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The new fable of the search for climate

Once there was a Gentleman of the deepest dye who was all out of Kelter. He felt like a list of Symptoms on the outside of a Dollar Bottle. He looked like the Picture you see in the Almanac entitled, “Before Taking.”

When his Liver was at Perihelion, he had a Complexion suggesting an Alligator Pear, and his Eye-Balls should have been taken out and burnished.

He could see little dirigible Balloons drifting about in all parts of the deep-blue Ether. His Tummy told him that some one had moved in and was giving a Chafing-Dish Party. Furthermore, a red-hot Awl had been inserted under each Shoulder Blade.

When every Tree was a Weeping Willow and the Sun went slinking behind a Cloud, his only definite Yearn was to crawl into a dark Cellar with Fungus on the Walls and do the Shuffle, after making a sarcastic Will that disinherited all Relatives and Friends.

This poor, stricken Gloomer had time-tabled himself all over the Universe, trying to close in on a Climate that would put him on his Feet and keep him Fit as a Fiddle.

He had de-luxed himself to remote Spots that were supplied with Steam Heat and French Cooking, together with Wines, Liquors, and Cigars, but no matter what the Altitude or the Relative Humidity, he felt discouraged every Morning when he awoke and remembered that presently he would have to rally his Vital Forces and walk all the way to the Tub.

It was too bad that a Clubman, so eminent Socially, should be thus shot to Rags and Fragments. Could aught be more Piteous than to Witness a proud and haughty Income tottering along the Street, searching in vain for a Workingman’s Appetite? When one with a spending possibility of $2 a Minute is told by a Specialist to drink plenty of Hot Water, the Words seem almost Ironic.

His Operating Expenses kept running up, and yet it looked like sheer Waste to lavish so much Collateral on the upkeep of a Physical Swab.

To show you how he worked at recouping his Health, once he spent a whole Summer in Merrie England. He had been told by a Globe-Trotter that One lodging within a mile of Trafalgar Square could hoist unlimited Scotch and yet sidestep the Day After.

The Explanation offered by members of the Royal Alcoholic Society is that the Moisture in the Atmosphere counterbalances or nullifies, so to speak, the interior Wetness.

Also, the normal state of Melancholy is such that even a case of Katzenjammer merely blends in with the surrounding Drabness.

He experimented sincerely with the Caledonian Cure, acquiring a rich sunset Glow, much affected by half-pay Majors and the elderly Toffs who ride in the Row. He began to wear his Arteries on the outside, just like a true son of Albion. This cherry-ripe Facial Tint proves that the Britisher is the most rugged Chap in the World–except when he is in Stockholm.

In fact, if the New York Duds worn by the Yank had been less of a Fit, and he could have schooled himself to look at a Herring without shuddering, he might have rung in as a Resident of the tight little Isle, for he was often Tight.

He learned to like the Smoky Taste and could even take it warm, but still he felt Rocky, and up to 3 P.M. was only about 30 per cent. Human.

One evening in a polite Pub he heard about the wonderful Vin Ordinaire of Sunny France. He was told that the Peasants who irrigated themselves with a brunette Fluid resembling diluted Ink were husky as Beeves and simply staggering with Health.

So he went motoring in the Grape and Chateau District and played Claret both ways from the Middle. Every time the Petrol chariot pulled up in front of a Brasserie, he would call for a Flagon of some rare old Vintage squeezed out the day before.

Then he would go riding at the rate of 82 Kilos an Hour, scooping up the Climate as he scooted along.

Notwithstanding all these brave Efforts to overtake Health, he would feel like a frost-nipped Rutabaga when the matutinal Chanticleer told him that another blue Dawn was sneaking over the Hills.

He began to figure himself a Candidate for a plain white Cot in the Nerve Garage, when he heard of the wonderful Air and Dietary Advantages of Germany. It seemed that the Fatherland was becoming Commercially Supreme and of the greatest Military Importance because every Fritz kept himself saturated with the Essence of Munich.

He could see on the Post-Cards that each loyal subject of Wilhelm was plump and rosy, with Apple Cheeks and a well-defined Awning just below the Floating Ribs, and a Krug of dark Suds clutched in the right Mitt.

All the way from Duesseldorf to Wohlgebaum he played the Circuit of Gardens with nice clean Gravel on the Ground and Dill Pickles festooned among the Caraway Trees. Every time the Military Band began to breathe a new Waltz he would have Otto bring a Tub of the Dark Brew and a Frankfurter about the size of a Sash Weight.

Between pulls he would suspire deeply, so as to get the full assistance of the Climate.

Sometimes he would feel that he was being benefited.

Often at 9 P.M., before taking his final Schnitzel and passing gently into a state of Coma, he would get ready to renounce allegiance to all three of the Political Parties in the U.S.A. and grow one of those U-Shaped Mustaches.

Next Morning, like as not, he would emerge from beneath the Feather Tick and lean against the Porcelain Stove, wondering vaguely if he could live through the Day.

The very Treatment which developed large and coarse-grained Soldiers all through Schleswig-Holstein seemed to make this Son of Connecticut just about as gimpy as a wet Towel.

Undismayed by repeated Failures, he took some Advice, given in a Rathskeller, and went to a Mountain Resort famous for a certain brand of White Vinegar with a colored Landscape on the Label.

It was said that anyone becoming thoroughly acidulated with this noble Beverage would put a Feather into his Granulated Lid and begin to Yodel.

He sat among the snowy Peaks, entirely surrounded by the rarefied Atmosphere so highly boosted in the Hotel Circulars, sampling a tall bottle of every kind ending with “heimer,” and yet he didn’t seem to get the Results.

At last he headed for the barbaric Region which an unkindly Fate had designated as Home, almost convinced that there was no Climate on the Map which would really adapt itself to all the intricate Peculiarities of his complicated Case.

Often he would be found in the Reception Room just next to the shake-down Parlor.

After reading a few pages in a popular Magazine dated two Years back, he would be admitted to the little inside Room, faintly perfumed with something other than New Mown Hay. Here he would cower before the dollar-a-minute Specialist, who would apply a Dictagraph to the Heart Region and then say, “You are all Run Down.”

Next day the Sufferer would collect his folding Trunks and Head-Ache Tablets and Hot-Water Bags and start for Florida or California or the Piney Woods.

Sometimes he would seem to perk up for a Day or two. Enlivened by Hope and a few Dry Martinis, he would move up to a little Table in the shade of the sheltering Candelabrum and tackle the Carte du Jour from Caviar to Cafe Noir.

The Climate would seem to be helping his Appetite.

Within 24 Hours, however, he would be craving only some cold Carbonic and a few Kind Words.

Florida seemed to enervate him. California was too unsettled. Even in the Mountains, his Heart always bothered him after a Hearty Meal. And the Piney Woods only made him Pine more than ever.

Time and again he would curl up in the palatial Drawing-Room at one end of the Sleeper and dream that six Life-Long Friends in deep Black were whispering among the Floral Tributes and putting on Cotton Gloves.

While searching for the Fountain of Youth he would bump into Sympathetic Souls of the kind who infest Observation Cars and hold down Rocking-Chairs in front of Wooden Hotels. These Fellow Voyagers in the realm of Hypochondria would give him various Capsules and Tablets, supposed to be good for whatever Ailed one at the Time.

So eager was he to regain his full vigor and be able to eat and drink everything forbidden by the Doctors, he would fall for every kind of Dope made from Coal Tar.

Even if he had worn Blinders he could not have walked past an Apothecary Shop.

As he moved about he produced a muffled Castanet Effect, for he had a little box of Medicated Bullets in every Pocket.

Yet he was not in Condition.

His Complexion was a Bird’s-Eye Maple, and he looked like the Superintendent of a prosperous Morgue.

One Summer Day, when he was only about three jumps ahead of a Cataleptic Convulsion, he had to get on the Cars and take a long ride to inspect some Copper Mines which helped to fatten his impotent Income. The train was bowling through a placid Dairy Region in the Commonwealth regulated by Mr. La Follette.

The Chronic Invalid was in the Buffet, trying to work up a Desire for Luncheon, when suddenly the Car turned a complete Somersault, because a heavy Freight Train had met Number Six head on.

When the Subject of this Treatise came to, he was propped up on the front porch of a Farm House with one Leg in Splints and a kind-faced Lady pressing Cold Applications to the fevered Brow.

He was O.K. except that he would have to lie still for a few Weeks while the Bones did their Knitting.

The good Country Folk would not permit him to be moved. He was dead willing to sink back among the White Pillows and figure the Accident Insurance.

Through the Honeysuckles and Morning-Glories he could see the long slope of Clover Pasture, with here and there a deliberate Cow, and the Steeple of the Reformed Church showing above a distant clump of Soft Maples.

About two hours after emerging from the Trance, he made his customary Diagnosis and discovered that he was nervously shattered and in urgent need of a most heroic Bracer. He beckoned to the president of the local W.C.T.U. and said if they were all out of Scotch, he could do with a full-sized Hooker of any standard Bourbon that had matured in Wood and was not blended.

Nurse readjusted his Pillow and told him that as soon as he came out of the Delirium he could dally with a mug of Buttermilk.

By and by, as he gathered Strength, she would slip him some Weak Tea.

He had heard that in some of these outlying Regions, the Family Sideboard stood for nothing stronger than Mustard, but this was the first time he had met Human Beings who were not on visiting Terms with the Demon Rum.

At the Cocktail Hour he ventured a second Request for any one of the standard Necessities of Life, but Mrs. Peabody read him a Passage from the Family Medicine Book to the effect that Liquor was never to be used except for Snake Bites.

When he ordered the Hired Hand to bring him a large Snake, they gave him a Sleeping Powder and told inquiring Neighbors that he was still out of his Head.

Next day he found himself alive, thanks to a wonderful Constitution.

The Samaritans came and stood around his Couch and jollied him and offered him everything except what he needed.

When he offered to compromise on Drug-Store Sherry, the Daughter of the Household, Luella by name, brought out a colored Chart showing the Interior of a Moderate Drinker’s Stomach. After that he was afraid to Chirp.

Even the Cigarette was Taboo among these Good People, although Father could Fletcherize about 10 cents’ worth of Licorice Plug each working Day.

Far removed from the Lad with the White Apron, and with nothing to inhale except Ozone, the unhappy Bon Vivant was compelled to put up with these most unnatural Conditions.

When he was tired of dozing he could take his choice of any kind of Milk and read a few more pages of Robinson Crusoe.

Then ensued the Miracle.

His Nerves began to unspiral themselves and lie down. He began to sit up and listen for the Toot of the Dinner Horn.

As soon as he could hobble on Crutches they put him on the Hay Scales, and he thought the Thing was out of Whack, for he had taken on 4 Pounds.

The Fresh Garden Truck seemed superior to any that he had been able to obtain in the Best Restaurants.

What was more amazing, he now evinced a critical Interest in Clydesdale Colts and Leghorn Roosters, although nothing of the sort had ever come into his Life while he had an Apartment in Forty-seventh Street.

When he took his game Leg back to the Metropolis, he hurried to the Club and made a startling Report to all the broken-down Sports assembled in the Card-Room.

He said he had discovered the only Climate in the World. It had Switzerland skinned and was not enervating, like Florida, for he had been sleeping like a Baby and felt like a 2-year-old every G.M., in spite of the fact that he could not get his regular Rations.

He wanted to organize a Company and build a Million Dollar Hotel at Once.

With a New York Steward to supply the Table and a well-stocked Cellar, the Resort ought to get all the classy Trade, for he hoped to die if the Air out there hadn’t done more for him in One Month than Europe had done in the whole Year.

MORAL: Nature will sometimes help the Unfortunate who finds it impossible to reach out and help Himself.

Pioneering American humorist, famous for "Fables in Slang" & satirical plays on early 20th-century life.