People You Know/Part 2
People You Know, by George Ade (Part 2) — Illustrated by John T. McCutcheon and Others
New York, R. H. Russell, 1903 — Copyright 1902, 1903 by Robert Howard Russell — First Impression, April 1903
What Father Bumped Into at the Culture Factory
A Domestic Team had a Boy named Buchanan who refused to Work, so his Parents decided that he needed a College Education. After he got that, he could enter a Learned Profession, in which Work is a mere Side-Issue.
The Father and Mother of Buchanan sent to the College for a Bunk Catalogue. The Come-On Book had a Green Cover and it was full of Information. It said that the Necessary Expenses counted up about $180 a year. All Students were under helpful and moral Influences from the Moment they arrived. They were expected to hit the Mattress at 10 P.M., while Smoking was forbidden and no one could go to Town except on a Special Permit.
"This is just the Place for Buchanan," said his Mother. "It will be such a Comfort to know that Son is in his Room every Evening."
Accordingly Buchanan was supplied with six Shirts, two Suits of everything, a Laundry-Bag, a Pin-Cushion, a Ready-Repair Kit and a Flesh Brush, and away he rode to the Halls of Learning. He wrote back that he was Home-Sick but determined to stick out because he realized the Advantages of a College Education. He said his Eyes hurt him a little from Reading at Night and he had to buy a great many Extra Books, but otherwise he was fine and fancy. Love to all and start a little Currency by the first Mail.
After Buchanan had been toiling up the Hill of Knowledge for nearly two Months, and sending hot Bulletins back to the Old Folks, his Father decided to visit him and give him some Encouragement.
"The Poor Boy must be lonesome down there among all those Strangers," said Father. "I'll drop in on him and brighten him up."
So Father landed in the College Town and inquired for Buchanan, but no one had heard of such a Person.
"Perhaps you mean 'Old Buck’," said a Pale Youth, with an ingrowing Hat. "If he's the Indian you want to see, I'll show you where he hangs out."
The Proud Parent was steered to a faded Boarding House and found himself in a Chamber of Horrors that seemed to be a Cross between a Junk-Shop and a Turkish Corner. Here he found the College Desperado known as ‘Old Buck,’ attired in a Bath Robe, plunking a stingy little Mandolin and smoking a Cigarette that smelled as if somebody had been standing too close to the Stove.
"Hello, Guv," said the Seeker after Truth. "Wait until I do a Quick Change and we'll go out and get a few lines of Breakfast."
"Breakfast at 2 P.M.?" inquired Father.
"We had a very busy Night," explained Buchanan. "The Sophomores have disputed our Right to wear Red Neckties, so last night we captured the President of the Soph Class, tied him to a Tree and beat him to a Whisper with a Ball Bat. Then we started over to set fire to the Main Building and we were attacked by a Gang of Sophs. That is how I happened to get this Bum Lamp. Just as he gave me the knee, I butted him in the Solar Plexus. He's had two Doctors working on him ever since. And now the Freshies are going to give me a Supper at the Dutch Restaurant to-morrow Night and there is some Talk of electing me Class Poet. So you see, I am getting along fine."
"You are doing Great Work for a Mere Child," said the Parent. "If you keep on, you may be U.S. Senator some day. But tell me, where did you get all of these Sign-Boards, Placards, Head-stores and other Articles of Vertu?"
"I swiped those," replied the Collegian. "In order to be a real Varsity Devil, one must bring home a few Souvenirs every Night he goes out. If the Missionaries did it, it would be called Looting. If the Common People did it, it would be called Petit Larceny. But with us, it is merely a Student Prank."
"I understand," said Father. "Nothing can be more playful than to nail a Tombstone and use it for a Paper-Weight."
"Would you like to look around the Institution?" asked Buchanan.
"Indeed, I should," was the Reply. "Although I have been denied the blessed Privileges of Higher Education, I love to get into an Atmosphere of four-ply Intellectuality and meet those Souls who are above the sordid Considerations of workaday Commercialism."
"You talk like a Bucket of Ashes," said the Undergraduate. "I'm not going to put you up against any Profs. Follow me and I'll fix it so that you can shake Hands with the Guy that eats 'em alive. I'll take you over to the Corral and show you the Wild-Cats. They've been drinking Blood all Morning and are feeling good and Cagey. About 3 o'clock we turn them out into the Arena and let them plow up the Turf."
"Is this a College or a Zoo?" asked the Parent.
"I refer to the Squad," said Buchanan. "We keep about 40 at the Training Table all of the time, so that no matter how many are killed off, we will always have 11 left. We have a Centre Rush who weighs 238, and you wouldn't dent him with a Hatchet. We caught him in the Woods north of Town and brought him down here. He is taking a Special Course in Piano Music two hours a Week and the rest of the Time he is throwing Substitutes down and biting them on the Arm."
Buchanan and his trembling Parent sat at the edge of the Gridiron and watched the Carnage for a while. Buchanan explained that it was merely Friendly Practice.
That Evening the Son said: "Father, you can stay only a Little While, and I want to give you a Good Time while you are here. Come with us. We are going down to the Opera House to put a Show on the Bum. One of the first things we learn at College is to kid the Troupers. It is considered Great Sport in these Parts. Then, if any one gets Pinched, we tear down the Jail, thereby preserving the Traditions of dear old Alma Mater."
"Does the Faculty permit you to be guilty of Disorderly Conduct?" asked the Parent.
"Anyone who goes against the Faculty single-handed is a Fink," replied Buchanan. "We travel 800 in a Bunch, so that when the Inquest is held, there is no way of finding out just who it was that landed the Punch. Anything that happens in a College Town is an Act of Providence. Now come along and see the American Youth at Play."
They found their way to the Temple of Art. When the Chemical Soubrette started in to sing "Hell, Central, give me Heaven," they gave her just the Opposite of what she was demanding. A few Opera Chairs were pulled up by the Roots and tossed on the Stage, merely to disconcert the Artiste. When the House Policeman came he was hurled 30 Feet into the Air and soon after that the Show broke up. The Student Body flocked out and upset a Trolley Car, and then they went homeward in the Moonlight singing, "Sweet Memories of College Days, La-la! La-la!"
Father's Hat was caved in and he was a trifle Bewildered, but he managed to observe that the Boys were a trifle Boisterous when they got a Fair Start.
"Oh, yes; but they don't Mean anything by it," explained Buchanan.
"I hope they will explain that to the House Policeman as soon as they get him to the Hospital," said the Parent. "Otherwise, he might misconstrue their Motives."
Next Day, when he went back, he told Mother not to worry about Buchanan, as he seemed to have a full and sympathetic Grasp on the true Inwardness of Modern Educational Methods.
MORAL: Attend to the Remittances and Son will do the rest.
The Search for the Right House and How Mrs. Jump Had Her Annual Attack
Once there was a Family called Jump that had sampled every Ward within the Corporation Limits.
The Jumps did a Caravan Specialty every time the Frost went out of the Ground.
When the Sarsaparilla Ads began to blossom, and the Peach Crop had been ruined by the late Cold Snap and the Kids were batting up Flies in the Lot back of the Universalist Church, and a Barrel-Organ down Street was tearing the Soul out of "Trovatore" — these were the Cues for Mrs. Jump to get her Nose into the Air and begin to champ at the Bit.
Mother was a House-Hunter from away back. She claimed to be an Invalid eleven months out of the Year and took Nerve Medicine that cost $2.00 a Bottle. Just the same when April hove into view and Dame Nature began to stretch herself, then Mother put on her Short Skirt and a pair of Shoes intended for a Man and did a tall Prance.
She was good for 12 hours a Day on any kind of Pavements. With her Reticule loaded full of "To Let" Clippings, she hot-footed from Street to Street. Every time she struck a Fresh Trail she broke into a Run.
Mother was looking for a House that had twice as many Closets as Rooms and a Southern Exposure on all four sides.
She had conned herself into the Belief that some day she would run down a Queen Anne Shack that would be O.K. in all Particulars.
In the Magazine that came every Month she had seen these Dream-Pictures of Palaces that can be put up for $1,500.00, if you steal your Materials.
She had gazed at the Bunco Illustration of the swell Structure with bushy Trees dotting the Lawn and a little Girl rolling a Hoop along the Cement Side-Walk and she had set her heart on that kind of a Home.
Mother loved to study the Plans and count the Bathrooms and figure on Window Seats and what kind of Curtains to put in the Guest Chamber.
Every Spring she found the Place she had been seeking and gave a Grand Signal for the whole Outfit to begin packing up. Those were the bright vernal Days when Mr. Jump got all that was coming to him. Mr. Jump was a Man; therefore any old kind of a Hut suited him. For eight years before starting on his continuous Tour with Mother, he had roomed over a Drug Store.
His Apartment had been one of those delectable Man-Joints where Women never butted in to hide things and give the whole Place a Soapy Smell.
The Sweepings went under the Bed, so as not to litter up the Hallway.
Once a Year he had a House-Cleaning. That is to say, he employed a Colored Man to beat the Rugs, which had to be separated from the Floor by means of a Shovel.
Inasmuch as Women never came in to straighten up, he knew where to find everything. He knew it was somewhere in the Room and all he had to do was to excavate until he found it.
Then he hooked up with Laura so as to get a real Home, and she gave him a new one every Year.
Mr. Jump soon discovered that, although every Man is the Architect of his own Fortune, the Wife usually superintends the Construction.
When Mrs. Jump made her Spring Announcement that they would move to another House, he did a deal of Kicking, but he always went in the Wood Shed to do it. He sassed her inwardly, but not so that she could hear.
She was a Wonder at framing up Reasons for hurling the Lease back at the Landlord.
One Year she quit because the Owner papered the Upstairs with a Jay Pattern that cost only 15 cents a Bolt. Another time the Family next door kept Chickens. Usually the Children across the Alley were not fit Associates for their own little Brood.
One Time she quit on account of a Cockroach. She saw it scoot across the Pantry, and that afternoon she headed for a Renting Agency.
Father suggested that instead of vacating in favor of the Cockroach, they offer a reward of $100 for its Capture, dead or alive, and thereby save a little Money, but she refused to listen.
If the Plumbing wasn't out of Whack, the Furnace required too much Coal, or else the Woman across the Street had been divorced too many times.
If they squatted in a low-down Neighborhood, Mrs. Jump was ashamed to give her Address to Friends in the Congregation.
If they got into a Nest of the New Rich, then Laura had the freeze-out worked on her, because Mr. Jump was on a Salary and she had to ride on the Trolleys. So she began looking for a Street in which Intellect would successfully stack up against the good, old Collateral. And, of course, that meant a long Search.
Therefore, every May 1st, something Red and about the size of a Caboose backed up to the Jumps'. Several husky Boys began throwing Things out of the Windows. Father did a Vanishing Act. When it came to lifting one corner of a Piano or hanging Pictures, he was a sad Bluff, and he knew it.
"How about Paradise?" he asked one day. "I understand that inside of the Pearly Gates, each Family has Permanent Quarters. There are no Folding Beds to juggle down Back Stairways, no Picture Cords to Shorten, no Curtain Poles to saw off, no Book Cases to get jammed in Stairways. I am sure there will be no Piano Movers, for I have heard their Language. Do you think you can be happy in the Promised Land?"
"It will depend entirely on whether or not the Rugs fit," she replied.
"Let us hope for the Best," said Mr. Jump.
MORAL: The Queen of the May is usually a Woman.
The Batch of Letters, or One Day With a Busy Man
One Morning an energetic little Man who had about a Ton of Work piled upon his Desk came down Town with a Hop, Skip and Jump determined to clean up the whole Lay-Out before Nightfall.
He had taken eight hours of Slumber and a cold Dip in the Porcelain. After Breakfast he came out into the Spring Sunshine feeling as fit as a Fiddle and as snippy as a young Colt.
"Me to the Office to get that Stack of Letters off my Mind," said the Hopeful Citizen.
When he dashed into the Office he carried 220 pounds of Steam and was keen for the Attack.
A tall Man with tan Whiskers arose from behind the rolltop Desk and greeted him.
"How are you feeling this Morning?" asked the Stranger.
"Swell and Sassy," was the Reply.
"And yet, to-morrow you may join the Appendicitis Colony and day after to-morrow you many lie in the darkened Front Room with Floral Offerings on all sides," said the Stranger. "What you want is one of our non-reversible, twenty-year, pneumatic Policies with the Reserve Fund Clause. Kindly glance at this Chart. Suppose you take the reactionable Endowment with the special Proviso permitting the accumulation of both Premium and Interest. On a $10,000 Policy for 20 Years you make $8,800 clear, whether you live or die, while the Company loses $3867.44, as you can see for yourself."
"This is my…," began the Man.
"Or you may prefer the automatic tontine Policy with ball-bearings," continued the Death Angel. "In this case, the entire Residue goes into the Sinking Fund and draws Compound Interest. This is made possible under our new System of reducing Operating Expenses to a Minimum and putting the Executive Department into the Hands of well-known New York Financiers who do not seek Pecuniary Reward but are actuated by a Philanthropic Desire to do good to all Persons living west of the Alleghenies."
"That will be about all from you," said the Man. "Mosey! Duck! Up an Alley!"
"Then you don't care what becomes of your Family?" asked the Stranger, in a horrified Tone.
"My Relatives are collecting all of their Money in Advance," said the Man. "If they are not worrying over the Future, I don't see why you should lose any Sleep."
So the Solicitor went out and told every one along the Street that the Man lacked Foresight.
At 9:30 o'clock the industrious little Man picked up a letter number 1 and said to the Blonde Stenographer, "Dear Sir,"
At that moment the Head of the Credit Department hit him on the Back and said he had a Good One. It was all about little Frankie, the Only Child, the Phenom, the 40-point Prodigy.
In every large Establishment there is a gurgling Parent who comes down in the Morning with a Story concerning the incipient Depew out at their House. It seems that little Frankie has been told something at Sunday School and he asked his Mother about it and she told him so-and-so, whereupon the Infant Joker arose to the Emergency and said: and then you get it, and any one who doesn't laugh is lacking in a Finer Appreciation of Child Nature. The Busy Man listened to Frankie's Latest and asked, "What's the Rest of it?"
So the Parent remarked to several People that day that the Man was sinking into a crabbed Old Age.
At 10 A.M. the Man repeated "Dear Sir," and a Voice came to him, remarking on the Beauty of the Weather. A Person who might have been Professor of Bee-Culture in the Pike County Agricultural Seminary, so far as makeup was concerned, took the Man by the Hand and informed him that he (the Man) was a Prominent Citizen and, that being the case, he would be given a Reduction on the Half-Morocco Edition. While doing his 150 Words a Minute, he worked a Kellar Trick and produced a large Prospectus from under his Coat. Before the Busy Man could grab a Spindle and defend himself, he was looking at a half-ton Photo of Aristotle and listening to all the different Reasons why the Work should be in every Gentleman's Library. Then the Agent whispered the Inside Price to him so that the Stenographer would not hear and began to fill out a Blank. The Man summoned all his Strength and made a Buck.
"I don't read Books," he said. "I am an Intellectual Nit. Clear Out!"
So the Agent gave him a couple of pitying Looks and departed, meeting in the Doorway a pop-eyed Person with his Hat on the Back of his Head and a Roll of Blue Prints under his Arm. The Man looked up and moaned. He recognized his Visitor as a most dangerous Monomaniac — the one who is building a House and wants to show the Plans.
"I've got everything figured out," he began, "except that we can't get from the Dining Room to the Library without going through the Laundry, and there's no Flue connecting with the Kitchen. What do you think I'd better do?"
"I think you ought to live at a Hotel," was the reply.
The Monomaniac when home and told his Wife that he had been insulted.
At 11:30 came a Committee of Ladies soliciting Funds for the Home for the Friendless.
"Those who are Friendless don't know their own Luck," said the Busy Man, whereupon the Ladies went outside and agreed that he was a Brute.
At Noon he went out and lunched on Bromo Seltzer.
When he rushed back to tackle his Correspondence, he was met by a large Body of Walking Delegates who told him that he had employed a non-union Man to paint his Barn and that he was a Candidate for the Boycott. He put in an Hour squaring himself and then he turned to the Stenographer.
"How far have we got?" he asked.
"'Dear Sir,'" was the Reply.
Just then he got the Last Straw — a bewildered Rufus with a Letter of Introduction. That took 40 Minutes. When Rufe walked out, the Busy Man fell with his Face among the unanswered Letters.
"Call a Cab," he said.
"The 'Phone is out of order," was the Reply.
"Ring for a Messenger," he said.
She pulled the Buzzer and in 20 minutes there slowly entered a boy from the Telegraph Office.
The Man let out a low Howl like that of a Prairie Wolf and ran from the Office. When he arrived at Home he threw his Hat at the Rack and then made the Children back into the Corner and keep quiet. His Wife told around that Henry was Working too hard.
MORAL: Work is a Snap, but the Intermissions do up the Nervous System.
The Sickly Dream and How It Was Doctored Up
One Day a pure white Soul that made Sonnets by hand was sitting in his Apartment embroidering a Canto. He had all the Curtains drawn and was sitting beside a Shaded Candle waiting for the Muse to keep her Appointment. He wore an Azure Dressing-Gown. Occasionally he wept, drying his Eyes on a Salmon Pink Handkerchief bordered with yellow Morning Glories. Any one could tell by looking at him that he was a delicate Organism and had been raised a Pet.
Presently he put his left Hand to his Brow and began to indite with a pearl-handled Pen on Red Paper. Then there was a Ring at the Bell.
"Oh, Fudge!" said the Author. "That distressing Sound! And just when I was beginning to generate Ethereal Vapor. Hereafter I shall order the vulgar Tradespeople to deliver all Marshmallows at the Servants' Entrances."
He began to write again, reviving himself at the end of each Word, by means of Smelling Salts. He did not see the Artist standing in the Doorway.
The Artist was a muscular Person with an Ashen Complexion and a Suit that was not large enough to show the entire Pattern. He carried a Bludgeon with a Horse's Head on it. In order to attract the Attention of Mr. Swinburne, he whistled through his Teeth, whereupon the Author jumped over the Table and fell among the Rugs, faintly calling "Mother! Mother!"
"Cut it out!" exclaimed the Artist. "What's the matter? Huh?"
"Oh, how you startled me," said the Author sitting up among the Rugs. "Just as you came in I was writing about the Fays and the Elfins. I was in the deep Greenwood, the velvet Sward kissing my wan Cheek and the Leaves whispering overhead."
"I see," said the Artist. "A Dark Change from an Interior to a Wood Set. That’s all right if you can do it quick. Who did you say you was doing it for — the Fays?"
"I mentioned the Fays and Elfins," replied the Author.
"I've heard of the Fays," said the Artist. "They're out on the Orpheum Circuit now. But the Elfins — no. What kind of a Turn do they do?"
"Ah, the Elfins!" said the Author. "They dance in the Moonlight and skip from Tree to Tree.”
"Acrobatic Stuff with Light Effects, eh? Well, you're on a couple of Mackerels. I never see any Benders that could get away with a Talking Act. You want to give your Piece to somebody that can Boost you. You write a good gingery Skit for me and Miss Fromage and we'll put your Name on a Three-Sheet in Letters big enough to scare a Horse."
"I gather from the somewhat technical Character of your Conversation, my dear sir, that you are associated with the Drama," said the Author.
"Is it a Kid?" asked the Artist. "Wuzn't you ever in Front? Don't you look at the Pictures in the Windows? I'm Rank, of Rank and Fromage. Miss Fromage is the other half this Season, and if you seen her a Block off you'd say, 'Is it or ain't it Lillian Russell?' We've just closed with McGoohan's Boisterous Burlesquers. We was so strong that we killed the rest of the Bill, so we got the Blue Envelope. Now they're using all our Business, including the Gag about the Custard Pie."
"To what am I indebted for the Honor of the Visit?" asked the Author.
"I heard that you was a Lit’ry Mug and I'm around here to see you about a Sketch for me and Miss Fromage. The one I've got now is all right, but in it I've got to eat 8 hardboiled Eggs, and with 4 shows a Day that's askin' too much of any Artist. This Sketch was wrote for us by the Man that handles the Transfer Baggage at Bucyrus. He fixed it up while we was waitin' for a Train. I've been using it since 1882 and it goes just as strong as ever, but I like to get new Stuff once in a while. So I want you to fake up something that'll kill 'em right in their Seats. Here's the Scenario: My Wife's a Society Girl and I'm supposed to be a Dead Swell that's come to take her to a Masquerade. With that to work on, all you need to do is to fill in the Talk."
"I have recently prepared a One-Act Play, but I am not sure that it will meet your Requirements," said the Author. "It is called 'The Language of Flowers.' There are three Characters in the Play — a young Shepherd named Ethelbert, the Lady Gwendolin and a Waiting Maid."
"We couldn't carry three People," said the Artist. "You'd better use a Dummy instead of the Hired Girl. I do an awful funny Wrassle with a Dummy. Go ahead and slip ‘em the Plot."
"It is an idyllic Thing," said the Author. "Ethelbert is in love with Gwendolin, but he is not certain that his Love is reciprocated. So he sends her the Flowers. The waiting-maid brings them into the Bower where Lady Gwendolin is seated and with them a Scroll of Verses from Ethelbert. The Lady Gwendolin unrolls the Scroll and reads:
"'Traced in the Veins of the Petals
Are the Lines I fain would speak
And breathing low in the perfumed Leaves
Is the Name….'"
"Hold on," said the Artist. "That's a Cinch. Have a Stage-Hand come on with the Flowers. Lottie says, 'I know who sent these,' and so on and so on, and his Nobs gets off. Then her alone with the big armload of Hollyhawks, that I'm supposed to be sendin' her — savvy? She says, 'Well, there's no three ways about it, I've got this Gazebo dead to Rights.' She goes on to talk about Me, leading up to her song, 'John L. will be our Champion once again.' Bing! The Door-Bell rights. Then me on quick, see? I've thought out a Make-Up that's sure to get a Holler the Minute I come on. I wear a pair of Pants made out of Tin Foil, a Fur Coat with Lace around the Bottom and on my Head I wear a Coal-scuttle with some Sleigh-Bells fastened to it. As I come down Stage I make some crack about just escapin' from a Business College. When I see the Doll, I go over and slap her on the Back, pull out a Sprinklin' Can and water the Flowers. You'll have to fix me up a Line to introduce the Sprinkler. As soon as she sees me, she gets stuck, so she hands me one of the Flowers. I say, 'Ah, a night-blooming Pazizum' — then I take a Salt-Cellar out of my Vest and shake some Salt on the Flower and eat it. I done that with a Piece called 'A Boiled Dinner,' and it always went big. When she sees me eat the Flower, that makes her sore, understand? She comes at me with a right-hand Pass. I fall over a Chair and do a Head Spin. You fix up a strong Line for me just as I go over the Chair. Then — What's the matter, Cull? Here, Bud, open your Eyes!"
The Author had fallen in a Heap on the Antique Writing Desk.
"Hully Chee!" exclaimed the Artist. "He's Croaked."
MORAL: A Classic is never Safe Except in the Church Parlor