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

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

    A HIGH-GRADE Heeler who had helped divvy the Campaign -, Fund and round up the Barrel-House Vote and get the Hoboes into Line for Good Government, was so beloved by his Party that he was made a Member of the Board of School Trustees and set up as an Example to the Young.

    Whenever the High School Graduates put on their White Organdies and Dark Cutaways and got ready to up the Gang-Plank and embark on Life's Voyage, it was the Custom to have a Representative Member of the School

    Board on hand to give them a Send-Off. One Year the Political Boss was chosen for this Honor. He had been putting up Flat Buildings and buying Bonds on a Salary of $1,800, and it was believed that he was just the one to tell the Young Folks how to Succeed in Life. He wanted to know what he was expected to Talk about, and they told him about Ten Minutes, and be sure and tell the Class how to shin up the Ladder and get their Death-Grip on the Top Round. For it must be known, Reader, that when the Gentle Youth break out of High School they not only Launch on the Tempestuous Sea, but they also begin to climb the ladder of Fame and hike up the toilsome Mountain-Side and go into the waiting Harvest Field, all at the same time.

    The Boss was no Albert J. Beveridge. Oratory was not his Long Suit. He was better on a Still Hunt than on the Stump. He did his most effective Work with a Dark Lantern and a pair of Goloshes. Fortunately he had a Talented Stenographer, and he told her to draw up to her Machine and beat out about 500 Words of South Wind. She wrote the customary Josh-the kind that has been passed out to Graduating Classes since the Year One.

    She said they were standing on Life's Threshold, getting ready to put Rosem on their hands and do the Ladder Act. All those who had been Studious and had loved Teacher and got 98 in Botany were dead sure to be Useful and Respected Citizens if they continued to be Honest and Industrious and Persevering. When the Trustee looked it over he said there couldn't be any possible Kick on such Advice, because it had been used on Thousands of Children and never seemed to affect them one way or the other. So he put it in his Pocket.

    On Commencement Day he went up to the High School. He wore a Black Suit that was meant for a Polar Expedition. It was a Hot, Sticky Day. The Exercises struck him as being very Yellow.

    Two Scared little Girls, with gas-pipe Underpinning, played one of those hurry-up Duets. Then a tow-headed Boy stood on one Foot and told why Greece and Rome had Petered out. He offered a few husky Suggestions in regard to Educating the Masses and edged back to his Seat, falling over himself on the Way.

    Then a fat little girl, who seemed to have a rush of Blood to the Head, told all about "Ambition." She said there were several kinds of Ambition, and those who overplayed it would surely get a good hard Toss sooner or later.

    She said the Trouble was that some People were Ambitious to make Money and control Legislation. She didn't think it was right.

    A pale Boy with high-water Trousers and a recent Hair-Cut, pulled out the Tremolo Stop and sang a low Refrain about "Life's Duties." He said that no one should accumulate Wealth or try to get the Bulge on Honest Toil or put on any toppy Lugs with Silks and Broadcloth. He advised every one to give up the mad Race for Wealth and be a Philanthropist, drying the Widow's Tears, jollying up the Orphans and planting sweet Flowers along Life's Rugged Pathway.

    "Our Country" was the Subject chosen by another Boy. He said we had Europe and Asia crowded off the Map and nothing could head us off, unless we forgot the Flag in our desire to grab off the Money. He gave the Politicians a hard Larruping and said he wanted to see the pure-minded Patriots put in charge of Things.

    There were other Clarion Calls to Duty, and then a panicky Miss, whose Voice sounded like some one standing too close to the Phone, read the Valedictory. She claimed that the Class was all Broken Up at the Prospect of bolting away from the kind Principal and the Dear Teachers, but the time had come for them to tackle the Ladder and get on the Boat and start up the Mountain, etc., etc. She hoped that the whole Class was ready to Scatter into the Great World and pull for Success, and she said that Success was measured by Good Deeds and not by Dollars and Cents.

    Then the Principal made one of these We-have-with -us -this- Afternoon Introductions, whereupon the Member of the Board unfolded himself and worked out into the Clearing. He felt in his inside Coat Pocket for the MSS., but it was not there. He fanned his clothes and Patted himself, but nary a Sound of Legal Cap. Then he remembered that in changing to the Pall-Bearer's Make-Up he had neglected to transfer the Speech.

    For a few Seconds he was Non-Plussed. Then he braced himself and decided to introduce a Positive Novelty at Commencement Exercises and speak what was on his Mind. So he said: "Little People, I have been in a kind of Trance for a couple of Hours. You have been handing over a few that were too High for your Uncle Fuller. I have been around more or less in my Time, and I thought I had bumped up against several hefty Intellects, but when it comes to being there with the Gray Matter you have got all of us Old People left at the Post. When I look up at these 16-story Minds I feel like a

    Discarded Deuce. You ought to be proud of the Fact that you have more Knowledge than the School Board and all of your Relatives put together. I happen to know that when the President of the Board wants to find out the interest on $175 for one year and nine months at Six Per Cent, he wears out a Pencil or two and gets all Balled Up, and finally has to go over to the First National Bank and have the Man work it out for him. I have told myself at times that I was a fairly Hot Potato, but if any one asked me to define Algebra, I couldn't make a Sound. I'll tell you, a rusty old Wheel Horse hasn't got the Nerve to try and show any speed when you enter him against a Juvenile Phenom.

    "I think it is a Safe Bet that you Young Folks are better Posted now than you ever will be again. In the Years to come, your Steady Job will be to Forget what you learned in High School. When you get thrown out of Employment you can always sit down and work at that. I am predicting that 20 odd Years from now, when almost any one of you will be trying to raise two or three Children with one Hand and lift a Mortgage with the other, if some one came along and asked you to tell the difference between Syntax and Prosody you would tell him to Brush By.

    "Far be it from me to Knock the Benefits of High School training. Although I received my Mental Discipline in a Brick Yard, I have always been Sore because I did n't get to wear Class Colors and learn one of these Siss-Boom-Ah Yells. I have worried along without a Diploma, and although shy on Latin and History, I have picked up a few points on doing the Other Fellow, which reminds me: I notice that nearly all of you take a long Run and Jump at the Almighty Dollar and the Machine in Politics. There seems to be a general Determination not to go out after the Shekels. What you want is Culture, and not the Coin. If you feel that way about it, you can Gamble that you will never have enough of it to make you Proud and Overbearing. Nobody is going to force it on you; in fact, my Experience is that it is pretty hard to Rake Up, even when you want it and want it Bad. Probably you have given more Thought to this Matter than I have, but if you don't mind being steered a little, I would suggest that you get what you can of the Long Green and afterwards arrange for a little Culture on the Side. In most Households now-a-days the Husband Rustles around and gets the Stuff and lets his Wife work the Culture End of the Game. Any time that he provides her with the Spondulix, she will bring Home enough Culture for Two, all right, all right     "It seems, too, that the whole Bunch is going out to Root for Purity in Politics. I would be a Reformer Myself if I could find any one who would pay me a Salary for Kicking. As soon as I find a Reform Party compactly Organized and Cornering the Spoils, I will declare for it good and strong, and I hope you will all be with me. As nearly as I can find out, Politicians are not with the Machine because they are Stuck on it, but because they need the Money. They would be perfectly willing to Plug for the General Good if they could see Anything in it. As you grow older and get more Light on the Subject and some of your Friends begin to run for Office, probably you will take a more charitable View of Party Management.

    "I will now ask you to come up and get your Sheepskins. Take this precious Certificate home and put it in a Dark, Cool Place.

    A few Years hence when you are less Experienced, it will give you a Melancholy Pleasure to look at it and Hark back to the Time when you knew it all. Just one Word in Parting. Always count your Change, and if you can't be Good, be Careful."

    And he sat down.

MORAL: To avoid dealing with Facts, always have your Speech in your Pocket.

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