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[Pg 68] 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 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[Pg 75] 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.”
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[Pg 80] 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.”