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

The Fable of Uncle Silas & The Matrimonial Game

    UNCLE SILAS was a County-Seat Oracle. When he backed up to the Soft Coal Stove in the Grocery Store and parted his Coat-tails and began to breathe Wisdom, every one else Sang Low. He would give the National Administration a sharp Calling Down every few Days and if the City Council ordered any Improvements that did not suit him, he spoke of the Body as a Passel of Lunkheads. He knew how to cure Stringhalt and Chilblains or make a Flax-Seed Poultice or persuade a Hen to Lay or get the Wiggle-Tails out of Rain-Water. Uncle Silas could guess how many Hands high a Horse was and he knew what kind of Bait to use for Goggle-Eyes and that Corn ought to be Planted in the Dark of the Moon. As a Weather Prophet he was Old Lightning. Uncle Sue was just as Spry as a Sparrow and Sharp as any Steel Trap.

    A good many Young Folks came and squatted at the Feet of Uncle Silas so as to get Truth in the Original Package. He never spouted more copiously than when he was holding forth to the Fledgelings. In fact, the Younger and more sappy the Listeners the more elaborate was his Discourse. Among those who came to the Free Dispensary to get the benefit of Uncle Silas' vast Experience was a certain lie-Belle who had been Girling for five or six Years and was about ready to do something Desperate.

    "I want your Advice," he said. "I think I can support a Wife in the Style to which she has been accustomed, providing she has not been accustomed to very much, but before Shutting my Eyes and doing the Plunge, I thought I would get your Opinion as to the Move. Do you consider it a Wise Play?"

    Uncle Silas looked at the Young Man out of the Corner of his Eye and Chortled knowingly.

    "The Smooth Citizen never gives Advice on Family Matters," said the Sage. "I am ready to Gas freely on most Topics, but when it comes to a Question of committing Matrimony, that is where I begin to Back and Fill. I am like my old friend Ben Franklin who told the Inquirer that every Man sooner or later comes to the Parting of the Ways. He must choose between the broad and easy Path that leads to Single Misery and the straight and narrow Road that leads to Married Unhappiness. As Ben expressed it, no matter which Way the poor Fellow Heads, he will be Sore, now and then, that he did not take a Chance on the other Route. Every Married Man at some time or other has a sneaking Desire to be Free, and every case-hardened Bachelor occasionally runs into a lonesome Streak when he feels that he would willingly give 10 Years of his misspent Life to have just one chubby Darling to call him 'Pop.' Matrimony is such a long Contract and has so many Ups and Downs that sometimes it seems a sure Winner to those on the Outside and again it is enveloped in a blue Fog for those who have to Put Up with it. If I get behind you and give you a hard Shove toward the Married State, you will be kept Guessing for Years as to whether I meant it as a Good Turn or was trying to Do you. Let us suppose that some Day 15 or 20 Years from now you come Home to find that the Furnace has flickered, the Cook has done the Vanishing Lady Act, two of the Children have the Scarlet Rash and the Better Half is Weeping Softly and seems to think that you are to blame for all the Tribulation. You escape to the Cellar and throw Hard Coal at yourself for a while and then suddenly you remember that it was I who advised you to Marry and Settle Down. Thereupon you hurry to a Hardware Store and you buy one of these Carpenter Pencils, that makes a wide Mark, and you go out to the Grave-Yard and write Insulting Remarks all over my white head-Stone. And it would be just as bad if I advised you not to take the Fatal Step. The Time surely would come when you would be laid up in some Vermicelli Joint, suffering from Indigestion and Hotel Melancholy, and then you would moan something about 'Of all Sad Words of Tongue or Pen' and say, 'Ah, I might have been cozily domiciled in a Cheery Cot, reading Ghost Stories to my own little Kiddies this very Night, if it had not been for that hoary old Fraud who steered me away from getting Married.' So you see I have an Elegant Chance to satisfy you, no matter what I tell you to do. The trouble is that we have our Off Days, whether we are Married or Single. A Man cannot get up every Morning and strike Concert Pitch the first Pull across the Strings, no matter how desirous he may be to keep in Harmony. Again, after a Man has Tied Up for a while, he begins to recall the Bright Spots in his Career as a Bachelor and he is prone to imagine that all the Unmarried Boys are having one long Crimson Jollification. On the other hand, the male Hold-Over occasionally gets a Flash of Domestic Bliss under the most favorable Conditions, and goes back to his substitute for a Home feeling that a Bachelor Existence is a Dog's Life at the best."

    "Then a Man cannot be Happy, no matter what Programme he undertakes?" asked the Young Man, in a discouraged Tone.

    "Legal Ceremonies and a change of Boarding Houses do not greatly modify our Ratio," replied Uncle Silas. "You see, every Man has about so many Kicks coming, and he has to use them up, whether he is Married or Single. When we are slightly Off our Feed, we are likely to imagine that what we haven't got and can't get is the One Desirable Thing. Thus we have the diverting Picture of the Benedicts sitting around in Envy of the Bachelors, while those who are playing Lone Hands feel that they would be much better off with Partners. I couldn't rig up a Policy for you that would not cause me to be disliked. I think you had better go out and Shake Dice with yourself to find out what you want to do. But no matter what your Course may be, you want to remember that there are Cloudy Days in all Latitudes. There are Moments when we would fain jump our Environment."

    "Perhaps I had better go it Blind," suggested the Bachelor.

    "Most People do," said Uncle Silas. "A Leap in the Dark may land you in a Patch of Canadian Thistles or a Bed of Roses, but no matter where you Bring Up, you will get used to it."

MORAL: Always advise a Friend to do that which you are sure he is not going to do. Then, if his Venture fails, you will receive credit for having warned him. If it succeeds, he will be happy in the Opportunity to tell you that you were Dead Wrong.

Next: The Fable of The Old Merchant, the Sleuth and The Tapioca