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

The Fable of The Cousin from Down East Who Had His Pick of the Village Lilacs

     THERE was once a woman with a Mayflower Ancestry who had a wonderful Cousin named Adelbert. This Woman used to keep Adelbert's Photo propped up on the Baby Grand and she touted him strong to all the Girls. The Cousin never had been out to this Town, but his Paper was up and the Female Relative had done a lot of Advance Work.

    Adelbert was almost as Sweet and Manly as an Anthony Hope Hero. He had Property in his own Name, and was Bright.

    About the time that Cherries were ripe the Word came up with many a Rumble and Roar that Cousin Adelbert was riding hither on the Limited. Then there was a Hurrying to and fro. Pale Faces grew paler yet and every Belle was trying to select the Creation that would make a Ten-Strike with brilliant Adelbert, late from the Varsity.

    In order to know why the Town should be having this Convulsion one ought to hear something about the Town.

    It was a White Settlement with a fair sprinkling of Indians. The Principal Occupation in those Parts was going down on Railroad Street to see the Trains pass through. Any one who knew the Conductor was looked up to. Most of the Young Men thereabouts travelled in their Shirt Sleeves and wore blue Elastics around their Arms and smoked Pesthouse Cigarettes. They did the Haw-Haw Laugh and thought well of their own Cute Sayings. These Town Cut-Ups had only one Accomplishment and that was to huddle up and do the Blend on one of these Mushy Ballads. When they struck a Barber-Shop Minor they would Dwell until the unhappy Listener felt his Toes curling. Some of the Girls who were fairly up to Snuff often sighed that the Town was bad off for Society, and that was no Hungarian Joke. It is a matter of Record that the Girls in such a Sub-Center of Civilization are about seven times as Flip as what they have to choose from. If they pair off with a lot of animated Prunes it is because they have to utilize the Counterfeits or else Migrate.

    Therefore it will be understood that the coming of Adelbert, who was the kind Mrs. Burton Harrison tells about, was an Event of the First Magnitude. The Girls began to brush up on their Reading so as to be primed for Tall Conversation. They decided to choke off on Slang, as it was known that all along the Atlantic Seaboard, where Mr. Lindley Murray prevails and the Polysyllable is a Household Pet, any one who spices his Conversation with Words not yet approved by the Dictionary gets the Look of Pain or the Refrigerated Stare.

    When Adelbert arrived his Cousin had Flowers in the Room. Within Twenty Minutes after the Train whistled, everybody in Town knew how many Pieces of Luggage he brought and what kind of a Suit he had on. He was given a ride in the Town Hack. All the Girls put away their Gum and ordered new White Gloves, for next day the Cream of Local Society was to Rally at a Lawn Party in Honor of Adelbert, the Toniest of his Sex.

    In going over the Invitation List there had been some Discussion as to whether or not they ought to include Noisy Nettie. She was a willowy Seraphine, who took a great Photograph, but that seemed to let her out. She had no Dignity or Repose, and the way she threw herself at Men and dragged them away from the well-behaved Sisters had given her a Bad Name. All the others in Town wondered what the Men saw in her.

    It was argued that Noisy Nettie, if permitted to break in at the Lawn Party, might be silly enough to get Fresh with the Distinguished Visitor and shoot a lot of Trivialities at him and give him a False Impression of their Social Life. She could win out the lowgrade Article by sitting close and chirping to him and giving him that Old One about his Hair matching his Eyes, but if she ever tried that on a Bachelor of Arts whose Thoughts were keyed up to the Higher Life, it might queer the whole Programme. He might feel Annoyed and begin to Pack Up.

    However, in a Town of that size it is impossible to Discriminate. Adelbert's Cousin was under Obligations to Nettie, and so Nettie received her Card, but it was agreed that the Girls who knew how to Behave should form a Cordon around the Honored Guest and prevent the feather-headed Flirt from getting hold of him and spoiling things.

    The Lawn Party brought out all the best Bibs and Tuckers. Every Girl was dressed within an inch of her Life and came through the Front Gate taking Short Steps. In a little while they had the Young Gentleman surrounded and were telling him how they doted on James Russell Lowell and could sit up all night to read "Thanatopsis." They had selected a very fancy line of Hot-Weather Topics.

    Seven or eight had their Camp-Stools planted between Adelbert and Nettie, so as to protect him from her bold Machinations. Adelbert was having Literary Chat passed to him in Hunks when he happened to look across at Nettie. They had Met and that was all, but she gave him the Wink, which meant: "I am on. You are tip against it."

    "Aha!" thought Adelbert, "something doing at last. I must look into this."

    Presently the Company moved over toward the Croquet Grounds and Adelbert managed to tear away and have a Word with Nettie.

    "Gentle Stranger, let us shake this Bunch and go ride in the Swing," he said.

    "Sure Thing," replied Nettie, and as she looked up at him she smiled faintly and once more gave him the fluttering Eyelid.

    "Something tells me that we are not going to talk about Books," said Adelbert. "I did not come out West to find out about the Standard Authors. I heard all the News about them before I left Home. I am out here to Cut Loose and have a Good Time."

    "Come and Romp with me," said Nettie. "I like your Style, but I'm a weeny bit Afraid of you because you're such a Handsome Wretch and I've heard about you College Boys."

    Saying which she put her Chin on his shoulder and Goo-Gooed him and he lost the Power of Speech. Strange to say, he did not go into the House and begin to Pack Up. Along about that time he was thinking of having his Ticket extended.

    When the Proper Girls saw that Nettie, the Scandal-Maker, had succeeded in isolating the Main Attraction there was a good deal of Whispering behind the Fans, but Net and Del did not seem to mind, because they were in the Swing having a few Whispers of their own.

    The Lawn Party was the heaviest June Frost ever known in that part of the State. He who had been bawled out for two years as the most refined, cultivated and scholarly Youth east or west of the Alleghanies turned out to be the same as all the others. He passed up Miss Prim and went straight for the sassy Good-Looker.

    After that first day it was a Moral Certainty that Nettie had him right. The other Girls did not get so much as a look-in on the Capital Prize. Every two hours he put on a different Rig and went up to Nettie's House to permit her to hold him by the Arm and tell him how well his Clothes became him. The other Girls peered out from behind the Curtains and spoke of him as a Softy and they began to tell around that he didn't have so much Property, and besides it was Mortgaged up to the Hilt.

    Adelbert's Cousin tried to pry him away from Nettie by telling him that she was superficial, but the Advice of a Relative never carries any weight in the Case of a genuine Love Affair.

    When Adelbert returned home he had fourteen Panel Photographs of Noisy Nettie, his Heart's Delight, and she was going around Town with one Hand up in the Air so that every one could see her Solitaire.

MORAL: Never talk Shop to a Man when he is on his Vacation.

Next: The Fable of The Horse Maniac and What Caused the Filing of the Suit