Forty Modern Fables, by George Ade, , at sacred-texts.com
ONCE there was a Man named Alexander who lived in a Town that vibrated with Excitement for a full Week after a Donation Party. Most of the Town seemed to be waiting for a High Wind to come along and give it a fare-ye-well Lift, but there were two Brick Blocks with red Galvanized-Iron Cornices and a ginger-bread Court House that had put the rural Taxpayers into the Hole for 200 Years to come.
When a Stranger happened along every one who lived there told him it was a Nice Little Town for fear that he wouldn't be able to find it out for himself.
Alexander owned a Plant in this Town. By Close Figuring he had succeeded in getting enough of the hateful Rhino to enable him to build a large pink-and-yellow House with more than $2,000 worth of jigsaw Scallops tacked all over it. The Wife of Alexander was Elvira and their Daughter was Farina, the Name having been found in a Cook Book.
When the Family sat on the Piazza of their Palatial Home the Sun got into their Eyes so that they were unable to Recognize the Common Run of Town People, who got along by delivering Milk and raising their own Truck.
Elvira and Farina went to Europe one Summer with a Personally Conducted Drove that had been Picked Up and Driven In from as far west as Walla Walla. They came home with their Carry-Alls full of Junk and began to use a little French. Elvira had to brace herself and hold on to something when she got rid of a Long One. While doing the Grand Tour of the Hotels they had met some Lovely Gentlemen who wore Gloves even when they were not working around Horses. So it was pretty tough to come back and settle down among the Provincials who wore the $8.88 Kind from Eisenstein's.
Alexander began to observe a new Order of Things. Instead of putting the entire Supply of Victuals out on the Table so that All Hands could pitch in, Elvira had the Courses brought in a little Dab at a time. Alec put up a medium Holler, but he was overruled in such a Jiffy that he never Came Back. He had to learn to use an Individual Butter Dish and a Finger Bowl with a Fruit and Vegetable Exhibit sailing around in it.
It soon became evident that Elvira and Farina were getting too Swagger to be tied down to a Water-Tank. They wanted to hie away to the City, where they could mingle with their own Kind. Also Elvira wanted to get outside the Sphere of Influence of a lot of spiteful old Tabbies who had organized the I-knew-her-when Club. They had Elvira's Record just about right, including Names and Dates. They had put on their Vermilion and Feathers and were out Ghost-Dancing and waving their Tomahawks because Elvira had got so High and Lofty that she couldn't see where they came in at all. They said she seemed to forget the Time when she had to give Lessons on the Melodeon and could have put all her Duds into a Hat Box.
When Alec's Factory went into the Combine and he Doubled his Stake then Elvira made the Star Play of her Life. The Trio got into a Parlor Car and went right up to the City to drop a few Dividends into the Slot and take out more or less Social Prominence. Alec was going sideways and trying to derail the Expedition, but Elvira ordered him to take hold of her Dress and keep close behind and she would land him right in among the Chosen and Elect.
For a Time after arriving in Town they lived at a Hotel, but the Street Cars made so much Noise that no one heard of them being on the Scene. Alec began to get Lonesome, so he warmed up to the Porter at the Hotel and was getting Chummy with the Night Clerk when Elvira told him to Drop it, and said if they wished to be mistaken for the Real Thing they must give all Subordinates and Employees the dull Eye and pretend not to see them. Elvira had been looking over the Ground and she said that in order for them to get into the Running it would be necessary to take a House out on the Avenue and begin to entertain every one who had a Drag. Alec proposed that they slip back to where they could be the biggest Ducks in the Puddle, but Elvira thought of the 1-knew-her-when Club, and she said they had come up to get into Society and they were going to get in, even if they had to Dig a Tunnel.
The Family leased a large chilly house built in the Style of Louie the Something, and engaged an Englishman with a petrified Face to Buttle for them and began to go to Places where People didn't need Invitations in order to get in. Now and then Elvira or Farina would clutch Alec by the Arm and whisper, "Here comes one now," and then the Women Folks would hold their Breath while a Devil of a Fellow in John Drew Clothes and a Touch-me-not Front wafted by.
They explained to Alec that there was a Woman named Mrs. Wetherby-Glue, who had a little Book in which she kept a List of all the sure-enough, sassafras-scented specimens of the Aristocracy, and no matter how much Agony you threw on, if you were not in this Book, your Name was Dennis. So the Game was to induce this Hyphenated Lady to let down the Bars and stamp your Ticket.
After they had been thrashing around the Outposts for a few Months without seeing a Chance to slip through the Lines, Elvira decided to give a Dinner and invite all the Well-Known Characters they had met and make it a sort of an opening Wedge. When the Regrets came pouring in it seemed that every new Acquaintance was Indisposed or had Serious Illness in the Family or was compelled to Decline on account of a Recent Bereavement. Alec read all these Throw-Downs and said there was one Consolation: If there was that much Sickness and Death in the local Four Hundred he figured that the whole Caboodle would be Extinct in a couple of Years and then he would be afforded a happy Relief from his Troubles.
Elvira and Farina were hanging on the Ropes for a few Days after the Fizzle, but they did not Give Up. They pulled themselves together and resumed Sawing Wood. They slathered Alec's Money on Subscription Lists and forced their way into all the Charity Dress Parades and got a large upholstered Pew right in the Parquet Circle of the Church attended by the Notables, and they positively refused to be Overlooked.
After three Years of Patient Endeavor they got their Wish, for all Things come to him who is so Resilient that he comes back into Shape every time the Band-Wagon runs over him. Elvira and Farina and Alec were invited to Break Bread with Mrs. Wetherby-Glue.
"To-Night's the Night," said Elvira, trembling like an Aspen. "You want to be sure and Laugh every time the Mother Superior springs one of her Mots and remember that the little Cup early in the Deal contains Consommé and not Tea, so don't toss any Loaf Sugar into it or back to the Country we go."
After the Triumphant Event, when they were coming homeward in the Carriage, there was a Sound of subdued Cussing. It was Alec.
"I don't like to Beef," he said, "but I feel like the Farm Hand from Muscatine that counted out his Summer's Wages and then picked up the Wrong Shell."
"Cheer up," said Elvira. "It was a tolerably punk Evening, but thank goodness we have Arrived. By the way, where were you all during the Solemnities?"
"They had me tucked away behind the Shrubbery at the Foot of the Table," replied Alec. "A spare Lady and I were hiding down there together. She told me all about her Spitz Dog and I said 'Yes, Ma'am' over 800 times. I calculate that I have put in the Best Years of my Life and blown $40,000 to find out about that Dog. Stop the Hack. I want to get something to Eat."
And he got out and went into an Oyster Bay.
MORAL: The cheapest and best Way to find out about Gay Society is to buy a 50-cent Book.