KNOCKING THE NEIGHBORS
BY GEORGE ADE AUTHOR OF "THE COLLEGE WIDOW," "FABLES IN SLANG," ETC.
Illustrated by Albert Leverin
GARDEN CITY NEW YORK DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 1912
Copyright, 1911, 1912, by GEORGE ADE
Copyright, 1912, by DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages, including the Scandinavian
CONTENTS The Roystering Blades The Flat-Dweller The Advantage of a Good Thing The Common Carrier The Heir and the Heiress The Undecided Bachelors The Wonderful Meal of Vittles The Galloping Pilgrim The Progressive Maniac Cognizant of our Shortcomings The Divine Spark Two Philanthropic Sons The Juvenile and Mankind The Honeymoon That Tried to Come Back The Local Pierpont The Life of the Party The Galumptious Girl Everybody's Friend and the Line-Bucker The Through Train The Long and Lonesome Ride Out of Class B into the King Row The Boy Who Was Told The Night Given over to Revelry He Should Have Overslept The Dancing Man The Collision How Albert Sat In The Treasure in the Strong Box The Old-Fashioned Prosecutor The Unruffled Wife and the Gallus Husband Books Made to Balance The Two Unfettered Birds The Telltale Tintype
KNOCKING THE NEIGHBORS
THE ROYSTERING BLADES
Out in the Celery Belt of the Hinterland there is a stunted Flag-Station.
Number Six, carrying one Day Coach and a Combination Baggage and Stock Car, would pause long enough to unload a Bucket of Oysters and take on a Crate of Eggs.
In this Settlement the Leading Citizens still wear Gum Arctics with large Buckles, and Parched Corn is served at Social Functions.
Two highly respected Money-Getters of pure American Stock held forth in this lonesome Kraal and did a General Merchandizing.
One was called Milt, in honor of the Blind Poet, and the other claimed the following brief Monicker, to wit: Henry.
These two Pillars of Society had marched at the head of the Women and School Children during the Dry Movement which banished King Alcohol from their Fair City.
As a result of their Efforts, Liquor was not to be obtained in this Town except at the Drug Stores and Restaurants or in the Cellar underlying any well-conducted Home.
For Eleven Months and Three Weeks out of every Calendar Year these two played Right and Left Tackle in the Stubborn Battle to Uplift the Community and better the Moral Tone.
They walked the Straight and Narrow, wearing Blinders, Check-Reins, Hobbles and Interference Pads.
Very often a Mother would hurry her little Brood to the Front Window when Milt or Henry passed by, carrying under his arm a Package of Corn Flakes and the Report of the General Secretary in charge of Chinese Missionary Work.
"Look!" she would say, indicating Local Paragon with index Finger. "If you always wash behind the Ears and learn your Catechism, you may grow up to be like Him."
But—every Autumn, about the time the Frost is on the Stock Market and Wall Street is in the Shock, Milt and Henry would do a Skylark Ascension from the Home Nest and Wing away toward the rising Sun.
They called it Fall Buying because both of them Bought and both of them Fell.
At Home neither of them would Kick In for any Pastime more worldly than a 10-cent M. P. Show depicting a large number of Insane People falling over Precipices.
The Blow-Off came on the Trip to the City. That was the Big Entertainment.
Every Nickel that could be held out went into the little Tin Bank, for they knew that when they got together 100 of these Washers, a man up in New York would let them have some Tiffany Water of Rare Vintage, with a Napkin wrapped around it as an Evidence of Good Faith.
On Winter Evenings Milt would don the Velvet Slippers and grill his Lower Extremities on the ornate Portico such as surrounds every high- priced Base-Burner.
While thus crisping himself he loved to read New Notes from Gotham.
He believed what it said in the Paper about a well-known Heiress having the Teeth of her favorite Pomeranian filled with Radium at a Cost of $120,000.
Whenever he got this kind of a Private Peek into the Gay Life of the Modern Babylon, he began to breathe through his Nose and tug at the Leash.
He longed to dash away on the Erie to look at the Iron Fence in front of the House of the Pomeranian.
When the Day of Days arrived, Milt and Henry would be seen at the Depot with congested Suit-Case and their Necks all newly shaven and powdered for the approaching Jubilee.
Each had pinned into his college-made Suit enough Currency to lift the Debt on the Parsonage.
Furthermore, each had in his throbbing Heart a determination to shoot Pleasure as it Flies, no matter how many Cartridges it took.
Already they were smoking Foreign Cigars and these were a mere Hint of what the Future had in Store.
While waiting for Number Six they wired for Two Rooms and Two Baths and to have Relays waiting in the Manicure Parlor.
Up at the Junction, where they caught the Limited, they moved into the High and began to peel from the Roll.
The Steak ordered in the Dining Car hung over the edge of the Table and they scuffled to see which one would pay the Check.
As for the Boy in the Buffet, every time he heard a Sound like 25 Cents he came out of the Dark Room and began to open small Original Packages.
When they approached the Metropolis, via the Tunnel, they thought they were riding in on a Curtiss Bi-Plane.
Between the Taxi and the Register they stopped to shake hands with an Old Friend who wore a White Suit and was known from Coast to Coast as the originator of a Pick-Me-Up which called for everything back of the Working Board except the License.
The Clerk let on to remember them and quoted a Bargain Rate of Six Dollars, meaning by the Day and not by the Month.
They wanted to know if that was the Best he had and he said it was, as the Sons of Ohio were having a Dinner in the Main Banquet Hall.
So they ordered a lot of Supplies sent up to each Room and wanted to know if there was a Good Show in Town—something that had been denounced by the Press.
The Clerk told of one in which Asbestos Scenery was used and Firemen had to stand in the Wings, so they tore over to the News Stand and bought two on the Aisle for $8 from a pale Goddess who kept looking at the Ceiling all during the Negotiations, for she seemed out of Sympathy with her Sordid Surroundings.
Then to the Rooms with their glittering Bedsteads and insulting prodigality of Towels.
After calling up the Office to complain of the Service, they shook the Moth Balls out of their Henry Millers and began to sort the Studs.
When fully attired in Evening Clothes, including the Sheet-Iron Shoes, they knew they looked like New York Club Men and the Flag Station seemed far away, as in another World.
Instead of the usual 6:30 Repast of Chipped Beef in Cream, Sody Biscuits and a Stoup of Gunpowder Tea, they ordered up Cape Cods, Pommes Let-it-go-at-that, Sweetbreads So-and-so, on and on past the partially heated Duck and Salad with Fringe along the Edges and Cheese that had waited too long and a Check for $17.40 and the Waiter peeved at being slipped a paltry $1.60.
Heigh-ho! It is a Frolicking Life!
Pity the Poor Folks who are now getting ready to court the Hay in Akron, Ohio, and Three Oaks, Michigan, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, with no thought of what they are Missing.
They remembered afterward being in a gilded Play-House with the Activities equally divided between a Trap-Drummer and 700 restless Young Women.
Then, being assailed by the Pangs of Hunger, they went out and purchased Crab Flakes at 20 cents a Flake, after which they paid to get their Hats, and next Morning they were back in their rooms, entirely surrounded by Towels.
On the third Afternoon, Milt suspended Fall Buying long enough to send his Family a Book of Views showing the Statue of Peter Cooper, the Aviary in Bronx Park, and Brooklyn Bridge by Moonlight.
Then, with a Clear Conscience, he went back and put his Foot on the Rail.
The morning on which their Bodies were taken to Pennsylvania Station broke bright and cheery.
Milt said somebody had fed him a Steam Coie and put Mittens on him and unscrewed his Knee-Caps.
Otherwise, he was O. K..
Henry kept waving the English Sparrows out of the Way, and asking why so many Bells were ringing.
Two weeks later, at the Union Revival Services, when Rev. Poindexter gave out that rousing old Stand-By which begins "Yield Not to Temptation," Milt and Henry arose from the Cushioned Seats and sang their fool Heads off.
MORAL: One who would put Satan on the Mat must get Inside Information from his Training Quarters.
Once there was a tired Denizen of the Big Town whose home was at the end of a Hallway in a Rabbit Warren known as the Minnehaha.
It was not a Tenement, because he had to pay $30 a Month for a compressed Suite overlooking 640 acres of Gravel Roof.
Sitting back in his Morris Chair with his Feet on the tiny Radiator he would read in the Sunday Paper all that Bunk about the Down-and-Outs of the City hiking back to the Soil and making $8,000 a year raising Radishes.
He saw the Pictures of the Waving Trees and the Growing Crops and the oleaginous Natives and he yearned to get out where he wouldn't hear the Trolleys in the Morning and the Kids could get Milk that came from a Cow.
So he gave up his Job in the Box Factory and moved out to Jasper Township and tackled Intensive Farming.
He had been Precinct Captain in the Ate Ward and by applying Metropolitan Methods at the Yap Primaries he succeeded in breaking into the Legislature and soon owned the Farm on which he lived and two others besides.
MORAL: One may get close to Nature, even in the Country.
THE ADVANTAGE OF A GOOD THING
Once there was a prosperous Manufacturer who had made his Stake by handling an every-day Commodity at a small Margin of Profit.
One Morning the Representative of a large Concern dealing in guaranteed Securities came in to sell him some gilt-edged Municipal Bonds that would net a shade under 5 per cent.
"I'll have to look into the Proposition very carefully," said the Investor, as he tilted himself back in his jointed Chair. "I must have the History of all previous Bond Issues under the same Auspices. Also the Report of an Expert as to possible Shrinkage of Assets. Any Investment should be preceded by a systematic and thorough Investigation."
Having delivered himself of this Signed Editorial he dismissed the Bond Salesman and went back to his Morning Mail.
The next Caller wore a broad Sombrero, leather Leggings, and a Bill Cody Goatee—also the Hair down over the Collar. He looked as if he had just escaped from a Medicine Show. After lowering the Curtains he produced from a Leather Pouch a glistening Nugget which he had found in a lonely Gulch near Death Valley.
The careful Business Guy began to quiver like an Aspen and bought 10,000 shares at $2 a Share on a Personal Guarantee that it would go to Par before Sept. 1st.
MORAL: It all depends on the Bait.
THE COMMON CARRIER
Once there was a little E-Flat Town that needed a Direct Communication with a Trunk Line.
A Promoter wearing Sunday Clothes and smoking 40-cent Cigars came out from the City to see about it.
The Daily Paper put him on the Front Page. Five Dollars was the Set- Back for each Plate at the Banquet tendered him by the Mercantile Association. A Bonus was offered, together with a Site for the Repair Shops and the Round House.
When the College Graduates in Khaki Suits began to drag Chains across Lots, a wave of Joy engulfed Main Street from the Grain Elevator clear out to the Creamery.
Then came 10,000 Carusos, temporarily residing in Box Cars, to disarrange the Face of Nature and put a Culvert over the Crick. Real Estate Dealers emerged from their Holes and local Rip Van Winkles began to sit up and rub their Eyes.
One morning a Train zipped through the Cut and pulled up at the New Station.
The Road was an Assured Fact. The Rails were spiked down; the Rolling Stock was in Commission; Trains were running according to Schedule.
There was no longer any Reason for Waiting, so the Citizens hiked over to the Court House and began to file Damage Suits. The Town Council started in to pass Ordinances and the Board of Equalization whooped the Taxes.
Horny-handed Jurors hung around the Circuit Court-Room waiting for a Chance to take a Wallop at the soulless Corporation.
When the Promoter came along on a Tour of Inspection, the only Person down to meet him was the Sheriff.
Children in the Public School practised the new Oval Penmanship by filling their Copy-Books with the following popular Catch-Line: "When you have a Chance to Soak the Railroad, go to it."
And the Trains never ran to suit Everybody.
MORAL: Go easy with Capital until you get it Roped and Tied.
THE HEIR AND THE HEIRESS
Once upon a Time there was a Work-Horse who used to lie awake Nights framing up Schemes to Corral more Collateral to leave to the Olive Branches.
They may have looked like Jimpson Weeds to the rest of the World but to Pa and Ma they were A-1 Olive Branches.
Pa was a self made Proposition—Sole-Leather, Hand-Stitched and Four- Ply, with Rivets around the Edge.
His Business Career had been one long Rassle with Adverse Circumstances. Nothing was ever handed to him on a Sheffield Tray with Parsley around it. The World owed him a Living, but in order to collect it he had to conduct his Arguments with a piece of Lead-Pipe.
He was out for the Kids, if you know what that means. He was collecting Hebrew Diplomas and he had a special Liking for the light-colored Variety with a large C in the Corner.
He was going to provide for his Family, regardless of what happened to other Families.
He had a little Office back of the Bank and made a Specialty of helping those overtaken by Trouble. Any one in Financial Straits who went into the Back Office to arrange for a Loan was expected to open Negotiations by removing the Right Eye and laying it on the Table.
Pa had Mormon Whiskers and a Mackerel Eye and wore a Shawl instead of an Overcoat and kept a little Bag of Peppermint Drops in his Tail- Pocket and walked Pussy-Foot and took more Stock in Isaiah than he did in the Sermon on the Mount.
The Above is merely a Rough Outline, but it will help you to understand why his Wife preceded him to the Other Shore.
She was a Good Woman who never formed the Matinee Habit and up to the Day of her Death she could put her Hand on her Heart and truly say she had not wasted any Money on Jewelry or Cut Flowers.
But she could have written a large Book on how it feels to get up in the Morning and stir a little Oatmeal.
Pa and Ma saved and skimped and held out and trimmed and maneuvered for Years.
They had been brought up in the School of Hard Knocks, but they wanted Bertrand and Isabel to go through Life on Ball Bearings.
Pa finally went to his Reward, according to the Local Paper, and then it came out that Bertrand and Isabel had $400,000 each, which was more than Pa had ever turned in to the Assessor.
These two Children had been sheltered from the Great World, although never stinted in the matter of Sassafras Tea or the Privilege of reading Books written by Josephus and others.
As soon as he came into his inheritance, Bertrand looked about in a startled Manner and then bought himself a Plush Hat and began to cultivate Pimples.
A few Days later he might have been seen riding in a Demonstrating Car with a Salesman who wore Goggles and who told him that all the Swell Guys were putting in Orders for the $6,200 Type with the jeweled Mud- Guards. And next Morning the Sexton observed that Father, by turning over in the Grave, had somewhat loosened the fresh Earth.
Bertrand had Modern Plumbing put into the Old House and built a Porte Cochere on the Side and moved a lot of Red Velvet Furniture into the Parlor. Some said that the Moaning Sound heard at Night was only the Wind in the Evergreens, but others allowed that it was the returned Spirit of the Loan Agent checking over the Expenses.
Isabel stopped wearing Things that scratched her and began ordering from a Catalogue, because the Local Dealers didn't carry anything but Common Stuff. Also she began to Entertain, and the first time she served Hot-House Asparagus in January, the House rocked on its Foundations.
Bertrand soon knew the Difference between a Rickey and a Sour and was trying to pretend to let on to be fond of the Smoky Taste in that Imported Article which has done so much to mitigate the Horrors of Golf.
In the meantime, Isabel had got so far along that she could tell by the Feel whether the Goods were real or only Mercerized, and each Setting Sun saw a new crimp in the Bank Account.
All Statisticians agree that a couple of Heirs can spend Much Money and yet besides if they do not work at anything else. Especially when every Pearl in the Rope represents a Chattel Mortgage and a fancy Weskit is a stand-off for One Month's Rent of a good piece of Town Property.
Bertrand married a tall Blonde who knew that Columbus discovered America, and which kind of Massage Cream to buy, and let it go at that.
They went abroad and began to Ritz themselves. Every time Madam walked into one of those places marked "English Spoken while you Wait"—Zing! The Letter of Credit resembled a piece of Apple Pie just after the willing Farm Hand has taken a Hack at it.
Isabel hastened to make an Alliance with one of the oldest and toniest Families west of Bucyrus and north of Evansville. She succeeded in capturing an awful Swell Boy who wore an Outside Pocket on his Dress Coat and made a grand Salad Dressing (merely rubbing the Bowl with a Sprig of Garlic) and was otherwise qualified to maintain Social Leadership all the way from the Round House up to the Hub and Spoke Factory on the Hill.
Isabel's Husband built a House near the Country Club so as to get the Automobile Trade, coming and going. Some of the Best People would drop in and show the Ice-Box how to take a Joke.
Late at Night, when a Hush fell upon the $28,000 Bungalow, the Deep Quiet signified that some had Passed Away and others had locked Horns at Bridge—10 Cents a Point.
Even Lake Superior would go Dry if tapped at two different Points by Drain Pipes of Sufficient Diameter.
After Bertrand returned from Europe with his Paintings and a Table d'Hote Vocabulary, he and Brother-in-Law began to compare Mortgages. By consulting the Road-Map they discovered that the Primrose Path would lead them over a high Precipice into a Stone Quarry, so they decided to take a Short Cut at Right Angles and head for the Millionaire Colony.
The Day they started for New York City with a Coil of Strong Rope, their purpose being to tie Kuhn, Loeb Co., Hand and Foot, it is said that a long vertical Crack appeared in one of the most expensive Monuments in Springvale Cemetery, as if some one underneath had been trying to break out and Head Off something.
In preserving the form of a Narrative it becomes necessary to add that Bertrand is now the obliging Night Clerk at a Hotel in Louisville, with a Maximum Rate of $1.50 Single and a Shower Bath.
Brother-in-Law is Assistant Treasurer at a Temple of Amusement which guarantees all the latest and best Films.
What became of the Bundle?
When Pa locked up his Desk and started for the Pearly Gates, he left behind in the office an humble Man Friday, who took care of the Books and did the Collecting.
This Understrapper was a Model Citizen of 35 who wore a plain String Tie, drank Malted Milk and was slightly troubled with Bronchitis.
When the Children began throwing it at the Birds, he bought himself a Net and got Busy.
Any time Anybody wanted to plaster a Mortgage on a Desirable Corner he was there with a Fountain Pen and a Notary.
It nearly broke his Back to carry all the Property, but he kept buying it in and then hung over his Desk until all Hours of the Night figuring how he could meet the Payments.
He wore the same Overcoat for nine years and his Wife never saw one of those Hats with Bagoozulum and Bazoosh flounced all over it unless she went down town and looked through a Window.
One Day a friend remonstrated with the Slave.
"Why are you wearing yourself to a Shadow and getting Old before your Time?" he asked. "What shall it avail a Man if he is Principal Depositor at a Bank when it comes to riding behind Horses that wear Plumes?"
"I will tell you," replied the Slave. "I have a Boy named Bertrand and a little Girl named Isabel and my Wife and I have decided that it is our Duty to leave them Well-Fixed."
MORAL: Somebody must rake up the Leaves before the Young People can have a successful Bon-Fire.
THE UNDECIDED BACHELORS
Once upon a Time two Mavericks lived together in a Cubby-Hole in a European Hotel in a surging Metropolis.
They worked for a grinding Corporation, each pulling down a Stipend that enabled him to indulge in Musical Comedies, Rotation Pool, Turkish Cigarettes, Link Buttons and other Necessities of Life.
Often they would put their Feet on the Window Sill and talk about the Future.
They said that every Man should have a Home of his Own. To the Beanery thrice a Day and then back to the Box Stall was no Life for a refined Caucasian.
Number One had a Theory that Two could get along as cheaply as One, if Wife would practise Rigid Economy. Rents were lower in the Suburbs. He looked up into the Pipe-Smoke and caught a Vision of a Bungalow with Hollyhocks in front and a Hammock swinging in the Breeze. Somehow he felt that he never would save any Money until he took the High Jump and became a Family Man.
Number Two had a vague Yearning to experiment with Matrimony, but he said he would wait until he was Fixed. When he could open up the little Bank-Book and see in plain sight the Ice-Box and the Talking Machine and the Dining-Room Chairs, then, and not until then, would he ask a Nice Girl to leave a Comfortable Home and take a Gamble.
Number One picked out a Stenographer who was ready to retire, on account of her Spelling, and then he called on the License Clerk, a Presbyterian Minister and the Weekly Payment shark.
He packed up his Banjo and the Military Brushes and left Number Two marooned in the Rat Pit with the Oak Dresser and the Pictures of Anna Held on the Wall.
Number Two said he would swim the River and join him in the Promised Land as soon as he was Two Thousand to the Good.
Soon after the break-up of the Damon and Pythias Combination, one of them was transferred to the Detroit Branch.
They did not meet again until ten years later.
One day the Benedict had little Marjorie and the Baby out at the Public Zoo, so they could hear the Sea Lions bark, when Number Two came along in a Sight-Seeing Automobile with other Delegates to the National Conclave of the Knights of Neurasthenia.
It was a Happy Meeting between the two Old Friends.
Number One reported that his Little Girl could recite long Poems by Heart and was about to take Music Lessons. He was living in a Flat, but was about to move.
Number Two said he was Finer than Silk except that Hotel Cooking had got to him at last and he had to stop in and see an Osteopath every Morning.
"You are still Unmarried?" asked Number One.
"Yes," was the Reply. "I am still $2,230 Shy of what a Guy needs before tackling such a risky Game. How are you making it?"
"I am Broke, thank you," replied Number One.
With the utmost Good Feeling re-established between them, they took Marjorie and the Baby over to see the Sacred Cow and the other Dumb Animals.
MORAL: Opportunity knocks once at Every Man's Door and then keeps on Knocking.
THE WONDERFUL MEAL OF VITTLES
Once upon a Time a Rugged Character from the Middle West was in New York City fixing up a Deal.
Although he wore overlapping Cuffs and a ready-made Tie, he had a Rating, so a certain Promoter with an Office in Broad Street found it advisable to make a Fuss over him.
The Promoter invited the prospective Mark to Luncheon and arranged to have the same served in a snug Corner entirely screened by Oleanders and Palms.
The Chef received private Instructions to throw himself, so he personally supervised a dainty Menu.
When the Visitor entered the far-famed Establishment and found himself entirely protected from the Vulgar Gaze he knew that at last he was in the Headquarters for sure-enough Food.
"What is it?" he asked, gazing into the liquid Amber of the First Course.
"Turtle Soup," replied the Host.
"We shoot the Blame Things just for Practice, out our Way," said the Guest, "but if I went home and told my Wife I'd been eatin' Turtle she wouldn't live with me."
So the Alsatian Nobleman hurried it away and substituted a Tid-Bit with Cray-Fish as the principal Ornament in the Ensemble.
"It's a Craw-Dabber!" exclaimed the horrified Man from the Plains. "I see Ten Million of them little Cusses every Spring, but I wouldn't touch one with a Ten-Foot Pole."
To relieve the embarrassing Situation, the Host gave a Sign and the Menials came running with the Third Course, a tempting array of Frog Saddles.
"A Frog is a Reptile," said the Hoosier, backing away from the Table. "I've heard they were Et, but I never believed it. I can go out any Morning and gather a Car-Load."
The next Serving was Breast of Guinea Hen with Mushrooms under Glass on the Side.
"On my Farm I've got a lot of these Things," said the Guest, poking at the Guinea Hen timidly with his Fork. "We use them as Alarm Clocks, but I'd just as soon eat a Turkey Buzzard."
"How about the Mushrooms?"
"Eight People in our Township were poisoned this Summer from foolin' with that Truck. My pasture's speckled with 'em, but we never pick 'em. Most of them are Toadstools. I tried a Real One once at a K. P. Banquet. It tasted a good deal like a Rubber Glove."
The only remaining Item before Dessert was a tempting Salad of Water Cress.
The Guest identified it as something that grew in the Crick below the Spring and was commonly classified as Grass.
"Perhaps you had better order for Yourself," said the Host, as the lowly Water Cress followed the others into the Discard.
The Guest motioned the Waiter to come close and said: "I want a nice Oyster Stew and some Sparkling Burgundy."
MORAL: A Delicacy is something not raised in the same County.
THE GALLOPING PILGRIM
A certain affluent Bachelor happened to be the only Grandson of a rugged Early Settler who wore a Coon-Skip Cap and drank Corn Juice out of a Jug. Away back in the Days when every Poor Man had Bacon in the Smoke House, this Pioneer had been soaked in a Trade and found himself loaded up with a Swamp Subdivision in the Edge of Town.
Fifty years later the City had spread two miles beyond the Swamp and Grandson was submerged beneath so much Unearned Increment that he began to speak with what sounded to him like an English Accent and his Shirts were ordered from Paris.
On the 1st of every Month the Agents would crawl into the Presence of the Grandson of the mighty Muskrat Hunter and dump before him a Wagon- load of Paper Money which had been snatched away from the struggling Shop-Keepers, who, in turn, had wheedled it from the people who paid a Nickel apiece for Sunday Papers so as to look at the Pictures of the Decorations in the Supper Room at the Assembly Ball graced by the Presence of the aforesaid Bachelor whose Grandfather had lifted the original Catfish out of the Chicago River.
Then the Representative of the Old Family would take a Garden Rake and pattern all this hateful Currency into a neat Mound, after which a milk-fed Secretary would iron it out and disinfect it and sprinkle it with Lilac Water and tie it into artistic Packets using Old Gold Ribbon.
After that, it was Hard Lines for the Bachelor, because he had to sit by a window at the Club and dope out some new Way of getting all that Coin back into Circulation.
As a result of these Herculean Efforts to vaporize his Income, he found himself at the age of 40 afflicted with Social Gastritis. He had gorged himself with the Pleasures of this World until the sight of a Menu Card gave him the Willies and the mere mention of Musical Comedy would cause him to break down and Cry like a Child.
He had crossed the Atlantic so often that he no longer wished to sit at the Captain's Table. He had rolled them high at Monte Carlo and watched the Durbar at Delhi and taken Tea on the Terrace at Shepheard's in Cairo and rickshawed through Japan and ridden the surf in Honolulu, while his Name was a Household Word among the Barmaids of the Ice Palace in London, otherwise known as the Savoy.
Occasionally he would return to his provincial Home to raise the Rents on the Shop-Keepers and give out an Interview criticising the New School of Politicians for trifling with Vested Interests and seeking to disturb Existing Conditions.
Any time his Rake-Off was reduced from $10 a Minute to $9.98 he would let out a Howl like a Prairie Wolf and call upon Mortimer, his Man, for Sympathy.
After Twenty Years of getting up at Twilight to throw aside the Pyjamas and take a Tub and ease himself into the Costume made famous by John Drew, the Routine of buying Golden Pheasants and Special Cuvee Vintages for almost-Ladies, preserved by Benzoate of Soda and other Chemical Mysteries, began to lose its Sharp Zest.
In other Words, he was All In.
He was Track-Sore and Blase and full of Ongway. He had played the whole String and found there was nothing to it and now he was ready to retire to a Monastery and wear a Gunny-Sack Smoking Jacket and live on Spinach.
The Vanities of the Night-World had got on his Nerves at last. Instead of sitting 8 Feet away from an Imported Orchestra at 2 A. M. and taunting his poor old Alimentary System with Sea Food, he began to prefer to take a 10-Grain Sleeping Powder and fall back in the Alfalfa.
About Noon the next Day he would come up for Air, and in order to kill the rest of the Day he would have to hunt up a Game of Auction Bridge with three or four other gouty old Mavericks.
When the Carbons begin to burn low in the sputtering Arc Lights along the Boulevard of Pleasure and the Night Wind cuts like a Chisel and the Reveler finds his bright crimson Brannigan slowly dissolving into a Bust Head, there is but one thing for a Wise Ike to do and that is to Chop on the Festivities and beat it to a Rest Cure.
That is just what the well-fixed Bachelor decided to do.
He resolved to Marry and get away from the Bright Lights and lie down somewhere in a quilted Dressing Gown and a pair of Soft Slippers and devote the remainder of his Life to a grand clean-up of the Works of Arnold Bennett.
He selected a well-seasoned Senorita who was still young enough to show to your Men Friends but old enough to cut out all the prevalent Mushgush about the Irish Drama and Norwegian Art and Buddhism and the true Symbolism of Russian Dancing.
Best of all, she had a spotless Reputation, holding herself down to one Bronx at a Time and always going behind a Screen to do her Inhaling.
They were Married according to the new Ceremonies devised by the Ringling Brothers. As they rode away to their Future Home, the old Stager leaned back in the Limousine and said: "At last the Bird has Lit. I am going to put on the Simple Life for an Indefinite Run. I have played the Hoop-La Game to a Standstill, so it is me for a Haven of Rest."
As soon as they were safely in their own Apartments, the beautiful Bride began to do Flip Flops and screech for Joy.
"At last I have a License to cut loose!" she exclaimed. "For years I have hankered and honed to be Dead Game and back Excitement right off the Cards, but every time I pulled a Caper the stern-faced Mater would be at Elbow, saying: 'Nix on the Acrobatics or you'll lose your Number.' Now I'm a regular honest-to-goodness Married Woman and I don't recognize any Limit except the Sky-Line. I grabbed you because I knew you had been to all the Places that keep Open and could frame up a new Jamboree every day in the Year. I'm going to plow an 8-foot Furrow across Europe and Dine forevermore at Swell Joints where famous Show Girls pass so close to your Table that you can almost reach out and Touch them. I'm going to Travel 12 months every Year and do all the Stunts known to the most imbecile Globe-Trotter."
A few Weeks after that, a Haggard Man with tattered Coat-Tails was seen going over the old familiar Jumps.
MORAL: Those who Marry to Escape something usually find Something Else.
THE PROGRESSIVE MANIAC
Once there was a staid and well-behaving Citizen who took home a dab of Steak, wrapped up in Brown Paper, nearly every Evening, and found his Excitement by working on the Puzzle Column in the Church Paper.
In order to run out to his Farm and save the Expense of keeping a Gee- Gee, he purchased a kind of Highway Beetle, known as a Runabout. It was a One-Lunger with a Wheel Base of nearly 28 inches and two Coal Oil Gleamers.
When standing still, it panted like a Dachshund and breathed Blue Smoke through the Gills.
It steered with a Rudder, the same as a Canal Boat, and every time it started up a 4 per cent Grade it became Black in the Face and tried to lie down.
All the large brutal-looking Cars with the swollen Wheels came along and tried to Ditch him. They showed him the same courteous consideration that would be lavished upon a Colored Republican Orator in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
When he pulled up alongside of the Road to adjust the Buzzer and jiggle the Feed and clean the Plug, the idle Spectators would stand around and remark that the mixture was wrong and the Ignition was a Punk and the Transmission was a Fliv. So he knew he was In Wrong.
He traded for a dashing 2-Cylinder Affair painted Red, with a Tonneau as wide and roomy as a Telephone Booth, and approached from the extreme Rear by a small Door, as in the case of a Blind Pig.
When he turned in the Runabout, he was allowed one Outer Casing and a Monkey-wrench in Exchange.
He was Some Motorist for about Three Weeks after the delivery of Juggernaut Number Two. He wore Leather Clothes, the same as Barney Oldfield.
But when he bumped up against the Owners of the Big Touring Cars he was just as much at home as a One-armed Man at a Husking Bee.
He began to discover that in the Gasoline Set a Man is rated by the number of Cylinders he carries.
At the beginning of the Third Season we find him steering a long, low, rakish Chariot of Fire, with a Clock, a Trunk-Rack, an Emergency Ice- Box and all the other Comforts of Home. He had learned to smell a Constable a Mile off and whenever he ran up behind a Pewee Coffee- Grinder he went into the High and made the Cheap Machine look like a Fish.
Whenever the Bobbler pointed to anything short of 40 he felt that he was just the same as standing still. He loved to throw open the Muffler and hit the High Spots, never stopping until the Wheels became clogged up with Live Stock and Poultry.
One day while he was breezing along the Pike at the easy Clip usually maintained by the Twentieth Century Limited, he heard behind him a low and sullen Roar, as of the Wind playing through 1,000 Pine Trees, and something Gray and about as long-waisted as a Torpedo Boat shot past him and went over the Hill. He fell forward on the Wheel and began to Weep.
He had been Shown Up.
He knew that he could never look his Fellow-Man in the Eye until he traded in and got a Six with enough Power to jump Small Streams and Climb Trees.
At last he appeared on the Road with the Real Thing. It had Armor Plate all over it and a 10-foot Cow Catcher in front, and the Driver had to sit on the Small of his Back and wear a Helmet.
The Morning he ran it out of the Garage a Prominent Insurance Company foreclosed on the Farm, but he was in a cheery Mood, for he knew he could cut Rings around any other Balloon in the County.
One Morning he went around a Curve on Two Wheels and tried to dislodge a New Bridge turned out by the Steel Trust and imbedded in solid Concrete.
A Neighbor went to the Widow and said: "I have Sad News for you. Your Husband has gone to his Reward."
"When did he start?" asked the Bereaved Woman.
"At Ten Thirty-Eight," was the Reply.
"What Time is it Now?"
"It lacks Four Minutes of being Eleven o'Clock."
"Well," she remarked, in a Relieved Tone, "He must be There by this Time, unless he has had a Puncture."
MORAL: The Cocaine and Morphine Habits can be Cured.
COGNIZANT OF OUR SHORTCOMINGS
On the deck of a Trans-Atlantic Skiff, a certain Old Traveler, who owed allegiance to George and Mary, reclined on his Cervical Vertebrae with a Plaid Shawl across him and roasted Our Native Land.
He told the American in the next Steamer Chair that he had been unable to get his Tea at the usual Hour, and out in the place called Minnie- Apples the stupid Waiter never had heard of Bloaters for Breakfast. Furthermore, he had not seen his Boots again after placing them outside the Door in Chicago.
The Houses were overheated and the Railway Carriages were not like those at Home, and the Reporters were Forward Chaps, and Ice should not be added with the Soda, because it was not being Done.
He was jolly glad to escape from the Wretched Hole and get back to his own Lodgings, where he could go into Cold Storage and have a Joint of Mutton and Brussels Sprouts as often as desired.
The Yankee cringed under the Attack and then fully agreed with the Son of amphibious Albion. He said we were a new and crude People who did not know how to wear Evening Clothes or eat Stilton Cheese, and our Politicians were corrupt, and Murderers went unpunished, while the Average Citizen was a dyspeptic Skate afflicted with Moral Strabismus.
Then he retired to his State Room to weep over the Situation, and the British Subject said: "The American is a Poltroon, for he will not defend his own Hearth and Fireside."
A Cook's Tourist from Emporia, Kansas, dropped into the Vacant Chair. When the Delegate from The Rookery, Wormwood Scrubs, Islington S. E., resumed his scorching Arraignment of the U. S. A., he got an awful Rise out of the Boy from the Corn Belt.
The Emporia Man said there were more Bath Tubs to the Square Mile out in his Burg than you could find in the West End of London, and more Paupers and Beggars in one Square Mile of the East End of London than you could find in the whole State of Kansas. He said there were fewer Murders in England because good Opportunities were being overlooked.
He said he could Tip any one in England except, possibly, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
It was his unbiased Opinion that London consisted of a vast swarm of melancholy Members of the Middle and Lower Classes of the Animal Kingdom who ate Sponge Cake with Clinkers in it, drank Tea, smoked Pipes and rode by Bus, and thought they were Living.
Standing beneath the rippling folds of Old Glory, the proud Citizen of the Great Republic declared that we could wallop Great Britain at any Game from Polo up to Prize-Fighting and if we cut down on the Food Supplies the whole blamed Runt of an undersized Island would starve to death in a Week.
With quivering Nostrils, he heaped Scorn and Contumely upon any Race that would call a Pie a Tart. In conclusion, he expressed Pity for those who never had tasted Corn on the Cob.
After he had gone up to the Bridge Deck to play Shuffle-Board, the Representative of the Tightest little Island on the Map took out his Note-Book and made the following Entry: "Every Beggar living in the States is a Bounder and a Braggart."
That evening in the Smoke Room he began to pull his favorite Specialty of ragging the Yanks on a New Yorker, who interrupted him by saying: "Really, I know nothing about my own Country. I spend the Winter in Egypt, the Spring in London, the Summer in Carlsbad, and the Autumn in Paree."
So the Traveler afterward reported to a Learned Society that the Typical American had become a denatured Expatriate.
MORAL: No Chance.
THE DIVINE SPARK
One Evening at a Converted Rink known as the Grand Opera House, a flock of intrepid Amateurs put on a War Drama.
Lila, principal Child of the Egg and Poultry King, played a Daughter of the Southland, with her Hair shaken out and Lamp Black on her Eye- Winkers, so as to look like Maxine.
All of her Relations and the other Members of the Pocahontas Bridge Whist and Pleasure Club were in Front, and they gave her a Hand every time she stepped out from behind a Tree.
She scored what is known in the Ibsen cult as a Knock-Out.
At 11 P. M., she was up on a lonesome Eminence, right between Sara Bernhardt and Julia Marlowe, waiting for a Telegram from C. F. to come on and tackle any Role that was too heavy for Maude Adams.
The proud Parents awoke next Morning to discover that Lady Macbeth was boarding with them.
When she moved from one Room to another, the Portieres had to be spread the entire length of the Pole, so as to make Room for her Head.
A local Haberdasher, who had been plotting to surround her with a new Bungalow and a lot of Mission Furniture, went to call as per Usual and found her away Up Stage, trying to look like Margaret Anglin in the Big Scene.
She was too busy to Hold Hands, for she was mapping out a Career which terminated with an Electric Sign on Broadway and the Street jammed with up-town Limousines.
So the Gents' Furnisher moved down the Street to a Brick House, the unmarried Inmates of which would begin burning Greek Fire and sending up Balloons every time a Live One slammed the Front Gate.
Lila had the Bacillus Theatricus gnawing in every part of her System.
She could see the magnificent Play House crowded from Pit to Dome, just as the Producing Manager sees it every August when the Pipe is drawing freely.
She could hear the Leading Man in the Dress Suit say, as he pointed up the Marble Stairway, "Ah, here comes the Countess Zika now." And then She would enter trippingly, wearing $900 worth of spangled Raiment, whereupon the Vast Audience would stand up and Cheer.
Whilst enjoying this Trance she wore a Yellow Kimono and had her Meals sent to the Room.
Father saw that she was Hooked, so he loaded her into a Parlor Car and took her up to a School of Dramatic Art to have her searched for Talent.
The Head Crimp of this refined Shake-Down watched her do the Scene in which Ophelia goes Dotty and picks the imaginary Dandelions, and when it was all over and Shakespeare had been reduced to a Pulp, he slapped old Ready Money on the Back and told him his Daughter was a Phenom.
She had the Dramatic Instinct and the Fire of Genius and that indefinable Something which enables Eva Tanguay to earn more than the President of the United States.
With a couple of hundred Lessons in Correct Breathing, and the Vocal Cords loosened up with a Glove-Stretcher, and a row of Scallops put on the Technique, Mary Anderson would be right back in our midst.
So Lila got ready to fill the Vacancy caused by the Retirement of Ellen Terry, while Papa went back to the little Office in one corner of the Ware-House and began to sign Checks.
It took many an Egg to have Lila properly Conservatoried.
At last she came home with a Diploma showing that she was an Actress.
After that, she merely needed a Play and a Company and a lot of Scenery and a Manager and a Theater and the soft old Public buying of the Scalpers, in order to realize her modest Ambition to become a Real Star.
She took her Diploma and the Local Press Notices up to New York to see what she could get on them, and found 10,000 other incipient Modjedskas hitting the worn Trail that led from one Agency to another.
Artistic Temperaments were more Abundant than Lamp Posts, and getting an Audience with a Big Gun was just as easy as Opening a Time-Lock with a Hat Pin.
She had an offer at the Hippodrome to walk in front of an Elephant, waving a prop Palm, but she spurned it, because she was ready to do Desdemona at a Moment's Notice.
As for the Laudatory Article written by a would-be Willie Winter of the wild and wooly West, she couldn't find any one in the neighborhood of 42nd Street who had even heard of the Tank Town in which her Folks were so Prominent.
In order to get Experience, she signed up with a No. 4 Company, playing the Part of the deaf-and-dumb lady who crosses the Stage and removes the Tea Things early in the Second Act.
When the Troupe went on the Rocks at Mauch Chunk, Penna., the erstwhile Favorite of the Pocahontas Club found herself seated on a Trunk marked "Theater" standing off a Deputy Sheriff and waiting for an Answer to her Wire.
The First Old Woman, who remembered Edwin Booth, came and sat beside her.
"Do not be discouraged, Honey," said She. "Go right back and start all over, and possibly sometime Next Year you will again have the blessed Privilege of going up a neglected Alley twice a Day and changing your Clothes in a Barn. Any Girl with your Looks and Family Connections can curl up in a Four-Poster at night and then saunter to the Bath over a soft Rag in the Morning, but only a throbbing Genius can make these Night Jumps in a Day Coach and stop at a Hotel which is operated as an Auxiliary to a first-class Saloon. It will be Hard Sledding for the first 15 or 20 Years, but, by the time you are 45, you may reasonably count on getting 20 Weeks out of every 52, running around in front of a Kinetoscope."
Lila pulled into the Scene of her Early Triumphs with a mere suggestion of No. 2 Grease Paint still lingering behind the Ears.
As the Train rolled through the Yards, the Foreman of the Section Gang narrowly escaped being hit in the Head with a tin Make-Up Box hurled from the rear of the Observation Car.
Next day she had a strip of Red Carpet spread for the Haberdasher and was learning to Cook in Paper Bags.
Whenever she hears of a Good Show coming to Town she invites all of her Friends to come out to the Bungalow and Play Rhum on the Mission Furniture.
MORAL: The True Friend of Humanity is one who goes to the Home Talent Benefit for Something and Hisses all Evening.
TWO PHILANTHROPIC SONS
Two Boys sallied forth from a straggling Village in search of an irrational Female known as Dame Fortune.
It was a sad Jolt to the Walking Vegetables back in the Stockade when they heard, on Good Authority, that Ezra and Bill were slamming it over the Plate and batting above .400.
They simply wagged the ossified Domes and hoped the Boys were getting it Honestly.
Ezra and Bill, up among the inflammatory Posters and the nervous Electric Signs, kept on playing Tag with the Sherman Act until they had it in Oodles and Bundles and Bales and Stacks.
Finally when they became so prosperous that they had to wear Shoes specially made, with Holes in the top, they began to be troubled with Tender Recollections of Humble Birthplace.
Through the Haze of Intervening Years they saw the Game of Two-Old-Cat in the Vacant Lot back of the M. E. Church and forgot all about sleeping in the refrigerated Attic and going down in the morning to thaw out the Wooden Pump.
They yearned to elbow out from the Congested Traffic of the cold and heartless City and renew Sweet Associations.
They wanted to wander once more down the Avenues of Rhubarb and clasp hands with Old Friends whose simple Hearts averaged about 14 Throbs to the Minute.
It is the regulation Dream of every Financial Yeggman to go back to his Old Town wearing a Laurel Wreath and have the School Children throw Moss Roses in his Pathway.
So Ezra sent on a Proposition.
He wanted to build a Library at the corner of Fifth and Main, thereby making it easy for his old Neighbors to read the Six Best Sellers without plugging the Author's Game.
He offered to give 20,000 Bucks if the Citizens would raise 5,000 more and maintain the Thing.
Ezra had not been in the Habit of reading anything except the Tape and he cared about as much for George Bernard Shaw as George Bernard Shaw cared for him.
Nevertheless, he wanted to be remembered, 50 Years hence, as the Man who built the Library and not as the guy who dealt from the Bottom of the Deck, utilizing the Sleeve Device and the Bosom Hold-Out.
By the use of Anaesthetics and Forceps the 5,000 was secured.
Then the Building was erected and the only Criticism made was that the Location was poor and the dod-blasted Concern looked like a Barn and it was arranged wrong inside and nobody didn't want no Library nohow.
When Ezra came down to the Dedication to face an outraged and tax- burdened People, he was just as popular as Tonsilitis or Sciatica ever dared to be.
Bill came back also.
He floated into Town one day and appeared in Jimison's General Store and called for a Good Cigar.
He told Mr. Jimison to take one and called up the Boys around the Stove.
When the Word got out that Bill was Buying over at the Bee Hive, representative Citizens came on the Jump from the Harness Shop and the Undertaking Parlor and the Elite Bowling Alley.
Every Man that showed up got a Lottie Lee with a Band around it, and when Bill left on the 3:40 a Mob followed him to the Train.
Ever after that the Word was freely passed around that Bill was a Prince.
MORAL: In scattering Seeds of Kindness, do it by Hand and not by Machinery.
THE JUVENILE AND MANKIND
Once there was a Kid who wore a Uniform that fit him too Soon and a Cap on one Ear. His Job was to answer the Buzzer and take Orders from any one who could show 25 Cents.
In the Morning he might be acting as Pack-Pony for some Old Lady on a Shopping Spree and in the Afternoon he would be delivering a Ton of Coal.
He had been waved aside by Butlers and ordered about by Blond Stenographers and joshed by Traveling Salesmen until his Child-Nature was hard and flinty.
In answering the Call of Duty he had gone to the Dressing Room and taken a private Flash at the Magazine Beauty before she began to attach the hair or spread the Enamel.
He had been in the private Lair of the Sure-Thingers when they were cooking up some new Method of collecting much Income without moving out of their Chairs.
He had been by while Husbands, with the Scotch standing high in the Gauge, collaborated on the Lie which was to pacify little Katisha, waiting in the Flat.
Before delivering this Masterpiece of Fiction he would have to do a little Sherlocking and finally locate Katisha in one of those Places where they serve it in Tea-Cups.
In the Homes of the Rich and Great where he delivered Orchids and Invitations and perfumed Regrets he would overhear Candid Expressions which indicated that every Social Leader was trying to slip Knock-Out Drops into somebody else's Claret Cup.
Around the Haunts of Business he would stand on one Foot while the Boss carefully worded the Message which was to read like a Contract while leaving a Loop-Hole about the size of the Hudson Tunnel.
One night the Kid was returning homeward with a Comrade in Misery. As the Trolley carried them toward that portion of the City where Children are still in Vogue, they fell to talking of the Future and what it might have in Store for a Bright Boy who could keep on the Trot all day and sustain himself by eating Cocoa-Nut Pie.
The Comrade hoped to be a Vaudeville Actor, but the Kid said, after some Meditation: "During the past Two Years I have mingled in all Grades of Society and I have decided to round out my Career by being a Deep-Sea Diver."
MORAL: A little Learning is a dangerous thing and a good deal of it is Suffocating.
THE HONEYMOON THAT TRIED TO COME BACK
Once there was an undivorced Couple that would get up every G. M. and put on the five-ounce Mitts and wait for the Sound of the Gong.
Each was working for the Championship of the Flat and proved to be a Glutton for Punishment.
Every time he landed a crushing Hay-Maker on her Family History she countered with a short-arm Jolt on his Personal Appearance.
Both would retire to the Corners breathing heavily, but still full of Combat.
He loved to start out the Day by finding in the Paper what a Professor connected with the University of Chicago had said about the American Woman being a vain and shallow Parasite with a Cerebrum about the size of an English Walnut.
She would retaliate by reading aloud a Special in regard to a Husband going after Wife with Axe, while under the Influence of Liquor.
After which, for 15 or 20 minutes, the Dining Room would be just as peaceful and quiet as a Camorra Trial.
Sometimes he would get First Blood, but just as often she would fiddle around for an Opening and then Zowie!—right on the Conk and him Stalling to escape further Punishment.
When Nightfall came they would still be edging around the Ring, whanging away, for each was too Game to be a Quitter.
Their Married Life, which started out with American Beauty Roses in every Vase and a long Piece in the Paper, now settled down to a Thirty Years' War.
The only time when the Dove of Peace really Lit was when they had Company.
Then they would Dear each other until the Premises became Sticky and she would even coax up a Ripple of Fake Laughter when he pulled some Wheeze that used to go Great the Year they were engaged. But the Moment the last Guest closed the Front Door, the Dove of Peace would beat it and another domestic Gettysburg would drive the Servants to Cover.
After this had been going on for several Seasons he happened to get hold of a Powerful Work, written by a Popular Novelist (Unmarried), who made a psychological Dissection of a Woman's Soul and then preached a Funeral Sermon over the Dead Love that once blossomed in the Heart of the Heroine.
After he read this Tragedy of flickered Romance, he felt like a Pup.
He perceived that he had been in the Wrong.
The Novelist taught him that his Cue was to bear with the Weaker Vessel and to keep the Honeysuckle of True Affection pruned and watered by Devotion and Sacrifice.
Therefore, he made one large Vow to cut out the Rough Stuff.
Next Morning when the Queen of the Amazons put on her Paint and Feathers and began to beat the big War Drum there was Nothing Doing.
He refused to enter the blood-stained Arena, and when she came after him he fell over and took the Count before a Punch had been delivered.
Before starting for the Office he Kissed her a couple of times and gave her some Massage Treatment around the Shoulder Blades and called her "Toots"—a Term of Endearment which had been rusting on the Shelf ever since they used it at Niagara Falls.
She was so dazed by this Reversal of Form that she peeked from the Front Window and watched him clear to the Corner, convinced that he was on his way to meet Another Woman.
He came home that Evening with a Jar of Candied Nuts, and when Mrs. Simon Legree demanded the Name of the Hussy he simply pulled a Yearning Smile and invited her to go ahead and use him as a Punching-Bag.
Next day she put a Newspaper around the Bird Cage and tied up the Geraniums and took the unfinished Tatting and Blew.
When she walked in on her Own People, with the Declaration that all Bets were off, they wanted to know all about it, and she said a Spirited Woman couldn't keep on rooming with a Guinea-Pig.
MORAL: Contempt breeds Familiarity.
THE LOCAL PIERPONT
One day a regularly appointed Bank Inspector went into a Stronghold of Finance situated in a One-Night Stand and found the President of the Institution crying all over the Blotter.
"Why these tears?" asked the Official. "Are the Farmers paying off their Mortgages?"
"Worse than that," replied the Elderly Man, whose Side Whiskers were a Tower of Strength in the Community. "We are entering upon an Era of Extravagance. The Tillers of the Soil are no longer Hewing Wood and Drawing Water. They are now hewing Holes in the Atmosphere and drawing Gasoline. Not many Years ago [the] Simple Agriculturist drove into Town in a South Bend Wagon with Red Roses painted on the Dash- Board and stopped at the Bank long enough to tie a Chattel Mortgage on his Cow, with Interest at 2 Per Cent. a Month, payable in Advance. Nowadays he comes zipping up in a This Year's Model of the Kokomobile with Torpedo Body, Fore-Doors and Red Cushions and draws out his Balance so that he can get Extra Tires and a Speedometer. Every Hired Hand has become a Chauffeur, and the Jay that used to wear Gosh-dingits and drive a $80 Pelter now wears Goggles and drives a Roadster with four Lamps hung out in front of it."
"Why are you annoyed by these Evidences of Prosperity?" asked the Official. "The humble Farmer has been the Goat for 2,000 Years. Now he is catching Even by burning up the Turnpike, while the City People who feel sorry for him are sleeping on the Fire Escapes and saving up to see the Movies."
"You do not grasp the full Horror of the Situation," said the President of the Bank. "If all the Reubs withdraw their Deposits in order to buy these expensive $1,200 Cars, our Reserve will be so badly depleted and Normal Conditions so badly disturbed that possibly I will have to Cancel my Order for that $7,000 French Limousine which I picked out at the New York Show."
Whereupon he resumed his Weeping.
MORAL: It is Time to call a Halt.
THE LIFE OF THE PARTY
One Night a Complimentary Dinner was given to a Captain of Industry by some Friends looking for Orders.
The Chairman of the Arrangements Committee was a popular Wine-Pusher, consequently the volunteer Search Parties were out for Three Days after, gathering up the Dead.
Along about 10:30, when every Perfect Gentleman was neatly Stewed, a Man connected with the Jobbing Trade got up to say a Few Words.
He was keyed to Concert Pitch and the Audience was Piped and all the old sure-fire Bokum of a Sentimental Nature simply Killed them in their Seats.
When he Concluded, the hilarious Bun Brothers, with the mussed-up Hair and the twisted Shirt Bosoms, arose to their Feet and waved Napkins and gave the Orator what he described to his wife at 2 A. M. as A Novation.
Another Good Man was spoiled.
After Herman made this goshawful Hit with the Souses he became convinced that he was an After-Dinner Wit.
Gus Thomas and Simeon Ford had nothing on him.
Whenever he found himself seated at a Table with other People and Food being served, he began to suck Lozenges and classify his Anecdotes and try to appear Unconcerned.
All the time he was simply waiting for the Main Fluff to come up from behind the Chrysanthemums and say, "We have with us this evening."
He knew he was a Dinger, because he remembered how the Magnificent Assemblage stood and cheered him for five minutes.
Therefore his Voice sounded to him a good deal like the Boston Symphony Orchestra playing Rubinstein's Melody in F.
Whenever People sat down in front of the decorative Canape Caviar and got ready to endure the Horrors of another Hotel Gorge, they would glance across the Snowy Expanse of White, dotted with plump California Olives and cold, unfeeling Celery, and seeing Herman seated opposite, would remark, "Stung!"
He could not have been kept in his Chair with a Ton of Coal in each Tail-Pocket.
And if The Ladies were present, that was when he worked in the Bird- Calls and ordered out the Twinkling Stars.
According to the Expectation Tables of the Insurance Actuaries, probably he will Stick Around for 32 years more and never find out that he is a Pest.
MORAL: Those who bemoan the Decline of Oratory should remember that Oratory never was known to Decline.
THE GALUMPTIOUS GIRL
Once there was a kittenish Senorita condemned to dwell in a Piccolo Town out on a Spur Division of the Dinkusville Short Line.
It was one of those not-dead-but-sleeping Settlements with a Sheet-Iron Cornice on every Store Building and the Hack in which Gen. Sherman once rode still meeting the Trains.
All the older Residents were sitting back on their Surplus trying to hatch out 7 per cent. Any one suggesting a Public Improvement was led into Court House Square and publicly Beheaded.
A Girl with real Jamaica Ginger coursing through her Arteries did not have a Look-In so long as she was hung up at this Whistling Post, where every Meeting of the Research Club was a Poultry Exhibit and the local Astor played a Brown Derby in conjunction with the extreme Soup and Fish.
So the Senorita, by name Madeline, used to burst into Tears every time she saw a Train pulling away from the Depot, for she certainly had laid the Soubrette's Curse on Home, Sweet Home.
She had read those large explosive articles in the Family Department of the Sunday Paper telling how the Smart Set hang by their Toes from Chandeliers and jump into Public Fountains, and she panted for the wild free life of the Idle Rich.
Now it happened that Madeline had a married Female Cousin living at the corner of Easy Street and Epicurian Avenue up in the Big Town where People hated the sight of a Brass Bedstead.
Cousin invited Madeline to come and see her, out of mere Politeness, for she had the Country Lass sized up as a Myrtle Killjoy, whose Limit probably would be a Burton Holmes Lecture or a rollicking Afternoon at the Tea Shop.
Madeleine saw that she was down to Class B and would have to make an immediate Demonstration of Form to avoid being permanently Benched or sent back to the Bush League.
Consequently, as soon as she found herself in the Main Drawing Room among the Ruperts and Rosalinds, she began to break Furniture and do Head-Spins on the Bokharas. Thereupon she was elected a full Sister of the gladsome Bunch known as the Young Married Set.
She sent Home for all of her Things and more Coin and applied for an advanced Degree in the Grand Lodge of the Knights and Ladies of Insomnia.
In one month she had entirely remodeled her Figure and landscaped her Hair into a new Design and carefully picked each broad Western "R" out of her Vocabulary, and she could walk right up to a French Bill of Fare without the quiver of an Eye-Lash. Also she could hand out that Dear Boy line of Polite Guff to all of those rugged and self-made Bucks who get back to Earth every day at 5 P. M. and begin calling feebly for Barbers and Masseurs and Manicures and Nerve Specialists and Barkeeps.
She learned that Rough House lost all Social Stigma if pulled off at 2 A. M. in a Private Resort with a Striped Awning in front and a Carpet leading down to the Landing Stage.
Her Folks kept writing her to come back Home because the Ladies of the Guild were about to have a Bazaar, but she Stalled as long as she could, and when she finally packed up the Wardrobe Trunks and the eight kinds of Massage Cream, she extracted a promise from Cousin and several other Desperate Characters that they would come out into the Wilderness and give the Rummies a Touch of High Life.
It was the first time that Madeleine had spread her Wings and hit the rarified Strata. For a Beginner she was there with the Spread. She made the American Eagle look like an English Sparrow.
As soon as she arrived back in Sleepy Hollow she began to turn the Old Family Residence upside down and get it stocked up, just like a Club, for the Hot Babies from the Metropolis.
The Real Things arrived on a Special Car with their Hats down over their Ears and were more or less obscured by Dogs and English Help and Cigarette Smoke. As they rode up Main street there was a Pale Face at every Window. Just as the Parade passed the High School, the tall Smoke-Stack over at the Hominy Mills fell with a Loud Crash.
That Afternoon there was a smell of Moth Balls in many a Refined Home, for all who had learned to take Soup from the side of the Spoon were under Royal Command to come up and get a private Peek at the imported Gentry.
It was to be a Dinner followed by a Small Dance. If it had been a full-sized Affair, no doubt Father would now be working by the Day.
Instead of the customary 3 Carnations and 1 Maiden-Hair Fern gracing the center of the Board, the terrified Guests saw a Wagon-Load of tropical Bloom which pleased them very much as soon as each had secreted a new kind of Cocktail, served in a Goblet, with a Stick of Dynamite substituted for the Olive.
The Orchestra did a lot of those "Oh! Oh!" Rags, while strange Foods kept descending to the Table and a Special Corps of waiters tried to give an Imitation of the Johnstown Flood.
Conversation became epidemic and many Local Characters who had remained in Obscurity for Years came out of their Pods and began to hop about and sing in the Sunlight.
Members of the Married Woman's Safety League were hanging out Signs of Distress and trying to give Warning Signals, but Madeleine would not permit them to crab her Little Party. She wanted to show the Boobs just how these Recherche Functions are stage-managed in Upper Circles.
Accordingly they all felt their Way to the Front Room, where they Found awaiting them a Bowl of Artillery Punch about the size of Lake Erie, and no more Harm in a full Bumper than there is in a Rattle-Snake.
Madeleine headed off a Two-Step and told Friends and Neighbors to sit back close to the Wall with a Piece of Ice in each Hand and get Wise to the latest Stuff.
The She and her Friends pinned up their Garments and put Resin on their Hands and cut loose. They did the Grizzly Bear and the Mountain Goat and the Turkey Trot and the Bunny Hug and the Kangaroo Flop and the Duck Waddle and the Giraffe Jump and the Rhinoceros Roll and the Walrus Wiggle and the Crocodile Splash and the Apache and the Comanche and the Bowery Twist and the Hula Hula Glide, etc., etc., etc.
The Fire Department began carrying out Bodies at 12:30 A. M.. Some of the Survivors were hurrying Home through the Alleys, wondering if they could fix up Alibis. At Daybreak many Prominent Citizens were found Miles from their Homes wandering aimlessly in Roadways and shouting, "Take it away!"
Next afternoon the Male Parent of Madeleine crawled out from under the Wreckage and said to his Only Daughter: "You are too Progressive for us Farmers. Take your Trained Troupe of Society Acrobats and get out of Town. The White Caps are now gathering in the Outskirts."
Madeleine simply retorted that the Dances were being done in the most Exclusive Homes.
An Exclusive Home is one from which the Police are Excluded.
Of course she never dared to return to her Birthplace after this Scandalous Performance.
She had to remain in the Cruel City as the free and unrestricted Wife of a Cotillion Leader with an Income of $22.00 a Minute.
MORAL: The Pioneer must ever brave Hardships.
EVERYBODY'S FRIEND AND THE LINE BUCKER
In a sequestered Dump lived two Urchins, Edgar and Rufus, who went to the Post with about an equal Handicap.
They got away together down the broad Avenue of Hope which leads one Lad over the hills and far away to the United States Senate Chamber and guides another unerringly to the Federal Pen near Leavenworth, Kansas.
When Edgar was a Tootsey he received a frequent dusting with Extreme Violet Talcum Powder.
About the same time Rufus was propped up to look at Pictures of Napoleon and John L. Sullivan and Sitting Bull.
At School each was a trifle Dumb.
If Edgar fell down on an Exam, his Relatives would call a Mass Meeting to express Regrets and hang Crape all over the Place.
If Rufus got balled up in his Answers, his immediate Kin would pat him on the Back and tell him he was right and the Text-Book was wrong.
Edgar would emerge from the Feathers every morning to find his Parents all lined up to wish him a new set of Police Regulations.
They held up the Rigid Forefinger and warned him that he was merely a Grain of Dust and a Weakling and a poor juvenile Mutt whose Mission in Life was to Lie Down and Behave.
Rufus would be aroused each Sunrise by a full Military Band of 60 Pieces playing "Hail to the Chief who in Triumph Advances."
Whenever Edgar was forced into a Battle and came home smeared and disarranged, his Mother would go to her Room and Cry softly and Father would paint a vivid Word-Picture of a Wretch standing on the Gallows with a Black Cap over his Head.
Then Edgar would crawl to the Hay Mow and brood over his Moral Infirmities and try in a groping way to figure out his Relation to Things in General.
But, when Rufus appeared all dripping with Gore, his Seconds would cool him out and rub him with Witch Hazel and pin Medals on him.
No wonder he became as pugnacious as U. S. Grant, as conceited as a Successful Business Man and as self-assured as a Chautauqua Lecturer.
Every one disliked him intensely. But just the same, they stepped off into the Mud and gave him the entire double width of the Cement Sidewalk.
Edgar, on the other hand, was one of the most popular Door-Mats that ever had "Welcome" marked up and down his Spinal Column.
All those who scratched Matches on him and used him as a Combination Hall-Tree and Hitching Post used to remark that he didn't have an Enemy in the World.
They had corralled his Goat, so he had to play the Part himself.
It had been dinged into him that True Politeness means to wait until every one else has been Served and then murmur a few Thanks for the Leavings.
Besides, his Parents had convinced him that if he went Fishing he wouldn't get a Nibble, and if he climbed a Tree he would fall and break his Leg, and if he tried to manipulate more than Two Dollars at one time, he would go Blind.
Therefore, when both were in College, Rufus acted as plunging Half- Back, with Blue Smoke coming from his Nostrils, and achieved the undying Distinction of being singled out by Walter Camp.
Edgar sat up on the Bleachers with 2,000 other Mere Students and lent a quavering Tenor to a Song about Alma Mater.
Even the Undergrads could not take the Tuck out of Rufus.
He was fresher than Green Paint and his Work was Raw, but he was so Resilient that no one could pin him to the Mat and keep him there.
When a Boy has been told 877 times a Day for many Years that he is the Principal Feature of the Landscape, it takes more than an ordinary Doctoring to Cure him.
He left College thoroughly convinced that the World was his Oyster and he had an Opener in every Pocket.
He began grabbing Public Service Utilities by Strong-Arm methods, whereupon a lot of Uplifters became excited and wanted some one else to head him off.
He put things Across because when he tucked the Ball under his Arm and began to dig for the Goal of his Immediate Ambition all the Friends of Public Weal were scared Blue and retired behind the Ropes.
Edgar took his Degree out into the Cold World and began to make apologetic Inquiries regarding Humble Employment which would involve no Responsibilities.
He became an Office Lawyer of the dull gray Variety with a special Aptitude for drawing up Leases and examining Abstracts.
He could not face a Jury or fight a Case because the fond Parents had put the Sign on him and robbed him of all his Gimp.
But a Nice Fellow?
You know it.
Any one who had a Book to sell, or a Petition to be signed, or a Note that needed endorsing came dashing right into Edgar's Office and hailed him as the Champion Patsy.
Not one of these ever ventured into the Lair of the Street Railway Czar, for he knew that Rufus might jump over the Mahogany Table and bite him in the Arm.
Even Edgar, when he made a Business Call on Boyhood Friend and loving Classmate, was permitted to wait in the Outer Room, resting his Hat on his knees, and mingling on terms of Equality with the modish Typist and the scornful Secretary.
And when they went away to look at some Properties, Rufus took the Stateroom while Edgar drew an Upper.
Every one at the Club referred to Edgar as a Good Old Scout, but when all the Push gathered at the Round Table and some one let fall the Name of the High-Binder, they would open up on Rufus and Pan him to a Whisper.
Then Rufus would enter in his Fur Coat, upsetting Furniture and Servants as he swept through the Lounging Room.
Immediately there would be an Epidemic of Goose Pimples and a Rush to shake hands with him.
Rufus was sinfully Rich, but nevertheless Detestable, because his Family had drilled into him the low-down Habit of getting the Jump on the Other Fellow.
Edgar may live in a Rented House, but he will always have the inward Satisfaction of knowing that he is a sweet and courteous Gentleman with Pink Underwear, and a Masonic Charm on his Watch Chain.
When Edgar answers the Call, the Preacher will speak briefly from the Text, "Blessed are the Meek."
If the Death Angel succeeds in pulling down Rufus, the same Minister will find a suggestion for his Remarks in those inspiring Words, "I have fought the Good Fight."
MORAL: The Scrapper is seldom beloved, but he gets a Run for his Ticket.
THE THROUGH TRAIN
Two High School Heliotropes named Lib and Angie were very Thick.
Each Girl kept a Nightie at the Other Girl's House and, long after they had retired, the Inmates would hear smothered Giggles, interspersed with Fragments of what He said to Her and what She said to Him.
The Period of their Adolescence was about 20 years ago, when Romance was still alive and Knighthood was in Flower around every Dancing Academy west of Pittsburgh.
The two Chums had made a Pact. They were to be Friends for ever and ever and ever and neither was to hold out anything from the other.
Each carried in a Locket a Four-Leaf Clover presented by One to whom she had bared her Soul.
After supplementing the Graded Schools with a full course of Mrs. Southworth and learning to play "The Battle of Prague" on the Melodeon, naught remained for them in the way of passionate Diversion except to go ahead and get Married.
They waited three years for the Fairy Prince of their Dreams to come clattering down Main Street in his Coach all White and Gold, and then began to mistrust the Schedule. So they effected the usual Compromise, falling gracefully into the awkward Embraces of two cornfed Lizards named Otis and Wilbur.
In the Shake-off it befell that Angie got Wilbur and Lib drew Otis. The two Brides were somewhat envied, as Wilbur was a Good-Looker with raven Pompadour and large snappy eyes, while Otis was supposed to possess the Faculty of copping the Mazume.
However, the purpose of this Fable is to indicate that each Gal found out too late that she had Dutched her Book and backed into the wrong Paddock.
Fate separated the Young Couples and many a Full Moon deflated itself before Lib and Angie had another chance to get away by themselves and fill up on Oolong and cautiously exhibit their Wounds.
Wilbur was a Hustler who lacked Terminal Facilities. He was full of St. Vitus Activity and was always transferring a lot of Papers from one Pocket to another and getting ready to invest Capital in some Megatherian Enterprise paying 20 per cent. per Annum, but somehow he never Arrived.
While negotiating for a Rubber Plantation in Yucatan he would hear about Two Million Acres waiting to be Irrigated in Colorado, but before he could turn on the Water he would be lured away by the Prospect of developing some Monte Carlo Proposition up in the Mesaba Range.
In the meantime he wore Celluloid Collars and owed for every round Steak that he had carried home during the preceding Five Years.
Otis, on the Other Hand, played nothing but Cinches. He was out for the Pastry. It was not his Fault if the Widows and Orphans who invested on his Tips all wound up as Department Store Employees.
He double-crossed his Partners and whip-sawed his Customers and bluffed the Courts and bullied his way into the Strongholds of Finance.
While the U. S. Grand Jury would be in Session, trying to get him with the Goods, he would be motoring in Normandy and tossing Showers of Silver to the Peasantry.
Do not mistrust the Tale, for every Buccaneer from Broad Street, N. Y., to the St. Francis Bar at the Golden Gate, was once a Poor Boy with Store Clothes on his Back and Grand Larceny in his Heart.
When Angie went to visit Lib, after the Lapse of Many Years, you can Gamble that they had Some Talk to unload.
Angie carried a Wicker Suit-Case costing $1.98 and her General Get-Up was that of the Honest Creature who may be found in any Hotel Corridor at 2 A. M. massaging the Mosaic Floor with a Hot Cloth.
"Get me!" said Wilbur's wife, dropping wearily to a Divan in the Style of Louis Quatorze. "Pipe the Lid! It is a 1906 Model and the Aigrette is made of Broom Straw. Take a Peek at the shine Tailor-Made and the Paper Shoes. Ever since they wished that False Alarm on to me I have been giving a correct Imitation of Lizzie the Honest Working Girl. Each Evening he comes home to give me a Sweet Kiss and promises me a Trip to Europe and a Set of Gray Squirrels, and next Morning, when I get up to remove the Oatmeal from the Fireless Cooker, I find on the Back Porch a large Rough-neck in a Sweater who has come to shut off the Gas or take away the Parlor Furniture. Then I think of You, with your Closets hanging full of fluffy Frocks and your Man rushing in every few Minutes to slap you in the Face with a Hundred Dollar Bill. You can take it from me, Dearie, I would jump the whole Game were it not for the Children. I have put in my whole Life trying to realize something on a Promissory Note that was a Bloomer to begin with. He has kidded me along ever since the World's Fair at Chicago, feeding me on Canned Stuff and showing me pictures of Electric Runabouts and Country Places on Long Island. In the Meantime I am playing in Great Luck if I can get a Trolley Car to Stop for me."
At this point the Wife of Otis arose and, pulling the rose-colored Silk Wrapper more closely about her made-to-order Form, interrupted with an Imperious Gesture.
"Back up, Angie!" she exclaimed. "You should be a Happy Woman. You have your Husband's Love and you have your Children, both of which are denied a Woman of my Assured Position in the Two Minute Class of the Terrible Spenders. Talk about Hardships! Do you know what it is to lead the Grand March, surrounded by 800 Assegai-Throwers, Harpooners and Cannibal Queens, who are pointing you out as the Wife of the Malefactor who is about to the Tried in the Federal Courts! Did you ever Stagger around all Evening with $100,000 worth of Tiffany Merchandise fastened on to you—expecting every Minute to be hit in the Coiffure by some Raffles? Did you ever, during a Formal Dinner, hear the Door Bell tinkle and find in the Hallway a Reporter from a Morning Paper who wishes to ask your Husband if he denies his Guilt or can give any Reason why Sentence of Death should not be passed upon him? Are you Wise to the Fact that the Wife of a Successful Business Man now occupies a Niche in the Hall of Fame right next to the Sister of Jesse James? You are in Great Luck. No one takes a Shot at a Failure."
Having arrived at this cordial Understanding, each leaned against the other and had a Good Cry, after which they chircked up and paid a lot of Attention to a well-preserved Bachelor who dropped in to get warm and take a slight Fall out of the Side-Board.
MORAL: When Wealth walks in the Door, the Press Agent comes in through the Window.
THE LONG AND LONESOME RIDE
One pleasant morning the President of the Society for Promoting the Importation of Scotch Merchandise awoke after a Balloon Voyage which began 6 Feet below Sea Level in a Rathskeller and finished 2,000 feet above the Altitude recorded by Lincoln Beachey, the Man-Bird.
When he Came To he discovered that the Pillow had climbed over on top of him and was trying to work the Half-Nelson, while a large Pile- Driver was beating a rhythmical Tattoo on the tender Bean.
He had a Temperature of 102 and his Ears were hanging down. Also, during the Period of Coma some one had extracted the Eyes and substituted two hot Door-Knobs.
After he had decanted a miniature Niagara on to the smoking Coppers and removed his Collar, he felt his way over to the window and denounced in unmeasured Terms an English Sparrow that had perched on the Sill, merely to annoy him.
In a little while he remembered that he was a Resident of the Planet known as Earth. Soon after that his Name came back to him and then he recalled his Boyhood and the Fact that when he passed the Parsonage the Presbyterian Minister would ask him to pick some of the Lilacs and Snowballs and take them home to his Sister Alice.
From that Point he groped through his Life History up to the Twilight on which the Regulars had arranged a Send-Off for Old Buck, who was pulling out for Seattle. In order that Buck should remember them as True Friends, they had covertly planned to get him Saturated to the Eye-Balls and then ship him on to his new Home, spread out in Stateroom B, with long-stemmed Roses laid across the Remains. This form of homicidal Gayety is perpetuated under the name of American Hospitality.
Our Hero remembered the polite Get-away on the Low Speed with everybody Respectable, after which the Fountains started to gush and Waiters began to come up out of the Ground bearing Fairy Gifts of a Liquid Variety. Somewhat later in the Evening he found himself balanced on one Toe on a swiftly-moving Cloud, announcing to the Stars of Night that he was a True Sport.
In other words, he realized, as he sat humped over in the Morris Chair, holding on to the Head, lest it should fall off and roll across the floor, that he had been Snooted for Fair, Plastered, Ossified, Benzoated, Piped, Pickled, Spifficated, Corned, Raddled, Obfuscated, Soused and Ory-Eyed.
Six hours before, he had stood on a Table and declared for the Brotherhood of Man, and now he craved but one Companion and that was old Colonel R. E. Morse.
Standing over in the Sunlight by the Window, where he could see the innocent Shop-Girls going blithely to their $6 a week, he lifted the trembling Right Mitt clear above his Head and then and there declared himself to be on the Cart until the great Celestial Bodies should skid in their Orbits and the Globe itself dissolve into Vapor.
Just as he pronounced the Words, "nev-ER A-gen," he felt a great Flood of worthy Resolutions arising in his new Moral Nature. He would buy a Winchester Automatic and devote the remainder of his wasted Life to shooting up Barkeeps. And when he died, the whole Estate would go to the W. C. T. U.
Just after he had double-strapped himself to the Wagon and started up Seltzer Avenue, he realized that an immediate Absinthe Frappe would be worth $15,000 to him, but instead of ordering one, he resolved to write Doc Wiley a Letter advising him that while he was putting the Nixey Mark on that Green Magoo he should include all other Colors bestowed upon the Essence of Tribulation.
That afternoon the Survivors of the Midnight Massacre got together at a Club to compare Hang-Overs and find out what had happened after the Roof fell in.
Our Hero appeared just as the Boy was getting ready to throw a Life Line. He was greeted with a ribald Shout and told to come running and Save Himself.
The Moment had arrived for him to be a Man. Surrounded by Ice and Squirters and Mixing Spoons and Orange Peel and Jiggers and Jaggers, he drew himself together and made the Announcement.
For a Moment they were stunned by the Impact and then every Son of Peoria leaned back and let out a Yowl. To think that a real up-to-date Fellow would pull any of that Old Stuff! A puny Mortal trying to get a Toe-Hold on the Demon!
They told him to forget it and quit his Spoofing and remove his Overshoes and ease a couple of Gills into his Reservoir and try to be a Human Being, however painful the Effort.
He came back with a few Gems from the Family Medicine Book about the Effect of the Accursed Stuff on various Organs. He did not propose to feed himself anything that would cut the Varnish off of Wood-Work. The Hard Stuff had passed out of his Life.
The Cackles died away and were succeeded by looks of Blank Dismay. They saw that one whom they had long regarded as a reliable bench- working Union Lush had turned in his Card and deliberately made himself an Outcast.
They saw him order Vichy and go to it as if it were a Beverage, and then they tore up his Credentials and burned his Photograph and told him to go out to a 3-days Cure and take a Hypodermic of Hot Mush.
He sat back and pulled the Grim Smile which Savanarola wore when they piled the Fagots around him. He was a Martyr and proud of his Job. By the same Token there is no Brand of Rectitude that grades so pure and spotless as that exhibited by the disinfected Dove who has not touched a Drop for nearly 24 hours.
They saw him go home with a Magazine under his Arm, and then they sat around until all Hours, lapping it up and progging his Finish. They said he never would last a Week, and when the Fell it would be Some Splash.
They began to issue daily Bulletins and watched the Case with much Anxiety because they really liked the Old Scout in spite of his Eccentricities. When they learned, at the End of a Week, that he had played Buttermilk to a Standstill all up and down the Quick Lunch Circuit and was at his Desk every Morning with his Face clean and a Flower in his Coat, they called a Meeting of the Vigilantes and decided that the Joke had been carried far enough.
In the meantime, Our Hero had learned two new kinds of Solitaire and began to call around for a Dish of Tea with some distant Female Relatives who had long supposed him Dead. Along about the Cocktail Hour he would find himself sitting first in one Chair and then in another, but he Cashed big every Morning when he awoke and found that Henry Katzenjammer was not sitting on the Foot-Board making Faces at him.
Only, sometimes he would stop on a Corner and look all about him and up at the Buildings and wonder if the Town had always been as Quiet as at Present.
After he had stuck for a Fortnight, the desperate Envoys from the Indian Camp went after him for Keeps. They held it in front of him and splashed it on his Clothes and begged him to step aboard with them and go right up to the 18th Floor.
Probably if they had let him alone he would have come sneaking back into the Reservation to watch the red Whirligigs and pick a few of those Night-Blooming Martinis, but when they tried to Stampede him, the old New England Stock asserted itself; so he substituted Rivets for Straps.
He is now the honored Associate of those who play Cribbage in their own Homes and eat Apples before turning in. But if you want to get a Line on his Real Character, just ask the Wet Brothers. They will tell you that he wasn't there with the Strength of Character, so he simply sank out of sight.
MORAL: The Way of the Ex-Transgressor is Hard.
OUT OF CLASS B INTO THE KING ROW
Once there was a side street Quartet consisting of Papa and Mamma and Gordon and Ethel.
The ostensible Stroke Oar of this Domestic Combination was a Graduate of one of those Towns in which the Occidental Hotel faces the Depot and all Trains are met by a Popular Drayman wearing a Black Sweater.
When he elbowed his Way into the City, years before, his Assets consisted of a Paper Valise, a few home-laundered Garments and a small Volume telling how to win at Cards.
In the refined Home where he obtained his Liver and Macaroni paved with Cheese, he met the daughter of the Household. When there was a Rush she would sometimes put on all of her Rings and help wait on the Table, although her Star Specialty was to get the Stool at the right Elevation and tear the Vital Organs out of "Pansy Blossom" and "White Wings."
The young Shipping Clerk used to fly to his Kennel and get himself all Gussied up and then edge into the Parlor and turn the Music for Miss Livingstone, who looked to him like Lily Langtry and sounded like Adelina Patti.
They went to Housekeeping in a stingy Flat with a Bed that could be stood on End during the Daytime and made to resemble a Book-Case, also a Plaster-of-Paris Lion on the Mantel.
About the time Gordon was first tethered on the Fire-Escape, the Provider got a Taste of Soft Collateral and began to wear Gold Bracelets on his Cigars.
When Ethel was large enough to take into the Park, the Graft had developed until the whole Outfit moved to an Apartment where Goods had to be delivered in the Rear. Mother began to use Hacks which were not numbered.
So they went along for Years, riding on L Trains, calling up the Janitor to ask for more Heat, trying to find a good Maid, and experimenting with new Cereals, all of these Romantic Adventures combining to make what is known as City Life.
They were simply four scrambling Units in the Great Ant-Hill; four tiny Tadpoles in the great Schools that wiggled up and down the main Thoroughfares. It seemed that their only Chance to make an Impression on the huge and callous City was to die and then hold up a line of Street Cars while the Hearse and the five Carriages moved slowly in the direction of Calvary.
But Destiny had them spotted.
Father was very busy trying to run a Shoe String up to a National Bank. He would rush into his Office and open the Desk and push Buttons and send Hurry-Up Wires and dictate Letters to trembling Myrtle with the Small Waist and keep People waiting outside, just like the Whales who control the Sugar Trust.
He had a Front like the new Pennsylvania Station and the soft Personal Attributes of a Numidian Lion.
When he was sued in the Courts by a Victim who wanted a final look at his Money, the Reporters came around and he was so stiff-necked and defiant that all of them referred to him as the Millionaire Promoter.
It was easier to be this kind of a Millionaire than stand for a Search. Every Office Building is coagulated with Millionaires who never will be Caught until the Tin Box is opened in the Probate Court. Then the Widow will get ready to take Boarders.
As soon as Father was bawled out as a Millionaire, it was up to Mother to join a new kind of Club and have a Handle put on her Eye-Glasses. She would practise in her room for Hours at a time, gripping the Rocking Chair with both Hands and trying to get the real Bostonian sound of "A" as in Lard.
Her efforts were not in Vain, for one Day when the Club Meeting broke up, with the Lady President throwing Fits and a Copper guarding the Ballot Box, the principal Insurgent was mentioned in the Public Prints as a Popular Society Matron and Leader in the New Movement among Women. They had to call her that or the Story of her shooting the Ink-Stand at the Recording Secretary would not have been worth playing up on the First Page.
It was a proud Morning for Gordon and Ethel when they saw all the Pictures and learned that they were the immediate Descendants of the Millionaire Promoter and the Popular Society Matron.