John B. Gough was fond of telling of a laird and his servant Sandy. The two were on their way home on horseback late at night, and both were much muddled by drink. At a ford where the bank was steep, the laird fell head first into the creek. He scrambled up, and shouted to his servant:
“Hold on, Sandy! Something fell off-I heard it splash!”
Sandy climbed down from the saddle, and waded about blindly in the shallow water, with groping hands. At last, he seized on the laird.
“Why, it’s yerself, mon, as fell oof!”
“No, Sandy,” the master declared stoutly. “It can’t be me-here I am.” Then he, added: “But if it is me, get me back on the horse.”
Sandy helped the laird to the horse, and boosted him up astride. In the dark, the rider was faced the wrong way to.
“Gie me the reins,” the master ordered.
Sandy felt about the horse’s rump, and, then cried out, clutching the tail:
“It waur the horse’s head as fell off-nothin’ left but the mane!”
“Gie me the mane, then,” the laird directed stolidly. “I must een hae something to hold on.”
So, presently, when he had the tail firmly grasped in both hands, and Sandy had mounted, the procession began to move. Whereat, the laird shouted in dismay:
“Haud on, Sandy! It’s gaein’ the wrang way!”
Tiny Clara heard her mother say that a neighboring lady had a new baby. The tot puzzled over the matter, and at last sought additional information:
“Oh, mumsy, what is she going to do with her old one?”
The amiable old lady was overheard talking to herself as she left the church along with the crowd that had attended the services:
“If everybody else would only do as I do, and stay quietly in their seats till everyone else has gone out, there would not be such a crush at the doors.”
* * *
Two friends from Ireland on a tour occupied the same bedchamber in a country inn. During the night a fearful storm raged. John spoke of it in the morning while the two men were dressing.
“Did it rain?” Dennis asked in surprise.
“Rain!” John exclaimed. “It was a deluge, and the lightnin’ was blindin’ and the thunder was deafenin’. Sure, I never heard the like.”
“For the love of Hivvin!” Dennis cried out. “Why didn’t yez waken me? Didn’t yez know I never can slape whin it thunders!”
Burdette quotes as follows a year’s statistics of parochial work, as compiled by a young curate:
“Preached 104 sermons, 18 mortuary discourses, solemnized 21 hymeneal ceremonies, delivered 17 lectures,[Pg 175] of which 16 were on secular and all the rest on religious subjects; made 39 addresses, of which all but 27 were on matters most nearly touching the vital religious concerns of the church, read aloud in church 156 chapters of the Bible, 149 of which were very long ones; made pastoral calls, 312; took tea on such occasions, 312 times; distributed 804 tracts; visited the sick several times; sat on the platform at temperance and other public meetings 47 times; had the headache Sabbath mornings, and so was compelled to appear in a condition of physical pain, nervous prostration and bodily distress that utterly unfitted him for public preaching, 104 times; picnics attended, 10; dinners, 37; suffered from attacks of malignant dyspepsia, 37 times; read 748 hymns; instructed the choir in regard to the selection of tunes, 1 time; had severe cold, 104 times; sore throat, 104 times; malaria, 104 times; wrote 3120 pages of sermons; declined invitations to tea, 1 time; started the tune in prayer meeting, 2 times; started the wrong tune, 2 times; sung hymns that nobody else knew, 2 times; received into church membership, 3; dismissed by letter, 49; expelled, 16; lost, strayed, or stolen, 137.”
The Scotchman returned to his native town, Peebles, after a first visit to London. He told the neighbors enthusiastically of his many wonderful experiences in the metropolis. There was, however, no weakening in his local loyalty, for at the end he cried out proudly:
“But, for real pleasure, gi’e me Peebles!”
* * *
“Who was the first man?”
He answered proudly, even enthusiastically, without any hesitation:
“George Washington, first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts–”
But the teacher interrupted ruthlessly:
“Wrong! Adam was the first man.”
The boy sniffed disgustedly.
“Oh!” he retorted. “I didn’t know you were talking about foreigners.”
* * *
The troops had been marching through a sea of mud for hours, when at last they were lined up for inspection before a general. In the evolution, a young cavalryman who had enlisted was thrown from his horse into the muck, from which he emerged in a dreadful state, though uninjured except in his feelings. The general himself, who had witnessed the incident, rode up, and preserving his gravity with some effort inquired of the trooper if he had suffered any hurt from the fall.
“Naw,” was the disgusted reply. “But if I ever love a country agin, you can kick me!”
The mourning widow caused a tender sentiment to be chiseled on the headstone of her husband’s grave. The exact wording was as follows:
“Thou are at rest, until we meet again.”
The father was telling at the table of a row between two men in which he had interfered. One had swung a shovel aloft, shouting, “I’ll knock your brains out!”
“It was at this moment,” the head of the family explained, “that I stepped in between them.”
Little Johnnie had been listening, round-eyed with excitement. Now, he burst forth:
“I guess he couldn’t knock any brains out of you, could he, pa?”
The usual details in administration of the pension laws are not amusing, but occasionally even here a bit of humor creeps in to relieve the tedium. Thus, John Smith, claimant under Invalid Original No. 98,325,423, based his application for succor upon an “injury to leg due to the kick of a vicious horse” in the service and line of duty, etc.
This was formally insufficient, and the bureau advised to claimant to this effect, directing him to state: “which leg was injured by the alleged kick of a vicious horse.”
The reply came promptly:
The energetic New England woman addressed her hired girl in a discouraged tone:
* * *
The old man shook his head dolefully in response to an inquiry concerning his health.
“It isn’t what it ought to be,” he declared. “I find my strength is failing. It used to be I could walk around the block every morning. But now lately, somehow, when I’m only half way round, I feel so tired I have to turn and come back.”
* * *
The visitor remarked affably to the man of the house:
“Your family is wonderfully talented. One son plays the cornet, two daughters play the piano and the guitar, and your wife plays the banjo, and the other children play ukuleles. As the father of such musical geniuses, you must be something yourself, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” was the answer, “I am a pessimist.”
“I hear that Mrs. Brewster hasn’t paid her servants any wages for a number of months,” remarked one lady to another in a suburban town.
“Why does she keep such a number of them then?” was the pertinent inquiry.
“Oh, Mrs. Brewster tells everyone she regards it as her solemn duty to employ as many as possible when times are so hard.”
Little Willie questioned his grandmother with an appearance of great seriousness:
“Ain’t Rotterdam the name of a city, Gramma?”
“Don’t say ‘ain’t’, Willie,” the old lady corrected. “Yes, Rotterdam is the name of a city. Why?”
“It ain’t swearin’ to say it, is it Gramma?”
“Don’t say ‘ain’t’, Willie. No, it isn’t swearing to say Rotterdam. Why?”
“Cause if sister keeps on eatin’ so much candy, she’ll Rotterdam head off.”
The teacher explained to her young pupils some facts concerning various organs of the body, including the eye as the organ of sight, the ear as the organ of hearing, and the like. Then she asked the pupils to repeat to her what they had learned. There was a short silence, which was broken by a bright little boy, who spoke as follows:
“I see with my eye organ, I hear with my ear organ, I smell with my nose organ, I eat with my mouth organ, and I feel with my hand organ.”
The new maid was talkative, and related some of her experiences in service.
“Fifteen, all told,” the maid declared promptly; “yes mum, all told eggzactly what I thought of them.”
The plumber at many dollars a day could afford a little persiflage with the cook in the kitchen where he was theoretically repairing the sink. The cook was plain-featured, but any diversion was welcome to speed the hours for which he drew pay. He made a strong impression on the cook, and when he took his departure, she simpered, and said coyly:
“Thursday is my evenin’ off, an’ we might go to the movies.”
The plumber snorted indignantly.
“What!” he demanded. “On me own time?”
The evil effects of decadent verse is unintentionally[Pg 181] told in the following extract from a Hindu’s letter to the authorities requesting aid in behalf of his invalid father, who leads sickly life, and is going from bad to perhaps, but not too well; for an extract from the petition calls on the government “to look after my old faher, who leads sickly life, and is going from bad to verse every day.”
* * *
The kindly old lady chanced to be present at the feeding of the lions in the zoo. Presently, she remarked to the keeper:
“Isn’t that a very small piece of meat to give to the lions?”
The man answered very respectfully, but firmly:
“It may seem like a very small piece of meat to you, mum, but it seems like a big piece of meat to the lions, mum.”
Tommy Atkins and a doughboy sat in a poker game together somewhere in France. The Britisher held a full house, the American four of a kind.
“I raise you two pounds,” quoth Tommy.
The Yankee did not hesitate.
“I ain’t exactly onto your currency curves, but I’ll bump it up four tons.”
The little girl in the car was a pest. She crossed the aisle to devote herself to a dignified fat man, to his great annoyance. She asked innumerable questions, and, incidentally, counted aloud his vest buttons to learn whether he was rich man, poor man, beggar man or thief. The mother regarded the child’s efforts as highly entertaining. The fat man leaned forward and addressed the lady very courteously:
“Madam, what do you call this dear little child?”
“Ethel,” the beaming mother replied.
“Please call her then,” the fat man requested.
* * *
Johnny, who was to be the guest at a neighbor’s for the noonday meal, was carefully admonished by his[Pg 183] mother to remember his manners, and to speak in complimentary terms of the food served him. He heeded the instruction, and did the best he could under stress of embarrassment.
After he had tasted the soup, he remarked as boldly as he could contrive:
“This is pretty good soup-what there is of it.”
He was greatly disconcerted to observe that his remark caused a frown on the face of his hostess. He hastened to speak again in an effort to correct any bad impression from his previous speech:
“And there’s plenty of it-such as it is.”
* * *
On Johnnie’s return from the birthday party, his mother expressed the hope that he had behaved politely at the luncheon table, and properly said, “Yes, if you please” and “No, thank you,” when anything was offered him.
Johnnie shook his head seriously.
“I guess I didn’t say, ‘No, thank you.’ I ate everything there was.”
* * *
The teacher used as an illustration of bad grammar, for correction by the class, the following sentence:
“The horse and cow is in the pasture.”
A manly little fellow raised his hand, and at the teacher’s nod said:
“Please, sir, ladies should come first.”
* * *
The man sitting in the street car addressed the woman standing before him:
“You must excuse my not giving you my seat-I’m a member of the Sit Still Club.”
“Certainly, sir,” the woman replied. “And please excuse my staring-I belong to the Stand and Stare Club.”
She proved it so well that the man at last sheepishly got to his feet.
“I guess, ma’am,” he mumbled, “I’ll resign from my club and join yours.”
The little boy interrupted his father’s reading of the paper with a petition.
“Please, Daddy, tell me the story about the Forty Thieves.”
The father, aroused from his absorption in political news and comment on the campaign, regarded his son thoughtfully for a moment, and then shook his head.
“No,” he answered decisively, “you must wait until you’re a little older, my son. You’re too young to understand politics.”
It is human nature to take an interest in the affairs of others. The fact has been amply demonstrated by innumerable postmasters and postmistresses who have profited from their contact with the communities’ correspondence. That the postman, too, is likely to be well informed is shown in a quotation by Punch of a local letter-carrier’s apology to a lady on his round:
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, I seem to have lost your postcard; but it only said Muriel thanked you for the parcel and so did John, and they were both very well, and the children are happy, and she’ll give your message to Margery. That’ll be your other daughter, I’m thinkin’?”
The Dutchman still retained a strong accent, although he had been in the country forty years, and was a churchwarden. When the rector complained that a certain parishioner had called him a perfect ass, and asked advice, the reply, though well intentioned, sounded ambiguous:
“All you should do vill pe youst to bray for him, as usual.”
* * *
A Scotch missionary in the Far East suffered ill fortune in his marriages, for two wives in succession yielded to the trying climate and died. The missionary had depended on the Board at home to select his previous mates, and he wrote for a third. When due time had elapsed, he journeyed to the seaport to meet the steamer by which his new mate should arrive. At the appointed hour, as the boat drew in, he stood on the dock anxiously waiting. Among the few passengers to descend the gangplank, it was easy for him to select the one destined for him. At sight of her, he shuddered slightly, and a groan burst from his lips.
“Freckles,” he muttered despairingly, “and red headed, and with squint-for the third time!-and after all my prayers!”
* * *
Charles had attained the age of five when he attended a football game for the first time. It cannot be doubted that he was profoundly impressed by the excitement on the gridiron, for at bedtime his mother was horrified to hear him utter his nightly prayer thus:
“God bless papa! God bless mama! God bless Charlie! Rah! Rah! Rah!”
* * *
At the request of his wife, the husband opened a can of peaches. When he finally reappeared, the wife asked demurely:
“What did you use to open that can, Jim?”
“Can-opener, of course,” the husband grunted. “What d’ye think I opened it with?”
“From the language I heard, I thought perhaps you were opening it with prayer.”
* * *
The newspaper report of the special Sunday services contained the following impressive description of the prayer:
“The most eloquent prayer ever addressed to a Boston audience.”
* * *
The New York Sun published the following:
The toys had been reluctantly laid aside and in her dainty nightie the little girl, scarcely more than a baby, knelt at her mother’s knee.
The eyes, which all day long are alight with mischief, were reverently closed, and as she haltingly uttered the words of the old, yet ever young child’s prayer her rapt face, raised occasionally from her dimpled hands, took on an expression almost seraphic in its innocent purity.
With a fervent “Amen” she ended her supplication, then jumped up, eyes dancing, and exclaimed:
“Now let’s say ‘Little Jack Horner sat in the corner.’ I knows it better, Muvver.”
* * *
A little boy was asked if he prayed when he attended church, and he answered that he always did. On being questioned as to the nature of his prayer, he explained that he always repeated it when the others in the congregation made their silent prayer just before the sermon, and he added further:
“I just say the little prayer mother taught me-‘Now I lay me down to sleep.'”
* * *
A prayer showing a ghastly confusion of metaphors is on record as having been offered extemporaneously in behalf of Queen Adelaide during the reign of that sovereign. The words as quoted were these:
“O Lord, save thy servant, our Sovereign Lady, the Queen. Grant that as she grows an old woman, she may become a new man. Strengthen her with Thy blessing that she may live a pure virgin, bringing her sons and daughters to the glory of God. And give her grace that she may go before her people like a he-goat upon the mountains.”
* * *
As the boat was sinking, the skipper lifted his voice to ask:
“Does anybody know how to pray?”
One man spoke confidently in answer:
“Yes, Captain, I do.”
The captain nodded.
“That’s all right then,” he declared. “You go ahead and pray. The rest of us will put on life-belts. They’re one short.”
* * *
The lawyer for the defense, in the damage suit, asked the witness who had seen the plaintive struck by the automobile, how far the victim was thrown by the impact.
“Fifteen feet, six and three-quarter inches,” was the instant response.
“You seem to be very exact in your figures,” exclaimed the lawyer sarcastically. “How does that happen?”
“I guessed some fool lawyer would ask me,” the witness answered, “and I measured the distance.”
The playwright rushed up to the critic at the club.
“I’ve had a terrible misfortune,” he announced. “My little three-year-old boy got at my new play, and tore it all to pieces.”
“Extraordinary that a child so young should be able to read,” said the critic.
Ikey saw his friend Jakey in the smoking-car when he entered, and sat down in the same seat.
“How was that fire in your place last week, Jakey?” he inquired.
Jakey started nervously.
“Sh!” he whispered. “It vas next week.”
The small boy was directed to soak his feet in salt water to toughen them. He considered the matter thoughtfully, and then remarked to himself:
“It’s pretty near time for me to ket a lickin’, I guess I’d better sit in it.”
* * *
The two scrub women met and chattered to this effect:
Mrs. Riley-Och, Missus O’Rafferty, I hear yez be worrukin’ noight an’ day.
Mrs. O’Rafferty-Yis, Oi’m under bonds to kape the pace for pullin’ the hair o’ that blaggard Missus Murphy; an’ the Judge tould me as if Oi touched her again he’d foine me tin dollars.
Mrs. Riley-An’ yez is worrukin’ so hard so’s to kape outen mischief.
Mrs. O’Rafferty (hissing viciously between her teeth)-No! Oi’m savin’ oop the foine.
* * *
The father entered the room where Clara, his daughter, was entertaining her young man.
“What is it, popper?” the young lady inquired.
Her father held out the umbrella which he carried.
“This is for John,” he explained. “It looks as if it might rain before morning.”