HotFreeBooks.com
You Should Worry Says John Henry
by George V. Hobart
1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

YOU SHOULD WORRY SAYS JOHN HENRY

by

GEORGE V. HOBART

Illustrations by Edward Carey



G. W. Dillingham Company Publishers New York

Copyright, 1914, by G. W. Dillingham Company All rights reserved The author reserves all stage rights, which includes moving pictures. Any infringement of copyright will be dealt with according to law.

You Should Worry Press of J. J. Little & Ives Co. New York



CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. You Should Worry About a Tango Lesson 5

II. You Should Worry About an Automobile 28

III. You Should Worry About Dieting 45

IV. You Should Worry About Getting a Goat 64

V. You Should Worry About Being in Love 78

VI. You Should Worry About Snap-Shots 97

VII. You Should Worry About the Servants 108

VIII. You Should Worry About Auction Bridge 130

IX. You Should Worry About Getting the Grip 142

X. You Should Worry About a Musical Evening 158



YOU SHOULD WORRY

CHAPTER I

YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT A TANGO LESSON

The idea originated with Bunch Jefferson. You can always count on Bunch having a few freak ideas in the belfry where he keeps his butterflies. Bunch and his wife, Alice, live out in Westchester County, about half a mile from Uncle Peter's bungalow, where friend wife and I are spending the winter.

The fact that Uncle Peter and Aunt Martha had decided to give us a party was the inspiration for Bunch's brilliant idea.

"Listen, John," he Macchiavellied; "not one of this push out here knows a thing about the Tango. Most of them have a foolish idea that it's a wicked institution invented by the devil, who sold his patent rights to the Evil-Doers' Association. Now, I'll tell you what we'll do, John: we'll put them wise. We'll take about two lessons from a good instructor in town and on the night of the party we'll make the hit of our lives teaching them all to Tango—are you James to the possibilities?"

"It listens like a good spiel," I agreed; "but will a couple of lessons be enough for us?"

"Sure," he came back; "we're not a couple of Patsys with the pumps! We can learn enough in two lessons to make good in this Boob community. Why, we'll start a Tango craze out here that will put life and ginger in the whole outfit and presently they'll be putting up statues in our honor."

Well, to make a long story lose its cunning, we made arrangements next day with Ikey Schwartz, Dancing Instructor, to explain the mysteries of this modern home-wrecking proposition known as the Tango, and paid him in advance the sum of $100.

It seemed to me that a hundred iron men in advance was a nifty little price for two lessons, but Bunch assured me the price was reasonable on account of the prevalence of rich scholars willing to divide their patrimony with anybody who could teach their feet to behave in time to the music.

We made an appointment to meet Ikey at his "studio" for our first lesson the following afternoon. Then we hiked for home on the 4.14, well pleased with our investment and its promise of golden returns.

That night Bunch and Alice were over to our place for dinner. After dinner Bunch and I sat down by the log fire in the Dutch room, filled our faces with Havana panatellas, and proceeded to enjoy life in silence.

Into the next room came Alice and Peaches and sat down for their usual cackle.

Bunch and I started from our reveries when we heard Alice say to Peaches, "You don't know what a source of comfort it has been to me to realize that Bunch doesn't know a blessed thing about the Tango or any of those hatefully intimate new dances!"

"The same with me, Alice," friend wife chirped in. "I believe if John were to suddenly display the ability to dance the Tango I'd be broken-hearted. Naturally, I'd know that he must have learned it with a wicked companion in some lawless cabaret. And if he frequented cabarets without my knowledge—oh, Alice, what would I do?"

I looked at Bunch, he looked at me, and then we both looked out the window.

"For my part," Alice went on, "I trust Bunch so implicitly that I don't even question his motive when he telephones me he has to take dinner in town with a prospective real estate customer."

"And I know enough of human nature," Peaches gurgled, "to be sure that if either one of them could Tango he would be crazy to show off at home. I think we're very lucky, both of us, to have such steady-going husbands, don't you, Alice?"

At this point Aunt Martha buzzed into the other room and the cackle took on another complexion.

In the meantime Bunch and I had passed away.

"It's cold turkey," I whispered.

"I've been in the refrigerator for ten minutes and I'm chilled to the bone," Bunch whispered back.

"Can we get our coin away from Ikey?" I asked.

"We can try," Bunch sneezed.

The next afternoon we had Ikey Schwartz for luncheon with us at the St. Astorbilt. The idea being to dazzle him and get a few of the iron men back.

"Leave everything to me," Bunch growled as we shaved our hats and Indian-filed to a trough.

"A quart of Happysuds," Bunch ordered. "How about it, Ikey?"

Ikey flashed a grin and tried to swallow his palate, so it wouldn't interfere with the wet spell suggested by Bunch.

Ikey belonged to the "dis, dose and dem" push.

Every long sentence he uttered was full of splintered grammar.

Every time Ikey opened his word-chest the King's English screamed for help, and literature got a kick in the slats.

He was short and thin, but it was a deceptive thinness. His capacity for storing away free liquids was awe-inspiring and a sin.

I think Ikey must have been hollow from the neck to the ankles, with emergency bulkheads in both feet.

His nose was shaped like a quarter to six o'clock. It began in the middle and rushed both ways as hard as it could. One end of it ducked into his forehead and never did come out.

His interior was sponge-lined, and when the bartenders began to send them in fast, Ikey would lower an asbestos curtain to keep the fumes away from his brain.

Nobody ever saw Ikey at high tide.

There was surely something wrong with Ikey's switchboard, because he could wrap his system around more Indian laughing-juice without getting lit up than any other man in the world.

But Ikey was the compliments of the season, all right, all right.

Ikey had spent most of his life being a Bookmaker, and when the racing game went out of fashion he sat down and tried to think what else he could do. Nothing occurred to him until one day he discovered that he could push his feet around in time to music, so he became a dancing instructor and could clean up $1,000 per day if the bartenders didn't beckon too hard.

The luncheon had been ordered and Bunch was just about to switch the conversation around to the subject of rebates when suddenly his eyes took on the appearance of saucers, and tapping me on the arm he gasped, "Look!"

I looked, and beheld Peaches, Alice and Aunt Martha sailing over in our direction.

With a whispered admonition to Bunch to keep Ikey still, I went forward to meet friend wife, her aunt and Alice.

They were as much surprised as I was.

"It was such a delightful day that Aunt Martha couldn't resist the temptation to do a little shopping," Peaches rattled on; "and then we decided to come here for a bit of luncheon—hello, Bunch! I'm so glad to see you! John, hadn't we better take another table so that your friendly conference may not be interrupted?"

I hastened to assure Peaches that it wasn't a conference at all. We had met Mr. Schwartz quite by accident. Then I introduced Ikey to the ladies.

He got up and did something that was supposed to be a bow, but you couldn't tell whether he was tying his shoe or coming down a stepladder.

When Ikey tried to bend a Society double he looked like one of the pictures that goes with a rubber exerciser, price 75 cents.

After they had ordered club sandwiches and coffee I explained to Peaches and the others that Mr. Schwartz was a real estate dealer. Ikey began to swell up at once.

"Bunch and I are going in a little deal with Mr. Schwartz," I explained. "He knows the real estate business backwards. Mr. Schwartz has a fad for collecting apartment houses. He owns the largest assortment of People Coops in the city. All the modern improvements, too. Hot and cold windows, running gas and noiseless janitors. Mr. Schwartz is the inventor of the idea of having two baths in every apartment so that the lessee will have less excuse for not being water broke."

Ikey never cracked a smile.

"In Mr. Schwartz's apartment houses," I continued, while Bunch kicked my shins under the table, "you will find self-freezing refrigerators and self-leaving servants. All the rooms are light rooms, when you light the gas. Two of his houses overlook the Park and all of them overlook the building laws. The floors are made of concrete so that if you want to bring a horse in the parlor you can do so without kicking off the plaster in the flat below. Every room has folding doors, and when the water pipes burst the janitor has folding arms."

"Quit your joshing, John! you'll embarrass Mr. Schwartz," laughed Bunch somewhat nervously, but Ikey's grin never flickered.

"Is Mr. Schwartz deaf and dumb?" Peaches whispered.

"Intermittently so," I whispered back; "sometimes for hours at a time he cannot speak a word and can hear only the loudest tones."

Aunt Martha heard my comment on Ikey's infirmity and was about to become intensely sympathetic and tell him how her brother's wife was cured when Bunch interrupted loudly by asking after Uncle Peter's health.

"Never better," answered Aunt Martha. "He has spent all the morning arranging the program of dancing for our little party. He insists upon having the Virginia Reel, the old-fashioned waltz, the Polka and the Lancers. Uncle Peter has a perfect horror of these modern dances and Peaches and Alice and I share it with him." Then she turned to Ikey: "Don't you think these modern dances are perfectly disgusting?"

Poor Ikey looked reproachfully at the old lady a second, then with gathering astonishment he slid silently off the chair and struck the floor with a bump.

Aunt Martha was so rattled over this unexpected effort on Mr. Schwartz's part that she upset her coffee and Ikey got most of it in the back of the neck.

When peace was finally restored the old lady came to the surface with an envelope which had been lying on the table near her plate.

"Is this your letter, John?" she asked, and then, arranging her glasses, read with great deliberation, "Mr. I. Schwartz, Tango Teacher, care of Kumearly and Staylates' Cabaret, New York."

Peaches and Alice went into the ice business right away quick.

Aunt Martha, in pained surprise, looked at me and then at Bunch, and finally focused a steady beam of interrogation upon the countenance of Mr. Schwartz.

Ikey never whimpered.

Then Bunch took the letter from the open-eyed Aunt Martha and leaped to the rescue while I came out of the trance slowly.

"It's too bad Mr. Schwartz forgot his ear trumpet," Bunch said quickly, and Ikey was wise to the tip in a minute.

Peaches sniffed suspiciously, and I knew she had the gloves on.

"Mr. Schwartz's affliction is terrible," she said with a chill in every word. "How did you converse with him before our arrival?"

"Oh! he understands the lip language and can talk back on his fingers," I hastened to explain, looking hard at Ikey, whose masklike face gave no token that he understood what was going on.

"I thought I understood you to say Mr. Schwartz is a real estate dealer!" Peaches continued, while the thermometer went lower and lower.

"So he is," I replied.

"Then why does his correspondent address him as a Tango Teacher?" friend wife said slowly, and I could hear the icebergs grinding each other all around me.

"I think I can explain that," Bunch put in quietly. Then with the utmost deliberation he looked Ikey in the eye and said, "Mr. Schwartz, it's really none of my business, but would you mind telling me why you, a real estate dealer, should have a letter in your possession which is addressed to you as a Tango Teacher? Answer me on your fingers."



Ikey delivered the goods.

In a minute he had both paws working overtime and such a knuckle twisting no mortal man ever indulged in before.

"He says," Bunch began to interpret, "that the letter is not his. It is intended for Isadore Schwartz, a wicked cousin of his who is a victim of the cabaret habit. Mr. Schwartz is now complaining bitterly with his fingers because his letters and those intended for his renegade cousin become mixed almost every day. These mistakes are made because the initials are identical. He also says that—he—hopes—the—presence— of—this—particular—letter—in—his—possession—does—not—offend— the—ladies—because—while—it—is—addressed—to—a—tango-teacher— the—contents—are—quite—harmless—being—but—a—small—bill—from— the—dentist."

Ikey's fingers kept on working nervously, as though he felt it his duty to wear them out, and the perspiration rolled off poor Bunch's forehead.

"Tell him to cease firing," I said to Bunch; "he'll sprain his fingers and lose his voice."

Ikey doubled up all his eight fingers and two thumbs in one final shout and subsided.

"I'm afraid we'll miss the 5.18 train if we don't hurry," said Peaches, and I could see that the storm was over, although she still glanced suspiciously at poor Ikey.

"And, Bunch, you and John can come home with us now, can't you?" Alice asked as they started to float for the door.

Then Ikey cut in as we started to follow the family parade, "I'm hep to the situation. It's a cutey, take it from little Ikey. I'll have to charge you $8 for the sudden attack of deafness; then there's $19 for hardships sustained by my finger joints while conversing. The rest of the 100 iron men I'm going to keep as a souvenir of two good-natured ginks who wouldn't know what to do with a Tango if they had one."

As we pulled out of the Mayonnaise Mansion I looked back at Ikey to thank him with a farewell nod.

He was halfway under the table, holding both hands to his sides and making funny faces at the carpet.



CHAPTER II

YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT AN AUTOMOBILE

Say! did you ever have to leave the soothing influence of your own rattling radiators in the Big City and go romping off to a rich relation's for the week-end?

Well, don't do it, if you can help it, and if you can't help it get back home as soon as possible.

When Uncle Gilbert Hawley sent us an invitation to run up to Hawleysville for a day or two I looked at Peaches and she looked at me—then we both looked out the window.

We knew what a wildly hilarious time we'd have splashing out small talk to the collection of human bric-a-brac always to be found at Uncle Gilbert's, but what is one going to do when the richest old gink in the family waves a beckoning arm?

I'll tell you what one is going to do—one is going to take to one's o'sullivans, beat it rapidly to a choo-choo, and float into Uncle Gilbert's presence with a business of being tickled to death—that's what one is going to do.

You know Nature has a few immutable laws, and one is that even a rich old uncle must in the full course of time pass on and leave nephews and nieces. Leave them what? Ah! that's it! Where's that timetable?

Hawleysville is about forty miles away on the P. D. & Q., and it is some burg. Uncle Gilbert wrote it all himself.

Uncle Gilbert has nearly all the money there is in the world. Every time he signs a check a national bank goes out of existence. He tried to count it all once, but he sprained his wrists and had to stop.

On the level, when he goes into a bank all the government bonds get up and yell, "Hello, Papa!"

When he cuts coupons it's like a sheep shearing.

He has muscles all over him like a prizefighter just from lifting mortgages.

When Peaches and I finally reached the Hawley mansion on the hill we found there a scene of great excitement. Old and distant relations were bustling up and down the stone steps, talking in whispers; servants with scared faces and popping eyes were peeping around the corner of the house, and in the roadway in front of a sobbing automobile stood Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Miranda, made up to look like two members of the Peary expedition at the Pole.

After the formal greetings we were soon put hep to the facts in the case.

"You see, John," bubbled Aunt Miranda, while a pair of green goggles danced an accompaniment on her nose, "your Uncle Gilbert loaned the money to a man to open a garage in Hawleysville. But automobilists never got any blowouts or punctures going through here because there isn't a saloon in the town, so the garage failed and the man left town in an awful hurry, and all your Uncle Gilbert got for the money he loaned was this car. We've been four years making up our minds to buy one and now we have one whether we want it or not."

"Fine!" I said; "going out for a spin, Uncle Gilbert?"

"Possibly," he answered, never taking his eyes off the man-killer in front of him, which stood there trembling with anger.

"What car is it?" I inquired politely.

"It's a Seismic," Uncle Gilbert said.

"Oh, yes, of course; made by the Earthquake Brothers in Powderville—good car for the hills, especially coming down," I volunteered. "Know how to run it?"

"I guess so; I was always a good hand at machinery," Uncle Gilbert answered.

"Don't you think you should have a chauffeur?" Peaches suggested.

"Chauffeur! Why?" Uncle Gilbert snapped back; "what do I want with one of those fellows sitting around, eating me out of house and home."

Now you know why he has so much money.

"We'll be back in a little while," Aunt Miranda explained; "just make yourselves at home, children."

Uncle Gilbert continued to eye the car for another minute, then he turned to me and said, "Want to try it, John?"

"Nix, Uncle Gilbert," I protested; "what would the townspeople say? You with a new motor car, afraid to run it yourself, had to send to New York for your nephew—nix! Where's your family pride?"

"My family pride is all right," answered Uncle Gilbert; "but there's a lot of contraptions in that machine I don't seem to recognize."

"Oh, that's all right; you're a handy little guy with machinery," I reminded him. "Hop in now and break forth. Don't let the public think that you're afraid to blow a Bubble through the streets of your native town. The rubber sweater buttoned to the chin and the Dutch awning over the forehead for yours, and on your way!"

Finally and reluctantly Uncle Gilbert and Aunt Miranda climbed into the kerosene wagon and I gave him his final instructions.

"Now, Uncle Gilbert," I said, "grab that wheel in front of you firmly with both hands and put one foot on the accelerator. Now put the other foot on the rheostat and let the left elbow gently rest on the deodorizer. Keep the rubber tube connecting with the automatic fog whistle closely between the teeth and let the right elbow be in touch with the quadruplex while the apex of the left knee is pressed over the spark coil and the right ankle works the condenser."

Uncle Gilbert grunted. "Why don't you put my left shoulder blade to work," he muttered; "it's the only part of my anatomy that hasn't got a job."

"John," whispered the nervous Aunt Miranda, "do you really think your Uncle Gilbert knows enough about the car?"

"Sure," I answered, and I was very serious about it. "Now, Uncle Gilbert, keep both eyes on the road in front of you and the rest of your face in the wagon. Start the driving wheels, repeat slowly the name of your favorite coroner, and leave the rest to Fate!"

And away they started in the Whiz Wagon.

Before they had rolled along for half a mile through town the machine suddenly began to breathe fast, and then, all of a sudden, it choked up and stopped.

"Will it explode?" whispered Aunt Miranda, pleadingly.

"No," said Uncle Gilbert, jumping out; "I think the cosmopolitan has buckled with the trapezoid," and then, with a monkey wrench, he crawled under the hood to see if the trouble was stubbornness or appendicitis.

Uncle Gilbert took a dislike to a brass valve and began to knock it with the monkey wrench, whereupon the valve got mad at him and upset a pint of ancient salad oil all over his features.

When Uncle Gilbert recovered consciousness the machine was breathing again, so he jumped to the helm, pointed the bow at Tampico, Mex., and began to cut the grass.

Alas! however, it seemed that the demon of unrest possessed that Coal-oil Coupe, for it soon began to jump and skip, and suddenly, with a snort, it took the river road and scooted away from town.

Uncle Gilbert patted it on the back and spoke soothingly, but it was no use.

Aunt Miranda pleaded with him to keep in near the shore, because she was getting seasick; but her tears were in vain.

"You must appear calm and indifferent in the presence of danger," muttered Uncle Gilbert as they rushed madly into the bosom of a flock of cows.



But luck was with them, for with a turn of the wrist Uncle Gilbert jumped the machine across the road, and all he could feel was the sharp swish of an old cow's tail across his cheek as they rushed on and out of that animal's life forever.

Aunt Miranda tried to be brave and to chat pleasantly. "How is Wall Street these days?" she asked, and just then the machine struck a stone and she went up in the air.

"Unsettled," answered Uncle Gilbert when she got back, and then there was an embarrassing silence.

To try to hold a polite conversation, on a motor car in full flight is very much like trying to repeat the Declaration of Independence while falling from a seventh-story window.

Then, all of a sudden, the machine struck a chord in G, and started for Newfoundland at the rate of 7,000,000 miles a minute.

Aunt Miranda threw her arms around Uncle Gilbert's neck, he threw his neck around the lever, the lever threw him over, and they both threw a fit.

Down the road ahead of them a man and his wife were quarreling. They were so much in earnest that they did not hear the machine sneaking swiftly up on rubber shoes.

As the Benzine Buggy was about to fall upon the quarreling man and wife Uncle Gilbert squeezed a couple of hoarse "Toot toots" from the horn, whereupon the woman in the road threw up both hands and leaped for the man. The man threw up both feet and leaped for the fence.

The last Aunt Miranda saw of them they were entering their modest home neck and neck, and the divorce court lost a bet.

Then the machine began to climb a telegraph pole, and as it ran down the other side Aunt Miranda wanted to know for the tenth time if it would explode.

"How did John tell you to handle it?" she shrieked, as the Rowdy Cart bit its way through a stone fence and began to dance a two-step over a strange man's lawn.

"The only way to handle this infernal machine is to soak it in water," yelled Uncle Gilbert as they hit the main road again.

"I don't see what family pride has to do with it; there isn't a soul looking," moaned Aunt Miranda.

"Oh if I could only be arrested for fast riding and get this thing stopped," wailed Uncle Gilbert as they headed for the river.

"Let me out, let me out," pleaded Aunt Miranda, and the machine seemed to hear her, for it certainly obliged the lady.

I found out afterwards that in order to make good with Aunt Miranda the machine jumped up in the air and turned a double handspring, during the course of which friend Uncle and his wife fell out and landed in the most generous inclined mud puddle in that part of the state.

Then the Buzz Buggy turned around and barked at them, and with an excited wag of its tail scooted for home and left them flat.

Late that evening Uncle Gilbert explained that there would have been no trouble at all if he had removed a defective spark plug.

But I think if Uncle Gilbert would go to Dr. Leiser and have his parsimony removed he'd have more fun as he breezes through life.

Peaches thinks just as I do, but she won't say it out loud—she's a fox, that Kid.



CHAPTER III

YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT DIETING

I was complaining to some of my friends in the Club the other evening because a germ General Villa had begun to attack the outposts of my digestive tract when a nut in the party began to slip me a line of talk about a vegetable diet.

I didn't fall for it until he proved to me that Kid Methuselah had prolonged an otherwise uneventful life and was enabled to make funny faces at the undertakers until he reached the age of 914 simply because he ate nothing but dandelion salad, mashed potatoes and stewed prunes.

Then I went home and told friend wife about it. She approved eagerly because she felt that it might solve the servant problem.

Since we started housekeeping about eight months ago we've averaged two cooks a week. Tuesdays and Fridays are our days for changing chefs. The old cook leaves Monday evening and the new cook arrives Tuesday morning. Then the new cook leaves on Thursday evening and the newest cook arrives on Friday, and so on, world without end.

Friend wife decided she could herself dip a few parsnips in boiling water without the aid of a European kitchen mechanician.

Vegetarians! What a great idea!

Now she could get out into the sunlight once in a while, instead of standing forever at the hall door as a perpetual reception committee to a frowsy-headed Slavonian exile demanding $35 per and nix on the washing.

But it was Friday and our latest cook was at that moment annoying the gas range in the kitchen, so why not experiment and find out what merit there is in a vegetarian menu?

The ayes have it—send for the Duchess of Dishwater.

Enter the Duchess, so proud and haughty, with a rolling pin in one hand and a guide to the city of New York in the other. During her idle moments she studied the guide. Even now, and only three weeks from Ellis Island, she knew the city so well that she could go from one situation to another with her eyes closed.

"Ollie," said friend wife, "do you know how to cook vegetables in an appetizing manner?"



"Of course," answered Ollie, her lips curling disdainfully.

Then I chipped in with, "Very well, Ollie; the members of this household are vegetarians, for the time being. All of us vegetarians, including the dog, so please govern yourself accordingly."

Ollie smiled in a broad Hungarian manner and whispered that vegetarianisms was where she lived.

She confided to us that she could cook vegetables so artistically that the palate would believe them to be filet mignon, with champagne sauce.

Then she shook the rolling pin at a picture of friend wife's grandfather, and started in to fool the Beef Trust and put all the butchers out of business.

Dinner time came and we were all expectancy.

The first course was potato soup. Filling but not fascinating.

The second course was potato chips, which we nibbled slightly while we looked eagerly at the butler's pantry.

The next course was French fried potatoes with some shoestring potatoes on the side, and I began to get nervous.

This was followed by a dish of German fried potatoes, some hash-browned potatoes and some potato saute, whereupon my appetite got up and left the room.

The next course was plain boiled potatoes with the jackets on, and baked potatoes with the jackets open at the throat, and then some roasted potatoes with Bolero jackets.

I was beginning to see that a man must have in his veins the blood of martyrs and of heroes to be a vegetarian and at the same time I could feel myself fixing my fingers to choke Ollie.

The next course was a large plate of potato salad, and then I fainted.

When I got back Ollie was standing near the table with a sweet smile on each side of her face, waiting for the applause of those present.

"Have you anything else?" I inquired hungrily.

"Oh, yes!" said Ollie. "I have some potato pudding for dessert."

When I got through swearing Ollie was under the stove, my wife was under the table, the dog was under the bed, and I was under the influence of liquor.

I'm cured.

After this my digestive tract will have to fight a sirloin steak every time I get hungry.

Besides, I don't want to live as long as Methuselah. If I did I'd have to learn to tango some time in the 875 years to come—then I'd be just the same as everybody else in the world.

Can you get a flash of Methuselah at the age of 64 taking Tango lessons from Baldy Sloane up at Weisenfeffer's pedal parlors? And then having to survive for 850 years with the dance bug in his dome!

Close the door, Delia; there's a draft.

When Peaches recovered from the shock of my outburst over the potato pudding she said the only way I could square myself was to take her to the very latest up-to-datest hotel in New York for dinner.

That is some task if you live up town, believe me, because they open new hotels in New York now the same as they open oysters—by the dozen.

However, after stuffing my pockets with all my earthly possessions, we hiked forth and steered for the Builtfast—the very latest thing in expensive beaneries.

Directly we entered its polished portals we could see from the faces of the clerks and the clocks that a lot of money changed hands before the Builtfast finally became an assessment center.

In the lobby the furniture was covered with men about town, who sat around with a checkbook in each hand and made faces at the cash register.

There are more bellboys than bedrooms in the hotel. They use them for change. Every time you give the cashier $15 he hands you back $1.50 and six bellboys.

We took a peep at the diamond-backed dining-room, and when I saw the waiters refusing everything but certified checks in the way of a tip, I said to Peaches, "This is no place for us!" But she wouldn't let go, and we filed into the appetite killery.

A very polite lieutenant waiter, with a sergeant waiter and two corporal waiters, greeted us and we gave the countersign, "Abandon health, all ye who enter here."

Then the lieutenant waiter and his army corps deployed by columns of four and escorted us to the most expensive looking trough I ever saw in a dining-room.

"Peaches," I said to friend wife, "I'm doing this to please you, but after I pay the check it's me to file a petition in bankruptcy."

She just grinned, picked up the point-lace napkin and began to admire the onyx furniture.

"Que souhaitez vous?" said the waiter, bowing so low that I could feel a chill running through my little bank account.

"I guess he means you," I whispered to Peaches, but she looked very solemnly at the menu card and began to bite her lips.

"Je suis tout a votre service," the waiter cross-countered before I could recover, and he had me gasping. It never struck me that I had to take a course in French before entering the Builtfast hunger foundry, and there I sat making funny faces at the tablecloth, while friend wife blushed crimson and the waiter kept on bowing like an animated jackknife.

"Say, Mike!" I ventured after a bit, "tip us off to a quiet bunch of eating that will fit a couple of appetites just out seeing the sights. Nothing that will put a kink in a year's income, you know, Bo; just suggest some little thing that looks better than it tastes, but is not too expensive to keep down."

"Oui, oui!" His Marseillaise came back at me, "un diner comfortable doit se composer de potage, de volaille bouillie ou rotie, chaude ou froide, de gibier, de plats rares et distingues, de poissons, de sucreries, de patisseries et de fruits!"

I looked at my wife, she looked at me, then we both looked out the window and wished we had never been born.

"Say, Garsong," I said, after we came to, "my wife is a daughter of the American Revolution and she's so patriotic she eats only in United States, so cut out the Moulin Rouge lyrics and let's get down to cases. How much will it set me back if I order a plain steak—just enough to flirt with two very polite appetites?"

"Nine dollars and seventy cents," said Joan of Arc's brother Bill; "the seventy cents is for the steak and the nine dollars will help some to pay for the Looey the Fifteenth furniture in the bridal chamber."

"Save the money, John," whispered Peaches, "and we'll buy a pianola with it."

"How about a sliver of roast beef with some simple vegetable," I said to the waiter. "Is it a bull market for an order like that?"

"Three dollars and forty-two cents," answered Henri of Navarre; "forty-two cents for the order and three dollars to help pay for the French velvet curtains in the golden suite on the second floor."

"Keep on guessing, John; you'll wear him out," Peaches whispered.

"Possibly a little cold lamb with a suggestion of potato salad on the side might satisfy us," I said; "make me an estimate."

"Four dollars and eighteen cents," replied Patsey Boulanger; "eighteen cents for the lamb and salad and the four dollars for the Looey the Fifteenth draperies in the drawing-room."

"Ask him if there's a bargain counter anywhere in the dining-room," whispered Peaches.

"My dear," I said to friend wife, "we have already displaced about sixty dollars' worth of space in this dyspepsia emporium, and we must, therefore, behave like gentlemen and order something, no matter what the cost. What are the savings of a lifetime compared with our honor!"

The waiter bowed so low that his shoulder blades cracked like a whip.

"Bring us," I said, "a plain omelet and one dish of prunes."

I waited till Peter Girofla translated this into French and then I added, "And on the side, please, two glasses of water and three toothpicks. Have the prunes fricasseed, wash the water on both corners, and bring the toothpicks rare."

The waiter rushed away and all around us we could hear money talking to itself.

Fair women sat at the tables picking dishes out of the bill of fare which brought the blush of sorrow to the faces of their escorts. It was a wonderful sight, especially for those who have a nervous chill every time the gas bill comes in.

When we ate our modest little dinner the waiter presented a check which called for three dollars and thirty-three cents.

"The thirty-three cents is for what you ordered," Alexander J. Dumas explained, "and the three dollars is for the French hangings in the parlor."

"Holy Smoke!" I cried; "that fellow Looey the Fifteenth has been doing a lot of work around here, hasn't he?" But the waiter was so busy watching the finish of the change he handed me that he didn't crack a smile.

Then I got reckless and handed him a fifty-cent tip.

The waiter looked at the fifty cents and turned pale.

Then he looked at me and turned paler.

He tried to thank me, but he caught another flash of that plebeian fifty and it choked him.

Then he took a long look at the half-dollar and with a low moan he passed away.

In the excitement I grabbed Peaches and we flew for home.

The next time I go to one of those expensive shacks it will be just after I've had a hearty dinner.

Even at that I may change my mind and go to a moving picture show.



CHAPTER IV

YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT GETTING A GOAT

Hep Hardy's goat belongs to the chamois branch of that famous family.

When it gets out it wants to leap from crag to crag.

Hep's chamois got loose recently and, believe me, I never saw a goat perform to better advantage.

For a long time Hep has been in love with Clarissa Goober, the daughter of Pop Goober, who made millions out of the Flower-pot Trust. Of late, however, Hep's course of true love has been running for Sweeney, and my old pal has been staring at the furniture and conversing with himself a great deal.



On our way home night before last Hep and I dropped into the Saint Astormore for a cocktail, and at a table near us sat Pop Goober and something else which afterwards turned out to be a Prussian nobleman—the Count Cheese von Cheese.

When Hep got a flash of these two his goat kicked down the door of its box-stall and began cavorting all over the Western Hemisphere.

"Pipe!" he whispered hoarsely, "pipe Pop Goober and the human germ with him! It's a titled foreigner—honest it is! It can walk and say, 'Papa!' And it is trained to pick out a millionaire father-in-law at fifty paces!"

"Why, what's the matter, Hep?" I inquired after the waiter had vamped.

"Oh, I'm wise to these guys with the Gorgonzola titles all wrapped up in pink tissue paper and only $8 in the jeans," Hep rumbled, with a glare in the direction of the Count Cheese von Cheese.

"Pop Goober certainly does make both ends meet in the lemon industry," he continued. "That old gink is the original Onion collector and he spends his waking hours falling for dead ones."

Hep paused to bite the froth off a Bronx. His goat was at the post.

"That driblet is over here to pick out an heiress and fall in love with her because he needs the money," Hep growled as his goat got away in the lead. "Every steamer brings them over, John, some incognito, some in dress suits, and some in hoc signo vinces, but all of them able to pick out a lady with a bank account as far as the naked eye can see.

"It's getting so now, John, that an open-face, stem-winding American has to kick four Dukes, eight Earls, seven Counts and a couple of Princes off the front steps every time he goes to call on his sweetheart—if she has money.

"When I go down into Wall Street, John, I find rich men with the tears streaming down their faces while they are calling up on the telephone to see if their daughter, Gladys, is still safe at home, where they left her before they came down to business.

"Walk through a peachy palace of the rich on Fifth Avenue, and what will you find?

"Answer: You will find a proud mother bowed with a great grief, and holding onto a rope which is tied to her daughter's ankle to prevent the latter from running out on the front piazza, and throwing kisses at the titled foreigners.

"You will find these cheap skates everywhere, John, rushing hither and thither, and sniffing the air for the odor of burning money."

Hep's goat at the quarter and going strong.

"They're all over the place, John," he rushed on; "the street cars are full of Earls and Baronets, traveling on transfers. There they are, John, sitting in the best seats and reading the newspapers until an heiress jumps aboard and hands them her address, with a memorandum of her papa's bank account.

"Then they arise with the true nobility of motion and ask that a day be set for the wedding.

"Why should it be thus, John? We have laws in this country to protect the birds and the trees, the squirrels and all animals except those that can be reached by an automobile, but why don't we have a law to protect the heiresses?

"Why are these titled zimboes permitted to borrow carfare, and come over here and give this fair land a fit of indigestion?

"Why are they permitted to set their proud and large feet on the soil for which our forefathers fought and bled for their country, and for which some of us are still fighting and bleeding the country? Why? Why do these fat-heads come over here with a silver cigarette case and a society directory and make every rich man in the country fasten a burglar alarm to his checkbook?"

Hep's goat at the half by a length.

"A few days ago, John, one of these mutts with an Edam title jumped off an ocean liner, and immediately the price of padlocks rose to the highest point ever known on the Stock Exchange.

"All over the country rich men with romantic daughters rushed to and fro and then rushed back again. They were up against a crisis. If you could get near enough to the long-distance telephone, John, you could hear one rich old American guy shrieking the battle-cry to another captain of industry out in Indianapolis: 'To arms! The foe! The foe! He comes with nothing but his full dress suit and a blank marriage license! To arms! To arms!'"

Hep's goat at the three-quarters by two lengths.

"Why, John," he exploded again, "every telegraph wire in the country is sizzling with excitement. Despatches which would make your blood curdle with anguish and sorrow for the rich are flying all over the country. Something like this:

"'Boston. To-day.

"'At ten-thirty this morning Rudolph Oscar Grabbitall, the millionaire stone-breaker, read the startling news that a foreign Count had just landed in New York. His suffering was pathetic. His daughter, Gasolene Panatella, who will inherit $19,000,000, mostly in bonds, stocks and newspaper talk, was in the dental parlor five blocks away from home when the blow fell. Calling his household about him, Mr. Grabbitall rushed into the dental parlor, beat the dentist down with his bill, dragged Gasolene Panatella home and locked her up in the rear cupboard of the spare room on the second floor of the mansion. Her teeth suffered somewhat, but, thank Heaven! her money will remain in this country. The community breathes easier, but all the incoming trains are being watched.'

"Are you wise, John, to what the panhandling nobility of Europe are doing to our dear United States?

"They are putting all our millionaires on the fritz, that's what they're doing."

Hep's goat in the stretch, under wraps.

"Le'me tell you something, John; it will soon come to pass that the heiress will have to be locked up in the safe deposit vaults with papa's bank book. Here is an item from one of our most prominent newspapers. Get this, John:

"'Long Island City. Now.

"'Pinchem Shortface, the millionaire who made a fortune by inventing a way to open clams by steam, has determined that no foreign Count will marry his daughter, Sudsetta. She will inherit about $193,000,000, about $18 of which is loose enough to spend. The unhappy father is building a spite fence around his mansion, which will be about twenty-two feet high, and all the unmarried millionaires without daughters, to speak of, will contribute broken champagne bottles to put on top of the fence. If the Count gets Sudsetta he is more of a sparrow than her father thinks he is.'

"It's pitiful, John, that's what it is, pitiful! All over the country rich men are dropping their beloved daughters in the cyclone cellars and hiding mamma's stocking with the money in it out in the hay loft.

"I am glad, John, that I am not a rich man with a daughter who is eating her heart out for a moth-covered title and a castle on the Rhinewine.

"You can bet, John, that no daughter of mine can ever marry a tall gent with a nose like the rear end of an observation car and a knowledge of the English language which doesn't get beyond I O U—do you get me?"

Hep's goat wins in a walk.

"Are you all through, Hep?" I inquired feebly.

"I'm not through—but I'll take a recess," he snapped back at me.

"By the way," I said, offhand like, "is Clarissa Goober in town?"

"Yes, but she sails for Europe to-morrow on the Imperator," he answered sullenly.

"Oh," I said; "who's going with her?"

"The Count Cheese von Cheese."

"Oh!"

Long pause.

"Let's have another Bronx," I suggested.

Hep took six—one for himself and five for the goat.

Can you blame him?



CHAPTER V

YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT BEING IN LOVE

Say! have you ever noticed that when a gink with an aluminum headpiece is handed the "This-Way-Out" signal by his adored one, he either hikes for a pickle parlor and begins to festoon his system with hops, or he stands in front of a hardware store and gazes gloomily at the guns?

You haven't noticed it! Why, you astonish me.

Friend wife met me by appointment to take dinner at the Saint Astormore the other evening and with her was her little brother, Stephen, aged nine.

"I brought Stevie with me because I had some shopping to do and he's so much company," Peaches explained as we sat down in the restaurant.

"Stevie is always pleasant company," I agreed, politely, but with a watchful eye on my youthful brother-in-law all the while.

That kid was born with an abnormal bump of mischief and, by painstaking endeavor, he has won the world's championship as an organizer of impromptu riots.

"Oh, John!" said Peaches, when I began to make faces at the menu card, "I didn't notice until now how pale you look. Have you had a busy day?"

"Busy!" I repeated; "well, rather. I've been giving imitations of a bull fight. Everybody I met was the bull and I was the fight. Nominate your eats! What'll it be, Stevie?"

"Sponge cake," said Stephen, promptly.

"What else?" asked Peaches.

"More sponge cake," the youth replied, and just then the smiling and sympathetic waiter stooped down to pick up a fork Stephen had dropped.

In his anxiety not to miss anything, Stevie rubbered acrobatically with the result that he upset a glass of ice water down the waiter's neck, and three seconds later the tray-trotter had issued an Extra and was saying things in French that would sound scandalous if translated.

It cost me a dollar to bring the dish-dragger back to earth, and Stevie said I could break his bank open when we got home and take all the money if I'd let him do it again.

Just then I got a flash of Dike Lawrence bearing down in our direction under a full head of benzine.

Dike was escorting a three days' jag and whispering words of encouragement to it.

A good fellow, Dike, but he shouldn't permit a distillery to use his thirst as a testing station—he's too temperamental.

"H'ar'ye, Mrs. John?" he gurgled as the waiter pushed an extra chair under him. "Howdy, John? How de do, little man! 'Scuse me for int'rupting a perf'ly splendid family party—my mistake!—I'm all in—that's it—I'm all in and it's your fault, John; all your fault!"

"What's wrong, Dike?" I inquired.

"Ev'thing!" he martinied; "ev'thing all wrong—lesh have drink—my mistake—didn't think of it before. Your little son growing to be a splendid boy, Mrs. John!"

"This is Stephen, my little brother, not my little son," Peaches explained; "we haven't any children," she added nervously.

Dike carefully closed one eye and focussed the other on her. "Haven't any little son—my mistake!" Then he turned the open gig-lamp on me and began again. "S'prised at you, John; little son is the most won'erful thing any father and mother could possess with the possible 'ception of a li'l daughter—ain't that so, Mrs. John? Little brother is all right, but don't compare with little son. Look at me, Mrs. John; can't ever have little son—when I think about it I could bust right out cryin'—Grief has made me almost hystalical, hystorical, hystollified—I mean, I'm nervous—lesh have drink!"

"What's gone wrong, Dike?" I asked; "each minute you look more and more like Mona Lisa without the smile—what's the trouble?"

"All your fault, John," he plunged on again. "Most bew'ful girl she was, Mrs. John; perf'ly bew'ful, with won'erful gray hair and golden eyes, perf'ly bew'ful girl. I told your husban' all about her—I made confession that I was madly in love with this bew'ful girl, and your husban' told me to go and propose to her and drag her off to a minister—and I did propose—my mistake. After I made my speech she said to me, this bew'ful girl said to me, 'That's all right; no doubt you do love me, but are you eugenic?' and I said, 'No, I'm Presbyterian.'"

Dike paused to let the horror of the scene sink in and then he fell overboard again with a moist splash.

"That bew'ful girl jus' glanced at me coldly—jus' merely indicated the door, that bew'ful girl, and I passed out of her life f'rever. Two days later I found out jus' what eugenic meant, and, b'lieve me, from my heart, my sincere regret is that I was not college bred before I met that bew'ful girl!"

Saying this he grabbed a wine-glass from the table and held it close to his heart in order to illustrate the intensity of his feeling.

The next instant a thick, reddish liquid began to flow sluggishly over the bosom of his immaculate white shirt and was lost in the region of his equator, seeing which Dike gave vent to a yell that brought the waiters on the hot foot.

"I'm stabbed; stabbed!" groaned the startled jag-carpenter, clutching wildly at his shirt-front as the plate-passers bore him away to a haven of rest.

"It's my clam cocktail," whispered Stephen to me; "I poured it in his wine-glass 'cause they was too much tobascum sauce in it for me!"

"Brave boy!" I answered. "It was a kindly deed."

Then we finished our dinner in all the refined silence the Saint Astormore so carefully furnishes.

Dike's sad story of misplaced affection and an unused dictionary puts us wise to the fact that in these changeful days even the old-fashioned idea of courtship has been chased to the woods.

It used to be that on a Saturday evening the Young Gent would draw down his six dollars worth of salary and chase himself to the barber shop, where the Bolivian lawn trimmer would put a crimp in his mustache and plaster his forehead with three cents worth of hair and a dollar's worth of axle-grease.

Then the Young Gent would go out and spread 40 cents around among the tradesmen for a mess of water-lilies and a bag of peanut brittle.

The lilies of the valley were to put on the dining-table so mother would be pleased, and with the peanut brittle he intended to fill in the weary moments when he and his little geisha girl were not making goo-goo eyes at each other.

But nowadays it is different.

What with eugenics and the high speed of living Dan Cupid spends most of his time on the hot foot between the coroner's office and the divorce court.

Nowadays when a clever young man goes to visit his sweetheart he hikes over the streets in a benzine buggy, and when he pulls the bell-rope at the front door he has a rapid-fire revolver in one pocket and a bottle of carbolic acid in the other.

His intentions are honorable and he wishes to prove them so by shooting his lady love, if she renigs when he makes a play for her hand.

I think the old style was the best, because when young people quarreled they didn't need an ambulance and a hospital surgeon to help them make up.

In the old days Simpson Green would draw the stove brush cheerfully across his dog-skin shoes and rush with eager feet to see Lena Jones, the girl he wished to make the wife of his bosom.

"Darling!" Simpson would say, "I am sure to the bad for love of you. Pipe the downcast droop in this eye of mine and notice the way my heart is bubbling over like a bottle of sarsaparilla on a hot day! Be mine, Lena! be mine!"

Then Lena would giggle. Not once, but seven giggles, something like those used in a spasm.

Then she would reply, "No, Simpson; it cannot be. Fate wills it otherwise."

Then Simpson would bite his finger-nails, pick his hat up out of the coal-scuttle, and say to Lena, "False one! You love Conrad, the floorwalker in the butcher shop. Curses on Conrad, and see what you have missed, Lena. I have tickets for a swell chowder party next Tuesday. Ah! farewell forever!"

Then Simpson would walk out and hunt up one of those places that can't get an all-night license and there, with one arm glued tight around the bar rail, he would fasten his system to a jag which would last a week.

Despair would grab him and, like Dike, he'd be Simpson with the souse thing for sure.

When he would recover strength enough to walk down town without attracting the attention of the other side of the street, he would call on Lena and say, "Lena, forgive me for what I done, but love is blind—and, besides, I mixed my drinks. Lena, I was on the downward path, and I nearly went to Heligoland."

Then Lena would say, "Oh, Simpsey, I wanted you to prove your love, but I thought you'd prove it with beer and not red-eye—forgive me, darling!"

Then they would kiss and make up, and the wedding bells would ring just as soon as Simp's salary grew large enough to tease a pocketbook.

But these days the idea is altogether different.

Children are hardly out of the cradle before they are arrested for butting into the speed limit with a smoke wagon.

Even when they go courting they have to play to the gallery.

Nowadays Gonsalvo H. Puffenlotz walks into the parlor to see Miss Imogene Cordelia Hoffbrew.

"Wie geht's, Imogene!" says Gonsalvo.

"Simlich!" says Imogene, standing at right angles near the piano because she thinks she is a Gibson girl.

"Imogene, dearest," Gonsalvo continues; "I called on your papa in Wall Street yesterday to find out how much money you have, but he refused to name the sum, therefore you have untold wealth!"

Gonsalvo pauses to let the Parisian clock on the mantle tick, tick, tick!

He is making the bluff of his life, you see, and he has to do even that on tick.

Besides, this furnishes the local color.

Then Gonsalvo bursts forth again, "Imogene! Oh! Imogene! will you be mine and I will be thine without money and without the price."

Gonsalvo pauses to let this idea get noised about a little.

Then he goes on, "Be mine, Imogene! You will be minus the money while I will have the price!"



Gonsalvo trembles with the passion which is consuming his pocketbook, and then Imogene turns languidly from a right angle triangle into more of a straight front and hands Gonsalvo a bitter look of scorn.

Then Gonsalvo grabs his revolver and, aiming it at her marble brow, exclaims, "Marry me this minute or I will shoot you in the topknot, because I love you."

Then papa rushes into the room and Gonsalvo politely requests the old gentleman to hold two or three bullets for him for a few moments.

Gonsalvo then bites deeply into a bottle of carbolic acid and, just as the Coroner climbs into the house, the pictures of the modern lover and loveress appear in the newspapers, and fashionable society receives a jolt.

This is the new and up-to-date way of making love.

However, I think the old style of courting is the best, because you can generally stop a jag before it gets to the undertaker.

What do you think?



CHAPTER VI

YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT SNAP SHOTS

When Aunt Martha gave friend wife that newfangled camera this Spring I had a hunch that the dealers in photographic supplies would be joyously shrieking the return of good times and hot-footing it to the bank with the contents of my wallet.

Peaches just grabbed that camera and went after everybody and everything in the neighborhood.

She took about 800 views of Uncle Peter's country home before she discovered that the camera wasn't loaded properly, which was tough on Peaches but good for the bungalow.

Like everything else in this world picture pinching from still life depends entirely on the point of view.

If your point of view is all right it's an easy matter to make a four-dollar dog-house look like the villa of a Wall Street broker at Newport.

Ten minutes after friend wife had been given the camera she had me set up as a statue all over Uncle Peter's lawn, and she was snapping at me like a Spitz doggie at a peddler.

I sat for two hundred and nineteen pictures that forenoon and I posed for every hero in history, from William the Conqueror down to Doctor Cook, with both feet in a slushy little snowbank representing nearly-the-North-pole.



But when she tried to coax me to climb up on a limb of a tree and stay there till she got a picture of me looking like an owl I swore softly in three languages, fell over the back fence, and ran for my life.

When I rubbershoed it back that afternoon friend wife was busy developing her crimes.

The proper and up-to-date caper in connection with taking snap-shots these days is to buy a developing outfit and upset the household from pit to dome while you are squeezing out pictures of every dearly beloved friend that crosses your pathway.

Friend wife selected a spare room on the top floor of Uncle Peter's home where she could await developments.

A half hour later ghostly noises began to come from that room and mysterious whisperings fell out of the window and bumped over the lawn.

When I reached the front door I found that the gardener had left, the waitress was leaving, and the cook was telephoning for a policeman.

"Where is Mrs. Henry?" I asked Mary, the cook.

"She is still developing," said Mary.

"What has she developed?" I inquired.

"Up to the present time she has developed your Uncle's temper and she has developed your Aunt's appetite, and a couple of bill collectors developed a pain in the neck when she took their pictures, and, if things go on in this way, I think this will soon develop into a foolish house!" said Mary, the cook.

A half hour later, while I was hiding behind the pianola in the living room, not daring to breathe above a whisper for fear I would get my picture taken again, friend wife rushed in exclaiming, "Oh, joy! Oh, joy! John, I have developed two pictures!"

I wish you could have seen the expression on Peaches' face.

In order to develop the films a picturesque assortment of drugs and chemicals have to be used.

Well, friend wife had used them.

A silent little stream of wood alcohol was trickling down over her left ear into her Psyche knot, and on the end of her nose about six grains of extract of potash was sending out signals of distress to some spirits of turpentine which was burning on the top of her right eyebrow.

Something dark and lingering like iodine had given her chin the double-cross and her apron looked like the remnants of a porous plaster.

Her right hand had red, white, green, purple, and magenta marks all over it, and her left hand looked like the Fourth of July.

"John!" she yelled; "here it is! My goodness, I am so excited! See what a fine picture of you I took!"

She handed me the picture, but all I could see was a woodshed with the door wide open.

"A good picture of the woodshed," I said; "but whose woodshed is it?"

"A woodshed!" exclaimed friend wife; "why, that is your face, John. And where you think the door is open is only your mouth!"

I looked crestfallen and then I looked at the picture again, but my better nature asserted itself and I made no attempt to strike this defenseless woman.

Then she handed me another picture and said, "John, isn't this wonderful?"

I looked at the picture and muttered, "All I can see is Theodore, the colored gardener, walking across lots with a sack of flour on his back!"

"John, you are so stupid," said friend wife. "How can you expect to see what it is when you are holding the picture upside down?"

I turned the picture around, and then I was quite agreeably surprised.

"It's immense!" I shouted. "It's the real thing, all right! Why this is aces! I suppose it is called, 'Moonlight on Lake Champlain'? Did this one come with the camera or did you draw it from memory?"

"The idea of such a thing," friend wife snapped, "can't you see that you're holding the picture the wrong way. Turn it around and you will see what it is!"

I gave the thing another turn.

"Gee whiz!" I said, "now I have it! Oh, the limit! You wished to surprise me with a picture of the sunset at Governor's Island. How lovely it is! See, over here in this corner there's a bunch of soldiers listening to what's cooking for supper, and over here is the smoke from the gun that sets the sun—I like it!"

Then my wife grabbed the picture out of my hands and burst into speech.

"Why do you try to discourage my efforts to be artistic?" she volleyed and thundered. "This is a picture of you holding Mrs. McIlvaine's baby in your arms, and I think it's perfectly lovely, even if the baby is the only intelligent thing in the picture."

When the exercises were over I inquired casually, "Where, my dear, where are the other 21,219 pictures you snapped to-day?"

"Only these two came out good because, don't you see, I'm an amateur yet," was her come-back.

Then she looked lovingly at the result of her day's work and began to peel some bicarbonate of magnesia off her knuckles with the nutcracker.

"Only two out of 21,219—I think you ought to call it a long shot instead of a snap shot," I whispered, after I had dodged behind a sofa.

She went out of the room without saying a word, and I took out my pocketbook and looked at it wistfully.



CHAPTER VII

YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT THE SERVANTS

When Peaches and I get tired of the Big Town—tired of its noises and hullabaloo; tired of being tagged by taxis as we cross a street; tired of watching grocers and butchers hoisting higher the highest cost of living—that's our cue to grab a choo-choo and breeze out to Uncle Peter Grant's farm and bungalow in the wilds of Westchester, which he calls Troolyrooral.

Just to even matters up Uncle Peter and his wife visit us from time to time in our amateur apartment in the Big Town.

Uncle Peter is a very stout old gentleman. When he squeezes into our little flat the walls act as if they were bow-legged.

Uncle Peter always goes through the folding doors sideways and every time he sits down the man in the apartment below us kicks because we move the piano so often.

Aunt Martha is Uncle Peter's wife and she weighs more and breathes oftener.

When the two of them visit our bird-cage at the same time the janitor has to go out and stand in front of the building with a view to catching it if it falls.

When we reached Troolyrooral we found that "Cousin" Elsie Schulz was also a visitor there.

"Cousin" Elsie is a sort of privileged character in the family, having lived with Aunt Martha for over twenty years as a sort of housekeeper.

They call her "Cousin Elsie" just to make it more difficult.

Three or four years ago Elsie married Gustave Bierbauer and quit her job.

"Cousin" Elsie believes that conversation was invented for her exclusive use, and the way she can grab a bundle of the English language and break it up is a caution.

Language is the same to Elsie as a syphon is to a highball—and that's a whole lot.

Two years after their marriage old Gustave stopped living so abruptly that the coroner had to sit on him.

The post mortem found out that Gustave had died from a rush of words to his brainpan.

The coroner also found, upon further examination, that all of these words had formerly belonged to Elsie, with the exception of a few which were once the property of Gustave's favorite bartender.

After Gustave's exit Aunt Martha tried to get Elsie back on her job, but the old Dutch had her eye on Herman Schulz, and finally married him.

So now every once in a while Elsie moseys over from Plainfield, N. J., where she lives with Herman, and proceeds to sew a lot of pillow slips and things for Aunt Martha.

Yesterday morning, while Peaches and I were at breakfast, Elsie meandered in, bearing in her hand a wedding invitation which Herman had forwarded to her from Plainfield.

Being, as I say, a privileged character, she does pretty much as she likes around the bungalooza.

Elsie read the invitation: "Mr. und Mrs. Rudolph Ganderkurds request der honor of your presence at der marriage of deir daughter, Verbena, to Galahad Schmalzenberger, at der home of der bride's parents, Plainfield, N. J. March Sixteenth. R. S. V. P."

"Vell," said Elsie, "I know der Ganderkurds and I know deir daughter, Verbena, und I know Galahad Schmalzenberger; he's a floorwalker in Bauerhaupt's grocery store, but I doan'd know vot it is dot R. S. V. P. yet!"

I gently kicked Peaches on the instep under the table, and said to Elsie, "Well, that is a new one on me. Are you sure it isn't B. & O. or the C. R. R. of N. J.? I've heard of those two railroads in New Jersey, but I never heard of the R. S. V. P."

For the first time in her life since she's been able to grab a sentence between her teeth and shake the pronouns out of it Elsie was phazed.

She kept looking at the invitation and saying to herself, "R. S. V. P.! Vot is it? I know der honor of your presence; I know der bride's parents, but I don't know R. S. V. P."

All that day Elsie wandered through the house muttering to herself, "R. S. V. P.! Vot is it? Is it some secret between der bride und groom? R. S. V. P.! It ain'd my initials, because dey begin mit E, S. Vot is dot R. S. V. P.? Vot is it? Vot is it?"

That evening we were all at dinner when Elsie rushed in with a cry of joy. "I got it!" she said. "I haf untied der meaning of dot R. S. V. P. It means Real Silver Vedding Presents!"

I was just about to drink a glass of water, so I changed my mind and nearly choked to death.

Peaches tried to say something, which resulted in a gurgle in her throat, while Uncle Peter fell off his chair and landed on the cat, which had never done him any harm.

Elsie's interpretation of that wedding invitation is going to set Herman Schulz back several dollars, or I'm not a foot high.

And maybe they don't have their troubles at Troolyrooral with the servant problem.

It's one hard problem, that—and nobody seems to get the right answer.

One morning later on Peaches and I were out on the porch drinking in the glorious air and chatting with Hep Hardy, who had come out to spend Sunday with us, when Aunt Martha came bustling out followed by Uncle Peter, who, in turn, was followed by Lizzie Joyce, their latest cook.

Lizzie wore a new lid, trimmed with prairie grass and field daisies, hanging like a shade over the left lamp; she had a grouchy looking grip in one hand and a green umbrella with black freckles in the other.

She was made up to catch the first train that sniffed into the station.

Aunt Martha whispered to us plaintively, "Lizzie has been here only two days and this makes the seventh time she has started for town."

Busy Lizzie took the center of the stage and scowled at her audience. "I'm takin' the next train for town, Mem!" she announced, with considerable bitterness.

Uncle Peter made a brave effort to scowl back at her, but she flashed her lanterns at him and he fell back two paces to the rear.

"What is it this time, Lizzie?" inquired Aunt Martha.

Lizzie put the grouchy grip down, folded her arms, and said, "Oh, I have me grievances!"

Uncle Peter sidled up to Aunt Martha and said in a hoarse whisper, "My dear, this shows a lack of firmness on your part. Now, leave everything to me and let me settle this obstreperous servant once and for all!"

Uncle Peter crossed over and got in the limelight with Lizzie.

"It occurs to me," he began in polished accents, "that this is an occasion upon which I should publicly point out to you the error of your ways, and send you back to your humble station with a better knowledge of your status in this household."

"S'cat!" said Lizzie, and Uncle Peter began to fish for his next line.

"I want you to understand," he went on, "that I pay you your wages!"

"Sure, if you didn't," was Lizzie's come-back, "I'd land on you good and hard, that I would. What else are you here for, you fathead?"

"Fathead!" echoed Uncle Peter in astonishment.

"Peter, leave her to me," pleaded Aunt Martha.

But Uncle Peter rushed blindly on to destruction. "Elizabeth," he said, sternly, "in view of your most unrefined and unladylike language it behooves me to reprimand you severely. I will, therefore——"



Then Lizzie and the green umbrella struck a Casey-at-the-bat pose and cut in: "G'wan away from me with your dime-novel talk or I'll place the back of me unladylike hand on your jowls!"

"Peter!" warningly exclaimed the perturbed Aunt Martha.

"Yes, Martha; you're right," the old gentleman said, turning hastily. "I must hurry and finish my correspondence before the morning mail goes," and he faded away.

"It isn't an easy matter to get servants out here," Aunt Martha whispered to us; "I must humor her. Now, Lizzie, what's wrong?"

"You told me, Mem, that I should have a room with a southern exposure," said the Queen of the Bungalow.

"And isn't the room as described?" inquired Aunt Martha.

"The room is all right, but I don't care for the exposure," said the Princess of Porkchops.

"Well, what's wrong?" insisted our patient auntie.

"Sure," said the Baroness of Bread-pudding, "the room is so exposed, Mem, that every breeze from the North Pole just nachully hikes in there and keeps me settin' up in bed all night shiverin' like I was shakin' dice for the drinks. When I want that kind of exercise I'll hire out as chambermaid in a cold-storage. I'm a cook, Mem, it's true, but I'm no relation to Doctor Cook, and I ain't eager to sleep in a room where even a Polar bear would be growlin' for a fur coat."

"Very well, Lizzie," said Aunt Martha, soothingly; "I'll have storm windows put on at once and extra quilts sent to the room, and a gas stove if you wish."

"All right, Mem," said the Countess of Cornbeef, removing the lid, "I'll stay; but keep that husband of yours with the woozy lingo out of the kitchen, because I'm a nervous woman—I am that!" and then the Duchess of Devilledkidneys got a strangle-hold on her green umbrella and ducked for the grub foundry.

Aunt Martha sighed and went in the house.

"Hep," I said; "this scene with Her Highness of Clamchowder ought to be an awful warning to you. No man should get married these days unless he's sure his wife can juggle the frying pan and take a fall out of an egg-beater. They've had eight cooks in eight days, and every time a new face comes in the kitchen the coal-scuttle screams with fright.

"You can see where they've worn a new trail across the lawn on the retreat to the depot.

"It's an awful thing, Hep! Our palates are weak from sampling different styles of mashed potatoes.

"We had one last week who answered roll-call when you yelled Phyllis.

"Isn't that a peach of a handle for a kitchen queen with a map like the Borough of The Bronx on a dark night?

"She came here well recommended—by herself. She said she knew how to cook backwards.

"We believed her after the first meal, because that's how she cooked it.

"Phyllis was a very inventive girl. She could cook anything on earth or in the waters underneath the earth, and she proved it by trying to mix tenpenny nails with the baked beans.

"When Phyllis found there was no shredded oats in the house for breakfast she changed the cover of the wash tub into sawdust and sprinkled it with the whisk-broom, chopped fine.

"It wasn't a half bad breakfast food of the home-made kind, but every time I took a drink of water the sawdust used to float up in my throat and tickle me.

"The first and only day she was with us Phyllis squandered two dollars worth of eggs trying to make a lemon meringue pie.

"She tried to be artistic with this, but one of the eggs was old and nervous and it slipped.

"Uncle Peter asked Phyllis if she could cook some Hungarian goulash and Phyllis screamed, 'No; my parents have been Swedes all their lives!' Then she ran him across the lawn with the carving knife.

"Aunt Martha went in the kitchen to ask what was for dinner and Phyllis got back at her, 'Im a woman, it is true, but I will show you that I can keep a secret!'

"When the meal came on the table we were compelled to keep the secret with her.

"It looked like Irish stew, tasted like clam chowder, and behaved like a bad boy.

"On the second day it suddenly occurred to Phyllis that she was working, so she handed in her resignation, handed Hank, the gardener, a jolt in his cafe department, handed out a lot of unnecessary talk, and left us flat.

"The next rebate we had in the kitchen was a colored man named James Buchanan Pendergrast.

"James was all there is and carry four. He was one of the most careful cooks that ever made faces at the roast beef.

"The evening he arrived we intended to have shad roe for dinner and James informed us that that was where he lived.

"Eight o'clock came and no dinner. Then Aunt Martha went in the kitchen to convince him that we were human beings with appetites.

"She found Careful James counting the roe to see if the fish dealer had sent the right number.

"He was up to 2,196,493 and still had a half pound to go.

"James left that night followed by shouts of approval from all present.

"I'm telling you all this, Hep, just to prove that Fate is kind while it delays your wedding until some genius invents an automatic cook made of aluminum and electricity."

Hep laughed and shook his head.

"The servant problem won't delay my wedding," he chortled; "if there wasn't a cook left in the world we wouldn't care; we're going to be vegetarians because we're going to live in the Garden of Eden."

"Tush!" I snickered.

"Tush, yourself!" said Hep.

"Oh, tush, both of you," said Peaches; "John said that very thing to me three weeks before we were married."

"Sure I did," I went back, "and we're still in the Garden, aren't we? Of course, if you want to sub-let part of it and have Hep and his bride roaming moon-struck through your strawberry beds, that's up to you!"

"Well," said friend wife, "being alone in the Garden of Eden is all right, but after you've been there three or four years there's a mild excitement in hearing a strange voice, even if it is that of a Serpent!"

Close the door, Delia, I feel a draft.



CHAPTER VIII

YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT AUCTION BRIDGE

Receiving letters which I promptly forget to answer is a hobby with me. The disease must be hereditary—possibly from my grandfather, who was a village postmaster. He used to get a lot of letters he never answered. (Man the life-line, lads; we'll get him ashore yet!)

Well, here's one I am going to answer.

It's a bit of literature that reached me a day or two ago, chaperoned by a two-cent stamp and a hunk of pale green sealing-wax.

Philadelphia, Lately.

Dear John:—I have never met you personally, but I've heard my brother, Teddy, speak of you so often that you really seem to be one of the family.

(Teddy talks slang something fierce.)

Dear John, will you please pardon the liberty I take in grabbing a two-cent stamp and jumping so unceremoniously at one who is, after all, a perfect stranger?

Dear John, if you look around you can see on every hand that the glad season of the year is nearly here, and if you listen attentively you may hear the hoarse cry of the summer resort beckoning us to that bourne from which no traveler returns without getting his pocketbook dislocated.

Dear John, could you please tell me how to play auction bridge, so that when I go to the seashore I will be armed for defraying expenses?

Dear John, I am sure that if I could play auction bridge loud enough to win four dollars every once in a while I could spend a large bunch of the summer at the seashore.

Dear John, would you tell a loving but perfect stranger how to play the game without having to wear a mask?



Dear John, I played a couple of games recently with a wide-faced young man who grew very playful and threw the parlor furniture at me because I trumpeted his ace. I fancy I must have did wrong. The fifth time I trumpeted his ace the young man arose, put on his gum shoes, and skeedaddled out of the house. Is it not considered a breach of etiquette to put on gum shoes in the presence of a lady?

If you please, dear John, tell me how to play auction bridge.

Yours fondly, GLADYS JONES.

P. S. The furniture which he threw was not his property to dispose of. G. J.

When friend wife got a flash of this letter she made a kick to the effect that it was some kind of a cypher, possibly the beginning of a secret correspondence.

It was up to me to hand Gladys the frosty get-back, so this is what I said:

Respected Madam:—I'm a slob on that auction bridge thing, plain poker being the only game with cards that ever coaxes my dough from the stocking, but I'll do the advice gag if it chokes me:

Auction bridge is played with cards, just like pinochle, with the exception of the beer.

Not enough cards is a misdeal; too many cards is a mistake; and cards up the sleeve is a slap on the front piazza, if they catch you at it.

When bidding don't get excited and think you're attending an auction of shirt-waists at a fire-sale. It distresses your partner terribly to hear you say, "I'll bid two dollars!" when what you meant was two spades. Much better it is that you smile across the table at him and say, "I bid you good evening!"

You shouldn't get up and dance the Kitchen Sink dance every time you take a trick. It looks more genteel and picturesque to do the Castle Walk.

When your opponent has not followed suit it is not wise to pick out a loud tone of voice and tell him about it. Reach under the table and kick him on the shins. If it hurts him he is a cheater; if it doesn't hurt him always remember that you are a lady.

When you are dummy the new rules permit you to call a revoke. When you see your partner messing up a sure "going-outer" you may also call the police; then get out your calling cards and call your partner down, being, of course, particular and ladylike in your selection of adjectives.

Don't forget what is trumps more than eighteen times during one hand. The limit used to be twenty-six times, but since the outbreak of the Mexican war the best auction bridge authorities have put the limit down to eighteen.

It isn't wise to have a conniption fit every time you lose a trick. Nothing looks so bad as a conniption fit when it doesn't match the complexion, and generally it delays the game.

When your partner has doubled a no-trump call and you forget to lead his suit the best plan is to hurry out the front door, take a street car to the end of the line; then double back in a taxi to the nearest railway station; get the first train going West and go the limit—then take a steamer, sail for Japan and don't come back for seven years. Your partner may forget about it in that time. If he doesn't, then you must continue to live in Japan. All authorities agree on this point.

When the game is close, don't get excited and climb up on the table. It shows a want of refinement, especially if you are not a quick climber.

While running a grand slam to cover, the best authorities, including Bob Carter, claim that you should breathe hoarsely through the front teeth, pausing from time to time to recite brief passages from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Never whistle while waiting for someone to play. Whistling is not in good taste. Go over and bite out a couple of tunes on the piano.

When your opponent trumps an ace don't ever hit him carelessly across the forehead with the bric-a-brac. Always remember when you are in Society that bric-a-brac is expensive.

If your partner bids five spades and you get the impression that he is balmy in the bean don't show it in your face. Such authorities as Fred Perry and Dick Ling claim that the proper thing to do is to arise gracefully from your chair and sing something plaintive, in minor chords. This generally brings your partner back to earth, because nine times out of ten he is only temporarily crazy with the heat.

Don't lead the ten of clubs by mistake for the ace of trumps and then get mad and jump seventeen feet in the air because they refuse to let you pull it back.

In order to jump seventeen feet in the air you would have to go through the room upstairs, and how do you know whose room it is?

There, Gladys, if you follow these rules I think you can play the game of auction bridge without putting a bruise on the law regulating the income tax.

P. S. When you play for money always bite the coin to see if it means as much as it looks.

I hope Gladys wasn't offended.

She hasn't sent me even a postal card containing thanks and a view of Chestnut Street.



CHAPTER IX

YOU SHOULD WORRY ABOUT GETTING THE GRIP

Say! did you ever put on the goggles and go joy-riding with an attack of grip?

It has all other forms of amusement hushed to a lullaby—take it from Uncle Hank.

As a Bad Boy the grip has every other disease slapped to a sobbing stand-still.

It's dollars to pretzels that the grip germ is the brainiest little bug that was ever chased by a doctor.

I was sitting quietly at home reading Maeterlinck on Auction Bridge when suddenly I began to sneeze like a Russian regiment answering roll call.

Friend wife was deep in the mysteries of Ibsen's latest achievement, "The Rise and Fall of the Hobble Skirt," but she politely acknowledged my first sneeze with the customary "Gesundheit!"

Then she trailed along bravely with her responses for ten or fifteen minutes, but it was no use—I had more sneezes in my system than there are "Gesundheits!" in the entire German nation, including principalities, possessions across the sea, and the Musical Union.

"John," she ventured after a time, "you are getting a cold!"

"I'm not getting it," I sniffed; "I have it now."

What a mean, contemptible little creature a grip germ must be. Absolutely without any of the finer instincts, it sneaks into people's systems disguised as an ordinary cold. It isn't on the level, like appendicitis or inflammatory rheumatism, both of which are brave and fearless and will walk right up to you and kick you on the shins, big as you are.

Nobody ever knows just what make-up the grip germs will put on to break into the human system, but once they get a foothold in the epiglottis nothing can remove them except inward applications of dynamite.

The grip germ hates the idea of race suicide.

I discovered shortly after I had sneezed myself into a condition of pale blue profanity that a newly married couple of grip germs had taken a notion to build a nest somewhere on the outskirts of my solar plexus, and two hours later they had about 233 children attending the public school in my medusa oblongata; and every time school would let out for recess I would go up in the air and hit the ceiling with my Lima.

Before daylight came all these grip children had graduated from school and, after tearing down the school-house, the whole bunch had married and had large families of their own, and all hands were out paddling their canoes on my alimentary canal.

By nine o'clock that morning there must have been eighty-five million grip germs armed with self-loading revolvers all trying to shoot their initials over the walls of my interior department.

It was fierce!

When Doctor Leiser arrived on the scene I was carrying enough concealed weapons to start something in Mexico.

The good old pill-pusher threw his saws behind the sofa, put his dip-net on the mantelpiece, and took a fall out of my pulse.

"Ah!" he said, after he had noted that my tongue looked like a currycomb.

"The same to you, Doc," I said.

"Ah!" he said, looking hard at the wall.

"Say, Doc!" I whispered; "there's no use to cut off my leg because the germs will hide in my elbow."

"Do you feel shooting pains in the cerebellum, near the apex of the cosmopolitan?" inquired the doctor.

"Surest thing you know," I said.

"Have you a buzzing in the ears, and a confused sound like distant laughter in the panatella?" he asked.

"It's a cinch, Doc," I said.

"Do you feel a roaring in the cornucopia with a tickling sensation in the diaphragm?" he asked.

"Right again," I whispered.

"Do the joints feel sore and pinched like a pool-room?" he said.

"Right!"

"Does your tongue feel rare and high-priced, like a porterhouse steak at a summer resort?"

"Exactly!"

"Do you feel a spasmodic fluttering in the concertina?"

"Yes!"

"Have you a sort of nervous hesitation in your hunger and does everything you eat taste like an impossible sandwich made by a ghostly baker from a disappearing bread and phantom?"

"Keno!"

"Does your nerve center tinkle-tinkle like a breakfast bell in a kitchenless boarding house?"

"Right again!"

"Have you a feeling that the germs have attacked your Adam's apple and that there won't be any core?"

"Yes!"

"When you look at the wall paper does your brain do a sort of loop-the-loop and cause you to meld 100 aces or double pinochle?"

"Yes, and 80 kings, too!"

"Do you feel a slight palpitation of the membrane of the colorado madura and is there a confused murmur in your brain like the sound of a hard-working gas meter?"

"You've got me sized good and plenty, Doc!"

"Do you have insomnia, nightmare, loss of appetite, chills and fever and concealed respiration in the Carolina perfecto?"

"That's the idea, Doc."

"When you lay on your right side do you have an impulse to turn over on your left side, and when you turn over on your left side do you feel an impulse to jump out of bed and throw stones at a policeman?"

"There isn't anything you can mention, Doc, that I haven't got."

"Ah!" said the doctor; "then that settles it."

"Tell me the truth," I groaned; "what is it, bubonic plague?"

"You have something worse—you have the grip," Doc Leiser whispered gently. "You see I tried hard to mention some symptom which you didn't have, but you had them all, and the grip is the only disease in the world which makes a specialty of having every symptom known to medical jurisprudence."

Then the doctor got busy with the pencil gag and left me enough prescriptions to keep the druggist in pocket money throughout the winter.

Then my friends and relatives began to drop in and annoy me with suggestions.

"Pop" Barclay sat by my bedside and, after I had barked for him two or three times, he decided I had inflammation of the lungs and was insistent that I tie a rubber band around my chest and rub myself with gasolene.

I told Pop I had no desire to become a human automobile so he got mad and went home. But before he got mad he drank six bottles of beer and before he went home he invited himself back to dinner.

Then Hep Hardy dropped in and ten minutes later he had me making signs for an undertaker.

Hep comes to the bedside of the afflicted in the same restful manner that a buzz-saw associates with a log of pine.

He insisted upon taking my pulse and listening to my heart beats, but when he attempted to turn my eyelids back to see if I had a touch of the glanders every germ in my body rose in rebellion and together we chased Hep out of the room.

The next calamity was Teddy Pearson, who had an apartment on the floor above us. Teddy had spent the previous night at a Tango party and ever since daylight he had been beating home to windward. His cargo had shifted and the seaway was rough. Still clad in the black and white scenery with the silk bean-cover somewhat mussed he groped across the darkened room and solemnly shook hands with me.

1  2     Next Part
Home - Random Browse