ARISTOCRACY VERSUS HASH
by O. Henry
The snake reporter of The Rolling Stone was
wandering up the avenue last night on his way home
from the Y.M.C.A. rooms when he was approached by
a gaunt, hungry-looking man with wild eyes and
dishevelled hair. He accosted the reporter in a
hollow, weak voice.
"'Can you tell me, Sir, where I can find in this
town a family of scrubs?'
"'I don't understand exactly.'
"'Let me tell you how it is,' said the stranger,
inserting his forefinger in the reporter's buttonhole
and badly damaging his chrysanthemum. 'I am a
representative from Soapstone County, and I and
my family are houseless, homeless, and shelterless.
We have not tasted food for over a week. I brought
my family with me, as I have indigestion and could
not get around much with the boys. Some days ago I
started out to find a boarding house, as I cannot
afford to put up at a hotel. I found a nice
aristocratic-looking place, that suited me, and
went in and asked for the proprietress. A very
stately lady with a Roman nose came in the room.
She had one hand laid across her stom--across her
waist, and the other held a lace handkerchief. I
told her I wanted board for myself and family,
and she condescended to take us. I asked for her
terms, and she said $300 per week.
"'I had two dollars in my pocket and I gave her
that for a fine teapot that I broke when I fell
over the table when she spoke.'
"'You appear surprised,' says she. 'You will
please remembah that I am the widow of Governor
Riddle of Georgiah; my family is very highly
connected; I give you board as a favah; I nevah
considah money any equivalent for the advantage
of my society, I--'
"'Well, I got out of there, and I went to some
other places. The next lady was a cousin of
General Mahone of Virginia, and wanted four
dollars an hour for a back room with a pink
motto and a Burnet granite bed in it. The next
one was an aunt of Davy Crockett, and asked
a day for a room furnished in imitation of the
Alamo, with prunes for breakfast and one hour's
conversation with her for dinner. Another one
said she was a descendant of Benedict Arnold
on her father's side and Captain Kidd on the other.
"'She took more after Captain Kidd.
"'She only had one meal and prayers a day, and
counted her society worth $100 a week.
"'I found nine widows of Supreme Judges, twelve
relicts of Governors and Generals, and twenty-two
ruins left by various happy Colonels, Professors,
and Majors, who valued their aristocratic worth
from $90 to $900 per week, with weak-kneed hash
and dried apples on the side. I admire people of
fine descent, but my stomach yearns for pork and beans
instead of culture. Am I not right?'
"'Your words,' said the reporter, 'convince me
that you have uttered what you have said.'
"'Thanks. You see how it is. I am not wealthy;
I have only my per diem and my per quisites, and
I cannot afford to pay for high lineage and
moldy ancestors. A little corned beef goes
further with me than a coronet, and when I am
cold a coat of arms does not warm me.'
"'I greatly fear,' said the reporter, with a
playful hiccough, 'that you have run against
a high-toned town. Most all the first-class
boarding houses here are run by ladies of the
old Southern families, the very first in the
"'I am now desperate,' said the Representative,
as he chewed a tack awhile, thinking it was a
clove. 'I want to find a boarding house where
the proprietress was an orphan found in a livery
stable, whose father was a dago from East Austin,
and whose grandfather was never placed on the
map. I want a scrubby, ornery, low-down,
snuff-dipping, back-woodsy, piebald gang, who
never heard of finger bowls or Ward McAllister,
but who can get up a mess of hot cornbread and
Irish stew at regular market quotations.'
"'Is there such a place in Austin?'
"The snake reporter sadly shook his head. 'I
do not know,' he said, 'but I will shake you
for the beer.'
"Ten minutes later the slate in the Blue Ruin saloon
bore two additional characters: 10."
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~