree _and the_ Six Dollars
_The_ Fable _of the_ Honest Money-Maker and the Partner of His Joys, _Such as They Were_
_The_ Fable _of_ Why Sweetie Flew _the_ Track
_The_ Fable _of the_ Ex-Chattel _and the_ Awful Swat _that_ was Waiting _for the_ Colonel
_The_ Fable _of the_ Corporation Director _and the_ Mislaid Ambition
_The_ Fable _of_ What Happened _the_ Night the Men Came _to the_ Women’s Club
_The_ Fable _of_ Why Essie’s Tall Friend Got _the_ Fresh Air
_The_ Fable _of the_ Michigan Counterfeit _Who_ Wasn’t One Thing _or the_ Other
_The_ Fable _of the_ Adult Girl Who Got Busy Before They Could Ring _the_ Bell _on_ Her
_The_ Fable _of the_ Man-Grabber Who Went Out _of_ His Class
_The_ Fable _of the_ Inveterate Joker who Remained _in_ Montana
_The_ Fable _of the_ Cruel Insult _and the_ Arrival _of the_ Lover _from_ No. 6
_The_ Fable _of the_ Lodge Fiend, _and the_ Delilah Trick Played _by_ His Wife
_The_ Fable _of the_ Apprehensive Sparrow _and_ Her Daily Escape
_The_ Fable _of the_ Regular Customer _and the_ Copper-Lined Entertainer
_The_ Fable _of_ Lutie, _the_ False Alarm, _and_ How She Finished about _the_ Time _that_ She Started
_The_ Fable _of the_ Cotillon Leader _from the_ Huckleberry District _with the_ Intermittent Memory
_The_ Fable _of the_ He-Gossip _and the_ Man’s Wife _and the_ Man
_The_ Fable _of the_ Author Who was Sorry _for_ What He Did _to_ Willie
_THE_ FABLE _OF_ HOW UNCLE BREWSTER WAS _TOO_ SHIFTY _FOR THE_ TEMPTER
When Uncle Brewster had put on his Annual Collar and combed his Beard and was about to start to the Depot, his Wife, Aunt Mehely, looked at him through her Specs and shook her Head doubtfully.
Then she spoke as follows: “You go slow there in the City. You know your Failin’s. You’re just full of the Old Harry, and when you’re Het Up you’re just like as not to Raise Ned.”
“I guess I can take keer of myse’f about as well as the Next One,” retorted Uncle Brewster. “I’ve been to the Mill an’ got my Grist, if any one should ask. I ain’t no Greeny.”
With that he started for the Train, which was due in one Hour.
As he rode toward the Great City he smoked a Baby Mine Cigar, purchased of the Butcher, and told the Brakeman a few Joe Millers just to throw out the Impression that he was Fine and Fancy.
After he had Registered at the Hotel and Swelled Up properly when addressed as “Mister” by the Clerk, he wanted to know if there was a Lively Show in Town. The Clerk told him to follow the Street until he came to all the Electric Lights, and there he would find a Ballet. Uncle Brewster found the Place, and looked in through the Hole at an Assistant Treasurer, who was Pale and wore a Red Vest.
[Illustration: UNCLE BREWSTER]
“I want a Chair near the Band,” said Uncle Brewster. “How much does one of ’em Fetch?”
“Two Dollars,” replied the Assistant Treasurer, pulling down his Cuffs and then examining himself in a small Mirror at one side of the Diagram.
“Great Grief!” ejaculated Uncle Brewster. “I only paid Thirty-Five Cents for the Glass Blowers, an’ I’ll warrant you they beat your Troupe as bad as Cranberries beats Glue. I’ll see you plumb in Halifax before I–“
“Stand aside, please,” said the Assistant Treasurer.
Uncle Brewster saw a Policeman, and thought it his Duty to tell the Officer that the Theater Folks were a Pack of Robbers.
“Up an Alley,” said the Policeman.
Instead of going to a Show, Uncle Brewster stood in front of a Clothing Store and watched the Wax Figures.
When he got back to his Room the Bell-Hopper came around and asked him if he cared to Sit in a Quiet Game. Uncle Brewster wanted to know whether they were Gamblers or Business Men, and the Boy said they were Business Men. It was all Friendly, with an Ante of Two Bits and the Chandelier as the Limit. Uncle Brewster said he was accustomed to playing with Lima Beans, Three for a Cent and One call Two and no fair to Bluff. The Bell-Hopper told him to Turn In and get a Good Night’s Rest.
Next Morning at the Hotel he spotted a stylish little Chunk of a Woman who kept the Cigar Case and sold Books with Actress Photos on the outside.
He walked over to buy a Cigar, but he happened to see the “3 for 50c.” Label and his Feet got cold.
So, instead of buying a Cigar, he conversed with the Proprietress. He seemed to be a Success with her, and ventured to say that he was a Stranger in Town and would like first-rate to go out to a Lecture or some other kind of Entertainment that Evening if he could find a Nice Girl that didn’t mind going with a Respectable Man who could give References, and besides was nearly old enough to be her Father. Then after the Lecture they could go to a First-Class Restaurant and have an Oyster Stew.
[Illustration: THE INVITATION]
Uncle Brewster had read the Illustrated Papers in the Barber Shop out Home, and he certainly knew what was Expected of a Man who wanted to give a Gay Girl the Time of her Life.
The Cigar and Literary Girl said she would be Charmed to Accompany him only for one Thing: She said she didn’t have a Hat that was Fit to Wear. She said she could tell by his Looks that he was a Gentleman that wouldn’t want to go anywhere with a Lady whose Lid was Tacky. Possibly he would be willing to Stake her to a Hat.
“What would the Hat come to?” asked Uncle Brewster, somewhat Leary.
“Only Fourteen Dollars,” she replied.
“I’ll Think it Over,” quoth Uncle Brewster, in a choking Voice, and he was so Groggy he walked into the Elevator instead of going out the Street Door.
A little while later Uncle Brewster met an Acquaintance who gave him a Complimentary Badge to the Races. He walked out to the Track, so as to make the Expense as Reasonable as possible.
As soon as he was in the Ring a Tout took him back of a Hot Sausage Booth and told him not to Give it Out, but Green Pill in the First Race was sure to Win as far as a man could throw an Anvil, and to hurry and get a Piece of Money on. Uncle Brewster looked at the Entries and began to Quiver. He wished that Doc Jimmison could be there to Advise him. Green Pill was 30 to 1, and the Tout had his information from a Stable Boy that slept with the Horse.
A Reckless Spirit seized Uncle Brewster. He said he would take a Chance even if he didn’t know for Sure that he would Win. So he walked up to a Bookie and said to him: “I want to Bet Fifty Cents on Green Pill, and this is a Dollar here, so you want to give me Fifty Cents Change.”
Whereupon the Bookie told him to Back Up and Fade and do a Disappearing Specialty.
Uncle Brewster Escaped and found himself at a Bar. He decided that he would take a Drink, because he wouldn’t be Home until next Day and by that time it would be off his Breath.
So he laid his Bosom against the Brass Railing and said to the Man in White, “You might as well draw me a Glass of Beer.”
“We’ve got it in Bottles,” said the Barkeep, regarding Uncle Brewster without a sign of Enthusiasm.
“What do you git for a Bottle?” asked Uncle Brewster.
“Twenty Cents,” was the Reply of the Liquor Clerk.
“Keep it,” said Uncle Brewster.
Perceiving that the Race-Track was in the hands of Gougers, Uncle Brewster walked back to the Hotel. By that Time his New Shoes had Crippled him, and he decided to take the Afternoon Train for home instead of Waiting Over.
That Evening he was back at his own Fireside, with the Bunged-Up Feet resting in Carpet Slippers. As he sat and read the Poultry Magazine, Aunt Mehely looked at him sidewise, and full of Suspicion said, “I s’pose you just Played Hob there in the City.”
And Uncle Brewster replied as follows: “No, Mother, I didn’t Drink and I didn’t Gamble. I didn’t do Nothin’–not even go to a Theayter.”
And as he spoke an Aureole of Virtue seemed to curdle above him, while his Countenance bore an Expression of Placid Triumph, which meant that he was the real Asbestos Paragon who had been tried in the Furnace and declared Non-Combustible.
MORAL: _Some People are Good because it Comes High to be Otherwise_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ GRASS WIDOW _AND THE_ MESMEREE _AND THE_ SIX DOLLARS
One Day a keen Business manager who thought nobody could Show him was sitting at his Desk. A Grass Widow floated in, and stood Smiling at him. She was a Blonde, and had a Gown that fit her as if she had been Packed into it by Hydraulic Pressure. She was just as Demure as Edna May ever tried to be, but the Business Manager was a Lightning Calculator, and he Surmised that the Bunk was about to be Handed to him. The Cold Chills went down his Spine when he caught a Flash of the Half-Morocco Prospectus.
If it had been a Man Agent he would have shouted “Sick ’em” and reached for a Paper-Weight. But when the Agent has the Venus de Milo beaten on Points and Style, and when the Way the Skirt sets isn’t so Poor, and she is Coy and introduces the Startled Fawn way of backing up without getting any farther away, and when she comes on with short Steps, and he gets the remote Swish of the Real Silk, to say nothing of the Faint Aroma of New-Mown Hay, and her Hesitating Manner seems to ask, “Have I or have I not met a Friend?”–in a Case of that kind, the Victim is just the same as Strapped to the Operating-Table. He has about One Chance in a Million.
The timorous but trusting little Grass Widow sat beside the Business Manager and told him her Hard-Luck Story in low, bird-like Notes. She said she was the only Support of her Little Boy, who was attending a Military School at Syracuse, N.Y. She turned the Liquid Orbs on him and had him to the Bad. He thought he would tell her that already he had more Books at Home than he could get on the Shelves, but when he tried to Talk he only Yammered. She Kept on with her little Song, and Smiled all the Time, and sat a little Closer, and he got so Dizzy he had to lock his Legs under the Office Chair to keep from Sinking Away.
[Illustration: GRASS WIDOW]
When she had him in the Hypnotic State she pushed the Silver Pencil into his Right Hand, and showed him where to sign his Name. He wrote it, while the dim Sub-Consciousness told him that probably he was the Softest Thing the Lady Robber had Stood Up that Season. Then she recovered the Pencil, which he was confusedly trying to put into his Vest Pocket, and missing it about Six Inches, and with a cheery Good By she was gone.
He shook himself and took a Long Breath, and asked where he was. Then it all came back to him and he felt Ornery, and called himself Names and roasted the Office Boy in the Next Room, and made a Rule that hereafter Nobody could get at him except by Card, and if any Blonde Sharks in Expensive Costumes asked for him, to call up the Chief and ask for a Squad.
[Illustration: THE OFFICE BOY]
He was so Wrothy at himself for being Held Up that he could not find any Consolation except in the Fact that he had seen on the List of Subscribers the name of nearly every well-known married Citizen above the Age of 35. He was not the Only One. She had Corralled the Street.
When the Man came around to deliver the seven-pound copy of “Happy Hours with the Poets,” and he paid out his Six Silver Pieces for a queer Volume that he would not have Read for Six an Hour, he hated himself worse than ever. He thought some of giving the Book to the Office Boy, by way of Revenge, but he hit upon a Better Use for it. He put it back into the Box and carried it Home, and said to his Wife, “See what I have Bought for you.”
It occurred to him that after getting a Present like that, she ought to let him stay out every Night for a Month. But she could not see it that Way. He had to tell her that Some Women never seem to Appreciate having Husbands to Grind and Toil all day, so as to be able to purchase Beautiful Gifts for them. Then she told him that all the Women of her Acquaintance had received these Books as Presents, and a crowd of Married Men must have been given a Club Rate. Then he Spunked up and said that if she was going to look a Gift Horse in the Mouth, they wouldn’t Talk about it any more.
In the meantime the Grass Widow was living at the Waldorf-Astoria.
MORAL: _Those who are Entitled to it Get it sooner or later_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ HONEST MONEY-MAKER AND THE PARTNER OF HIS JOYS, _SUCH AS THEY WERE_
The Prosperous Farmer lived in an Agricultural Section of the Middle West. He commanded the Respect of all his Neighbors. He owned a Section, and had a Raft of big Horses and white-faced Cows and Farm Machinery, and Money in the Bank besides. He still had the first Dollar he ever made, and it could not have been taken away from him with Pincers.
Henry was a ponderous, Clydesdale kind of Man, with Warts on his Hands. He did not have to travel on Appearances, because the whole County knew what he was Worth. Of course he was Married. Years before he had selected a willing Country Girl with Pink Cheeks, and put her into his Kitchen to serve the Remainder of her Natural Life. He let her have as high as Two Dollars a Year to spend for herself. Her Hours were from 6 A.M. to 6 A.M., and if she got any Sleep she had to take it out of her Time. The Eight-Hour Day was not recognized on Henry’s Place.
After Ten Years of raising Children, Steaming over the Washtub, Milking the Cows, Carrying in Wood, Cooking for the Hands, and other Delsarte such as the Respected Farmer usually Frames Up for his Wife, she was as thin as a Rail and humped over in the Shoulders. She was Thirty, and looked Sixty. Her Complexion was like Parchment and her Voice had been worn to a Cackle. She was losing her Teeth, too, but Henry could not afford to pay Dentist Bills because he needed all his Money to buy more Poland Chinas and build other Cribs. If she wanted a Summer Kitchen or a new Wringer or a Sewing Machine, or Anything Else that would lighten her Labors, Henry would Moan and Grumble and say she was trying to land him in the Poorhouse.
They had a dandy big Barn, painted Red With White Trimmings, and a Patent Fork to lift the Hay into the Mow, and the Family lived in a Pine Box that had not been Painted in Years and had Dog-Fennel all around the Front of it.
The Wife of the Respected Farmer was the only Work Animal around the Place that was not kept Fat and Sleek. But, of course, Henry did not count on Selling her. Henry often would fix up his Blooded Stock for the County Fair and tie Blue Ribbons on the Percherons and Herefords, but it was never noticed that he tied any Blue Ribbons on the Wife.
And yet Henry was a Man to be Proud of. He never Drank and he was a Good Hand with Horses, and he used to go to Church on Sunday Morning and hold a Cud of Tobacco in his Face during Services and sing Hymns with Extreme Unction. He would sing that he was a Lamb and had put on the Snow-White Robes and that Peace attended him. People would see him there in his Store Suit, with the Emaciated Wife and the Scared Children sitting in the Shadow of his Greatness, and they said that she was Lucky to have a Man who was so Well Off and lived in the Fear of the Lord.
Henry was Patriotic as well as Pious. He had a Picture of Abraham Lincoln in the Front Room, which no one was permitted to Enter, and he was glad that Slavery had been abolished.
Henry robbed the Cradle in order to get Farm-Hands. As soon as the Children were able to Walk without holding on, he started them for the Corn-Field, and told them to Pay for the Board that they had been Sponging off of him up to that Time. He did not want them to get too much Schooling for fear that they would want to sit up at Night and Read instead of Turning In so as to get an Early Start along before Daylight next Morning. So they did not get any too much, rest easy. And he never Foundered them on Stick Candy or Raisins or any such Delicatessen for sale at a General Store. Henry was undoubtedly the Tightest Wad in the Township. Some of the Folks who had got into a Box through Poor Management, and had been Foreclosed out of House and Home by Henry and his Lawyer, used to say that Henry was a Skin, and was too Stingy to give his Family enough to Eat, but most People looked up to Henry, for there was no getting around it that he was Successful.
[Illustration: THE FARM]
When the Respected Farmer had been Married for Twenty Years and the Children had developed into long Gawks who did not know Anything except to get out and Toil all Day for Pa and not be paid anything for it, and after Henry had scraped together more Money than you could load on a Hay-Rack, an Unfortunate Thing happened. His Wife began to Fail. She was now Forty, but the Fair and Fat did not go with it. At that Age some Women are Buxom and just blossoming into the Full Charm of Matronly Womanhood. But Henry’s Wife was Gaunt and Homely and all Run Down. She had been Poorly for Years, but she had to keep up and do the Chores as well as the House-Work, because Henry could not afford to hire a Girl. At last her Back gave out, so that she had to sit down and Rest every Once in a While. Henry would come in for his Meals and to let her know how Hearty all the Calves seemed to be, and he began to Notice that she was not very Chipper. It Worried him more than a little, because he did not care to pay any Doctor Bills. He told her she had better go and get some Patent Medicine that he had seen advertised on the Fence coming out from Town. It was only Twenty-Five cents a Bottle, and was warranted to Cure Anything. So she tried it, but it did not seem to restore her Youth and she got Weaker, and at last Henry just had to have the Doctor, Expense or No Expense. The Doctor said that as nearly as he could Diagnose her Case, she seemed to be Worn Out. Henry was Surprised, and said she had not been Complaining any more than Usual.
Next Afternoon he was out Dickering for a Bull, and his Woman, lying on the cheap Bedstead, up under the hot Roof, folded her lean Hands and slipped away to the only Rest she had known since she tied up with a Prosperous and Respected Farmer.
[Illustration: THE FAMILY]
Henry was all Broken Up. He Wailed and Sobbed and made an Awful Fuss at the Church. The Preacher tried to Comfort him by saying that the Ways of Providence were beyond all Finding Out. He said that probably there was some Reason why the Sister had been taken right in the Prime of her Usefulness, but it was not for Henry to know it. He said the only Consolation he could offer was the Hope that possibly she was Better Off. There did not seem to be much Doubt about that.
In about a Month the Respected Farmer was riding around the Country in his Buck-Board looking for Number Two. He had a business Head and he knew it was Cheaper to Marry than to Hire one. His Daughter was only Eleven and not quite Big Enough as yet to do all the Work for five Men.
Finally he found one who had the Reputation of being a Good Worker. When he took her over to his House to Break Her In, the Paper at the County Seat referred to them as the Happy Couple.
MORAL: _Be Honest and Respected and it Goes_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF_ WHY SWEETIE FLEW _THE_ TRACK
Once there were two Married People who used “Lovey” and “Pet” when they were in Company, and as soon as they were at Home they Threw Things at each other. She used to watch him through a Hole in the Curtain to see if he Flirted with any Women as he walked up the Street, and he bribed the Hired Girl to tell him Everything that happened while he was off the Reservation.
They did not Mocha and Java worth a Cent.
The Cardboard Motto in the Dining Room said, “Love One Another,” but they were too Busy to Read.
He had a Clearing on the top of his Head and wore Side-Whiskers and bore a general Resemblance to the Before in an Ad for a Facial Treatment, and yet she suspected that all the Women in Town were Crazy to steal him away from her.
Likewise, inasmuch as she was the same Width all the way up and down, the same as a Poster Girl, and used to sport a Velvet Shroud with Black Beads on it, and could wield a Tooth-Pick and carry on a Conversation at the same time, he knew that sooner or later some Handsome Wretch with Money would try to Abduct her.
Sometimes he would bring a Friend Home to Dinner, and then if the Friend extended himself and told the Missus how well she was looking or Perjured himself over her Hand-Painting, Papa would get a Grouch and hide in the Corner.
Then she would Fan herself rapidly and ask, “Aren’t you well, Dear?”
Dear would force one of those Dying-Martyr Smiles and reply, “I am quite well, Puss.”
Then Puss would tell the Visitor that Baby was simply ruining his Health through Devotion to his Employers, but they didn’t seem to Appreciate him at all.
After the Visitor went away there would be Language all over the Shop, and the poor Hired Girl would lock the Door and write to the Intelligence Office for a new Place.
Truly, it was a Happy Little Home, with the Reverse English.
She would Frisk his Wardrobe every day or two, looking for Evidence, and he would compel her to Itemize her Accounts so that he might be sure she was not giving Jewelry to the Iceman.
She would find a certain Passage in a Book, relating to Man’s Cruelty and Woman’s Silent Suffering, and then she would Mark the Passage and put it where he could Find it. Then when he Found it, he would Mark it “Rot!” and put it where She could find it, and then she would Weep and write Letters to Lady Authors telling them how Sad and Lonely she was.
But all the Time they kept up an Affectionate Front before their Acquaintances. They thought it better to avoid Scenes in Public; and although each knew that the other was False and had ceased to Love, they could not bring themselves to think of a Separation or a Divorce on account of the Cat–their Cat! The Cat must never know.
However, one of his Business Associates was On. He was a Bachelor and had lived at a European Hotel for Years, and he knew just how to Arbitrate a Domestic Scrap. So he sat down one day and gave the Husband a Good Talking-To. He said it was a Shame that such Nice People should have their Differences when it was so easy to be Happy. With that he handed over a Slew of Platitudes and Proverbs, such as: “A Soft Answer Turneth Away Wrath,” “It takes Two to Make a Quarrel,” “Think Twice before you Speak once,” _et cetera._
The Gist of his heart-to-heart Talk was that any Husband could stop Rough House Proceedings and shoot all kinds of Sweetness and Light into the sassiest Mooch a Wife ever got on to herself, if only he would refuse to Quarrel with her, receive her Flings without a Show of Wrath, and get up every Morning ready to Plug for a Renaissance of their Early Love.
Oh, but it was a Beauty Bright System! The European Hotel Bachelor said it couldn’t Lose.
The Husband decided to give it a Trial. That very Afternoon he met his Wife, who had come out in her long Fawn-Colored Coat that fell straight in the Back. She had her Upper Rigging set, and was trying to Blanket everything on the Street. He flashed a Smiling Countenance, and said he was glad to see her. Then, instead of asking her When she left the House, and Where she had been since then, and How Soon she expected to go Home again, he told her she was looking Unusually Charming. She was Startled.
[Illustration: THE CAT]
He handed her a Ten and told her to have a Good Time. Now, usually, when she wanted any Pin Money, she had to Pry it out of him.
On her way home her Mind was in a Tumult. Why had he given her the Con Speech and all that Money? What was the Ulterior Motive? What had he been Doing that he should attempt to Coddle her into a Forgiving Mood? Did he Fear that she would get next to his Past? Huh?
He just couldn’t Fool her. She knew Something was Doing. Else why should he try to Fix her?
As soon as he came Home that Evening she Accused him and said she knew All. Instead of Countering with the usual Gibe, he told her that she was the Only Woman he had ever Loved and would she go to a Show that Evening? She went, thinking that perhaps the Other Woman might be there and she could detect some Signal passing between them. While at the Theater he fanned her and explained the Plot, and was all Attention. They rode Home in a Cab, because he said a Car wasn’t good enough for His Queen. After they were at Home he asked her to sing the Song he had liked so much in the Old Days, “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” This was Conclusive Proof to her that the Hussy’s Name was Bonnie.
Next Morning before he started away he Kissed her, and it wasn’t any Make-Believe such as you see in Comic Opera. It was a genuine Olga Nethersole Buss, full of Linger and Adhesion. To cap the Climax he said he would stop in and order some Violets.
As soon as the Door slammed she Staggered toward the Kitchen, holding on to the Furniture here and there, the same as a Sardou Heroine. In the Kitchen was a Box of Rough on Rats. Hastily Concealing it beneath the loose Folds of her Morning Gown, she went to her Room and looked in the Mirror.
Ah, when he saw that Cold, White Face, then he would be Sorry. Upon Second Thought, this didn’t seem to be a Moral Certainty, so she Weakened and had the Girl take the Poison and Hide it. She said she would Live–Live to Forget his Perfidy.
That day she went back to Mamma, and took the Cat with her.
When he came Home in the Twilight he found no Wife, no Cat–only a Scribbled Note saying that he could no longer Deceive her; that she had seen through his Diabolical Plan to Lull her Suspicions, and that she was no longer Safe in the Same House.
When the Deserted Husband went to the Friend and told him what had Happened, the Wise Bachelor said:
“I see. You did not go at her Strong enough.”
MORAL: _They don’t know Anything about it_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ EX-CHATTEL _AND THE_ AWFUL SWAT _THAT_ WAS WAITING _FOR THE COLONEL_
In one of the States of the Sunny South there stood a war-time House that had six white Columns along the Veranda, and the Chimney ran up the outside of the Wall.
This House was the Abode of a Colonel who had a silver-gray Goatee and the Manners of the Old School. All the First Families in the State were related to him, and therefore he was somewhat Particular as to who Lined Up with him when he took his Toddy.
He was proud of his Ancestry, and he carried the Scars to prove that he would Resent an Insult.
Now it happened that the Thirteenth Amendment signified nothing to him. He had been Reconstructed, but it didn’t Take.
While on a Business Trip to the North he stopped at a Gaudy Hotel with all kinds of Mirrors and Onyx Stairways.
The Head Waiter at this Hotel was a Colored Gentleman with a False Front and a Dress Suit that fit him too soon. His Name was Mr. Winfield. He was President of the Colored Waiters’ Union, Vice-President of the Republican County Central Committee, and Regal Commander of the Princes of Ethiopia.
His Honors lay Heavily upon him. He showed People where to sit in the Dining Room, and those who failed to Obey usually had to wait fifteen or twenty Minutes for their Vermicelli.
[Illustration: THE COLONEL]
Mr. Winfield favored his Feet somewhat, which caused him to walk Syncopated, but, everything considered, he was quite Important and fairly Warm.
One morning the Colonel went into the Dining Room, and after he had seated himself he called Mr. Winfield to him and said he wanted some Hot Biscuit. At the same time he addressed Mr. Winfield as a Black Hound. Mr. Winfield did not know that this was a Term of Endearment in Apahatchie County, so he picked up a Silver Fruit Dish and bounced it against the Colonel’s Head.
The Colonel arose and pulled his Persuader, expecting to make it a Case of Justifiable Homicide, but two Waiters named George and Grant grabbed him and backed him up against the Wall.
There were other guests in the Dining Room, but they did not jump in with any Gun Plays and make it a Race War, because Apahatchie County was Eight Hundred Miles away. One of them Co-Operated to the extent of Ringing three times for a Policeman.
The Officer of the Law who arrived in a few Minutes was Mr. Otis Beasley, Most Worshipful Scribe of the Princes of Ethiopia, of which Mr. Winfield was the Regal Commander.
Mr. Beasley walked up to Mr. Winfield, and placing his Left Hand on his Brow, said, “Hail, Brother.”
“Hail, Most Noble Prince!” responded Mr. Winfield, making the Mystic Sign.
“What are the Objects of our Beloved Fraternity?” asked Mr. Beasley, in a whisper.
“Hope, Coslosterousness, and Polotomy,” replied the Regal Commander.
“‘Tis Well,” said the Most Worshipful Scribe, giving him the Grip.
Having completed the Secret work, Mr. Beasley wanted to know what he could do for Brother Winfield.
“Remove this Pusson,” said Mr. Winfield, pointing at the Colonel.
So it came about that He who in Apahatchie County had trained them to hop off the Sidewalk and stand Uncovered until he had passed, now suffered the Hideous Degradation of being marched downstairs by One of Them and then slammed into the Hurry-Up Wagon. Under which Circumstances the Colonel had the Rabies.
[Illustration: MR. WINFIELD]
At the Police Station he was dragged before a Magistrate and was charged with Disorderly Conduct, Carrying Concealed Weapons, Assault and Battery, Assault with Intent to Kill, and Resisting an Officer.
The Magistrate was a White Man, and to him the Colonel appealed for Justice, claiming Brotherhood as a Caucasian. He told what would have happened in Apahatchie if any Coon had dared to lay a finger on a Colonel.
Here was an opening for the Court. It must be known that the Court lived in a Ward that was Dark in one End, and he was out for the Colored Vote in case he ran for Judge. This was his Chance to make a Grand-Stand Play.
He handed down a Decision to the Effect that all Men are Free and Equal, with incidental References to the Emancipation Proclamation and Striking the Shackles from Four Millions of Human Beings. He Ratified the Constitution and Permitted the Negro to stand in the Free Sunlight. In Apahatchie County he would have been used for Target Practice, but Apahatchie County was still Eight Hundred Miles away.
In Conclusion he Soaked the Colonel for $32.75 in Fines and Costs, Confiscating the Weapon, which he afterward presented to Officer Otis Beasley as a Slight Token of Esteem.
Next Morning, as a south-bound Passenger Train was crossing the Ohio River, the Colored Porter on the Atlanta Sleeper jumped eighty feet from the Trestle into the Water in order to Escape with his Life.
MORAL: _A Head Waiter must be Ruled by Kindness_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ CORPORATION DIRECTOR _AND THE_ MISLAID AMBITION
One of the Most Promising Boys in a Graded School had a Burning Ambition to be a Congressman. He loved Politics and Oratory. When there was a Rally in Town he would carry a Torch and listen to the Spellbinder with his Mouth open.
The Boy wanted to grow up and wear a Black String Tie and a Bill Cody Hat and walk stiff-legged, with his Vest unbuttoned at the Top, and be Distinguished.
On Friday Afternoons he would go to School with his Face scrubbed to a shiny pink and his Hair reached up on one side, and he would Recite the Speeches of Patrick Henry and Daniel Webster and make Gestures.
When he Graduated from the High School he delivered an Oration on “The Duty of the Hour,” calling on all young Patriots to leap into the Arena and with the Shield of Virtue quench the rising Flood of Corruption. He said that the Curse of Our Times was the Greed for Wealth, and he pleaded for Unselfish Patriotism among those in High Places.
He boarded at Home for a while without seeing a chance to jump into the Arena, and finally his Father worked a Pull and got him a Job with a Steel Company. He proved to be a Handy Young Man, and the Manager sent Him out to make Contracts. He stopped roaching his Hair, and he didn’t give the Arena of Politics any serious Consideration except when the Tariff on Steel was in Danger.
[Illustration: AMBITIOUS YOUTH]
In a little while he owned a few Shares, and after that he became a Director. He joined several Clubs and began to enjoy his Food. He drank a Small Bottle with his Luncheon each Day, and he couldn’t talk Business unless he held a Scotch High Ball in his Right Hand.
With the return of Prosperity and the Formation of the Trust and the Whoop in all Stocks he made so much Money that he was afraid to tell the Amount.
His Girth increased–he became puffy under the Eyes–you could see the little blue Veins on his Nose.
He kept his Name out of the Papers as much as possible, and he never gave Congress a Thought except when he talked to his Lawyer of the Probable Manner in which they would Evade any Legislation against Trusts. He took two Turkish Baths every week and wore Silk Underwear. When an Eminent Politician would come to his Office to shake him down he would send out Word by the Boy in Buttons that he had gone to Europe. That’s what he thought of Politics.
One day while rummaging in a lower Drawer in his Library, looking for a Box of Poker Chips, he came upon a Roll of Manuscript and wondered what it was. He opened it and read how it was the Duty of all True Americans to hop into the Arena and struggle unselfishly for the General Good. It came to him in a Flash–this was his High School Oration!
Then suddenly he remembered that for several Years of his Life his consuming Ambition had been–to go to Congress!
With a demoniacal Shriek he threw himself at full length on a Leather Couch and began to Laugh.
He rolled off the Sofa and tossed about on a $1,200 Rug in a Paroxysm of Merriment.
His Man came running into the Library and saw the Master in Convulsions. The poor Trust Magnate was purple in the Face.
They sent for a Great Specialist, who said that his Dear Friend had ruptured one of the smaller Arteries, and also narrowly escaped Death by Apoplexy.
[Illustration: THE MAGNATE]
He advised Rest and Quiet and the avoidance of any Great Shock.
So they took the High School Oration and put it on the Ice, and the Magnate slowly recovered and returned to his nine-course Dinners.
MORAL: _Of all Sad Words of Tongue or Pen, the Saddest are these, “It Might Have Been.”_
_THE_ FABLE _OF_ WHAT HAPPENED _THE_ NIGHT THE MEN CAME _TO THE_ WOMEN’S CLUB
In a Progressive Little City claiming about twice the Population that the Census Enumerators could uncover, there was a Literary Club. It was one of these Clubs guaranteed to fix you out with Culture while you wait. Two or three Matrons, who were too Heavy for Light Amusements, but not old enough to remain at Home and Knit, organized the Club. Nearly every Woman in town rushed to get in, for fear somebody would say she hadn’t been Asked.
The Club used to Round Up once a week at the Homes of Members. There would be a Paper, followed by a Discussion, after which somebody would Pour.
The Organization seemed to be a Winner. One Thing the Lady Clubbers were Dead Set On. They were going to have Harmony with an Upper Case H. They were out to cut a seven-foot Swath through English Literature from Beowulf to Bangs, inclusive, and no petty Jealousies or Bickerings would stand in the Way.
So while they were at the Club they would pull Kittenish Smiles at each other, and Applaud so as not to split the Gloves. Some times they would Kiss, too, but they always kept their Fingers crossed.
Of course, when they got off in Twos and Threes they would pull the little Meat-Axes out of the Reticules and hack a few Monograms, but that was to have been expected.
Everything considered, the Club was a Tremendous Go. At each Session the Lady President would announce the Subject for the next Meeting. For instance, she would say that Next Week they would take up Wyclif. Then every one would romp home to look in the Encyclopedia of Authors and find out who in the world Wyclif was. On the following Thursday they would have Wyclif down Pat, and be primed for a Discussion. They would talk about Wyclif as if he had been down to the House for Tea every evening that Week.
After the Club had been running for Six Months it was beginning to be Strong on Quotations and Dates. The Members knew that Mrs. Browning was the wife of Mr. Browning, that Milton had Trouble with his Eyes, and that Lord Byron wasn’t all that he should have been, to say the Least. They began to feel their Intellectual Oats. In the meantime the Jeweler’s Wife had designed a Club Badge.
The Club was doing such Notable Work that some of the Members thought they ought to have a Special Meeting and invite the Men. They wanted to put the Cap-Sheaf on a Profitable Season, and at the same time hand the Merited Rebuke to some of the Husbands and Brothers who had been making Funny Cracks.
It was decided to give the Star Programme at the Beadle Home, and after the Papers had been read then all the Men and Five Women who did not hold Office could file through the Front Room and shake Hands with the President, the Vice-President, the Recording Secretary, the Corresponding Secretary, the Treasurer, and the members of the various Committees, all of whom were to line up and Receive.
The reason the Club decided to have the Brain Barbecue at the Beadle Home was that the Beadles had such beautiful big Rooms and Double Doors. There was more or less quiet Harpoon Work when the Announcement was made. Several of the Elderly Ones said that Josephine Beadle was not a Representative Member of the Club. She was Fair to look upon, but she was not pulling very hard for the Uplifting of the Sex. It was suspected that she came to the Meetings just to Kill Time and see what the Others were Wearing. She refused to buckle down to Literary Work, for she was a good deal more interested in the Bachelors who filled the Windows of the new Men’s Club than she was in the Butler who wrote “Hudibras.” So why should she have the Honor of entertaining the Club at the Annual Meeting? Unfortunately, the Members who had the most Doing under their Bonnets were not the ones who could come to the Front with large Rooms that could be Thrown together, so the Beadle Home got the Great Event.
[Illustration: THE MEN]
Every one in Town who carried a Pound of Social Influence showed up in his or her Other Clothes. Extra Chairs had to be brought in, and what with the Smilax and Club Colors it was very Swell, and the Maiden in the Lace Mitts who was going to write about it for the Weekly threw a couple of Spasms.
The Men were led in pulling at the Halters and with their Ears laid back. After they got into the Dressing Room they Stuck there until they had to be Shooed out. They did not know what they were going against, but they had their Suspicions. They managed to get Rear Seats or stand along the Wall so that they could execute the Quiet Sneak if Things got too Literary. The Women were too Flushed and Proud to Notice.
At 8:30 P.M. the Lady President stood out and began to read a few Pink Thoughts on “Woman’s Destiny–Why Not?” Along toward 9:15, about the time the Lady President was beginning to show up Good and Earnest, Josephine Beadle, who was Circulating around on the Outskirts of the Throng to make sure that everybody was Happy, made a Discovery. She noticed that the Men standing along the Wall and in the Doorways were not more than sixty per cent En Rapport with the Long Piece about Woman’s Destiny. Now Josephine was right there to see that Everybody had a Nice Time, and she did not like to see the Prominent Business Men of the Town dying of Thirst or Leg Cramp or anything like that, so she gave two or three of them the Quiet Wink, and they tiptoed after her out to the Dining Room, where she offered Refreshments, and said they could slip out on the Side Porch and Smoke if they wanted to.
[Illustration: LADY PRESIDENT]
Probably they preferred to go back in the Front Room and hear some more about Woman’s Destiny not.
As soon as they could master their Emotions and get control of their Voices, they told Josephine what they thought of her. They said she made the Good Samaritan look like a Cheap Criminal, and if she would only say the Word they would begin to put Ground Glass into the Food at Home. Then Josephine called them “Boys,” which probably does not make a Hit with one who is on the sloping side of 48. More of the Men seemed to awake to the Fact that they were Overlooking something, so they came on the Velvet Foot back to the Dining Room and declared themselves In, and flocked around Josephine and called her “Josie” and “Joe.” They didn’t care. They were having a Pleasant Visit.
Josephine gave them Allopathic Slugs of the Size that they feed you in the Navy and then lower you into the Dingey and send you Ashore. Then she let them go out on the Porch to smoke. By the time the Lady President came to the last Page there were only two Men left in the Front Room. One was Asleep and the other was Penned In.
The Women were Huffy. They went out to make the Men come in, and found them Bunched on the Porch listening to a Story that a Traveling Man had just brought to Town that Day.
Now the Plan was that during the Reception the Company would stand about in little Groups, and ask each other what Books they liked, and make it something on the order of a Salon. This Plan miscarried, because all the Men wanted to hear Rag Time played by Josephine, the Life-Saver. Josephine had to yield, and the Men all clustered around her to give their Moral Support. After one or two Selections, they felt sufficiently Keyed to begin to hit up those low-down Songs about Baby and Chickens and Razors. No one paid any Attention to the Lady President, who was off in a Corner holding an Indignation Meeting with the Secretary and the Vice-President.
When the Women began to sort out the Men and order them to start Home and all the Officers of the Club were giving Josephine the frosty Good Night, any one could see that there was Trouble ahead.
Next Day the Club held a Special Session and expelled Josephine for Conduct Unbecoming a Member, and Josephine sent Word to them as follows: “Rats.”
Then the Men quietly got together and bought Josephine about a Thousand Dollars’ Worth of American Beauty Roses to show that they were With her, and then Homes began to break up, and somebody started the Report that anyway it was the Lady President’s Fault for having such a long and pokey Essay that wasn’t hers at all, but had been Copied out of a Club Paper published in Detroit.
Before the next Meeting there were two Factions. The Lady President had gone to a Rest Cure, and the Meeting resolved itself into a Good Cry and a general Smash-Up.
MORAL: _The only Literary Men are those who have to Work at it._
_THE_ FABLE _OF_ WHY ESSIE’S TALL FRIEND GOT _THE_ FRESH AIR
The Owner of a Furnishing Store gave employment to a Boy with Dreamy Eyes, who took good care of his Nails and used Scented Soap and carried a Pocket Looking-Glass. It was his Delight to stand in the Doorway and watch the Girls all Color Up when they caught Sight of him. He was said to be a Divine Waltzer at these Balls that cost the Gents 50 cents each and the Ladies get in free.
There was a Girl named Essie who was Hanging Around the Front of the Store about half of the Time, waiting to get a Chance to Speak to Bert. She Chewed Gum and kept her Sailor Hat pulled down to her Eyebrows and had her Name worked out in Wire and used it as a Breastpin. After she had waited an Hour or so, and he had Broken Away long enough to take her aside, she would want to know what it was that Net had said about her, or else she would ask why he had not Answered her Note. It was always just about as Momentous as that.
If Essie did not come, she sent some one with a Message, and sometimes other Floor Managers with Red Neckties and Forelocks would come in to see about the Arrangements for the next Grand Hop by the Eucalyptus Pleasure Club.
Bert was so Engrossed with his Love Affairs and the Pleasure Club and the Bundle of Correspondence that he carried with him that he had little Time for Furnishing Goods. It used to Annoy him considerably when any one came in and wanted to Spend Money. He would set out the Goods in a Manner that showed it to be something of a Come-Down for him to be compelled to Wait on Outsiders. While the Customer would be asking Questions, Bert would be working the Flexible Neck to see if Essie was still waiting for him. Sometimes when there was a Rush he would get real Cross, and if People did not Buy in a Hurry he would slam the Boxes around and be Lippy and give them the Eye. Yet he wondered why he did not get a Raise in Salary.
During the Holiday Season, when the Eucalyptus Pleasure Club was simply in a Delirium of All-Night Dances and Fried-Oyster Suppers, and when Essie had worn a Path in the Snow coming down to tell Bert not to Forget, the Proprietor decided that the Boy’s Job was interfering with his Gaiety. So when Bert came to get his Envelope the Furnisher told him he needed more Outdoor Life and Exercise, and he had better find it by moving around Town and looking for another Job.
MORAL: _Omit the Essie Proposition_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ MICHIGAN COUNTERFEIT WHO WASN’T ONE THING _OR THE_ OTHER
Two Travelers sat in a Sleeping Car that was fixed up with Plush and Curly-Cues until it resembled a Chambermaid’s Dream of Paradise. They were talking about the Man who sat across the Aisle.
“I think he is an Englishman,” said the First Traveler.
“Why do you think so?” queried his Companion.
“Well, in the first place his Clothes don’t fit him,” replied the First Traveler. “I observe, also, that he has piled all his Luggage on Another Man’s Seat, that he has opened several Windows without asking Permission, that he has expected the Porter to pay Attention to him and nobody else, and that he has Kicked at something every Thirty Seconds since we left Buffalo.”
“You make out a Strong Case,” said the Second Traveler, nodding. “I will admit that the Suit is Fierce. Still, I maintain that he is not an Englishman. I notice that he seems somewhat Ashamed of his Clothes. Now, if he were an Englishman, he would Glory in the Misfit.”
“Perhaps he is a Canadian,” suggested the First Traveler.
“Impossible,” said the other. “He may be English, but he is not sufficiently British to be a Canadian. If he were a Canadian he would now be singing ‘Britannia Rules the Wave!’ No, I insist that he is an American traveling Incog. I suspect that I have Caught him with the Goods. While sitting here, I have had my Sherlock Holmes System at work. A few Moments ago he read a Joke in a Comic Paper, and the Light of Appreciation kindled in his Eye before a full Minute had elapsed.”
[Illustration: PULLMAN CAR]
“Perhaps it was not a Comic Paper at all,” said the First Traveler. “It may have been Punch. Very often an Englishman will Get Next almost immediately if the Explanation is put in Parenthesis. You have to Hand it to him with a Diagram and a Map and then give him a little Time, and then he Drops. This man is certainly an Englishman. Notice the Expression of Disapproval. He does not fancy our Farm Scenery. Get onto the Shoes, too. They are shaped like Muffins. Then if you are still in Doubt, pay attention to the Accent. Didn’t you hear him just now when he was complaining to the Porter because the Sun was on the wrong side of the Car?”
“Yes, but did you hear him use ‘Cahn’t’ and ‘Glass’ both in the same Sentence? When a Man Plays it Both Ways, it is a Sign that he was born in Wisconsin and attended Harvard. I am convinced that he is not an Englishman at all. He is probably an American who takes a Bahth in a Bath-Tub.”
But the First Traveler persisted that surely the Man across the aisle was an Englishman, so they Jawed back and forth and finally made a Bet. Then the First Traveler stepped over and begged the Stranger’s Pardon and asked him, as a personal favor, to Identify himself. Was he an Englishman or an American?
“Really, that is a Hard Question to answer,” said the Surprised Stranger. “I confess with some Mortification that Father was an American, but he wore Detachable Cuffs and talked about Live Stock at the Table, so the Heirs are trying to Forget him. As nearly as we can learn, one of my Ancestors came to this Country from Yorkshire early in the Eighteenth Century and founded a Tannery in Massachusetts, so I feel that I can claim an English Birthright, regardless of the intervening Ancestors. My Claim is strengthened by the Fact that our Family has a Regular Coat-of-Arms. Everybody had forgotten about it for over Seven Hundred Years until Sister and I hired a Man to find it. Sister is now Lady Frost-Simpson and lives on the Other Side. When she discovered his Lordship he was down to his last Dickey. She took him out of Hock, and he is so Grateful that sometimes he lets me come and Visit them. I have seen the Prince.”
“Then you are an Englishman?” queried the Traveler who had Bet that way.
“It is not admitted in London,” was the sorrowful Reply. “Sometimes if Frost-Simpson has to come Home for Money while I am visiting Sister, he puts me up at the Clubs and all the Chaps seem to think I am an American. I try to be exactly like them, but I fail. They say I have an Accent, although I have been working all my Life to overcome it. I have not used the word ‘Guess’ for many Years.”
“Yours is a Sad Case,” remarked the Second Traveler. “Why do you ever come back?”
“To collect my Income,” was the Reply. “Isn’t it a Bore? Rents and all that sort of Rot, you know.”
“But you have not settled the Bet,” said one of the Persistent Travelers. “Are you a Yankee?”
“I have never Admitted it, and I cannot do so now,” said the Brother-in-Law of Lord Frost-Simpson. “At the same time, it is on Record that I was born at Pontiac, Michigan. Of course, you know What I am Striving to be. But there must be a Handicap somewhere. During the Two Hundred Years in which my Ancestors temporarily resided in the States, they must have absorbed some of the Characteristics of this Uncouth and Vulgar People, and as a Result the Sins of the Father are visited upon the Child even to the third and fourth Generations, and I cannot hold a Monocle in my Eye to save my Life. I live Abroad, and strive to Forget, and work hard to be just like the other Fellows, but I do not seem to Arrive. Even in this Beastly Country, where the Imitation Article usually passes current as the Real Thing, there seems to be some Doubt as to my Case, seeing that you two Persons have made this Bet. Concerning the Bet, I fear that I am unable to Decide it. I do not know What I am.”
“I know What you are,” said the First Traveler, “but I do not dare to tell you right here in the Car, because the Pullman Company has a Rule against the use of such Language.”
So they declared the Bet off and went forward and sat in the Day Coach.
MORAL: _Be Something_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ ADULT GIRL WHO GOT BUSY BEFORE THEY COULD RING _THE_ BELL _ON_ HER
Once upon a Time there was a Lovely and Deserving Girl named Clara, who was getting so near Thirty that she didn’t want to Talk about it. Everybody had a Good Word for her. She traveled with the Thoroughbreds, and was always Among Those Present; so it was hard to understand why she hadn’t Married. Other Girls not as Good-Looking or Accomplished had been grabbed off while they were Buds. Already some of them were beginning to act as Chaperons for Clara. They were keeping Tab on Clara’s Age, too, and began to think that she would land on the Bargain Counter, and have to be satisfied with a Widower who wore a Toupee and dyed his Eyebrows.
Clara was somewhat of a Mind-Reader. She knew that the Friends of her Youth were predicting a Hard Finish for her, so she decided to Fool them. And she knew that it Behooved her to Catch On before the Children started in to call her Auntie.
Now it is not to be inferred that Clara was what the Underwriters call a Bad Risk. She never had been a Drug on the Market. When she went to a Hop she did not have to wait for Ladies’ Choice in order to swing into the Mazy. In fact, she had been Engaged now and then, just for Practice, and she had received Offers from some of the holdover Bachelors who went around Proposing from Force of Habit. But Clara was not out for any man who had been Turned Down elsewhere. She wanted the Right Kind, and she was going to do the Picking herself.
Having made an Inventory of the Possibilities, she selected the Treasurer of the Shoe Factory, and decided that she could Love him without Straining herself. He was about her age, and was almost as good-looking as a Gibson Man, and had A1 Prospects. It would be no Easy Job to Land him, however, because the Competition was very keen and he was Wary, trying to be a Kind Friend to every Girl he knew, but playing no Favorites. He kept the Parents guessing. He had been Exposed to Matrimony so often without being Taken Down, that he was generally regarded as an Immune.
Clara got Busy with herself and hatched a Scheme. When all the Smart Set got ready to pike away for the Heated Term, Clara surprised her Friends by guessing that she would remain at Home. It was a Nervy Thing to do, because all the Social Head-Liners who could command the Price were supposed to flit off to a Summer Hotel, and loiter on the Pine Veranda and try to think they were Recuperating.
Clara told her Mother to go, as usual, but she would stay at Home and be a Companion to poor lonesome Papa. So all the Women went away to the Resorts with their Cameras and Talcum Powder and Witch Hazel, and Clara was left alone in Town with the Men.
It is a Traditional Fact that there is no Social Life in Town during the Dog Days. But there is nothing to prevent a Bright Girl from Starting Something. That is what Clara did.
She stocked up the Refrigerator, and hung a Hammock on the Lawn with a few Easy Chairs around it. The Young Men marooned in Town heard of the Good Thing, and no one had to tear their Garments to induce them to come. They arrived at the rate of from Seven to Twelve a Night, and dipped into Papa’s Cigars and the Liquid Nourishment, regardless. Although Clara had remained in town to act as Companion to Papa, it was noticed that when she had all the Company in the Evening, Papa either had been Chloroformed and put to Bed or else he had his Orders to stay Under Cover.
Clara did not send for the Treasurer of the Shoe Factory. She knew better than to go out after her Prey. She allowed him to find his Way to the House with the others. When he came, she did not chide him for failing to make his Party Call; neither did she rush toward him with a Low Cry of Joy, thereby tipping her Hand. She knew that the Treasurer of the Shoe Factory was Next to all these Boarding School Tactics, and could not be Handled by the Methods that go with the College Students. Clara had enjoyed about ten years’ Experience in handling the Creatures, and she had learned to Labor and to Wait. She simply led him into the Circle and took his Order, and allowed him to sit there in the Gloaming and observe how Popular she was. All the men were Scrapping to see who would be Next to sit in the Hammock with her. It looked for a while as if Clara would have to give out Checks, the same as in a Barber Shop. Late that night when the Men walked homeward together, they remarked that Clara was a Miserable Hostess, they didn’t think.
Next Evening the Treasurer of the Shoe Factory was back on the Lawn. So were all the Others. They said there was no beating a Place where you could play Shirt-Waist Man under the Trees, and have a Fairy Queen in White come and push Cold Drinks at you and not have to sign any Ticket. They composed flattering Songs about Clara, and every time she moved there was a Man right there with a Sofa Cushion to help her to be Comfortable.
[Illustration: HIGH-SCHOOL CADET]
In the mean time, the Other Girls out at the Summer Resorts were doing the best they could with these High School Cadets, wearing Tidies around their Hats, who would rather go out in a Cat-Boat and get their arms tanned than remain on Shore and win the Honest Love of an American Girl, with a String to it.
Clara’s work about this time was ever so Glossy. She began by asking the Treasurer of the Shoe Factory to come with her to the Refrigerator to get out some more Imported Ginger Ale. All the men Volunteered to help, and two or three wanted to Tag along, but Clara drove them back.
They were gone a Long Time, because the Treasurer had to draw all the Corks, and they Fussed around together in the Pantry fixing up a Lunch for the Boys. Clara told him how Strong and Handy he was, until he felt an increase in his Chest Measurement.
On successive evenings she had the Treasurer supervise all the Arrangements. The Hired Girl had every Evening off, because it was so much more Jolly to go out and run the place yourself. In less than a Week the Treasurer was giving Orders around the House. She would get him back to the Kitchen and tie an Apron around him and ask what she should do next. She made him out to be the Only One who could be Trusted. The others were Company, but he was like one of the Family. And although he was being Worked like Creamery Butter, he never Suspected.
Her Game was to Domesticate him in Advance, and let him have a Foretaste of what it is to be Boss of your own House, except as to the Bills. The Pantry was full of Home Delicacies such as he couldn’t get at the Hotel, and the Service was the best ever. Clara was right at his Elbow with a Willing Smile.
It didn’t take him long to realize that he was missing a lot by remaining Single. He wondered why he had been so slow in getting on to Clara’s Good Points. Also he wondered if it was any Open-and-Shut Certainty when a dozen other Men, some of them Younger and more Gallus, were after her in Full Cry.
Clara had him Pulled In, Strung and Hung over the side of the Boat.
Of course if all the other Girls had been in Town, they would have Tumbled long before it ran into a Certainty, and probably they would have formed a V and rushed in to break up the Play. But the other Girls were Far Away with the Old Men and the Seminary Striplings. Clara had an Open Field, with no need of any Interfering or Blocking, and if she Fell Down it was her own Fault. Besides, she had all these other Admirers set out as Decoys to prove that if he didn’t, somebody else might.
The Treasurer of the Shoe Factory got a large Rally on himself, and she had to Give In and make a Promise.
He loves to tell Callers how he proposed to his Wife in the Kitchen, and he doesn’t know to this Day that she was Expecting it.
MORAL: _As soon as he begins to Frequent the Back Rooms of the House, measure him for the Harness_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ MAN-GRABBER WHO WENT OUT _OF_ HIS CLASS
While standing in front of his Store, between two Dummies in Seersucker Suits, one of the Chosen People spotted a Good Thing that resembled a Three-Sheet of the Old Homestead. It was looking up at the Top Stories and bumping against Hydrants and Unsurpassed Coffee Bulletins. The flip Yahooda, with the City Education and Thirty Centuries of Commercial Training to back him up, saw that here was a Chance to work off some Old Stock. So when the mild old Gentleman with the strawcolored Sluggers and the Freckles on his Wrists came near enough, he Closed with him and told him to come inside and look at a New Style called the McKinley Overcoat because the President had one just like it.
Uncle Eck replied that he did not really need an Overcoat, as he had traded for one only a few Seasons before, but he was willing to go in and Look Around, and if he did not buy anything he reckoned there wouldn’t be any Hard Feelings. Accordingly he walked straight into the Trap and permitted Mr. Zangwill to show him an Assortment of Shoddy Garments fastened together with Mucilage. The Crafty Merchant came down from $38 to $6.50, and showed him a Confidential Letter from his Cousin Sig to prove that the Goods had been Smuggled in, but old Peaceful Valley refused to Bite. He allowed the Proprietor to talk himself out, and then he walked up and down the Counters, careless-like, to see what was on the Shelves, and he did some quiet Figuring in a Memorandum Book such as they give away at Drug Stores. Before he left he had Traded 20 Acres of flinty Hillside in New Hampshire for the Clothing Store, the Mortgage on the Land to be Assumed by the New Owner, and he had $75 to Boot and an Agreement in Writing.
[Illustration: THE TRAPPER]
The Hauler-In is now Clerking and trying to Hold Out enough to give him another Start.
MORAL: _Lower Broadway is not New England_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ INVETERATE JOKER WHO REMAINED _IN_ MONTANA
The Subject of this Fable started out in Life as a Town Cut-Up. He had a keen Appreciation of Fun, and was always playing Jokes. If he wanted a few Gum-Drops he would go into the Candy Store and get them, and then ask the Man if he was willing to take Stamps. If the Man said he was, then the Boy would stamp a couple of times, which meant that the Laugh was on the Man. It was considered a Great Sell in Those Parts.
Or else he would go into a Grocery with another tricky Tad and get some Article of Value, and they would pretend to Quarrel as to which should Pay for it. One would ask the Proprietor if he cared who paid for it, and if he said he did not, they would up and tell him to Pay for it Himself. This one was so Cute that they had a little Piece in the Paper about it.
Or they would go and Purchase a Watermelon to be paid for as soon as a Bet was decided, and afterward it would Develop that the Bet was whether the Saw-Mill would fall to the East or the West, in case the Wind blew it over.
It was Common Talk that the Boy was Sharp as a Tack and Keen as a Brier and a Natural-Born Humorist.
Once he sold a Calf to the Butcher, several Hours after the Calf had been struck by Lightning. As for ordering Goods and having them charged to his Father, that was one of the Slickest Things he ever did.
About the time the Joker was old enough to leave Home, he traveled out through the Country selling Bulgarian Oats to the Farmers. When the Contract for the Seed Oats got around to the Bank, it proved to be an iron-clad and double-riveted Promissory Note. The Farmer always tried to get out of Paying it, but when the Case came to Trial and the Jurors heard how the Agent palavered the Hay-Seed they had to Snicker right out in Court. They always gave Judgment for the Practical Joker, who would take them out and buy Cigars for them, and they would hit him on the Back and tell him he was a Case.
One Day the Joker had an Inspiration, and he had to tell it to a Friend, who also was something of a Wag.
They bought a Cat-Tail Swamp remote from Civilization and divided it into Building Lots. The Marsh was Advertised as a Manufacturing Suburb, and they had side-splitting Circulars showing the Opera House, the Drill Factory, Public Library, and the Congregational Church. Lots were sold on the Instalment Plan to Widows, Cash-Boys, and Shirt-Factory Girls who wanted to get Rich in from fifteen to twenty Minutes.
The Joker had a Lump of Bills in every Pocket. If asked how he made his Roll, he would start to Tell, and then he would Choke Up, he was so full of Laugh. He certainly had a Sunny Disposition.
[Illustration: MANUFACTURING SUBURB]
Finally he went to the State of Montana. He believed he could have a Season of Merriment by depositing some Valuable Ore in a Deserted Mine, and then selling the Mine to Eastern Speculators. While he was Salting the Mine, pausing once in a while to Control his Mirth, a few Natives came along, and were Interested. They were a slow and uncouth Lot, with an atrophied Sense of Humor, and the Prank did not Appeal to them. They asked the Joker to Explain, and before he could make it Clear to them or consult his Attorney they had him Suspended from a Derrick. He did not Hang straight enough to suit, so they brought a Keg of Nails and tied to his Feet, and then stood off and Shot at the Buttons on the Back of his Coat.
MORAL: _Don’t Carry a Joke too far, and never Carry it into Montana_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ CRUEL INSULT _AND THE_ ARRIVAL _OF THE_ LOVER FROM NO. 6
One Morning there came into the Dining Room of the Peerless Hotel at Welby’s Junction an English Tourist and the Advance Agent of the Mabel Mooney Repertoire Company.
They took their Places at the Table underneath a Chromo representing a Pyramid of Idealized Fruit. The Table was covered with Sail Cloth, and in the Center was the Corroded Caster, which gave out a Sound similar to that of the Galloping Horse in the War Drama whenever any one walked across the Floor.
The English Traveler appeared to have received Bad News from Home, but he had not. That was the Normal Expression. His Mustache was long and wilted. Also the Weary Look around the Eyes. He traveled with a Cowhide Bag that must have used up at least one Cow. The Clothes he wore evidently had been cut from a Steamer Rug by his Mother, or some other Aged Relative suffering from Astigmatism. He had been Sleeping in them.
As for the Second Traveler, he was an Advance Agent.
“Cheer Up,” said the Advance Agent to the English Tourist. “It may not be True, and if it is True it may be for the Best.”
The English Tourist made no Response, fearing that his Fellow-Traveler might be In Trade.
Then the One that waited on the Table did the Glide from behind a Screen.
She was very Pale, up to a certain Point.
Pausing about six feet from the English Tourist she looked resolutely at a Knot-Hole in the Floor and said:
“My Good Woman,” said the Man from Stoke-on-Tritham, just as if he meant to Prorogue something. “I should like a Rasher of Bacon, and have it Jolly Well Done.”
“Ain’t got no Bacon,” she replied, feeling of her Brooch.
“Dyuh-me! Then I should like some Boiled Eggs, and mind that they are Fresh.”
“I’ll give you Regular Aigs,” she said, lifting her Head proudly, for she was no Serf.
“Approach me, Kit,” said the Advance Agent, with gentle Voice.
“Is tha-a-at so-o-o?” she asked. “I’ll have you know, Smarty, my name ain’t Kit. So There!”
“Well, make it Genevieve,” said the Advance Agent. “Come close and hold my Hand while I give you this Order. And merely as one Friend speaking to another, I want to tell you that the Blending under the Left Ear is very poor, and if you are not careful somebody will Sign you as a Spotted Girl.”
“My Mother was a Lady,” she said.
“That being the Case, I would like to have you go out and Engage a nice piece of Liver for me. And if you show yourself to be real Winsome and Chic I may be able to use you with the Troupe.”
“Tea or Coffee?”
“Don’t tell me which one you bring and see if I can Guess. And I would like some Actual Potatoes.”
“I suppose, Sir, you think I have no Feelings.”
“That is none of my Business,” he replied. “I am merely passing through your Beautiful Little City.”
“I wish Edmund was here,” said she.
“So do I,” assented the Advance Agent, promptly. “If he can wait on the Table I wish he was here. Now see if you can make the Kitchen in two Jumps.”
[Illustration: ADVANCE AGENT]
“He’d show you if you could get Flossy with a Lady, even though she Works.”
“You are about to lose your Tip, standing around here trying to shoot it back at the Handsome Guest,” remarked the Advance Agent. “Has Edmund about finished his Fall Plowing?”
“He don’t do no Fall Plowing,” was the Bitter Reply. “He Fires on Number Six.”
At that Moment there entered a Railroad Boy with Braid on his Clothes and Coal-Dust on his Neck. He removed the Cap that had rested on his flanging Ears and sat at the Table with the Advance Agent and the English Tourist.
“Feed me Everything, with One in the Light to come along,” he said. “If any of the Cockroaches ask for me, tell them I’m for all Night with the Yellow Rattlers, and laid out at Winona.”
The English Tourist was holding his Head.
“I guess you won’t carry on so Gay since he’s come,” said the Sensitive Waitress, addressing the Advance Agent.
“Did he Call you Down?” asked Edmund, the Loving Fireman, glancing at the Advance Agent.
“He used me like I was the Dirt under his Feet,” she replied, placing her Hand on her Breast and biting her Lower Lip.
“Well, it’s a Good Thing,” said Edmund. “You’ve needed a few of them Jolts ever since you had your Hand read by the Gypsy and started to read that Bertha Clay Book. It’s a good thing to have a Strong Josher come along now and then, just to show you Proud Dolls how to take a Joke. Do I Eat?”
The Sensitive Waitress hurried Away, feeling hurt.
“Overlook all the Phoney Acting by the Little Lady, Bud,” said the Fireman to the Advance Agent. “She’s only twenty-seven.”
Producing a small Note-Book, the English Traveler said: “Gentlemen, I regard this Incident as Most Extraordinary and somewhat Mystifying. I fear that I am not sufficiently acquainted with your Vernacular to grasp the full Purport of what has occurred here. Will you Explain it to me?”
[Illustration: WORKING GIRL]
“Did you notice the Ingenue that guaranteed you the Regular Eggs,” asked the Advance Agent.
“You mean the Young Woman who was here a moment ago?”
“That’s the Party! You saw her?”
“Now, I’ll tell you all about it, if you promise not to put it in your Book.”
“Really, you know, I had intended to Use it,” said the Traveler.
“All right, then; put it in, but don’t use any Names. This is Under the Rose, remember. The Proud Working Girl that was in here just now is my Sister.”
And the Englishman was deeply Perplexed.
MORAL: _Brothers in Name only._
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ LODGE FIEND, _AND THE_ DELILAH TRICK PLAYED _BY_ HIS WIFE
A Woman who had done nothing to Deserve it was the Wife of a Joiner. He was the K.G. of one Benevolent Order and the Worshipful High Guy of something else, and the Senior Warden of the Sons of Patoosh, and a lot more that she couldn’t keep track of.
When he got on all of his Pins he had Sousa put away.
Night after Night he was off to a Hall up a Dark Stairway to land some Unfortunate into the Blue Lodge or the Commandery or else Over the Hot Sands.
He carried at least twenty Rituals in his Head, and his Hands were all twisted out of Shape from giving so many different Grips.
In the Morning when he came out of the House he usually found some one waiting on the Door-Step to give him the Sign of Distress and work the fraternal Pan-Handle on him. He subscribed for the Magazines that were full of these sparkling Chapter Reports, and after that, if he had not spent all his money going to Conclaves and Grand Lodge Meetings, he paid Dues and Assessments and bought Uniforms. He had one Suit in particular, with Frogs and Cords and Gold Braid strung around over the Front of it, and then a Helmet with about a Bushel of Red Feathers. When he got into this Rig and strapped on his Jeweled Sword he wouldn’t have traded Places with Nelson A. Miles.
His Wife often said that he ought not to leave her and take up with a Goat, and that she could use on Groceries some of the Coin that he was devoting to Velvet Regalia and Emblematic Watch-Charms, but he always tried to make it Right with her by explaining that he had Insurance in most of these Whispering Organizations, so that she and the Children would come in for a whole Wad of Money. The Wife thought it was too long to wait. He seemed to be in a Fair Way to live another Century and keep on paying Assessments.
There was no use in Arguing with him. When a Man gets to be a confirmed Joiner he is not Happy unless he can get into an unlighted Room two or three Nights a Week, and wallop the Neophyte with a Stuffed Club, and walk him into a Tub of Water, and otherwise Impress him with the Solemnity of the Ordeal.
The real Joiner loves to sit up on an elevated Throne, wearing a Bib and holding a dinky Gavel, and administer a blistering Oath to the Wanderer who seeks the Privilege of helping to pay the Rent.
To a Man who does not cut very many Lemons around his own House, where they are Onto him, it is a great Satisfaction to get up in a Lodge Hall and put on a lot of Ceremonial Dog, and have the Members kneel in front of him and Salute him as the Exalted Sir Knight.
[Illustration: THE JOINER]
You take a Man who is Plugging along on a Salary, and who has to answer the ‘Phone and wrap up Tea all Day, and let him go out at Night and be an Exalted Sir, and it helps him to feel that he isn’t such a Nine-Spot after all.
Now this particular Joiner wanted to be up on a carpeted Dais every blessed Evening, having the Brothers march in front of him and give him the High Office. His Wife, being unacquainted with the Secrets of the Lodge Room, was unable to understand why he was so Fascinated with the Life. She was exceedingly Inquisitive and often tried to Pump him by the most Artful Methods, but of course he did not dare to Divulge or his Right Arm would have Withered and his Tongue would have Cleaved to the Roof of his Mouth, and he would have been an Outcast on the Face of the Earth, despised by all other Members of the Royal Tararum. Now and then he Talked in his Sleep, and she caught Expressions in regard to Branding him on the Other Leg or putting him back into the Coffin, and her Curiosity was intensified.
One day she read in a Veracious Newspaper that if the Left Hand of a Sleeping Person be immersed in Tepid Water, then the Sleeper will truthfully answer any Question that may be asked. She resolved to try it on her Husband. She was dying to know what they Said and Did at Lodge Meetings that would keep a Man away from Home so many Nights in the Week.
That Night after he had come home from the Odd Fellows and passed into Slumber she crept out and took a Low Advantage of him. She slid his Left Hand into a bowl of Warm Water without arousing him, and he Gave Up. He told all the Passwords, the Secret Mottoes, the Oaths, the Meaning of the Symbols and the Unwritten Work. When he had finished she had a Notion to Ring for a Night Cab and go Home to her own Family, but her Better Judgment prevailed. She concluded that she would have to continue to Live with him, no matter what she Thought of him.
She never dared to tell that she Knew, and he never Suspected. Husband never guessed why it was that when he started out for an Evening with the Skeletons and the Candidates she stood back and smiled at him more in Pity than in Anger.
MORAL: _It’s a Good Thing they don’t Know_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ APPREHENSIVE SPARROW _AND_ HER DAILY ESCAPE
Once there was a Proper little Female who Fluttered and was interested in Movements. She was born the Year that Fremont ran against Buchanan. All she knew about Spooning was what she had Read in Ella Wheeler Wilcox. Time and again she said that if a Man ever attempted to Take Liberties with her, she knew she would Die of Mortification. At Last Reports she was Living, but she had Courted Death at least Fifteen Hundred Times.
If a Strange Man came up behind her while she was walking Homeward in the Dusk, she always gave a Timid Glance behind and Hurried, suspecting that he would Overtake her and seize her by both Wrists and tell her not to Scream. She would reach her own Door and lean against it, almost in a Swoon, and the Strange Man would pass by, softly Humming to Himself.
Occasionally an Adventurer with Coal-Black Eyes and a Suspicious Manner would come and sit right beside her in a Car, evidently for some Purpose, and she would close her Lips tightly and resolve to do a Steve Brodie out of the Window if she saw his Hand slipping over toward Hers. Fortunately, the man kept his Eyes on the Sporting Page and made no Move.
If she happened to be in the Waiting-Room at the Station, and a coarse but masterful Claim Agent, or some one else equally Terrifying, happened to come across the Room at her, she could feel her Little Heart stand still, and she would say, “This is where I get it.” After he had gone past, on his way to the Check-Room, she would put some Camphor on her Handkerchief and declare to Goodness that never again would she start out to Travel unless she had some Older Person with her.
[Illustration: THE SPARROW]
More than once when she was at Home, with only a few other Persons around the House, she saw a Large Man come up the Front Steps, and she would be Frozen with Terror, and could see herself being lifted into a Closed Carriage by the Brutal Confederates. She would slip a Pair of Scissors under her Apron and creep to the Front Door, prepared to Resist with all her Girlish Strength, and the Man would have to talk to her through the Door, and ask where they wanted the Coal delivered.
Now and then a Caller would find her Reviving herself with a Cup of Tea.
The Caller would say: “Madge, Child, you are as Pale as a Ghost.”
Madge would reply: “Oh, I have just had such a Turn! I was out watering the Nasturtiums, when a Man in a Crash Suit came along the Street and looked right at me. The Gate was open, and there was nothing to prevent him from coming right in and Getting me.”
The Appalled Visitor would want to know what became of him, and Madge would explain that he turned at the Next Corner, and she had been as Weak as a Cat ever since.
On her Shopping Expeditions she noticed Dozens of Men, apparently Trailing right along after her, and she knew that her only Salvation was to look straight ahead and indicate by her Bearing that she was no Flirt. By so doing she eluded many a one who wanted to Catch Step with her and begin a Conversation.
The Collected Stories of her Successful but Hair-Breadth Escapes from Men of the World, who seemed to Forget that all Women were not Alike, would have filled a Volume bigger than the Family Medicine Book.
Happily, no one ever went Quite So Far. She invariably Escaped.
MORAL: _Don’t Worry._
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ REGULAR CUSTOMER _AND THE_ COPPER-LINED ENTERTAINER
One day the Main Works of a Wholesale House was Jacking Up the Private Secretary and getting ready to close his desk for the Day, when in blew a Country Customer. The Head of the Concern would have given Seven Dollars if he could have got out and caught the Elevated before the Country Customer showed up. However, he was Politic, and he knew he must not throw down a Buyer who discounted his Bills and was good as Old Wheat. So he gave a Correct Imitation of a Man who is tickled nearly to Death. After calling the Country Customer “Jim,” he made him sit down and tell him about the Family, and the Crops, and Collections, and the Prospects for Duck-Shooting. Then, selecting an opportune moment, he threw up Both Hands. He said he had almost forgotten the Vestry Meeting at Five O’clock, and going out to Dinner at Six-Thirty. He was about to Call Off the Vestry Meeting, the Dinner, and all other Engagements for a Week to come, but Jim would not Listen to it. As a Compromise the Head of the Concern said he would ask their Mr. Byrd to take charge of the Country Customer. They could surely find some Way of putting in the Evening. He said the Oratorio Club war going to sing at Music Hall, and also there was a Stereopticon Lecture on India. Jim said he would prefer the Stereopticon Show, because he loved to look at Pictures.
The Head of the Concern said that the Country Customer would be sure to like their Mr. Byrd. Everybody liked Byrd. His Full Name was Mr. Knight Byrd.
He pushed on a few Buttons and blew into several snaky Tubes and put the whole Shop on the Jump to find Mr. Byrd. The latter happened to be in a Rathskeller not far away. When he heard that there was Work to be done in his Department he brushed away the Crumbs and Hot-Footed up to see the Boss.
In presenting Mr. Byrd to the Country Customer the Head of the Concern laid it on with a Shovel. He said that Jim Here was his Friend, and the House considered it an Honor to Entertain him. The Country Customer sat there feeling Sheepish and Unworthy but a good deal Puffed Up just the same. Then the Head of the Firm made his Escape and the Country Customer was in the Hands of Mr. Byrd.
Mr. Byrd was known in the Establishment as the Human Expense Account. No one had ever accused him of being a Quitter. He was supposed to be Hollow inside. Whenever any Friend of the Firm showed up, Mr. Byrd was called upon to take charge of him and Entertain him to a Stand-Still. The Boss was troubled with Dyspepsia, and Conscientious Scruples, and a Growing Family, and a few other Items that prevented him from going out at Night with the Visiting Trade. He had it arranged to give each one of them a choice Mess of Beautiful Language and then pass him along to Mr. Byrd.
Mr. Byrd was a Rosy and Red-Headed Gentleman, with a slight Overhang below the Shirt Front. He breathed like a Rusty Valve every time he had to go up a Stairway, but he had plenty of Endurance of another Kind. For Years he had been playing his Thirst against his Capacity, and it was still a Safe Bet, whichever Way you wanted to place your Money. His Batting Average was about Seven Nights to the Week. He discovered that Alcohol was a Food long before the Medical Journals got onto it.
Mr. Byrd’s chief value to the Wholesale House lay in the Fact that he could Meet all Comers and close up half the Places in Town, and then show up next Morning with a Clean Collar and a White Carnation, and send in word to lead out another Country Customer.
Mr. Byrd’s first Move was to take Jim to a Retreat that was full of Statuary and Paintings. It was owned by a gray-haired Beau named Bob, who was a Ringer for a United States Senator, all except the White Coat. Bob wanted to show them a new Tall One called the Mamie Taylor, and after they had Sampled a Couple Jim said it was all right and he believed he would take one. Then he told Bob how much he had taken in the Year before and what his Fixtures cost him, and if anybody didn’t think he was Good they could look him up in Bradstreet or Dun, that was all. He said he was a Gentleman, and that no Cheap Skate in a Plug Hat could tell him where to Get Off. This last Remark was intended for an inoffensive Person who had slipped in to get a Rhine Wine and Seltzer, and was pronging about Forty Cents’ Worth of Lunch.
They got around Jim and Quieted him, and Mr. Byrd suggested that they go and Eat something before they got too Busy. The Country Customer would not leave the Art Buffet until Bob had promised to come down and Visit him sometime. When they got into the Street again the Country Customer noticed that all the Office Buildings were set on the Bias, and they were introducing a new style of spiral Lamp-Post.
They dined at a Palm-Garden that had Padding under the Table-Cloth and a Hungarian Orchestra in the Corner. Mr. Byrd ordered Eleven Courses, and then asked Jim what Kind he usually had with his Dinner. This is an Awful Question to pop at a Man who has been on Rain Water and Buttermilk all his Life. Jim was not to be Fazed. He said that he never ordered any Particular Label for fear People might think he was an Agent. That was the Best Thing that Jim said all Evening.
Mr. Byrd told the Waiter to stand behind Jim and keep Busy. When Jim began to Make Signs that he could not Stand any more, the Entertainer told him to Inhale it and rub it in his Hair.
[Illustration: “HOORAY! HOORAY!”]
Along toward Dessert Jim was talking in the Tone used by Muggsy McGraw when he is Coaching the Man who is Playing Off from Second. He was telling how much he Loved his Wife. She would have been Pleased to hear it.
Mr. Byrd paid a Check that represented One Month’s Board down where Jim lived. They fell into a Horseless Hansom and went to see the Hity-Tity Variety and Burlesque Aggregation in a new Piece entitled “Hooray! Hooray!” Jim sat in a Box for the First Time, and wanted to throw Money on the Stage. The Head Usher had to come around once in a while to ask him not to let his Feet hang over, and to remember that the Company could do all the Singing without any Help from him. Mr. Byrd sat back slightly Flushed and watched the Country Customer make a Show of himself. It was an Old Story to him. He knew that the quiet School Trustee kind of a Man who goes Home at Sundown for 364 Days in the Year, with the Morning Steak and a Roll of Reading Matter under his Arm, is the worst Indian in the World when he does find himself among the Tall Houses and gets it Up his Nose.
He allowed Jim to stand and Yell when the Chorus struck the Grand Finale, and a little later on, when they had chartered a low-necked Carriage and Jim wanted to get up and Drive, he Stood for it, although he had to make a Pretty Talk to a couple of Policemen before he landed Jim at the Hotel.
If this were a Novel, there would be a Row of Stars inserted right here.
The Sun was high in the Heavens when the Country Customer opened his Eyes and tried to Remember and then tried to Forget. Some one was sitting at his Bedside. It was Mr. Byrd, the Long-Distance Entertainer, looking as Sweet and Cool as a Daisy.
“Before I give you the Photograph of Myself which you requested last Night, would you care for anything in the way of Ice Water?” he asked.
Jim did a sincere Groan, and said he could use a Barrel of it.
“Did I request a Photograph?” he asked, as he felt for the Boundaries of his Head.
“You did,” replied the Entertainer. “And you gave me your Watch as a Keepsake. I have brought the Watch and all the Money you had left after you bought the Dog.”
“The Dog that you gave to Bob.”
“Did we go back there again? I remember the First Time.”
“Yes, it was In There that you wanted to Run a Hundred Yards with any Man Present for Chalk, Money, or Marbles.”
“Where are we now–at the Hotel?”
“Yes, and Everything is Smoothed Over. The Night Clerk has agreed not to swear out a Warrant.”
Jim did not Comprehend, but he was afraid to Ask.
“It may be that I was a mite Polluted,” he suggested.
“You were a teeny bit Pickled about Two, when you tried to upset the Lunch Wagon, but I don’t think any one Noticed it,” said Mr. Byrd.
“Take me to the Noon Train,” requested the Country Customer. “Tell the Conductor where I live, and send me the Bills for all that I have Broken.”
“Everything is Settled,” responded the Entertainer. “But why Tear yourself away?”
“I am Through,” replied Jim, “So why Tarry?”
Mr. Byrd took him to the Train and arranged with the Porter of the Parlor Car for a Pillow.
When the Country Customer arrived at Home he accounted for the Eyes by saying that the Night Traffic makes so much Noise on these Hard Stone Pavements, it is almost impossible to get the usual amount of Sleep.
The Head of the Concern put his O.K. on a Voucher for $43.60, and it occurred to him that Stereopticon Lectures seemed to be Advancing, but he asked no Questions.
Ever after that Jim bought all his Goods of this one House. He had to.
MORAL: _Scatter Seeds of Kindness_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF_ LUTIE, _THE_ FALSE ALARM, _AND_ HOW SHE FINISHED ABOUT _THE_ TIME _THAT_ SHE STARTED
Lutie was an Only Child. When Lutie was eighteen her Mother said they ought to do something with Lutie’s Voice. The Neighbors thought so, too. Some recommended killing the Nerve, while others allowed that it ought to be Pulled.
But what Mamma meant was that Lutie ought to have it Cultivated by a Professor. She suspected that Lutie had a Career awaiting her, and would travel with an Elocutionist some day and have her Picture on the Programme.
Lutie’s Father did not warm up to the Suggestion. He was rather Near when it came to frivoling away the National Bank Lithographs. But pshaw! The Astute Reader knows what happens in a Family when Mother and the Only Child put their Heads together to whipsaw the Producer. One Day they shouldered him into a Corner and extorted a Promise. Next Day Lutie started to Take.
She bought a red leather Cylinder marked “Music,” so that people would not take it to be Lunch. Every Morning about 9 o’clock she would wave the Housework to one side and tear for a Trolley.
Her Lessons cost the Family about twenty cents a Minute. She took them in a large Building full of Vocal Studios. People who didn’t know used to stop in front of the Place and listen, and think it was a Surgical Institute.
There were enough Soprani in this one Plant to keep Maurice Grau stocked up for a Hundred Years. Every one thought she was the Particular One who would sooner or later send Melba back to Australia and drive Sembrich into the Continuous. Lutie was just about as Nifty as the Next One.
When she was at Home she would suck Lemons and complain about Draughts and tell why she didn’t like the Other Girls’ Voices. She began to act like a Prima Donna, and her Mother was encouraged a Lot. Lutie certainly had the Artistic Temperament bigger than a Church Debt.
Now before Lutie started in to do Things to her Voice she occasionally Held Hands with a Young Man in the Insurance Business, named Oliver. This Young Man thought that Lutie was all the Merchandise, and she regarded him as Permanent Car-Fare.
But when Lutie began to hang out at the Studios she took up with the Musical Set that couldn’t talk about anything but Technique and Shading and the Motif and the Vibrato. She began to fill up the Parlor with her new Friends, and the first thing Oliver knew he was in the Side Pocket and out of the Game.
In his own Line this Oliver was as neat and easy-running as a Red Buggy, but when you started him on the topic of Music he was about as light and speedy as a Steam Roller. Ordinarily he knew how to behave himself in a Flat, and with a good Feeder to work back at him he could talk about Shows and Foot-Ball Games and Things to Eat, but when any one tried to draw him out on the Classics, he was unable to Qualify.
When Lutie and her Musical acquaintances told about Shopan and Batoven he would sit back so quiet that often he got numb below the Hips. He was afraid to move his Feet for fear some one would notice that he was still in the Parlor and ask him how he liked Fugue No. II, by Bock. He had never heard of any of these People, because they did not carry Tontine Policies with his Company.
Oliver saw that he would have to Scratch the Musical Set or else begin to Read Up, so he changed his Route. He canceled all Time with Lutie, and made other Bookings.
Lutie then selected for her Steady a Young Man with Hair who played the ‘Cello. He was so wrapped up in his Art that he acted Dopey most of the time, and often forgot to send out the Laundry so as to get it back the same Week. Furthermore, he didn’t get to the Suds any too often. He never Saw more than $3 at one time; but when he snuggled up alongside of a ‘Cello and began to tease the long, sad Notes out of it, you could tell that he had a Soul for Music. Lutie thought he was Great, but what Lutie’s Father thought of him could never get past the Censor. Lutie’s Father regarded the whole Musical Set as a Fuzzy Bunch. He began to think that in making any Outlay for Lutie’s Vocal Training he had bought a Gold Brick. When he first consented to her taking Lessons his Belief was that after she had practiced for about one Term she would be able to sit up to the Instrument along in the Dusk before the Lamps were lit, and sing “When the Corn is Waving, Annie Dear,” “One Sweetly Solemn Thought,” or else “Juanita.” These were the Songs linked in his Memory with some Purple Evenings of the Happy Long Ago. He knew they were Chestnuts, and had been called in, but they suited him, and he thought that inasmuch as he had put up the Wherewith for Lutie’s Lessons he ought to have some kind of a Small Run for his Money.
Would Lutie sing such Trash? Not she. She was looking for Difficult Arias from the Italian, and she found many a one that was Difficult to sing, and probably a little more Difficult to Listen To.
The Voice began to be erratic, also. When father wanted to sit by the Student’s Lamp and read his Scribner’s, she would decide to hammer the Piano and do the whole Repertoire.
But when Mother had Callers and wanted Lutie to Show Off, then she would hang back and have to be Coaxed. If she didn’t have a Sore Throat, then the Piano was out of Tune, or else she had left all of her Good Music at the Studio, or maybe she just couldn’t Sing without some one to Accompany her. But after they had Pleaded hard enough, and everybody was Embarrassed and sorry they had come, she would approach the Piano timidly and sort of Trifle with it for a while, and say they would have to make Allowances, and then she would Cut Loose and worry the whole Block. The Company would sit there, every one showing the Parlor Face and pretending to be entranced, and after she got through they would Come To and tell her how Good she was.
She made so many of these Parlor Triumphs that there was no Holding her. She had herself Billed as a Nightingale. Often she went to Soirees and Club Entertainments, volunteering her Services, and nowhere did she meet a Well-Wisher who took her aside and told her she was a Shine–in fact, the Champion Pest.
No, Lutie never got out of her Dream until she made a bold Sashay with a Concert Company. It was her Professional Debut.
Father fixed it. The Idea of any one paying Real Money to hear Lutie sing struck him as being almost Good enough to Print. But she wouldn’t be Happy until she got it, and so she Got It right where the Newport Lady wears the Rope of Pearls.
On the First Night the mean old Critics, who didn’t know her Father or Mother, and had never been entertained at the House, came and got in the Front Row, and defied Lutie to come on and Make Good. Next Morning they said that Lutie had Blow-Holes in her Voice; that she hit the Key only once during the Evening, and then fell off backward; that she was a Ham, and her Dress didn’t fit her, and she lacked Stage Presence. They expressed Surprise that she should be attempting to Sing when any bright Girl could learn to pound a Type-Writer in Four Weeks. They wanted to know who was responsible for her Appearance, and said it was a Shame to String these Jay Amateurs. Lutie read the Criticisms, and went into Nervous Collapse. Her Mother was all Wrought Up, and said somebody ought to go and kill the Editors. Father bore up grimly.
Before Lutie was Convalescent he had the Difficult Italian Arias carted out of the house. The ‘Cello Player came to call one Day, and he was given Minutes to get out of the Ward.
By the time Oliver looked in again Lutie was more than ready to pay some Attention to him. She is now doing a few quiet Vocalizations for her Friends. When some one who hasn’t Heard tells her that she is good enough for Opera, they have to open the Windows and give her more Air.
MORAL: _When in Doubt, try it on the Box-office_.
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ COTILLON LEADER _FROM THE_ HUCKLEBERRY DISTRICT _WITH THE_ INTERMITTENT MEMORY
A Young Man who had made a Sudden Winning, and was beginning to act as Shawl-Holder and Emergency Errand-Boy for the Society Queens, seemed to have a great deal of Trouble with his Memory. If he met Any One who had started with him a few Years before, and who used to Stake him to a Meal-Ticket now and then, or let him have a Scarf-Pin when he had to go out and make a Front, he could not appear to remember the Man’s Name or tell where he had seen him before. When he was in a Loge at the Play-House with Exclusive Ethel and her Friends, he might look down in the Parquette and see the Landlady who had carried him through a Hard Winter and accepted a Graceful Wave of the Hand when she really needed the Board Money, but he found it impossible to Place her. Even the People who came from his own Town, and who knew him when he was getting Five a Week and wearing Celluloid Cuffs, and who could relate the Family History if they wanted to Knock, they couldn’t make him Remember, even when they stopped him on the Street and recalled such Humiliations as the Time he used to pick Cherries on the Shares, and how Odd he looked in his Brother’s Made-Over Clothes.
[Illustration: AFFECTIONATE MASSAGE]
This Young Man buried the Dead Past until his Memory was a Blank for the whole Period up to the Time that the President of the Fidelity National invited him to Dinner and he got his first Peek at a sure-enough Butler.
He had been a Genuine Aristocrat for about Eighteen Months, when he made a Mis-step and landed with his Face in the Gravel. The Gigantic Enterprise which he had been Promoting got into the Public Prints as a Pipe Dream. There was no more Capital coming from the Angels. He was back at the Post, with nothing to Show for his Bold Dash except a Wardrobe and an Appetite for French Cooking. Society gave him the Frozen Face, and all those who had been speaking of him as a Young Napoleon agreed that he was a Dub. The Banks were trying to Collect on a lot of Slow Notes that he had floated in his Palmy Days, and they had a Proud Chance to Collect. He went into the Bankruptcy Court and Scheduled $73,000 of Liabilities, the Assets being a Hat-Box and a Set of Theatrical Posters.
When he had to go out and Rustle for a Job he was a Busy Hand-Shaker once more. The Blow seemed to have landed right on the Bump of Memory, and put his Recollecting Department into full Operation again. He could spot an Old Pal clear across the Street. He was rushing up to Obscure Characters that he had not seen in Eight Years, and he called each one of them “Old Man.” It was now their Turn to do the Forgetful Business. The Tablets of his Memory read as clear as Type-Writing. Upon meeting any Friend of his Boyhood he did the Shoulder-Slap, and rang in the Auld Lang Syne Gag. He was so Democratic he was ready to Borrow from the Humblest. The same Acquaintances who had tried to Stand In with him when Things were coming his Way, were cutting off Street-Corners and getting down behind their Newspapers to escape the Affectionate Massage, beginning at the Hand and extending to the Shoulder-Blade. It was No Use. He remembered them all, and no one got Past him.
MORAL: _Don’t begin to Forget until you have it in Government Bonds._
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ HE-GOSSIP _AND THE_ MAN’S WIFE _AND THE_ MAN
Once upon a time there was a He-Gossip named Cyrenius Bizzy. Mr. Bizzy was Middle-Aged and had a Set of dark Chinchillas. He carried a Gold-Headed Cane on Sunday. His Job on this Earth was to put on a pair of Pneumatic Sneakers every Morning and go out and Investigate Other People’s Affairs.
He called himself a Reformer, and he did all his Sleuthing in the line of Duty.
If he heard of a Married Man going out Cab-Riding after Hours or playing Hearts for Ten Cents a Heart or putting a Strange Woman on the Car, he knew it was his Duty to edge around and slip the Information to some one who would carry it to the Wife. He was such a Good Man himself that he wanted all the other Men to wear long sable Belshazzars on the Sub-Maxillary and come to him for Moral Guidance. If they would not do it, the only Thing left for him to do was to Warn their Families now and then and get them into Hot Water, thus demonstrating that the Transgressor must expect Retribution to fall on him with quite a Crash.
Sometimes he would get behind a Board Fence to see the Wife of the Postmaster break off a Yellow Rose and pass it over the Gate to the Superintendent of the High School. Then he would Hustle out on his Beat and ask People if they had heard the Talk that was Going Around. Of course it Grieved him to be compelled to Peddle such Stories, but he had to do it in the Interests of Morality. If Folks did not have a Pious Protector to spot Worldly Sin and then get after it with a Sharp Stick, the Community would probably go to the Dogs in less than no time. When he had a Disagreeable Task to Perform, such as letting a Merchant know that his Business Partner had been seen slightly Sprung at a Picnic, he always wished to get through with it as quickly as possible, so usually he Ran. He did not want any one else to beat him there, because the Other Fellow might not get it Right.
[Illustration: THE SCANDAL]
Next Door to Cyrenius Bizzy there lived a Family that needed Regulating. Cyrenius Bizzy knew that he had been Called to do the Regulating. The Family had too much Fun to suit Cy. The Neighbor never came over to ask Mr. Bizzy how late they had better Sit Up, or what Young Men the Girls ought to invite to the House. Cyrenius would have been glad to fix up a Set of Rules, for he was a Bureau of Advice, open at all Hours. He could tell People just how much Money they ought to Save every Week, and how often they ought to Lick the Children, and so on. But the Family that lived Next Door made Loud Sport of Mr. Bizzy, and had no use for his Counsel. They played Authors right in the Front Room with the Curtains up, and they Danced the Two-Step so that he could be sure to see it from where he was hidden behind the Evergreen Tree, and they ran the Ice-Cream Freezer on Sunday Morning, and sang College Songs nearly every Evening.
It kept the He-Gossip on the Go most of the time to let the Neighborhood know all the Details of these Debauches. It did very little Good. The Family did not want to be Reformed. He even wrote Anonymous Letters telling them how Depraved they were. They were so Brazen and Hardened they paid no Attention except to give him the Rowdy Hee-Ho when they saw him pottering around the Shrubbery in his Front Yard, pretending to be at Work, but really doing the Pinkerton Act, and keeping one Ear spread for a nice, juicy Bit of Scandal.
[Illustration: THE HE-GOSSIP]
Mr. Bizzy watched the Family at all Hours of the Day and Night for many Months. Although convinced that they were Children of Belial and pretty Hard Nuts in general, he still hoped to Rescue them. He wondered if he could not Appeal to the Man’s Wife. She was a Daughter of Iniquity, all right, but maybe she might listen to an Entreaty if it came from one who was Pure, and who could point out to her in Fatherly Kindness that she was leading her Family on a Short Cut to the Weeping and Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth.
One Day Mr. Bizzy got a quiet Tip from another Moral Detective, that the Man had stayed out until 2 A.M., at a Banquet given to a Militia Company, so he knew it was Time for him to Act. He lay in Ambush until the Coast was Clear, and then he went across the Dead-Line and caught her on the Piazza. She was Surprised to see him.
He told her all the Reports he had heard about her Husband, and said he was Sorry for her. He wondered if they couldn’t get together a few of the Respectable Men and Women of the Neighborhood, and have a Talk with the Husband, and try to Pluck him as a Brand from the Burning. She listened with that Ominous Calm which always precedes the Iowa Cyclone that takes the Roof off the Court House and moves the Poor Farm into the Adjoining County. She said she would take her Husband aside and have a Confidential Chat with him, and if he wanted to be Plucked, then she would call in the Cyrenius Bizzy Association of Pluckers.
The He-Gossip went Home feeling that he was entitled to a Pedestal right in between Savonarola and Martin Luther.
When the Man came Home his Wife told him. He murmured something about the Last Straw and moved swiftly out of doors. Pulling up the Rover Stake from the Croquet Grounds as he ran, he cleared the Dividing Fence without touching his Hands and began to Clean House. In about a Second there was a Sound as if somebody had stubbed his Toe and dropped a Crockery Store. Then Cyrenius was seen to Break the Record for the Running Long Jump, off the Front Stoop into an Oleander Tub, while wearing a Screen Door. After him came the Worldly Husband. For several Minutes the Copse where once the Garden smiled was full of He-Gossip and Cries for Help.
[Illustration: A MAN]
When the Man came back to where his Wife stood with her Hand on her Heart, he reported that the He-Gossip would be found on top of the Grape-Arbor.
MORAL: _Any one hoping to do Something in the Rescue Line had better go further than Next Door._
_THE_ FABLE _OF THE_ AUTHOR WHO WAS SORRY _FOR_ WHAT HE DID _TO_ WILLIE
An Author was sitting at his Desk trying to pull himself together and grind out Any Old Thing that could be converted into Breakfast Food. It was his Off Day, however. His Brain felt as if some one had played a Mean Trick on him and substituted a Side-Order of Cauliflower. All he could do was to lean up against his Desk and make marks and Piffle his Time away. Between Scribbles he wrote a few Verses about, “When Willie Came to say Good Night.” It was a Sad Effort. He made it almost as Salty as a Mother Song and filled it with Papa and Mamma and the Patter of Baby Feet. He used Love-Light and the Evening Prayer and the Heart-Strings and other venerable Paraphernalia. He had to commit Infanticide to make it Weepy enough for the last Stanza. The Author wrote this Stuff merely to Get Back at himself and see how Sloppy he could be. He did not intend to Print it, because he was not a Vendor of Death-Beds, and he shrank from making any violent Assault on the Sensibilities. So he tossed the Idle Product into the Waste-Basket and wondered if he was biginning to lose his Mind. With that Poem in his Right Hand he could have walked into Bloomingdale and no Questions Asked.
While he was still Backing Up and Jockeying for a Fair Start at his Day’s Work, A Friend came in and sat on the Edge of the Desk, and told him to go right ahead and not pay any Attention.
Seeing the Crumpled Paper in the Basket, the Friend, who was Inquisitive, hooked it out and read the Lines. Presently, when the Author looked up, the Friend had big Tears rolling down his Cheeks and was Sniffling.
“This is the Best Thing you have ever done,” said the Friend. “My God, but it is Pathetic! It will certainly Appeal to any one who has lost a Child.”
“I have no desire to Manufacture any more Sorrow for the Bereaved,” said the Author. “They have had Trouble enough. If I have to deal in White Caskets or tap the Lachrymal Glands in order to thrash out an Income, I will cease being an Author and go back to Work.”
“But this Poem will touch any Heart,” insisted the Friend. “As soon as I got into it I began to Cry. You can get a Good Price for this.”
When it came down to a Business Basis, the Author Switched.
“Get what you can on it,” he said. “It seems a Shame to go and Market that kind of Scroll-Work; still if it hits you, it may be Bad enough to affect others having the same Shape of Head. I need the Money and I have no Shame.”
Thereupon the Friend sent the Verses to the Publisher of a Family Monthly that Percolates into every Postoffice in the Country. In a few Days there came a tear-stained Acceptance and a Check. The Author said it was just like Finding $22.50, and he thought that was the End of it.
[Illustration: LANTERN SLIDE]
But when the Verses came out in the Monthly he began to get Letters from all parts of the United States telling him how much Suffering and Opening of Old Wounds had been caused by his little Poem about Willie and how Proud he ought to be. Many who wrote expressed Sympathy for him, and begged him to Bear Up. These Letters dazed the Author. He never had owned any Boy named Willie. He did not so much as Know a Boy named Willie. He lived in an Office Building with a lot of Stenographers and Bill Clerks. If he had been the Father of a Boy named Willie, and Willie had ever come to tell him “Good Night” when he was busy at Something Else, probably he would have jumped at Willie and snapped a piece out of his Arm. Just the Same, the Correspondents wrote to him from All Over, and said they could read Grief in every Line of his Grand Composition.
That was only the Get-Away. The next thing he knew, some Composer in Philadelphia had set the Verses to Music and they were sung on the Stage with colored Lantern-Slide Pictures of little Willie telling Papa “Good Night” in a Blue Flat with Lace Curtains on the Windows and a Souvenir Cabinet of Chauncey Olcott on the What-Not. The Song was sold at Music Stores, and the Author was invited out to Private Houses to hear it Sung, but he was Light on his Feet and Kept Away.
Several Newspapers sent for his Picture, and he was asked to write a Sunday Article telling how and why he did it. He was asked to Contribute Verses of the same General Character to various Periodicals. Sometimes he would get away by himself and read the Thing over again, and shake his Head and Remark: “Well, if they are Right, then I must be Wrong, but to me it is Punk.”
He had his Likeness printed in Advertisements which told the Public to read what the Author of “Willie’s Good Night” had to say about their Lithia Water. Some one named a light, free-smoking Five-Cent Cigar after him, and he began to see Weird Paintings on the Dead Walls, and was Ashamed to walk along those Streets.
[Illustration: LITTLE FERN]
It came out that one of the Frohmans wanted to Dramatize the Masterpiece, and it was Rumored that Stuart Robson, Modjeska, Thomas Q. Seabrooke, Maude Adams, Dave Warfield, and Walker Whiteside had been requested to play the Part of Willie.
Every morning the Author would get up and say to himself that it could not go on much longer. He felt sure that the Public would come to its Senses some Day, and get after him with a Rope, but it didn’t. His Fame continued to Spread and Increase. All those Persons who had not Read it claimed that they had, so as to be in Line, and he had the same old Floral Tributes handed to him Day after Day.
It was Terrible. He had gone to College and spent a large amount of Money irrigating and fertilizing his Mind, and he had Dreamed of writing Something that would be Strong enough for Charles Dudley Warner’s Library of the World’s Warmest Copy, in a Limited Edition of 20,000; but instead of landing with the Heavy-Weights he seemed Destined to achieve Greatness as the Author of a Boy’s Size Poem, bearing about the same Relation to the Literature of the Ages that a May Howard Window Hanger does to Pure Art. He was Famous until he couldn’t rest, but it was not the Brand he had Coveted.
He decided to Live It Down. He would Produce something Serious and Meritorious that would throw “Willie’s Good Night” into the Shade. So he labored for Two Years on a Novel that analyzed Social Conditions, and every Reviewer said that here was a Volume by the Author of “Willie’s Good Night.” The Purchasers of the Book expected to take it Home and Read it and Weep. When they found that it did not contain any Dark Skies or Headstones, they felt that they had been Bilked out of $1.50 each. It was Suggested that the Author of “Willie’s Good Night” was losing his Grip and seemed to have Written Himself Out.
He was not wholly Discouraged. He went out Lecturing on the Occult, just to prove to People that he had been Misjudged. The Local Chairman always introduced him as the Celebrated Author of “Willie’s Good Night.” Frequently he was Dragged away to a Home to meet all the Big Guns of one of these Towns that call a Lecture a Show. After he had been on Exhibition for a Half Hour or so, the same as the Albino or the Man with the Elastic Skin in the Main Curio Hall, the Host would clear a Space in the Center of the Room and announce that he was about to spring a Delightful Surprise on their Distinguished Guest. Little Fern, the Daughter of the County Recorder, was going to Speak “Willie’s Good Night.”
There are Times and Times, but those were the Times when he suffered Agony that went beyond the Limit.
The Author always knew the Verses were Bad enough to be Wicked, but he never guessed how Yellow they really were until he heard them recited by Little Girls who made the Full Stop at the Comma instead of the Period. He used to lose a Pound a Minute, and when he would start back to the Hotel his Shoes would be Full of Cold Perspiration. Finally, when he began to decline Invitations, against the advice of his Manager, it was said of him that he was Eccentric and appeared to have a Case of the Swell Head.
He had to retire into a Suburb, where he built a Wall around his Premises and put up Signs against Trespassing. He had a Chinaman for a Servant, because the Chinaman did not know he was an Author, but supposed him to be a Retired Porch-Climber.
Thus he was enabled to Forget for an Hour or Two at a Time.
MORAL: _Refrain from Getting Gay with the Emotions._