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6 - In the Dining-Room

As I emerged from the door of my room into the hall, I found a small
sedan-chair, of highly ornamental make, awaiting my convenience,
carried upon the shoulders of two diminutive boys, who were as black,
and shone as lustrously, as a bit of highly polished ebony. I had
never seen their like before, save in an occasional bit of statuary in
Italy, wherein marbles of differing hue and shade had been ingeniously
used by the sculptor to give color to his work. The boys themselves,
as I have said, were of polished ebony hue, while the breech-cloths
which formed their sole garment were of purest alabaster white. Upon
their heads were turbans of pink. They grinned broadly as I came out,
and opened the door of the chair for me.

"Dis way fo' de dinin'-room, sah," said one of them, showing a set of
ivory teeth that dazzled my eyes.

I thanked him and entered the chair. When I was seated, I turned to
the little chap.

"What particular god do you happen to be, Sambo?" I asked. It was
probably not the most reverent way to put it, but in a community like
Olympus gods are really at a discount, and the black particle was so
like a small pickaninny I used to know in Savannah that I could not
address him as if he were Jupiter himself.

"Massy me, massa," he returned, his smile nearly cutting the top of
his head off, reaching as it did around to the back of his ears. "I
ain' no gord. I'se jess one o' dese low-down or'nary toters. Me an'
him totes folks roun' de hotel."

"A very useful function that, Sambo; and where were you born?" I
asked. "North Carolina, or Georgia?"

"Me?" he replied, looking at me quizzically. "I guess yo's on'y
foolin', massa. Me? Why, I 'ain't never been borned at all, sah--"

"Jess growed, eh--like Topsy?" I asked.

"Who dat, Topsy?" he demanded.

"Oh, she was a little nigger girl that became very famous," I
explained.

"Doan' know nuffin' 'bout no Topsy," he said, shaking his head. "We
ain' niggers, eider, yo' know, me an' him ain't. We's statulary."

"What?" I cried. The word seemed new.

"Statulary," he continued. "We was carved, we was. There ain't nothin'
borned 'bout us. Never knowed who pap was. Man jess took a lot o'
mahble, he did, an' chiselled me an' him out."

I eyed both boys closely and perceived that in all probability he
spoke the truth. His flesh and dress had all of the texture of marble,
but now the question came up as to the gift of speech and movement and
the marvellous and graceful flexibility of their limbs.

"You can't fool me, Sambo," said I. "You're nothing but a very
good-looking little nigger. You can't make me believe that you are
another Galatea."

"Doan' no nuffin' 'bout no gal's tears," he returned instantly. "But I
done tole yo' de truf. Me an' him was chiselled out o' brack marble by
pap. Ef we'd been borned we'd been niggahs sho' nuff, but bein'
carvin's, like I tole yuh, we's statulary."

"But how does it come that if you are only statuary, you can move
about, and talk, and breathe?" I demanded.

"Yo'll have to ask mistah Joop'ter 'bout dat," the boy answered. "He
done gave us dese gif's, an' we's a-usin' ob 'em. De way it happened
was like o' dis. Me an' him was a standin' upon a petterstal down in
one o' dem mahble yards what dey calls gall'ries in Paris. We'd been
sent dah by de man what done chiselled us, an' Joop'ter he came 'long
wid Miss' Juno an' when he seed us he said: 'Dare you is, Juno! Dem
boys'll make mighty good buttonses foh de hotel.' Juno she laffed, an'
said dat was so, on'y she couldn't see as we had many buttons. 'Would
you like to have 'em?' Joop'ter ast, and she said 'suttinly.' So he
tu'ned hisself into a 'Merican millionaire an' bought me an' him off
'n de manager, an' he had us sent here. All dat time we was nuffin'
but mahble figgers, but soon's we arrived here, Joop'ter sent us
up-stairs to de lab'ratory, an' fust ting me an' him knowed we was
livin' bein's."

I admired Jupiter's taste, not failing either to marvel at the
wonderful power which only once before, as far as I knew, he had
exerted to give to a bit of sculpture all the flush and glory of life,
as in the case set forth in the pathetic tale of Pygmalion and
Galatea.

"And does he do this sort of thing often?" I inquired.

"Yass indeedy," said Sambo. "He's doin' it all de time. Mos' ob de
help in dis hotel is statulary, an' ef yo' wants to see a reel lively
time 'foh yo' goes back home, go to de Zoo an' see 'em feed de Trojan
Hoss, an' de Cardiff Giant. He brang bofe dem freaks to life, an' now
he can't get rid ob 'em. Dat Trojan Hoss suttinly am a berry debbil.
He stans up gentle as a lamb tell he gets about a hundred an' fifty
people inside o' him, an' den he p'tends like he's gwine to run away,
an' he cyanters, an' cyanters aroun', tell ebberybody's dat seasick
dey can't res'."

I resolved then and there to see the Trojan Horse, but not to get
inside of him. I never before had suspected that the famous beast had
a sense of humor in his makeup. I was about to make some further
inquiry when a bell above us began to sound forth sonorously.

"Massy me!" cried little Sambo, springing to his place in front of the
chair. "Dat's de third an' lass call for breakfas'. We done spent too
much time talkin'."

With which observation, he and his companion, shouldering their
burden, trotted along the richly furnished hall to the dining-room. I
then observed a charming feature of life in the Olympian Hotel, and I
presume it obtains elsewhere in that favored spot. There are no such
things as stairs within its walls. From the magnificent office on the
ground floor to the glorious dining-room on the forty-eighth, the
broad corridor runs round and round and round again with an upward
incline that is barely perceptible--indeed, not perceptible at all
either to the eye or to the muscles of the leg. And while there are
the most speedy elevators connecting all the various floors, one can,
if one chooses, walk from cellar to roof of this marvellous place
without realizing that he is mounting to an unusual elevation. And in
the evening these corridors form a magnificent parade, brilliantly
lighted, upon which are to be met all the wealth, beauty, and fashion
of Olympus--alas! that I have no means of returning there with certain
of my friends with whom I would share the good things that have come
into my life!

But to return to the story. Sambo and his brother soon "toted" me to
the entrance of the dining-room--graceful little beggars they were,
too.

"Your breakfast is ready, sir," said the head waiter, bowing low.

What impelled me to do so I shall never know, but it was an
inspiration. I seemed to recognize the man at once, and, as I had
frequently done on earth to my own advantage, I addressed him by name.

"Having a good season, Memnon?" I said, slipping a silver dollar into
his hand.

It worked. Whether I should have found the same excellent service had
I not spoken pleasantly to him I, of course, cannot say, but I have
never been so well cared for elsewhere. The captious reader may ask
how anything so essentially worldly as a silver dollar ever crept into
Olympus. I can only say that one of the magic properties of the
garment I wore was that whatever I put my hand into my pocket for, I
got. As a travelled American, realizing the potency under similar
conditions of that heavy and ugly coin, I instinctively sought for it
in my pocket and it was there. I do not attempt to explain the process
of its getting there. It suffices to say that, as the guest of the
gods, my every wish was met with speedy attainment. I could not help
but marvel, too, at the appropriateness of everything. What better
than that the King of the Ethiopians should be head waiter to the
gods!

"Things are never dull here, sir," said Memnon, pocketing my dollar
and escorting me to my table. "We do not often have visitors like
yourself, however, and we are very glad to see you."

I sat down before a magnificent window which seemed to open out upon a
universe hitherto undreamed of.

"Do you wish the news, sir?" Memnon asked, respectfully.

"Yes," said I. "Ah--news from home, Memnon," I added.

"Political or merely family?" said he.

"Family," said I.

Memnon busied himself about the window and in a moment, gazing through
it, I had the pleasure of seeing my two boys eating their supper and
challenging each other to mortal combat over a delinquent strawberry
resting upon the tablecloth.

"Give me a little politics, Memnon," said I, as the elder boy thrashed
the younger, not getting the strawberry, however, which in a quick
moment, between blows, the younger managed to swallow. "They seem to
be about as usual at home."

And I was immediately made aware of the intentions of the
administration at Washington merely by looking through a window. There
were the President and his cabinet and--some others who assist in
making up the mind of the statesman.

"Now a dash of crime," said I.

"High or low?" asked Memnon, fingering the push-button alongside of
the window.

"The highest you've got," said I.

I shall not describe what I saw. It was not very horrible. It was
rather discouraging. It dealt wholly with the errors of what is known
as Society. It showed the mistakes of persons for whom I had acquired
a feeling of awe. It showed so much that I summoned Memnon to shut the
glass off. I was really afraid somebody else might see. And I did not
wish to lose my respect for people who were leaders in the highest
walks of social life. Still, a great many things that have happened
since in high life have not been wholly surprising to me. I have
furthermore so ordered my own goings and comings since that time that
I have no fear of what the Peeping Toms of Olympus may see. If mankind
could only be made to understand that this window of Olympus opens out
upon every act of their lives, there might be radical reforms in some
quarters where it would do a deal of good, although to the general
public there seems to be no need for it.

At this point a waiter put a small wafer about as large as a penny
upon the table.

"H'm--what's that, Memnon?" I asked.

"Essence of melon," said he.

"Good, is it?" I queried.

"You might taste it and see, sir," he said, with a smile. "It is one
of a lot especially prepared for Jupiter."

I put the thing in my mouth, and oh, the sensation that followed! I
have eaten melons, and I have dreamed melons, but never in either
experience was there to be found such an ecstasy of taste as I now
got.

"Another, Memnon--another!" I cried.

"If you wish, sir," said he. "But very imprudent, sir. That wafer was
constructed from six hundred of the choicest--"

"Quite right," said I, realizing the situation; "quite right. Six
hundred melons _are_ enough for any man. What do you propose to give
me now?"

"_Oeufs Midas_," said Memnon.

"Sounds rather rich," I observed.

"It would cost you 4,650,000 francs for a half portion at a Paris
caf�, if you could get it there--which you can't."

"And what, Memnon," said I, "is the peculiarity of eggs _Midas_?"

"It's nothing but an omelet, sir," he replied; "but it is made of eggs
laid by the goose of whom you have probably read in the _Personal
Recollections of Jack the Giant-Killer_. They are solid gold."

"Heavens!" I cried. "Solid gold! Great Scott, Memnon, I can't digest a
solid gold omelet. What do you think I am--an assay office?"

Memnon grinned until every tooth in his head showed, making his mouth
look like the keyboard of a grand piano.

"It is perfectly harmless the way it is prepared in the kitchen, sir,"
he explained. "It isn't an eighteen-karat omelet, as you seem to
think. The eggs are solid, but the omelet is not. It is, indeed, only
six karats fine. The alloy consists largely of lactopeptine,
hydrochloric acid, and various other efficient digestives which render
it innocuous to the most delicate digestion."

"Very well, Memnon," I replied, making a wry face, "bring it on. I'll
try a little of it, anyhow." I must confess it did not sound inviting,
but a guest should never criticise the food that is placed before him.
My politeness was well repaid, for nothing more delicate in the way of
an omelet has ever titillated my palate. There was a slight metallic
taste about it at first, but I soon got over that, just as I have got
used to English oysters, which, when I eat them, make me feel for a
moment as if I had bitten off the end of a brass door-knob; and had I
not calculated the cost, I should have asked for a second helping.

Memnon then brought me a platter containing a small object that
looked like a Hamburg steak, and a most delicious cup of _caf� au
lait_.

"Filet Olympus," he observed, "and coffee direct from the dairy of the
gods."

Both were a joy.

"Never tasted such a steak!" I said, as the delicate morsel actually
melted like butter in my mouth.

"No, sir, you never did," Memnon agreed. "It is cut from the steer
bred for the sole purpose of supplying Jupiter and his family with
tenderloin. We take the calf when it is very young, sir, and surround
it with all the luxuries of a bovine existence. It is fed on the most
delicate fodder, especially prepared by chemists under the direction
of �sculapius. The cattle, instead of toughening their muscles by
walking to pasture, are waited upon by cow-boys in livery. A gentle
amount of exercise, just enough to keep them in condition, is taken
at regular hours every day, and at night they are put to sleep in
feather beds and covered with eiderdown quilts at seven o'clock."

"Don't they rebel?" I asked. "I should think a moderately active calf
would be hard to manage that way."

[Illustration: CARING FOR THE CALVES]

"Oh, at first a little, but after a while they come to like it, and by
the time they are ready for killing they are as tender as humming
birds' tongues," said Memnon. "If you take him young enough, you can
do almost anything you like with a calf."

It seemed like a marvellous scheme, and far more humane than that of
fattening geese for the sale of their livers.

"And this coffee, Memnon? You said it was fresh from the dairy of the
gods. You get your coffee from the dairy?" I asked.

"The breakfast coffee--yes, sir," replied Memnon. "Fresh every
morning. You must ask the steward to let you see the _caf�-au-lait_
herd--"

"The what?" I demanded.

"The _cafe-au-lait herd_," repeated Memnon. "A special permit is
required to go through the coffee pasture where these cows are fed.
Some one, who had a grudge against Pales, who is in charge of the
dairymaids, got into the field one night and sowed a lot of chicory in
with the coffee, and the result was that the next season we got the
worst coffee from those cows you ever tasted. So they made a rule that
no one is allowed to go there any more without a card from the
steward."

"You don't mean to say--" I began.

"Yes, I do," said Memnon. "It is true. We pasture our cows on a coffee
farm, and, instead of milk, we get this that you are drinking."

"Wonderful idea!" said I.

"It is, indeed," said Memnon; "that is, from your point of view. From
ours, it does not seem so strange. We are used to marvels here, sir,"
he continued. "Would you care for anything more, sir?"

"No, Memnon," said I. "I have fared sumptuously--my--ah--my appetite
is somewhat taken away by all these tremendous things."

"I will have an appetite up for you, if you wish," he replied, simply,
as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

"No, thank you," said I. "I think I'll wait until I am acclimated. I
never eat heavily for the first twenty-four hours when I am in a
strange place."

And with this I went to the door, feeling, I must confess, a trifle
ill. The steak and coffee were all right, but there was a suggestion
of pain in my right side. I could not make up my mind if it were the
six hundred melons or whether a nugget from the omelet had got caught
in my vermiform appendix.

At any rate, I didn't wish to eat again just then.

At the door the sedan-chair and the two little blackamoors were
awaiting me.

"We have orders to take you to the Zoo, sah," said Sambo.

"All right, Sambo," said I. "I'm all ready. A little air will do me
good."

And we moved along.

I forgot to mention that, as he closed the chair door upon me, Memnon
handed me back the silver dollar I had given him.

"What is this, Memnon?" said I.

"The dollar you wished me to keep for you, sir," he replied.

"But I intended it for you," said I.

His face flushed.

"I am just as much obliged, sir, but, really, I couldn't, you know.
We don't take tips in Olympus, sir."

"Indeed?" said I. "Well--I'm sorry to have offended you, Memnon. I
meant it all right. Why didn't you tell me when I gave it you?"

"I should have given you a check for it, sir. I supposed you didn't
wish to carry anything so heavy about with you."

"Ah!" said I, replacing the dollar in my pocket. "Thank you for your
care of it, Memnon. No offence, I hope?"

"None at all, sir," he replied, again showing his wonderful ivory
teeth. "I don't take offence at anything so trifling. Had you handed
me a billion dollars, I should have declined to wait on you."

And he bowed me away in a fashion which made me feel keenly the
narrowness of my escape.

John Kendrick Bangs

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