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A short story by George V. Hobart

John Henry On Courting

Title:     John Henry On Courting
Author: George V. Hobart [More Titles by Hobart]

Are you wise to the fact that everything is changing in this old world of ours, and that since the advent of fuss-wagons even the old-fashioned idea of courtship has been chased to the woods?

It used to be that on a Saturday evening the young gent would draw down his six dollars worth of salary and chase himself to the barber shop, where the Dago lawn trimmer would put a crimp in his moustache and plaster his forehead with three cents worth of hair and a dollar's worth of axle-grease.

Then the young gent would go out and spread 40 cents around among the tradesmen for a mess of water-lilies and a bag of peanut brittle.

The lilies of the valley were to put on the dining-room table so mother would be pleased, and with the peanut brittle he intended to fill in the weary moments when he and his little geisha girl were not making googoo eyes at each other.

But nowadays it is different, and Dan Cupid spends most of his time on the hot foot between the coroner's office and the divorce court.

I've got a hunch that young people these days are more emotional and like to see their pictures in the newspapers.

Nowadays when a clever young man goes to visit his sweetheart he hikes over the streets in a benzine buggy, and when he pulls the bell-rope at the front door he has a rapid fire revolver in one pocket and a bottle of carbolic acid in the other.

His intentions are honorable and he wishes to prove them so by shooting his lady love if she renigs when he makes a play for her hand.

I think the old style was the best, because when young people quarreled they didn't need an ambulance and a hospital surgeon to help them make up.

In the old days Oscar Dobson would draw the stove brush cheerfully across his dog-skin shoes and rush with eager feet to see Lena Jones, the girl he wished to make the wife of his bosom.

"Darling!" Oscar would say, "I am sure to the bad for love of you. Pipe the downcast droop in this eye of mine and notice the way my heart is bubbling over like a bottle of sarsaparilla on a hot day! Be mine, Lena! be mine!"

Then Lena would giggle. Not once, but seven giggles, something like those used in a spasm.

Then she would reply, "No, Oscar; it cannot be. Fate wills it otherwise."

Then Oscar would bite his finger nails, pick his hat up out of the coal-scuttle and say to Lena, "False one! You love Conrad, the floorwalker in the butcher shop. Curses on Conrad, and see what you have missed, Lena. I have tickets for a swell chowder party next Tuesday. Ah! farewell forever!"

Then Oscar would walk out and hunt up one of those places that Carrie Nation missed in the shuffle and there, with one arm glued tight around the bar rail, he would fasten his system to a jag which would last for a week.

Despair would grab him and he'd be Oscar with the souse thing for sure.

When he would recover strength enough to walk down town without attracting the attention of the other side of the street, he would call on Lena and say, "Lena, forgive me for what I done, but love is blind--and, besides, I mixed my drinks. Lena, I was on the downward path and I nearly went to hell."

Then Lena would say, "Why, Oscar, I saw you and your bundle when you fell in the well, but I didn't know it was as deep as you mention."

Then they would kiss and make up, and the wedding bells would ring just as soon as Oscar's salary grew large enough to tease a pocketbook.

But these days the idea is altogether different.

Children are hardly out of the cradle before they are arrested for butting into the speed limit with a smoke wagon.

Even when they go courting they have to play to the gallery.

Nowadays Gonsalvo H. Puffenlotz walks into the parlor to see Miss Imogene Cordelia Hoffbrew.

"Wie gehts, Imogene!" says Gonsalvo.

"Simlich!" says Imogene, standing at right angles near the piano because she thinks she is a Gibson girl.

"Imogene, dearest," Gonsalvo continues; "I called on your papa in Wall Street yesterday to find out how much money you have, but he refused to name the sum, therefore you have untold wealth!"

Gonsalvo pauses to let the Parisian clock on the mantle tick, tick, tick!

He is making the bluff of his life you see, and he has to do even that on tick.

Besides, this furnishes the local color.

Then Gonsalvo bursts forth again, "Imogene! Oh! Imogene! Will you be mine and I will be thine without money and without the price."

Gonsalvo pauses to let this idea get noised about a little.

Then he goes on, "Be mine, Imogene! You will be minus the money while I will have the price!"

Gonsalvo trembles with the passion which is consuming his pocketbook, and then Imogene turns languidly from a right angle triangle into more of a straight front, and hands Gonsalvo a bitter look of scorn.

Then Gonsalvo grabs his revolver and, aiming it at her marble brow, exclaims, "Marry me this minute or I will shoot you in the top-knot, because I love you."

Then papa rushes into the room and Gonsalvo politely requests the old gentleman to hold two or three bullets for him for a few moments.

Gonsalvo then bites deeply into a bottle of carbolic acid and just as the Coroner climbs into the house the pictures of the modern lover and loveress appear in the newspapers, and fashionable Society receives a jolt.

This is the new and up-to-date way of making love.

However, I think the old style of courting is the best, because you can generally stop a jag before it gets to the undertaker.

What do you think?

[The end]
George V. Hobart's short story: John Henry On Courting