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Hon. Ransom Peabody by George Ade

The following is the complete text of George Ade's Hon. Ransom Peabody. Our presentation of this humorous short story comes from The Wit and Humor of America: Volume VIII (1911). To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

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Hon. Ransom Peabody by George Ade

Hon. Ransom Peabody

by George Ade

The Fable of the Hoosier Bill of Fare and How the
Women Folks Cooked Up Things for
the Well-known Citizen.

Once upon a Time there was a Hired Hand who felt that he was cut out to be Somebody. Among the Agriculturists he was said to be too dosh-burned Toney because he wore gloves when he Toiled and on Sundays put on a slew of Agony, with sheet-iron Shoes pointed at the End and a neat Derby purchased in Terry Hut.

Now this Freckled Swain, whose name was Ransom, wanted to hop on the Inter-Reuben and go zipping away to see the Great World. He wanted to live in a Big Town where he would not have to walk on the Ploughed Ground and where he could get something Good to Eat. He was tired of the plain Vittles out on the Farm. They very seldom had anything on the Table except Chicken with Gravy, Salt-Rising Bread, Milk, seven or eight Vegetables, Crulls, Cookies, Apple Butter, Whortleberry Pie, Light Biscuit, Spare Ribs, Pig's Feet, Hickory Nut Cake and such like. This thing of drawing up every A. M. to the same old Lay Out of home-made Sausage, Buckwheat Cakes, Recent Eggs, Fried Mush and Mother's Coffee was beginning to wear on him. Often he dreamt of being in the Metropolis, where he could get an Oyster Stew, Sardines, and Ice Cream in the Winter Time.

At last his Dream came out of the Box. He went up to the City to attend a Law School and found himself domiciled in a Refined Joint that was a Cross between a Salon and a Beanery. It was one of those Regular Places kept by a thin Lady who had once ridden in her Own Carriage. Her Long Suit was Home Atmosphere. She had the Hall-Ways filled with it. What is more, she came from an Old Family. Lord Cornwallis once stopped at their House to get a Drink of Water and George Washington came very near sleeping in one of the Bed-Rooms. So that made the Board about 50 cents more on the Week.

Like all high class Boarding Houses, it was infested by some Lovely People. There was the girl who spelled it Edythe and was having her voice done over. She had a Mother to keep Cases on her and do the Press Work. Also there was the Grass Widow who remembered her Husband's name but had mislaid the Address. Also the Old Boarder who was always under the influence of Pepsin. He would come down to Breakfast wearing the Hoof-Marks of a Nightmare Seventeen Hands high and holler about the Food and tell the Young Lawyer how you can't believe anything you see in the Papers. Also there was a young man employed in a Furniture Store who knew that he could put Eddie Sothern on the Fritz if he ever got a Whack at the Drama. Unless some one got out an Injunction he would recite Poe's "
Raven" while Edythe played Chills and Fever music on the Once-Piano. So the Astute Reader will understand that this was a sure enough Boarding House.

Ranse could have stood for the Intellectual Environment if there had been a little more doing in the Food Line. Instead of stacking it up on the Table and giving the word to Pitch In, the Refined Landlady had it brought on in stingy little Dabs by several Beautiful Heiresses who hated to hold Converse with Ordinary Boarders. About the time that Ranse, with the Farm Appetite, began to settle down to Business he would notice all the other People rolling up the Red Napkins and trying to get them into the Rings. If he kept on eating after that, they would give him the Eye.

Cereals were strongly featured at the polite Prunery. Ransom, while employed on the Farm, had often mixed up Chop Feed and Bran for the Shoats and Yearlings, but he never thought he would come down to eating it himself. Another Strong Card was a Soup that was quite Pale and had a couple of Vermicelli swimming around in it. And every Tuesday they served Dried Currants with Clinkers in them.

Before Ranse had been against the Health Food Proposition many moons he began to hanker for the yellow-legged Plymouth Rocks, the golden Butter and the kind of milk that comes from the Cow--take a Tin Cup and go right out to the Spring House and dip it up for yourself. Poor, eh?

Still, he figured that as soon as he got into Practice and began to connect with the Currency he could shake the Oatmeal Circuit and put up at an A1 Hotel.

Like all the other Country Boys of the Story Books, Ransom made a Ten-Strike in the City. He worked 18 hours per and in Due Time he was taken into the Firm and stopped shaving his Neck and wore Pajamas instead of a home-made Nightie.

Then he moved into a Hotel that had $40,000 worth of Paintings on the First Floor, so that no one had a right to kick even if the Push Button failed to work. All the Furniture was Louie Something. You take an ex-Farm-Hand and let him sit in a Gold Chair with Satin Monogram that is too Nice to lean against, and you can see at a Glance that he is sure enjoying himself. Ranse now began to go against the a la Carte Gag. The Menu was prepared by a Near-French Chef. For Fear that People might find Fault with the Food he always smothered it and covered it over with Goo.

Ranse began to find out that Goulasch meant Boiled Dinner with Perfumery in it, and also that there were seven different names for Hash. The only Thing that saved it from being Hash was the Piece of Lemon Peel tucked on the Side.

Ranse was not very strong for the French Cooking. Sometimes he would find himself Chicken-Hungry and he would order what he thought was Chicken and he would get a half section of cold storage Poulet covered with Armor Plate, a neat Ruffle around the Ankle and an Olive reposing on the Bosom. If he ordered Ice Cream he got something resembling a sample Paper Weight from the Quarries at Bedford, Indiana. And the Buckwheat Cakes! They looked like Doilies and tasted like Blotters. And the Demi-Tasse is an Awful Joke to spring on the Man who wants a Cup of Coffee.

Here was the Hon. Ransom, rich and prosperous and apparently happy, but in reality he was Dead Sore. Things appeared to be coming very Soft for him and yet that which he wanted most of all he could not get. He wanted the real old simon-pure Home Cooking: He recalled the Happy Days of Bean Soup and Punkin Pie and Cottage Cheese. Time and again he would see one of those old Friends on a Score-Card in a Restaurant and he would order it and get some Fake Imitation with Smilax all around the edges. So, after a while, he became discouraged and ate all the Junk that was set before him--Dope, Lemon Peel, Floral Decoration and all.

Often he would go to Banquets that cost as much as Ten a Throw. He would dally with Fish that had Glue Dressing on top of it and Golf Balls lying alongside. He would tackle Siberian Slush that had Hair Tonic floating on top of it. Then the Petrified Quail and the Cheese that should have been served in 1884. Often, sitting at these Magnificent Spreads, he thought to himself that he would willingly trade all the Tiffany Water on the Table for one Goblet of real Buttermilk.

After Ransom had insulted his Digestive Apparatus for many years with the horrible Concoctions of the Gents' Cafe he resolved to go back to his native Town and visit some of his Blood Relations so that he could get at least one more Crack at real American Grub.

He wrote that he was coming and his Kin became greatly Agitated.

"Our celebrated Cousin, the Hon. Ransom Peabody, is coming to visit us," they said. "We must make unusual Preparations to receive the big Battleship. He is Rich and High-Toned and has been living at one of those $6-a-Day Palaces and we must cut a big Melon when he shows up. He is accustomed to City Food and we must not insult him with ordinary Provender."

So they began framing up Dishes out of a Subscription Cook Book purchased the year before from a Lady with Gold Glasses and a grand flow of Language.

The Hon. Ransom arrived late one Evening and all Night he lay awake in the Spare Bed-Room, gloating over the prospect of a Home Breakfast.

"Me for the Sausage Cakes with the good old Sage rubbed into them," said Ranse. "I will certainly show the Buckwheats how to take a Joke and the way I'll dip into that Coffee will be a Caution. And mebbe I won't go to those Eggs direct from the Hen!"

He arose early, but had to wait two Hours. As he was from the City, the Family had postponed Breakfast until 9 o'clock. When he faced up to the Table he was Wolfish. First they gave him Grape Fruit au Kirsch. Then the Finger Bowl with the cute Rose Leaves floating idly on the dimpled Surface. Then a dainty Lamb Chop with an ornamental Fence around it and a sweet little cup of Cocoa in the China that Uncle Henry bought at the World's Fair. Then French Toast and Eggs a la Gazaza, with Christmas Trees stuck into them.

The Hon. Ransom arose and howled like a Siberian Wolf, which was Impolite of him. Before he went Home he did manage to get a little real Eating, but every one said he was very Eccentric to prefer such a simple dish as Fried Chicken.

Moral--Hurry up and get it before the Chef and the Cook-Book have us entirely Civilized.

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