Once there was a story-book Stripling who uncoupled himself from a Yahoo Settlement and moseyed up to the Congested Crossings and the Electric Signs. In due time he returned, wearing Gloves and with his Teeth full of Gold.
Ever since that historic Example it has been the daily desire of the Yokel, staked down in a County Seat, to walk in on Judge Gary and form a Partnership.
It befell that after a High School Alumnus had gone to a Varsity and scaled the fearsome heights of Integral and Differential Calculus, he came home to get some more of Father’s Shirts and Handkerchiefs and take a new Slant at Life’s doubtful Vista, while getting his Board for nothing.
The Town of his Nativity did not occupy many Pages in the statistical Census Reports. In fact, all the travelling Troupers who had worked for K. and E. referred to it as a Lime, which is the same as a Lemon, only smaller.
The ambitious Bachelor of Arts had a lot of Geological Data and College Fraternity Lore stowed away under his Mortar-Board. His hopes were set on something more noble than a Chair and a Table and a Blotter in a dusty Office up the Stairway leading to Odd Fellows’ Hall.
So he resolved to hit the long Trail leading to a Modern Babylon where the Evening papers were on the Streets before Noon.
He figured that a Gazimbat with a John C. Calhoun Forehead and a lot of inside Dope on Hindoo Anthology could break into almost any Reservoir of Culture and bring home the Bacon.
Parents were dead willing to have him migrate and take his Tailor Bills with him, but they shivered with Dread when it came time to ship him to Gomorrah.
They knew all about the unbridled Deviltry of the City, having seen the large colored Illustrations in the Sunday Papers.
They had it on good Authority that the whole sub-stratum of Urban Existence was honeycombed with Rathskellers, while a Prominent Actress waited on almost every Corner, soliciting Travel on the Taxicab Route to the everlasting Coke Ovens.
While Elmer’s fragile Steamer Trunk was being hoisted into the Dray, all the Relations who had assisted in bringing him up by Hand clustered around the Melodeon and sang, “Oh, where is my Boy to-night?”
After the Day Coach had pulled away from the Depot, he opened the Shoe-Box to extract a Crull and found a Book written by T. DeWitt Talmage, in which many Passages were marked.
He arrived at Union Station with his Fingers crossed. He told himself that he would break into a Dog Trot every time Vice beckoned to him.
After he had hung up his Diploma and Razor Strop in the third-story Recess of a very naughty Beanery, he hunted up some of the dear old Pals with whom he had bunked in the Dorm.
They told him they would put him next to a lot of nice clean People.
He began to tremble, fearing that some one was about to offer him Champagne, but the Orgy to which they conducted him was merely a meeting of the Civic Purifiers in a basement underneath a Church.
He had not expected to find any Churches in the great wicked City. He thought each side of the Street would be built up solidly with Syndicate Theatres, Bacchanalian Bazaars, and Manicure Pitfalls.
Instead of finding Vice triumphant, he learned that it was being chased up an Alley by the entire Police Force and the Federation of Women’s Clubs.
He had the gift of Gab and a natural thirst for Tea, and the first thing he knew he had been drawn into so many Campaigns for Social Betterment that he had no time to hunt up conventional Temptations, such as the Welsh Rabbit or the Musical Comedy.
He found himself sitting next a new type of Lassie. She had no Heels on her Shoes, pronounced each Syllable distinctly, and believed that her Mission in Life was to carry Maeterlinck to the Masses.
In nearly every Instance she had a Father who acted as frozen Figurehead for some Trust Company.
Consequently, Elmer began to perk up and serve on Committees which met in Exclusive Homes and were entirely surrounded by Mahogany. Whenever an Intellectual Queen pushed the Button, Elmer was right there with a Pitcher of Ice Water.
His Researches had proved to him that one of the Keenest Enjoyments of City Life is to remain away from the glaring Lobster Palace, especially when one can get one’s Mallard Duck free of charge in a Flat renting for $6000 a Year.
Elmer became identified with the Cleaning Brigade of the Reform Element simply by riding on the Current of Events.
Adapting himself unconsciously to his antisepticized Environment, he acquired the Art of putting over the saccharine Extemporaneous Address, and he could smile, with his Teeth exposed, for an Hour at a time.
In fact, he was a great Success.
At first he took in the Symphony Orchestra because he was dragged thither. After about two years the Virus had permeated his System, and he was a regular Brahmsite. If he didn’t get a full dose of Peer Gynt every few days, he was as nervous as a Cat.
The tall and straight-grained Heiress who finally landed him was only too glad to slip him the Bank-Book and tell him to go and sit in with the other Directors.
And now, having become a shiny Pillar in the Presbyterian Temple and one of the most respected Umbrella-Carriers on the Avenue, he felt a longing to beat it back to the home Burg and exhibit his Virtues to the members of the I-Knew-Him-When Club.
He wanted to patronize the Friends of his Youth and note the Expressions of Discomfiture on the so-called Faces of Aunt Lib and Uncle Jethro, both of whom had told around that he was a Gnat (Net) and never would amount to a Hill of Beans.
Elmer expected to find the same spotted Dog asleep in front of the Commercial Hotel and the same Stick Candy exhibited in the Show Windows.
But, while he had been witnessing the downfall of Evil in the busy Metropolis, the Home Town had been putting on a little Side-Show of its own.
Along at the gateway of the 20th Century, every undersized Hamlet shown in the Atlas became seized with a Desire to throw on City Lugs.
The same Father who had marked the Talmage Book for Elmer became Chairman of the House Committee in a Club which undertook to serve anything usually found on either side of a Cash Register.
Being in the heart of the Residence District, this select Organization could not obtain a regular License.
However, having the moral support of the Best People, it maintained a Blind Pig.
The combination of Blind Pig, two playful Kitties up-stairs, and a lot of gay Dogs spread out on the upholstered Chairs, certainly proved to be some Menagerie.
It was a matter of Pride with the Members that the Colored Boy could shake up anything known to the Regular Trade at the Knickerbocker or the Plaza.
One of their main Delights, also, was to welcome the Stranger, who thought he was sojourning among the Rubes, and lead him into the Roodle Department, the purpose being to get him out on a Limb and then saw off the Limb.
Poker was written in a Small Town. The Hay-Mow Graduate with a limited Income, who counts up every Night and sets aside so much for Wheat Cakes, can hold them closer to his Bosom and play them tighter than any Shark that ever floated down the Mississippi.
The newcomer who tried to be Liberal usually went home in his Stocking Feet.
Day by Day the Progressive Element in the Community widened its Horizon, and the Country Club became a Necessity.
The 9-hole Course was laid out by a Scotch Professional, and every Locker contained something besides Clubs.
When the Church Bells were ding-donging at 10 A.M. on Sunday, the former Teacher of the Bible Class and the backsliding Basso of the Choir would be zig-zagging around the Links, the Stake being a Ball a Hole.
Elmer’s Father became a Demon with the Irons and had his Name engraved on a Consolation Cup.
Simultaneous with the Golf Epidemic, a good many Families that could not afford Kitchen Cabinets began to glide around in red Touring-Cars.
Any one smelling the Blue Smoke along Main Street and then looking both ways before dashing across to the Drug Store was compelled to admit that the Jays had awakened from their Long Sleep.
Refined Vawdyville was on tap daily, and the Children of those who were only moderately well-to-do knew all the latest improper Songs. While the men were changing from Jumpers to Tuxedos, the Sisters had not remained stationary.
The Lap Supper was formally abolished soon after Puff Sleeves went out.
Girls who had been brought up on Parchesi and Muggins would sit around the Bridge Table all afternoon, trying to cop out some Lace for the new Party Dress.
An imported Professor taught the Buds how to Tango and Trot.
Within a week after a new one had horrified Newport, the Younger Set would have it down pat and be mopping up the floor with one another.
Of course they were denounced by the local Ministers, but the Guilty Parties never heard the Denunciations, as they were out Motoring at the time.
Whenever there was a Big Session, all Bridles were removed and the Speed Limit abolished.
Riding home in the Livery Hacks about 4 A.M., the Merry-Makers would be all in, but much gratified to know that Vienna and Paree had nothing on them as regards Rough House.
All the Élite would get together and open a Keg of Spikes at the slightest Provocation.
It was remarkable how much Dull Care they could banish in one Evening, especially if they got an Early Start.
The Town Pump did a punk Business, but the Side-Boards blossomed with Fusel Oil and Fizzerine.
Intense Excitement prevailed when word came that Elmer was En Route. Little Knots of People could be seen standing on the Corners, framing a Schedule of Entertainment which involved nearly everything except Sleep.
They said to themselves: “It is up to us to show this proud Pill from the City that we can be a bit Goey when the Going is right. If he thinks he can pull any new Wrinkles on the Provincials, he is entitled to another Think. We must get into our Evening Glads early this Afternoon and clear the Decks for a Hard Night.”
While they were making these grim Preparations, Elmer was doubled up in Section 8, reading a sterilized Magazine from Boston.
Subconsciously he counted the peaceful Days that would ensue.
He figured on going back to the dear old Room under the Eaves, with a patch-work Quilt on the Four-Poster and a Steel Engraving of U. S. Grant on the Wall.
Having devoted many Days to the Annual Report of the Purity Brigade, he was due to turn in at 9 o’clock each evening, while recuperating in the Country.
The sanctified Product of the new and regenerative Influences at work in every City was plunked down in the Hot-bed of Gaiety at about 4 P.M.
The Comrades of his Boyhood were massed on the Platform. As he alighted, they sang, “Hail! Hail! the gang’s All Here!” and so on and so on.
They had acquired a Running Start. It was their belief that Elmer would be gratified to know that all the Elect had become slightly spiffed in his Honor.
They sent his Stuff up to the House, crowded Two-Weeks’ Cards into his Pockets, and bore him away in a Town Car to the Club, where Relays were waiting to extend Hospitality to the returned Exile until he was Plastered.
They seemed to think he had devoted the years of his Absence to building up a Thirst.
Their Dismay was genuine when he timidly informed the Irrigation Committee that he desired Vichy.
They told him he was a Celluloid Sport and that his refusal to Libate was little short of an Affront.
Escaping from the Comanches, he hurried to the Old Homestead to sit by the Grate Fire and tease the Cat.
He found Pa and Ma dolled up like a couple of aristocratic Equines, much Awning over the Front Stoop, and strange Waiters hot-footing through the Hallways.
In order to make it seem as much like the City as possible, they had ribbed up a swell combination Gorge and Deluge, to be followed by an Indoor Circus, a Carnival of Terpsichorean Eccentricities, and a correct Reproduction of Monte Carlo at the height of the Season.
Therefore, when their Only Child suggested that he would fain hie to the Husks at a Reasonable Hour, they told him that Slumber was made for Slaves and to take his Feet out of his Lap and move around.
Having led a sheltered Life among the devotees of Jane Addams and Jacob Riis, he was dazed and horrified to find himself suddenly subjected to the demoralizing Influences of the Small Town.
They scoffed at him when he said that his regular twilight Repast was a saucer of granose Flakes, a mere sliver of White Meat, and some diluted Milk.
His home was near the White Light District, and they just knew that he was accustomed to bathe in the Bubbles.
He sat back benumbed for many hours watching the wicked Rustics perform.
He had read about such things in the reports of the Commission, but this was the first time that he had ever really been Slumming.
When he weakened on the Bumper Proposition and disavowed any familiarity with the Texas Tommy spasm or the fine points of Auction, the sophisticated ones exchanged significant Glances.
They tumbled to the Fact that Elmer was not such a much, even if he did reside at Headquarters. It was evident that he had not been travelling with the Real Razmataz Rompers.
He was panned to a Whisper next day. The Verdict was in. Elmer was branded as a Dead One.
He is now in the crowded City, trying to arrange to have his rowdy Parents come on and take the Cure.
Moral: Those having the most Time to devote to a Line of Endeavor usually become the most Proficient.
The Wandering Boy and the Wayward Parent – Ade’s Fables