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

The Fable of The Hungry Man from Bird Center And the Trans-Atlantic Touch

    IN one of the Regular Stops on a Spur Line of a Western Road, there lived a Man who wanted to see Europe. Somebody had told him that Travelling broadens one. He had six weeks to spare, so he thought he would hustle over and get Broadened about $500 worth.

    This would-be Marco Polo wanted to hie over and look in Pity on the decaying Monarchies of the Effete East and compare them with Bird Center. He was afraid that if he waited a couple of Seasons they would be so Far Along in the Process of Decay that they would not be Fit to look at.

    He was a Coal-Dealer in Bird Center, but he sighed for further Honors. He wanted to be pointed out as the Fellow who had took in the Old Country. There was one Woman in Bird Center who had skipped over and back again before Europe knew anything about it. This Record gave her a goshawful Standing in the Chautauqua. She had put in two days in dear old Rome. When the Circle began to speak of Art, she had all the other Girls spiked to the Tan Board.

    The Coal-Dealer had his Name stencilled on a low-browed Steamer Trunk. Also he secured a Passport which identified him as a Male American and requested Foreign Powers to overlook all Breaks, as he was from Bird Center.

    His Friends gave him a Farewell Dinner. When he boarded the Train, the entire Population was down to see him Off. His Neighbors pounded him on the Back and gave him a box of Lottie Lees to smoke on the Trip, because they had heard tell that it was impossible to get a Good Segar away from Home. They told him to give their Best to Ed, meaning his Gracious Majesty, and to ask Kaiser Bill to take one on them, and to tell the Pope howdy. In fact, his Departure was made a regular Festival of home-grown Humor, and he felt that he was something of a Public Character.

    But when he boarded the Liner and came up against the Sea-Dog who had been across 47 times and liked Heavy Weather and never had been Sick, he shrank considerably. His Plans for doing Great Britain and the whole Continent in one Month, did not seem to excite any burning Interest.

    The Voyage was not up to his large Expectations. A majority of the Passengers lay about in a Comatose Condition, rolled up in loud Rugs. The others did numerous Laps around and around the Deck, like the Participants in a Six-Day Match, and spoke to no one. The Coal-Dealer spent most of his Time in somebody else's Steamer Chair, sucking a Lemon and trying to get his Mind off of the Rolling Motion.

    In due time he landed on Albion's Shore, as he called it in writing to the Home Paper. He had read all about the Anglo-Saxon Alliance, and the Friendly Feeling for Americans and Blood being thicker than Water. He expected the Duke of Newcastle-on-Tyne to be down at the Dock with a Union Jack in one Hand, a Starry Banner in the other and an Invitation to Marlborough House held in his Teeth. But the Reception Committee failed to Materialize. The Man from Bird Center rode up to London in a small Compartment with several of our British Cousins. He tried to be Sociable and dab a little more Cement on the Anglo-Saxon Alliance, but they looked out at the Landscape and did not seem inclined to mix up with one who had not been Presented. By the time the Train rumbled in among the Chimney-Pots, they had him Frozen as stiff as a Board.

    After he had been on the Other Side for about a Week, he learned that if he wanted to Talk to any one, he could go out and employ a Guide.

    Still, there were some who recognized the Blood Relation, and they bled him. The Cabbies charged him three times the regular Tariff for a Four-Wheeler. He discovered that a Nasal Accent was Expensive. Somehow, every one seemed to know that he was one of those eccentric Yankees. He was regarded as a Millionaire just because he came from America and talked in a Loud Tone. He did not like to correct this flattering Impression and explain that he was merely a Bounder from Bird Center who wanted to go it Cheap. So he Let Go rather freely, and the first thing he knew his Letter of Credit began to look lop-sided.

    He went against the London Tailor and bought a lot of strange Garb with Cushions in the Shoulders. The Garments did not fit him, but were said to be Durable. The Tailor said he couldn't Wear them Out, and after he returned Home, he found that he did not dare to.

    After remaining in London for a Week and getting fairly well acquainted with a Waiter, he struck out for the Continent, where they had been saving up all their Bad Money to give to him. He did not know how to make change. In the Excitement of Travel, he forgot his 4 French Sentences and became so Locoed that they did what they pleased to him. He was from the U. S. A., where the Currency grows on Bushes, and they felt at Liberty to go through him.

    He was so busy scrapping over Bills, looking up Time-Tables, paying Excess Baggage and sending Illustrated Postal Cards back to Bird Center, telling what a Grand Time he was having, that he had very little Time for Sights. Still, he managed to look into 400 Cathedrals that seemed just alike and had the same damp Odor and he stood in front of several thousand faded Masterpieces and let on to Admire them. After a while all Scenery looked alike to him and when a Guide tried to pull him into a Gallery he resisted.

    Wherever he stopped, a smiling Hotel Manager gave him the Sleeve across the Wind-Pipe.

    After a couple of weeks though, he got used to it and would extend his Neck and take it in the Jugular without a Murmur.

    He began to count the Days until he would see Bird Center again. He wanted to be back where the Teams were hitched around the Court House Square and no Building was more than 15 years old and everybody said "Hello, Bill! "

   In addition to being Home-Sick, he was Hungry. He could not get his Steak and Onions. At the sad Round-Up known as the Tabble Dote, they passed him a lot of Trimmings that he could neither Pronounce nor Assimilate. He sat in the Forum at Rome and longed for Rhubarb Pie. As he floated on the Grand Canal in Venice, he realized that Green Corn was coming into the Market back in Bird Center, and the Blow nearly threw him out of the Gondola. He stood in the Majestic Presence of Mont Blanc and made an Open Offer of Seven Dollars for a Cup of Mother's Coffee without any daggoned Chicory in it.

    It was a joyous Day when the Coal-Dealer climbed into a Six-Day Boat headed for Sandy Hook. He had used the Cable to get Two Hundred over and above the Letter. He didn't know whether or not his Trip had Broadened him, but he knew it had left him Short.

    He realized that when he landed in New York, he would be Searched as a Smuggler, and then Sand-Bagged by a Hackman, but he was ready to stand for anything that wasn't done in a Foreign Language.

    "The Latin Races may be on the Decline, but they didn't refuse to take All of Mine," said the Coal-Dealer, as he looked back across the vasty Deep. "The only way I can get Revenge is to go back to Bird Center and talk Europe for the next 10 Years."

MORAL: The Time to enjoy a European Trip is about Three Weeks after Unpacking.

Next: The Fable of The Brotherhood of States and The Wife Who Was Responsible for the Jubilee