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Forty Modern Fables, by George Ade, [1901], at

The Fable of The Undecided Brunette & The Two Candidates

    A DARK-EYED Maiden was being Rushed by a Cheap Man and a Provider. They took Turn About in coming up to the House. She was a Child Wonder when it came to spreading her Dates so that one Gentleman would not cross another's Beat. Each of the Applicants was led to believe that he was the Only One for whom all the Lights were turned on. He thought that when he failed to Show Up, she was in her own Room, looking at his Picture and Feeling Blue.

    The girl did what she could to foster these Delusions. She wanted to hold as many options as possible, so as to have her Pick.

    The Cheap Man had his Good Points. He was House Broke and could play Chords on the Piano. But from eight to five every day he was a Shylock. When he was in a Crowd he never did anything Rash that involved the use of Money. He saved a little more than his Salary every Week, and was pointed out as a Comer in the Business World. It hurt him to Let Go.

    When he wanted to give the Brunette a Frolic, he would get a Book out of the Public Library and take it up to the House and read it to her. Once he put her on the Car and gave her a jolly Ride down to the Second Baptist Church to hear a Free Lecture on the Holy Land. At Christmas Time he sent the Dark Girl a Square Card with a Snow Scene, a Clump of Fir Trees and a Frozen Water-Wheel. When they went out to a Party, he always remarked that it seemed to be a Pleasant Evening and they might as well Hoof it.

    The Provider was just the other Way. He was for Buying. The Queen received her Violets every Day or two, even though he had to Catch Even by lunching on Buttermilk and Sinkers. She got what she wanted and he took his Chances on standing off the Wolf at the Door.

    He took her to a Theater and they had Parquette Seats on the Aisle. After the Performance the Colored Man would call out their Carriage Number and there would dash up a Team of Prancing Bays. The Provider would hand her into the glittering Vehicle with the graceful Flourish of a Sir Roger de Coverley. The Door would slam and away they would Clatter, with all the Awed Spectators wondering which one of the Vanderbilt Boys that was.

    After he got back to his $2.75 Room and put the Dress Clothes where the Moths could not get at them, he would do some calculating on the back of an Envelope, and discover that he had Burned Up just One Week's Salary between 7.45 and 11.15.

    Then he would wish that a white-haired Old Lady with a Safety Deposit Vault full of Securities might come along and Adopt him and put him in a white and gold Suite with a Pianola and a Man-Servant.

    The Provider was a Financial Feather-Weight, but he was Game as a Pebble. He worked on the Principle that a Man can Afford anything he can Get. He allowed himself nearly everything that the Rich Folks have, except Money.

    He would invite the Brunette to Luncheon with him. When he was by himself he called it Lunch. That "eon" on the end usually makes a difference of about $4.85 in the Check.

    They would repair to a Café with a Fountain playing in the center of the Room. Every time she pointed her Finger at another Item on the Carte du Jour, it put a Sickening Crimp in his Visible Assets and moved him about three Notches nearer to Hard Pan, but he never twitched a Muscle. He would push a Half over toward the Waiter as if it annoyed him to see Money lying around.

    He would walk out as light as a Toy Balloon and put her in a Cab and send her Home, and then he would be down to his Gloves and a Bunch of Keys.

    The Brunette was Up a Stump when it came to making a Choice. It seemed to be another instance of Horse and Horse. She knew that the Cheap Man would own Bank Stock and Corner Lots when the Provider would be living on Snow Balls, and yet she could not bring herself to lean up against a Stingy Old Thing who never Unbuckled. As for the Provider, he was the Kindest Friend she knew and a Good Thing while he lasted, but she knew that he could not Last farther than from here to the Corner. She guessed that if she went ahead and married the Provider, he would give her everything he Owned, but he never would Own more than you could put in a Steamer Trunk.

    The Cheap Man, on the other hand, would have a Neat Balance and a Strong Rating, but it would require the use of an Anasthetic to get a Tailor-Made Suit out of him.

    While in this Quandary, she consulted her Aunt Em, who was two kinds of a Widow, Grass and Sod. She had buried one Husband and come out in Black. She had tied a Can to No. 2 and come out in Bright Colors.

    Aunt Em asked a number of Leading Questions in regard to the Qualifications of the two Suitors, and then she said: "My Dear Niece, this is a Tall Problem for a 20-year-old Girl to close in on, but you are entitled to a lot of Credit for holding back and studying your Cards. A Lass who was short on Foresight would have chosen the Provider, in the foolish Belief that she would continue to get the Violets and Broiled Birds all the rest of her Life. A Mercenary Maiden might have grabbed at the chance to be Mrs. Cheap Man, but you are Dead Wise in your Theory that one who is a Parsimonious Papa during Courtship will prove to be a Close Proposition as a Husband. The Man who will not Loosen Up under the Melting Influence of True Love is a born Gaspard. Truly it is not what Hubby has but what he Hands Out, that helps one to Endure him as a Necessary Evil. If you marry the Cheap Man, it is true that you stand a Show of getting the whole Estate sooner or later, but this is an Outside Chance, because the Cheap Man usually adopts a Diet of Prunes, Graham Bread, Vegetable Soup and plain Spuds, and he will be here a long time. The World is full of women whose Husbands are so far ahead of the Game that they can make fat Loans on Improved Real Estate, and yet each of these Wives is wearing Last Year's Hat, with the Wing moved over on the Other Side. If she whispered Automobile to old Ready Money, he would throw a Double Arab. If you are going to start in to do a 40-year Stunt as Housekeeper to some Human Savings Bank, you had better put the Bargain on a Business Basis to start with. Go before a Lawyer and have him frame up an Iron-Clad Contract. Then you will get your little old Six every Saturday Night. Otherwise you will have to Coax it out of him and get about 75 Cents per Throw. As between the Generous Young Fellow who is Flat and the Moneyed Man who never Comes Up, it is about Six of one and Half a Dozen of the other. I think you are tied up with a couple of Frosty Ones. Auntie's Advice would be to pull down the Blinds and pay a Visit to some other Town where the New Girl is a pleasing Novelty. There permit your Affections to Center on some Tractable Person who is neither a Prospective Pauper nor a close-fisted Clam."

    The Brunette caught the Wisdom of the Suggestion and took a little Jaunt to Cleveland where she fell desperately in Love with a General Manager of Set Habits and a calm, untheatrical Generosity. They came to an Understanding and lived happily ever afterward.

MORAL: It is Necessary to make a few Purchases both before and after Marriage.

Next: The Fable of The Boston Biologist and The Native with the Blue Hardware