Once there was a home-like Beanery where one could tell the Day of the Week by what was on the Table.
The Stroke Oar of this Food Bazaar had been in the Business for 20 years, and she had earned her Harp three times over. The Prune Joke never touched her, and she had herself trained so as not to hear any sarcastic Cracks about the Oleo. She prided herself on the Atmosphere of Culture that permeated the Establishment, and on the Fact that she did not harbor any Improper Characters. A good many Improper Characters came around and sized up the Lay-Out and then blew.
It was a sure-enough Boarding-House, such as many of our Best People know all about even if they won’t tell.
The Landlady was doing what she could to discourage the Beef Trust, but she carried a heavy line of Oatmeal. She had Oatmeal to burn and sometimes she did it. And she often remarked that Spinach had Iron in it and was great for the Blood. One of her pet Theories was that Rice contained more Nutriment than could be found in Spring Chicken, but the Boarders allowed that she never saw a Spring Chicken.
In the Cast of Characters were many of the Old Favorites. There was the lippy Boy with the Williams and Walker Shirts, who knew the Names of all the Ball-Players and could tell when there was a good Variety Show in Town.
Then there was the other kind, with a straw-colored Mustache and a prominent Adam’s Apple, who was very careful about his Pronunciation. He belonged to a Social Purity Club that had a Yell. His Idea of a Hurrah was to get in a Parlor with a few Sisters who were under the Age Limit and sing the Bass Part of “Pull for the Shore.”
Then there was the Old Boarder. He was the Land-Mark. Having lived in Boarding-Houses and Hotels all his Life, he had developed a Gloom that surrounded him like a Morning Fog. He had a Way of turning Things over with his Fork, as if to say, “Well, I don’t know about this.” And he never believed anything he saw in the Papers. He said the Papers printed those things just to fill up. The Circassian Princess that brought in the Vittles paid more attention to him than to any one else, because if he didn’t get Egg on his Lettuce he was liable to cry all over the Table Cloth.
Then there was the chubby Man who came in every Evening and told what had happened at the Store that Day, and there was a human Ant-Eater who made Puns.
One of the necessary Features of a refined Joint is the Slender Thing who is taking Music and has Mommer along to fight off the Managers and hush the Voice of Scandal. This Boarding-House had one of these Mother-and-Child Combinations that was a Dream. Daughter was full of Kubelik and Josef Hoffman. Away back in the Pines somewhere there was a Father who was putting up for the Outfit. Mother’s Job seemed to be to sit around and Root. She was a consistent little Booster. If what Mother said was true, then Effie’s Voice was a good deal better than it sounded. She said the Teachers were just crazy about it and all of them agreed that Effie ought to go to Paris or Milan. The slangy Boy with the rag-time Shirt went them one better, and said that all of the phoney Melbas in the country ought to pull for the Old Country and wait until they were sent for.
In this same Boarding-House there was a Widow whose husband had neglected to die. Being left all alone in the World she had gone out to make her Way, since which time she had gained about 30 pounds and was considered Great Company by the Young Men.