Illustrative And Humorous Anecdotes - Part 2
( Originally Published 1901 )
25. EXTREME ECONOMY
[Economy is a great virtue, but it should not be extreme.] -
An old lady of Massachusetts was famed in her native township for health and thrift. To an acquaintance who was once congratulating her upon the former she said:
" We be pretty well for old folks, Josiah and me. Josiah hasn't had an ailin' time for fifty years, 'cept last winter. And I ain't never suffered but one day in my life, and that was when I took some of the medicine Josiah had left over, so's how it shouldn't be wasted."
26. SENSIBLE TO THE LAST
[How we commend those who take our standards and help us.]
A. story is told of a late Dublin doctor, famous for his skill and also his great love of money. He had a constant and profitable patient in an old shop-keeper in Dame Street, This old lady was terribly rheumatic and unable to leave her sofa. During the doctor's visit she kept a £1 note in her hand, which duly went into Dr. C.'s pocket. One morning he found her lying dead on the sofa. Sighing deeply, the doctor approached, and taking her hand in his, he saw the fingers closed on his fee. " Poor thing," he said as he pocketed it, " sensible to the last."
27. FISHING FOR A COMPLIMENT
[Fishing for compliments is sometimes dangerous.]
A well-known Congressman, who was a farmer before he went into politics, was doing his district not long ago, and in his rambles he saw a man in a stumpy patch of ground trying to get a plow through it. He went over to him, and after a brief salutation he asked the privilege of making a turn or two with the plow. The native shook his head doubtfully as he looked at his visitor's store clothes and general air of gentleman of elegant leisure, but he let him take the plow. The Congressman sailed away with it in fine style, and plowed four or five furrows before the owner of the field could recover his surprise. Then he pulled up and handed the handles over to the original holder.
"By gravy, mister," said the farmer, admiringly, " air you in the aggercultural business ?"
" No," laughed the statesman.
" Y'ain't selling plows ?"
" Then what in thunder air you ?"
" I'm the member of Congress from this district."
"Air you the man I voted for and that I've been reading about in the papers doin' legislatin' and sich in Washington ?"
" Well, by hokey, mister," said the farmer, as he looked with admiration over the recently-plowed furrows, " ef I'd a had any idea that I was votin' fer a waste of sich good farmin' material I'd voted fer the other candidate as shore as shootin'."
28. BEYOND EXPRESSION
[When called on for a speech one may answer the chairman in the words of this lady:]
She was in her room when some people came to call. Her husband received the company, and after awhile said to his daughter, who was playing about the room:
" Go up-stairs and tell your mamma that Mr. and Mrs. Blank have come to call."
The child went, and after a while returned and began to play again.
" Did you tell your mamma that Mr. and Mrs. Blank are here ?" asked the father.
" Oh! yes."
" And what did she say ?"
The little girl looked up, and after a moment's hesitation, exclaimed:
" She said—well, she said, ` O dear!' "
29. THE TOAST OF THE EVENING
[The comment upon this incident by the editor is not less amusing than the speech.]
It is not always a pleasant thing to be called upon suddenly to address a public meeting of any sort, as is amusingly illustrated by the following speech at the opening of a free hospital by one who was certainly not born an orator:
" Gentlemen —ahem—I—I—I rise to say—that is, I wish to propose a toast, which I think you'll all say—ahem—I think, at least, that this toast is, as you'll say, the toast of the occasion. Gentlemen, I belong to a good many of these things, and I say, gentlemen, that this hospital requires no patronage -at least, what I mean is, you don't want any recommendation. You've only got to be ill—got to be ill.
"Now, gentlemen, I find by the report" (turning over the leaves in a fidgety way) " that from the year seventeen—no eighteen—no, ah, yes, I'm right— eighteen hundred and fifty—no, it's a ' 3 '—thirtysix—eighteen hundred and thirty-six, no less than one hundred and ninety-three millions—no ! ah !" (to a committeeman at his side) " Eh? oh, yes, thank you—yes—one hundred and ninety-three thousand—two millions—no " (after a close scrutiny at the report) " two hundred and thirty-one—one hundred and ninety-three thousand, two hundred and thirty-one ! Gentlemen, I beg to propose—success to this admirable institution !"
To what the large and variously stated figures referred no one in the audience ever felt positive, but all agreed, as he had said they would, that this was the toast of the evening.
30. BEE LINE
[He knew how to escape from more than one kind of fire.]
A soldier on guard in South Carolina during the
war was questioned as to his knowledge of his duties: " You know your duty here, do you, sentinel ?" " Yes, sir."
" Well, now, suppose they should open on you with shells and musketry, what would you do ?" " Form a line, sir."
" What ! one man form a line ?"
" Yes, sir; form a bee-line for camp, sir."
[" Take the good the Gods provide.")
At Raglan Castle, said Mr. Ganthony, the ventriloquist, I gave an entertainment in the open air, and throwing my voice up into the ivy-covered ruins, said: " What are you doing there?"
To my amazement a boy answered: "I climbed up 'ere this mornin' just to see the folk and 'ear the music; I won't do no harm."
I replied: " Very well, stay there, and don't let any one see you, do you hear ?"
The reply came: "Yes, muster, I 'ear."
This got me thunders of applause. I made up my mind to risk it, so I bowed, and the boy never showed himself.
32. A SLIGHT MISTAKE
[Orders should be strictly obeyed.]
A celebrated German physician, according to a London paper, was once called upon to treat an aristocratic lady, the sole cause of whose complaint was high living and lack of exercise. But it would never have done to tell her so. So his medical advice was:
"Arise at five o clock, take a walk in the park for one hour, then drink a cup of tea, then walk another hour, and take a cup of chocolate. Take breakfast at eight."
Her condition improved visibly, until one fine morning the carriage of the baroness was seen to approach the physician's residence at lightning speed. The patient dashed up to the doctor's house, and on his appearing on the scene she gasped out:
" 0 doctor ! I took the chocolate first !"
" Then drive home as fast as you can," directed the astute disciple of Esculapius, rapidly writing a prescription, " and take this emetic. The tea must be underneath."
The grateful patient complied. She is still improving.
33. PRESENCE OF MIND
[A fine story to illustrate the value (money value) of presence of mind.]
A witty person whom Bismarck was commissioned by the Emperor to decorate with the Iron Cross of the first class, discomfited the Chancellor's attempt to chaff him. " I am authorized," said Bismarck, " to offer you one hundred thalers instead of the cross." " How much is the cross worth ?" asked the soldier. " Three thalers." " Very well, then, your highness, I'll take the cross and ninety-seven thalers." Bismarck was so surprised and pleased by the ready shrewdness of the reply that he gave the man both the cross and the money.
34. JOKE ON A DUDE
[A good story for one who has some power of personation, for the dudes get little sympathy.]
A crowded car ran down the other evening. Within was a full-blown, eye-glassed, drab-gaitered dude, apparently satisfied that he was jammed in among an admiring community. On the rear plat-form a cheery young mechanic was twitting the conductor and occasionally making a remark to a fresh passenger. Everybody took it in good part as a case of inoffensive high spirits, all but the dude, who evinced a strong disgust.
When the young man called out to an old gentle-man, " Sit out here, guvinor, on the back piazza," or to another, " Don't crowd there; stay where the breezes blow," the dude looked daggers, and at last, grabbing the conductor's elbow and indicating the young man by a nod of the head, evidently entered a protest. Every one saw it. So did the young man, and he gathered his wits together like a streak to finish that dude. He did it all with an imperturbable good humor and seriousness which would carry conviction to the most doubting.
" Well, I never !" he began, poking his head inside the doorway with an air of comic surprise. " Jes' to see you a-sitting there, dressed up like that. Catch on to them gaiters, will you? Ain't you got the nerve to go up and down Broadway fixed up like that, and your poor father and mother workin' hard at home? Ain't you 'shamed o' yourself, and your father a honest, hard-workin' driver, and your mother a decent, respectable washwoman ? Y' ain't no good, or you wouldn't have gev up your place, and I think I'll go look after it myself and put a decent man in it."
He stepped off the car as if bent on doing this at once, and the dude, unable to resist the ridicule of the situation or defend the attack, hastily stepped off after him.
35. NEWSPAPER REPORTER
[Equally good for a missionary meeting or a gathering of newspaper men.]
A young journalist was requested to write some-thing about the Zenana Mission. He assured the readers of the paper that among the many scenes of missionary labor, none had of late attracted more attention than the Zenana Mission, and assuredly none was more deserving of this attention. Comparatively few years had passed since Zenana had been opened up to British trade, but already, owing to the devotion of a handful of men and women, the nature of the inhabitants had been almost entirely changed. The Zenanese, from being a savage people, had become, in a wonderfully short space of time, practically civilized; and recent travelers to Zenana had returned with the most glowing accounts of the continued progress of the good work in that country. He then branched off into the " laborer-worthy-ofhis-hire " side of this great work, and the question was aptly asked if the devoted laborers in that re-mote vineyard were not deserving of support. Were civilization and Christianity to be snatched from the Zenanese just when both were within their grasp? So on for nearly half a column the writer meandered in the most orthodox style, just as he had done scores of times before when advocating certain missions. Some one who found him the next day running his finger down the letter Z, in the index to the " Handy Atlas," with a puzzled look upon his face, knew he had had a letter from the editor.
36. How A WOMAN PROPOSED
[A variation of the old and always pleasing theme.]
They were dining off fowl in a restaurant. " You see," he explained, as he showed her the wishbone, " you take hold here. Then we must both make a wish and pull, and when it breaks the one who has the bigger part of it will have his or her wish granted." " But I don't know what to wish for," she protested. " Oh ! you can think of something," he said. " No, I can't," she replied; " I can't think of anything I want very much." " Well, I'll wish for you," he exclaimed. " Will you, really ?" she asked. " Yes." " Well, then, there's no use fooling with the old wishbone," she interrupted, with a glad smile, "you can have me."
37. LUCKY ANSWER
[Certainly Thompson would be a lawyer, ready for any emergency.]
In times past there was in a certain law school an aged and eccentric professor. " General information" was the old gentleman's hobby. He held it as incontrovertible that if a young lawyer possessed a large fund of miscellaneous knowledge, combined with an equal amount of common sense, he would be successful in life. So every year the professor put on his examination papers a question very far removed from the subject of criminal law. One year it was, "How many kinds of trees are there in the college yard ?" the next, " What is the make-up of the present English cabinet?"
Finally the professor thought he had invented the best question of his life. It was, " Name twelve animals that inhabit the polar regions." The professor chuckled as he wrote this down. He was sure he would " pluck" half the students on that question and it was beyond a doubt that that opprobrious young loafer Thompson would fail. But when the professor read the examination papers, Thompson, who had not answered another question, was the only man who had solved the polar problem. This was Thompson's answer: " Six seals and six polar bears." Thompson got his degree with distinction.
38. DOUBLE EDUCATION
A young doctor, wishing to make a good impression upon a German farmer, mentioned the fact that he had received a double education, as it were. He had studied homoeopathy, and was also a graduate of a " regular " medical school. " Oh! dot vas noding," said the farmer, " I had vonce a calf vot sucked two cows, and he made nothing but a common schteer after all."
[This and the preceding have a little spice of ill-nature, and while enjoyable must be applied care-fully.]
Wife—" Such a dream as I had last night, dear !" Husband—" May I hear about it ?"
"Well, yes; I dreamed I was in a great establishment where they sold husbands. They were beau-ties; some in glass cases and marked at fearful prices, and others were sold at less figures. Girls were paying out fortunes, and getting the handsomest men I ever saw. It was wonderful."
" Did you see any like me there, dear?"
" Yes; just as I was leaving I saw a whole lot like you lying on the remnant counter."
40. INDIRECT AND DIRECT
[The following instances show that it is necessary to heed indirect as well as direct meanings.]
Mr. Callon, M. P. for Louth, Ireland, a stanch opponent of the Sunday Closing and Permissive Bill and personally a great benefactor to the Revenue, replying to the Irish Attorney-General, said: " The facts relied on by the learned gentleman are very strange. Now, Mr. Speaker, I swallow a good deal. [' Hear, hear,' ' Quite true,' ' Begorra, you can,' and roars of laughter.] I repeat, I can swallow a great deal [' Hear, hear,' and fresh volleys of laughter], but I can't swallow that." A few nights before, in a debate which had to do with the Jews, Baron de Worms had just remarked, "We owe much to the Jews," when there came a feeling groan from a well-known member in his back corner, "We do."
41. AN UNMARRIED MAN'S WIFE
At a dinner at Delmonico's, after the bottle had made its tenth round, one of the company pro-posed this toast: " To the man whose wife was never vixenish to him !" A wag of an old bachelor jumped up and said: " Gentlemen, as I am the only unmarried man at this table, I suppose that that toast was intended for me."
42. A DILEMMA
" I am no good unless I strike," said the match. "And you lose your head every time you do strike," said the box.
43. COURAGEOUS GIRL
[The following is a good instance of an elaborate story and a sharp retort.]
It is not always safe to presume upon the timidity or ignorance of folks. The most demure may be the most courageous. A gentleman who attempted to play a practical joke in order to test the courage of a servant, was nonplused in a very unexpected way. Here is his story:
I am very particular about fastening the doors and windows of my house. I do not intend to leave them open at night as an invitation to burglars to enter. You see, I was robbed once in that way last year, and I never mean to be again; so when I go to bed I like to be sure that every door and window is securely fastened.
Last winter my wife engaged a big, strong country girl, and the new-comer was very careless about the doors at night. On two or three occasions I came down-stairs to find a window up or the back door unlocked. I cautioned her, but it did her no good. I therefore determined to frighten her. I got some false whiskers, and one night about eleven o'clock I crept down the back-stairs to the kitchen, where she was. She had turned down the gas, and was in her chair by the fire fast asleep, as I could tell by her breathing, but the moment I struck a match she awoke.
I expected a great yelling and screaming, but nothing of the sort took place. She bounced out of her seat with a " You villain !" on her lips, seized a chair by the back, and before I had made a move she hit me over the head, forcing me to my knees. I tried to get up, tried to explain who I was, but in vain. Before I could get out of the room she struck me again, and it was only after I had tumbled up the back-stairs that she gave the alarm. Then she came up to my room, rapped at the door, and coolly announced:
" Mr. , please get up. I've killed a burglar."
44. MORAL SUASION
"What are your usual modes of punishment?' was among the questions submitted to a teacher in a rural district in Ohio. Her answer was, " I try moral suasion first, and if that does not work I use capital punishment."
As it was a neighborhood where moral suasion had not been a success, and the children were scarce, the committee took no risks.
45. CUTE Boy
The teacher in geography was putting the class through a few simple tests:
" On which side of the earth is the North Pole ?" she inquired.
" On the north side," came the unanimous answer. " On which side is the South Pole ?"
" On the south side ?"
" Now, on which side are the most people?"
This was a poser, and nobody answered. Finally, a very young scholar held up his hand.
" I know," he said, hesitatingly, as if the excess of his knowledge was too much for him.
" Good for you," said the teacher, encouragingly; " tell the class on which side the most people are."
" On the outside," piped the youngster, and what-ever answer the teacher had in her mind was lost in the shuffle.
Bob—" Hello ! I'm awfully glad to see you !" Dick—" I guess there must be some mistake. I don't owe you anything, and I am not in a condition to place you in a position to owe me anything !"
Benjamin Franklin was not unlike other boys in his love for sophomoric phrases. It is related that one day he told his father that he had swallowed some acephalus molluscus, which so alarmed him that he shrieked for help. The mother came in with warm water, and forced half a gallon down Benjamin's throat with the garden pump, then held him upside down, the father saying, " If we don't get those things out of Bennie he'll be poisoned sure." When Benjamin was allowed to get his breath he explained that the articles referred to were oysters. His father was so indignant that he whipped him for an hour for frightening the family. Franklin never afterward used a word with two syllables when a monosyllable would do.
48. FAMILY AFFAIRS
" Newlywed seems to find particular delight in parading his little family affairs before the eyes of his acquaintances," " Does he? What are they ? Scandals ?" " Nop, twins."
49. A BURGLAR'S EXPERIENCE
A New York paper prints this extract from the reminiscences of a retired burglar:
" I think about the most curious man I ever met," said the retired burglar, " I met in a house in east-ern Connecticut, and I shouldn't know him, either, if I should meet him again unless I should hear him speak. It was so dark where I met him that I never saw him at all. I had looked around the house down-stairs, and actually hadn't seen a thing worth carrying off. It was the poorest house I ever was in, and it wasn't a bad-looking house on the outside, either. I got up-stairs and groped around a little, and finally turned into a room that was darker than Egypt. I had not gone more than three steps in this room when I heard a man say
"' Hello, there.'
" ' Hello,' says I.
" `Who are you ?' says the man; ' burglar?'
" And I said yes; I did do something in that line occasionally.
" ` Miserable business to be in, ain't it?' said the man. His voice came from a bed over in the corner of the room, and I knew he hadn't even sat up.
" And I said, ` Well, I dunno. I got to support my family some way.'
` Well, you've just wasted a night here,' says the man. ` Did you see anything down-stairs worth stealing ?'
" And I said no, I hadn't.
" ` Well, there's less up-stairs,' says the man; and then I heard him turn over and settle down to go to sleep again. I'd like to have gone over there and kicked him, but I didn't. It was getting late, and I thought, all things considered, that I might just as well let him have his sleep out."