The Toilsome Ascent and the Shining Table-Land By George Ade

Once upon a time, out in the Rubber Boot Reservation, the Stork came staggering up to a Frame Dwelling with a hefty Infant. The arrival was under the Zodiacal Sign of Taurus, the Bull. Every Omen was propitious.

When the Gallery was admitted, on the third day, the gaping Spectators observed that the Youngun had an open Countenance, somewhat like a Channel Cat, a full head of Hair bushing at the nape of the neck, and a hypnotic Eye; so they knew he was destined for the Service of the Public.

Even while he was in the custody of the Old Women of the Township, he began reaching for everything he saw and testing his Voice. He claimed his Rations frequently and with insistence.

While he was demonstrating an elastic Capacity, the head Prophetess called attention to his aggressive Style and predicted a political Career.

It was a cinch Horoscope, for the Begetters were a successful Auctioneer and a Poetess of local repute.

The Child was christened Sylvester, in anticipation of his Future Greatness.

Several years later, when he rebelled against going to the Barber Shop and began to speak Pieces on the slightest provocation, the Parents rejoiced over these budding symptons of Statesmanship and bought him a Drum.

At school he was a Dummy in Mathematics and a Lummux when it came to Spelling Down, but every Friday afternoon he was out in the lead, wearing Bells.

Before he acquired a Vocabulary or accumulated Data, he got by on his Nerve. In later years he never forgot that Facts are non-essential if the Vocal Cords are in tune.

When the Pupils tackled the old standby, “Resolved, that Education is better than Riches,” he could tremolo on the Affirmative one week and then reverberate for the Negative one week later, never doubting his own Sincerity at any stage of the Game.

The grinding classmates who had secured the mark of A in Geometry and Rhetoric were not in the running on Commencement Day.

Our Hero got his Diploma on a Fluke, but when he appeared on the Rostrum between an Oleander and the Members of the Board, with Goose-Goose on the Aureole, the new Store Suit garnished with a leaf of Geranium and a yellow Rose-Bud, and the Gates Ajar Collar lashed fast with his future Trade-Mark: viz., a White Bow Tie—he had all the Book Worms crushed under his Heel.

He pulled out the stop marked “Vox Humana” and begged his Hearers to lift the sword of Justice and with it smite the Deluge of Organized Wealth which was crouched and ready to spring upon the Common People.

In pleading the cause of Labor, he spoke as an Expert, for once he had strung a Clothes-Line for his Mother.

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He got the biggest Hand of any one at the Exercises. After denouncing the predaceous Interests he relapsed into an attitude of Meditation, with the Chin on the starched Front, very much like a Steel Engraving of Daniel Webster.

The enthralled Townsmen, seeing him thus, with the Right Hand buried in the Sack Suit and the raven Mop projecting in the rear, allowed that there was nothing to it. He was a Genius and billed through for the Legislature.

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Some Boys have to go to College to get a Shellac Finish, but Sylvester already had the Dark Clothes and the Corrugated Brow and a voice like a Tuba, so, to complete his Equipment, he merely had to sit tilted back in a Law Office for a few months and then borrow Money to get a Hat such as John A. Logan used to wear.

All who saw him move from Group to Group along the Hitch Rack on Saturday afternoon, shaking hands with the Rustics and applying the Ointment, remarked that Ves was a young man of Rare Promise and could not be held back from the Pay-Roll for any considerable length of Time.

He was one of the original 787 Boy Orators of the Timothy Hay Section of the Imperial Middle West.

At every hotel Banquet, whether by the Alumni of the Shorthand College or under the auspices of the Piano Movers’ Pleasure Club, he was right up at the Head Table with his Hair rumpled, ready to exchange a Monologue for a few warm Oysters and a cut of withered Chicken.

On Memorial Day it was Sylvester who choked up while laying his Benediction on the Cumrads of the G. A. R.

On Labor Day he unbuttoned his Vest all the way down, held a trembling Fist clear above the leonine Mat, and demanded a living Wage for every Toiler.

Consequently he acquired repute as a staunch Friend of the Agriculturist, the Steam Fitter, the Old Soldier, the Department Store Employee, and others accustomed to voting in Shoals. In order to mature himself and be seasoned for onerous Responsibilities, he waited until he was 22 years of age before attempting to gain a frontage at the Trough.

It was highly important that he should serve the Suvrin People in some Capacity involving Compensation. It was fairly important to him and it was vitally important to a certain Woman of gambling Disposition, who operated a Boarding-House.

Sylvester was the type of Lawyer intensely admired but seldom employed, save by Criminals entirely bereft of Means.

In addition to his Board, the young Barrister actually required a pouch of Fine Cut and a clean White Tie every week, so he was impelled by stern Necessity to endeavor to hook up with a Salary.

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Because Sylvester had administered personal Massage to every Voter within five Miles of his office, he thought he could leap into the Arena and claim an immediate Laurel Wreath by the mere charm and vigor of his Personality.

He ignored the Whispering Ikes who met in the dim Back Room, with Cotton plugged in the Key Hole.

The Convention met, and when it came time to nominate a Candidate for State’s Attorney, all of Sylvester’s tried and true Friends among the Masses were at home working in the Garden or spread out in the Hammock.

The Traction Engine pulled the Juggernaut over the Popular Idol.

They lit on him spraddled out. They gave him the Doo-Doo.

When the Battle had ended, he was a mile from the cheerful Bivouac, lying stark in the Moonlight.

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He was supposed to be eliminated. The only further recognition accorded him would be at the Autopsy.

Next day he was back in his usual Haunts, with an immaculate Bow Tie and a prop Smile, shaking hands with all who had so recently harpooned him. As a Come-Back he was certainly the resilient Kid.

Those who had marveled at his sole-leather Organ of Speech, now had to admire his sheet metal Sensibilities, nor could they deny that he possessed all the attributes of a sound and durable Candidate.

He had learned his Primer lesson in Politics. As soon as he saw that he could not throw the Combination, he joined it.

He came into the Corral and lay down in the Dust and allowed them to brand him as a Regular.

Sylvester became the White Slave of the Central Committee, knowing that eventually true Patriotism would have to be recognized and recompensed.

When he came to bat the second time he had the Permanent Chairman and the Tellers and all the Rough-Necks plugging for him, consequently it was a Pipe.

But it was a case of Reverse English on Election Day, for the venal Opposition rode into power on a Tidal Wave.

After the Tide had receded, Sylvester was found asleep among the Clams and Sea-Weed, apparently so far gone that a Pulmotor would be no help.

Three days later, however, he was on hand, with chaste Neckwear and a jaunty Front, to make a Presentation Speech to the Chief of the Fire Department.

Talk about your Rubber Cores! The harder they trun him down the higher he bounced back.

Those who had been marked by Fate to be his Constits began to see that Sylvester was something inevitable and not to be denied.

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What though his Detractors called him a Four-Flush and a False Alarm, alleging that a true analysis of his Mentality would be just about as profitable as dissecting a Bass Drum?

The more they knocked, the more oleo-margarine became his beaming Countenance, for he knew that Calumny avails naught against a White Tie in the Hot-Bed of cut-and-dried Orthodoxy.

He played the social String from the W.C.T.U. to the Elks and was a blood-brother of the Tin Horn and the acidulated Elder with the scant Skilligans.

In order to keep the High-Binders and the Epworth Leaguers both on his Staff at one and the same time, he had to be some Equilibrist, so he never hoisted a Slug except in his own Office, where he kept it behind the Supreme Court Reports.

When he went out the third time for the same Job, the Voters saw it was no use trying to block him off, so he landed.

In the full crimson of Triumph, with new Patent Leather Shoes and as much as $40 in his Kick at one time, he never forgot for a moment that he was a servant of the Pe-hee-pul and might want to run for something else in the near future.

He tempered Justice with Mercy and quashed many an Indictment if the Defendant looked like a grateful Geezer who might be useful in his own Precinct.

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No one dared to attack him because of the fact that he had delivered a Lecture to the eager young souls at the Y.M.C.A., in which he had exhibited a Road Map and proved that adherence to the Cardinal Virtues leads unerringly to Success.

At the age of thirty-two he broke into the Legislature and began to wear a White Vest, of the kind affected by the more exclusive Bar Tenders. Also a variety of Shroud known as the Prince Albert.

He was fearless in discussing any proposed Measure that did not worry the Farmer Vote in his own District.

As for Wall Street and the Plunderbund, when he got after them, he was a raving Bosco. A regular Woof-Woofer and bite their heads off.

About the time he came up for re-election, a lot of Character-Assassins tried to shell-road him and hand him the Gaff and crowd him into the 9-hole.

They said he had been flirting with the Corporations and sitting in on Jack-Pots and smearing himself at the Pie Counter.

Did they secure his Goat by such crude Methods?

Not while the 5-octave Voice and the enveloping Prince Albert and the snow-white Necktie were in working Trim.

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He went over the whole District in an Auto (one of the fruits of his Frugality), and everywhere that Sylvester went the American Eagle was sure to go, riding on the Wind-Shield, and a Starry Banner draped over the Hood.

He waved aside all Charges made against him. To give them serious Heed would be an Insult to the high Intelligence of the Hired Hands gathered within Sound of his Voice. He believed in discussing the Paramount Issues.

So he would discuss them in such a way that the Railway Trains passing by were no interruption whatsoever.

In course of time his Hair outgrew the Legislature. He was on whispering terms with a clean majority of all the Partisans in three connecting Counties, so he bought one Gross of the White String Kind and a pair of Gum Sneakers and began to run amuck as a Candidate for Congress.

Even his trusty Henchmen were frightened to know that he had become obsessed of such a vaulting Ambition.

They did not have him sized, that was all. The farther from home he traveled, the more resounding was the Hit he registered.

The Days of Spring were lengthening and the Campaign was not far distant when Sylvester, after looking at the Signs in the Sky and putting his Ear to the Ground, discovered that he was thoroughly impregnated with the new Progressive Doctrines.

The change came overnight, but he was in the Band Wagon ahead of the Driver.

As nearly as he could formulate his private Platform, he was still true to his Party but likewise very keen for any Reform Measure that 55 per cent. of the Voters might favor, either at the present time or previous to any future Election.

After the heated Radicals in every School District had listened to Sylvester and learned that all his Views coincided to a T with their own revised Schedule, they lined up and landslided.

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One November morning Our Hero, no longer a penniless Law Student, but owing, at a conservative Estimate, between $6000 and $8000, sat tranquilly in front of the T-Bone Steak, the Eggs, the Batter Cakes, the Cinnamon Rolls, and the Reservoir of Coffee, comprising the Breakfast of one who always remained near to the Rank and File.

His Hair was roached in a new way, for the Bulletins at Midnight had told him that he was a Congressman.

Those who had known him in the old Free-Lunch Days, when a Tie lasted him for a Week, now felt honored to receive his stately Salutation as he moved slowly from the Post Office up to the Drug Store, to buy his Bronchial Lozenges.

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Many of the Lower Classes, as well as the more Prominent People belonging to the Silver Cornet Band, were gathered at the Station when he started for Washington to fight in the impending Battle between the Corn-Shuckers and the Allies of Standard Oil.

Men and Women standing right there in the Crowd could remember when he had borrowed his first Dollar.

And now he was going to stand beneath the dome of the Capitol to weave a new Fabric of Government and see that it didn’t crock or unravel.

Sylvester and his glossy Trunk arrived at the Mecca, where they were pleasantly received by the Agent of the Transfer Company in full Uniform, and a Senegambian with a Red Cap, who hunted up the Taxi.

After waiting many weary Years, Sylvester once more had a School Desk of his own. It was in the far corner of a crowded Pit surrounded by elevated Seats.

The Hon. Sylvester found himself entirely surrounded by victims of involuntary Dumbness.

By referring to a printed List he ascertained that he was a member of the Committee on Manual Training for the Alaska Indians.

In his Boarding House he became acquainted with Department Clerks who were well advanced in the technology of Base Ball.

After a few weeks, he was on chatting Terms with a Young Lady in charge of a Cigar and News Counter.

As soon as the Paper was delivered every morning he could find out what had happened in Congress the day before.

If confused by the Cares of State, he sought diversion by taking a Visitor from Home to see the Washington Monument.

After three months, he met a National Committeeman with a Pull who promised to secure him an introduction to the Speaker so that he could maneuver around and get something into the Record before his time was up.

In the meantime, he is heard to advantage on every Roll Call, and the Traducers back in the District have not been able to lay a finger on anything Crooked. Moral: There is always Room and Board at the Top.

The Toilsome Ascent and the Shining Table-Land – Ade’s Fables

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