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From At the Grass Roots, Comprising “The Christmas of 1883,” and Other Vagrant Sketches, by Elmer House (Dodd Gaston), with Cover Design and Frontispiece by Albert T. Reid, Topeka: Monotyped by Crane & Company, 1905; pp. 143-145.

Black and white sketch by Albert T. Reid, of Elmer House, sitting smoking a cigar at his desk.



Generally speaking, when a man is worthless it is charged up to whisky, poker, cigarettes, or blondined women. It is my observation that the front-parlor habit spoils more young men than all four other vices mentioned. A young man with girl on the brain is more thoroughly worthless than the young man who drinks. The girl habit takes more time than poker and costs more money. Left to itself, the blondined woman vice is its own cure. But once the front-parlor habit gets its hooks into a man he never shakes it off until he marries or is barred by age. The “girl business” causes him to neglect his work, sends his mind “wool-gathering” and paralyzes his usefulness.

I am not condemning the girl. Every thing in this world worth a man’s best endeavor has a woman in it. Her influence 144 for good cannot be overestimated. The trouble is that not one young man in ten can do the front-parlor circuit in moderation. I do not amount to anything, principally, I think, because I have always had “girlitis.” For fifteen years my mind has been on the front parlor instead of on my work. I have drunk whisky — in moderation, and have a passing acquaintance with poker. I have had a working knowledge of all the other vices. But none of them ever took a job away from me or prevented promotion and a raise in salary at the end of the year.

I never pottered over my work during the day or watched the clock for the last hour before quitting-time because of the booze I expected to drink that night or the poker game I expected to sit into. But I have given many a piece of important work a lick and a promise — I’ve watched the minute-hand crawl over many an hour made weary by the thought 145 that a slim young thing in a fluffy gown was waiting in the front parlor for me. I never expect to get over the habit. Truth to tell, I don’t want to. The rustle of a woman’s skirts is the finest music I know. But reform in this county always begins at the wrong end. The reformers should give whisky a rest and tackle “girlitis.” That’s the vice we’re really suffering from.

Cover Design by Albert T. Reid, Green with Black Title and Illustration of Trees, Clouds and a Distant Old One-Story Farmhouse, with a Chimney. It has been cropped for the online text as a tailpiece for each page.

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