How An Humble Beginner Moved From One Pinnacle To Another And Played The Entire by George Ade

Story type: Literature

A team of Proud Parents had a son named James Henry Guff. On the Day of his Birth the Wind changed and blew in another Direction, Apples fell off the Trees, Chickens went to Roost at Mid-Day. All Nature seemed to have been given a Jolt by the Portentous Event. For James Henry Guff was born to know all the Brands of Human Greatness. Destiny had put a Green Tag on him and nothing could stop him.

When he was only 18 years of age, he was elected Captain of a Volunteer Fire Department, which was a valuable Organization, only when there was a Fire no one could find the Key to the House in which they kept the Hand-Pump. But the Papers began to speak of him as Captain Guff. His Intimates called him Cap. After the Hose Company disbanded, his Title clung to him and it was generally believed that he had been with Grant at Appomattox.

Not satisfied with a resounding Title, for which those in the Regular Army have to struggle for Years, Captain Guff began to give Lessons on the Flute at 50 cents an Hour, and the first thing he knew he was a real Professor, just the same as if he had gone up in a Balloon or had some trained Horses. Now over at Harvard, where they grow the English Accent, a Student must grind through a long Course, and a Fellowship and an Instructorship before he blossoms into a simon-pure Professor. Which only goes to show that the Real Boy can gain by one stroke of Genius the Renown for which the ordinary Skates must go forth and Rustle.

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James Henry Guff at the age of 30 was both a Captain and a Professor, but his insatiable Ambition spurred him to go out and gather other Laurels. So he ran for Justice of the Peace, and was elected the third time he ran, because the other Candidate pulled out. As Magistrate he became custodian of a Law-Book, a Checker-Board, and a stack of Blank Affidavits. Once every three Months or so somebody would levy on a Cow or threaten to Assault, and then the Judge would get a chance to operate his Graft. But he didn’t care so much about the Income, so long as he could be addressed as Judge. He allowed his Hair to grow into a long, graceful Cow-Lick that kept falling into his Eyes, and he looked at the Sidewalk meditatively as he went over to the Grocery to get his Fine-Cut. Sometimes, when he was far enough from Home, those who met him and heard him called Judge thought that he was on the Supreme Bench.

In the course of Time he began to crave a Political Job, so he began to stump around in the Interests of the Machine. He drove out to District School-Houses with the American Eagle seated on the Dash-Board of his Buggy, and when he got on the Platform he waved Old Glory until both Arms gave out. All of which went to prove that the Machine should be kept in Power. After he had been spellbinding for a couple of Seasons a Job Printer conferred upon him the Title of Honorable. Every time there was a Jim-Crow Speaking, then the Hon. James Henry Guff showed up with his Voice in a Shawl-Strap and also a fine Assortment of Platitudes. When the Congressman wrote to him and asked him to get the Swazey County Delegates into Line, he always addressed his letter to the Hon. James Henry Guff and in the Course of Time Guff began to believe.

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But a prouder Distinction awaited him. In view of the fact that he had plugged for the Regular Organization and delivered the Goods at the State Convention, he was made a Colonel on the Governor’s Staff. It is the Duty of a Colonel on the Governor’s Staff to ride in a Pullman Car and take a Ball every time he is touched on the Back. Colonel Guff was a Dream when he got into his $275 Uniform with the Gold Braid rigged all over the Front. He wore a Chapeau similar to the one worn by Napoleon at Austerlitz, but he had on top of it seven Tail-Feathers of the Loo-Loo Bird, which rather laid over anything that Napoleon ever wore. And when Colonel James Henry Guff in his magnificent Regalia and smoking a ten-cent Cigar, leaned back in an Open Carriage drawn by White Horses and allowed the People to gaze at him, the Grandeur of the Spectacle made one forget the real Horrors of War.

Many of the ardent Admirers of Prof. Guff, and Capt. Guff, and Judge Guff, and Col. Guff believed that he had climbed to the Summit of Greatness when he appeared in his $42 Plume. Not so. One Year the State Militia was to have an Encampment and the Governor gave Col. James Henry Guff the Job of buying all the Beans, Fresh Beef, and other Supplies, because there promised to be a slight rake-off. Officially he was known as the Commissary-General.

Thus it came about that after Years of Endeavor, James Henry Guff, who left the Post a poor and unknown Boy, went under the Wire a real General.

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When his Daughters went away to Boarding School and were introduced as the Offspring of Gen. James H. Guff they assumed a Social Leadership. Gen. Guff led the Grand March at a great many Military Balls. At a Banquet costing $8 per Plate he sat at the Right of the Chairman wearing Medals which had been presented to him by the 4th Ward Marching Club. In his Address he always defended the Soldier against unwarranted Attacks and protested against hauling down the Flag at any Time or Place.

If the Government adopted a new Machine Gun, all the Reporters went over and interviewed Gen. James Henry Guff about it. He wrote a Magazine Article on the Mistakes of the British in South Africa and likewise got rid of a few ponderous Opinions on our Policy in the Philippines.

When he died, the Funeral Procession was two miles long. The Family had to erect two Marble Shafts so as to find Room for all of his Titles.

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MORAL: True Democracy scorns a Title unless it has a real Significance, with the Reverse English.

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