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Eating in Two or Three Languages
by [?]

On my way home from overseas I spent many happy hours mapping out a campaign. To myself I said: “The day I land is going to be a great day for some of the waiters and a hard day on some of the cooks. Persons who happen to be near by when I am wrestling with my first ear of green corn will think I am playing on a mouth organ. My behaviour in regard to hothouse asparagus will be reminiscent of the best work of the late Bosco. In the matter of cantaloupes I rather fancy I shall consume the first two on the half shell, or

au naturel

, as we veteran correspondents say; but the third one will contain about as much vanilla ice cream as you could put in a derby hat.

Half a dozen times a night, or oftener, he travelled under escort through the dining room, always returning again to his regular station. Along about the middle of the week he began to fail visibly. Before our eyes we saw him fading. Either the artificial life he was leading or the strain of being turned down so often was telling upon him. It preyed upon his mind, as we could discern by his morose expression. It sapped his splendid vitality as well. No longer did he expand his chest and wave his numerous extremities about when being exhibited before the indifferent eyes of possible investors, but remained inert, logy, gloomy, spiritless–a melancholy spectacle indeed.

It now required artificial stimulation to induce him to display even a temporary interest in his surroundings. With a practised finger, his keeper would thump him on the tenderer portions of his stomach, and then he would wake up; but it was only for a moment. He relapsed again into his lamentable state of depression and languor. By every outward sign here was a lobster that fain would withdraw from the world. But we knew that for him there was no opportunity to do so; on the hoof he represented too many precious francs to be allowed to go into retirement.

Coming on Saturday night we realised that for our old friend the end was nigh. His eyes were deeply set about two-thirds of the way back toward his head and with one listless claw he picked at the serviette. The summons was very near; the dread inevitable impended.

Sunday night he was still present, but in a greatly altered state. During the preceding twenty-four hours his brave spirit had fled. They had boiled him then; so now, instead of being green, he was a bright and varnished red all over, the exact colour of Truck Six in the Paducah Fire Department.

We felt that we who had been sympathisers at the bedside during some of his farewell moments owed it to his memory to assist in the last sad rites. At a perfectly fabulous price we bought the departed and undertook to give him what might be called a personal interment; but he was a disappointment. He should have been allowed to take the veil before misanthropy had entirely undermined his health and destroyed his better nature, and made him, as it were, morbid. Like Harry Leon Wilson’s immortal Cousin Egbert, he could be pushed just so far, and no farther.

Before I left Paris the city was put upon bread cards. The country at large was supposed to be on bread rations too; but in most of the smaller towns I visited the hotel keepers either did not know about the new regulation or chose to disregard it. Certainly they generally disregarded it so far as we were concerned. For all I know to the contrary, though, they were restricting their ordinary patrons to the ordained quantities and making an exception in the case of our people. It may have been one of their ways of showing a special courtesy to representatives of an allied race. It would have been characteristic of these kindly provincial innkeepers to have done just that thing.