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A short story by George V. Hobart

You Should Worry About Dieting

Title:     You Should Worry About Dieting
Author: George V. Hobart [More Titles by Hobart]

I was complaining to some of my friends in the Club the other evening because a germ General Villa had begun to attack the outposts of my digestive tract when a nut in the party began to slip me a line of talk about a vegetable diet.

I didn't fall for it until he proved to me that Kid Methuselah had prolonged an otherwise uneventful life and was enabled to make funny faces at the undertakers until he reached the age of 914 simply because he ate nothing but dandelion salad, mashed potatoes and stewed prunes.

Then I went home and told friend wife about it. She approved eagerly because she felt that it might solve the servant problem.

Since we started housekeeping about eight months ago we've averaged two cooks a week. Tuesdays and Fridays are our days for changing chefs. The old cook leaves Monday evening and the new cook arrives Tuesday morning. Then the new cook leaves on Thursday evening and the newest cook arrives on Friday, and so on, world without end.

Friend wife decided she could herself dip a few parsnips in boiling water without the aid of a European kitchen mechanician.

Vegetarians! What a great idea!

Now she could get out into the sunlight once in a while, instead of standing forever at the hall door as a perpetual reception committee to a frowsy-headed Slavonian exile demanding $35 per and nix on the washing.

But it was Friday and our latest cook was at that moment annoying the gas range in the kitchen, so why not experiment and find out what merit there is in a vegetarian menu?

The ayes have it--send for the Duchess of Dishwater.

Enter the Duchess, so proud and haughty, with a rolling pin in one hand and a guide to the city of New York in the other. During her idle moments she studied the guide. Even now, and only three weeks from Ellis Island, she knew the city so well that she could go from one situation to another with her eyes closed.

"Ollie," said friend wife, "do you know how to cook vegetables in an appetizing manner?"

"Of course," answered Ollie, her lips curling disdainfully.

Then I chipped in with, "Very well, Ollie; the members of this household are vegetarians, for the time being. All of us vegetarians, including the dog, so please govern yourself accordingly."

Ollie smiled in a broad Hungarian manner and whispered that vegetarianisms was where she lived.

She confided to us that she could cook vegetables so artistically that the palate would believe them to be filet mignon, with champagne sauce.

Then she shook the rolling pin at a picture of friend wife's grandfather, and started in to fool the Beef Trust and put all the butchers out of business.

Dinner time came and we were all expectancy.

The first course was potato soup. Filling but not fascinating.

The second course was potato chips, which we nibbled slightly while we looked eagerly at the butler's pantry.

The next course was French fried potatoes with some shoestring potatoes on the side, and I began to get nervous.

This was followed by a dish of German fried potatoes, some hash-browned potatoes and some potato saute, whereupon my appetite got up and left the room.

The next course was plain boiled potatoes with the jackets on, and baked potatoes with the jackets open at the throat, and then some roasted potatoes with Bolero jackets.

I was beginning to see that a man must have in his veins the blood of martyrs and of heroes to be a vegetarian and at the same time I could feel myself fixing my fingers to choke Ollie.

The next course was a large plate of potato salad, and then I fainted.

When I got back Ollie was standing near the table with a sweet smile on each side of her face, waiting for the applause of those present.

"Have you anything else?" I inquired hungrily.

"Oh, yes!" said Ollie. "I have some potato pudding for dessert."

When I got through swearing Ollie was under the stove, my wife was under the table, the dog was under the bed, and I was under the influence of liquor.

I'm cured.

After this my digestive tract will have to fight a sirloin steak every time I get hungry.

Besides, I don't want to live as long as Methuselah. If I did I'd have to learn to tango some time in the 875 years to come--then I'd be just the same as everybody else in the world.

Can you get a flash of Methuselah at the age of 64 taking Tango lessons from Baldy Sloane up at Weisenfeffer's pedal parlors? And then having to survive for 850 years with the dance bug in his dome!

Close the door, Delia; there's a draft.

When Peaches recovered from the shock of my outburst over the potato pudding she said the only way I could square myself was to take her to the very latest up-to-datest hotel in New York for dinner.

That is some task if you live up town, believe me, because they open new hotels in New York now the same as they open oysters--by the dozen.

However, after stuffing my pockets with all my earthly possessions, we hiked forth and steered for the Builtfast--the very latest thing in expensive beaneries.

Directly we entered its polished portals we could see from the faces of the clerks and the clocks that a lot of money changed hands before the Builtfast finally became an assessment center.

In the lobby the furniture was covered with men about town, who sat around with a checkbook in each hand and made faces at the cash register.

There are more bellboys than bedrooms in the hotel. They use them for change. Every time you give the cashier $15 he hands you back $1.50 and six bellboys.

We took a peep at the diamond-backed dining-room, and when I saw the waiters refusing everything but certified checks in the way of a tip, I said to Peaches, "This is no place for us!" But she wouldn't let go, and we filed into the appetite killery.

A very polite lieutenant waiter, with a sergeant waiter and two corporal waiters, greeted us and we gave the countersign, "Abandon health, all ye who enter here."

Then the lieutenant waiter and his army corps deployed by columns of four and escorted us to the most expensive looking trough I ever saw in a dining-room.

"Peaches," I said to friend wife, "I'm doing this to please you, but after I pay the check it's me to file a petition in bankruptcy."

She just grinned, picked up the point-lace napkin and began to admire the onyx furniture.

"Que souhaitez vous? " said the waiter, bowing so low that I could feel a chill running through my little bank account.

"I guess he means you," I whispered to Peaches, but she looked very solemnly at the menu card and began to bite her lips.

"Je suis tout a votre service," the waiter cross-countered before I could recover, and he had me gasping. It never struck me that I had to take a course in French before entering the Builtfast hunger foundry, and there I sat making funny faces at the tablecloth, while friend wife blushed crimson and the waiter kept on bowing like an animated jackknife.

"Say, Mike!" I ventured after a bit, "tip us off to a quiet bunch of eating that will fit a couple of appetites just out seeing the sights. Nothing that will put a kink in a year's income, you know, Bo; just suggest some little thing that looks better than it tastes, but is not too expensive to keep down."

"Oui, oui!" His Marseillaise came back at me, "un diner comfortable doit se composer de potage, de volaille bouillie ou rotie, chaude ou froide, de gibier, de plats rares et distingues, de poissons, de sucreries, de patisseries et de fruits!"

I looked at my wife, she looked at me, then we both looked out the window and wished we had never been born.

"Say, Garsong," I said, after we came to, "my wife is a daughter of the American Revolution and she's so patriotic she eats only in United States, so cut out the Moulin Rouge lyrics and let's get down to cases. How much will it set me back if I order a plain steak--just enough to flirt with two very polite appetites?"

"Nine dollars and seventy cents," said Joan of Arc's brother Bill; "the seventy cents is for the steak and the nine dollars will help some to pay for the Looey the Fifteenth furniture in the bridal chamber."

"Save the money, John," whispered Peaches, "and we'll buy a pianola with it."

"How about a sliver of roast beef with some simple vegetable," I said to the waiter. "Is it a bull market for an order like that?"

"Three dollars and forty-two cents," answered Henri of Navarre; "forty-two cents for the order and three dollars to help pay for the French velvet curtains in the golden suite on the second floor."

"Keep on guessing, John; you'll wear him out," Peaches whispered.

"Possibly a little cold lamb with a suggestion of potato salad on the side might satisfy us," I said; "make me an estimate."

"Four dollars and eighteen cents," replied Patsey Boulanger; "eighteen cents for the lamb and salad and the four dollars for the Looey the Fifteenth draperies in the drawing-room."

"Ask him if there's a bargain counter anywhere in the dining-room," whispered Peaches.

"My dear," I said to friend wife, "we have already displaced about sixty dollars' worth of space in this dyspepsia emporium, and we must, therefore, behave like gentlemen and order something, no matter what the cost. What are the savings of a lifetime compared with our honor!"

The waiter bowed so low that his shoulder blades cracked like a whip.

"Bring us," I said, "a plain omelet and one dish of prunes."

I waited till Peter Girofla translated this into French and then I added, "And on the side, please, two glasses of water and three toothpicks. Have the prunes fricasseed, wash the water on both corners, and bring the toothpicks rare."

The waiter rushed away and all around us we could hear money talking to itself.

Fair women sat at the tables picking dishes out of the bill of fare which brought the blush of sorrow to the faces of their escorts. It was a wonderful sight, especially for those who have a nervous chill every time the gas bill comes in.

When we ate our modest little dinner the waiter presented a check which called for three dollars and thirty-three cents.

"The thirty-three cents is for what you ordered," Alexander J. Dumas explained, "and the three dollars is for the French hangings in the parlor."

"Holy Smoke!" I cried; "that fellow Looey the Fifteenth has been doing a lot of work around here, hasn't he?" But the waiter was so busy watching the finish of the change he handed me that he didn't crack a smile.

Then I got reckless and handed him a fifty-cent tip.

The waiter looked at the fifty cents and turned pale.

Then he looked at me and turned paler.

He tried to thank me, but he caught another flash of that plebeian fifty and it choked him.

Then he took a long look at the half-dollar and with a low moan he passed away.

In the excitement I grabbed Peaches and we flew for home.

The next time I go to one of those expensive shacks it will be just after I've had a hearty dinner.

Even at that I may change my mind and go to a moving picture show.

[The end]
George V. Hobart's short story: You Should Worry About Dieting