“My pa, he’s a financier,” boasted one small boy to another.
“‘Tain’t much to brag of,” the other sneered. “My pa an’ uncle Jack are in jail, too.”
An eminent statesman was being driven rapidly by his chauffeur, when the car struck and killed a dog that leaped in front of it. At the statesman’s order, the chauffeur stopped the car, and the great man got out and hurried back to where a woman was standing by the remains. The dead dog’s mistress was deeply grieved, and more deeply angered. As the statesman attempted to address her placatingly, she turned on him wrathfully, and told him just what she thought, which was considerable and by no means agreeable. When, at last, she paused for breath, the culprit tried again to soothe her, saying:
“Madam, I shall be glad to replace your dog.”
The woman drew herself up haughtily, surveyed the statesman with supreme scorn, and hissed:
“Sir, you flatter yourself!”
The debutante was alarmed over the prospect of being taken in to dinner by the distinguished statesman.
“Whatever can we talk about?” she demanded anxiously of her mother.
Afterward, in the drawing-room, she came to her mother with a radiant smile.
“He’s fine,” she exclaimed. “We weren’t half way through the soup before we were chatting cozily about the fleas in Italian hotels.”
The gentleman at the party, who was old enough to know better, turned to another guest, who had just paused beside him:
“Women are fickle. See that pretty woman by the window? She was smiling at me flirtatiously a few minutes ago and now she looks cold as an iceberg.”
“I have only just arrived,” the other man said. “She is my wife.”
The breakfaster in the cheap restaurant tried to make conversation with the man beside him at the counter.
“Awful rainy spell-like the flood.”
“The flood?” The tone was polite, but inquiring.
“The flood-Noah, the Ark, Mount Ararat.”
The other bit off half a slice of bread, shook his head, and mumbled thickly:
“Hain’t read to-day’s paper yit.”
Gilbert wrote a couplet concerning-
“An attachment Ã la Plato
For a bashful young potato.”
Such suggestion is all very well in a humorous ballad, but we do not look for anything of the sort in a serious romance of real life. Nevertheless, a Welsh newspaper of recent date carried the following paragraph:
“At — Church, on Monday last, a very interesting wedding was solemnized, the contracting parties being Mr. Richard –, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. –, and a bouquet of pink carnations.”
The old gentleman was lost in a London fog, so thick that he could hardly see his hand before his face. He became seriously alarmed when he found himself in a slimy alley. Then he heard footsteps approaching through the obscurity, and sighed with relief.
“Where am I going to?” he cried anxiously.
A voice replied weirdly from the darkness beyond:
“Into the river-I’ve just come out!”
A wise old Quaker woman once said that men were guilty of three most astonishing follies. The first was the climbing of trees to shake down the fruit, when if they would but wait, the fruit would fall of itself. The second was the going to war to kill one another, when if they would only wait, they must surely die naturally. The third was that they should run after women, when, if they did not do so, the women would surely run after them.
The Arctic explorer at a reception on his return gave an informal talk concerning his experiences. He explained that a point further north would have been reached, if the dogs had not given out at a critical time.
A lady, who had followed the explorer’s remarks carefully, ventured a comment as the speaker paused:
“But I thought those Esquimaux dogs were actually tireless.”
The explorer hesitated, and cleared his throat before answering.
“I spoke,” he elucidated, “in a-er-culinary sense.”
* * *
The young mother asked the man who supplied her with milk if he kept any calves, and smiled pleasedly when he said that he did.
“Then,” she continued brightly, “bring me a pint of calf’s milk every day. I think cow’s milk is too strong for baby.”
The highly efficient housewife bragged that she always rose early, and had every bed in the house made before anybody else in the house was up.
The master directed that the picture should be hung on the east wall; the mistress preferred the west wall.
The servant drove the nail where his master directed, but when he was left alone in the room he drove a nail in the other wall.
“That,” he said to himself, “will save my lugging the steps up here again to-morrow, when he has come around to agreeing with her.”
* * *
Two men met on the city street in the evening, and had a number of drinks together. The one who lived in the suburbs became confidential, and exhibited a string tied around a finger.
“I don’t dare to go home,” he explained. “There’s something my wife told me to do, without fail, and to make sure I wouldn’t forget, she tied that string around[Pg 104] my finger. But for the life of me I can’t remember what the thing was I am to do. And I don’t dare to go home!”
A few days later the two men met again, this time in the afternoon.
“Well,” the one asked, “did you finally remember what that string was to remind you of?”
The other showed great gloom in his expression, as he replied:
“I didn’t go home until the next night, just because I was scared, and then my wife told me what the string was for all right-she certainly did!” There was a note of pain in his voice. “The string was to remind me to be sure to come home early.”
* * *
The clergyman drew near to the baptismal font, and directed that the candidates for baptism should now be presented. A woman in the congregation gave a gasp of dismay and turned to her husband, whom she addressed in a strenuous whisper:
“There! I just knew we’d forget something. John, you run right home as fast as you can, and fetch the baby.”
The traveler wrote an indignant letter to the officials of the railroad company, giving full details as to why he had sat up in the smoking-room all night, instead of sleeping in his berth. He received in reply a letter from the company, which was so courteous and logical[Pg 105] that he was greatly soothed. His mood changed for the worse, however, when he happened to glance at his own letter, which had been enclosed through error. On the margin was jotted in pencil:
“Send this guy the bed-bug letter.”
* * *
A worker in the steel mills applied direct to Mr. Carnegie for a holiday in which to get married. The magnate inquired interestedly concerning the bride:
“Is she tall or short, slender or plump?”
The prospective bridegroom answered seriously:
“Well, sir, I’m free to say, that if I’d had the rollin’ of her, I sure would have given her three or four more passes.”
The hired man on a New England farm went on his first trip to the city. He returned wearing a scarf pin set with at least four carats bulk of radiance. The jewelry dazzled the rural belles, and excited the envy of the other young men. His employer bluntly asked if it was a real diamond.
“If it ain’t,” was the answer, “I was skun out o’ half a dollar.”
“Haven’t you anybody to play with?” she inquired sympathetically.
The boy shook his head forlornly, as he explained:
“I have one friend-but I hate him!”
* * *
The clergyman on his vacation wrote a long letter concerning his traveling experiences to be circulated among the members of the congregation. The letter opened in this form:
“I will not address you as ladies and gentlemen, because I know you so well.”
An American tourist in France found that he had a two hours’ wait for his train at a junction, and set out to explore the neighborhood. He discovered at last that he was lost, and could not find his way back to the station. He therefore addressed a passer-by in the best French he could recollect from his college days, mispronouncing it with great emphasis. He voiced his request for information as follows:
“Pardonnez-moi. J’ai quittÃ© ma train et maintenant je ne sais pas oÃ¹ le trouver encore. Est-ce que vous pouvez me montrer le route Ã la train?”
“Let’s look for it together,” said the stranger genially. “I don’t speak French, either.”
The traveler in the Blue Ridge Mountains made his toilet as best he could with the aid of the hand basin on its bench by the cabin door and the roller towel. He made use of his own comb and brush, tooth-brush, nail-file and whiskbroom. The small son of the cabin regarded his operations with rounded eyes, and at last broke forth:
“By cricky, mister, I wantta know! Be ye allus thet much trouble to yerself?”
It is quite possible to trap clergymen, as well as laymen, with the following question, because they are not always learned in the Old Testament.
“If David was the father of Solomon, and Joab was the son of Zeruiah, what relation was Zeruiah to Joab?”
Most persons give the answer that Zeruiah was the father of Joab, necessarily. That is not the correct answer. The trouble is that Zeruiah was a woman. And, of course, David and Solomon having nothing whatever to do with the case.
There has been much controversy for years as to the proper definition of the much abused word “gentleman.” Finally, by a printer’s error in prefixing un[Pg 108] to an adverb, an old and rather mushy description of a gentleman has been given a novel twist and a pithy point. A contributor’s letter to a metropolitan daily appeared as follows:
“Sir-I can recall no better description of a gentleman than this-
“‘A gentleman is one who never gives offense unintentionally.'”
The airman, after many hours of thick weather, had lost his bearings completely. Then it cleared and he was able to make a landing. Naturally, he was anxious to know in what part of the world he had arrived. He put the question to the group of rustics that had promptly assembled. The answer was explicit:
“You’ve come down in Deacon Peck’s north medder lot.”
The little boy was found by his mother with pencil and paper, making a sketch. When asked what he was doing, he answered promptly, and with considerable pride:
“I’m drawing a picture of God.”
“But,” gasped the shocked mother, “you cannot do that. No one has seen God. No one knows how God looks.”
“Well,” the little boy replied, complacently, “when I get through they will.”
The clergyman was calling, when the youthful son and heir approached his mother proudly, and exhibited a dead rat. As she shrank in repugnance, he attempted to reassure her:
“Oh, it’s dead all right, mama. We beat it and beat it and beat it, and it’s deader ‘n dead.”
His eyes fell on the clergyman, and he felt that something more was due to that reverend presence. So he continued in a tone of solemnity:
“Yes, we beat it and beat it until-until God called it home!”
The eminent English Statesman Arbuthnot-Joyce plays golf so badly that he prefers a solitary round with only the caddy present. He had a new boy one day recently, and played as wretchedly as usual.
“I fancy I play the worst game in the world,” he confessed to the caddy.
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that, sir,” was the consoling response. “From what the boys were saying about another gentleman who plays here, he must be worse even than you are.”
“What’s his name?” asked the statesman hopefully.
And the caddy replied:
The son and heir had just been confirmed. At the dinner table, following the church service, the father called on his son to say grace. The boy was greatly embarrassed by the demand. Moreover, he was tired, not only from the excitement of the special service[Pg 111] through which he had passed, but also from walking to and from the church, four miles away, and, too, he was very hungry indeed and impatient to begin the meal. Despite his protest, however, the father insisted.
So, at last, the little man folded his hands with a pious air, closed his eyes tight, bent his head reverently, and spoke his prayer:
“O Lord, have mercy on these victuals. Amen!”
* * *
The new clergyman in the country parish, during his visit to an old lady of his flock, inquired if she accepted the doctrine of Falling from Grace. The good woman nodded vigorously.
“Yes, sir,” she declared with pious zeal, “I believe in it, and, praise the Lord! I practise it!”
The passing lady mistakenly supposed that the woman shouting from a window down the street was calling to the little girl minding baby brother close by on the curb.
“Your mother is calling you,” she said kindly.
The little girl corrected the lady:
“Her ain’t a-callin’ we. Us don’t belong to she.”
* * *
The teacher asked the little girl if she was going to the Maypole dance. “No, I ain’t going,” was the reply.
The teacher corrected the child:
“You must not say, ‘I ain’t going,’ you must say, ‘I[Pg 112] am not going.'” And she added to impress the point: “I am not going. He is not going. We are not going. You are not going. They are not going. Now, dear, can you say all that?”
The little girl nodded and smiled brightly.
“Sure!” she replied. “They ain’t nobody going.”
* * *
The witness, in answer to the lawyer’s question, said:
“Them hain’t the boots what was stole.”
The judge rebuked the witness sternly:
“Speak grammatic, young man-speak grammatic! You shouldn’t ought to say, ‘them boots what was stole,’ you should ought to say, ‘them boots as was stealed.'”
The auctioneer, offering the pasture lot for sale, waved his hand enthusiastically, pointed toward the rich expanse of herbage, and shouted:
“Now, then, how much am I offered for this field? Jest look at that grass, gentlemen. That’s exactly the sort of grass Nebuchadnezzar would have given two hundred dollars an acre for.”
An eminent doctor successfully attended a sick child. A few days later, the grateful mother called on the physician. After expressing her realization of the fact that his services had been of a sort that could not be fully paid for, she continued:
“But I hope you will accept as a token from me this purse which I myself have embroidered.”
The physician replied very coldly to the effect that the fees of the physician must be paid in money, not merely in gratitude, and he added:
“Presents maintain friendship: they do not maintain a family.”
“What is your fee?” the woman inquired.
“Two hundred dollars,” was the answer.
The woman opened the purse, and took from it five $100 bills. She put back three, handed two to the discomfited physician, then took her departure.
At the wake, the bereaved husband displayed all the evidences of frantic grief. He cried aloud heart-rendingly, and tore his hair. The other mourners had to restrain him from leaping into the open coffin.
The next day, a friend who had been at the wake encountered the widower on the street and spoke sympathetically of the great woe displayed by the man.
“Did you go to the cemetery for the burying?” the stricken husband inquired anxiously, and when he was answered in the negative, continued proudly: “It’s a pity ye weren’t there. Ye ought to have seen the way I cut up.”
* * *
The old woman in indigent circumstances was explaining to a visitor, who found her at breakfast, a long category of trials and tribulations.
“And,” she concluded, “this very morning, I woke up at four o’clock, and cried and cried till breakfast time, and as soon as I finish my tea I’ll begin again, and probably keep it up all day.”
It was the bridegroom’s third matrimonial undertaking, and the bride’s second. When the clergyman on whom they had called for the ceremony entered the parlor, he found the couple comfortably seated. They made no effort to rise, so, as he opened the book to begin the service, he directed them, “Please, stand up.”
The bridegroom looked at the bride, and the bride stared back at him, and then both regarded the clergyman, while the man voiced their decision in a tone that was quite polite, but very firm:
“We have ginerally sot.”
* * *
It is a matter of common knowledge that there have been troublous times in Ireland before those of the present. In the days of the Land League, an Irish Judge told as true of an experience while he was holding court in one of the turbulent sections. When the jury entered the court-room at the beginning of the session, the bailiff directed them to take their accustomed places…. And every man of them walked forward into the dock.
The school girl from Avenue A, who had just learned that the notorious Gorgon sisters had snakes for hair, chewed her gum thoughtfully as she commented:
“Tough luck to have to get out and grab a mess of snakes any time you want an extry puff.”
HARD TO PLEASE
The rather ferocious-appearing husband who had taken his wife to the beach for a holiday scowled heavily at an amateur photographer, and rumbled in a threatening bass voice:
“What the blazes d’ye mean, photographin’ my wife? I saw ye when ye done it.”
The man addressed cringed, and replied placatingly:
“You’re mistaken, really! I wouldn’t think of doing such a thing.”
“Ye wouldn’t, eh?” the surly husband growled, still more savagely. “And why not? I’d like to know. She’s the handsomest woman on the beach.”
The convicted feudist was working for a pardon. It was reported to him that the opposing clan was pulling wires against him, and spreading false reports concerning him. He thereupon wrote a brief missive to the governor:
“Deer guvner, if youve heared wat ive heared youve heared youve heared a lie.”
The clergyman in the following story probably did not mean exactly what he said, though, human nature being what it is, maybe it was true enough.
A parishioner meeting the parson in the street inquired:
“When do you expect to see Deacon Jones again?”
“Never, never again!” the minister declared solemnly. “The deacon is in heaven!”
The farmer found his new hired man very unsatisfactory. A neighbor who chanced along inquired:
“How’s that new hand o’ your’n?”
“Cuss the critter!” was the bitter reply. “He ain’t a hand-he’s a sore thumb.”
* * *
A savage old boar got into a garden, and was doing much damage. When two men tried to drive it out, the animal charged. One of the two climbed a tree, the other dodged, and laid hold on the boar’s tail. He hung on desperately, and man and beast raced wildly round and round the tree. Finally, the man shouted between gasps:
“For heaven’s sake, Bill, climb down here, and help me leggo this ornery old hog!”
Many a mayor is a friend to the people-just like his honor in the following story.
A taxpayer entered the office of the water registrar in a small city, and explained himself and his business there as follows:
“My name is O’Rafferty. And my cellar is full of wather, and my hins will all be drowned intirely if it ain’t fixed. And I’m here to inform yez that I’m wantin’ it fixed.”
It was explained to the complainant that the remedy for his need must be sought at the office of the mayor, and he therefore departed to interview that official.
After an interval of a few days, O’Rafferty made a second visit to the office of the registrar.
The registrar again explained that he was powerless in the matter, and that the only recourse must be to the mayor.
“The mayor is ut!” O’Rafferty snorted. “Sure and didn’t I see the mayor? I did thot! And what did the mayor say to me? Huh! he said, ‘Mr. O’Rafferty, why don’t you keep ducks?'”
The customer asked for fresh eggs, and the clerk in the London shop said:
“Them are fresh which has a hen on ’em.”
“But I don’t see any hen.”
The clerk explained patiently.
“Not the fowl, mum, but the letter hen. Hen stands for noo-laid.”