People You Know/Part 3
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People You Know, by George Ade (Part 3) — Illustrated by John T. McCutcheon and Others
New York, R. H. Russell, 1903 — Copyright 1902, 1903 by Robert Howard Russell — First Impression, April 1903
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 Yark 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, 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 Badlands, 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 Pople, but nix for Sweeny!
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 the Feather, 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 them 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, 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 Bay 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 Moustache 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 anyone 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 thse 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 Patters 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, 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 the 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, 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 someone 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 tell 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 standing 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 Shorts. 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 someone 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, 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 9 to 7 with Fogarty up, whatever that meant. He heard a Hickely 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 3 1/2 to 1. Then he wished that he hadn't, for he met a Friend who whispered "Sassafras" to him. Also he heard someone 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 a number 3 marked on it. Mr. Piker had his Chin over the Fence and was wondering if anyone 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 was then 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 hie 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 dimply that a large number of long-legged Ponies come 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 moth. Presently the Tonic seemed to die away, 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 Wallpaper, 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 Wallpaper?"
"Love of Art is the True Essence of the Higher Life," said the Aesthete, and she began to read a Booklet bound in the 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 Weatherd 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 Bradelyite covered the Walls with about 400 Plates, each with a Blue Curly-Cue on it. The 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.