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

The Fable of How Grandma Shattered an Idol and Made It Easy for the Children

    A THEORETICAL Parent was accustomed to jawing his Children. He hectored them and found Fault.

    He thought the Cherubim ought to sit up straight all Day and keep their Hands folded.

    Pa had an impaired Circulation and Fur on his Tongue and a kind of Janders Complexion and therefore Life was a sad and serious Game to him. He wanted the Children to take the same Gloomy View of the whole Demnition Grind. He was in a Blue Funk most of the time and it was his earnest Desire that the whole Universe should wear a Black Border in order to be in Harmony with his own state of Melancholy.

    So when he had nothing else to do, he fixed up restraining Rules for the Kids. He told them they must not wailer in the Grass or climb Trees or get into Scraps. When he commanded them to keep out of Fights and Wrassles he seemed to overlook the Fact that they were the immediate Descendants of a rambustious Individual who always had two or three Law Suits on hand and went about with a Chip on his Shoulder.

    He came down on them like 1,000 of Brick if they failed to be Polite. He told them to say "Yes, Ma'am" and "Thank You" and always show Respect for their Elders, because that would be the only Chance that some of the Elders had to have any Respect shown to them.

    He was a Stickler for Table Manners. It worried him if the Children failed to get a graceful Grip on the Knife and Fork and he insisted that they add "Please" whenever they shot in a Request for more Chow.

    Furthermore, Pop leaned over from the Heights of his all-round Superiority and talked down to the Offspring about Habits of Industry. It cut him to the Quick to learn that they had played Hookey and scooted up the Alley when Mama wanted them to run Errands. He said that in his younger Days he had been a great Help to his Folks.

    To hear him tell it, he had been a Model Youth. He always wound up a Lecture by telling how he went to Sunday School and always had the Golden Text cinched and captured the Prize for reeling off 200 verses of Scripture.

    Sometimes, when the three Children realized what a Sweet Child their Male Parent had been, they felt ashamed and discouraged, because they knew they never could Buck Up and duplicate his juvenile Career. It was pretty hard to understand how and why such an Angel had grown up to be a grumpy Kicker, but they had Daddy's Word for it that he had been the original Fauntleroy and whatever he said went.

    "When I was your Age," he would say to his trembling Flock, "I never wanted to eat between Meals, and I used to Buckle down to my Lessons every Evening, until Mother would take my School-Books and hide them to prevent me from ruining my Eye-Sight. I never was Cruel to Dumb Animals; neither was I rude to Little Girls."

    This very remarkable Man had two Boys and one Girl. The oldest Child was a Boy named Wallie. He was about 16 and running principally to Legs and Red Neckties. He was at the Awkward Age. His Voice was changing and he had outgrown his Clothes and he wobbled and stepped on himself when he walked. He went about humped over as though he had been dried across a Barrel.

    Wallie was passing through the Calf Period. He was a little too old to Spank, and not quite old enough to heed the Voice of Reason. He put in a lot of Time combing his Hair. It seemed to him about time to drop out of School, because he certainly knew it all. He wrote Notes to Girls a few years older than himself, and furthermore he had got away with his first Cigarette. Luckily, Papa did not know. Papa was an end-to-end Smoker and burned up about a dozen Black Cigars every Day, but it would have broken his Heart to learn that any Child of his used Tobacco. The Old Gentleman was very rough on Wallie. He gave him the Gig at every opportunity, for he had no sympathy with Puppy Love and he hated a Dude, and he actually accused the boy of being Lazy. Papa had been such a Busy Bee all his Life, he had no Patience with a shirking Drone.

    About the time that this Extraordinary Person had his three Children cowed and subdued, his Mother came on a Visit. The Children gave a glad Whoop when Grandma loomed up at the Front Gate. Their own Mama usually played Second Fiddle to Papa, but Grandma took Orders from no one. While she was at the Helm, the Children had one long Picnic. She staked them to Spending Money and she stood between them and many a Scolding.

    She had been a stern and Spartan Mother with her own Children, but the Grandchildren could have anything they wanted. They got on the Soft Side of the good Old Lady and anybody who was Mean to them stood an elegant Chance of hearing something Drop.

    For several Days after she arrived, the Czar of the Household continued to publish Edicts and bark at Wallie and Carry on after the manner of all Autocrats who are swollen with Pride and Power. Grandma held in as long as she could and then one Day at the Dinner Table she veered around and gave him a Broadside that was a Beaut.

    "Won't you ever get tired of badgering these persecuted Lambs?" she demanded. "Instead of nagging them all day and telling them how Bad they are, you ought to get down on your knees and give Thanks that you've got three such lovely Children. The idea of your abusing poor Wallie! When you were his Age, you read Yellow-Back Novels and put Oil on your Hair and wanted to jump into the Well because the School Teacher wouldn't elope with you. It makes me so dratted Huffy, too, to hear you correct Bob and Ruth. You seem to forget that when you were little you always spilled Stuff over yourself at the Table and wasn't worth your Salt at doing Chores and had a Temper like a Cross-Cut Saw. I raised six Children and you gave me more Trouble than all the others put together. You were so Dumb at School you had to drop back two Classes. All you wanted to do was to tear out with those Toughs and kill Birds with Nigger-Shooters. I'm glad your Children take after their Mother instead of you."

    There he sat, Blown Up and the Search Light turned on him. He was caught with the Goods.

    After that he didn't dare to Peep. The children were ready to pull his Record on him. So it was a Happy Home.

MORAL: Keep the Children in the Dark.

Next: The Fable of The Last Day at School and The Tough Trustee's Farewell to the Young Voyagers