The man was weak and naturally unlucky, and so he got married three times inside of a year. He was convicted and sentenced for four years. He seemed greatly relieved. As the expiration of his term grew near, he wrote from the penitentiary to his lawyer, with the plaintive query:
“Will it be safe for me to come out?”
The little girl in the zoölogical park tossed bits of a bun to the stork, which gobbled them greedily, and bobbed its head toward her for more.
“What kind of a bird is it, mamma?” the child asked.
The mother read the placard, and answered that it was a stork.
“O-o-o-h!” the little girl cried, as her eyes rounded. “Of course, it recognized me!”
The philosopher, on being interrupted in his thoughts by the violent cackling of a hen that had just laid an egg, was led to express his appreciation of a kind Providence by which a fish while laying a million eggs to a hen’s one, does so in a perfectly quiet and ladylike manner.
A shopkeeper with no conscience put by his door a box with a slit in the cover and a label reading, “For the Blind.” A month later, the box disappeared. When some one inquired concerning it, the shopkeeper chuckled, and pointed to the window.
“I collected enough,” he explained. “There’s the new blind.”
The sympathetic and inquisitive old lady at the seashore was delighted and thrilled by an old sailor’s narrative of how he was washed overboard during a gale and was only rescued after having sunk for the third time.
“And, of course,” she commented brightly, “after you sank the third time, your whole past life passed before your eyes.”
“I presoom as how it did, mum,” the sailor agreed. “But bein’ as I had my eyes shut, I missed it.”
The recruit complained to the sergeant that he’d got a splinter in his finger.
“Ye should have more sinse,” was the harsh comment, “than to scratch your head.”
The best illustration of the value of brief speech reckoned in dollars was given by Mark Twain. His story was that when he had listened for five minutes to the preacher telling of the heathen, he wept, and was going to contribute fifty dollars, after ten minutes more of the sermon, he reduced the amount of his prospective contribution to twenty-five dollars, after half an hour more of eloquence, he cut the sum to five dollars. At the end of an hour of oratory when the plate was passed, he stole two dollars.
A thriving baseball club is one of the features of a boy’s organization connected with a prominent church. The team was recently challenged by a rival club. The pastor gave a special contribution of five dollars to the captain, with the direction that the money should be used to buy bats, balls, gloves, or anything else that might help to win the game. On the day of the game, the pastor was somewhat surprised to observe nothing new in the club’s paraphernalia. He called the captain to him.
“I don’t see any new bats, or balls, or gloves,” he said.
“We haven’t anything like that,” the captain admitted.
“But I gave you five dollars to buy them,” the pastor exclaimed.
“Well, you see,” came the explanation, “you told us to spend it for bats, or balls, or gloves, or anything that we thought might help to win the game, so we gave it to the umpire.”
Two ladies in a car disputed concerning the window, and at last called the conductor as referee.
“If this window is open,” one declared, “I shall catch cold, and will probably die.”
“If the window is shut,” the other announced, “I shall certainly suffocate.” The two glared at each other.
The conductor was at a loss, but he welcomed the words of a man with a red nose who sat near. These were:
“First, open the window, conductor. That will kill one. Next, shut it. That will kill the other. Then we can have peace.”
A young couple that had received many valuable wedding presents established their home in a suburb. One[Pg 51] morning they received in the mail two tickets for a popular show in the city, with a single line:
“Guess who sent them.”
The pair had much amusement in trying to identify the donor, but failed in the effort. They duly attended the theatre, and had a delightful time. On their return home late at night, still trying to guess the identity of the unknown host, they found the house stripped of every article of value. And on the bare table in the dining-room was a piece of paper on which was written in the same hand as the enclosure with the tickets:
“Now you know!”
Jeanette was wearing a new frock when her dearest friend called.
“I look a perfect fright,” she remarked, eager for praise.
The dearest friend was thinking of her own affairs, and answered absent-mindedly:
“Yes, you certainly do.”
“Oh, you horrid thing!” Jeanette gasped. “I’ll never-never speak to you again!”
In Bret Harte’s Mary McGillup, there is a notable description of calmness in most trying circumstances.
“‘I have the honor of addressing the celebrated Rebel spy, Miss McGillup?’” asked the vandal officer.
“In a moment I was perfectly calm. With the exception of slightly expectorating twice in the face of the minion I did not betray my agitation.”
A Tennessee farmer went to town and bought a gallon jug of whiskey. He left it in the grocery store, and tagged it with a five of hearts from the deck in his pocket, on which he wrote his name. When he returned two hours later, the jug was gone. He demanded an explanation from the grocer.
“Simple enough,” was the reply. “Jim Slocum come along with a six of hearts, an’ jist nacherly took thet thar jug o’ yourn.”
The housemaid, tidying the stairs the morning after a reception, found lying there one of the solid silver teaspoons.
“My goodness gracious!” she exclaimed, as she retrieved the piece of silver. “Some one of the company had a hole in his pocket.”
The small boy sat at the foot of a telegraph pole, with a tin can in his hands. The curious old gentleman gazed first at the lad and then at the can, much perplexed.
“Caterpillars!” he ejaculated. “What are you doing with them?”
“They climb trees and eat the leaves,” the boy explained.
“And so,” the boy continued proudly, “I’m foolin’ this bunch by lettin’ ‘em climb the telegraph pole.”
Clarence, aged eight, was a member of the Band of Mercy, of his Sunday School, which was a miniature society for the prevention of cruelty to animals. The badge was a small star, and Clarence wore this with as much pride as ever a policeman had in his shield. He displayed eagerness in the work, and grew somewhat unpopular with the other boys and girls by reason of his many rebukes for their harsh treatment of animals. But one morning his mother, on looking out of the window, observed to her horror that the erstwhile virtuous Clarence had the family cat by the tail, and was swinging it to and fro with every evidence of glee. In fact, it had been the wailing of the outraged beast that had caused the mother to look out.
“Why, Clarence!” she cried, aghast. “What are you doing to that poor cat? And you a member of the Band of Mercy!”
Little Clarence released the cat, but he showed no shame as he explained:
“I was-but I lost my star.”
* * *
The teacher put a question to the class:
“What does a cat have that no other animal has?”
A number cried in unison:
But an objector raised the point that bears and skunks have fur. One pupil raised an eager hand:
“I know, teacher-whiskers!”
But another objector laughed scornfully.
“Haw-haw! My papa has whiskers!”
The suggester of whiskers defended her idea by declaring: “My papa ain’t got whiskers.”
“‘Cause he can’t!” the objector sneered. “Haw-haw! Your pa ain’t no good. My pa says–”
The teacher rapped for order, and repeated her question. A little girl raised her hand, and at the teacher’s nod spoke timidly.
* * *
The little girl returned from church deeply musing on the sermon, in which the preacher had declared that animals, lacking souls, could not go to heaven. As the result of her meditation, she presented a problem to the family at the dinner table, when she asked earnestly:
“If cats don’t go to heaven, where do the angels get the strings for their harps?”
“Oh, mamma,” questioned the child, “who’s that?” He pointed to a nun who was passing.
“A Sister of Charity,” was the answer.
“Which one,” the boy persisted, “Faith or Hope?”
The Southern planter heard a commotion in his poultry house late at night. With shot gun in hand, he made his way to the door, flung it open and curtly ordered:
“Come out of there, you ornery thief!”
There was silence for a few seconds, except for the startled clucking of the fowls. Then a heavy bass voice boomed out of the darkness:
“Please, Colonel, dey ain’t nobody here ‘cept jes’ us chickens!”
A shipwrecked traveler was washed up on a small island. He was terrified at thought of cannibals, and explored with the utmost stealth. Discovering a thin wisp of smoke above the scrub, he crawled toward it fearfully, in apprehension that it might be from the campfire of savages. But as he came close, a voice rang out sharply:
“Why in hell did you play that card?” The castaway, already on his knees, raised his hands in devout thanksgiving.
“Thank God!” he exclaimed brokenly. “They are Christians!”
* * *
Santa Claus inserted an upright piano, a fur dolman, a Ford, and a few like knick-knacks in the Chicago girl’s stocking. When he saw that it was not yet half filled, he withdrew to the roof, plumped down on the snow, and wept bitterly.
The little boy was clad in an immaculate white suit for the lawn party, and his mother cautioned him strictly against soiling it. He was scrupulous in his obedience, but at last he approached her timidly, and said:
“Please, mother, may I sit on my pants?”
* * *
The mother catechised her young son just before the hour for the arrival of the music teacher.
“Have you washed your hands very carefully?”
“And have you washed your face thoroughly?”
“And were you particular to wash behind your ears?”
“On her side I did, mother.”
The young man at the summer resort, who had become engaged to the pretty girl, received information that led him to question her:
“Is it true that since you came up here you’ve got engaged to Billy, Ed, George and Harry, as well as me?”
The young lady assumed an air of disdain.
“What is that to you?” she demanded.
“Just this,” he replied gently. “If it’s so, and you have no objection, we fellows will all chip in together to buy an engagement ring.”
Isaac and Moses dined in a restaurant that was new to them, and were pained seriously by the amount of the check. Moses began to expostulate in a loud voice, but Isaac hushed him with a whisper:
“‘Sh! I haf the spoons in my pocket.”
“Would you like a lock of my hair?” asked the gallant old bachelor of the spinster who had been a belle a few decades past.
“Why don’t you offer me the whole wig?” the maiden lady gibed, with a titter.
The bachelor retorted with icy disdain:
“You are very biting, madam, considering that your teeth are porcelain.”
* * *
The young man, dancing with the girl to whom he had just been introduced, remarked with the best of intentions, but rather unfortunately:
“That’s the new waltz. My sister was raving about it. I think it’s pretty bad. I expect she danced it with somebody rather nice.”
* * *
In former times, when royalties were more important, a lady at a court ball was intensely gratified when a prince selected her as a partner. She was almost overwhelmed with pride when he danced a second measure with her.
“Oh,” she gushed, as she reposed blissfully in his arms, “your highness does me too great honor.”
The prince answered coldly:
“But no, madam. Merely, my physician has directed me to perspire.”
The widow was deep in suds over the family wash, when she saw her pastor coming up the path to the door. She gave directions to her young son to answer the bell, and to tell the clergyman that his mother had just gone down the street on an errand. Since the single ground floor room of the cottage offered no better hiding place against observation from the door, she crouched behind a clothes-horse hung with drying garments. When the boy had opened the door to the minister, and had duly delivered the message concerning his mother’s absence, the reverend gentleman cast a sharp look toward the screen of drying clothes, and addressed the boy thus:
“Well, my lad, just tell your mother I called. And you might say to her that the next time she goes down the street, she should take her feet along.”
“I suppose I must admit that I do have my faults,” the husband remarked in a tone that was far from humble.
“Yes,” the wife snapped, “and in your opinion your faults are better than other folks’ virtues.”
The child had been greatly impressed by her first experience in Sunday school. She pressed her hands to her breast, and said solemnly to her sister, two years older:
“When you hear something wite here, it is conscience whispering to you.”
“It’s no such thing,” the sister jeered. “That’s just wind on your tummie.”
His companion bent over the dying man, to catch the last faintly whispered words. The utterance came with pitiful feebleness, yet with sufficient clearness:
“I am dying-yes. Go to Fannie. Tell her-I died-with her name-on my lips, that I-loved her-her alone-always … And Jennie-tell Jennie-the same thing.”
A zealous church member in a Kentucky village made an earnest effort to convert a particularly vicious old mountaineer named Jim, who was locally notorious for his godlessness. But the old man was hard-headed and stubborn, firmly rooted in his evil courses, so that he resisted the pious efforts in his behalf.
“Jim,” the exhorter questioned sadly at last, “ain’t you teched by the story of the Lord what died to save yer soul?”
“Humph!” Jim retorted contemptuously. “Air ye aimin’ to tell me the Lord died to save me, when He ain’t never seed me, ner knowed me?”
“Jim,” the missionary explained with fervor, “it was a darn sight easier for the Lord to die fer ye jest because He never seed ye than if He knowed ye as well as we-alls do!”
The housewife gave the tramp a large piece of pie on condition that he should saw some wood. The tramp retired to the woodshed, but presently he reappeared at the back door of the house with the piece of pie still intact save for one mouthful bitten from the end.
“Madam,” he said respectfully to the wondering woman, “if it’s all the same to you, I’ll eat the wood, and saw the pie.”
The witness was obviously a rustic and quite new to the ways of a court-room. So, the judge directed him:
“Speak to the jury, sir-the men sitting behind you on the benches.”
The witness turned, bowed clumsily and said:
The old farmer and his wife visited the menagerie. When they halted before the hippopotamus cage, he remarked admiringly:
“Darn’d curi’s fish, ain’t it, ma?”
“That ain’t a fish,” the wife announced. “That’s a rep-tile.”
It was thus that the argument began. It progressed to a point of such violence that the old lady began belaboring the husband with her umbrella. The old man dodged and ran, with the wife in pursuit. The trainer had just opened the door of the lions’ cage, and the farmer popped in. He crowded in behind the largest lion and peered over its shoulder fearfully at his wife, who, on the other side of the bars, shook her umbrella furiously.
“Coward!” she shouted. “Coward!”
The child came to his mother in tears.
“Oh, mama,” he confessed, “I broke a tile in the hearth.”
“Never mind, dear,” the mother consoled. “But how ever did you come to do it?”
“I was pounding it with father’s watch?”
One foot in the grave, and the other slipping.
DEAD MEN’S SHOES
When a certain officer of the governor’s staff died, there were many applicants for the post, and some were indecently impatient. While the dead colonel was awaiting burial, one aspirant buttonholed the governor, asking:
“Would you object to my taking the place of the colonel?”
“Not at all,” the governor replied tartly. “See the undertaker.”
In the smoking-room of a theatre, between the acts, an amiable young man addressed an elderly gentleman who was seated beside him:
“The show is very good, don’t you think?”
The old gentleman nodded approvingly, as he replied:
“Me, I always take the surface cars. Them elevated an’ subway stairs ketches my breath.”
“I said the show was a good one,” exclaimed the young man, raising his voice.
Again, the elderly person nodded agreeably.
“They jump about a good deal,” was his comment, “but they’re on the ground, which the others ain’t.”
Now, the young man shouted:
“You’re a little deaf, ain’t you?”
At last the other understood.
“Yes, sir!” he announced proudly. “I’m as deef as a post.” He chuckled contentedly. “Some folks thinks as that’s a terrible affliction, but I don’t. I kin always hear what I’m sayin’ myself, an’ that’s interestin’ enough for me.”
* * *
An excellent old gentleman grew hard of hearing, and was beset with apprehension lest he become totally deaf. One day, as he rested on a park bench, another elderly citizen seated himself alongside. The apprehensive old gentleman saw that the new comer was talking rapidly, but his ears caught no faintest sound of the other’s voice. He listened intently-in vain. He cupped a hand to his ear, but there was only silence. At last, in despair, he spoke his thought aloud:
“It’s come at last! I know you’ve been talking all this while, but I haven’t heard a single word.”
The answer, given with a grin, was explicit and satisfying to the worried deaf man: