Once there was a leading Citizen with only one Daughter, but she was Some Offspring.
Bernice was chief Expense Account and Crown Jewel of a Real Estate Juggler who had done so well that all the Strap-Hangers regarded him as an Enemy to Society.
Papa was foolish, even as a Weasel.
He was what you might call Honest, which signified that all of his Low Work had been done by Agents.
A Person of rare judgment, withal. He never copped a piece of bulky Swag unless he had a Wheelbarrow with him at the time.
He had been going East with the Green Goods ever since the Party in Power precipitated the first Panic.
He had Stacks of the Needful, and his Rating was AA Plus 1, to say nothing of a Reserve cached in the little Tin Box.
Daughter alone could induce him to unbuckle, and melt, and jar loose, and come across, and kick in, and sting the Check-Book.
One day Bernice was a Little Girl, and the next she was head Flossie among the Débutantes, with a pack of Society Hounds pursuing in Full Cry, each willing to help count the Bank Roll.
Father was scared pink when he sized up the Field.
He still wore box-toed Boots and carried Foliage on the Sub-Maxillary so that those who came ringing the Front Bell didn’t look very lucky to him.
Sometimes he would dream that he had been pushed into a Mausoleum and that a slender Cyril with a Lady’s Watch strapped on his wrist was spending all of that Money for Signed Etchings.
Whereupon he would awake in a Cold Sweat and try to think of a safe Recipe for poisoning Boulevard Blighters.
One day Bernice went out into the Sunshine and found something and brought it home with her and put it on a Rug in the Elizabethan Room.
Father came in and took one look and said: “Not for Mine! I won’t stand for any Puss Willow being grafted on to our Family Tree.”
His name was Kenneth, and he reduced his Percentage on the first day by having the hem-stitched Mouchoir tucked inside of the Cuff.
Also, it was rumored that he put oil on his Eye-Brows and rubbed Perfumery on the backs of his Hands.
Father walked around the He-Canary twice, looking at him over the Specs, and then he rushed to the Library and kicked the Upholstery out of an $80 chair.
He could see the love-light glinting in the Eyes of Bernice. She had fallen for the Flukus.
Kenneth was installed as Steady.
When Bernice saw him turn the Corner and approach the House, he looked to her like Rupert, the long lost Heir—while Father discerned only an insect too large to be treated with Powder.
Kenneth was the kind of Sop that you see wearing Evening Clothes on a Colored Post-Card.
If his private Estate had been converted into Pig Iron, he could have carried it in his Watch Pocket.
He was re-fined and had lovely Teeth, but those who knew him well believed the Story that when he was a Babe in Arms, the Nurse had let him fall and strike on the Head.
He wore his Hair straight back and used Patent Leather dressing.
He was full of Swank and put on much Side and wore lily-colored Spats and was an awful Thing all around, from Pa’s point of view.
In a crowd of Bank Directors he would have been a cheap Swivel, but among the Women Folks he was a regular Bright Eyes.
When you passed through the Archway of his Intellectual Domain you found yourself in the Next Block.
But—he could go into a Parlor and sprinkle Soothing Syrup all over the Rugs.
He had a Vaudeville Education and a small Tenor Voice, with the result that many a fluttering Birdie regarded him as the bona-fide Ketchup.
Bernice thought she was lucky to have snared him away from the others, and she had slipped him the whispered Promise, come Weal, come Woe.
She had no Mother to guide her, and it looked as if the Family was about to have a Bermuda wished on to it.
No wonder Father was stepping sideways.
He would come home in the evening and find the Mush perched on a Throne in the Spot Light, shooting an azure-blue Line of desiccated Drool, with Bernice sitting out in front and Encoring.
Then he would retire to the back part of the House to bark at the Butler and act as if he had been eating Red Meat.
He knew that if he elbowed in and tried to break up the Clinch, it would mean a Rope Ladder, a piece in the Papers, and a final Reconciliation, with Parent playing the usual rôle of Goat.
He was resolved not to put in the remainder of his Days being panhandled by a Soufflé who wore Dancing Pumps in the Daytime. The problem was to get shut of the Rodent without resorting to any Rough Stuff.
Father never had heard tell of the Perils of Propinquity, and he thought Psychology had something to do with Fish.
Just the same, he remembered about a Quail a day for 30 days, and he knew that the most agreeable Perfumery would not smell right if applied with a Garden Hose.
Likewise, he suspected that many a Quarter-House would blow, if put into a two-mile Handicap.
So he blocked out a Program which proved that Solomon had nothing on him.
Instead of grilling young Kenneth and holding him up to Contumely and forbidding him the use of Cozy Corner, he started in to boost the Love Match.
Kenneth all but moved in his Trunk.
Father had a chance to weigh him, down to the last Ounce, and study the simple Mechanism of his transparent Personality.
Father classified the would-be Child-in-Law as a Gobbie, which means a Home-Wrecker who is still learning his Trade.
The Candidate became a regular Boarder.
Kenneth would sit right up close to old Cash-in-Hand, who would egg him on to tell Dialect Stories and, after that, show how to make a Salad.
The Stories were some that Marshall Wilder stopped using in 1882 and since then have been outlawed on the Kerosene Circuit.
After Bernice had heard these Almanac Wheezes 26 or 28 times, she would sit still and look at the Center-Piece while Lover was performing.
The Gags didn’t sound as killing as they had at first, and sometimes she wished the Dear Boy would chop on them.
No chance. Father had him kidded into believing that all the old ham-fat Riddles were simply Immense.
As for that Salad Specialty, the poor Gink who calls loudly for English Mustard and thinks he is a Genius because he can rub a Bowl with a sprig of Garlic, may have his brief Hour of Triumph, but no man ever really got anywhere by doping Salad, when you stop to add it all up.
Father would put the two young people together in the back of the Touring Car and ride them around for Hours at a time.
Anybody who has cut in on one of those animated Automobile Conversations, while the salaried Maniac from France is hitting up 42 miles an Hour, will tell you that the hind end of a Motor Vehicle is no good Trysting Place for an Engaged Couple.
Bernice would get home after one of these wild swoops into the realm of the Death Angel, and totter to her room and lie down, and murmur: “I wonder what ailed Kenneth to-day. He seemed Preoccupied.”
That Same Evening, just when she needed Smelling Salts and Absolute Quiet, her enthusiastic Father would have Fiancé up to Dinner to pull the same stale Répertoire and splash around in the Oil and Vinegar.
If any Guests were present, then Father would play Introducer and tell them beforehand how good Kenneth was.
When given his Cue, the Lad would swell up and spring a hot One about the Swede and the Irishman, while Bernice would fuss with the Salt and wonder dimly if the Future had aught in store for her except Dialect Stuff.
Father had read on a Blotter somewhere that Absence makes the Heart grow fonder, so he played his System with the Reverse English.
He arranged a nice long trip by Land and Water and took the male Sweetheart along, so that the Doting Pair could be together at Breakfast.
His cunning had now become diabolical. He was getting ready to apply the Supreme Test.
Every Morning, when Bernice looked over her Baked Apple she saw nothing in this wide World except Kenneth, still reeking of Witch Hazel and spotted with Talcum Powder, and not very long on Sparkling Conversation.
When he was propped up in the cold Dawn, with his eyes partially open, he did not resemble a Royal Personage nearly as much as he had in some of his earlier Photographs.
Father would order soft-boiled Eggs to be Eaten from the Shell. When Kenneth got around to these, he would cease to be a Romantic Figure for at least a few Minutes. Bernice would turn away in dread and look out at the swaying Trees and long to see some of her Girl Friends back home.
After Kenneth had been served to her, three meals a day, for two Weeks and they had ridden together for Ages and Ages, in Pullman Compartments, she made certain horrible Discoveries.
One of his Ears was larger than the other.
He made a funny noise with his Adam’s Apple when drinking Hot Coffee.
When he was annoyed, he bit his nails.
When suffering from a Cold, he was Sniffy.
The first time she became aware of the slight discrepancy in Ears, she suffered only a slight Annoyance. It handed her a tiny Pang to find a Flaw in a Piece of Work that she had regarded as Perfect.
After she had seen nothing else but those Ears for many, many Days, it became evident to her that if Kenneth truly loved her, he would go and have them fixed.
Likewise, every time her Heart’s Delight lifted the Cup to his Ruby Lips, she would grip the Table Cloth with both Hands, and whisper to herself, “Now we get the Funny Noise.”
Kenneth, in the mean while, had found out that her Hair did not always look the same, but one who is striving to get a Meal Ticket for Life cannot be over-fastidious.
He was Game and stood ready to obey all Orders in order to pull down the Capital Prize.
He had been such a Hit in the Maple-Sundae Set that he could not conceive the possibility of any Female becoming satiated with his Society.
The poor Loon never stopped to figure out that the only way to keep a Girl sitting up and interested is to stay away once in a while and give her a Vacation.
Father was right on the Job to see that Bernice had no Vacation. He framed it up to give her a Foretaste of Matrimony every Day in the Week.
If the Future Husband wandered more than thirty feet from her side, Father would nail him and Sic him on to her again.
She would look up and say: “Oh, Fury! Look who’s here again!”
This was no way for a true-hearted Maiden to speak of her Soul Mate.
Father put the Cap Sheaf on his big Experiment by accepting an invitation to go Yachting.
He put them side by side on Deck and told them to comfort each other, in case anything happened.
They never could have been quite the same to each other after that Day.
Bernice wanted to get back on Shore and hunt her Room and peel down to a Kimono and refuse any Callers for a Month.
Even the accepted Swain was beginning to slow up. He could remember the time when he used to sit around with members of his own Sex.
Father had no Mercy. He took the two Invalids back to Land and rounded them up for Breakfast next morning.
When Kenneth appeared, he was slightly greenish in Color.
One Ear was three times as large as the other. He had caught a Sniffy Cold.
In partaking of his Coffee he made Sounds similar to those coming through the Partition when the People in the adjoining Flat have trouble with the Plumbing.
He saw Bernice glaring at him and bit his Nails in Embarrassment.
Father felt the Crisis impending and laid on the last Straw.
“I was trying to recall that Story,” said he—”the One about the German and the Dog.”
Bernice gave one Shriek and then dashed from the Room, making hysterical Outcries along the Corridor.
Father told Kenneth to check all the Trunks for Home and then catch an early Train.
Bernice was squirming about on the Hotel Sofa when Father entered the Room.
She threw herself into his Arms and passionately demanded, “Why, oh, why are you trying to force me into marrying that Creature?”
Moral: Don’t get acquainted too soon.
The Father Who Jumped In – Ade’s Fables