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

The Fable of The Old Merchant, the Sleuth & The Tapioca

    A HIGH-PRICED Detective was sitting in his Lair, trying to look Mysterious, when there came to him a gray-muzzled old Business Man. The Latter was noted for his Probity, his Keenness and the Fact that he never Thawed. In the Commercial Agencies he was Rated AA Plus A1, which meant that he had it in Bales.

"I wish to enlist your Services," said the Great Merchant. "A Young Man who lately has come into a World of Money desires to be admitted to Partnership in our Large Business. We are an Old and Reputable Concern, and before associating ourselves with this Stripling we wish to know all about his Character and Habits. We want you to Camp on his Trail and give us a straight Line on his Daily Life."

    So the Main Detective called in a couple of Ferrets, who drew Twelve a Week, and they began to Shadow the Young Man at $8 a Day. They put on Gum Shoes and covered their Faces with black Muffs, such as are worn by the Train Robbers in a Davis and Keogh Melodrama. They peeked over Transoms and shinned up Fire Escapes and hid behind Bill-Boards, and every time the Young Man made a Move they were Next. At the end of a Week the Celebrated Detective made a Report to the Pious Patriarch who had employed him.

    "I regret to tell you that the Young Man who seeks a Connection with your Well-Known House is a Night Hawk and a Spender," said the Superintendent. "He is trying to dim the Record of Coal-Oil Johnny. He opens Cold Magnums for the Merry-Merry almost every Midnight, and he is having Diamonds set into the Teeth of Nine of the Peroxide Sisters. By the time that he lands into his Happy Clothes of an Evening he is fairly well Corned, and he sees the Dawn of Morning through a Purple Haze. In the Afternoon, when he arises, he has a hang-Over which is made the Foundation of something very Tidy in the way of a Skate. lie begins to Push the Button and absorb the tall Pick-Me-Ups. For a six o'clock Breakfast he has a few Cigarettes and some of the cold Zippy-Zip. Thus he contrives to be the Custodian of a continuous Bun and stave off the Katzenjammer, his Life resolving itself into one long Honolulu Sunset. His Associates are a fine Bunch of Rowdy-Dows, who lean over when they Walk, and wear Lilac Gloves in the Summer Time. Their one Joy is to purchase little Hot Birds and big Johannesburg Twinklers for the Ladies depicted on the Lithos."

    "My! my!" said the staid old Merchant, as he shook his silvered Head. "He must be a Lah-Lah if he can hold to that Gait. I suppose he plays the Drunken Sailor with his Money."

    "I regret to say that he does," replied the Eminent Sleuth. "All the Tin-Horn Sports and Shoe-String Gamblers speak of him as their Meal Ticket. He is put against a new Brace Game every Week. He is so Soft that sometimes even the hardened Sheet-Writers feel that it is a Shame to take it away from him. But they need the Vulgar Mazume, so they lighten him."

    "Is it not Sad to see a pin-headed Rake dissipating a Large Fortune built up by some one who Walked to save Car Fare?" asked the Old Gentleman. "You are sure that he has no Business Gumption?"

    "No more than a Rabbit," was the Reply of the Detective. "He is a Come-On for any Bunco Game in the List. He is a Ninny. Should you give him an Interest in your Business he would show up at his Desk about once a Month, and if you handed him an Assessment he would think it was a Dividend."

    "I thank you for your Report," said the Pillar of Trade. "We will admit the Young Man to a Full Partnership and urge him to put in all the Coin at his Command."

    "I am surprised," said the Sleuth. "He is a horrible Light Weight."

    "That is why he will be a Mark for a coolheaded Johnny Wise who lives on Cereal Food and gets into his Pajamas at 9.30 every Evening," said the Prominent Merchant with a slight Grin. "Why should all this lovely Money go to Cabmen and straw-colored Soubrettes when it might as well be Garnered by an Honored Citizen who would know how to Invest it? From what you tell me of the Rapid Youth I conclude that he would be Meat for a crafty Side Partner."

    Next Day the Chorus Girls' Friend was Taken In, and eighteen Months later the steady old Partner with the Snowy Locks had him euchred down to the Clothes on his Back.

    His Fortune was permanently Invested in an Old and Reliable Establishment, and he was on his Uppers for fair.

MORAL: Any one who has the Qualifications can get in with a First-Class Firm.

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