PEOPLE YOU KNOW
PEOPLE YOU KNOW
BY GEORGE ADE
ILLUSTRATED BY JOHN T. MCCUTCHEON AND OTHERS
This little book is not supposed to contain any new information. It is made up of plain observations concerning people who live just around the corner. If the reader will bear in mind that only the people who live around the corner are discussed in this volume, there will be no chance for painful misunderstandings. I have no desire to rub the wrong way anyone who proves his true friendship by purchasing a copy of this Work. It may be advisable to explain that these Fables are written in the colloquial American language. The vocabulary employed is one that has become familiar to the ear, although it is seldom seen on the printed page. In other words, this volume contains a shameless amount of slang. If any part of it is unintelligible to the reader, he should be glad that he has escaped what seems to be an epidemic.
The Periodical Souse, the Never-Again Feeling and the Ride On the Sprinkling Cart, 13
The Kind of Music That Is Too Good for Household Use, 23
The One or Two Points of Difference Between Learning and Learning How, 26
The Night-Watch and the Would-Be Something Awful, 37
The Attenuated Attorney Who Rang In the Associate Counsel, 46
What Father Bumped Into at the Culture Factory, 54
The Search for the Right House and How Mrs. Jump Had Her Annual Attack, 65
The Batch of Letters, or One Day With a Busy Man, 72
The Sickly Dream and How It Was Doctored Up, 81
The Two Old Pals and the Call for Help, 90
The Regular Kind of a Place and the Usual Way It Turned Out, 99
The Man Who Had a True Friend to Steer Him Along, 107
The Young Napoleon Who Went Back to the Store On Monday Morning, 110
The High Art That Was a Little Too High for the Vulgarian Who Paid the Bills, 119
The Patient Toiler Who Got It in the Usual Place, 129
The Summer Vacation That Was Too Good to Last, 133
How an Humble Beginner Moved from one Pinnacle to Another and Played the Entire Circuit, 142
The Maneuvers of Joel and the Disappointed Orphan Asylum, 149
Two Young People, Two Photographers and the Corresponding School of Wooing, 158
The Married Couple That Went to Housekeeping and Began to Find Out Things, 167
The Samaritan Who Got Paralysis of the Helping Hand, 175
The Effort to Convert the Work Horse Into a High-Stepper, 185
The Self-Made Hezekiah and His Message of Hope to This Year's Crop of Graduates, 194
The Girl Who Took Notes and Got Wise and Then Fell Down, 203
What They Had Laid Out for Their Vacation, 212
The Experimental Couple and the Three Off-Shoots, 215
* * * * *
THE PERIODICAL SOUSE, THE NEVER-AGAIN FEELING AND THE RIDE ON THE SPRINKLING CART
Once there was an Indian who had a Way of putting on all his Feathers and breaking out of the Reservation.
For three Weeks at a Stretch he gave a Correct Imitation of the Shining Light who passes the Basket and superintends the Repairs on the Parsonage. He was entitled to a Mark of 100 for Deportment. With his Meals he drank a little Polly. After Dinner he smoked one Perfecto and then, when he had put in a frolicsome Hour or so with the North American Review, he crawled into the Hay at 9.30 P.M.
At last he accumulated a Sense of Virtue that was hard to carry around. He was proud of himself when he counted up the number of days during which he had stuck to the Straight and Narrow. It seemed to him that he deserved a Reward. So he decided to buy himself a little Present, something costing about 15 cents. He picked out a First-Class Place where they had Electric Fans and Pictures by the Old Masters. He poured out a Working-man's Size—the kind that makes the Barkeep stop wiping up and look unfriendly for a Moment or two.
Then he remembered that a Bird cannot fly with one Wing, so he gently raised the Index Finger and gave the Prescription Clerk a Look, which in the Sign Language means, "Repeat the Dose."
It is an Historical Fact that when a Man falls backward from the Water Wagon he always lands in a Crowd. The full Stage Setting, the Light Effects and the Red Fire were all ready to make it a Spectacular Affair. Just after he had mowed away No. 2 and had stopped worrying about the Winter's Coal, he began to meet Friends who were dying of Thirst. Then the atmosphere began to be curdled with High Balls and Plymouth Sours and Mint Smashes, and he was telling a Shoe Drummer that a lot of People who had been knocking him would probably be working for him before the Year was out.
Then he found himself in a four-oared Cablet and the Sea became very Rough. There was something out of Whack with the Steering Gear, for instead of bringing up at his Boarding House he found himself at another Rum Parlor. The Man who owned the Place had lost the Key and could not lock up. Here he met several Delegates to a State Convention of a Fraternal Order having for its Purpose the uplifting of Mankind. They wore Blue Badges and were fighting to get their Money into the Cash Register. In a little while he and a red-headed Delegate were up by the Cigar Counter singing, "How can I bear to leave thee?" He put in an Application for Membership and then the next Picture that came out of the Fog was a Chop Suey Restaurant and everybody breaking Dishes.
Soon after, the Lights went out and when he came back to Earth he was lying the wrong way of his Bed with Blue Badges all over him, trying to swallow a Bath Towel, which he afterward discovered was his Tongue. By getting a Leverage under his Head he managed to pry it up and then he sat on the edge of the Bed and called himself Names. He had nothing left over except the Cards given to him by the Brothers from up State somewhere. He had a dim and sneaking Recollection that he had given his address and Phone Number to the whole Tribe and begged them to look him up.
"Not any more in Mine," said he, as he held a Towel under the Faucet. "Not for all of Morgan's would I look at any more of that Essence of Trouble. I wonder if I'll live through the Morning."
That Day he lived on Bromo and Ice, and the only Satisfaction this Life offered was the Fact that he was a Reformed Man.
On the Second Day he could look at Solid Food without having a Spasm. His Hair stopped pulling and he began to speak to the People he met. When asked to step out for a little while, he lost his Temper and made a little Talk on the Subject, proving conclusively that there was Nothing in it.
As he walked homeward in the Dusk he passed the Clubs and Cafes where those who Drank were rounding up and he felt sorry for them.
"Why can't they pass it up, the same as I do?" he asked himself. "Ah, if only they knew how much more Fun it is to be Respectable."
It was an actual Mystery to him that any one could dally with a Dry Martini while there was a Hydrant on every Corner.
On the third Day he was cracking his Whip and begging People to get up on the Wagon with him. And he said it was a Queer Thing, but he couldn't bear the Sight of it.
While on the fourth Evening he confessed to some nice People he met at a Church Social that at one time he had allowed himself to be coaxed into taking an occasional Nip but he reasoned it all out and decided it was a Bad Thing and simply Chopped it right off. They told him it was wonderful how much Will Power he had and asked him if he ever felt the Old Craving coming back on him, and he said he could see it splashing all around him and not have the faintest Desire to dip in.
He was so stuck on himself that he went around to call on all his Friends who kept it on the Table so that he could wave it to one side and tell how he despised it. He sat there and pitied those who were inhaling it. Every Morning when he arose he would throw kisses to himself in the Glass and exclaim: "Aha! The Head as clear as a Bell this A.M. I'll bet I'm the cleanest and nicest Young Fellow in this Town. Any Girl that picks out a Sober and Steady Man such as I am will certainly be showing good Judgment."
As Narrated at the Beginning, for three weeks he worked hard at the Job of being an Abstainer. And at last he accumulated a Sense of Virtue that weighed over 200 Pounds. He knew that he was entitled to a Reward, so he decided to buy himself a little Present. Just a wee Reminder of by-gone Days and then back to Sarsaparilla. But he fell into a Crowd. There was another State Convention. It had been arranged for him so that he could get a Fresh Start.
* * * * *
MORAL: Life is a Series of Relapses and Recoveries.
* * * * *
THE KIND OF MUSIC THAT IS TOO GOOD FOR HOUSEHOLD USE
One Evening a little Flock of Our Best People got together at the Home of a Lady who invariably was first over the Fence in the Mad Pursuit of Culture. She loved to fill her Front Rooms with Folks who wore 73/4 Hats and read Norwegian Novels that no one else ever heard anything about.
On the Evening already mentioned she had a Cluster of Geniuses on hand. They were expected to Talk for a couple of Hours, so as to work up an Appetite for Neapolitan Ice-Cream and Lady-Fingers. In the course of time they got around to the Topic of Modern Music. All agreed that the Music which seemed to catch on with the low-browed Public was exceedingly punk. They rather fancied "Parsifal" and were willing to concede that Vogner made good in Spots, but Mascagni they branded as a Crab. As for Victor Herbert and J.P. Sousa—back to the Water-Tanks!
A little later in the Game the Conversation began to Sag and it was suggested that they have Something on the Piano. They gathered around the Stack of Music and then Vogner went into the Discard and Puccini fell to the Floor unnoticed and the Classics did not get a Hand. But they gave a Yelp of Joy when they spotted a dear little Cantata about a Coon who earned a Razor and had trouble with his Wife. They sang the Chorus 38 times and the Young Lady wore out both Wrists doing Rag-Time.
* * * * *
MORAL: It is proper to enjoy the Cheaper Grades of Art, but they should not be formally Indorsed.
* * * * *
THE ONE OR TWO POINTS OF DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LEARNING AND LEARNING HOW
In a Red School-House back in the Web-Foot District, it was the Custom to have a Debate every Friday Afternoon. The much-mooted Question as to which does the greater Damage, Fire or Water, had been carefully gone over by the Squabs. Also who was the heftier Proposition, Napoleon or Washington? But the original Stand-by was as follows: "Resolved, that Education is better than Wealth."
The Corporate Interests got many a Whack here in the Knowledge Works. Most of the Children wanted to grow up and be like Galileo. They claimed that mere Wealth could not purchase Happiness. The only genuine Peace of Mind came from being able to call off the Geological Periods with the Eyes closed.
Here in this little Brain Hatchery were two Kids who were not Mates. One was named Otis and the other was Bradford, or Brad for Short. Otis was the Boy who took the Affirmative side on Friday Afternoon. Ote firmly believed that Learning was the most valuable Asset that a Man could tuck away. Brad was for the Money End of the Game, but when he got up to make his Talk his Vocabulary would become jammed up and caught crossways in the Flue and teacher would motion him back to his Seat. Otis, however, could tell in well-chosen Phrases why the Scholar was a better and happier Man than the Millionaire and so he always received the Vote of the Judges.
Now, Brad was done up but unconvinced. He could not stand up before the District School and tell why it was good policy to corral the Coin, but he had a secret Hunch that it would be no Disgrace for him to go out and do the best he could. Brad had a bull-dog Jaw and large blood-shot Hands and a Neck-Band somewhat larger than his Hat-Band. He jumped the Stockade when they started to teach him Botany. He weighed 180 and he thought he was too large to sit around and count the Petals of the Ox-Eye Daisy when he might be out selling Lightning Rods to the Yaps and making jug-handled Contracts. Accordingly he Dug.
"Bradford is making a great Mistake," said Otis, as he saw his Friend tear from the Institution of Learning. "In order to get a few worldly Chattels right at the jump, he sacrifices his Diploma. I shall be more Foxy. I shall go right on through the High School and then I shall attend College and get a Degree. When I have taken my Degree then I will be the human It. My scholarly Attainments and polished Manner will get me past the Door and into the Inner Circle of the Hot Potatoes. As for Bradford, although it is possible that he shall have combed up a little Currency he will be a mere ordinary, sordid Business Man—not one-two-seven when he tries to stack up against one who has just been delivered of a Thesis on the Correlated Phenomena of Unconscious Cerebration."
While Brad was out in the back Townships short-changing the Farmers and buying 8 per cent. Mortgages, Otis was working his way through College and living on Oatmeal except on Holidays and then Prunes. He was getting round-shouldered and wore Specs and was all gaunted up, but he never weakened. He was pulling for the Laurel Wreath of Scholarship, or in other words, the Degree. After humping it for 4 years he passed his final Exam and the Faculty decided that he was a Bachelor of Arts.
That was the Day when he had the Laugh on Brad.
In the meantime, Bradford had been choking various People and taking it away from them. He had four Salesmen under him and had butted into the Firm, but he was still shy on Botany.
Inasmuch as Otis had been one of the brightest Men in his Class he was offered a position as Instructor in the College at a Salary of $55 a Month with a promise of $5 raise at the end of five Years, if he lived. Otis accepted, because the Outside World did not seem to be clamoring for his Services, even though he was an Authority on the Mezozoic Period and knew all the Diatomes by their First Names.
Often while he was burning the Midnight Oil and grinding out Jaw-Breakers, so as to qualify for the Master's Degree, he reflected as follows: "It is true that Brad is making it Hand over Fist and wears $6 Shirts and rides in a State-Room on the Pullman, but he is not a Bachelor of Arts. And some day when he is a Multi-Millionaire I can still look down on him, for then I shall be a Master of Arts. I have known since Childhood that Education is more desirable than Paltry Gold. Although the Newspapers and the General Public do not seem to be with me to any Extent, it is better to hob-nob with the Binomial Theorem than to dally with the Champagne Supper."
In due time the Faculty gave the Degree of M.A. to what was left of Otis and still his Ambition was not satisfied. He wanted to land a Doctor's Degree. He knew that any one who aspired to this Eminent Honor had to be a Pippin. But he hoped that he could make some Contribution to the World of Thought that would jar the whole Educational System and help him to climb to the topmost Pinnacle of Human Greatness.
Professor Otis did the Dig Act year after year. At the age of 49 he was still M.A. and owned a House with a Mortgage on it. In the Meantime there had been revolutionary Changes in the World of Finance. Everything on Earth had been put into a Pool. Each Smooth Citizen who had something that was of no particular use to him went to work and Capitalized it. Brad closed out his Interests for so much Money that any one else would have been ashamed to take it. Then he and some other Buccaneers went down to Wall Street to have fun with several dignified Gentlemen whom Brad described as Them Fly Eastern Mugs. They succeeded in putting the Skids under a number of Persons who did not care to meet them Socially.
When Brad walked around in his Million Dollar Hut he had to step high to avoid stumbling over Bundles of the Long Green; but he never had made any further headway with his Botany.
It happened one Day that Brad was out Moting and he dropped in at the College where his Boyhood Friend was now the Professor of Dipsicology and Plamazzus.
"This is a likely-looking Plant," said Brad, as he sized up the Campus. "I like to encourage these Joints because they help to keep a lot of Young Fellows away from Business Offices. I find that I have here in my Vest-Pocket a measly $50,000 that I have overlooked in changing my Clothes. Give it to the Main Cheese and tell him to have a Laboratory on me."
When the News got out all the sis-boom-ah Boys gave a Parade in their Nighties. The Faculty called a Special Meeting and made Brad a Doctor of Philosophy.
Next Year he put up for a Gym and they made him a Doctor of Divinity.
The Year Following he handed them a Telescope and became an LL.D.
Every time he coughed he was made some new kind of Doctor.
In fact, for a Man with a 61/4 Hat who did not know the difference between the Pistil and the Stamen he was the most learned Thing in Seven States. Professor Otis was crowded into the Ditch. Sometimes he wonders which of the two has the nub end of the Argument that started in the Red School-House.
* * * * *
MORAL: The Longest Way Around is the Shortest Way to the University Degree.
* * * * *
THE NIGHT-WATCH AND THE WOULD-BE SOMETHING AWFUL
Once there was a full-sized Girl named Florine whose Folks kept close Tab on her. Any night-blooming Harold who presumed to keep the Parlor open after Midnight heard low Voices in the Hallway and then a Rap on the Door. If Florine put on her Other Dress and went to a Hop then Mother would sit up and wait for her, and 1 o'clock was the Outside Limit. Consequently Florine would have to duck on the Festivities just when everything was getting Good. Furthermore she would have to warn Mr. Escort to behave himself when they drew near the House.
"Nothing doing at the Gate," she would say, warningly. "It's Dollars to Dumplings that the Girl Detective is peeking out to get a line on my Conduct. She has her Ear to the Ground about four-thirds of the Time and if any one makes a Move, then Mother is Next. If Father takes a Drink at the Club and then starts Homeward on a fast Trolley, Mother knows all about it when he is still three Blocks from the House. What's more, she is a knowing Bird and can't be fooled by Cloves or these little Peppermint Choo-Choos. The only time when Mother kisses Father is when she wants to catch him with the Goods. Look Out! This is our Corner."
As soon as they had landed at the Gate, little Florine would say in loud, clear Tones that would carry as far as the Sitting-Room Window, "Oh, Mr. Gilblitz, I have had a most charming Evening, and I wish to thank you most heartily."
Whereupon the Escort, standing 8 Feet away, with his Concertina Hat in his Hand and the Face in the Moonlight beaming with child-like Innocence, would come back thusly: "It's awfully good of you to say that. Good Night."
After which, Mother was supposed to believe that they had been 8 feet apart all Evening. But Mother was Canny and up to Snuff, with a Memory that reached back at least 25 Years. These little One-Act Plays under the Window did not throw her off for any part of a Minute. Before Florine turned in she was Cross-Examined and required to tell with whom she had danced, and why and how often and what he said. Occasionally the Daughter worked the Mental Reservation. In other Words, she held out on Mother. She said that she had sat out most of the Numbers, but she admitted going through a Square Dance with the Young Man who passed the Plate at the Episcopal Church.
At which Mother would wink the Off Eye and murmur, "Is that so?" with the Loud Pedal on the "That." Also something about being more than Seven.
One of Florine's Ancestors on Mother's Side happened to be on Earth at the time of the Revolution, and Father often spoke of a Second Cousin who had been in Congress until the District tumbled to him. Because of this Current of Blue Blood racing in her Veins, Florine was supposed to be a trifle Classy and Mother was always afraid that she might get Thumb-Marks on the Family Escutcheon. Therefore Florine was forbidden to work up a Calling Acquaintance with any of the Hoi Polloi, which is Greek for Selling-Platers. According to Mother, there were only about 8 Families in Town that really belonged and some of them didn't Belong enough to hurt. Florine found herself cut out of many a Good Time because the Chaperon for the Occasion chanced to be related to some one who had been in the Liquor Business.
Florine was up against it ever so Hard. She had to go out in the Grape Arbor when she wanted to chew Gum, and she kept her Reading Matter under the Mattress. Nearly every high-speed Bachelor in Town had been forbidden the Premises because of the Stories that were going around. The kind that Mother approved were of the Lilac Division with White Puff Ties and their Hair glued down. They talked about Choir Practice and sometimes, when they were sufficiently wrought up, they played Charades.
The only Chance that Florine had to mingle with the Popular Boys was to go down Town in the Afternoon and just happen to meet one of them at the Ice-Cream Parlor. Florine learned to be quite a Happener. But on the way home she would have to fix up a few Jules Vernes for the Old Lady in the Watch Tower. Mother knew that it didn't take 4 Hours to be measured for a Shirt Waist.
"Wait until I get Married," Florine would say. "I'll make that 20-hour Flyer look like a Steam-Roller. If Mother doesn't let up on me, I'll learn to smoke Cigarettes."
At times she was so Desperate that she was ready to join a Troupe or elope with a Drummer. She wanted to get out among the Bright Lights and hear the Band play. And she knew that she couldn't turn Flip-Flops and break Furniture and play Rag-Time along after Midnight until she had become a Respectable. Married Woman. So she had her Distress Signal out and used to drop very Broad Hints, when she was chatting with the Lads who happened to be in the Soda-Water Resort when she dropped in. They liked Florine for Keeps, but when one of them thought of clinching with old Eagle-Eye, the Family Sleuth, he weakened.
Florine would have remained a Dead Card if she had not gone on a Visit to a neighboring City where she bumped into the Town Trifler. He had a Way of proposing to every Girl the first time he met her. It always seemed to him such a cordial Send-Off for a budding Friendship. Usually the Girl asked for Time and then the two of them would Fiddle around and Fuss and Make Up and finally send back all the Letters and that would be the Finish. Florine fooled the foxy Philander. The Moment he came at her with the Marriage Talk she took a firm Hold and said, "You're on! Get your License to-morrow morning. Then cut all the Telegraph Wires and burn the Railroad Bridges."
They were Married, and, strange as it may appear, Mother immediately resigned her Job as Policeman and said: "Thank goodness, I've got you Married Off! Now you can do as you please."
When Florine found that she could do as she pleased she discovered that there wasn't very much of anything to do except Settle Down. After about seven Chafing-Dish Parties she expended her whole Stock of pent-up Ginger and now she is just as Quiet as the rest of us.
* * * * *
MORAL: Any System is O.K. if it finally Works Out.
* * * * *
THE ATTENUATED ATTORNEY WHO RANG IN THE ASSOCIATE COUNSEL
Once there was a sawed-off Attorney who had studied until he was Bleary around the Eyes and as lean as a Razor-Back. He knew the Law from Soup to Nuts, but much learning had put him a little bit to the Willies. And his Size was against him. He lacked Bellows.
He was an inconspicuous little Runt. When he stood up to Plead, he came a trifle higher than the Chair. Of the 90 pounds he carried, about 45 were Gray Matter. He had Mental Merchandise to burn but no way of delivering it.
When there was a Rally or some other Gabfest on the Bills, the Committee never asked him to make an Address. The Committee wanted a Wind-Jammer who could move the Leaves on a Tree 200 feet distant. The dried-up Lawyer could write Great Stuff that would charm a Bird out of a Tree, but he did not have the Tubes to enable him to Spout. When he got up to Talk, it was all he could do to hear himself. The Juries used to go to sleep on him. He needed a Megaphone. And he had about as much Personal Magnetism as an Undertaker's Assistant.
The Runt lost many a Case because he could not Bark at the Jury and pound Holes in a Table. His Briefs had been greatly admired by the Supreme Court. Also it was known that he could draw up a copper-riveted Contract that would hold Water, but as a Pleader he was a Pickerel.
At one time he had an Important Suit on hand, and he was Worried, for he was opposed by a couple of living Gas Engines who could rare up and down in front of a yap Jury for further Orders.
"I have the Law on my Side," said the Runt. "Now if I were only Six-Feet-Two with a sole-leather Thorax, I could swing the Verdict."
While he was repining, in came a Friend of his Youth, named Jim.
This Jim was a Book-Agent. He was as big as the Side of a House. He had a Voice that sounded as if it came up an Elevator Shaft. When he folded his Arms and looked Solemn, he was a colossal Picture of Power in Repose. He wore a Plug Hat and a large Black Coat. Nature intended him for the U.S. Senate, but used up all the Material early in the Job and failed to stock the Brain Cavity.
Jim had always been at the Foot of the Class in School. At the age of 40 he spelled Sure with an Sh and sank in a Heap when he tried to add 8 and 7. But he was a tall Success as a Book Pedler, because he learned his Piece and the 218 pounds of Dignified Superiority did the Rest.
Wherever he went, he commanded Respect. He could go into a strange Hotel and sit down at the Breakfast Table and say: "Please pass the Syrup" in a Tone that had all the majestic Significance of an Official Utterance. He would sit there in silent Meditation. Those who sized up that elephantine Form and noted the Gravity of his Countenance and the fluted Wrinkles on his high Brow, imagined that he was pondering on the Immortality of the Soul. As a matter of fact, Jim was wondering whether he would take Ham or Bacon with his Eggs.
Jim had the Bulk and the awe-inspiring Front. As long as he held to a Napoleonic Silence he could carry out the Bluff. Little Boys tip-toed when they came near him, and Maiden Ladies sighed for an introduction. Nothing but a Post-Mortem Examination would have shown Jim up in his True Light. The midget Lawyer looked up in Envy at his mastodonic Acquaintance and sighed.
"If I could combine my Intellect with your Horse-Power, I would be the largest Dandelion in the Legal Pasture," he said.
Then a Happy Idea struck him amidships.
"Jim, I want you to be my Associate Counsel," he said. "I understand, of course, that you do not know the difference between a Caveat and a Caviar Sandwich, but as long as you keep your Hair combed the way it is now and wear that Thoughtful Expression, you're just as good as the whole Choate Family. I will introduce you as an Eminent Attorney from the East. I will guard the Law Points and you will sit there and Dismay the Opposition by looking Wise."
So when the Case came up for Trial, the Runt led the august Jim into the Court Room and introduced him as Associate Counsel. A Murmur of Admiration ran throughout the Assemblage when Jim showed his Commanding Figure, a Law Book under his Arm and a look of Heavy Responsibility on his Face. Old Atlas, who carries the Globe on his Shoulders, did not seem to be in it with this grand and gloomy Stranger.
For two hours Jim had been rehearsing his Speech. He arose.
"Your Honor," he began.
At the Sound of that Voice, a scared Silence fell upon the Court Room. It was like the Lower Octave of a Pipe Organ.
"Your Honor," said Jim, "we are ready for Trial."
The musical Rumble filled the Spacious Room and went echoing through the Corridors. The Sound beat out through the Open Windows and checked Traffic in the Street. It sang through the Telegraph Wires and lifted every drooping Flag.
The Jurors turned Pale and began to quiver. Opposing Counsel were as white as a Sheet. Their mute and frightened Faces seemed to ask, "What are we up against?"
Jim sat down and the Trial got under way.
Whenever Jim got his Cue he arose and said, "Your Honor and Gentlemen of the Jury, I quite agree with my learned Colleague."
Then he would relapse and throw on a Socrates Frown and the Other Side would go all to Pieces. Every time Jim cleared his Throat, you could hear a Pin drop. There was no getting away from the dominating Influence of the Master Mind.
The Jury was out only 10 Minutes. When the Verdict was rendered, the Runt, who had provided everything except the Air Pressure, was nearly trampled under foot in the general Rush to Congratulate the distinguished Attorney from the East. The Little Man gathered up his Books and did the customary Slink, while the False Alarm stood in awful Silence and permitted the Judge and others to shake him by the Hand.
* * * * *
MORAL: An Associate Counsel should weigh at least 200 Pounds.
* * * * *
WHAT FATHER BUMPED INTO AT THE CULTURE FACTORY
A Domestic Team had a Boy named Buchanan who refused to Work, so his Parents decided that he needed a College Education. After he got that, he could enter a Learned Profession, in which Work is a mere Side-Issue.
The Father and Mother of Buchanan sent to the College for a Bunk Catalogue. The Come-On Book had a Green Cover and it was full of Information. It said that the Necessary Expenses counted up about $180 a year. All Students were under helpful and moral Influences from the Moment they arrived. They were expected to hit the Mattress at 10 P.M., while Smoking was forbidden and no one could go to Town except on a Special Permit.
"This is just the Place for Buchanan," said his Mother. "It will be such a Comfort to know that Son is in his Room every Evening."
Accordingly Buchanan was supplied with six Shirts, two Suits of everything, a Laundry-Bag, a Pin-Cushion, a Ready-Repair Kit and a Flesh Brush, and away he rode to the Halls of Learning. He wrote back that he was Home-Sick but determined to stick out because he realized the Advantages of a College Education. He said his Eyes hurt him a little from Reading at Night and he had to buy a great many Extra Books, but otherwise he was fine and fancy. Love to all and start a little Currency by the first Mail.
After Buchanan had been toiling up the Hill of Knowledge for nearly two Months, and sending hot Bulletins back to the Old Folks, his Father decided to visit him and give him some Encouragement.
"The Poor Boy must be lonesome down there among all those Strangers," said Father. "I'll drop in on him and brighten him up."
So Father landed in the College Town and inquired for Buchanan, but no one had heard of such a Person.
"Perhaps you mean 'Old Buck,'" said a Pale Youth, with an ingrowing Hat. "If he's the Indian you want to see, I'll show you where he hangs out."
The Proud Parent was steered to a faded Boarding House and found himself in a Chamber of Horrors that seemed to be a Cross between a Junk-Shop and a Turkish Corner. Here he found the College Desperado known as "Old Buck," attired in a Bath-Robe, plunking a stingy little Mandolin and smoking a Cigarette that smelled as if somebody had been standing too close to the Stove.
"Hello, Guv," said the Seeker after Truth. "Wait until I do a Quick Change and we'll go out and get a few lines of Breakfast."
"Breakfast at 2 P.M.?" inquired Father.
"We had a very busy Night," explained Buchanan. "The Sophomores have disputed our Right to wear Red Neckties, so last night we captured the President of the Soph Class, tied him to a Tree and beat him to a Whisper with a Ball Bat. Then we started over to set fire to the Main Building and we were attacked by a Gang of Sophs. That is how I happened to get this Bum Lamp. Just as he gave me the knee, I butted him in the Solar Plexus. He's had two Doctors working on him ever since. And now the Freshies are going to give me a Supper at the Dutch Restaurant to-morrow Night and there is some Talk of electing me Class Poet. So you see, I am getting along fine."
"You are doing Great Work for a Mere Child," said the Parent. "If you keep on, you may be U.S. Senator some day. But tell me, where did you get all of these Sign-Boards, Placards, Head-stones and other Articles of Vertu?"
"I swiped those," replied the Collegian. "In order to be a real Varsity Devil, one must bring home a few Souvenirs every Night he goes out. If the Missionaries did it, it would be called Looting. If the Common People did it, it would be called Petit Larceny. But with us, it is merely a Student Prank."
"I understand," said Father. "Nothing can be more playful than to nail a Tombstone and use it for a Paper-Weight."
"Would you like to look around the Institution?" asked Buchanan.
"Indeed, I should," was the Reply. "Although I have been denied the blessed Privileges of Higher Education, I love to get into an Atmosphere of four-ply Intellectuality and meet those Souls who are above the sordid Considerations of workaday Commercialism."
"You talk like a Bucket of Ashes," said the Undergraduate. "I'm not going to put you up against any Profs. Follow me and I'll fix it so that you can shake Hands with the Guy that eats 'em alive. I'll take you over to the Corral and show you the Wild-Cats. They've been drinking Blood all Morning and are feeling good and Cagey. About 3 o'clock we turn them out into the Arena and let them plow up the Turf."
"Is this a College or a Zoo?" asked the Parent.
"I refer to the Squad," said Buchanan. "We keep about 40 at the Training Table all of the time, so that no matter how many are killed off, we will always have 11 left. We have a Centre Rush who weighs 238, and you wouldn't dent him with a Hatchet. We caught him in the Woods north of Town and brought him down here. He is taking a Special Course in Piano Music two hours a Week and the rest of the Time he is throwing Substitutes down and biting them on the Arm."
Buchanan and his trembling Parent sat at the edge of the Gridiron and watched the Carnage for a while. Buchanan explained that it was merely Friendly Practice.
That Evening the Son said: "Father, you can stay only a Little While and I want to give you a Good Time while you are here. Come with us. We are going down to the Opera House to put a Show on the Bum. One of the first things we learn at College is to kid the Troupers. It is considered Great Sport in these Parts. Then, if any one gets Pinched, we tear down the Jail, thereby preserving the Traditions of dear old Alma Mater."
"Does the Faculty permit you to be guilty of Disorderly Conduct?" asked the Parent.
"Any one who goes against the Faculty single-handed is a Fink," replied Buchanan. "We travel 800 in a Bunch, so that when the Inquest is held, there is no way of finding out just who it was that landed the Punch. Anything that happens in a College Town is an Act of Providence. Now come along and see the American Youth at Play."
They found their way to the Temple of Art. When the Chemical Soubrette started in to sing "Hello, Central, give me Heaven," they gave her just the Opposite of what she was demanding. A few Opera Chairs were pulled up by the Roots and tossed on the Stage, merely to disconcert the Artiste. When the House Policeman came he was hurled 30 Feet into the Air and soon after that the Show broke up. The Student Body flocked out and upset a Trolley Car, and then they went homeward in the Moonlight singing, "Sweet Memories of College Days, La-la! La-la!"
Father's Hat was caved in and he was a trifle Bewildered, but he managed to observe that the Boys were a trifle Boisterous when they got a Fair Start.
"Oh, yes; but they don't Mean anything by it," explained Buchanan.
"I hope they will explain that to the House Policeman as soon as they get him to the Hospital," said the Parent. "Otherwise, he might misconstrue their Motives."
Next Day, when he went back, he told Mother not to worry about Buchanan, as he seemed to have a full and sympathetic Grasp on the true Inwardness of Modern Educational Methods.
* * * * *
MORAL: Attend to the Remittances and Son will do the Rest.
* * * * *
THE SEARCH FOR THE RIGHT HOUSE AND HOW MRS. JUMP HAD HER ANNUAL ATTACK
Once there was a Family called Jump that had sampled every Ward within the Corporation Limits.
The Jumps did a Caravan Specialty every time the Frost went out of the Ground.
When the Sarsaparilla Ads began to blossom, and the Peach Crop had been ruined by the late Cold Snap and the Kids were batting up Flies in the Lot back of the Universalist Church, and a Barrel-Organ down Street was tearing the Soul out of "Trovatore"—these were the Cues for Mrs. Jump to get her Nose into the Air and begin to champ at the Bit.
Mother was a House-Hunter from away back. She claimed to be an Invalid eleven months out of the Year and took Nerve Medicine that cost $2.00 a Bottle. Just the same when April hove into view and Dame Nature began to stretch herself, then Mother put on her Short Skirt and a pair of Shoes intended for a Man and did a tall Prance.
She was good for 12 hours a Day on any kind of Pavements. With her Reticule loaded full of "To Let" Clippings, she hot-footed from Street to Street. Every time she struck a Fresh Trail she broke into a Run.
Mother was looking for a House that had twice as many Closets as Rooms and a Southern Exposure on all four sides.
She had conned herself into the Belief that some day she would run down a Queen Anne Shack that would be O.K. in all Particulars.
In the Magazine that came every Month she had seen these Dream-Pictures of Palaces that can be put up for $1,500.00, if you steal your Materials.
She had gazed at the Bunco Illustration of the swell Structure with bushy Trees dotting the Lawn and a little Girl rolling a Hoop along the Cement Side-Walk and she had set her Heart on that kind of a Home.
Mother loved to study the Plans and count the Bath-rooms and figure on Window Seats and what kind of Curtains to put in the Guest Chamber.
Every Spring she found the Place she had been seeking and gave a Grand Signal for the whole Outfit to begin packing up. Those were the bright vernal Days when Mr. Jump got all that was coming to him. Mr. Jump was a Man, therefore any old kind of a Hut suited him. For eight years before starting on his continuous Tour with Mother, he had roomed over a Drug Store.
His Apartment had been one of those delectable Man-Joints where Women never butted in to hide things and give the whole Place a Soapy Smell.
The Sweepings went under the Bed, so as not to litter up the Hallway.
Once a Year he had a House-Cleaning. That is to say, he employed a Colored Man to beat the Rugs, which had to be separated from the Floor by means of a Shovel.
Inasmuch as Women never came in to straighten up, he knew where to find everything. He knew it was somewhere in the Room and all he had to do was to excavate until he found it.
Then he hooked up with Laura so as to get a real Home and she gave him a new one every Year.
Mr. Jump soon discovered that, although every Man is the Architect of his own Fortune, the Wife usually superintends the Construction.
When Mrs. Jump made her Spring Announcement that they would move to another House, he did a deal of Kicking, but he always went into the Wood Shed to do it. He sassed her inwardly, but not so that she could hear.
She was a Wonder at framing up Reasons for hurling the Lease back at the Landlord.
One Year she quit because the Owner papered the Upstairs with a Jay Pattern that cost only 15 cents a Bolt. Another time the Family next door kept Chickens. Usually the Children across the Alley were not fit Associates for their own little Brood.
One Time she quit on account of a Cockroach. She saw it scoot across the Pantry and that afternoon she headed for a Renting Agency.
Father suggested that instead of vacating in favor of the Cockroach, they offer a reward of $100 for its Capture, dead or alive, and thereby save a little Money, but she refused to listen.
If the Plumbing wasn't out of Whack, the Furnace required too much Coal or else the Woman across the Street had been divorced too many times.
If they squatted in a low-down Neighborhood, Mrs. Jump was ashamed to give her Address to Friends in the Congregation.
If they got into a Nest of the New Rich, then Laura had the freeze-out worked on her, because Mr. Jump was on a Salary and she had to ride on the Trolleys. So she began looking for a Street in which Intellect would successfully stack up against the good, old Collateral. And, of course, that meant a long Search.
Therefore, every May 1st, something Red and about the size of a Caboose backed up to the Jumps'. Several husky Boys began throwing Things out of the Windows.
Father did a Vanishing Act. When it came to lifting one corner of a Piano or hanging Pictures he was a sad Bluff and he knew it.
"How about Paradise?" he asked one day. "I understand that inside of the Pearly Gates, each Family has Permanent Quarters. There are no Folding Beds to juggle down Back Stairways, no Picture Cords to Shorten, no Curtain Poles to saw off, no Book Cases to get jammed in Stairways. I am sure there will be no Piano Movers, for I have heard their Language. Do you think you can be happy in the Promised Land?"
"It will depend entirely on whether or not the Rugs fit," she replied.
"Let us hope for the Best," said Mr. Jump.
* * * * *
MORAL: The Queen of the May is usually a Woman.
* * * * *
THE BATCH OF LETTERS, OR ONE DAY WITH A BUSY MAN
One Morning an energetic little Man who had about a Ton of Work piled up on his Desk came down Town with a Hop, Skip and Jump determined to clean up the whole Lay-Out before Nightfall.
He had taken eight hours of Slumber and a cold Dip in the Porcelain. After Breakfast he came out into the Spring Sunshine feeling as fit as a Fiddle and as snippy as a young Colt.
"Me to the Office to get that Stack of Letters off my Mind," said the Hopeful Citizen.
When he dashed into the Office he carried 220 pounds of Steam and was keen for the Attack.
A tall Man with tan Whiskers arose from behind the roll-top Desk and greeted him.
"How are you feeling this Morning?" asked the Stranger.
"Swell and Sassy," was the Reply.
"And yet, to-morrow you may join the Appendicitis Colony and day after to-morrow you may lie in the darkened Front Room with Floral Offerings on all sides," said the Stranger. "What you want is one of our non-reversible, twenty-year, pneumatic Policies with the Reserve Fund Clause. Kindly glance at this Chart. Suppose you take the reactionable Endowment with the special Proviso permitting the accumulation of both Premium and Interest. On a $10,000 Policy for 20 Years you make $8,800 clear, whether you live or die, while the Company loses $3,867.44 as you can see for yourself."
"This is my—" began the Man.
"Or, you may prefer the automatic tontine Policy with ball-bearings," continued the Death Angel. "In this case, the entire Residue goes into the Sinking Fund and draws Compound Interest. This is made possible under our new System of reducing Operating Expenses to a Minimum and putting the Executive Department into the Hands of well-known New York Financiers who do not seek Pecuniary Reward but are actuated by a Philanthropic Desire to do good to all Persons living west of the Alleghenies."
"That will be about all from you," said the Man. "Mosey! Duck! Up an Alley!"
"Then you don't care what becomes of your Family?" asked the Stranger, in a horrified Tone.
"My Relatives are collecting all of their Money in Advance," said the Man. "If they are not worrying over the Future, I don't see why you should lose any Sleep."
So the Solicitor went out and told every one along the Street that the Man lacked Foresight.
At 9.30 o'clock the industrious little Man picked up letter number 1 and said to the Blonde Stenographer, "Dear Sir."
At that moment the Head of the Credit Department hit him on the Back and said he had a Good One. It was all about little Frankie, the Only Child, the Phenom, the 40-pound Prodigy.
In every large Establishment there is a gurgling Parent who comes down in the Morning with a Story concerning the incipient Depew out at their House. It seems that little Frankie has been told something at Sunday School and he asked his Mother about it and she told him so-and-so, whereupon the Infant Joker arose to the Emergency and said: and then you get it, and any one who doesn't laugh is lacking in a Finer Appreciation of Child Nature. The Busy Man listened to Frankie's Latest and asked, "What's the Rest of it?"
So the Parent remarked to several People that day that the Man was sinking into a crabbed Old Age.
At 10 A.M. the Man repeated "Dear Sir" and a Voice came to him, remarking on the Beauty of the Weather. A Person who might have been Professor of Bee-Culture in the Pike County Agricultural Seminary, so far as make-up was concerned, took the Man by the Hand and informed him that he (the Man) was a Prominent Citizen and that being the case he would be given a Reduction on the Half-Morocco Edition. While doing his 150 Words a Minute, he worked a Kellar Trick and produced a large Prospectus from under his Coat. Before the Busy Man could grab a Spindle and defend himself, he was looking at a half-tone Photo of Aristotle and listening to all the different Reasons why the Work should be in every Gentleman's Library. Then the Agent whispered the Inside Price to him so that the Stenographer would not hear and began to fill out a Blank. The Man summoned all his Strength and made a Buck.
"I don't read Books," he said. "I am an Intellectual Nit. Clear Out!"
So the Agent gave him a couple of pitying Looks and departed, meeting in the Doorway a pop-eyed Person with his Hat on the Back of his Head and a Roll of Blue Prints under his Arm. The Man looked up and moaned. He recognized his Visitor as a most dangerous Monomaniac—the one who is building a House and wants to show the Plans.
"I've got everything figured out," he began, "except that we can't get from the Dining Room to the Library without going through the Laundry and there's no Flue connecting with the Kitchen. What do you think I'd better do?"
"I think you ought to live at a Hotel," was the reply.
The Monomaniac went home and told his Wife that he had been insulted.
At 11.30 came a Committee of Ladies soliciting Funds for the Home for the Friendless.
"Those who are Friendless don't know their own Luck," said the Busy Man, whereupon the Ladies went outside and agreed that he was a Brute.
At Noon he went out and lunched on Bromo Seltzer.
When he rushed back to tackle his Correspondence, he was met by a large Body of Walking Delegates who told him that he had employed a non-union Man to paint his Barn and that he was a Candidate for the Boycott. He put in an Hour squaring himself and then he turned to the Stenographer.
"How far have we got?" he asked.
"'Dear Sir,'" was the Reply.
Just then he got the Last Straw—a bewildered Rufus with a Letter of Introduction. That took 40 Minutes. When Rufe walked out, the Busy Man fell with his Face among the unanswered Letters.
"Call a Cab," he said.
"The 'Phone is out of order," was the Reply.
"Ring for a Messenger," he said.
She pulled the Buzzer and in 20 minutes there slowly entered a boy from the Telegraph Office.
The Man let out a low Howl like that of a Prairie Wolf and ran from the Office. When he arrived at Home he threw his Hat at the Rack and then made the Children back into the Corner and keep quiet. His Wife told around that Henry was Working too hard.
* * * * *
MORAL: Work is a Snap, but the Intermissions do up the Nervous System.
* * * * *
THE SICKLY DREAM AND HOW IT WAS DOCTORED UP
One Day a pure white Soul that made Sonnets by hand was sitting in his Apartment embroidering a Canto. He had all the Curtains drawn and was sitting beside a Shaded Candle waiting for the Muse to keep her Appointment. He wore an Azure Dressing-Gown. Occasionally he wept, drying his Eyes on a Salmon Pink Handkerchief bordered with yellow Morning Glories. Any one could tell by looking at him that he was a delicate Organism and had been raised a Pet.
Presently he put his left Hand to his Brow and began to indite with a pearl-handled Pen on Red Paper. Then there was a Ring at the Bell.
"Oh, Fudge!" said the Author. "That distressing Sound! And just when I was beginning to generate Ethereal Vapor. Hereafter I shall order the vulgar Tradespeople to deliver all Marshmallows at the Servants' Entrance."
He began to write again, reviving himself at the end of each Word, by means of Smelling Salts. He did not see the Artist standing in the Doorway.
The Artist was a muscular Person with an Ashen Complexion and a Suit that was not large enough to show the entire Pattern. He carried a Bludgeon with a Horse's Head on it. In order to attract the Attention of Mr. Swinburne, he whistled through his Teeth, whereupon the Author jumped over the Table and fell among the Rugs, faintly calling "Mother! Mother!"
"Cut it out!" exclaimed the Artist. "What's matter? Huh?"
"Oh, how you startled me," said the Author sitting up among the Rugs. "Just as you came in I was writing about the Fays and the Elfins. I was in the deep Greenwood, the velvet Sward kissing my wan Cheek and the Leaves whispering overhead."
"I see," said the Artist. "A Dark Change from an Interior to a Wood Set. That's all right if you can do it quick. Who did you say you was doing it for—the Fays?"
"I mentioned the Fays and Elfins," replied the Author.
"I've heard of the Fays," said the Artist. "They're out on the Orpheum Circuit now. But the Elfins—no. What kind of a Turn do they do?"
"Ah, the Elfins!" said the Author. "They dance in the Moonlight and skip from Tree to Tree.
"Acrobatic Stuff with Light Effects, eh? Well, you're on a couple of Mackerels. I never see any Benders that could get away with a Talking Act. You want to give your Piece to somebody that can Boost you. You write a good gingery Skit for me and Miss Fromage and we'll put your Name on a Three-Sheet in Letters big enough to scare a Horse."
"I gather from the somewhat technical Character of your Conversation, my dear sir, that you are associated with the Drama," said the Author.
"Is it a Kid?" asked the Artist. "Wuzn't you ever in Front? Don't you look at the Pictures in the Windows? I'm Rank, of Rank and Fromage. Miss Fromage is the other half this Season, and if you seen her a Block off you'd say, 'Is it or ain't it Lillian Russell?' We've just closed with McGoohan's Boisterous Burlesquers. We was so strong that we killed the rest of the Bill, so we got the Blue Envelope. Now they're using all our Business, including the Gag about the Custard Pie."
"To what am I indebted for the Honor of this Visit?" asked the Author.
"I heard that you was a Litry Mug and I'm around here to see you about a Sketch for me and Miss Fromage. The one I've got now is all right, but in it I've got to eat 8 hard-boiled Eggs, and with 4 shows a Day that's askin' too much of any Artist. This Sketch was wrote for us by the Man that handles the Transfer Baggage at Bucyrus. He fixed it up while we was waitin' for a Train. I've been using it since 1882 and it goes just as strong as ever, but I like to get new Stuff once in a while. So I want you to fake up something that'll kill 'em right in their Seats. Here's the Scenario: My Wife's a Society Girl and I'm supposed to be a Dead Swell that's come to take her to a Masquerade. With that to work on, all you need to do is to fill in the Talk."
"I have recently prepared a One-Act Play, but I am not sure that it will meet your Requirements," said the Author. "It is called 'The Language of Flowers.' There are three Characters in the Play—a young Shepherd named Ethelbert, the Lady Gwendolin and a Waiting Maid."
"We couldn't carry three People," said the Artist. "You'd better use a Dummy instead of the Hired Girl. I do an awful funny Wrassle with a Dummy. Go ahead and slip me the Plot."
"It is an idyllic Thing," said the Author. "Ethelbert is in love with Gwendolin, but he is not certain that his Love is reciprocated. So he sends her the Flowers. The waiting-maid brings them into the Bower where Lady Gwendolin is seated and with them a Scroll of Verses from Ethelbert. The Lady Gwendolin unrolls the Scroll and reads:
"'Traced in the Veins of the Petals Are the Lines I fain would speak And breathing low in the perfumed Leaves Is the Name—'"
"Hold on," said the Artist. "That's a Cinch. Have a Stage-Hand come on with the Flowers. Lottie says, 'I know who sent these,' and so on and so on, and his Nobs gets off. Then her alone with the big arm-load of Hollyhawks, that I'm supposed to be sendin' her—savvy? She says, 'Well, there's no three ways about it, I've got this Gazabo dead to Rights.' She goes on to talk about Me, leading up to her song, 'John L. will be our Champion once again.' Bing! The Door-Bell rings. Then, me on quick, see? I've thought out a Make-Up that's sure to get a Holler the Minute I come on. I wear a pair of Pants made out of Tin Foil, a Fur Coat with Lace around the Bottom and on my Head I wear a Coal-scuttle with some Sleigh-Bells fastened to it. As I come down Stage I make some crack about just escapin' from a Business College. When I see the Doll, I go over and slap her on the Back, pull out a Sprinklin' Can and water the Flowers. You'll have to fix me up a Line to introduce the Sprinkler. As soon as she sees me, she gets stuck, so she hands me one of the Flowers. I say, 'Ah, a night-blooming Pazizum'—then I take a Salt-Cellar out of my Vest and shake some Salt on the Flower and eat it. I done that with a Piece called 'A Boiled Dinner,' and it always went big. When she sees me eat the Flower, that makes her sore, understand? She comes at me with a right-hand Pass. I fall over a Chair and do a Head Spin. You fix up a strong Line for me just as I go over the Chair. Then—What's the matter, Cull? Here, Bud, open your Eyes!"
The Author had fallen in a Heap on the Antique Writing Desk. "Hully Chee!" exclaimed the Artist. "He's Croaked."
* * * * *
MORAL: A Classic is never Safe Except in the Church Parlor.
* * * * *
THE TWO OLD PALS AND THE CALL FOR HELP
Once there was a Married Man who had two Friends whom he had not given up, even to oblige the Missus. They were two Men whom he had known since Boyhood's Happy Days away back in Sleepy Hollow. Once in a while the Man would have the Two around to the House for Dinner.
Of these two Friends, one was a Gusher and the other a Grouch.
The Gusher was eternally bubbling over with Compliments and Kind Wishes. Whenever he met an Acquaintance he handed him a rhetorical Yard of Daisies and then smeared him with Sweet Endearments. His talk never had any specific Purport. It was unadulterated Con. The Gusher should have been in the Diplomatic Service. One of his hot Specialties was to get up at Dinner Parties and propose Toasts. He would hot-air the Ladies until they flushed Crimson from the Joy of being hot-aired. Even if the Speech was known to be cut-and-dried Blarney, it never failed to swell the Adorable Creatures, as he called them.
He had a pump-handle Shake for every Man he met, and after the second Day he called him Old Fellow and inquired as to his Health in a Tone of trembling Solicitude and picked little pieces of Lint off his Coat.
"I know it's Guff," the Man would say after the Gusher had passed on, "but my Stars! He can ladle out that Soothing Syrup and never spill a Drop."
The Grouch, on the other Hand, gave a correct Imitation of a Bear with a Sore Toe. His Conversation was largely made up of Grunts. He carried a Facial Expression that frightened little Children in Street Cars and took all the Starch out of sentimental Young Ladies. He seemed perpetually to carry the Hoof-Marks of a horrible Nightmare. Some said that he had been Blighted in Love and had soured on the Universe. Others imagined that his Liver was out of Whack. At any rate, he was shy on Sweetness and Light. His Dial suggested a Map of the Bad Lands and he was just out of Kind Words. He could Knock better than he could Boost.
When the Gusher would arise at the Dinner Table to blow Bubbles and distribute Candy, the Grouch would slide down in his Chair until he was resting on his Shoulder Blades. He seemed to have a Calomel Taste in his Mouth as he listened to the musical drip of the Mush-and-Milk. That kind of Language went with some People, but nix for Sweeney!
The Wife of the Married Man liked the Gusher and tolerated the Grouch.
Every time the Gusher came into the Flat, he held her Hand a little longer than necessary and looked into her Hazel Eyes and told her she was becoming Younger and more Charming every Day. After a Woman turns the 30 Corner, those Speeches are worth a Dollar a Word, because she finds herself Guessing at times. Husband never was jealous. He knew that the Gusher told every Woman the same thing, playing no Favorites.
When the Grouch came to see them, he said "How are you?" and then began to kick on the Weather and tell about his Rheumatism. One thing was certain. The Grouch never would break up any Happy Homes. And it was predicted that he would never get a Wife unless he took her on a Mortgage.
Every Husband has a few Friends who come in for hard Raps from the Wife. And the Grouch got all that was coming to him. She used to declare up and down that she was going to break his Plate and revoke his License. Husband would remind her that he and the Grouch had roomed together at College and done the Comrades Act ever since they were Boys. He would assure her that the Grouch was a Good Fellow, but you had to know him thirty or forty years before you found it out. He would smooth her down and straighten out her Feathers and she would agree to give the Grouch just one more Chance.
It came about that one Year the Married Man got Gay and swam out to where it was over his Head. In his keen Anxiety to enlarge his Business he took on about three Tons of Liabilities. Ninety days make but a fleeting Span when Notes are falling due. One day the Married Man found himself hanging on the edge of the Gully, with a Choice of jumping to the Rocks below or waiting to be Scalped. It was not a dignified thing to do, but he had to yell for Assistance and yell plenty.
He hot-footed to the Gusher, friend of his Youth and God-Father to his Children. He explained that his Heels were beating a Tattoo on the Ragged Edge of Insolvency, and unless he could raise the Wind, it meant a Receiver over at the Works, his Credit evaporated and the Pianola to the Hock-Shop.
The Gusher listened with Tears in his Eyes. In a Voice all choked with Sobs he tendered his Sympathy and his Sincere Hope that all would yet be Well. He told him it grieved him to see a Friend go under the Rollers. It tore his Heart. It did for sure. In fact it had so upset him that he would have to go out into the Air. So he did an Olga Nethersole Exit with one Hand over his streaming Eyes, and the life-long Friend sat there with Salt Water spattered all over him and nothing in his Hand.
As soon as he had dried his Clothes he went to the Grouch and candidly owned up that he was on the Waiting List for the Poor House unless he could borrow enough to tide him over.
As might have been expected, the Grouch began to Roast him. He told him that he didn't have as much Business Gumption as a Belgian Hare and a Chump who would walk into Debt with his Eyes open deserved to get it right in the Collar.
"If you're looking for Sympathy, you've barked up the wrong Tree," said the Grouch.
"I'm not," was the Reply. "I've just received enough Sympathy to last me all Winter."
The Grouch snarled and reached for his Check Book.
"You can have whatever you need, but you don't deserve it," he said, and he signed it, leaving it Blank above.
"In view of the Fact that you have saved my Life, I will try to forgive you for lacerating my Feelings," said the Married Man.
They retained the Flat, but the Grouch is just as Unpopular as ever.
* * * * *
MORAL: A Friend who is very Near and Dear may in Time become as useless as a Relative.
* * * * *
THE REGULAR KIND OF A PLACE AND THE USUAL WAY IT TURNED OUT
Once there was a home-like Beanery where one could tell the Day of the Week by what was on the Table.
The Stroke Oar of this Food Bazaar had been in the Business for 20 years, and she had earned her Harp three times over. The Prune Joke never touched her, and she had herself trained so as not to hear any sarcastic Cracks about the Oleo. She prided herself on the Atmosphere of Culture that permeated the Establishment, and on the Fact that she did not harbor any Improper Characters. A good many Improper Characters came around and sized up the Lay-Out and then blew.
It was a sure-enough Boarding-House, such as many of our Best People know all about even if they won't tell.
The Landlady was doing what she could to discourage the Beef Trust, but she carried a heavy line of Oatmeal. She had Oatmeal to burn and sometimes she did it. And she often remarked that Spinach had Iron in it and was great for the Blood. One of her pet Theories was that Rice contained more Nutriment than could be found in Spring Chicken, but the Boarders allowed that she never saw a Spring Chicken.
In the Cast of Characters were many of the Old Favorites. There was the lippy Boy with the Williams and Walker Shirts, who knew the Names of all the Ball-Players and could tell when there was a good Variety Show in Town.
Then there was the other kind, with a straw-colored Mustache and a prominent Adam's Apple, who was very careful about his Pronunciation. He belonged to a Social Purity Club that had a Yell. His Idea of a Hurrah was to get in a Parlor with a few Sisters who were under the Age Limit and sing the Bass Part of "Pull for the Shore."
Then there was the Old Boarder. He was the Land-Mark. Having lived in Boarding-Houses and Hotels all his Life, he had developed a Gloom that surrounded him like a Morning Fog. He had a Way of turning Things over with his Fork, as if to say, "Well, I don't know about this." And he never believed anything he saw in the Papers. He said the Papers printed those things just to fill up. The Circassian Princess that brought in the Vittles paid more attention to him than to any one else, because if he didn't get Egg on his Lettuce he was liable to cry all over the Table Cloth.
Then there was the chubby Man who came in every Evening and told what had happened at the Store that Day, and there was a human Ant-Eater who made Puns.
One of the necessary Features of a refined Joint is the Slender Thing who is taking Music and has Mommer along to fight off the Managers and hush the Voice of Scandal. This Boarding-House had one of these Mother-and-Child Combinations that was a Dream. Daughter was full of Kubelik and Josef Hoffman. Away back in the Pines somewhere there was a Father who was putting up for the Outfit. Mother's Job seemed to be to sit around and Root. She was a consistent little Booster. If what Mother said was true, then Effie's Voice was a good deal better than it sounded. She said the Teachers were just crazy about it and all of them agreed that Effie ought to go to Paris or Milan. The slangy Boy with the rag-time Shirt went them one better, and said that all of the phoney Melbas in the country ought to pull for the Old Country and wait until they were sent for.
In this same Boarding-House there was a Widow whose husband had neglected to die. Being left all alone in the World she had gone out to make her Way, since which time she had gained about 30 pounds and was considered Great Company by the Young Men.
Necessarily there was a Pale Lady who loved to read, and who stuck to the Patterns that appeared in Godey's Magazine soon after the War.
Then there was the Married Couple, without any Children or Furniture of their own, and the only reason they didn't take a House was that Henry had to be out of Town so often. Henry's Salary had been whooped $500 a Year and she was just beginning to say Gown instead of Dress. She had the Society Column for Breakfast and things looked Dark for Henry.
For many months this conventional Group of ordinary 6-7/8 Mortals had lived in a Rut. At each meal-time they rounded up and mechanically devoured what was doled out to them and folded their Napkins and broke Ranks. Each day was the Duplicate of another and Life had petered down to a Routine.
One Evening just as they had come in for their Vermicelli, a new Boarder glided into their midst. She was a tall Gypsy Queen with about $1,200 worth of Clothes that fit her everywhere and all the time, and she had this watch-me kind of a Walk, the same being a Cue for all the other Girls to get out their Hardware.
When she moved up to the Table and began to distribute a few sample Smiles, so as to indicate the Character of her Work, the musical Team went out with the Tide, the Grass Widow curled up like an Autumn Leaf, the touch-me-not Married Lady dropped into the Scrub Division. The Lady who read was shy a Spoon and afraid to ask for it. The Men were all google-eyed, and the Help was running into Chairs and dropping important parts of the Menu.
Presently the Landlady came in and explained. She said that Mrs. Williams was in the City to shop for a couple of Days, and her Husband would be up on the Night Train. Whereupon five men fell under the Table.
* * * * *
MORAL: Nothing ever happens at a Boarding House.
* * * * *
THE MAN WHO HAD A TRUE FRIEND TO STEER HIM ALONG
Once there was a well-meaning Soul who was handicapped by a true and lasting Friendship.
Sometimes he suspected that if he could be left to himself he would struggle along from one Saturday Night to another and keep out of the Way of the Cars and possibly extract some Joy from this Life in his own Simple Rube Fashion.
But every time he turned around, Friend was right there to tell him what to do.
Friend was somewhat of a Shell-Fish in the regulation of his own Private Affairs, but he knew just how to manage for some one else.
So he used to tell the Victim where to have his clothes made, and he would pick out his Shirt Patterns for him and tell him how often he needed a Drink, and in other ways relieve him of all Responsibilities.
If the poor Mark wanted to remain in his Room and read something by William Dean Howells, the Friend would compel him to put on his Low-Front and go out to a War-Dance and meet a Bunch of Kioodles who wore No. 6 Hats and talked nothing but Piffle.
The Friend was always making Business Engagements for him and then letting him know about it later on.
And sometimes Friend would try to choke him and take his Money away from him and invest it in some shine Enterprise that was going to pay 40 per cent Dividend every thirty Days.
Friend always meant well at that. When he selected the Girl that the Victim was to marry he was prompted by the most unselfish Motives. Notwithstanding which, the Victim did the tall Duck.
A Policeman found him hiding under a Bridge and asked, "Are you a Fugitive from Justice?"
"No," was the Reply. "This is merely a case of Friend."
* * * * *
MORAL: They never seem to be properly Thankful for all that we do in their Behalf.
* * * * *
THE YOUNG NAPOLEON WHO WENT BACK TO THE STORE ON MONDAY MORNING
Once there was a feverish Sure-Thinger who started for the Track with a Roll about the size of a Lady's Pencil. He wanted to parlee a $2 Silver Certificate and bring home enough to pay the National Debt. When he stayed at home and marked the Card and made Mind Bets he could beat five out of six. He estimated that he was losing a Thousand a Month by fooling around the Store when he might be out at the Merry-Go-Round showing the Ikeys how to take a Joke.
And now Saturday Afternoon had come and Percy M. Piker was hanging on the rear end of the Choo-Choo with $7 sewed up in the inside Pocket of his Vest, while in his Hand there fluttered a batch of Clippings, written by the Smoke Brothers, showing which ones were sure to win unless something happened.
Mr. Piker, the amateur Gam, closed his Eyes and saw himself buying a real Panama and a dozen or so George H. Primrose Shirts. He had a Vision of riding in a Machine called the Pink Demon, with Claire at his side and an imported Chiffonier working the Jigger and mowing down the Common People.
Percy had two or three Good Things that were guaranteed to go through. They had been slipped to him by a Cigar Salesman who knew an Owner. They looked to be the real Candy.
When he arrived at the Track he gave up for a Badge and a Dope-Sheet and a couple of Perfectos, and this left him with 5 and a little something on the side for Red Hots. He fought his way to the Black-Board and demanded $2 worth of Bright Eyes at 9 to 1. While he was struggling to get to the Fence he heard some one say that Appendicitis was right and would win by a City Block. A Low Moan escaped him. He climbed over a large mass of Colored People so as to get $3 down on Appendicitis. The Odds were 7 to 5. He got balled up in his Arithmetic, and while he was waiting for the Figures to shift so that he could butt in with his 3, a Bell rang and the Mob tore for the Fresh Air. He climbed a Pole and saw Bright Eyes doing a Solo. He let go and fell in a Faint. Bright Eyes had beaten the Gate and spread-eagled his Field. It was a Case of winning on the Chin Strap. Mr. Piker was first in the Line, shaking like a Corn-Starch Pudding. He wanted to cash before the Book failed.
A few Moments later he went out behind the Grand Stand and counted up and found that he had $23. He had the Panama and one Shirt. The still, small Voice said, "Duck!" but he thought of Claire and his coming Vacation. There grew within him a high resolve to clean up the Betting Ring and quit the Mercantile Life.
In the Second Race there was a Brown Mare by High-Low-Dreamy Eyes at 97 with Fogarty up, whatever that meant. He heard a Hickey in a Striped Sweater tell a red-headed Man that Josie Jinks would roll in. Accordingly he gnawed his way up to the Workman with the Pencil and laid Twenty at 31/2 to 1. Then he wished that he hadn't, for he met a Friend who whispered "Sassafras" to him. Also he heard some one say that Josie Jinks was three-legged and a bad Actress. After which he went and put Cold Water on his Head and died several Deaths.
Josie Jinks carried on her Back something just out of the Cradle that had number 3 marked on it. Mr. Piker had his Chin over the Fence and was wondering if any one would gather up his Body and put it on the Train. His Pulse was up to 180 and he couldn't hear the Band play.
He saw them come past the first time. Sassafras had a piece of Daylight between himself and the Bunch. The Boy was going along under Double Wraps with a lot up his Sleeve. Away back in the Pocket there was something with a 3 on it. Percy clung to the Fence and he felt the Chill come up his Legs. Sassafras had them smothered. He heard the Roar behind him and knew that an Awful Thing was being pulled off, but he did not have the Heart to look. As they pounded up the Stretch he lifted a dying Gaze and saw a figure 3 move out of the horrible Mix-Up and it was all over but the Cashing.
A bug-eyed Maniac with his Collar to the bad was found wandering hither and thither with $90 in his Left Hand. The Tout had to shake him a couple of times before he came to. The Tout had some Goods of a very superior Quality. In the next Race there was a Collie that had enough Hop in him to convert a Selling Plater into a Reina. It was like making change with a Blind Man. Rinkaboo was the Name. Breathe it softly, as very few were Next.
The Tout said to play it across the Board, forward and back, up and down. He said that Rinkaboo would breeze in, that he would win on the Bit, doing Buck and Wing Steps, that all the others would seem to be Hitched.
So, Mr. Piker allowed the Tout to take him by the Hand, for he was too weak to resist, and together they wandered off into Dreamland. Piece by Piece the happy Sesterces went up. Rinkaboo was played in all the Books, straight, place and to peep. Mr. Piker found himself up in the Grand Stand holding his Head with one Hand while in the other Hand was a Pinochle Deck, suitable for framing. If Rinkaboo finished at all, Mr. Piker was a Wealthy Person. If he happened in toward the head of the Procession, Mr. Piker would have to send for a Furniture Van. If he came First, it would be a case of Hoboken for every Book inside of the Fence.
After it was all over and Mr. Percy M. Piker was riding homeward with his Head out of a Trolley Window, he recalled dimly that a large number of long-legged Ponies came out on the Track. One of them was the color of an Old Glove and was doing a Two-Step. There was about twenty minutes of Fussing around at the Bend in the Track and then they all kited away like a flight of Swallows and there was one Horse in front and Mr. Piker had a Convulsion and frothed at the mouth. Presently the Tonic seemed to die away and something Blew and Rinkaboo fell down and stepped on his Lip. He came in about the time they were blowing the Horn for the next Race.
And now Mr. Piker can take Callers up to his Room and tell them how he stood to win $1,340.
* * * * *
MORAL: Even the Best cannot pick them every Whirl out of the Box.
* * * * *
THE HIGH ART THAT WAS A LITTLE TOO HIGH FOR THE VULGARIAN WHO PAID THE BILLS
Once there was a Husband who was stuck on Plain Living and Home Comforts. He would walk around an Angel Cake any old Time to get action on some Farm Sausage. He was not very strong for Romaine Salad or any Speckled Cheese left over from Year before last, but he did a very neat vanishing Act with a Sirloin Steak and he had the Coffee come right along in a large Cup. He refused to dally with the Demi-Tasse. For this true American the Course Dinner was a weak Invention of the benighted Foreigner. When he squared up to his Food he cut out all the Trimmings.
This is the kind of Husband who peels his Coat in the Evening and gets himself all spread out in a Rocking Chair with a fat Cushion under him.
He loves to wear old Velvet Slippers with pink Roses worked on the Toes and the Heels run over.
Give him about two Cigars that pull freely and a Daily Paper and he is fixed for the Session.
Along about 10.30, if he can connect with a Triangle of Desiccated Apple Pie and a Goblet of Milk, he is ready to sink back on the Husks, feeling simply Immense.
Now this Husband had a Fireside that suited him nearly to Death until the Better Half began to read these Magazines that tell how to beautify the Home.
Her first Play was to take out all the Carpets and have the Floors massaged until they were as slick as Glass, so that when the Bread-Winner stepped on one of the Okra or Bokhara Rugs he usually gave an Imitation of a Player trying to reach Second.
He told her that he did not care to live in a Rink, but what he said cut very few Lemons with the Side-Partner. She was looking at the half-tone Pictures of up-to-date Homes and beginning to realize that the Wall-Paper, Steel Engravings and the Enlarged Photographs of Yap Relatives would have to go.
One Day when the Provider struck the Premises he found the Workmen putting Red Burlap on the Walls of the Sitting-Room.
"Why the Gunny-Sack?" he asked. "Can't we afford Wall-Paper?"
"Love of Art is the True Essence of the Higher Life," said the AEsthete, and she began to read a Booklet bound in the same Paper that the Butcher uses when he wraps up a Soup Bone.
"Come again," said the Wage Earner, who was slow at catching these Ruskin Twisters.
"This is Art Burlap and not the kind that they use for sacking Peanuts," explained the Disciple of Beauty. "Above the Burlap will be a Shelf of Weathered Oak, and then above that a Frieze of Blue Jimson Flowers. Then when we draw all of the Curtains and light one Candle in here it will make a Swell Effect."
"I feel that we are going to be very Happy," he said, and then he went out and sat behind the Barn, where he could smoke his Pipe and meditate on the Uncertainties of Life.
Next Day he discovered that she had condemned his Rocking-Chair and the old-style Centre Table on which he used to stack his Reading Matter and keep a Plate of Apples handy.
When he entered the improved and modernized Living Room, he found himself up against a Job Lot of Beauty and no Mistake.
All the Furniture was straight up and down. It seemed to have been chopped out with an Axe, and was meant to hold up Members of the Rhinoceros Family.
On the High Shelf was a Row of double-handled Shaving Mugs, crippled Beer Steins, undersized Coal Scuttles and various Copper Kettles that had seen Better Days.
"At last we have a Room that satisfies every Craving of my Soul," said the Wife.
"I am more than Satisfied," observed the Treasurer. "I am delirious with Joy. My only regret is that an All-Wise Providence did not mould me into a different Shape so that I might sit down in some of these Chairs. What are those Iron Dinkuses sticking out from the Wall?"
"Those are Florentine Lanterns," she replied; "and they are very Roycroftie, even if they don't give any Light."
Next she started in on the Dining-Room.
Rule No. 1 for making Home more Cheerful is to put in a Shelf wherever there is room for one. After which the Shelf is loaded down with Etruscan Growlers and Antique Jugs.
The low-browed Husband could not tell the difference between High Art and Junk.
The female Bradleyite covered the Walls with about 400 Plates, each with a Blue Curly-Cue on it. They looked very Cheap to him until he received the Bill, and then he learned that they were Old Delft and came to $11 apiece.
In fact, after his Wife had been haunting the Second-Hand Places for a while, he learned that any Article which happened to be old and shopworn and cracked was the one that commanded the Top Price.
She never let up until she had made the whole House thoroughly Artistic.
Her Women Acquaintances would come in, and she would show them the Dark Oak Effects and the Sea-Green Frescoes and the Monastery Settee with the Sole-Leather Bottom in it and the corroded Tea-Pot that she had bought for $95 and the Table Spread made from Overall Material with just one Yellow Poppy in the Middle, and they would have 37 different kinds of Duck Fits and say that it was Grand and that her Taste was simply Faultless. After that she wouldn't care what Husband said.
He was a fairly patient Man, and all he complained of was that when he sat down he dislocated his Spine, while the Brass Knobs wore black-and-blue Spots on him; and the dining-room Table should have had a couple of Holes for him to put his Legs through; and he couldn't find a Place in which to stretch out; and he needed a Derrick to move one of the Chairs; and at Night when the Moonlight came into his Room and he saw all the bummy Bean-Pots lined up on the Foot-Board and the Instruments of Torture staring at him from every corner of the Room, he would crawl down under the Covers and dream of his Childhood Home, with the old-fashioned Sofas and the deep Rocking-Chairs and the big Bureaus that were meant to hold Things and not to look at. However, he has been unable to arrest the reaching-out after the Beautiful, for only last Week she purchased a broken-down Clock—price $115.
* * * * *
MORAL: There is no Place like Home, and some Husbands are glad of it.
* * * * *
THE PATIENT TOILER WHO GOT IT IN THE USUAL PLACE
Once there was an Office Employee with a Copy-Book Education.
He believed it was his Duty to learn to Labor and to Wait.
He read Pamphlets and Magazine Articles on Success and how to make it a Cinch. He knew that if he made no Changes and never beefed for more Salary, but just buckled down and put in Extra Time and pulled for the House, he would Arrive in time.
The Faithful Worker wanted to be Department Manager. The Hours were short and the Salary large and the Work easy.
He plugged on for many Moons, keeping his Eye on that Roll-Top Desk, for the Manager was getting into the Has-Been Division and he knew there would be a Vacancy.
At last the House gave the old Manager the Privilege of retiring and living on whatever he had saved.
"Ah, this is where Humble Merit gets its Reward," said the Patient Toiler. "I can see myself counting Money."
That very Day the Main Gazooks led into the Office one of the handsomest Tennis Players that ever worked on Long Island and introduced him all around as the new Department Manager.
"I shall expect you to tell Archibald all about the Business," said the Main Gazooks to the Patient Toiler. "You see he has just graduated from Yale and he doesn't know a dum Thing about Managing anything except a Cat-Boat, but his Father is one of our principal Stock-Holders and he is engaged to a Young Woman whose Uncle is at the head of the Trust."
"I had been hoping to get this Job for myself," said the Faithful Worker, faintly.
"You are so valuable as a Subordinate and have shown such an Aptitude for Detail Work that it would be a Shame to waste you on a $5,000 Job," said the Main Gazooks. "Besides you are not Equipped. You have not been to Yale. Your Father is not a Stock-Holder. You are not engaged to a Trust. Get back to your High Stool and whatever Archibald wants to know, you tell him."
* * * * *
MORAL: One who wishes to be a Figure-Head should not Overtrain.
* * * * *
THE SUMMER VACATION THAT WAS TOO GOOD TO LAST
Once there was a Wife who gave the Money-Getter a Vacation by going into the Country for a Month. Dearie took her to the Train, and all the way she kept saying that it did not seem just Right to romp away on a Pleasure Trip and leave him Shell-Roaded.
He began to fear that she would Weaken, so he told her that while he was slaving and humping in the City, it would give him sufficient Joy to know that Darling was out in the Woods, listening to the Birds. He insisted that she should stay until she was thoroughly Rested. Of course, he did not dare to make it too Strong. He played the Self-Sacrifice Gag and threw in a Dash of Marital Solicitude, and made an awful Try at imitating one who has been soaked by a Great Sorrow. As the Missus looked at him through her Tears and held his Salary-Hook in hers, little did she suspect that he had framed up a Poker Festival for that Night and already the Wet Goods were spread out on the Ice.
He had told her that he was going to sit up in the Library every Evening and read Macaulay's History of England. By opening the Windows on both sides he could get a nice Breeze from the West. Along about 10 o'clock, if he got Sleepy, he could turn in. Why not?
It was a lovely Time-Table that he had mapped out. He submitted it to Pet before she went away and she put her O.K. on it, even though her Heart ached for him. Breakfast at the strange Boarding-House. A day of Toil interrupted by a small Bunch of Food at the Dairy Lunch.