JOKES FOR ALL OCCASIONS
SELECTED AND EDITED BY ONE OF AMERICA'S FOREMOST PUBLIC SPEAKERS
NEW YORK EDWARD J. CLODE
COPYRIGHT, 1921, 1922, BY
EDWARD J. CLODE
Printed in the United States of America
JOKES FOR ALL OCCASIONS
The ways of telling a story are as many as the tellers themselves. It is impossible to lay down precise rules by which any one may perfect himself in the art, but it is possible to offer suggestions by which to guide practise in narration toward a gratifying success.
Broadly distinguished, there are two methods of telling a story. One uses the extreme of brevity, and makes its chief reliance on the point. The other devotes itself in great part to preliminary elaboration in the narrative, making this as amusing as possible, so that the point itself serves to cap a climax. In the public telling of an anecdote the tyro would be well advised to follow the first method. That is, he should put his reliance on the point of the story, and on this alone. He should scrupulously limit himself to such statements as are absolutely essential to clear understanding of the point. He should make a careful examination of the story with two objects in mind: the first, to determine just what is required in the way of explanation; the second, an exact understanding of the point itself. Then, when it comes to the relating of the story, he must simply give the information required by the hearers in order to appreciate the point. As to the point itself, he must guard against any carelessness. Omission of an essential detail is fatal. It may be well for him, at the outset, to memorize the conclusion of the story. No matter how falteringly the story is told, it will succeed if the point itself be made clear, and this is insured for even the most embarrassed speaker by memorizing it.
The art of making the whole narration entertaining and amusing is to be attained only by intelligent practise. It is commonly believed that story-sellers are born, not made. As a matter of fact, however, the skilled raconteurs owe their skill in great measure to the fact that they are unwearying in practise. It is, therefore, recommended to any one having ambition in this direction that he cultivate his ability by exercising it. He should practise short and simple stories according to his opportunities, with the object of making the narration smooth and easy. An audience of one or two familiar friends is sufficient in the earlier efforts. Afterward, the practise may be extended before a larger number of listeners on social occasions. When facility has been attained in the simplest form, attempts to extend the preliminary narrative should be made. The preparation should include an effort to invest the characters of the story; or its setting, with qualities amusing in themselves, quite apart from any relation to the point. Precise instruction cannot be given, but concentration along this line will of itself develop the humorous perception of the story-teller, so that, though the task may appear too difficult in prospect, it will not prove so in actual experience. But, in every instance, care must be exercised to keep the point of the story clearly in view, and to omit nothing essential in the preparation for it.
In the selection of stories to be retailed, it is the part of wisdom to choose the old, rather than the new. This is because the new story, so called, travels with frightful velocity under modern social conditions, and, in any particular case, the latest story, when told by you to a friend, has just been heard by him from some other victim of it. But the memory of most persons for stories is very short. Practically never does it last for years. So, it is uniformly safe to present as novelties at the present day the humor of past decades. Moreover, the exercise of some slight degree of ingenuity will serve to give those touches in the way of change by which the story may be brought up to date. Indeed, by such adaptation, the story is made really one's own—as the professional humorists thankfully admit!
Wit and humor, and the distinction between them, defy precise definition. Luckily, they need none. To one asking what is beauty, a wit replied: "That is the question of a blind man." Similarly, none requires a definition of wit and humor unless he himself be lacking in all appreciation of them, and, if he be so lacking, no amount of explanation will avail to give him understanding. Borrow, in one of his sermons, declared concerning wit: "It is, indeed, a thing so versatile, multiform, appearing in so many shapes and garbs, so variously apprehended of several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of the fleeting wind." Nor is it fitting to attempt exact distinctions between wit and humor, which are essentially two aspects of one thing. It is enough to realize that humor is the product of nature rather than of art, while wit is the expression of an intellectual art. Humor exerts an emotional appeal, produces smiles or laughter; wit may be amusing, or it may not, according to the circumstances, but it always provokes an intellectual appreciation. Thus, Nero made a pun on the name of Seneca, when the philosopher was brought before him for sentence. In speaking the decree that the old man should kill himself, the emperor used merely the two Latin words: "Se neca." We admit the ghastly cleverness of the jest, but we do not chuckle over it.
The element of surprise is common to both wit and humor, and it is often a sufficient cause for laughter in itself, irrespective of any essentially amusing quality in the cause of the surprise. The unfamiliar, for this reason, often has a ludicrous appeal to primitive peoples. An African tribe, on being told by the missionary that the world is round, roared with laughter for hours; it is told of a Mikado that he burst a blood-vessel and died in a fit of merriment induced by hearing that the American people ruled themselves. In like fashion, the average person grins or guffaws at sight of a stranger in an outlandish costume, although, as a matter of fact, the dress may be in every respect superior to his own. Simply, its oddity somehow tickles the risibilities. Such surprise is occasioned by contrasting circumstances. When a pompous gentleman, marching magnificently, suddenly steps on a banana peel, pirouettes, somersaults, and sits with extreme violence, we laugh before asking if he broke a leg.
The fundamentals of wit and humor are the same throughout all the various tribes of earth, throughout all the various ages of history. The causes of amusement are essentially the same everywhere and always, and only the setting changes according to time and place. But racial characteristics establish preferences for certain aspects of fun-making, and such preferences serve to some extent in differentiating the written humor of the world along the lines of nationality. Nevertheless, it is a fact that the really amusing story has an almost universal appeal. I have seen in an American country newspaper a town correspondent's humorous effort in which he gave Si Perkins's explanation of being in jail. And that explanation ran on all fours with a Chinese story ages and ages old. The local correspondent did not plagiarize from the Chinaman: merely, the humorous bent of the two was identical. In the ancient Oriental tale, a man who wore the thief's collar as a punishment was questioned by an acquaintance concerning the cause of his plight.
"Why, it was just nothing at all," the convict explained easily. "I was strolling along the edge of the canal, when I happened to catch sight of a bit of old rope. Of course, I knew that old piece of rope was of no use to anyone, and so I just picked it up, and took it home with me."
"But I don't understand," the acquaintance exclaimed. "Why should they punish you so severely for a little thing like that? I don't understand it."
"I don't understand it, either," the convict declared, "unless, maybe, it was because there was an ox at the other end of the rope."
The universality of humor is excellently illustrated in Greek literature, where is to be found many a joke at which we are laughing to-day, as others have laughed through the centuries. Half a thousand years before the Christian era, a platonic philosopher at Alexandria, by name Hierocles, grouped twenty-one jests in a volume under the title, "Asteia." Some of them are still current with us as typical Irish bulls. Among these were accounts of the "Safety-first" enthusiast who determined never to enter the water until he had learned to swim; of the horse-owner, training his nag to live without eating, who was successful in reducing the feed to a straw a day, and was about to cut this off when the animal spoiled the test by dying untimely; of the fellow who posed before a looking glass with his eyes closed, to learn how he looked when asleep; of the inquisitive person who held a crow captive in order to test for himself whether it would live two centuries; of the man who demanded to know from an acquaintance met in the street whether it was he or his twin brother who had just been buried. Another Greek jest that has enjoyed a vogue throughout the world at large, and will doubtless survive even prohibition, was the utterance of Diogenes, when he was asked as to what sort of wine he preferred. His reply was: "That of other people."
Again, we may find numerous duplicates of contemporary stories of our own in the collection over which generations of Turks have laughed, the tales of Nasir Eddin. In reference to these, it may be noted that Turkish wit and humor are usually distinguished by a moralizing quality. When a man came to Nasir Eddin for the loan of a rope, the request was refused with the excuse that Nasir's only piece had been used to tie up flour. "But it is impossible to tie up flour with a rope," was the protest. Nasir Eddin answered: "I can tie up anything with a rope when I do not wish to lend it."
When another would have borrowed his ass, Nasir replied that he had already loaned the animal. Thereupon, the honest creature brayed from the stable. "But the ass is there," the visitor cried indignantly. "I hear it!" Nasir Eddin retorted indignantly: "What! Would you take the word of an ass instead of mine?"
In considering the racial characteristics of humor, we should pay tribute to the Spanish in the person of Cervantes, for Don Quixote is a mine of drollery. But the bulk of the humor among all the Latin races is of a sort that our more prudish standards cannot approve. On the other hand, German humor often displays a characteristic spirit of investigation. Thus, the little boy watching the pupils of a girls' school promenading two by two, graded according to age, with the youngest first and the oldest last, inquired of his mother: "Mama, why is it that the girls' legs grow shorter as they grow older?" In the way of wit, an excellent illustration is afforded by Heine, who on receiving a book from its author wrote in acknowledgment of the gift: "I shall lose no time in reading it."
The French are admirable in both wit and humor, and the humor is usually kindly, though the shafts of wit are often barbed. I remember a humorous picture of a big man shaking a huge trombone in the face of a tiny canary in its cage, while he roars in anger: "That's it! Just as I was about, with the velvety tones of my instrument, to imitate the twittering of little birds in the forest, you have to interrupt with your infernal din!" The caustic quality of French wit is illustrated plenteously by Voltaire. There is food for meditation in his utterance: "Nothing is so disagreeable as to be obscurely hanged." He it was, too, who sneered at England for having sixty religions and only one gravy. To an adversary in argument who quoted the minor prophet Habakkuk, he retorted contemptuously: "A person with a name like that is capable of saying anything."
But French wit is by no means always of the cutting sort. Its more amiable aspect is shown by the declaration of Brillat Savarin to the effect that a dinner without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye. Often the wit is merely the measure of absurdity, as when a courtier in speaking of a fat friend said: "I found him sitting all around the table by himself." And there is a ridiculous story of the impecunious and notorious Marquis de Favieres who visited a Parisian named Barnard, and announced himself as follows:
"Monsieur, I am about to astonish you greatly. I am the Marquis de Favieres. I do not know you, but I come to you to borrow five-hundred luis."
Barnard answered with equal explicitness:
"Monsieur, I am going to astonish you much more. I know you, and I am going to lend them to you."
The amiable malice, to use a paradoxical phrase, which is often characteristic of French tales, is capitally displayed in the following:
The wife of a villager in Poitou became ill, and presently fell into a trance, which deceived even the physician, so that she was pronounced dead, and duly prepared for burial. Following the local usage, the body was wrapped in a sheet, to be borne to the burial place on the shoulders of four men chosen from the neighborhood. The procession followed a narrow path leading across the fields to the cemetery. At a turning, a thorn tree stood so close that one of the thorns tore through the sheet and lacerated the woman's flesh. The blood flowed from the wound, and she suddenly aroused to consciousness. Fourteen years elapsed before the good wife actually came to her deathbed. On this occasion, the ceremonial was repeated. And now, as the bearers of the body approached the turn of the path, the husband called to them:
"Look out for the thorn tree, friends!"
The written humor of the Dutch does not usually make a very strong appeal to us. They are inclined to be ponderous even in their play, and lack in great measure the sarcasm and satire and the lighter subtlety in fun-making. History records a controversy between Holland and Zealand, which was argued pro and con during a period of years with great earnestness. The subject for debate that so fascinated the Dutchmen was: "Does the cod take the hook, or does the hook take the cod?"
Because British wit and humor often present themselves under aspects somewhat different from those preferred by us, we belittle their efforts unjustly. As a matter of fact, the British attainments in this direction are the best in the world, next to our own. Moreover, in the British colonies is to be found a spirit of humor that exactly parallels our own in many distinctive features. Thus, there is a Canadian story that might just as well have originated below the line, of an Irish girl, recently imported, who visited her clergyman and inquired his fee for marrying. He informed her that his charge was two dollars. A month later, the girl visited the clergyman for the second time, and at once handed him two dollars, with the crisp direction, "Go ahead and marry me."
"Where is the bridegroom?" the clergyman asked.
"What!" exclaimed the girl, dismayed. "Don't you furnish him for the two dollars?"
It would seem that humor is rather more enjoyable to the British taste than wit, though there is, indeed, no lack of the latter. But the people delight most in absurd situations that appeal to the risibilities without any injury to the feelings of others. For example, Dickens relates an anecdote concerning two men, who were about to be hanged at a public execution. When they were already on the scaffold in preparation for the supreme moment, a bull being led to market broke loose and ran amuck through the great crowd assembled to witness the hanging. One of the condemned men on the scaffold turned to his fellow, and remarked:
"I say, mate, it's a good thing we're not in that crowd."
In spite of the gruesome setting and the gory antics of the bull, the story is amusing in a way quite harmless. Similarly, too, there is only wholesome amusement in the woman's response to a vegetarian, who made her a proposal of marriage. She did, not mince her words:
"Go along with you! What? Be flesh of your flesh, and you a-living on cabbage? Go marry a grass widow!"
The kindly spirit of British humor is revealed even in sarcastic jesting on the domestic relation, which, on the contrary, provokes the bitterest jibes of the Latins. The shortest of jokes, and perhaps the most famous, was in the single word of Punch's advice to those about to get married:
The like good nature is in the words of a woman who was taken to a hospital in the East End of London. She had been shockingly beaten, and the attending surgeon was moved to pity for her and indignation against her assailant.
"Who did this?" he demanded. "Was it your husband?"
"Lor' bless yer, no!" she declared huffily. "W'y, my 'usband 'e 's more like a friend nor a 'usband!"
Likewise, of the two men who had drunk not wisely but too well, with the result that in the small hours they retired to rest in the gutter. Presently, one of the pair lifted his voice in protest:
"I shay, le's go to nuzzer hotel—this leaksh!"
Or the incident of the tramp, who at the back door solicited alms of a suspicious housewife. His nose was large and of a purple hue. The woman stared at it with an accusing eye, and questioned bluntly:
"What makes your nose so red?"
The tramp answered with heavy sarcasm:
"That 'ere nose o' mine, mum, is a-blushin' with pride, 'cause it ain't stuck into other folks's business."
But British wit, while often amiable enough, may on occasion be as trenchant as any French sally. For example, we have the definition of gratitude as given by Sir Robert Walpole—"A lively sense of future favors." The Marquis of Salisbury once scored a clumsy partner at whist by his answer to someone who asked how the game progressed: "I'm doing as well as could be expected, considering that I have three adversaries." So the retort of Lamb, when Coleridge said to him: "Charles, did you ever hear me lecture?". * * * "I never heard you do anything else." And again, Lamb mentioned in a letter how Wordsworth had said that he did not see much difficulty in writing like Shakespeare, if he had a mind to try it. "Clearly," Lamb continued, "nothing is wanted but the mind." Then there is the famous quip that runs back to Tudor times, although it has been attributed to various later celebrities, including Doctor Johnson: A concert singer was executing a number lurid with vocal pyrotechnics. An admirer remarked that the piece was tremendously difficult. This drew the retort from another auditor:
"Difficult! I wish to heaven it were impossible!"
Americans are famous, and sometimes infamous, for their devotion to the grotesque in humor. Yet, a conspicuous example of such amusing absurdity was given by Thackeray, who made reference to an oyster so large that it took two men to swallow it whole.
It is undeniable that the British are fond of puns. It is usual to sneer at the pun as the lowest form of wit. Such, alas! it too often is, and frequently, as well, it is a form of no wit at all. But the pun may contain a very high form of wit, and may please either for its cleverness, or for its amusing quality, or for the combination of the two. Naturally, the really excellent pun has always been in favor with the wits of all countries. Johnson's saying, that a man who would make a pun would pick a pocket, is not to be taken too seriously. It is not recorded that Napier ever "pinched a leather," but he captured Scinde, and in notifying the government at home of this victory he sent a dispatch of one word, "Peccavi" ("I have sinned"). The pun is of the sort that may be appreciated intellectually for its cleverness, while not calculated to cause laughter. Of the really amusing kind are the innumerable puns of Hood. He professed himself a man of many sorrows, who had to be a lively Hood for a livelihood. His work abounds in an ingenious and admirable mingling of wit and humor. For example:
"Ben Battle was a soldier bold, And used to war's alarms, But a cannon ball took off his legs, So he laid down his arms.
"And as they took him off the field, Cried he, 'Let others shoot, 'For here I leave my second leg, 'And the Forty-Second Foot.'"
It is doubtless true that it would require a surgical operation to get a joke into some particular Scotchman's head. But we have some persons of the sort even in our own country. Many of the British humorists have been either Scotch or Irish, and it is rather profitless to attempt distinctions as to the humorous sense of these as contrasted with the English. Usually, stories of thrift and penuriousness are told of the Scotch without doing them much injustice, while bulls are designated Irish with sufficient reasonableness. In illustration of the Scotch character, we may cite the story of the visitor to Aberdeen, who was attacked by three footpads. He fought them desperately, and inflicted severe injuries. When at last he had been subdued and searched the only money found on him was a crooked sixpence. One of the thieves remarked glumly:
"If he'd had a good shilling, he'd have killed the three of us."
And there is the classic from Punch of the Scotchman, who, on his return home from a visit to London, in describing his experiences, declared:
"I had na been there an hour when bang! went saxpence!"
Anent the Irish bull, we may quote an Irishman's answer when asked to define a bull. He said:
"If you see thirteen cows lying down in a field, and one of them is standing up, that's a bull."
A celebrity to whom many Irish bulls have been accredited was Sir Boyle Roche. He wrote in a letter:
"At this very moment, my dear——, I am writing this with a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other."
He it was who in addressing the Irish House of Commons asserted stoutly:
"Single misfortunes never come alone, and the greatest of all possible misfortune is usually followed by a greater."
And there is the hospitable invitation of the Irishman:
"Sir, if you ever come within a mile of my house, I hope you will stop there." And it was an Irishman who remarked to another concerning a third: "You are thin, and I am thin, but he's as thin as the two of us put together." Also, it was an Irishman who, on being overtaken by a storm, remarked to his friend: "Sure, we'll get under a tree, and whin it's wet through, faith, we'll get under another."
Naturally, we Americans have our own bulls a plenty, and they are by no means all derived from our Irish stock. Yet, that same Irish stock contributes largely and very snappily to our fund of humor. For the matter of that, the composite character of our population multiplies the varying phases of our fun. We draw for laughter on all the almost countless racial elements that form our citizenry. And the whole content of our wit and humor is made vital by the spirit of youth. The newness of our land and nation gives zest to the pursuit of mirth. We ape the old, but fashion its semblance to suit our livelier fancy. We moralize in our jesting like the Turk, but are likely to veil the maxim under the motley of a Yiddish dialect. Our humor may be as meditative as the German at its best, but with a grotesque flavoring all our own. Thus, the widow, in plaintive reminiscence concerning the dear departed, said musingly:
"If John hadn't blowed into the muzzle of his gun, I guess he'd 'a' got plenty of squirrels. It was such a good day for them!"
And in the moralizing vein, this:
The little girl had been very naughty. She was bidden by her mother to make an addition to the accustomed bedtime prayer—a request that God would make her a better girl. So, the dear child prayed: "And, O God, please make Nellie a good little girl." And then, with pious resignation, she added:
"Nevertheless, O God, Thy will, not mine, be done."
At times, we are as cynical as the French. So of the husband, who confessed that at first after his marriage he doted on his bride to such an extent that he wanted to eat her—later, he was sorry that he hadn't.
Our sophistication is such that this sort of thing amuses us, and, it is produced only too abundantly. Luckily, in contrast to it, we have no lack of that harmless jesting which is more typically English. For example, the kindly old lady in the elevator questioned the attendant brightly:
"Don't you get awful tired, sonny?"
"Yes, mum," the boy in uniform admitted.
"What makes you so tired, sonny? Is it the going up?'
"Is it the going down?"
"Then what is it makes you so tired, sonny?"
"It's the questions, mum."
And this of the little boy, who was asked by his mother as to what he would like to give his cousin for a birthday present.
"I know," was the reply, "but I ain't big enough."
Many of our humorists have maintained a constant geniality in their humor, even in the treatment of distressing themes. For example, Josh Billings made the announcement that one hornet, if it was feeling well, could break up a whole camp meeting. Bill Nye, Artemas Ward and many another American writer have given in profusion of amiable sillinesses to make the nation laugh. It was one of these that told how a drafted man sought exemption because he was a negro, a minister, over age, a British subject, and an habitual drunkard.
The most distinctive flavor in American humor is that of the grotesque. It is characteristic in Mark Twain's best work, and it is characteristic of most of those others who have won fame as purveyors of laughter. The American tourist brags of his own:
"Talk of Vesuve—huh! Niag'll put her out in three minutes." That polished writer, Irving, did not hesitate to declare that Uncle Sam believed the earth tipped when he went West. In the archives of our government is a state paper wherein President Lincoln referred to Mississippi gunboats with draught so light that they would float wherever the ground was a little damp. Typically American in its grotesquerie was the assertion of a rural humorist who asserted that the hogs thereabout were so thin they had to have a knot tied in their tails to prevent them from crawling through the chinks in the fence.
Ward displayed the like quality amusingly in his remark to the conductor of a tediously slow-moving accommodation train in the South. From his seat in the solitary passenger coach behind the long line of freight cars, he addressed the official with great seriousness:
"I ask you, conductor, why don't you take the cow-catcher off the engine and put it behind the car here? As it is now, there ain't a thing to hinder a cow from strolling into a car and biting a passenger."
Similar extravagance appears in another story of a crawling train. The conductor demanded a ticket from a baldheaded old man whose face was mostly hidden in a great mass of white whiskers.
"I give it to ye," declared the ancient.
"I don't reckon so," the conductor answered. "Where did you get on?"
"At Perkins' Crossin'," he of the hoary beard replied.
The conductor shook his head emphatically.
"Wasn't anybody got aboard at Perkins' Crossin' 'cept one little boy."
"I," wheezed the aged man, "was that little boy."
In like fashion, we tell of a man so tall that he had to go up on a ladder to shave himself—and down cellar to put his boots on.
We Americans are good-natured, as is necessary for humor, and we have brains, as is necessary for wit, and we have the vitality that makes creation easy, even inevitable. So there is never any dearth among us of the spirit of laughter, of its multiform products that by their power to amuse make life vastly more agreeable. Every newspaper, and most magazines carry their quota of jests. Never, anywhere, was the good story so universally popular as in America today. It is received with gusto in the councils of government, in church, in club, in cross-roads store. The teller of good stories is esteemed by all, a blessing undisguised. The collection that follows in this volume is, it is believed, of a sort that will help mightily to build an honorable fame for the narrator.
For greater convenience in references to the volume, the various stories and anecdotes are placed under headings arranged in alphabetical order. The heading in every case indicates the subject to which the narration may be directly applied. This will be found most useful in selecting illustrations for addresses of any sort, or for use in arguments. History tells us how Lincoln repeatedly carried conviction by expressing his ideas through the medium of a story. His method is rendered available for any one by this book.
JOKES FOR ALL OCCASIONS
The man of the house finally took all the disabled umbrellas to the repairer's. Next morning on his way to his office, when he got up to leave the street car, he absentmindedly laid hold of the umbrella belonging to a woman beside him, for he was in the habit of carrying one. The woman cried "Stop thief!" rescued her umbrella and covered the man with shame and confusion.
That same day, he stopped at the repairer's, and received all eight of his umbrellas duly restored. As he entered a street car, with the unwrapped umbrellas tucked under his arm, he was horrified to behold glaring at him the lady of his morning adventure. Her voice came to him charged with a withering scorn:
"Huh! Had a good day, didn't you!"
* * *
The absentminded inventor perfected a parachute device. He was taken up in a balloon to make a test of the apparatus. Arrived at a height of a thousand feet, he climbed over the edge of the basket, and dropped out. He had fallen two hundred yards when he remarked to himself, in a tone of deep regret:
"Dear me! I've gone and forgotten my umbrella."
* * *
The professor, who was famous for the wool-gathering of his wits, returned home, and had his ring at the door answered by a new maid. The girl looked at him inquiringly:
"Um—ah—is Professor Johnson at home?" he asked, naming himself.
"No, sir," the maid replied, "but he is expected any moment now."
The professor turned away, the girl closed the door. Then the poor man sat down on the steps to wait for himself.
* * *
The clergyman, absorbed in thinking out a sermon, rounded a turn in the path and bumped into a cow. He swept off his hat with a flourish, exclaiming:
"I beg your pardon, madam."
Then he observed his error, and was greatly chagrined. Soon, however, again engaged with thoughts of the sermon, he collided with a lady at another bend of the path.
"Get out of the way, you brute!" he said.
* * *
The most absent-minded of clergymen was a Methodist minister who served several churches each Sunday, riding from one to another on horseback. One Sunday morning he went to the stable while still meditating on his sermon and attempted to saddle the horse. After a long period of toil, he aroused to the fact that he had put the saddle on himself, and had spent a full half hour in vain efforts to climb on his own back.
The Scotchman who ran a livery was asked by a tourist as to how many the carryall would hold.
"Fower generally," was the answer. "Likely sax, if they're weel aquaint."
The tragedian had just signed a contract to tour South Africa. He told a friend of it at the club. The friend shook his head dismally.
"The ostrich," he explained in a pitying tone, "lays an egg weighing anywhere from two to four pounds."
The editor of the local paper was unable to secure advertising from one of the business men of the town, who asserted stoutly that he himself never read ads., and didn't believe anyone else did.
"Will you advertise if I can convince you that folks read the ads.?" the editor asked.
"If you can show me!" was the sarcastic answer. "But you can't."
In the next issue of the paper, the editor ran a line of small type in an obscure corner. It read:
"What is Jenkins going to do about it?"
The business man, Jenkins, hastened to seek out the editor next day. He admitted that he was being pestered out of his wits by the curious. He agreed to stand by the editor's explanation in the forthcoming issue, and this was:
"Jenkins is going to advertise, of course."
Having once advertised, Jenkins advertises still.
There are as many aspects of grief as there are persons to mourn. A quality of pathetic and rather grisly humor is to be found in the incident of an English laborer, whose little son died. The vicar on calling to condole with the parents found the father pacing to and fro in the living-room with the tiny body in his arms. As the clergyman spoke phrases of sympathy, the father, with tears streaming down his cheeks, interrupted loudly:
"Oh, sir, you don't know how I loved that li'll faller. Yus, sir, if it worn't agin the law, I'd keep him, an' have him stuffed, that I would!"
The woman confessed to her crony:
"I'm growing old, and I know it. Nowadays, the policeman never takes me by the arm when he escorts me through the traffic."
The mother called in vain for her young son. Then she searched the ground floor, the first story, the second, and the attic—all in vain. Finally, she climbed to the trap door in the roof, pushed it open, and cried:
"John Henry, are you out there?"
An answer came clearly:
"No, mother. Have you looked in the cellar?"
The nurse at the front regarded the wounded soldier with a puzzled frown.
"Your face is perfectly familiar to me," she said, musingly. "But I can't quite place you somehow."
"Let bygones be bygones, mum," the soldier said weakly. "Yes, mum, I was a policeman."
The little boy, sent to the butcher shop, delivered himself of his message in these words:
"Ma says to send her another ox-tail, please, an' ma says the last one was very nice, an' ma says she wants another off the same ox!"
Little Willie came home in a sad state. He had a black eye and numerous scratches and contusions, and his clothes were a sight. His mother was horrified at the spectacle presented by her darling. There were tears in her eyes as she addressed him rebukingly:
"Oh, Willie, Willie! How often have I told you not to play with that naughty Peck boy!"
Little Willie regarded his mother with an expression of deepest disgust.
"Say, ma," he objected, "do I look as if I had been playing with anybody?"
The cross-eyed man at the ball bowed with courtly grace, and said:
"May I have the pleasure of this dance?"
Two wallflowers answered as with one voice:
The young man applied to the manager of the entertainment museum for employment as a freak, and the following dialogue occurred:
"Who are you?"
"I am Enoch, the egg king."
"What is your specialty?"
"I eat three dozen hen's eggs, two dozen duck eggs, and one dozen goose eggs, at a single setting."
"Do you know our program?"
"What is it?"
"We give four shows every day."
"Oh, yes, I understand that."
"And do you think you can do it?"
"I know I can."
"On Saturdays we give six shows."
"On holidays we usually give a performance every hour."
And now, at last, the young man showed signs of doubt.
"In that case, I must have one thing understood before I'd be willing to sign a contract."
"No matter what the rush of business is in the show, you've got to give me time to go to the hotel to eat my regular meals."
* * *
Daniel Webster was the guest at dinner of a solicitous hostess who insisted rather annoyingly that he was eating nothing at all, that he had no appetite, that he was not making out a meal. Finally, Webster wearied of her hospitable chatter, and addressed her in his most ponderous senatorial manner:
"Madam, permit me to assure you that I sometimes eat more than at other times, but never less."
* * *
It was shortly after Thanksgiving Day that someone asked the little boy to define the word appetite. His reply was prompt and enthusiastic:
"When you're eating you're 'appy; and when you get through you're tight—that's appetite!"
The distinguished actor had a large photograph of Wordsworth prominently displayed in his dressing-room. A friend regarded the picture with some surprise, and remarked:
"I see you are an admirer of Wordsworth."
"Who's Wordsworth?" demanded the actor.
"Why, that's his picture," was the answer, as the friend pointed. "That's Wordsworth, the poet."
The actor regarded the photograph with a new interest.
"Is that old file a poet?" he exclaimed in astonishment. "I got him for a study in wrinkles."
"Yes, ma'am," the old salt confided to the inquisitive lady, "I fell over the side of the ship, and a shark he come along and grabbed me by the leg."
"Merciful providence!" his hearer gasped. "And what did you do?"
"Let 'im 'ave the leg, o' course, ma'am. I never argues with sharks."
An American tourist and his wife, after their return from abroad, were telling of the wonders seen by them at the Louvre in Paris. The husband mentioned with enthusiasm a picture which represented Adam and Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden, in connection with the eating of the forbidden fruit. The wife also waxed enthusiastic, and interjected a remark:
"Yes, we found the picture most interesting, most interesting indeed, because, you see, we know the anecdote."
* * *
The Yankee tourist described glowingly the statue of a beautiful woman which he had seen in an art museum abroad.
"And the way she stood, so up and coming, was grand. But," he added, with a tone of disgust, "those foreigners don't know how to spell. The name of the statue was Posish'—and it was some posish, believe me! and the dumb fools spelt it—'Psyche!'"
* * *
"Tell me, does your husband snore?"
"Oh, yes, indeed—so delightfully."
"Yes, really—he's so musical you know, his voice is baritone, he only snores operatic bits, mostly Aida."
* * *
The packer from Chicago admired a picture by Rosa Bonheur.
"How much is that?" he demanded. The dealer quoted the price as $5,000.
"Holy pig's feet!" the magnate spluttered. "For that money, I can buy live hogs and——"
His wife nudged him in the ribs, and whispered:
"Don't talk shop."
The sister spoke admiringly to the collegian who was calling on her after field day, at which she had been present.
"And how they did applaud when you broke that record!"
Her little brother, who overheard, sniffed indignantly.
"Pa didn't applaud me for the one I broke," he complained. "He licked me."
A woman lion-hunter entertained a dinner party of distinguished authors. These discoursed largely during the meal, and bored one another and more especially their host, who was not literary. To wake himself up, he excused himself from the table with a vague murmur about opening a window, and went out into the hall. He found the footman sound asleep in a chair. He shook the fellow, and exclaimed angrily:
"Wake up! You've been listening at the keyhole."
The visiting Englishman, with an eyeglass screwed to his eye, stared in fascinated horror at the ugliest infant he had ever seen, which was in its mother's arms opposite him in the street car. At last, his fixed gaze attracted the mother's attention, then excited her indignation.
"Rubber!" she piped wrathfully.
"Thank God!" exclaimed the Englishman. "I fancied it might be real."
* * *
The teacher had explained to the class that the Indian women are called squaws. Then she asked what name was given to the children?
"Porpoises," came one eager answer.
But a little girl whose father bred pigeons, called excitedly:
"Please, teacher, they're squabs!"
A gentleman strolling alongside a canal observed an old negro and a colored boy fishing. A moment later, a splash was heard. The boy had fallen into the water. The old darky, however, jumped in after the lad, and succeeded in getting him safely to the bank. There he stood the victim on his head to let the water drain out, and it was at this moment that the gentleman arrived on the scene with profuse expressions of admiration for the prompt rescue.
"It was noble of you," the gentleman declared rather rhetorically, "to plunge into the water in that way at the risk of your life to save the boy. I congratulate you on your brave display of heroic magnanimity."
The old colored man answered with an amiable grin:
"All right, boss. Ah doan know nuffin' 'bout magn'imity. But Ah jess had to git dat boy out de water. He had de bait in his pocket."
A patient complained to the doctor that his hair was coming out.
"Won't you give me something to keep it in?" he begged.
"Take this," the doctor said kindly, and he handed the patient a pill box.
On the way to the baptism, the baby somehow loosened the stopper of his bottle, with the result that the milk made a frightful mess over the christening robe. The mother was greatly shamed, but she was compelled to hand over the child in its mussed garments to the clergyman at the font.
"What name?" the clergyman whispered.
The agitated mother failed to understand, and thought that he complained of the baby's condition. So she offered explanation in the words:
"Nozzle come off—nozzle come off!"
The clergyman, puzzled, repeated his whisper:
"Nozzle come off—nozzle come off!" The woman insisted, almost in tears.
The clergyman gave it up, and continued the rite:
"Nozzlecomeoff Smithers, I baptize thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost."
* * *
The aged negro clergyman announced solemnly from the pulpit:
"Next Sabbath, dar will be a baptism in dis chu'ch, at half-pas' ten in de mawnin'. Dis baptism will be of two adults an' six adulteresses."
The old colored man left the Methodist Church and joined the Baptist. Soon afterward, he encountered his former pastor, who inquired the reason for his change of sect. The old man explained fully.
"Fust off, I was 'Piscopal, but I hain't learned, an' they done say the service so fast, I nebber could keep up, an' when I come out behin', dey all look, an' I'se 'shamed. So I jined the Methodis'. Very fine church, yes, suh. But dey done has 'Quiry meetin's. An', suh, us cullud folkses can't bear too much 'quirin' into. An' a man says to me, 'Why don't you jine de Baptis'? De Baptis', it's jest dip an' be done wid it! 'An' so I jined."
The teacher directed the class to write a brief account of a baseball game. All the pupils were busy during the allotted time, except one little boy, who sat motionless, and wrote never a word. The teacher gave him an additional five minutes, calling them off one by one. The fifth minute had almost elapsed when the youngster awoke to life, and scrawled a sentence. It ran thus:
Teacher: "In which of his battles was King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden slain?"
Pupil: "I'm pretty sure it was the last one."
The old trapper was chased by a grizzly. When he had thrown away everything he carried, and found, nevertheless, that the bear was gaining rapidly, he determined to make a stand. As he came into a small clearing, he faced about with his back to a stump, and got out and opened his clasp-knife. The bear halted a rod away, and sat on its haunches, surveying its victim gloatingly. The trapper, though not usually given to praying, now improved the interval to offer a petition.
"O God," he said aloud, with his eyes on the bear, "if you're on my side, let my knife git 'im quick in 'is vitals, an' if you're on 'is side, let 'im finish me fust off. But, O God, if you're nootral, you jist sit thar on that stump, an' you'll see the darndest bear fight you ever hearn tell on!"
* * *
The guide introduced a tourist in the Rocky Mountains to an old hunter who was reputed to have slain some hundreds of bears.
"This feller," the guide explained to the hunter, "would like to hear about some of the narrer escapes you've had from bears."
The old mountaineer regarded the tourist with a disapproving stare.
"Young man," he said, "if there's been any narrer escapes, the bears had 'em."
The father of a school boy in New York City wrote to the boy's teacher a letter of complaint. Possibly he welcomed the advent of prohibition—possibly not! Anyhow, the letter was as follows:
"Sir: Will you please for the future give my boy some eesier somes to do at nites. This is what he brought home to me three nites ago. If fore gallins of bere will fill thirty to pint bottles, how many pint and half bottles will nine gallins fill? Well, we tried and could make nothing of it all, and my boy cried and said he wouldn't go back to school without doing it. So, I had to go and buy a nine gallin' keg of bere, which I could ill afford to do, and then we went and borrowed a lot of wine and brandy bottles, beside a few we had by us. Well we emptied the keg into the bottles, and there was nineteen, and my boy put that down for an answer. I don't know whether it is rite or not, as we spilt some in doing it.
P. S.—Please let the next one be water as I am not able to buy any more bere."
* * *
The new soda clerk was a mystery, until he himself revealed his shameful past quite unconsciously by the question he put to the girl who had just asked for an egg-shake.
"Light or dark?" he asked mechanically.
The cultured maid servant announced to her mistress, wife of the profiteer:
"If you please, ma'am, there's a mendicant at the door."
The mistress sniffed contemptuously:
"Tell 'im there's nothin' to mend."
A woman visitor to the city entered a taxicab. No sooner was the door closed than the car leaped forward violently, and afterward went racing wildly along the street, narrowly missing collision with innumerable things. The passenger, naturally enough, was terrified. She thrust her head through the open window of the door, and shouted at the chauffeur:
"Please, be careful, sir! I'm nervous. This is the first time I ever rode in a taxi."
The driver yelled in reply, without turning his head:
"That's all right, ma'am. It's the first time I ever drove one!"
The cook, Nora, had announced her engagement to a frequenter at the kitchen, named Mike. But a year passed and nothing was heard of the nuptials. So, one day, the mistress inquired:
"When are you to be married, Nora?"
"Indade, an' it's niver at all, I'll be thinkin', mum," the cook answered sadly.
"Really? Why, what is the trouble?"
The reply was explicit:
"'Tis this, mum. I won't marry Mike when he's drunk, an' he won't marry me when he's sober."
* * *
The delinquent laggard swain had been telling of his ability as a presiding officer. The girl questioned him:
"What is the parliamentary phrase when you wish to call for a vote?"
The answer was given with proud certainty:
"Are you ready for the question?"
"Yes, dearest," the girl confessed shyly. "Go ahead."
What is the penalty for bigamy?
* * *
The man was weak and naturally unlucky, and so he got married three times inside of a year. He was convicted and sentenced for four years. He seemed greatly relieved. As the expiration of his term grew near, he wrote from the penitentiary to his lawyer, with the plaintive query:
"Will it be safe for me to come out?"
The little girl in the zooelogical park tossed bits of a bun to the stork, which gobbled them greedily, and bobbed its head toward her for more.
"What kind of a bird is it, mamma?" the child asked.
The mother read the placard, and answered that it was a stork.
"O-o-o-h!" the little girl cried, as her eyes rounded. "Of course, it recognized me!"
The philosopher, on being interrupted in his thoughts by the violent cackling of a hen that had just laid an egg, was led to express his appreciation of a kind Providence by which a fish while laying a million eggs to a hen's one, does so in a perfectly quiet and ladylike manner.
A shopkeeper with no conscience put by his door a box with a slit in the cover and a label reading, "For the Blind." A month later, the box disappeared. When some one inquired concerning it, the shopkeeper chuckled, and pointed to the window.
"I collected enough," he explained. "There's the new blind."
The sympathetic and inquisitive old lady at the seashore was delighted and thrilled by an old sailor's narrative of how he was washed overboard during a gale and was only rescued after having sunk for the third time.
"And, of course," she commented brightly, "after you sank the third time, your whole past life passed before your eyes."
"I presoom as how it did, mum," the sailor agreed. "But bein' as I had my eyes shut, I missed it."
The recruit complained to the sergeant that he'd got a splinter in his finger.
"Ye should have more sinse," was the harsh comment, "than to scratch your head."
BONE OF CONTENTION
The crowd in the car was packed suffocatingly close. The timid passenger thought of pickpockets, and thrust his hand into his pocket protectingly. He was startled to encounter the fist of a fat fellow-passenger.
"I caught you that time!" the fat man hissed.
"Thief yourself!" snorted the timid passenger. "Leggo!"
"Scoundrel!" shouted the fat man.
"Help! Stop thief!" the little fellow spluttered, trying to wrench his hand from the other's clasp. As the car halted, the tall man next the two disputants spoke sharply:
"I want to get off here, if you dubs will be good enough to take your hands out of my pocket."
* * *
During the Civil War, an old negro was deeply interested in the conflict, but showed no sign of wishing to take part in it. A white man questioned him one day:
"The men of the North and South are killing one another on your account. Why don't you pitch in and fight yourself?"
"Has you-all ever seen two dogs fightin' over a bone?" the negro demanded.
"Many times, of course," was the answer.
The old negro chuckled as he said:
"Did you ever see de bone fight?"
"Dat's all! I'se de bone."
The Southern Colonel at Saratoga Springs, in the days before prohibition, directed the colored waiter at his table in the hotel:
"You-all kin bring me a Kentucky breakfast."
"An' what is that, sir?" the waiter inquired doubtfully.
The Colonel explained:
"Bring me a big steak, a bulldog and a quart of Bourbon whiskey."
"But why do you order a bulldog?" asked the puzzled waiter.
"To eat the steak, suh!" snapped the Colonel.
The best illustration of the value of brief speech reckoned in dollars was given by Mark Twain. His story was that when he had listened for five minutes to the preacher telling of the heathen, he wept, and was going to contribute fifty dollars, after ten minutes more of the sermon, he reduced the amount of his prospective contribution to twenty-five dollars, after half an hour more of eloquence, he cut the sum to five dollars. At the end of an hour of oratory when the plate was passed, he stole two dollars.
A thriving baseball club is one of the features of a boy's organization connected with a prominent church. The team was recently challenged by a rival club. The pastor gave a special contribution of five dollars to the captain, with the direction that the money should be used to buy bats, balls, gloves, or anything else that might help to win the game. On the day of the game, the pastor was somewhat surprised to observe nothing new in the club's paraphernalia. He called the captain to him.
"I don't see any new bats, or balls, or gloves," he said.
"We haven't anything like that," the captain admitted.
"But I gave you five dollars to buy them," the pastor exclaimed.
"Well, you see," came the explanation, "you told us to spend it for bats, or balls, or gloves, or anything that we thought might help to win the game, so we gave it to the umpire."
Two ladies in a car disputed concerning the window, and at last called the conductor as referee.
"If this window is open," one declared, "I shall catch cold, and will probably die."
"If the window is shut," the other announced, "I shall certainly suffocate." The two glared at each other.
The conductor was at a loss, but he welcomed the words of a man with a red nose who sat near. These were:
"First, open the window, conductor. That will kill one. Next, shut it. That will kill the other. Then we can have peace."
A young couple that had received many valuable wedding presents established their home in a suburb. One morning they received in the mail two tickets for a popular show in the city, with a single line:
"Guess who sent them."
The pair had much amusement in trying to identify the donor, but failed in the effort. They duly attended the theatre, and had a delightful time. On their return home late at night, still trying to guess the identity of the unknown host, they found the house stripped of every article of value. And on the bare table in the dining-room was a piece of paper on which was written in the same hand as the enclosure with the tickets:
"Now you know!"
Jeanette was wearing a new frock when her dearest friend called.
"I look a perfect fright," she remarked, eager for praise.
The dearest friend was thinking of her own affairs, and answered absent-mindedly:
"Yes, you certainly do."
"Oh, you horrid thing!" Jeanette gasped. "I'll never—never speak to you again!"
In Bret Harte's Mary McGillup, there is a notable description of calmness in most trying circumstances.
"'I have the honor of addressing the celebrated Rebel spy, Miss McGillup?'" asked the vandal officer.
"In a moment I was perfectly calm. With the exception of slightly expectorating twice in the face of the minion I did not betray my agitation."
A Tennessee farmer went to town and bought a gallon jug of whiskey. He left it in the grocery store, and tagged it with a five of hearts from the deck in his pocket, on which he wrote his name. When he returned two hours later, the jug was gone. He demanded an explanation from the grocer.
"Simple enough," was the reply. "Jim Slocum come along with a six of hearts, an' jist nacherly took thet thar jug o' yourn."
The housemaid, tidying the stairs the morning after a reception, found lying there one of the solid silver teaspoons.
"My goodness gracious!" she exclaimed, as she retrieved the piece of silver. "Some one of the company had a hole in his pocket."
The small boy sat at the foot of a telegraph pole, with a tin can in his hands. The curious old gentleman gazed first at the lad and then at the can, much perplexed.
"Caterpillars!" he ejaculated. "What are you doing with them?"
"They climb trees and eat the leaves," the boy explained.
"And so," the boy continued proudly, "I'm foolin' this bunch by lettin' 'em climb the telegraph pole."
Clarence, aged eight, was a member of the Band of Mercy, of his Sunday School, which was a miniature society for the prevention of cruelty to animals. The badge was a small star, and Clarence wore this with as much pride as ever a policeman had in his shield. He displayed eagerness in the work, and grew somewhat unpopular with the other boys and girls by reason of his many rebukes for their harsh treatment of animals. But one morning his mother, on looking out of the window, observed to her horror that the erstwhile virtuous Clarence had the family cat by the tail, and was swinging it to and fro with every evidence of glee. In fact, it had been the wailing of the outraged beast that had caused the mother to look out.
"Why, Clarence!" she cried, aghast. "What are you doing to that poor cat? And you a member of the Band of Mercy!"
Little Clarence released the cat, but he showed no shame as he explained:
"I was—but I lost my star."
* * *
The teacher put a question to the class:
"What does a cat have that no other animal has?"
A number cried in unison:
But an objector raised the point that bears and skunks have fur. One pupil raised an eager hand:
"I know, teacher—whiskers!"
But another objector laughed scornfully.
"Haw-haw! My papa has whiskers!"
The suggester of whiskers defended her idea by declaring: "My papa ain't got whiskers."
"'Cause he can't!" the objector sneered. "Haw-haw! Your pa ain't no good. My pa says——"
The teacher rapped for order, and repeated her question. A little girl raised her hand, and at the teacher's nod spoke timidly.
* * *
The little girl returned from church deeply musing on the sermon, in which the preacher had declared that animals, lacking souls, could not go to heaven. As the result of her meditation, she presented a problem to the family at the dinner table, when she asked earnestly:
"If cats don't go to heaven, where do the angels get the strings for their harps?"
"Oh, mamma," questioned the child, "who's that?" He pointed to a nun who was passing.
"A Sister of Charity," was the answer.
"Which one," the boy persisted, "Faith or Hope?"
The Southern planter heard a commotion in his poultry house late at night. With shot gun in hand, he made his way to the door, flung it open and curtly ordered:
"Come out of there, you ornery thief!"
There was silence for a few seconds, except for the startled clucking of the fowls. Then a heavy bass voice boomed out of the darkness:
"Please, Colonel, dey ain't nobody here 'cept jes' us chickens!"
A shipwrecked traveler was washed up on a small island. He was terrified at thought of cannibals, and explored with the utmost stealth. Discovering a thin wisp of smoke above the scrub, he crawled toward it fearfully, in apprehension that it might be from the campfire of savages. But as he came close, a voice rang out sharply:
"Why in hell did you play that card?" The castaway, already on his knees, raised his hands in devout thanksgiving.
"Thank God!" he exclaimed brokenly. "They are Christians!"
A political boss wished to show his appreciation of the services of a colored man who possessed considerable influence. He suggested to the darky for a Christmas present the choice between a ton of coal and a jug of the best whiskey.
The colored man spoke to the point:
"Ah burns wood."
* * *
Santa Claus inserted an upright piano, a fur dolman, a Ford, and a few like knick-knacks in the Chicago girl's stocking. When he saw that it was not yet half filled, he withdrew to the roof, plumped down on the snow, and wept bitterly.
The young members of the family had been taught to be punctilious in contributing to the collection at church. One Sunday morning, when the boxes were being passed, James, aged six, ran his eye over those in the pew, and noticed that a guest of his sister had no coin in her hand. "Where is your money?" he whispered. She answered that she hadn't any. But James was equal to the emergency:
"Here, take mine," he directed. "That'll pay for you. I'll get under the seat."
Which he did.
* * *
The old negro attended a service in the Episcopal Church for the first time in his life. Someone asked him afterward how he had enjoyed the experience.
"Not much, shohly not much," he declared, shaking his head. "Dat ain't no church for me. No' suh! Dey wastes too much time readin' the minutes ob the previous meetin'."
The little boy was clad in an immaculate white suit for the lawn party, and his mother cautioned him strictly against soiling it. He was scrupulous in his obedience, but at last he approached her timidly, and said:
"Please, mother, may I sit on my pants?"
* * *
The mother catechised her young son just before the hour for the arrival of the music teacher.
"Have you washed your hands very carefully?"
"And have you washed your face thoroughly?"
"And were you particular to wash behind your ears?"
"On her side I did, mother."
The young man at the summer resort, who had become engaged to the pretty girl, received information that led him to question her:
"Is it true that since you came up here you've got engaged to Billy, Ed, George and Harry, as well as me?"
The young lady assumed an air of disdain.
"What is that to you?" she demanded.
"Just this," he replied gently. "If it's so, and you have no objection, we fellows will all chip in together to buy an engagement ring."
Isaac and Moses dined in a restaurant that was new to them, and were pained seriously by the amount of the check. Moses began to expostulate in a loud voice, but Isaac hushed him with a whisper:
"'Sh! I haf the spoons in my pocket."
"Would you like a lock of my hair?" asked the gallant old bachelor of the spinster who had been a belle a few decades past.
"Why don't you offer me the whole wig?" the maiden lady gibed, with a titter.
The bachelor retorted with icy disdain:
"You are very biting, madam, considering that your teeth are porcelain."
* * *
The young man, dancing with the girl to whom he had just been introduced, remarked with the best of intentions, but rather unfortunately:
"That's the new waltz. My sister was raving about it. I think it's pretty bad. I expect she danced it with somebody rather nice."
* * *
In former times, when royalties were more important, a lady at a court ball was intensely gratified when a prince selected her as a partner. She was almost overwhelmed with pride when he danced a second measure with her.
"Oh," she gushed, as she reposed blissfully in his arms, "your highness does me too great honor."
The prince answered coldly:
"But no, madam. Merely, my physician has directed me to perspire."
The widow was deep in suds over the family wash, when she saw her pastor coming up the path to the door. She gave directions to her young son to answer the bell, and to tell the clergyman that his mother had just gone down the street on an errand. Since the single ground floor room of the cottage offered no better hiding place against observation from the door, she crouched behind a clothes-horse hung with drying garments. When the boy had opened the door to the minister, and had duly delivered the message concerning his mother's absence, the reverend gentleman cast a sharp look toward the screen of drying clothes, and addressed the boy thus:
"Well, my lad, just tell your mother I called. And you might say to her that the next time she goes down the street, she should take her feet along."
"I suppose I must admit that I do have my faults," the husband remarked in a tone that was far from humble.
"Yes," the wife snapped, "and in your opinion your faults are better than other folks' virtues."
The child had been greatly impressed by her first experience in Sunday school. She pressed her hands to her breast, and said solemnly to her sister, two years older:
"When you hear something wite here, it is conscience whispering to you."
"It's no such thing," the sister jeered. "That's just wind on your tummie."
His companion bent over the dying man, to catch the last faintly whispered words. The utterance came with pitiful feebleness, yet with sufficient clearness:
"I am dying—yes. Go to Fannie. Tell her—I died—with her name—on my lips, that I—loved her—her alone—always.... And Jennie—tell Jennie—the same thing."
A zealous church member in a Kentucky village made an earnest effort to convert a particularly vicious old mountaineer named Jim, who was locally notorious for his godlessness. But the old man was hard-headed and stubborn, firmly rooted in his evil courses, so that he resisted the pious efforts in his behalf.
"Jim," the exhorter questioned sadly at last, "ain't you teched by the story of the Lord what died to save yer soul?"
"Humph!" Jim retorted contemptuously. "Air ye aimin' to tell me the Lord died to save me, when He ain't never seed me, ner knowed me?"
"Jim," the missionary explained with fervor, "it was a darn sight easier for the Lord to die fer ye jest because He never seed ye than if He knowed ye as well as we-alls do!"
The housewife gave the tramp a large piece of pie on condition that he should saw some wood. The tramp retired to the woodshed, but presently he reappeared at the back door of the house with the piece of pie still intact save for one mouthful bitten from the end.
"Madam," he said respectfully to the wondering woman, "if it's all the same to you, I'll eat the wood, and saw the pie."
The witness was obviously a rustic and quite new to the ways of a court-room. So, the judge directed him:
"Speak to the jury, sir—the men sitting behind you on the benches."
The witness turned, bowed clumsily and said:
The old farmer and his wife visited the menagerie. When they halted before the hippopotamus cage, he remarked admiringly:
"Darn'd curi's fish, ain't it, ma?"
"That ain't a fish," the wife announced. "That's a rep-tile."
It was thus that the argument began. It progressed to a point of such violence that the old lady began belaboring the husband with her umbrella. The old man dodged and ran, with the wife in pursuit. The trainer had just opened the door of the lions' cage, and the farmer popped in. He crowded in behind the largest lion and peered over its shoulder fearfully at his wife, who, on the other side of the bars, shook her umbrella furiously.
"Coward!" she shouted. "Coward!"
The colored man, passing through the market, saw a turtle for the first time, and surveyed it with great interest. The creature's head was withdrawn, but as the investigator fumbled about the shell, it shot forward and nipped his finger. With a howl of pain he stuck his finger in his mouth, and sucked it.
"What's the matter?" the fishmonger asked with a grin.
"Nothin'—jest nothin' a tall," the colored man answered thickly. "Ah was only wonderin' whether Ah had been bit or stung."
The child came to his mother in tears.
"Oh, mama," he confessed, "I broke a tile in the hearth."
"Never mind, dear," the mother consoled. "But how ever did you come to do it?"
"I was pounding it with father's watch?"
One foot in the grave, and the other slipping.
On Tuesday, a colored maid asked her mistress for permission to be absent on the coming Friday. She explained that she wished to attend the funeral of her fiance. The mistress gave the required permission sympathetically.
"But you're not wearing mourning, Jenny," she remarked.
"Oh, no, ma'am," the girl replied. "You see, ma'am, he ain't dead yet. The hanging ain't till Friday."
DEAD MEN'S SHOES
When a certain officer of the governor's staff died, there were many applicants for the post, and some were indecently impatient. While the dead colonel was awaiting burial, one aspirant buttonholed the governor, asking:
"Would you object to my taking the place of the colonel?"
"Not at all," the governor replied tartly. "See the undertaker."
In the smoking-room of a theatre, between the acts, an amiable young man addressed an elderly gentleman who was seated beside him:
"The show is very good, don't you think?"
The old gentleman nodded approvingly, as he replied:
"Me, I always take the surface cars. Them elevated an' subway stairs ketches my breath."
"I said the show was a good one," exclaimed the young man, raising his voice.
Again, the elderly person nodded agreeably.
"They jump about a good deal," was his comment, "but they're on the ground, which the others ain't."
Now, the young man shouted:
"You're a little deaf, ain't you?"
At last the other understood.
"Yes, sir!" he announced proudly. "I'm as deef as a post." He chuckled contentedly. "Some folks thinks as that's a terrible affliction, but I don't. I kin always hear what I'm sayin' myself, an' that's interestin' enough for me."
* * *
An excellent old gentleman grew hard of hearing, and was beset with apprehension lest he become totally deaf. One day, as he rested on a park bench, another elderly citizen seated himself alongside. The apprehensive old gentleman saw that the new comer was talking rapidly, but his ears caught no faintest sound of the other's voice. He listened intently—in vain. He cupped a hand to his ear, but there was only silence. At last, in despair, he spoke his thought aloud:
"It's come at last! I know you've been talking all this while, but I haven't heard a single word."
The answer, given with a grin, was explicit and satisfying to the worried deaf man:
"I hain't been talkin'—jest a-chewin'."
The visitor to the poet's wife expressed her surprise that the man of genius had failed to dedicate any one of his volumes to the said wife. Whereupon, said wife became flustered, and declared tartly:
"I never thought of that. As soon as you are gone, I'll look through all his books, and if that's so, I never will forgive him!"
The schoolboy, after profound thought, wrote this definition of the word "spine," at his teacher's request.
"A spine is a long, limber bone. Your head sets on one end and you set on the other."
DEGREES IN DEGRADATION
Phil May, the artist, when once down on his luck in Australia, took a job as waiter in a very low-class restaurant. An acquaintance came into the place to dine, and was aghast when he discovered the artist in his waiter.
"My God!" he whispered. "To find you in such a place as this."
Phil May smiled, as he retorted:
"Oh, but, you see, I don't eat here."
A woman in the mountains of Tennessee was seated in the doorway of the cabin, busily eating some pig's feet. A neighbor hurried up to tell of how her husband had become engaged in a saloon brawl and had been shot to death. The widow continued munching on a pig's foot in silence while she listened to the harrowing news. As the narrator paused, she spoke thickly from her crowded mouth:
"Jest wait till I finish this-here pig's trotter, an' ye'll hear some hollerin' as is hollerin'."
Some wasps built their nests during the week in a Scotch clergyman's best breeches. On the Sabbath as he warmed up to his preaching, the wasps, too, warmed up, with the result that presently the minister was leaping about like a jack in the box, and slapping his lower anatomy with great vigor, to the amazement of the congregation.
"Be calm, brethren," he shouted. "The word of God is in my mouth, but the De'il's in my breeches!"
The young lady, who was something of a food fadist, was on a visit to a coast fishing village. She questioned her host as to the general diet of the natives, and was told that they subsisted almost entirely on fish. The girl protested:
"But fish is a brain food, and these folks are really the most unintelligent-looking that I ever saw."
"Mebbe so," the host agreed. "And just think what they'd look like if they didn't eat fish!"
In an English school, the examiner asked one of the children to name the products of the Indian Empire. The child was well prepared, but very nervous.
"Please, sir," the answer ran, "India produces curries and pepper and rice and citron and chutney and—and——"
There was a long pause. Then, as the first child remained silent, a little girl raised her hand. The examiner nodded.
"Yes, you may name any other products of India."
"Please, sir," the child announced proudly, "India-gestion."
"Now, let me see," the impecunious man demanded as he buttonholed an acquaintance, "do I owe you anything?"
"Not a penny, my dear sir," was the genial reply. "You are going about paying your little debts?"
"No, I'm going about to see if I've overlooked anybody? Lend me ten till Saturday."
* * *
Ted had a habit of dropping in at the house next door on baking day, for the woman of that house had a deft way in the making of cookies, and Ted had no hesitation in enjoying her hospitality, even to the extent of asking for cookies if they were not promptly forthcoming.
When the boy's father learned of this, he gave Ted a lecture and a strict order never to ask for cookies at the neighbor's kitchen. So, when a few days later the father saw his son munching a cookie as he came away from the next house, he spoke sternly:
"Have you been begging cookies again?"
"Oh, no, I didn't beg any," Ted answered cheerfully. "I just said, this house smells as if it was full of cookies. But what's that to me?"
* * *
Sometimes the use of a diplomatic method defeats its own purpose, as in the case of the old fellow who was enthusiastic in praise of the busy lawyer from whose office he had just come, after a purely social call.
"That feller, for a busy man," he declared earnestly, "is one of the pleasantest chaps I ever did meet. Why, I dropped in on him jest to pass the time o' day this mornin', an' I hadn't been chattin' with 'im more'n five minutes before he'd told me three times to come and see 'im agin."
* * *
The lady of uncertain age simpered at the gentleman of about the same age who had offered her his seat in the car.
"Why should you be so kind to me?" she gurgled.
"My dear madam, because I myself have a mother and a wife and a daughter."
* * *
Diplomacy is shown inversely by the remark of the professor to the lady in this story.
At a reception the woman chatted for some time with the distinguished man of learning, and displayed such intelligence that one of the listeners complimented her.
"Oh, really," she said with a smile, "I've just been concealing my ignorance."
The professor spoke gallantly.
"Not at all, not at all, my dear madam! Quite the contrary, I do assure you."
We are more particular nowadays about cleanliness than were those of a past generation. Charles Lamb, during a whist game, remarked to his partner:
"Martin, if dirt were trumps, what a hand you'd have!"
* * *
The French aristocrats were not always conspicuously careful in their personal habits. A visitor to a Parisian grande dame remarked to her hostess:
"But how dirty your hands are."
The great lady regarded her hands doubtfully, as she replied:
"Oh, do you think so? Why, you ought to see my feet!"
Jimmy found much to criticise in his small sister. He felt forced to remonstrate with his mother.
"Don't you want Jenny to be a good wife like you when she grows up?" he demanded. His mother nodded assent.
"Then you better get busy, ma. You make me give into her all the time 'cause I'm bigger 'en she is. You're smaller 'en pa, but when he comes in, you bring him his slippers, and hand him the paper." Jimmie yanked his go-cart from baby Jennie, and disregarded her wail of anger as he continued:
"Got to dis'pline her, or she'll make an awful wife!"
The kindly and inquisitive old gentleman was interested in the messenger boy who sat on the steps of a house, and toyed delicately with a sandwich taken from its wrapper. With the top piece of bread carefully removed, the boy picked out and ate a few small pieces of the chicken. The puzzled observer questioned the lad:
"Now, sonny, why don't you eat your sandwich right down, instead of fussing with it like that?"
The answer was explicit:
"Dasn't! 'Tain't mine."
The court was listening to the testimony of the wife who sought a divorce.
"Tell me explicitly," the judge directed the woman, "what fault you have to find with your husband."
And the wife was explicit:
"He is a liar, a brute, a thief and a brainless fool!"
"Tut, tut!" the judge remonstrated. "I suspect you would find difficulty in proving all your assertions."
"Prove it!" was the retort. "Why, everybody knows it."
"If you knew it," his honor demanded sarcastically, "why did you marry him?"
"I didn't know it before I married him."
The husband interrupted angrily:
"Yes, she did, too," he shouted. "She did so!"
A victim of chronic bronchitis called on a well-known physician to be examined. The doctor, after careful questioning, assured the patient that the ailment would respond readily to treatment.
"You're so sure," the sufferer inquired, "I suppose you must have had a great deal of experience with this disease."
The physician smiled wisely, and answered in a most confidential manner:
"Why, my dear sir, I've had bronchitis myself for more than fifteen years."
* * *
A well-to-do colored man suffered a serious illness, and showed no signs of improvement under treatment by a physician of his own race. So, presently, he dismissed this doctor and summoned a white man. The new physician made a careful examination of the patient, and then asked:
"Did that other doctor take your temperature?"
The sick man shook his head doubtfully.
"I dunno, suh," he declared, "I sartinly dunno. All I've missed so far is my watch."
* * *
A member of the faculty in a London medical college was appointed an honorary physician to the king. He proudly wrote a notice, on the blackboard in his class-room:
"Professor Jennings informs his students that he has been appointed honorary physician to His Majesty, King George."
When he returned to the class-room in the afternoon he found written below his notice this line:
"God save the King."
* * *
The Chinaman expressed his gratitude to that mighty physician Sing Lee, as follows:
"Me velly sick man. Me get Doctor Yuan Sin. Takee him medicine. Velly more sick. Me get Doctor Hang Shi. Takee him medicine. Velly bad—think me go die. Me callee Doctor Kai Kon. Him busy—no can come. Me get well."
* * *
The instructor in the Medical College exhibited a diagram.
"The subject here limps," he explained, "because one leg is shorter than the other." He addressed one of the students:
"Now, Mr. Snead, what would you do in such a case?"
Young Snead pondered earnestly and replied with conviction:
"I fancy, sir, that I should limp, too."
* * *
The physician turned from the telephone to his wife:
"I must hurry to Mrs. Jones' boy—he's sick."
"Is it serious?"
"Yes. I don't know what's the matter with him, but she has a book on what to do before the doctor comes. So I must hurry. Whatever it is, she mustn't do it."
In a former generation, when elaborate doctrines were deemed more important by Christian clergymen than they are to-day, they were prone to apply every utterance of the Bible to the demonstration of their own particular tenets. For example, one distinguished minister announced his text and introduced his sermon as follows:
"'So, Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he did eat at the King's table, and he was lame on both his feet.'
"My brethren, we are here taught the doctrine of human depravity.—Mephibosheth was lame. Also the doctrine of total depravity—he was lame on both his feet. Also the doctrine of justification—for he dwelt in Jerusalem. Fourth, the doctrine of adoption—'he did eat at the King's table.' Fifth, the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints—for we read that 'he did eat at the King's table continually.'"
During the worst of the spy-scare period in London a man was brought into the police station, who declared indignantly that he was a well-known American citizen. But his captor denounced him as a German, and offered as proof the hotel register, which he had brought along. He pointed to the signature of the accused. It read:
The tramp was sitting with his back to a hedge by the wayside, munching at some scraps wrapped in a newspaper. A lady, out walking with her pet Pomeranian, strolled past. The little dog ran to the tramp, and tried to muzzle the food. The tramp smiled expansively on the lady.
"Shall I throw the leetle dog a bit, mum?" he asked.
The lady was gratified by this appearance of kindly interest in her pet, and murmured an assent. The tramp caught the dog by the nape of the neck and tossed it over the hedge, remarking:
"And if he comes back, mum, I might throw him a bit more."
* * *
Many a great man has been given credit as originator of this cynical sentiment:
"The more I see of men, the more I respect dogs."
* * *
The fox terrier regarded with curious interest the knot tied in the tail of the dachshund.
"What's the big idea?" he inquired.
"That," the dachshund answered, "is a knot my wife tied to make me remember an errand."
The fox terrier wagged his stump of tail thoughtfully.
"That," he remarked at last, "must be the reason I'm so forgetful."
* * *
During the siege of Paris in the Franco-German war, when everybody was starving, one aristocratic family had their pet dog served for dinner. The master of the house, when the meal was ended, surveyed the platter through tear-dimmed eyes, and spoke sadly:
"How Fido would have enjoyed these bones!"
* * *
The young clergyman during a parochial call noticed that the little daughter of the hostess was busy with her slate while eying him closely from time to time.
"And what are you doing, Clara?" he asked, with his most engaging smile.
"I'm drawing a picture of you," was the answer.
The clerical visitor sat very still to facilitate the work of the artist. But, presently, Clara shook her head in discouragement.
"I don't like it much," she confessed. "I guess I'll put a tail on it, and call it a dog."
* * *
The meditative Hollander delivered a monologue to his dog:
"You vas only a dog, but I vish I vas you. Ven you go your bed in, you shust turn round dree times and lie down; ven I go de bed in, I haf to lock up the blace, and vind up de clock, and put out de cat, and undress myself, and my vife vakes up and scolds, and den de baby vakes and cries and I haf to valk him de house around, and den maybe I get myself to bed in time to get up again.
"Ven you get up you shust stretch yourself, dig your neck a little, and you vas up. I haf to light de fire, put on de kiddle, scrap some vit my vife, and get myself breakfast. You be lays round all day and haf blenty of fun. I haf to vork all day and have blenty of drubble. Ven you die, you vas dead; ven I die, I haf to go somewhere again."
* * *
Some persons are born to have honor thrust upon them, and such is obviously the case of the actor named in this story.
The colored maid of an actress took out for exercise her mistress's dog, a splendid St. Bernard. A passer-by admired the animal, and inquired as to the breed. The maid said:
"I doan jes' zactly know mahself, but I dun hear my missis say he am a full-blood Sam Bernard."
After a trip abroad, a lady inquired of her colored washerwoman:
"Lucy, do you and your husband quarrel now the same as you used to?"
"No, indeed, ma'am," was the reply.
"That is good. I'm sure you're very glad of it, aren't you?"
"Ah sho'ly is."
"What caused you to stop quarreling, Lucy?" the lady asked.
The explanation was simple and sufficient:
* * *
The newly married pair quarreled seriously, so that the wife in a passion finally declared:
"I'm going home to my mother!"
The husband maintained his calm in the face of this calamity, and drew out his pocketbook.
"Here," he said, counting out some bills, "is the money for your railroad fare."
The wife took it, and counted it in her turn. Then she faced her husband scornfully:
"But that isn't enough for a return ticket."
* * *
The good wife, after she and her husband had retired for the night, discoursed for a long time with much eloquence. When she was interrupted by a snore from her spouse, she thumped the sleeper into wakefulness, and then remarked:
"John, do you know what I think of a man who will go to sleep while his own wife is a-talkin' to him?"
"Well, now, I believe as how I do, Martha," was the drowsily uttered response. "But don't let that stop you. Go right ahead, an' git it off your mind."
Small Jimmie discussed with his chief crony the minister's sermon which had dealt with the sheep and the goats.
"Me," he concluded, "I don't know which I am. Mother calls me her lamb, and father calls me kid."
* * *
Ability to look on two sides of a question is usually a virtue, but it may degenerate into a vice. Thus, a visitor found his bachelor friend glumly studying an evening waistcoat. When inquiry was made, this explanation was forthcoming:
"It's quite too soiled to wear, but really, it's not dirty enough to go to the laundry. I can't make up my mind just what I should do about it."
The new play was a failure. After the first act, many left the theatre; at the end of the second, most of the others started out. A cynical critic as he rose from his aisle seat raised a restraining hand.
"Wait!" he commanded loudly. "Women and children first!"
The group of dwellers at the seaside was discussing the subject of dreams and their significance. During a pause, one of the party turned to a little girl who had sat listening intently, and asked:
"Do you believe that dreams come true?"
"Of course, they do," the child replied firmly. "Last night I dreamed that I went paddling—and I had!"
"Oh, have you heard? Mrs. Blaunt died to-day while trying on a new dress."
"How sad! What was it trimmed with?"
* * *
The son of the house had been reading of an escaped lunatic.
"How do they catch lunatics?" he asked.
The father, who had just paid a number of bills, waxed sarcastic:
"With enormous straw hats, with little bits of ones, with silks and laces and feathers and jewelry, and so on and so on."
"I recall now," the mother spoke up, "I used to wear things of that sort until I married you."
It was nine o'clock in the morning, but this particular passenger on the platform of the trolley car still wore a much crumpled evening suit.
As the car swung swiftly around a curve this riotous liver was jolted off, and fell heavily on the cobble stones. The car stopped, and the conductor, running back, helped the unfortunate man to scramble to his feet. The bibulous passenger was severely shaken, but very dignified.
"Collision?" he demanded.
"No," the conductor answered.
"Off the track?" was the second inquiry.
"No," said the conductor again.
"Well!" was the indignant rejoinder. "If I'd known that, I wouldn't have got off."
* * *
The very convivial gentleman left his club happy, but somewhat dazed. On his homeward journey, made tackingly, he ran against the vertical iron rods that formed a circle of protection for the trunk of a tree growing by the curb. He made a tour around the barrier four times, carefully holding to one rod until he had a firm grasp on the next. Then, at last, he halted and leaned despairingly against the rock to which he held, and called aloud for succor:
"Hellup! hellup! Somebody let me out!"
* * *
The highly inebriated individual halted before a solitary tree, and regarded it as intently as he could, with the result that he saw two trees. His attempt to pass between these resulted in a near-concussion of the brain. He reeled back, but presently sighted carefully, and tried again, with the like result. When this had happened a half-dozen times, the unhappy man lifted up his voice and wept.
"Lost—Lost!" he sobbed. "Hopelessly lost in an impenetrable forest!"
* * *
The proprietor of the general store at the cross-roads had his place overrun by rats, and the damage was such that he offered a hundred dollars reward to anyone who would rid him of the pests. A disreputable-appearing person turned up one morning, and announced that he was a professional rat-killer.
"Get to work," the store-keeper urged.
"I must have a pound of cheese," the killer declared.
When this had been provided:
"Now give me a quart of whiskey."
Equipped with the whiskey, the professional spoke briskly:
"Now show me the cellar."
An hour elapsed, and then the rat-catcher galloped up the cellar stairs and leaped into the store. His face was red, the eyes glaring, and he shook his fists in defiance of the world at large, as he jumped high in air and shouted:
"Whoopee! I'm ready! bring on your rats!"
* * *
Two Southern gentlemen, who were of very convivial habits, chanced to meet on the street at nine o'clock in the morning after an evening's revel together. The major addressed the colonel with decorous solemnity:
"Colonel, how do you feel, suh?"
The colonel left nothing doubtful in the nature of his reply:
"Major," he declared tartly, "I feel like thunder, suh, as any Southern gentleman should, suh, at this hour of the morning!"
* * *
The old toper was asked if he had ever met a certain gentleman, also notorious for his bibulous habits.
"Know him!" was the reply. "I should say I do! Why, I got him so drunk one night it took three hotel porters to put me to bed."
* * *
A farmer, who indulged in sprees, was observed in his Sunday clothes throwing five bushels of corn on the ear into the pen where he kept half a dozen hogs, and he was heard to mutter:
"Thar, blast ye! if ye're prudent, that orter last ye."
* * *
A mouse chanced on a pool of whiskey that was the result of a raid by prohibition-enforcement agents. The mouse had had no previous acquaintance with liquor, but now, being thirsty, it took a sip of the strange fluid, and then retired into its hole to think. After some thought, it returned to the pool, and took a second sip of the whiskey. It then withdrew again to its hole, and thought. Presently, it issued and drew near the pool for the third time. Now, it took a big drink. Nor did it retreat to its hole. Instead, it climbed on a soap box, stood on its hind legs, bristled its whiskers, and squeaked:
"Now, bring on your cat!"
* * *
The owner of a hunting lodge in Scotland presented his gamekeeper with a fur cap, of the sort having ear flaps. When at the lodge the following year, the gentleman asked the gamekeeper how he liked the cap. The old man shook his head dolefully.
"I've nae worn it since the accident."
"What accident was that?" his employer demanded. "I've heard of none."
"A mon offered me a dram, and I heard naething of it."
* * *
The old farmer was driving home from town, after having imbibed rather freely. In descending a hill, the horse stumbled and fell, and either could not, or would not, get to its feet again. At last, the farmer spoke savagely:
"Dang yer hide, git up thar—or I'll drive smack over ye!"
* * *
Mrs. Smith addressed her neighbor, whose husband was notoriously brutal, and she spoke with a purr that was catty:
"You know, my dear, my husband is so indulgent!"
And the other woman retorted, quite as purringly:
"Oh, everybody knows that. What a pity he sometimes indulges too much!"
* * *
In the days before prohibition, a bibulous person issued from a saloon in a state of melancholy intoxication, and outside the door he encountered a teetotaler friend.
The friend exclaimed mournfully:
"Oh, John, I am so sorry to see you come out of such a place as that!"
The bibulous one wept sympathetically.
"Then," he declared huskily, "I'll go right back!" And he did.
* * *
When the Kentucky colonel was in the North, some one asked him if the Kentuckians were in fact very bibulous.
"No, suh," the colonel declared. "I don't reckon they're mo' than a dozen Bibles in the whole state."
* * *
The Irish gentleman encountered the lady who had been ill, and made gallant inquiries.
"I almost died," she explained. "I had ptomaine-poisoning."
"And is it so?" the Irishman gushed. And he added in a burst of confidence: "What with that, ma'am, and delirium tremens, a body these days don't know what he dare eat or drink."
The police physician was called to examine an unconscious prisoner, who had been arrested and brought to the station-house for drunkenness. After a short examination, the physician addressed the policeman who had made the arrest.
"This fellow is not suffering from the effects of alcohol. He has been drugged."
The policeman was greatly disturbed, and spoke falteringly:
"I'm thinkin', ye're right, sor. I drugged him all the way to the station."
The traveler was indignant at the slow speed of the train. He appealed to the conductor:
"Can't you go any faster than this?"
"Yes," was the serene reply, "but I have to stay aboard."
The Southerner in the North, while somewhat mellow, discoursed eloquently of conditions in his home state. He concluded in a burst of feeling:
"In that smiling land, suh, no gentleman is compelled to soil his hands with vulgar work. The preparing of the soil for the crops is done by our niggers, suh, and the sowing of the crops, and the reaping of the crops—all done by the niggers.... And the selling is done by the sheriff."
One Japanese bragged to another that he made a fan last twenty years by opening only a fourth section, and using this for five years, then the next section, and so on.
The other Japanese registered scorn.
"Wasteful!" he ejaculated. "I was better taught. I make a fan last a lifetime. I open it wide, and hold it under my nose quite motionless. Then I wave my head."
* * *
Wife:—"Women are not extravagant. A woman can dress smartly on a sum that would keep a man looking shabby."
Husband:—"That's right. What you dress on keeps me looking shabby."
In these days of difficulty in securing domestic servants, mistresses will accept almost any sort of help, but there are limits. A woman interrogated a husky girl in an employment office, who was a recent importation from Lapland. The dialogue was as follows:
"Can you do fancy cooking?"
"Can you do plain cooking?"
"Can you sew?"
"Can you do general housework?"
"Make the beds, wash the dishes?"
"Well," cried the woman in puzzled exasperation, "what can you do?"
"I milk reindeer."
* * *
The undertaker regarded the deceased in the coffin with severe disapproval, for the wig persisted in slipping back and revealing a perfectly bald pate. He addressed the widow in that cheerfully melancholy tone which is characteristic of undertakers during their professional public performance.
"Have you any glue?"
The widow wiped her eyes perfunctorily, and said that she had.
"Shall I heat it?" she asked. The undertaker nodded gloomily, and the relic departed on her errand. Presently, she returned with the glue-pot.
But the undertaker shook his head, and regarded her with the gently sad smile to which undertakers are addicted, as he whispered solemnly:
"I found a tack."
* * *
An engineer, who was engaged on railroad construction in Central America, explained to one of the natives living alongside the right of way the advantages that would come from realization of the projected line. To illustrate his point, he put the question:
"How long does it take you to carry your produce to market by muleback?"
"Three days, senor," was the answer.
"Then," said the engineer, "you can understand the benefit the road will be to you. You will be able to take your produce to market, and to return home on the same day."
"Very good, senor," the native agreed courteously.
"But, senor, what shall we do with the other two days?"
The farmer decided to give special attention to the development of his poultry yard, and he undertook the work carefully and systematically. His hired man, who had been with him for a number of years, was instructed, among other things, to write on each egg the date laid and the breed of the hen. After a month, the hired man resigned.
"I can't understand," the farmer declared, surprised and pained, "why you should want to leave."
"I'm through," the hired man asserted. "I've done the nastiest jobs, an' never kicked. But I draw the line on bein' secretary to a bunch o' hens."
The pessimist spoke mournfully to his friend:
"It is only to me that such misfortunes happen."
"What's the matter now?"
The pessimist answered dolefully:
"Don't you see that it is raining?"
A circus man was scouring the countryside in search of an elephant that had escaped from the menagerie and wandered off. He inquired of an Irishman working in a field to learn if the fellow had seen any strange animal thereabouts.
"Begorra, Oi hev thot!" was the vigorous answer. "There was an inju-rubber bull around here, pullin' carrots with its tail."
Some months after the elopement, an old friend met the bridegroom, and asked eagerly for details.
"What about her father? Did he catch you?"
"Just that!" quoth the bridegroom grimly. "Incidentally, I may add that the old boy is living with us still."
The darky's clothes were in the last stages of dilapidation, and he wore open work shoes, but his face was radiant, and he whistled merrily as he slouched along the street. A householder called from his porch:
"Sam, I have a job for you, if you want to earn a quarter."
The tattered colored man grinned happily as he shook his head.
"No, suh, thank yoh all de same, boss—I done got a quarter."
In an Irish cemetery stands a handsome monument with an inscription which runs thus: