Forty Modern Fables, by George Ade, , at sacred-texts.com
ONCE there was a Wife who Entertained a great deal. She was all the time fixing up Layer Cakes, Combination Salad, Siberian Punch and Salted Almonds, even though the Bills piled up until her Husband was seldom more than two Jumps ahead of a Collector.
She was never more Happy than when she had the House full of grown-up Fairies, all talking at the same time. For two or three Days after an unusually Swell Session, she would sweep around the House in a Flowed Wrapper, stepping high and feeling that she could give Cards and Spades to Mrs. Potter Palmer.
She always had a Gallon or more of Visiting Cards in a German Silver Tureen in the front Hallway. Any one who dropped in was sure to notice that she was on Close Terms with the Best of Them. She used to Bulletin all the Doings at her House in Red Letters a foot high, and then when the Society Reporters came to get Names and Costumes, she would let on to be Annoyed, and say it was Funny that One could not have a little Gathering without the Papers wanting to know all about it. She preferred that Nothing Whatever be said about her Reception, but if the Forward Press insisted on printing something, they might say that it was a Rip-Sizzer, and the Beautiful Hostess wore a striking Creation in Pale Mauve Satinette and a quart of Diamonds.
The Husband of this Woman had no liking for Violet Teas or afternoon Whist Orgies. When his Wife was tearing open the Street with one of her Social Events, he preferred to stay Down Town and get a little Snack rather than Face the Music. He felt more at ease with a Swiss Cheese Sandwich in a German Place than he did while partaking of Brick Ice Cream and listening to Stories about the Pastor.
He got many Raps because of his evident Desire to Duck on the Festivities. Very often his Wife would give him a Turning-Over for his Failure to Show Up. She would ask him why he could not be like Mr. So-and-So, who always helped his Wife pass the Tea, and who went from one Woman to another with neat little Compliments. The Husband replied that if he had to be the same as Mr. So-and-So in order to make himself a Parlor Favorite, he hoped that he would continue to be merely one of the Also Rans. In his Opinion, the Husband that she had set up as a Shining Example was a feather-brained Gussie, who ought to be Drummed Out of the Community. He said he had no Use for a Married Man big enough to pull a Dray who carried a Pocket Handkerchief inside of his Cuff, and chatted about Dress Goods. If she wanted that kind of an Article around the House she had better pull the Rope and ask for a Transfer.
She came back by saying that she would just as soon see a Gentleman making himself agreeable to a Covey of Refined Ladies as see him off in a Club with a lot of Passenger Agents and Horse Breeders, pulling for Table Stakes and punishing Manhattans. Furthermore, she thought things had come to a Pretty Pass when a Husband would sneak in the Back Way and crawl up stairs to avoid meeting his Wife's Guests. She nagged him until he decided that he would go in for her kind of Fun just to Keep Peace in the Family.
One day when the Street in front of his House was jammed with Coupe's and Broughams and there was a Strip of Red Carpet trailed down the Front Stoop, just to give the Place a Tone, he came Home early and got into his Frock. This Man despised himself whenever he was in Ministerial Togs. He always was feeling for the Side Pockets. When he caught a Glimpse of himself in the Mirror, he realized that he was a Ringer for the Neat Artist who comes out in the Variety Show to play on the Sleigh Bells.
But it was up to him to please the Wife, so he got into his Long Suit and wrestled with the White Ascot, and gummed his hair down and rubbed a little Scent on himself so as to be as Offensive as possible, and went down to Mingle. He gave every one the highup Handshake, and said he was Awfully Glad to see her, and Beamed and Nodded and carried on as Unnatural as possible. It was a Flying Start. His Wife stood back, her eyes popping with Pleased Surprise, for a Woman always likes to Exhibit her Husband if he has been trained for the Show Ring.
This Husband was set on making a full Afternoon of it, after going to all the Trouble of changing Clothes and having his Hair cut. He was there to help Entertain the Guests if it was in him. So he slowly circulated about the Room, looking for some one who would meet him Half Way. When he spotted the Young Widow with the Coaxing Dimples and the taunting Smile, he said to himself that he could do no better, for she was the Town Talk. So he put himself alongside of her and began to make Spicy Observations. He had heard that one is permitted a certain Latitude with Widows, and he went in for the whole 180 Degrees. Instead of telling the Widow that the Weather had been very Changeable of late, he whispered to her that every Single Man in Town was ready to Marry her at the Drop of the Hat. She hit him Twice with her Fan and began to think he was not such a Dummy after all.
He said that if only he was Foot-Loose probably he would have a little Proposition to make to her. Then he started in to tell her how Crazy she had all the Fellows he knew. She became Flushed and said it was Terrible to tell her such Things and to please go ahead.
It was a Noble Effort at Entertaining, and he did not seem to mind the Work. They were quite Wrapped Up in each other, with the Heads about three-quarters of an inch apart, so they did not realize that all the Women in the Room were accumulating Material for a rich, succulent Piece of Gossip.
As for the Charming Hostess, who was compelled to witness the Brazen Performance for twenty minutes, she was so Red-Headed that she was splashing Tea and upsetting Lady Fingers all over the Best Table Cover. When Hubby cooed something right into the tiny Ear of the Flirtatious Widow and she gave him a saucy overhand Slap on the Elbow, the Lady of the House let out a quick Gasp, and it looked for a Moment as if she would Keel.
The Hostess had the Feminine Instinct, and she knew that the scandalous Going-On between her Husband and the shameless Widow had laid the Foundation for more or less spiteful Guess-Work. She was Mad enough to Scratch and Pull Hair. Not that she was Jealous. Only a little Provoked, that was all.
After all of them had gone and her Handkerchief was out and he was being Raked over the Coals, he waved his Arms in Despair.
"Didn't you want me to Report here and be Agreeable?" he demanded. "I thought I was Fine and Daisy. The Widow says she never saw me give a Flash of my True Form before to-day. I came here to put in my Best Licks at Entertaining. I think I did it, on the level, for the Widow says I am a Bad Boy, and she has promised me her Picture in a Locket."
Whereupon his Wife Shrieked and flounced over into an Arm-Chair, completely Out.
MORAL: Only One in a Thousand ever strikes the Happy Medium.