Pongo Beach

Stories: Ade's Fables


Elam was the main Whizzer in a huddle of Queen Annes, bounded on the North by a gleaming Cemetery, on the East by a limping subdivision, on the South by a deserted Creamery, and on the West by an expanse of Stubble.

Claudine was the other two-thirds of the Specialty.

She was a snappy little Trick and it was a dull hour of the Day or Night when she couldn't frame up a new General Order for the Breadwinner.

The Marriage came off during the third summer of her twenty-seventh year.

She accepted Elam about a week before he proposed to her, thus simplifying the Ordeal.

While the Wafer on the License was still warm, she put on her spangled Suit, moved to the centre of the Ring, and cracked the Whip.

After that Elam continued to be a Hellion around the Office, but in his private Quarters he was merely Otto, the Trained Seal.

Claudine could make him Bark, play the Cymbals, or go back to the Blue Bench.

There is one Elam in every Settlement.

All the wise Paper-hangers and the fly Guitar Players had him marked up as a Noodle, but somehow, every time the winning Numbers were hung out, he would be found in Line, waiting to Cash.

He was not Bright enough to do anything except garner the Gold Certificates.

Elam had no Ear for Music, and, coming out of the Opera House, never could remember the name of the Play or which one of the Burglars was the real Hero.

His Reading was confined to the Headlines of a conservative Paper which was still printing War News.

Baseball had not come into his Life whatsoever.

A cultured Steno, who knew about George Meredith and Arnold Bennett, had to do his Spelling for him at 14 Bucks per.

The Cerebellum of Elam was probably about the dimensions of a Malaga Grape.

Sizing him by his Looks, one would have opined that Nature meant him for a Ticket-taker in a suburban Cinema Palace.

Elam was a mental Gnat and a spiritual Microbe, but the Geezer knew how to annex the Kale.

When Providence is directing the Hand-outs, she very often slips some Squarehead the canny Gift of corraling the Cush, but holds out all of the desirable Attributes supposed to distinguish Man from what you see in the Cages at the Zoo.

After the Pater had earned his Shaft in the Cemetery, Elam became the Loud Noise around a dinky Manufacturing Plant down by the Yards.

The Cracker Barrel Coterie and all the Old Ladies who had become muscle-bound from wielding the Sledge predicted that Elam would put the Organization into the Ditch, wrong side up.

The Well-wishers, the Brotherly Lovers, and the total membership of the Helping Hand Society sat back waiting for Elam to be dug out of the Débris, so they could collect Witness Fees at the Autopsy.

The Junior earned their abiding Dislike by putting one across.

He made the Fossils sit up in their padded Rocking Chairs and pay some attention to the Idiot Child.

He never could hold down any Position until tried out for a Captain of Industry and then he began to Bat 450 and Field 998.

After the dusty Workmen had manufactured the Product, and the Salesmen had unloaded it, and the Collectors had brought in the Dinero, then Elam had to sit at a Mahogany Desk with a Picture of Claudine in front of him, and figure how much of the hard-earned Mazuma would be doled out to his greedy Employees.

Sometimes he would be compelled to fork over nearly half of the Gross, whereupon his Heart would ache and he would become Morose.

In a few Years he had a lot of new Buildings, with Skylights and improved Machinery and all sorts of humane Appliances to enable the Working Force to increase the Output.

As the Bank Account expanded and the Happy Couple found themselves going up, Claudine began to scan the Horizon and act restless-like.

She said the Home Town was Impossible. It certainly did seem Contrary to Reason.

Any Woman with a salaried Husband could bust into Society if she sang in a Choir or owned an Ice-cream Freezer.

Claudine was for migrating to some high-toned Community beyond the Rising Sun, where she could sit in Marble Halls and compare Jewelry with proud Duennas of her own Station.

Seeing Claudine at the corner of 8th and Central, waiting for the Open Car, one would not have suspected that she harbored Intentions on the Court Circles of Europe.

One would merely have guessed that she was on her way to the Drug Store to purchase much Camphor.

But she had taken a peek at the Palm Rooms and the powdered Lackeys and the Tea Riot at the Plaza, and she was panting inwardly.

She wanted to hang a silver Bell around her neck and go galloping with the white-faced Thoroughbreds.

It was no good trying to work up Speed on a half-mile track in the Prairie Loam.

Once in a while Claudine made a bold Sashay to start something devilish, but the Fillies trained on the Farm did not seem gaited for the Grand Circuit.

As for the Servant Problem, it was something ferocious. City Help could not be lured to the Tall Grass, and all the Locals had been schooled at the Railway Eating-House.

Elam and Claudine had a Cook named Gusta, born somewhere near the Arctic Circle in Europe.

Her fried Chicken drowned in thick Gravy came under the head of Regular Food.

She could turn out Waffles as long as there was a Customer in sight. The Biscuit on which she specialized were light as Down.

The Things she fixed to Eat were Fine and Dandy but she never had heard of a Cuisine.

When you took her away from regular Chow and made her tackle something Casserole or En Tasse, she blew.

Also there was a Maid who should have belonged to the Stevedores' Union.

She could pack Victuals in from the Buttery and slam them down on the Table, à la Commercial Hotel, but when it came to building up an intricate Design with an ingrowing Napkin, three spoons, four Knives, five forks, and all the long-stemmed Glasses, to say nothing of an artful pyramiding of Cut Flowers around the Candelabra, then she was simply a female Blacksmith.

Claudine would throw a Dinner once in a while, just to subdue the Wife and Daughter of the National Bank, but the Crew would nearly always crab the Entertainment.

With the Support accorded by the solid ivory Staff, she had a fat Chance to give a correct Imitation of Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish.

All during the nine Courses she had to yelp more Orders than the Foreman of a Street Gang. A Megaphone would have helped some.

The Hostess who wishes to look and carry on like a Duchess, certainly finds it vexing when pop-eyed Lizzie leans against all of the principal Guests in turn and then endeavors to shoot the Episcopalian Rector in the Neck with a gush of real Champagne.

After one of these sad Affairs, at which the Rummies had balled up the whole Menu, Claudine came to the front with an Ultimatum. She said she was going to can the awful Birthplace and spend the remainder of her Natural among the real Rowdy-Dows.

"Right-o, Babe!" spoke up Elam. "To-day I have put the Works into a new Combine which makes me a Janitor so far as the Plant is concerned, but boosts me into the Charley Schwab division when it comes to Collateral. I have three million Iron Boys and most of it is Turkey. I am foot-loose and free as a Robin. Let us beat it to the Big Show. It is about time that the vast Territory lying toward the East should be aroused from its Lethargy. Go as far as you like."

The two were foxy. For monetary and real-estate Reasons they did not give it out cold that they were making a final Getaway. They planned to have Gusta remain at the dear old Dump as a Caretaker, but it was merely a Bluff.

When the Town Hack followed a Wagon-Load of Trunks to the Depot, Claudine leaned out and said: "Fare thee well, O you Indian Village! This is the Parting of the Ways for little Sunshine."

Next we see them in the gaudy Diner, eating Sweetbreads.

Next day thousands of warm-hearted New Yorkers were packed along the Water Front all the Way from the Battery to Grant's Tomb, giving royal Welcome to the Corn-fed Pilgrims. At any rate, they were Packed.

When Elam and Claudine entered the Hotel, the discerning Bell-hops had them stand back until the others had registered.

They were Important but they did not carry any Signs.

Elam should have worn the Letter of Credit on the outside.

After they had taken the Imperial Suite and invited all the Servants on the Twelfth Floor to a Silver Shower, they found that the Call-Bells worked fine. If Elam moved in the general direction of a Button, a handsome West Pointer would flit in with a pitcher of Iced Water and then hover around for his Bit.

Both realized that the first requisite was a lot of new Scenery.

Even when they rapped sharply with a Spoon and ordered Garçon to hurry up the Little Birds with a Flagon of St. Regis Bubbles to come along as a Drench, they realized that they did not look the Parts.

Elam still combed his Hair in the style approved by the "Barbers' Guide and Manual" for 1887.

Claudine was fully clothed as far up as her Neck and didn't have the Nerve to hoist the Lorgnette.

Elam went out and had himself draped by a swagger Tailor who was said to do a lot of Work for the Vanderbilt Boys.

In his Afternoon Wear he resembled the Manager of a Black-Goods Department.

After donning the complete Soup and Fish, known in swozzey circles as Thirteen and the Odd, he didn't look as much like a Waiter as one might have supposed. He looked more like the 'Bus who takes away the Dishes.

Claudine yielded herself up to a Modiste. The Good Woman from out of Town was a trifle Long in the Tooth at this stage of our Narrative, but Mme. Bunk convinced her that she was about half way between the Trundle Bed and her First Party.

She ordered all the Chic Novelties recommended for Flappers, so that Elam began to walk about ten feet behind her, wondering vaguely if his Family was still respectable.

The new Harness and a careless habit of counting Money in Public soon gave them an enviable Reputation in the principal Cafés, although they could not observe that they were moving any nearer to the Newport Colony.

The shift from Pig's Knuckles to Ambrosia and Nectar had been a little sudden for Elam, and sometimes, when they were darting hither and thither, from Road-House to Play-House and thence to the Louis XIV Sitting-Room by way of the Tango-Joint, he would moan a little and act like a Quitter.

Whereupon Claudine would jack him up and tell him to pull out his Cuffs and push back the Forelock and try to be Human.

No use. He was strictly Ritz-Carlton from the Pumps to the Topper, but the word "Boob" was plainly stenciled on the glossy Front.

When they had conquered all the Eating-Places in the Tenderloin they moved on to Europe, where they were just as welcome as Influenza.

It was great to sit in the Savoy at the Supper Hour, surrounded by the best known people mentioned in the Court Circulars.

It was indeed a privilege for Elam and Claudine to be among the British Cousins, even if the British Cousins did not seem to place Elam and Claudine.

Looking in any direction they could see naught but frosty and forbidding Shoulder Blades.

After partaking of their Sole and Grouse and winning a pleasant "Good-Night" from the Chevalier in the Check-Room, they would escape to their Apartments and talk to the Dog.

In Paris they did better.

They learned that by going out on the Boulevard and whistling, they could summon a whole Regiment of high-born and patrician Down-and-Outers.

Most of the Titles were slightly worm-eaten and spotted with Scale, but nevertheless Genuine.

It was Nuts for Claudine to assemble all of the Noblemen to be picked up around the Lobby and give them a free run and jump at the Carte du Jour.

Her Dinners soon became the talk of the Chambermaids employed at the Hotel.

Any one willing to cut loose on Caviar and stuff raised under Glass will never have to dine alone in gay Paree.

Whenever Elam made a noise like 1000 Frongs he found a lot of well-bred Connoisseurs at his Elbow, all ready to have something unusual brought up from the Cellar.

The securing of an Invitation to one of Claudine's formal Dinners was almost as difficult as getting into Luna Park.

However, the list of guests sounded Real when sent back to America and printed for the entertainment of persons living in Boarding-Houses.

Claudine became slightly puffed. When she found herself between a couple of perfumed Lads wearing Medals she would give Friend Husband the Office to move to one side and curl up in the Grass and not ruin the Ensemble by butting in.

Elam was usually at the foot of the Table behind a mass of Orchids. Once in a while he would try to crowd into the Conversation just to let them know that old Ready Money was still present, but every time he came up Dearie would do her blamedest to Bean him and put him out of the Game.

Claudine could make a stab at the new Pictures in the Salon and even run nimbly around the edge of the Futurist vogue.

Elam was ready to discuss Steamship Lines or Railway Accommodations, but when he was put against the Tall Brows he began to burn low and smell of the Wick.

Often, when surfeited with Truffles, he would wonder what had become of the Green Corn, the K. and K., the regular Chicken with Giblets, the Hot Cherry Pie, the smoking Oyster Stew, and the Smearcase with Chives, such as Gusta used to send in.

These reminders of a lowly Past were very distasteful to Claudine.

Once he talked in his Sleep about Codfish Balls, and next morning she lit on him something ramfugious.

After the Parisian triumphs it seemed a safe bet to return home and make a new effort to mingle with the Face-Cards.

This time they took a House in New York and went after Grand Opera as if they knew what it was about.

The Son of an Earl consented to Buttle for them. He refused them Butter with their Meals and kept them trembling most of the time, but they determined to do things Right, even if both died of Nervous Prostration.

When they began making real Headway and were recognized in the Park by some of the Headliners, Claudine would chide Elam for his early Doubts and Fears.

"This has got the Middle West skinned forty ways from the Jack," she would exclaim, gayly, as they motored up the Avenue. "Me for the White Lights! It's a good thing you had a Pacemaker or you would now be wearing detachable Cuffs and putting Sugar on your Lettuce."

Two years had elapsed since the escape from being Buried Alive.

They were, to all outward appearances, City-broke.

One day Claudine allowed that she was tired of Bridge and the gay Routine. She announced that she was slipping away to Virginia Hot Springs to cool off and rest.

Elam said that while she was lying up, he would inspect certain Mining Properties in Canada.

He drove Honey to the train, then he tore back to the palatial Home, chucked a few Props into a Suit Case and headed for the Grand Central.

He never stopped going until he ducked in the Back Way, through the Grape Arbor, past the Woodshed, into the Kitchen of the old Homestead in which he first saw the Light of Day.

Gusta nearly keeled when she lamped the long-lost Boss.

"Get busy," he said. "One fried Steak, the size of a Lap-Robe, smothered with Onions, two dozen Biscuits without any Armor Plate, one bushel of home-made Pork and Beans, much Butter, and a Gallon of Coffee in a Tureen."

"You will have to wait a while," said the faithful Gusta. "There is a double order of Ham and Turnips ahead of you. While you are waiting you might go up and call on the Missus. She has put on her old Blue Wrapper and the Yarn Slippers and is now lying on a Feather Tick in the Spare Room."


MORAL:  The only City People are those born so.