Pongo Beach

Stories: Ade's Fables


Once there was a full-blown Wild Peach, registered in the Family Bible as Susan Mahaly.

Her Pap divided his time between collecting at a Toll-Gate and defending the Military Reputation of Andy Jackson.

The family dwelt in what was then regarded by Cambridge, Mass., as the Twilight Zone of Semi-Culture, viz., Swigget County, Pennsylvania.

Susan wore Linsey-Woolsey from Monday to Saturday. She never had tampered with her Venus de Milo Topography and she did not even suspect that Women had Nerves.

When she was seventeen she had a Fore-Arm like a Member of the Turnverein.

She knew how to Card and Weave and Dye. Also she could make Loose Soap in a kettle out in the Open Air.

Susan never fell down on her Salt-Rising Bread. Her Apple Butter was always A1.

It was commonly agreed that she would make some Man a good Housekeeper, for she was never sickly and could stay on her Feet sixteen hours at a Stretch.

Already she was beginning to look down the Pike for a regular Fellow.

In the year 1840, the Lass of seventeen who failed to get her Hooks on some roaming specimen of the Opposite Gender was in danger of being whispered about as an Old Maid. Celibacy was listed with Arson and Manslaughter.

Rufus was destined to be an Early Victorian Rummy, but he could lift a Saw-Log, and he would stand without being hitched, so Susan nailed him the third time he came snooping around the Toll-Gate.

Rufus did not have a Window to hoist or a Fence to lean on. But there is no Poverty in any Pocket of the Universe until Wealth arrives and begins to get Luggy.

Susan thought she was playing in rare Luck to snare a Six-Footer who owned a good Squirrel Rifle and could out-wrastle all Comers.

The Hills of Pennsylvania were becoming congested, with Neighbors not more than two or three miles apart, so Rufus and his Bride decided to hit a New Trail into the Dark Timber and grow up with the Boundless West.

Relatives of the Young Couple staked them to a team of Pelters, a Muley Cow, a Bird Dog of dubious Ancestry, an Axe and a Skillet, and started them over the Divide toward the perilous Frontier, away out yender in Illinoy.

It was a Hard Life. As they trundled slowly over the rotten Roads, toward the Land of Promise, they had to subsist largely on Venison, Prairie Chicken, Quail, Black Bass, Berries, and Wild Honey. They carried their own Coffee.

Arrived at the Jumping-Off Place, they settled down among the Mink and Musk-Rats. Rufus hewed out and jammed together a little two by twice Cabin with the Flue running up the outside. It looked ornery enough to be the Birthplace of almost any successful American.

The Malaria Mosquito was waiting for the Pioneers. In those good old Chills-and-Fever days, no one ever blamed it on the Female of the Species. Those who had the Shakes allowed that they were being jarred by the Hand of Providence.

When the family ran low on Quinine, all he had to do was hook up and drive fifty miles to the nearest Town, where he would trade the Furs for Necessities such as Apple-Jack and Navy Twist, and possibly a few Luxuries such as Tea and Salt.

On one of these memorable Trips to the Store, a Mood which combined Sentiment with reckless Prodigality seized upon him.

He thought of the brave Woman who was back there in the lonesome Shack, shooing the Prairie Wolves away from the Cradle, and he resolved to reward her.

With only three Gills of Stone Fence under his Wammus, he spread his Wild-Cat Currency on the Counter and purchased a $6 Clock, with jig-saw ornaments, a shiny coat of Varnish, and a Bouquet of Pink Roses on the door.

Susan burst into Tears when she saw it on the Wall, alongside of the Turkey Wing, and vowed that she had married the Best Man in the World.

Twenty years later, Jennie, the first begotten Chick at the Log House in the Clearing, had matured and married, and was living at the County-Seat with Hiram, Money-Changer and Merchant.

Railroad Trains, Side-Bar Buggies, Coal-Oil Lamps, and the Civil War had come along with a Rush and disarranged primitive Conditions. The Frontier had retreated away over into Kansas.

In the very Township where, of late, the Beaver had toiled without Hindrance and the Red Fox dug his hole unscared, people were now eating Cove Oysters, and going to see "East Lynne."

Hiram was in rugged Health, having defended the flag by Proxy during the recent outcropping of Acrimony between the devotees of Cold Bread and the slaves of Hot Biscuit. The Substitute had been perforated beyond repair at the Battle of Kenesaw Mountain, proving that Hiram made no mistake in remaining behind to tend Store.

When Jennie moved in where she could hear the Trains whistle and began to sport a Cameo Brooch, she could barely remember wearing a Slip and having Stone Bruises.

Hiram was Near, but he would Loosen up a trifle for his own Fireside. The fact that Jennie was his wife gave her quite a Standing with him. He admired her for having made such a Success of her Life.

They dwelt in a two-story Frame with countless Dewdads and Thingumbobs tacked along the Eaves and Scalloped around the Bay Windows.

The Country People who came in to see the Eighth Wonder of the World used to stand in silent Awe, breathing through their Noses.

Out on the lawn, surrounded by Geraniums, was a Cast-Iron Deer which seemed to be looking at the Court House in a startled Manner. It was that kind of a Court House.

In her Front Room, the daughter of Rufus and Susan had Wonderful Wax Flowers, sprinkled with Diamond Dust; a What-Not bearing Mineral Specimens, Conch-Shells, and a Star-Fish, also some Hair-Cloth Furniture, very slippery and upholstered with Sand.

After Hiram gave her the Black Silk and paid for the Crayon Enlargements of her Parents, Jennie did not have the Face to bone him for anything more, but she longed in secret and Hiram suspected.

Jennie was a soprano. Not a regular Soprano, but a Country-Town Soprano, of the kind often used for augmenting the Grief at a Funeral. Her voice came from a point about two inches above the Right Eye.

She had assisted a Quartette to do things to "Juanita," and sometimes tossed out little Hints about wishing she could practice at Home. Jennie was a Nice Woman but she did need Practice.

Although Hiram was tighter than the Bark on a Sycamore, he liked to have other Women envy the Mother of His Children.

When he spread himself from a Shin-Plaster, he expected a Fanfare of Trumpets.

It took him a long time to unwind the String from the Wallet, but he would Dig if he thought he was boosting his own Game.

By stealthy short-weighting of the Country Trade and holding out on the Assessor, he succeeded in salting away numerous Kopecks in one corner of the Safe.

While in Chicago to buy his Winter Stock, he bargained for two days and finally bought a Cottage Melodeon, with the Stool thrown in.

Jennie would sit up and pump for Hours at a time, happy in the knowledge that she had drawn the Capital Prize in the Lottery of Hymen.

In the year 1886 there was some Church Wedding at the County-Seat.

Frances, daughter of Hiram and Jennie, had knocked the Town a Twister when she came home from the Female College wearing Bangs and toting a Tennis Racquet.

All the local Gallants, with Cocoa-Oil in their hair and Rings on their Cravats, backed into the Shubbery.

Hiram had bought her about $1800 worth of Hauteur at the select Institution of Learning. All she had to do was look at a Villager through her Nose-Specs and he would curl up like an Autumn Leaf.

A Cuss from Chicago came to see her every two weeks.

His Trousers seemed to be choking him. The Pompadour was protected by a Derby of the Fried-Egg species. It was the kind that Joe Weber helped to keep in Public Remembrance. But in 1886 it was de Rigeur, au Fait, and à la mode.

Frances would load the hateful City Chap into the high Cart and exhibit him up and down all the Residence Thoroughfares.

On nearly every Front Porch some Girl whose Father was not interested in the First National Bank would peer out through the Morning Glories at the Show-off and then writhe like an Angle-Worm.

The Wedding was the biggest thing that had struck the town since Forepaugh stopped over on his way from Peoria to Decatur.

Frances was not a popular Girl, on account of being so Uppish, so those who could not fight their way into the Church climbed up and looked through the Windows.

The Groom wore a Swallow-Tail.

Most of those present had seen Pictures of the Dress Suit. In the Fireside Companion, the Gentleman wearing one always had Curls, and the Wood-Engraving caught him in the act of striking a Lady in the Face and saying "Curse you!"

The Feeling at the County-Seat was that Frances had taken a Desperate Chance.

The caterer with Colored Help in White Gloves, the ruby Punch suspected of containing Liquor, the Japanese Lanterns attached to the Maples, the real Lace in the Veil, the glittering Array of Pickle-Jars, and a well-defined Rumor that most of the imported Ushers had been Stewed, gave the agitated Hamlet something to blat about for many and many a day.

The Bachelor of Arts grabbed off by the daughter of Jennie and the Grand-daughter of Susan was the owner of Real Estate in the congested Business District of a Town which came into Public Attention later on through the efforts of Frank Chance.

His front name was Willoughby, but Frances always called him "Dear," no matter what she happened to be thinking at the time.

Part of State Street had been wished on to Willoughby. He was afraid to sell, not knowing how to reinvest.

So he sat back and played safe. With growing Delight he watched the Unearned Increment piling up on every Corner. He began to see that he would be fairly busy all his life, jacking up Rents.

The Red-Brick Fortress to which he conducted Frances had Stone Steps in front and a secret Entrance for lowly Trades-people at the rear.

Willoughby and his wife had the high courage of Youth and the Financial Support of all the Money Spenders along State Street, so they started in on Period Decoration. Each Room in the House was supposed to stand for a Period. Some of them stood for a good deal.

A few of the Periods looked like Exclamation Points.

The young couple disregarded the Toll-Gate Period and the Log-Cabin Period, but they worked in every one of the Louies until the Gilt Furniture gave out.

The delighted Caller at the House beside the Lake would pass from an East Indian Corridor through an Early Colonial Ante-Room into a Japanese Boudoir and, after resting his Hat, would be escorted into the Italian Renaissance Drawing-Room to meet the Hostess. From this exquisite Apartment, which ate up one year's Rent of a popular Buffet near Van Buren Street, there could be obtained a ravishing glimpse of the Turkish Cozy Corner beyond, including the Battle-Axes and the Red Lamp.

Frances soon began to hob-nob with the most delicatessen Circles, including Families that dated back to the Fire of 1871.

She was not at all Dizzy, even when she looked down from the Mountain Peak at her happy Birthplace, 15,000 feet below.

Willoughby turned out to be a satisfactory Housemate. His Voltage was not high, but he always ate Peas with a Fork and never pulled at the Leash when taken to a Musicale.

In front of each Ear he carried a neat Area of Human Ivy, so that he could speak up at a Meeting of Directors. Until the year 1895, the restricted Side-Whisker was an accepted Trade-Mark of Commercial Probity.

This facial Landscaping, the Frock Coat, and a steadfast devotion to Toilet Soap made him suitable for Exhibition Purposes.

Frances became almost fond of him, after the Honeymoon evaporated and their Romance ripened into Acquaintanceship.

It was a gladsome day for both when she traced the Dope back through Swigget County, Pennsylvania, and discovered that she was an honest-to-goodness Daughter of the American Revolution.

Willoughby could not ask a representative of good old Colonial Stock to ride around in a stingy Coupé with a Coon planted out on the Weather-Seat.

He changed the Terms in several Leases and was enabled to slip her a hot Surprise on the Birthday.

When she came down the Steps for the usual bowl along the Avenue, so as to get some Fresh Smoke, she beheld a rubber-tired Victoria, drawn by two expensive Bang-Tails in jingly Harness and surmounted by important Turks in overwhelming Livery.

She was so trancified with Delight that she went right over to Willoughby and gave him a Sweet Kiss, after looking about rather carefully for the exposed portion of the Frontispiece.

Frances did a lot of Calling within the next two weeks, and to all those who remarked upon the Smartness of the Equipage, she declared that the Man she had to put up with carried a Throbbing Heart even if he was an Intellectual Midget.

In the year 1913, a slender Young Thing, all of whose Habiliments seemed melting and dripping downward, came wearily from Stateroom B as the Train pulled into Reno, Nevada.

She seemed quite alone, except for a couple of Maids.

After she had given Directions concerning the nine Wardrobe Trunks and the Live Stock, she was motored to a specially reserved Cottage at the corner of Liberty Street and Hope Avenue.

Next day she sat at the other side of a Table from a Lawyer, removing the poisoned Javelins from her fragile Person and holding them up before the shuddering Shyster.

She had a Tale of Woe calculated to pulp a Heart of Stone. In blocking out the Affidavit, her sympathetic Attorney made Pencil Notes as follows:

Her name was Ethel Louise, favorite Daughter of Willoughby and Frances, the well-known Blue-Bloods of the Western Metropolis.

She had finished off at Miss Sniffie's exclusive School, which overlooks the Hudson and the Common School Branches.

After she learned to enter a Ball-Room and while on her way to attack Europe for the third time, the Viper crossed her Pathway.

She accepted him because his name was Hubert, he looked like an Englishman, and one of his Ancestors turned the water into Chesapeake Bay.

While some of the Wedding Guests were still in the Hospital, he began to practice the most diabolical Cruelties.

He induced her to get on his Yacht and go cruising through the Mediterranean when she wanted to take an Apartment in Paris.

At Monte Carlo he scolded her for borrowing 3000 Francs from a Russian Grand Duke after she went broke at bucking the Wheel. She had met the Duke at a Luncheon the day before and his Manners were perfect.

The Lawyer said that Hubert was a Pup, beyond all Cavil.

Cairo, Egypt, yielded up another Dark Chapter of History.

It came out in the sobbing Recital that Hubert had presented her with a $900 prize-winning Pomeranian, directly related to the famous Fifi, owned by the Countess Skidoogan of Bilcarty.

Later on, he seemed to feel that the Pomeranian had come between him and Ethel. The Situation became more and more tense, and finally, one day in Egypt, within plain sight of the majestic Pyramids, he kicked Precious ever so hard and raised quite a Swelling.

The Legal Adviser said Death was too good for such a Fiend.

In Vienna, though, that was where he went so far that Separation became inevitable.

Ethel had decided to take an $80,000 Pearl Necklace she had seen in a Window. It was easily worth that much, and she felt sure she could get it in without paying Duty. She had been very successful at bringing things Home.

She could hardly believe her Ears when Hubert told her to forget it and back up and come out of the Spirit World and alight on the Planet Earth.

He had been Heartless on previous Occasions, but this was the first time he had been Mean enough to renig on a mere side-issue such as coming across with the Loose Change.

Ethel was simply de-termined to have that Necklace, but the unfeeling Whelp tried to kid her out of the Notion.

Then he started in to Pike. He suggested a $20,000 Tarara of Rubies and Diamonds as a Compromise. Ethel became wise to the fact that she had joined out with a Wad.

While she was pulling a daily Sick Headache in the hope of bringing him to Taw, the Maharajah of Umslopagus came along and bought the Necklace.

That was when Ethel had to be taken to a Rest Cure in the Austrian Tyrol, and she never had been the Same Woman since.

To all who had come pleading for Reconciliation, Ethel had simply hung out the Card, "Nothing Doing."

After a Brute has jumped up and down on the Aching Heart of a Girl of proud Lineage he can't square himself in 1,000,000 years.

So said Ethel, between the flowing Tears.

Furthermore, there had been hopeless Incompatibility. In all the time they were together, they never had been able to agree on a Turkish Cigarette.

The professional Home-Blaster said she had enough on Hubert to get her four Divorces. The Decree would be a Pipe.

Ethel said she hoped so and to please push it along, as she had quite a Waiting-List.


MORAL:  Rufus had no business buying the Clock.