Out in the Celery Belt of the Hinterland there is a stunted Flag-Station.
Number Six, carrying one Day Coach and a Combination Baggage and Stock Car, would pause long enough to unload a Bucket of Oysters and take on a Crate of Eggs.
In this Settlement the Leading Citizens still wear Gum Arctics with large Buckles, and Parched Corn is served at Social Functions.
Two highly respected Money-Getters of pure American Stock held forth in this lonesome Kraal and did a General Merchandizing.
One was called Milt, in honor of the Blind Poet, and the other claimed the following brief Monicker, to wit: Henry.
These two Pillars of Society had marched at the head of the Women and School Children during the Dry Movement which banished King Alcohol from their Fair City.
As a result of their Efforts, Liquor was not to be obtained in this Town except at the Drug Stores and Restaurants or in the Cellar underlying any well-conducted Home.
For Eleven Months and Three Weeks out of every Calendar Year these two played Right and Left Tackle in the Stubborn Battle to Uplift the Community and better the Moral Tone.
They walked the Straight and Narrow, wearing Blinders, Check-Reins, Hobbles and Interference Pads. Very often a Mother would hurry her little Brood to the Front Window when Milt or Henry passed by, carrying under his arm a Package of Corn Flakes and the Report of the General Secretary in charge of Chinese Missionary Work. “Look!” she would say, indicating Local Paragon with index Finger. “If you always wash behind the Ears and learn your Catechism, you may grow up to be like Him.”
But—every Autumn, about the time the Frost is on the Stock Market and Wall Street is in the Shock, Milt and Henry would do a Skylark Ascension from the Home Nest and Wing away toward the rising Sun.
They called it Fall Buying because both of them Bought and both of them Fell. At Home neither of them would Kick In for any Pastime more worldly than a 10-cent M. P. Show depicting a large number of Insane People falling over Precipices.
The Blow-Off came on the Trip to the City. That was the Big Entertainment. Every Nickel that could be held out went into the little Tin Bank, for they knew that when they got together 100 of these Washers, a man up in New York would let them have some Tiffany Water of Rare Vintage, with a Napkin wrapped around it as an Evidence of Good Faith.
On Winter Evenings Milt would don the Velvet Slippers and grill his Lower Extremities on the ornate Portico such as surrounds every high- priced Base-Burner.
While thus crisping himself he loved to read New Notes from Gotham.
He believed what it said in the Paper about a well-known Heiress having the Teeth of her favorite Pomeranian filled with Radium at a Cost of $120,000.
Whenever he got this kind of a Private Peek into the Gay Life of the Modern Babylon, he began to breathe through his Nose and tug at the Leash. He longed to dash away on the Erie to look at the Iron Fence in front of the House of the Pomeranian.
When the Day of Days arrived, Milt and Henry would be seen at the Depot with congested Suit-Case and their Necks all newly shaven and powdered for the approaching Jubilee.
Each had pinned into his college-made Suit enough Currency to lift the Debt on the Parsonage. Furthermore, each had in his throbbing Heart a determination to shoot Pleasure as it Flies, no matter how many Cartridges it took. Already they were smoking Foreign Cigars and these were a mere Hint of what the Future had in Store.
While waiting for Number Six they wired for Two Rooms and Two Baths and to have Relays waiting in the Manicure Parlor.
Up at the Junction, where they caught the Limited, they moved into the High and began to peel from the Roll. The Steak ordered in the Dining Car hung over the edge of the Table and they scuffled to see which one would pay the Check.
As for the Boy in the Buffet, every time he heard a Sound like 25 Cents he came out of the Dark Room and began to open small Original Packages.
When they approached the Metropolis, via the Tunnel, they thought they were riding in on a Curtiss Bi-Plane.
Between the Taxi and the Register they stopped to shake hands with an Old Friend who wore a White Suit and was known from Coast to Coast as the originator of a Pick-Me-Up which called for everything back of the Working Board except the License. The Clerk let on to remember them and quoted a Bargain Rate of Six Dollars, meaning by the Day and not by the Month. They wanted to know if that was the Best he had and he said it was, as the Sons of Ohio were having a Dinner in the Main Banquet Hall.
So they ordered a lot of Supplies sent up to each Room and wanted to know if there was a Good Show in Town—something that had been denounced by the Press.
The Clerk told of one in which Asbestos Scenery was used and Firemen had to stand in the Wings, so they tore over to the News Stand and bought two on the Aisle for $8 from a pale Goddess who kept looking at the Ceiling all during the Negotiations, for she seemed out of Sympathy with her Sordid Surroundings.
Then to the Rooms with their glittering Bedsteads and insulting prodigality of Towels.
After calling up the Office to complain of the Service, they shook the Moth Balls out of their Henry Millers and began to sort the Studs. When fully attired in Evening Clothes, including the Sheet-Iron Shoes, they knew they looked like New York Club Men and the Flag Station seemed far away, as in another World.
Instead of the usual 6:30 Repast of Chipped Beef in Cream, Sody Biscuits and a Stoup of Gunpowder Tea, they ordered up Cape Cods, Pommes Let-it-go-at-that, Sweetbreads So-and-so, on and on past the partially heated Duck and Salad with Fringe along the Edges and Cheese that had waited too long and a Check for $17.40 and the Waiter peeved at being slipped a paltry $1.60.
Heigh-ho! It is a Frolicking Life!
Pity the Poor Folks who are now getting ready to court the Hay in Akron, Ohio, and Three Oaks, Michigan, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, with no thought of what they are Missing.
They remembered afterward being in a gilded Play-House with the Activities equally divided between a Trap-Drummer and 700 restless Young Women. Then, being assailed by the Pangs of Hunger, they went out and purchased Crab Flakes at 20 cents a Flake, after which they paid to get their Hats, and next Morning they were back in their rooms, entirely surrounded by Towels.
On the third Afternoon, Milt suspended Fall Buying long enough to send his Family a Book of Views showing the Statue of Peter Cooper, the Aviary in Bronx Park, and Brooklyn Bridge by Moonlight.
Then, with a Clear Conscience, he went back and put his Foot on the Rail.
The morning on which their Bodies were taken to Pennsylvania Station broke bright and cheery.
Milt said somebody had fed him a Steam Coie and put Mittens on him and unscrewed his Knee-Caps.
Otherwise, he was O. K..
Henry kept waving the English Sparrows out of the Way, and asking why so many Bells were ringing.
Two weeks later, at the Union Revival Services, when Rev. Poindexter gave out that rousing old Stand-By which begins “Yield Not to Temptation,” Milt and Henry arose from the Cushioned Seats and sang their fool Heads off.
MORAL: One who would put Satan on the Mat must get Inside Information from his Training Quarters.
The Roystering Blades – Knocking the Neighbors