Best Short StoriesEllis Parker Butler / Humor
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BEST SHORT STORIES
Collected by THOMAS L. MASSON
Published by DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY for REVIEW OF REVIEWS CO. 1922
A FOREWORD TO EVERYBODY
There is a wide difference of opinion, even among the mostdiscriminating critics, as to what constitutes the point of a good joke.Aside from varying temperaments, this is largely due to one's experiencewith life in general. Or intimate acquaintance with certain phases oflife gives us a subtler appreciation of certain niceties, which would belost upon those who have not traveled over that particular path. Thedoctor, the lawyer, the family man, and the soldier, each have theirminds sensitized to their own fields of thought. Human nature, however,works according to universal laws, and a really first-class joke strikeshome to the majority.
The compiler of this collection has had it in mind to get as muchvariety as possible, while at the same time to use only such material asserves to illustrate some easily recognizable human trait.
It is almost needless to say that this book should not be readcontinuously. It should be taken in small doses, as it is highlyconcentrated.
Many old friends will be noticed in the crowd. But old friends, evenamong jokes, should not be passed by too lightly.
BEST SHORT STORIES
THE POINT OF HONOR
A young lieutenant was passed by a private, who failed to salute. Thelieutenant called him back, and said sternly:
You did not salute me. For this you will immediately salute two hundredtimes.
At this moment the General came up.
What's all this? he exclaimed, seeing the poor private about to begin.
The lieutenant explained.
This ignoramus failed to salute me, and as a punishment, I am makinghim salute two hundred times.
Quite right, replied the General, smiling. But do not forget, sir,that upon each occasion you are to salute in return.
ALWAYS GET THE FACTS
It is never wise to jump to conclusions. Always wait until the evidenceis all in.
A Jersey man of a benevolent turn of mind encountered a small boy in hisneighborhood who gave evidence of having emerged but lately from asevere battle.
I am sorry, said the man, to see that you have a black eye, Sammy.
Whereupon Sammy retorted:
You go home and be sorry for your own little boy--he's got two!
CAN THIS BE TRUE?
A certain Irishman was taken prisoner by the Huns. While he was standingalone, waiting to be assigned to his prison, or whatever fate awaitedhim, the Kaiser came up.
Hello, said the Kaiser. Who have we here?
I'm an Irishman, your honor.
Then he winked solemnly.
Oi say, he continued. We didn't do a thing to you Germans, did we?Eh, old chap?
The Kaiser was horrified. Calling an orderly he said to him:
Take this blasphemer away and put a German uniform on him, and thenbring him back.
Shortly the Irishman was returned, in a full German uniform.
Well, said the Kaiser, maybe you feel better now. How is it?
Pat grabbed him by the arm, and leaning over, whispered:
Oi say, we gave them Irish Hell, didn't we?
NEW SERVANT-GIRL STORY
The wife of a successful young literary man had hired a buxom Dutch girlto do the housework. Several weeks passed and from seeing her masterconstantly about the house, the girl received an erroneous impression.
Ogscuse me, Mrs. Blank, she said to her mistress one day, but I liketo say somedings.
The girl blushed, fumbled with her apron, and then replied, Vell, youpay me four tollars a veek--'
Yes, and I really can't pay you any more.
It's not dot, responded the girl; but I be villing to take treetollars till--till your husband gets vork.
HE WAS BROAD MINDED
Even married life does not affect some people unpleasantly, or take awaythe fine spirit of their charity.
A certain factory-owner tells of an old employee who came into theoffice and asked for a day off.
I guess we can manage it, Pete, says the boss, tho we are mightyshort-handed these days. What do you want to get off for?
Ay vant to get married, blushed Pete, who is by way of being aScandinavian.
Married? Why, look here--it was only a couple of months ago that youwanted to get off because your wife was dead!
Yas, ay gess so.
And you want to get married again, with your wife only two monthsdead?
Yas. Ay ain't ban hold no grudge long.
MISSED HIS CHANCE
Before introducing Lieutenant de Tessan, aide to General Joffre, andColonel Fabry, the Blue Devil of France, Chairman Spencer, of the St.Louis entertainment committee, at the M.A.A. breakfast told thisanecdote:
In Washington Lieutenant de Tessan was approached by a pretty Americangirl, who said:
'And did you kill a German soldier?'
'Yes,' he replied.
'With what hand did you do it?' she inquired.
'With this right hand,' he said.
And then the pretty American girl seized his right hand and kissed it.Colonel Fabry stood near by. He strolled over and said to Lieutenant deTessan:
'Heavens, man, why didn't you tell her that you bit him to death?'
GREAT RELIEF IN HEAVEN
The following story is from the _Libre Belgique_, the anonymousperiodical secretly published in Brussels, and which the utmostvigilance of the German authorities has been unable to suppress.
Once upon a time Doctor Bethman-Holweg went up to heaven. The pearlygates were shut, but he began to push his way through in the usualGerman fashion. St. Peter rushed out of his lodge, much annoyed at thecommotion.
Hi, there, who are you? he demanded.
I am Doctor Von Bethman-Holweg, the imperial chancellor, was thehaughty reply.
Well, you don't seem to be dead; what are you doing around here?
I want to see God.
Sorry, replied St. Peter, but I don't think you can see him to-day;in fact, he's not very well.
Ah, I'm distressed to hear that, said the chancellor somewhat morepolitely. What seems to be the trouble?
We don't quite know, but we are afraid it is a case of exaggeratedego, answered St. Peter. He keeps walking up and down, occasionallystriking his chest with his clenched fist, and muttering to himself: 'Iam the kaiser! I am the kaiser!'
Dear me! that is really very sad, said the chancellor in a stillkindlier tone. Now I happen to be the bearer of a communication from myimperial master; perhaps it might cheer him up to hear it.
What is it?
Why, the emperor has just issued a decree, providing that in future heshall have the use of the nobiliary particle; from henceforth he willhave the right to call himself 'Von Gott'.
Step right in, your excellency, interrupted St. Peter. I am very surethe new Graf will be much gratified to learn of the honor done him.Third door to the right. Mind the step. Thank you.
A story about Lord Kitchener, who was often spoken of as the mostdistinguished bachelor in the world, is being told. A young member ofhis staff when he was in India asked for a furlough in order to go homeand be married. Kitchener listened to him patiently then he said:
Kenilworth, you're not yet twenty-five. Wait a year. If then you stilldesire to do this thing you shall have leave.
The year passed. The officer once more proffered his request.
After thinking it over for twelve months, said Kitchener, you stillwish to marry?
Very well, you shall have your furlough. And frankly, my boy, Iscarcely thought there was so much constancy in the masculine world.
Kenilworth, the story concludes, marched to the door, but turned to sayas he was leaving: Thank you, sir. Only it's not the same woman.
HE KNEW THE LAW
An old colored man charged with stealing chickens was arraigned in courtand was incriminating himself when the judge said:
You ought to have a lawyer. Where's your lawyer?
Ah ain't got no lawyer, jedge, said the old man.
Very well, then, said his honor, I'll assign a lawyer to defend you.
Oh, no, suh; no, suh! Please don't do dat! the darky begged.
Why not? asked the judge. It won't cost you anything. Why don't youwant a lawyer?
Well, jedge, Ah'll tell you, suh, said the old man, waving histattered old hat confidentially. Hit's dis way. Ah wan' tah enjoy demchickens mahse'f.
A SERMON ON THE WAR BY PARSON BROWN
The historic colored preacher who held forth so strenuously after theCivil War has almost become obsolete, but in certain sections he stillholds his own, as the following sermon, taken from _Life_, will show:
Brederen an' Sisterin: I done read de Bible from kiver to kiver, fromlid to lid an' from end to end, an' nowhar do I find a mo' 'propriatetex' at dis time, when de whole worl' is scrimmigin' wid itse'f, dan deplace whar Paul Pinted de Pistol at de Philippines an' said, Dou art deman.
Kaiser Bill ob Germany is de man, an' Uncle Sam done got de pistolpinted his way, an' goin' to pull de trigger, lessen Bill gits off hisperch, like dat woman Jezebel dat sassed Ahab from de roof top.
Ahab say to his soldiers, Go up an' th'ow dat woman down, an' deyth'ew her down. Den he say, Go up an' th'ow her down again, an' deyth'ew her down again; an' he say, Take her back up an th'ow her downseben times, an' dey th'owed her down seben times, an' ast if dat ain'tenough.
But Ahab done got his dander up, an' say, No! Dat ain't enough. Th'owher down sebenty times seben.
And afterwards dey done pick up twelve baskets ob de fragments dereob.
Dat's what gwine ter happen ter dat Bill Heah Him Hollerin.
De Good Book done fo'told dis here war, an' jist how it gwine ter end.Don't it say about de four beasts in de book of Relations, what spitfire an' brimstone, meanin' de Kaiser, de Turks, de Ostriches, and deBullgeraniums, case two ob dem beasteses is birds, an' Ostriches an'Turkys is birds. De bigges' beast is de Kaiser, case he uses Germans topizen his enemies. De newspapers say as how diseases is all caused byGermans gittin' in de food an' bein' breathed in de lungs, givin' folkshydrophobia an' lumbago an' consumption.
Dis brings us to de time when Abraham led de chillun ob Israel intoEgypt, an' Moses led 'em out again case de folks ob Egypt so bad deyshoot craps all day, and eben make Faro de king. Dey take all de money'way from de Jews an' raise de price ob cawn an' hay till de po' Jewscan't live.
Rockefeller-Morgan Faro, de king, say dey can't go, but Moses done gotde Lawd on his side, an' he crossed de Red Sea in submarines, so Farogot drowned wid all his host. De mummy ob dat same Faro is still alivein de big museums ob de world, but whar de host is no man can tell.
Dat de way de Wall Street gang dat been raisin' de price ob food gwineter pass in dey checks--in de Red Sea ob blood ob dis war.
Moses an' de Jews went trabelin' ober de desert till one day dey gits sohungry dey makes a fatted calf ob gold while Moses up on Mount Sinaigittin' de law laid down. Moses come er-cussin' back an' busted de Lawober Aaron's head, an' den dey killed de fatted calf an' put a ring onhis finger. For de prodigal done return, an' dey is mo' rejoicin' oberone sinner sabed dan ninety an' nine what doan know 'nuff to put deirmoney in de contribution box instead ob shootin' it 'way on craps.
Oh, I knows you backsliders, an' ef any ob you doan come across whileDekin Jones passes de box, I'se gwine ter preach nex' Sunday on whathappened ter de money-chasers in de temple.
We will now sing two verses ob Th'ow Out de Lifeline, Anoder ShipSinkin' To-day.
The hobo knocked at the back door and the lady of the house appeared.
Lady, he said, I was at the front--
You poor man! she exclaimed. One of war's victims. Wait till I getyou some food, and you shall tell me your story. You were in thetrenches, you say?
Not in the trenches. I was at the front--
Don't try to talk with your mouth full. Take your time. What deed ofheroism did you do at the front?
Why, I knocked, but I couldn't make nobody hear, so I came around tothe back.
LIFE'S ETERNAL QUERY
Did it ever occur to you that a man's life is full of cussedness? Hecomes into the world without his consent, and goes out against his will,and the trip between is exceedingly rocky.
When he is little, the big girls kiss him; when he is big, the littlegirls kiss him. If he is poor, he is a bad manager; if he is rich, he'sa crook. If he is prosperous, everybody wants to do him a favor; if heneeds credit, they hand him a lemon.
If he is in politics, it is for graft; if out of politics, he is no goodto his country. If he doesn't give to charity, he's a tightwad; if hedoes, it's for show. If he is actively religious, he is a hypocrite; andif he takes no interest in religion, he is a heathen.
If he is affectionate, he is a soft mark; if he cares for no one, he iscold-blooded. If he dies young, there was a great future for him; if helives to an old age, he missed his calling.
If you don't fight, you're yellow; if you do, you're a brute.
If you save your money, you're a grouch; if you spend it, you're aloafer; if you get it, you're a grafter, and if you don't get it, you'rea bum.
_So what's the use?_
Even certain professors, who are supposed to be immune from commercialinducements are sometimes financially overcautious. A party of touristswere watching Professor X as he exhumed the wrapt body of an ancientEgyptian.
Judging from the utensils about him, remarked the professor, thismummy must have been an Egyptian plumber.
Wouldn't it be interesting, said a romantic young lady, if we couldbring him to life?
Interesting, but a bit risky, returned Professor X. Somebody mighthave to pay him for his time.
A young planter in Mississippi had an old servant called Uncle Mose, whohad cared for him as a child and whose devotion had never waned. Theyoung man became engaged to a girl of the neighborhood who had areputation for unusual beauty and also for a very violent temper.Noticing that Uncle Mose never mentioned his approaching marriage, theplanter said:
Mose, you know I am going to marry Miss Currier?
Yassuh, I knows it.
I haven't heard you say anything about it, persisted the planter.
No, suh, said Mose. Tain't fo' me to say nothin' 'bout it. I's gotnothin' to say.
But you must have some opinion about so important a step on my part.
Well, suh, said the old negro with some hesitation, yo' knows onething--the most p'izonest snakes has got the most prettiest skins.
THE NEW REGIME
The new change in social conditions to be brought about by the war isillustrated in the following advertisements taken from _Life_:
HUSBAND AND WIFE would like position as gardener and cook, or will doanything. 23 years in last place as czar and czarina. Salary not soimportant as permanent place in quiet, peaceful atmosphere. AddressROMANOFF, this paper.
EMPLOYERS, giving up royalty, would like to secure position for theirking. Steady, experienced, thoroughly broken to crown and sceptre.Distance no objection. Will go anywhere. Small salary to start.CONSTANTINE, 49 Greece, in rear. (Ring Sophy's bell.)
YOUNG MONARCH, 28 years old, 4 years as king in last place, would acceptlike position in small, tranquil country, Latin preferred. No objectionto South America. Light, rangy and stylish, very fast, and thoroughlybroken to bombs and revolutions. MANUEL J. PORTUGAL, London.
KING AND QUEEN, Swedish, expecting to make change shortly, would likeposition as gardener and coachman, cook and laundress. Good home moreimportant than salary. A1 references. Address GUS and VICKY, care thispaper.
EMPEROR, 29 years as Kaiser in present position, expecting to be atliberty shortly, owing to change in employers' circumstances, would likeplace as assassin, or pig-sticker in abattoir. No aversion to blood.Cool, resourceful, determined. Address EFFICIENT, care this paper.
WHERE IGNORANCE IS BLISS;
Thus, seeking to be kind and fraternal, but at the same time perfectlyhonest, if we make mistakes, we may still comfort ourselves with theassurance which his Irish Catholic servant once expressed to the devoutand learned Bishop Whately.
Do you really believe, he asked her, that there is no salvationoutside of the Roman Catholic Church?
Shure, an' I do, she replied, for that's what the praist ses.
Well, then, what is going to become of me?
Oh, that's all right, she answered, with an Irish twinkle in her eyes.Yer riverence will be saved by yer ignorince.
WHEN THE S FELL OUT
We are thorry to thay, explained the editor of the Skedunk _WeeklyNews_, that our compothing-room wath entered lath night by thomeunknown thcoundrel, who thtole every 'eth' in the ethtablithment, andthucceeded in making hith ethcape undetected.
The motive of the mithcreant doubtleth wath revenge for thomethuppothed inthult.
It thall never be thaid that the petty thpite of any thmall-thouledvillain hath dithabled the _Newth_, and if thith meet the eye of thedetethtable rathcal, we beg to athure him that he underethtimated therethourceth of a firtht-clath newthpaper when he thinkth he can crippleit hopelethly by breaking into the alphabet. We take occathion to thayto him furthermore that before next Thurthday we thall have three timethath many etheth ath he thtole.
We have reathon to thuthpect that we know the cowardly thkunk whocommitted thith act of vandalithm, and if he ith ever theen prowlingabout thith ethtablithment again, by day or by night, nothing will giveuth more thatithfaction than to thoot hith hide full of holeth.
FULL PARTICULARS FREE
They were seated in a tramcar--the mother and her little boy.
The conductor eyed the little boy suspiciously. He had to keep a lookoutfor people who pretended that their children were younger than theyreally were, in order to obtain free rides for them.
And how old is your little boy, madam, please?
Three and a half, said the mother truthfully.
Right, ma'am, said the conductor, satisfied.
Little Willie pondered a minute. It seemed to him that fullerinformation was required.
And mother's thirty-one, he said politely.
THEY WERE SO GLAD TO SEE HIM
I am taking some notes about civic pride, said the urbane stranger, ashe wandered into the up-to-date community. I suppose you have such athing?
Well, I should say we had, said the corner real estate agent. I amloaded with it myself.
Good! replied the agent, taking out his memo-book. I'll make a noteof it. This, you will understand, is a more or less scientific inquiry,and I shall make my estimates as carefully as possible, with all dueregard to the human equation. Who, should you say, has the most civicpride in town?
That is some problem, replied the agent, but you might go across theway to the Woman's Club. Out of courtesy to the ladies I am ready toyield the palm.
Yes, said the president of the Woman's Club when she had heard thevisitor's errand. We have the most civic pride, of course. The TownCouncil thinks it has, and the Board of Education thinks it has, but payno attention to them; we are on the job day and night; as a factory forturning out civic pride, nobody in this vicinity can beat us. You wantto hear my lecture on the subject at the next meeting.
Thanks, said the visitor, but you will appreciate that in thesepiping times of war, I am a busy man, and must hurry on. Has anybodyelse any civic pride here that you could name?
He was presented with a list and went about town getting them all down.At the end of several days, all the organizations in town that dealt incivic pride got together and arranged for a banquet for thedistinguished stranger. They were immensely proud that he had come amongthem.
It was a great affair. The mayor, who was swelling with civic pride,vied with the president of the Woman's Club. It was, indeed, aneck-and-neck race between them as to who had the greater quantity ofcivic pride.
At the end of the banquet, when they were all bidding the guest good-byewith tears streaming down their faces, the only pessimist in town got upand said:
Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, for obtruding my repellent personalityon this joyful assemblage, but our dear guest will not, I am sure,object to answering a simple question. I have no civic pride myself, butdo you mind, sir, telling me the object of your visit to this lovelylittle burg?
Certainly not, said the guest, as he prepared to take a quick slantthrough the door, no objection at all. You see, my friends, civic prideis the only thing that the government hasn't taxed. You'll get yourbills a little later, based on your own estimates. Much obliged for allyour first-hand information.
HAD TO BE SETTLED
Johnny, it was very wrong for you and the boy next door to fight.
We couldn't help it, father.
Could you not have settled your differences by a peaceful discussionof the matter, calling in the assistance of unprejudiced opinion, ifneed be?
No, father. He was sure he could whip me and I was sure I could whiphim, and there was only one way to find out.
The sergeant-major had the reputation of never being at a loss for ananswer. A young officer made a bet with a brother officer that he wouldin less than twenty-four hours ask the sergeant-major a question thatwould baffle him.
The sergeant-major accompanied the young officer on his rounds, in thecourse of which the cook-house was inspected. Pointing to a large copperof water just commencing to boil, the officer said:
Why does that water only boil round the edges of the copper and not inthe centre?
The water round the edge, sir, replied the veteran, is for the men onguard; they have their breakfast half an hour before the remainder ofthe company.
ACCOUNTING FOR IT
Levi Cohen was looking very dejected. That morning he left the housewith five pounds in his pocket to try his luck at the races, but, alas!he had returned at nightfall footsore and weary, and nothing in hispossession but a bad half-penny.
No wonder his better half was in a bad temper. How is it, she snapped,that you're so unlucky at the races, and yet you always win at cards?
Well, my dear, responded Levi, meekly, you see, it's this way: Idon't shuffle the horses.
A keen-eyed mountaineer led his overgrown son into a countryschoolhouse.
This here boy's arter larnin', he announced. What's yer bill o'fare?
Our curriculum, sir, corrected the school-master, embraces geography,arithmetic, trigonometry--
That'll do, interrupted the father. That'll do. Load him up well withtriggernometry. He's the only poor shot in the family.
A REVISED CLASSIC
Now, my dear girl, said Bluebeard, remember you can go anywhere inthe house but the pantry. That is locked up, and the key will be placedunder the mat. Remove it at your peril.
Consumed with curiosity, Mrs. Bluebeard could scarcely wait until herhusband had cranked his machine before she was trying the key. It fittedperfectly. She turned it, and entered. Within was the finest collectionof provisions that she had ever seen: at least a hundred dozen eggspreserved in water, sacks of potatoes, barrels of wheat--in fact, acomplete commissary department.
And then, as she looked out of the window, she gave a faint scream. Herhusband was returning. He had a puncture. She retained her presence ofmind, however, long enough to step to the telephone. Just as she hadfinished delivering the message Bluebeard entered.
Ha! he exclaimed. So you have forced the pantry. I see flour on yourlips. Prepare to die.
Mrs. Bluebeard only smiled.
Not so fast, she muttered. At this moment Herbert Hoover entered thehouse.
So you are the wretch who has been storing up private food supplies,contrary to my orders! he exclaimed. Ninety days in jail!
Whereupon Mrs. Bluebeard, waving her late lord and master farewell,prepared to beat up a luscious eggnog.
Sandy Macpherson came home after many years and met his old sweetheart.Honey-laden memories thrilled through the twilight and flushed theirglowing cheeks.
Ah, Mary, exclaimed Sandy, ye're just as beautiful as ye ever were,and I ha'e never forgotten ye, my bonnie lass.
And ye, Sandy, she cried, while her blue eyes moistened, are just asbig a leear as ever, an' I believe ye jist the same.
An alien, wishing to be naturalized, applied to the clerk of the office,who requested him to fill out a blank, which he handed him. The firstthree lines of the blank ran as follows:
The answers follow:
Name, Jacob Levinsky.
Pat O'Flaherty, very palpably not a prohibitionist, was arrested inArizona recently, charged with selling liquor in violation of theProhibition law. But Pat had an impregnable defense. His counsel, inaddressing the jury, said:
Your Honor, gentlemen of the jury, look at the defendant.
A dramatic pause, then:
Now, gentlemen of the jury, do you honestly think that if the defendanthad a quart of whiskey he would sell it?
The verdict, reached in one minute, was Not guilty.
A full-blown second lieutenant was endeavoring to display his greatknowledge of musketry. Sauntering up to the latest recruit, he said:
See here, my man, this thing is a rifle, this is the barrel, this isthe butt, and this is where you put the cartridge in.
The recruit seemed to be taking it all in, so the officer, continuing,said:
You put the weapon to your shoulder; these little things on the barrelare called sights; then to fire you pull this little thing, which iscalled the trigger. Now, smarten yourself up, and remember what I havetold you; and, by the way, what trade did you follow before youenlisted? A collier, I suppose!
No, sir, came the reply; I only worked as a gunsmith for theGovernment Small Arms Factory.
THE ECLIPSE TO ORDER
On the evening before a solar eclipse the colonel of a German regimentof infantry sent for all the sergeants and said to them:
There will be an eclipse of the sun to-morrow. The regiment will meeton the parade ground in undress. I will come and explain the eclipsebefore drill. If the sky is cloudy the men will meet in the drill shed,as usual.
Whereupon the ranking sergeant drew up the following order of the day:
To-morrow morning, by order of the colonel, there will be an eclipseof the sun. The regiment will assemble on the parade ground, where thecolonel will come and superintend the eclipse in person. If the sky iscloudy the eclipse will take place in the drill shed.
Two brothers were being entertained by a rich friend. As ill luck wouldhave it, the talk drifted away from ordinary topics.
Do you like Omar Khayyam? thoughtlessly asked the host, trying to makeconversation. The elder brother plunged heroically into the breach.
Pretty well, he said, but I prefer Chianti.
Nothing more was said on this subject until the brothers were on theirway home.
Bill, said the younger brother, breaking a painful silence, why can'tyou leave things that you don't understand to me? Omar Khayyam ain't awine, you chump; it's a cheese.
An old South Carolina darky was sent to the hospital of St. Xavier inCharleston. One of the gentle, black-robed sisters put a thermometer inhis mouth to take his temperature. Presently, when the doctor made hisrounds, he said:
Well, Nathan, how do you feel?
I feel right tol'ble, boss.
Have you had any nourishment?
What did you have?
A lady done gimme a piece of glass ter suck, boss.
HAD HAD TREATMENT
He was a mine-sweeper, and, home on leave, was feeling a bit groggy. Hecalled to see a doctor, who examined him thoroughly.
You're troubled with your throat, you say? said the doctor.
Aye, aye, sir, said the sailor.
Have you ever tried gargling it with salt and water? asked the doctor.
The mine-sweeper groaned.
I should say so! he said. I've been torpedoed seven times!
HOW HE GOT THEM
A British soldier was walking down the Strand one day. He had one legoff and an arm off and both ears missing and his head was covered withbandages, and he was making his way on low gear as best he could, whenhe was accosted by an intensely sympathetic lady who said:
Oh, dear, dear! I cannot tell you how sorry I am for you. This isreally terrible. Can't I do something? Do tell me, did you receive allthese wounds in real action?
A weary expression came over that part of the soldier's face that wasvisible as he replied:
No, madam; I was cleaning out the canary bird cage, and the d----d birdbit me!
CAESAR VISITS CICERO
How modern are the old fellows. Here is a story related by Cicero in oneof his letters which will recall the embarrassments we have ourselvesfelt in the presence of the unexpected.
Cicero gives an account to his friend of a visit he had just receivedfrom the Emperor Julius Caesar. He had invited Julius to pass a few dayswith him, but he came quite unexpectedly with a thousand men! Cicero,seeing them from afar, debated with another friend what he should dowith them but at length managed to encamp them. To feed them was a lesseasy matter. The emperor took everything quite easily, however, and wasvery pleasant, but, adds Cicero, he is not the man to whom I shouldsay a second time, 'if you are passing this way, give me a call.'
WHY BE POLITE ANYWAY?
Every seat was occupied, when a group of women got in. The conductornoticed a man who he thought was asleep.
Wake up! shouted the conductor.
I wasn't asleep, said the passenger.
Not asleep! Then what did you have your eyes closed for?
It was because of the crowded condition of the car, explained thepassenger. I hate to see the women standing.
THE ARRIVAL OF WILHELM
What may be the Kaiser's ultimate fate is thus amusingly told by _Life_of the scene in Hell on a certain day:
What's all the racket about? said Satan, stepping out of the BrimstoneBath, where he was giving two or three U-boat commanders an extraflaying.
Poor old Hohenzollern has got it in the neck at last, saidMachiavelli, who was hosing off the premises with vitriol inpreparation for a new squad of shirtwaist-factory owners.
Satan listened attentively. Indeed, it was true. The Hohenzollerns hadbeen booted off the throne of Germany.
Well, that's tough, said Satan. I never could see why they chiviedthose poor Hohenzollerns so. They were perfect devils. I have often saidso. Poor old Bill! Why, he was one of the best pupils I ever had. Iheard someone say that he had made Belgium a hell upon earth. Wasn'tthat a compliment?
Not only that, said Machiavelli; he had the novel idea of making thesea a hell, too. He and Tirpitz did magnificent work. Not even a partyof schoolgirls could go on the water without getting torpedoed. Theydrowned I don't know how many innocent women and children in a mannerworthy of the highest education.
That deportation of non-combatants from Lille was excellent, too,mused Satan.
Don't forget the shooting of Miss Cavell, said Machiavelli. And therewas the bombing of unfortified towns, and the poison gas. Why, in mypalmiest days I never thought of anything so choice as that poison gas.I told Borgia about it, and she went green with envy.
You're right, Mac, said Satan, treading in his excitement on acaptain of Uhlans who was hanging out to cool; that Kaiser is a regularprince of darkness. When he gets down here (and I guess he will prettysoon) we'll omit the setting-up exercises and put him right intoadvanced tactics. Come to think of it, there were those prison camps,too, where he allowed captured soldiers to rot with filth and diseasewithout any physicians. Excellent!
There's only one drawback, said Machiavelli regretfully. The man hasraised so much hell on earth that I doubt if there's much we can teachhim down here. Really, he's not an amateur at all, but a professional. Idon't know whether it wouldn't be more punishment to send him to heaveninstead. As a matter of fact, down here he'll feel perfectly at home.
I guess we can still think up one or two little novelties for him,said Satan, as he opened a trap-door and let a dozen of Billy Sunday'sconverts drop into the blazing sulphur.
When Julia Ward Howe died, memorial services in her honor were held atSan Francisco, and the local literary colony attended practically enmasse to pay by their presence a tribute to the writer.
A municipal officer was asked to preside. Dressed in his long frock coatand his broad white tie, he advanced to the edge of the platform tolaunch the exercises and introduce the principal eulogist. He bowed lowand spoke as follows:
Your attendance here, ladies and gents, in such great numbers shows SanFrancisco's appreciation of good literature. This meeting is a greattestimonial to the immortal author of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'--the lateJulia Ward Howard!
William M. Chase used to tell this story:
I was standing on a railway platform in Japan, waiting for a train, andwhiling away my time by watching a particularly beautiful sunset.
Suddenly a freight train pulled in and, stopping in front of me, cutoff my view. Being a good American, and trained in a very proper respectfor 'business,' I merely turned philosophically away and proceeded tolook at something else. In a moment, however, the station masterappeared at my side and inquired with the politest of bows if I hadbeen enjoying the sunset.
I admitted that I had, and smilingly accepted his apology for theintrusion of the train. 'Of course I recognized that trains were thefirst consideration in stations,' I said.
Imagine my surprise, then, when the little Japanese shook his headfirmly. 'But no,' he said, bowing even more deeply than before, 'thetrain must not be allowed to obstruct the honorable artistic traveler'shonorable aesthetic enjoyment'--or words to that effect. 'I will cause itto withdraw,'
And he actually did precisely that!
ALAS! TOO LATE!
The Englishman's undying love for certain civilized things is thusportrayed by R. Richard Schayer in _Life_.
In a gorse bush a hundred yards beyond his trench lay LieutenantFitzhugh Throckmorton of the King's Own Rifles, asleep at his post. Forhours he had lain there, searching the position of the enemy through hisbinoculars. Overcome by fatigue, he had nodded, drowsed, and finallyslumbered.
The sun hung low in the western mists when Throckmorton awoke. Heglanced at his wristwatch and sprang to his feet with an oath.Regardless of peril, he turned and sprinted toward his trench. His wasnot a nature to count the risk when duty, however delayed, called. EveryGerman sniper within range sent shot upon shot after the flying figure.The enemy's trenches took up the hunt and fairly blazed with rifle andmachine gun fire. The bullets hummed in Throckmorton's ears like a swarmof savage hornets. They snarled and bit at the turf about his feet likea pack of wolves.
With a last desperate burst of speed, his clothing tattered with bulletholes, the Lieutenant gained his trench and leaped down to its cover.His face, wearing an expression of mingled hope and despair, he rushedto the bomb-proof dug-out where sat his Colonel and brother officers.They looked up at him with cold eyes. One glance and Throckmorton'sheart failed him. He was too late.
They had finished tea.
WHO COULD TELL?
A Scottish doctor who was attending a laird had instructed the butler ofthe house in the art of taking and recording his master's temperaturewith a thermometer. On paying his usual morning call he was met by thebutler, to whom he said: Well, John, I hope the laird's temperature isnot any higher to-day?
The man looked puzzled for a minute, and then replied: Weel, I was justwonderin' that mysel'. Ye see, he deed at twal' o'clock.
HE COULDN'T HAVE MISSED IT
The average foreigner can rarely comprehend the geographical area of theUnited States, as was quite fully illustrated by the Englishman and hisvalet who had been traveling due west from Boston for five days. At theend of the fifth day master and servant were seated in the smoking-car,and it was observed that the man was gazing steadily and thoughtfullyout of the window. Finally his companion became curious. William, saidhe, of what are you thinking?
I was just thinking, sir, about the discovery of Hamerica, replied thevalet. Columbus didn't do such a wonderful thing, after all, when hefound this country, did he, now, sir? Hafter hall's said an' done, 'owcould 'e 'elp it?
The sniper is ever prevalent on the western front. A certain Colonel,who was by the way quite unpopular with his regiment, was one afternoonsitting in a shack, when a report was heard and a bullet whizzed overhis head.
Calling a private, he said testily:
Go out and get that sniper.
The man was gone for some time, but he eventually returned with Fritz.He had not got him in, however, before he began to belabor him fiercely.
What are you beating up that Hun for? asked a comrade.
He missed the Colonel, whispered the other.
Miss Amy Lowell, sister of President Lowell of Harvard, is not only adistinguished poetess, being by many considered the head of the VersLibre school in this country, but she is also the guardian of a mosthandsome and stately presence.
Oliver Herford, himself a poet and wit, doubtless inspired by envy,recently remarked of her that
One half of Amy Lowell doesn't know how the other half lives.
A GENTLE DISSOLUTION
A couple of Philadelphia youths, who had not met in a long while, metand fell to discussing their affairs in general.
I understand, said one, that you broke your engagement with ClariceCollines.
No, I didn't break it.
Oh, she broke it?
No, she didn't break it.
But it is broken?
Yes. She told me what her raiment cost, and I told her what my incomewas. Then our engagement sagged in the middle and gently dissolved.
A FUTILE EXPERIMENT
William Williams hated nicknames. He used to say that most fine givennames were ruined by abbreviations, which was a sin and a shame. Imyself, he said, am one of six brothers. We were all given good,old-fashioned Christian names, but all those names were shortened intomeaningless or feeble monosyllables by our friends. I shall name mychildren so that it will be impracticable to curtail their names.
The Williams family, in the course of time, was blessed with fivechildren, all boys. The eldest was named after the father--William. Ofcourse, that would be shortened to Will or enfeebled to Willie--butwait! A second son came and was christened Willard. Aha! chuckled Mr.Williams, Now everybody will have to speak the full names of each ofthese boys in order to distinguish them.
In pursuance of this scheme the next three sons were named Wilbert,Wilfred, and Wilmont.
They are all big boys now. And they are respectively known to theirintimates as Bill, Skinny, Butch, Chuck, and Kid.
THEY MEANT TO BE PAID
No man is ever willing to admit that he has any prejudices. Butsometimes the facts confront him sternly, as in the case of the twogentlemen in the following dialogue:
BRIGGS: I wonder why it is that when men like Bryan and Billy Sundayaccept good money we have a tendency secretly to despise them.
GRIGGS: Well, I presume because they are posing to be disinterested.When they take away such big returns we set them down as hypocrites.
BRIGGS: But they have a right to make a living.
GRIGGS: You might say that of any one else--any get-rich-quick chap,for example, provided he can get away with it.
BRIGGS: But the get-rich-quick man is cheating his customers.
GRIGGS: Well, a good many people feel that both Bryan and Sunday arecheating their customers. I don't say they are, mind you. I am onlygiving that side of the argument, and, according to it, they aredeluding their customers with false hopes. Bryan says that a combinationof free silver, grape juice, and peace will cure all ills, and he getsfive hundred dollars a lecture for saying it. Billy Sunday getsthousands of dollars for dragging hell out into the limelight. They areboth popular forms of amusement. They divert the mind. Why shouldn'tthey be paid? There are far worse moving-picture shows than Bryan orSunday.
BRIGGS: You believe that, now, don't you? Be honest and say it's yourgenuine opinion, and not put it off on someone else.
GRIGGS _(Lowering his voice_): Well, I'll tell you, old chap. I believeit about Bryan, but not about Sunday. Sunday's all right. He hatesmoney! How do you feel about it?
BRIGGS: You're wrong. I believe it about Sunday, but not about Bryan.Bill Bryan is all right. He's a patriot. I wouldn't trust Sunday, butW.J. Bryan's whole thought is for others. (_Looking at his watch_.)Heavens! I didn't realize it was so late. I must rush off.
GRIGGS: Is it that late? I must hurry away also. Where are you going?
BRIGGS: I'm going to hear Sunday. Where are you going?
GRIGGS: I'm going to hear Bryan.
When James B. Reynolds was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, SenatorRoot sent for Mr. Reynolds one day to discuss with him some mattersconcerning a trade conference in Paris which Mr. Reynolds had beenselected to attend.
I suppose, said Mr. Root, you speak French?
Well, yes, responded Mr. Reynolds. I know a little French. I have notrouble to make the waiters and the cab drivers understand me.
I see, said Mr. Root. But, Mr. Reynolds, suppose there should be nowaiters and cab drivers at the conference?
Much sobered by the importance of the news he had to communicate,youthful Thomas strode into the house and said breathlessly:
Mother, they have a new baby next door, and the lady over there isawful sick. Mother, you ought to go right in and see her.
Yes, dear, said his mother. I will go over in a day or two just assoon as she gets better.
But, mother, persisted Thomas. I think you ought to go in right away;she is real sick, and maybe you can do something to help.
Yes, dear, said the mother patiently, but wait a day or so until sheis just a little better.
Thomas seemed much dissatisfied at his mother's apparent lack ofneighborly interest, and then something seemed to dawn upon him, for heblurted out:
Mother, you needn't be afraid--it ain't catching.
MIGHT DRAW BUSINESS
Burton Holmes, the lecturer, had an interesting experience while inLondon. He told some Washington friends a day or two ago that when hevisited the theatre where he was to deliver his travelogue he decidedthat the entrance to the theatre was rather dingy and that there shouldbe more display of his attraction.
Accordingly, he suggested to the manager of the house that the front bebrightened up at night by electrical signs, one row of lights spellinghis name Burton and another row of lights spelling the name Holmes.
The manager told him it was too much of an innovation for him toauthorize and referred him to the owner of the theatre. Mr. Holmestraveled several hours into the country to consult with the owner, whoreferred him to his agent in the city. The agent in turn sent Mr. Holmesto the janitor of the theatre.
I talked with the janitor and explained my plan to him for about anhour, Mr. Holmes said. Finally, after we had gone into every detail ofthe cost and everything else, the janitor told me that the theatre was avery exclusive and high-class theatre, and that he would not put up thesign. I asked him why?
Because it would attract too much attention to the theatre, thejanitor replied.