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The Old Folks' Party 1898   By: (1850-1898)

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By Edward Bellamy


"And now what shall we do next Wednesday evening?" said Jessie Hyde, in a business like tone. "It is your turn, Henry, to suggest."

Jessie was a practical, energetic young lady, whose blue eyes never relapsed into the dreaminess to which that color is subject. She furnished the "go" for the club. Especially she furnished the "go" for Henry Long, who had lots of ideas, but without her to stir him up was as dull as a flint without a steel.

There were six in the club, and all were present to night in Jessie's parlor. The evening had been given to a little music, a little dancing, a little card playing, and a good deal of talking. It was near the hour set by the club rule for the adjournment of its reunions, and the party had drawn their chairs together to consult upon the weekly recurring question, what should be done at the next meeting by way of special order of amusement. The programmes were alternately reading, singing, dancing, whist; varied with evenings of miscellaneous sociality like that which had just passed. The members took turns in suggesting recreations. To night it was Henry Long's turn, and to him accordingly the eyes of the group turned at Jessie's question.

"Let's have an old folks' party," was his answer.

Considering that all of the club were yet at ages when they celebrated their birthdays with the figure printed on the cake, the suggestion seemed sufficiently irrelevant.

"In that case," said Frank Hays, "we shall have to stay at home."

Frank was an alert little fellow, with a jaunty air, to whom, by tacit consent, all the openings for jokes were left, as he had a taste that way.

"What do you mean, Henry?" inquired George Townsley, a thick set, sedate young man, with an intelligent, but rather phlegmatic look.

"My idea is this," said Henry, leaning back in his chair, with his hands clasped behind his head, and his long legs crossed before him. "Let us dress up to resemble what we expect to look like fifty years hence, and study up our demeanor to correspond with what we expect to be and feel like at that time, and just call on Mary next Wednesday evening to talk over old times, and recall what we can, if anything, of our vanished youth, and the days when we belonged to the social club at C ."

The others seemed rather puzzled in spite of the explanation. Jessie sat looking at Henry in a brown study as she traced out his meaning.

"You mean a sort of ghost party," said she finally; "ghosts of the future, instead of ghosts of the past."

"That's it exactly," answered he. "Ghosts of the future are the only sort worth heeding. Apparitions of things past are a very unpractical sort of demonology, in my opinion, compared with apparitions of things to come."

"How in the world did such an odd idea come into your head?" asked pretty Nellie Tyrrell, whose dancing black eyes were the most piquant of interrogation points, with which it was so delightful to be punctured that people were generally slow to gratify her curiosity.

"I was beginning a journal this afternoon," said Henry, "and the idea of Henry Long, aetat. seventy, looking over the leaves, and wondering about the youth who wrote them so long ago, came up to my mind."

Henry's suggestion had set them all thinking, and the vein was so unfamiliar that they did not at once find much to say.

"I should think," finally remarked George, "that such an old folks' party would afford a chance for some pretty careful study, and some rather good acting."

"Fifty years will make us all not far from seventy. What shall we look like then, I wonder?" musingly asked Mary Fellows.

She was the demurest, dreamiest of the three girls; the most of a woman, and the least of a talker. She had that poise and repose of manner which are necessary to make silence in company graceful.

"We may be sure of one thing, anyhow, and that is, that we shall not look and feel at all as we do now," said Frank. "I suppose," he added, "if, by a gift of second sight, we could see tonight, as in a glass, what we shall be at seventy, we should entirely fail to recognize ourselves, and should fall to disputing which was which... Continue reading book >>

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