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

The Fable of Springfield's Fairest Flower and Lonesome Agnes Who Was Crafty

    SPRINGFIELD had a Girl who was being Courted by a Syndicate. She was the Girl who took First Prize at the Business Men's Carnival. When the Sunday Paper ran a whole Page of Typical Belles she had the Place of Honor.

    If a Stranger from some larger Town was there on a Visit and it became necessary to Knock his Eye out and prove to him that Springfield was strictly In It, they took him up to call on Mazie. Mazie never failed to Bowl him over, for she was a Dream of Loveliness when she got into her Glad Raiment. Mazie had large mesmeric Eyes and a Complexion that was like Chaste Marble kissed by the Rosy Flush of Dawn. She carried plenty of Brown Hair that she Built Up by putting Rats under it. When she sat very straight on the edge of the Chair, with the queenly Tilt of the Chin and the Shoulders set back Proudly and the Skirt sort of Whipped Under so as to help the General Outline, she was certainly a Pleasing Object to size up. She did not Fall Down at any Point.

    Mazie had such a Rush of Men Callers that the S. R. 0. Sign was out almost every Night, and when the Weather permitted she had Overflow Meetings on the Veranda.

    Right across the Street from Beautiful Mazie there lived a Girl named Agnes, who was Fair to Middling, although she could not Step it Off within twenty Seconds of Mazie's regular Gait. Sometimes when she happened to get the right Combination of Colors and wore a Veil and you did not get too Close, she was not Half Bad, but as soon as she got into the same Picture with Mazie, the Man Charmer, she was faded to a Gray Bleach.

    All the plain, everyday XX Springfield Girls, designed for Family Use and not for Exhibition Purposes, used to wish that Mazie would go away somewhere and forget to come back.

    The Other Girls had to Admit that Mazie was a good deal of a Tangerine, but they did not Enthuse the same as their Brothers did. You cannot expect a lot of Spirited Girls to strike a Chord in G and sing any Anthem of Praise to a Friend who is trying to make Wall Flowers of them. When some Poor Man who was off his Dip on Matchless Mazie, the Sprite of Springfield, would start a Rhapsody to some other Girl, the Other Girl would say Yes, that Mazie was a Sweet and Lovely Girl, but when she said it she would look as if she had just tasted a Lemon.

    But Agnes, who lived across the Street from the Pearl of Springfield, tried to be Cheerful and Keep her Hammer hidden, although goodness knows she had Reason to feel Put Out. It is Hard Lines for a Sociable Girl to sit around the House and practise Finger movements on the Piano and see everything Lighted Up across the Street.

    Agnes felt sometimes as if she would just have to Up and Tell the Boys what a deceitful, two-faced old Thing this Mazie really was. But she knew better than to do it, for Mazie had all of them Zizzy and they would have said that Agnes was Miffed because of M azie's Popularity.

    Agnes understood that Men always show a Strong Preference for a Feather Headed Girl, if she has the Looks and a Circus Style, and particularly if all the sedate, well read, plain, intellectual Girls are trying to Close Up ahead of her, so as to throw her into a Pocket.

    So long as Mazie was the Reigning Fad, and while Mazie's Front Room was the Mecca for Golf Players and Glee Club Undergraduates, Agnes sat back, a trifle Forlorn, but not so Rattled that she took any Chances of Queering her own Game.

    Sometimes when there was such a Push at Mazie's Home that the Late Comers could not get up to within Rubbering Distance of the celebrated Siren of Springfield, and it was too Early to go Home, one or two of the Young Men would drift over to pay a little Attention to Agnes. Here was the chance for Agnes to make the Mistake of her Life. But she never asked them if they had been to see Mazie first, and she never made any of these unwelcome Cracks about being Second Choice. She received them with the long Hand Clasp and the Friendly Smile, and threw herself to Entertain them, wotting well that now and then a Girl must pocket her Pride and she Laughs Best who postpones her Laughing until after the Banns have been Published.

    Instead of seeking to undermine the Uncrowned Queen of Springfield and put the Skids under her, she lauded Mazie to the Skies. She asked the Boys if they did not think that Mazie was a Dashing Beauty and by far the Swellest in Town, and was it any Wonder that the whole Crowd was Dotty about her. When she talked like that, Beaux who had been getting the gleaming Cold Shoulder from Mazie, were inclined to Demur and say that Mazie was unquestionably an Artist on the Make-Up and a Caution when it came to Coquettish Wiles, but there were Others just as Nice.

    In this Town of Springfield there was a Steady Young Fellow who wrote Junior after his Name, and was Prospective Heir to an Iron Foundry. He was Foolish about Mazie for quite a Spell, but when he went up to see her and try to make it worth her Time to look him over, the Door-Bell kept ringing, and he found that instead of conducting a Courtship he was simply getting in on a Series of Mass Meetings. So he dropped out of the Competition and took to calling on Agnes, and found that he was the Whole Thing. She treated him Kindly and never disagreed with him except on one Point. Whenever he would say that Mazie was getting the Big Head and put on too many Frills to suit him, and had been Spoiled by having so many on her Staff at one time, Agnes would stick up for her Friend, and say that she could hardly blame any Man for giving in to the Superlative Charms of One who had Julia Marlowe set back a Mile.

    She kept that Talk going until he was good and tired of having Mazie ding-donged at him. One Evening he stopped her right in the middle of an Eulogium and suggested that they let tip on the Mazie Topic and talk about Themselves for a while. And although she Protested, he convinced her that she was worth a Ten Acre Field full of Mazies.

    So they were Married and went to Niagara Falls and came Home and still Mazie remained Single.

    She was supposed to be several Notches too High Up for any One Man in Springfield. After getting such Job Lots of Adulation and having at least six pulsating Courtiers kneeling on her Sofa Pillows every Evening it would have been a Tame Let-Down for her to splice up with one lone Business Man and settle down to a dull Existence in some Apartment House.

    So it came about that there was a General Impression in Springfield that Mazie was the Unattainable. She was a kind of Public Character to be Idolized, but not removed from the Pedestal. The discouraged Suitors fell away one by one, and married the ordinary Girls who were willing to Play Fair and not keep the Applicants dangling. Mazie took up with a new Generation and seemed to believe that she could reign Forever, the same as the Elfin Queen in the Fairy Tale.

    But the Peach Crops come and go.

    After a few Years Mazie's Door-Bell did not Tinkle with its whilom frequency, and right down the Street there was a Seventeen-Year-Older who had shot up out of Short Dresses like a Willow Sprout, and it was her Picture that went into the Special Illustrated Edition as Springfield's Fairest Daughter.

    Mazie saw that the Vernal Season had passed and the Harvest Time was at Hand, so she decided to chop the Philandering and pick one for Keeps. But when she began to encourage the Eligibles they took it to mean that she was prolonging the same old String Game. The Men who knew that she had turned down at least Fifty figured that there was no Possible Chance for them, so they were Leery and would not be led into Committing themselves. Besides, Mazie had been handed around by so many that she was beginning to be Graded as Second Hand, and there was not the same keen Anxiety to capture her that there had been along about the Year of the World's Fair.

    At last Accounts she was supposed to be Guessing. Agnes is doing Nicely, with a well trained Husband.

MORAL: Cheer Up, Girls.

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