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3 - The Elevator Boy

"Known the old man long, sir?" queried the boy as we ascended.

"By reputation," said I.

"Humph!" said the lad. "Can't have a very good opinion of him, then.
It's a good thing you are going to have a little personal experience
with him. He's not a bad lot, after all. Rotten things said of him,
but then--you know, eh?"

"Oh, as for that," said I, "I don't think his reputation is so
dreadful. To be sure, there have been one or two little indiscretions
connected with his past, and at times he has seemed a bit vindictive
in chucking thunder-bolts at his enemies, but, on the whole, I fancy
he's behaved himself pretty well."

"True," said the boy. "And then you've got to take his bringing-up
into consideration. Things which would be altogether wrong in the son
of a Presbyterian clergyman would not be unbecoming in a descendant of
old Father Time. Jupiter is, after all, a self-made immortal, and the
fact that his parents, old Mr. and Mrs. Cronos, let him grow up sort
of wild, naturally left its impress on his character."

"Of course," said I, somewhat amused to hear the Thunderer's character
analyzed by a mere infant. "But how about yourself, my laddie? Are you
anybody in particular? You look like a cherub."

"Some folks call me Dan," said the boy, "and I _am_ somebody in
particular. Fact is, sir, if it hadn't been for me there wouldn't
have been anybody in particular anywhere. I'm Cupid, sir, God of Love,
favorite son of Venus, at your service."

"And husband of the delectable Psyche?" I cried, recalling certain
facts I had learned. "You look awfully young to be married."

"Hum--well, I was, and I am, but we've separated," the boy replied,
with a note of sadness in his voice. "She was a very nice little
person, that Psyche--one of the best ever, I assure you--but she was
too much of a butterfly to be the perpetual confidante of a person
charged with such important matters as I am. Besides, she didn't get
on with mother."

"Seems to me that I have heard that Madame Venus did not approve of
the match," I vouchsafed.

"No. She didn't from the start," said Cupid. "Psyche was too pretty,
and ma rather wanted to corner all the feminine beauty in our family;
but I had my way in the end. I generally do," the little chap added,
with a chuckle.

"But the separation, my dear boy?" I put in. "I am awfully sorry to
hear of that. I, in common with most mortals, supposed that the
marriage was idyllic."

"It was," said Cupid, "and therefore not practical enough to be a good
investment. You see, sir, there was a time when the love affairs of
the universe were intrusted to my care. Lovers everywhere came to me
to confide their woes, and I was doing a great business. Everybody was
pleased with my way of conducting my department. I seemed to have a
special genius for managing a love affair. Even persons who were
opposed to the administration conceded that the Under Secretary of
Home Affairs--myself--was assured of a cabinet office for life,
whatever party was in power. If Pluto had been able to get elected,
the force of public opinion would have kept me in office. Then I
married, myself, and things changed. Like a dutiful husband, I had no
secrets from my wife. I couldn't have had if I had wanted to. Psyche's
curiosity was a close second to Pandora's, and, if she wanted to know
anything, there was never any peace in the family until she found out
all about it. Still, I didn't wish to have any secrets from her. As a
scientific expert in Love, I knew that the surest basis of a lasting
happiness lay in mutual confidence. Hence, I told Psyche all I knew,
and it got her into trouble right away."

"She--ah--couldn't keep a secret?" I asked.

"At first she could," said Cupid. "That was the cause of the first
row between her and Venus. Mother got mad as a hatter with her one
morning after breakfast because Psyche _could_ keep a secret. There
was a little affair on between Jupiter and a certain person whose name
I shall not mention, and I had charge of it. Of course, I told Psyche
all about it, and in some way known only to woman she managed to
convey to Venus the notion that she knew all about it, but couldn't
tell, and, still further, wouldn't tell. I'd gone down-town to
business, leaving everything peaceful and happy, but when I got back
to luncheon--Great Chaos, it was awful! The two ladies were not on
speaking terms, and I had to put on a fur overcoat to keep from
freezing to death in the atmosphere that had arisen between them. It
was six inches below zero--and the way those two would sniff and sneer
at each other was a caution."

"I quite understand the situation," I said, sympathetically.

"No doubt," said Cupid. "You can also possibly understand how a
quarrel between the only two women you ever loved could incapacitate
you for your duties. For ten days after that I was simply incapable of
directing the love affairs of the universe properly. Persons I'd
designed for each other were given to others, and a great deal of
unhappiness resulted. There were nine thousand six hundred and
seventy-six divorces as the result of that week's work. It's a
terrible situation for a well-meaning chap to have to decide between
his wife and his mother."

"Never had it," said I; "but I can imagine it."

"Don't think you can," sighed Cupid. "There are situations in real
life, sir, which surpass the wildest flights of the imagination. That
is why truth is stranger than fiction. However," he added, his face
brightening, "it was a useful experience to me in my professional
work. I learned for the first time that when a mother-in-law comes in
at the door, intending to remain indefinitely, love flies out at the
window. Or, as Solomon--I believe it was Solomon. He wrote Proverbs,
did he not?"

"Yes," said I. "He and Josh Billings."

"Well," vouchsafed Cupid, "I can't swear as to the authorship of the
proverb, but some proverbialist said 'Two is company and three is a
crowd.' I'd never known that before, but I learned it then, and began
to stay away from home a little myself, so that we should not be
crowded."

I commended the young man for his philosophy.

"Nevertheless, my dear Dan," I added, "you ought to be more
autocratic. Knowing that two is company and three otherwise, you have
been guilty of allowing many a young couple who have trusted in you to
begin house-keeping with an inevitable third person. We see it every
day among the mortals."

"What has been good enough for me, sir," the boy returned, with a
comical assumption of sternness--he looked so like a fat baby of three
just ready for his bath--"is good enough for mortals. When I married
Psyche, I brought her home to my mother's house, and for some nineteen
thousand years we lived together. If Love can stand it, mortals must."

"Excuse me," said I, apologetically. "I have not suffered. However, in
all my study of you mythologians, it has never occurred to me before
this that Venus was the goddess of the mother-in-law."

"You mustn't blame me for that," said Cupid, dryly. "I'm the god of
Love; wisdom is out of my province. For what you don't know and
haven't learned you must blame Pallas, who is our Superintendent of
Public Instruction. She knows it all--and she got it darned easy, too.
She sprang forth from the head of Jove with a Ph.D. already conferred
upon her. She looks after the education of the world. I don't--but
I'll wager you anything you please to put up that man gains more real
experience under my management than he does from Athena's department,
useful as her work is."

I could not but admit the truth of all that the boy said, and of
course I told him so. To change the subject, which, if pursued, might
lead to an exposure of my own ignorance, I said:

"But, Dan, what interests me most, and pains me most as well, is to
hear that you are separated from Psyche. I do not wish to seem
inquisitive on the subject of a--ah--of a man's family affairs"--I
hesitated in my speech because he seemed such a baby and it was
difficult to take him seriously, as is always the way with Love,
unless we are directly involved--"but you have told me of the
separation, and as a man, a newspaper-man, I am interested. Couldn't
you reconcile your mother, Madame Venus, to Psyche--or, rather, Mrs.
Dan?"

[Illustration: "'THE GODDESS OF THE MOTHER-IN-LAW'"]

"Not for a moment," replied the boy. "Not for a millionth part of a
tenth of a quarter of a second by a stop-watch. Their irreconcilability
was copper-fastened, and I found myself compelled to choose between
them. My mother developed a gray hair the day after the first trouble,
and my wife began to go out to afternoon teas and sewing-circles and
dances. The teas and dances were all right. You can't talk at either.
But the sewing-circle was ruin. At this particular time the circle was
engaged in making winter garments for the children of the mother of
the Gracchi. I presume that as a student and as a father you realize
all that this meant. You also know that a sewing-circle needs four
things: first, an object; second, a needle and thread; third, a
garment; fourth, a subject for conversation. These things are
constitutionally required, and Psyche joined what she called 'The
Immortal Dorcas.' The result was that all Olympus and half of Hades
were shortly acquainted with the confidential workings of my
department--all told under the inviolate bond of secrecy, however,
which requires that each member confided in shall not communicate what
she has heard to more--or to less--than ten people."

"I know," said I. "The Dorcas habit has followers among my own
people."

"But see where it placed me!" cried the little creature. "There was
me, or I--I don't know whether Greek or English is preferable to
you--charged with the love affairs of the universe. Confiding all I
knew, like a dutiful husband, to my wife, and having her letting it
all out to the public through the society. Why, my dear fellow, it
wasn't long before the immortals began to accuse me of being in the
pay of the Sunday newspapers, and you must know as well as anybody
else that Love has nothing to do with them. Even the affairs of my
sovereign began to creep out, and innuendoes connecting Jupiter with
people prominent in society were printed in the opposition organs."

"Poor chap!" said I, sympathetically. "I did not realize that you had
to contend against the Sunday-newspaper nuisance as we mortals have."

"We have," he said, quickly, almost resignedly; "and they are ruining
even Olympus itself. Still, I made a stand. Told Psyche she talked too
much, and from that time on confided in her no more."

"And how did she take it?" I asked.

"She declined to take it at all," said Cupid, with a sigh. "She
demanded that I should tell her everything on penalty of losing
her--and I lost her. She left me a little over a thousand years ago,
and my mother for the same reason sent me adrift fifteen hundred or
more years ago. That is why I am eking out a living running an
elevator," he added, sadly. "Still, I'm happy here. I go up when I
feel sad, and go down when I feel glad. On the whole, I am as happy as
any of the gods."

"However, Dan," I cried, sympathetically, slapping him on the back,
"you have your official position, and that will keep you in--ah--well,
you don't seem to need 'em, but it would keep you in clothes if you
could be persuaded to wear them."

"No," said the little elevator boy, sadly. "I don't want 'em in this
climate--nor are they necessary in any other. All over the world, my
dear fellow, _true_ love is ever warm."

There was a decided interval. I felt sorry for the little lad who had
been a god and who had become an elevator boy, so I said to him:

"Never mind, Danny, you are sure of your office always."

"I wish it were so," said he, sadly. "But really, sir, it isn't. You
may think that love rules all things nowadays, but that is a fallacy.
Of late years a rival concern has sprung up. I have found my office
subjected to a most annoying competition which has attracted away from
me a large number of my closest followers. In the days when we
acknowledged ourselves to be purely heathen, love was regarded with
respect, but now all that is changed. Opposite my office in the
government building there is a matrimonial corporation doing a very
large business, by which the fees of my position are greatly reduced.
Possibly after you have had your audience with Jove to-morrow you will
take a turn about the city, in which event you will see this trust's
big brazen sign. You can't miss it if you walk along Mercury Avenue.
It reads:

+----------------------------------+
| MAMMON & CO. |
| Matchmakers |
| |
| FORTUNES GUARANTEED: |
| HAPPINESS EXTRA |
| |
| GEO. W. MAMMON |
| President |
| |
| HORACE GREED |
| Gen'l Manager |
| |
| BRANCH OFFICE |
| 67 Gehenna Ave., Hades |
+----------------------------------+

"Dear me!" I cried. "Poor Love!"

"I don't need your sympathy," said the boy, quickly, drawing himself
up proudly. "It can't last, this competition. Man and god kind will
soon see the difference in the permanence of our respective output.
This is only a temporary success they are having, and it often happens
that the spurious articles put forth by Mammon & Company are brought
over to me to be repaired. My sun will dawn again. You can't put out
the fires in my furnaces as long as men and women are made from the
old receipt."

Here the elevator stopped, and a rather attractive young woman
appeared at the door.

"Here is where you get out, sir," said the elevator boy.

"You are Mr.----" began the girl.

"I am," I replied.

"I have orders to show you to number 609," she said. "The proprietor
will see you to-morrow at eleven."

"Thank you very much," I replied, somewhat overcome by the cordiality
of my reception. It is not often that mere beggars are so hospitably
received.

"Good-night, Cupid," I added, turning to the little chap in the
elevator. "I trust we shall meet again."

"Oh, I guess we will," he replied, with a wink at the maid. "I
generally do meet most men two or three times in their lives. So _au
revoir_ to you. Treat the gentleman well, Hebe," he concluded, pulling
the rope to send the elevator back. "He doesn't know much, but he is
sympathetic."

"I will, Danny, for your sake," said the little maid, archly.

The boy laughed and the car faded from sight. Hebe, even more lovely
than has been claimed, with a charmingly demure glance at my costume,
which was wofully bedraggled and wet, said:

"This way, sir. I will have your luggage sent to your room at once."

"But I haven't any luggage, my dear," said I. "I have only what is on
my back."

"Ah, but you have," she replied, sweetly. "The proprietor has attended
to that. There are five trunks, a hat-box, and a Gladstone bag already
on their way up."

And with this she showed me into a magnificent apartment, and, even
as she had said, within five minutes my luggage arrived, a valet
appeared, unpacked the trunks and bag, brushed off the hat that had
lain in the hat-box, and vanished, leaving me to my own reflections.

Surely Olympus was a great place, where one who appeared in the guise
of a beggar was treated like a regiment of prodigal sons, furnished
with a gorgeous apartment, and supplied with a wardrobe that would
have aroused the envy of a reigning sovereign.

John Kendrick Bangs

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