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Illustrative And Humorous Anecdotes - Part 4

( Originally Published 1901 )


The eccentric old King of Prussia, father of Frederick the Great, while visiting the Potsdam prison, was much interested in the professions of innocence the prisoners made. Some blamed their conviction on the prejudice of judges; others, upon the perjury of witnesses or the tricks of bad companions. At length he accosted a sturdy, closely-fettered prisoner with the remark, " I suppose you are innocent, too."

" No, your Majesty," was the unexpected response, " I am guilty, and richly deserve all I get."

"Here, you turnkey," thundered the monarch, "come and turn out this rascal, quick, before he corrupts this fine lot of innocent and abused people that you have about you."


There are persons now living in Bennington who remember old Billy B , of whom it might be said he furnished an example of the " ruling passion strong in death." When very ill, and friends were expecting an early demise, his nephew and a man hired for the occasion had butchered a steer which had been fattened; and when the job was completed the nephew entered the sick-room, where a few friends were assembled, when, to the astonishment of all, the old man opened his eyes, and turning his head slightly, said, in a full voice, drawing out the words:

" What have you been doing ?"

" Killing the steer," was the reply.

" What did you do with the hide ?"

" Left it in the barn; going to sell it by-and-by." " Let the boys drag it around the yard a couple of times ; it will make it weigh heavier."

And the good old man was gathered unto his fathers.


[This is told of bears, rattlesnakes, etc., as well as Indians.]

At a recent festive occasion a gentleman who was making a few remarks was repeatedly interrupted by another one of the company. He bore it patiently at first, but finally said that it reminded him of a story he had heard. He said that a man, whom business had called away a short distance from his home in the city, thought he would pay his way back again by purchasing a number of hogs and driving them home. He did so, but when he and the hogs arrived at their destination the market for the latter had fallen considerably in price, and the hogs had also lost weight on the journey. It was remarked to him that he had made rather a bad speculation. " Yes—well, yes," he answered reflectively. " Yes—but then, you see, I had their company all the way !"



[The following may not be strictly true, but it well illustrates that there is always a lower depth in misfortune, and—that Western roads are often some-what muddy.]

Some years ago, when riding along one of the almost impassable roads in the far West, I observed a dark-looking object lying in the middle of the road, and my natural curiosity impelled me to dismount and examine it. It proved to be a hat, some-what muddy and dilapidated, but emphatically a hat. On lifting it up, to my surprise I found that it covered a head—a human head—which protruded sufficiently out of the mud to be recognizable as such. I ventured to address the evidently wide-awake head, and remarked that it seemed to be in a pretty bad sort of a fix.

" W a'al, yes !" the lips replied; " you're about right thar, stranger; but then I ain't anyway near as bad off as the horse that's under me !"


A conference preacher one day went into the house of a Wesleyan Reformer, and saw the portraits of three expelled ministers suspended from the walls.

"What!" said he, "have you got them hanging there ?"

" Oh ! yes," was the answer; " they are there."

" Ah ! well; but one is wanted to complete the set."

" Pray, who is that ?"

" Why, the devil, to be sure."

" Ah !" said the Reformer, " but he is not yet expelled from the Conference."


In Cadiz, Ohio, a preacher was summoned to the hotel to make an expectant couple one. In the course of the preliminary inquiries the groom was asked if he had been married before, and admitted that he had been—three times. "And is this lady a widow," was also asked, but be responded promptly and emphatically, "No, sir; I never marry widows."


Several years ago there resided in Saratoga County a lawyer of considerable ability and reputation, but of no great culture, who had an unusually fine taste in paintings and engravings—the only evidence of refinement he ever exhibited. A clergyman of the village in which he lived, knowing his fondness for such things, introduced to him an agent of a publishing house in the city who was issuing a pictorial Bible in numbers. The specimen of the style of work exhibited to the lawyer was a very beautiful one, and he readily put down his name for a copy. But in the progress of the publication the character of the engravings rapidly deteriorated, much to the disgust of the enlightened lawyer. The picture of Joseph, very indifferently done, provoked him beyond endurance, and seizing several of the numbers he sallied forth to reproach the parson for leading him into such a bad bargain. " Look at these wretched scratches," said he, turning the pages over, " and see how I have been imposed upon ! Here is a portrait of Joseph, whom his brethren sold to the Egyptians for twenty pieces of silver; and let me tell you, parson, if Joseph looked like that it was a mighty good sale !"


A priest was called upon by a superstitious parishioner, who asked him to do something for her sick cow. He disclaimed knowing anything about such matters, but could not put her off. She insisted that if he would only say some words over the cow, the animal would surely recover. Worn out with importunity, he seized his book in desperation, walked around the four-legged patient several times, repeating in a sonorous voice the Latin words, which mean, " If you die, you die; and if you live, you live," and rushed off disgusted. But the woman was delighted, and sooth to say the cow quickly recovered.

But in time the good man himself was taken sick, and grew rapidly worse. His throat was terribly swollen, and all medical aid was exhausted. The word passed around the parish that the priest must die. When Bridget heard the peril of her favorite pastor she was inspired by a mighty resolve. She hurried to the sick-room, entered against the protest of the friends who were weeping around, and with-out a word to any one with her strong hands dragged his reverence's bed to the middle of the floor, and with the exact copy of his very gestures and voice marched around the bed, repeating the sonorous and well-remembered Latin phrase, " If you die, you die; and if you live, you live." The priest fell into a fit of uncontrollable laughter, and in his struggle for breath and self-control the gathering in his throat broke and his life was saved !

Mighty are the triumphs of medicine !


An old fellow in a neighboring town, who is original in all things, especially in excessive egotism, and who took part in the late war, was one day talking to a crowd of admiring listeners, and boasting of his many bloody exploits, when he was interrupted by the question:

" I say, old Joe, how many of the enemy did you kill during the war ?"

" How many did I kill sir ? how many enemies did I kill? Well, I don't know just 'zactly how many; but I know this much--I killed as many o' them as they did o' me !"


During a homeward trip of the " Henry Chauncey," from Aspinwall, the steerage passengers were so numerous as to make them uncomfortable. As for sleeping accommodation, it was aptly described by a Californian, who approached the captain, and said:

"I should like to have a sleeping-berth, if you please."

" Why, where have you been sleeping these last two nights since we left?"

" Wa'al, I've been sleeping a-top of a sick man; but he's better now, and won't stand it no longer I"


In a Macon (Ga.) court the other day a lawyer was cross-examining a negro witness, and was getting along fairly well until he asked the witness what his occupation was. " I'se a carpenter, sah." " What kind of a carpenter?" "They calls me a jackleg carpenter, sah." " What is a jackleg carpenter ?" " He is a carpenter who is not a first-class carpenter, sah." " Well, explain fully what you understand a jackleg carpenter to be," insisted the lawyer. "Boss, I declare I dunno how ter splain any mo' 'cept to say hit am jes' the same difference 'twixt you an' a fust-class lawyer."


On board a train in the West an eccentric preacher wanted a sleeping-berth, but had only sixty cents, while the lowest price was a dollar. Naturally he did not get on very fast with the porter; but after wearing out the patience of that functionary in vain efforts to stretch the sixty cents, the conductor was sent for. All proposals to borrow, to pledge an old Water-bury watch, and other financial expedients failed; but the circle was squared when the preacher said, " I'll lie down, and when I have slept sixty cents worth, you send that bed-shaker to rout me out." The pro-cession started for the sleeper amid the hilarity of the passengers, but the tradition is that he slept the whole night through and far into the morning.


A great traveler once found himself on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He was at once beset by boatmen, who wanted to take him out to sail on the waters where Christ had walked. He yielded to their importunities, and returned to the shore in about an hour. But his devout meditations were greatly disturbed when he was told that the charge was $10. With energy he declared that it was rob. berg , that it was not worth so much to sail all over their little lake, and demanded, " What makes you charge so dreadfully ?" " Why," said the innocent boatman, " because dese ese de lake were de Saviour walked on de water." " Walked ! walked ! did He ? Well, if the boatmen of that day charged as you fellows do, I should think He would walk."


On one occasion a person, who wished to have a little fun at the expense of his constituency, said in a group where Horace Greeley was standing: " Mr. Greeley and I, gentlemen, are old friends. We have drunk a good deal of brandy and water together." " Yes," said Mr. Greeley, " that is true enough. You drank the brandy, and I drank the water."


Fifty years ago the principal avenue of Detroit had a toll-gate close to the entrance of the Elmwood Cemetery road. As this cemetery had. been laid out some time previous to the construction of the plank road, it was arranged that all funeral processions should be allowed to pass along the latter toll-free. One day as a well-known physician stopped to pay his toll, he observed to the gate-keeper:

" Considering the benevolent character of our profession, I think you ought to let physicians pass free of charge."

" No, no, doctor," replied the man; " we can't afford that. You send too many ` deadheads' through here as it is."

The story traveled, and the two words became associated.


They tell a story of a man who came into Omaha one day, and wanted to trade his farm for some city lots. " All right," replied the real-estate agent, " get into my buggy, and I'll drive you out to see some of the finest residence sites in the world—water, sewers, paved streets, cement sidewalks, electric light, shade trees, and all that sort of thing," and away they drove four or five miles into the country. The real-estate agent expatiated upon the beauty of the surroundings, the value of the improvements made and projected, the convenience of the location, the ease and speed with which people who lived there could reach town, and the certainty of an active demand for such lots in the immediate future. Then, when he was breathless, he turned to his companion, and asked:

" Where's your farm ?"

"We passed it coming out here," was the reply. " It's about two miles nearer town."


Young Wife—" Why, dear, you were the stroke oar at college, weren't you ?"

Young Husband—" Yes, love."

" And a prominent member of the gymnastic class?" " I was leader."

" And quite a hand at all athletic exercises ?"

" Quite a hand? My gracious ! I was champion walker, the best runner, the head man at lifting heavy weights, and as for carrying—why, I could shoulder a barrel of flour and—"

" Well, love, just please carry the baby for a couple of hours, I'm tired."


[Anything rather premature may be illustrated by the following:]

A spring bird that had taken time by the forelock flew across the lawn near this city one day last week. His probable fate is best described in this pathetic verse, author unknown: .

" The first bird of spring

Essayed for to sing;

But ere he had uttered a note He fell from the limb,

A dead bird was him,

The music had friz in his throat."


The poet Shelley tells an amusing story of the influence that language " hard to be understood " exercises on the vulgar mind. Walking near Covent Garden, London, he accidentally jostled against an Irish navvy, who, being in a quarrelsome mood, seemed inclined to attack the poet. A crowd of ragged sympathizers began to gather, when Shelley, calmly facing them, deliberately pronounced:

" I have put my hand into the hamper, I have looked on the sacred barley, I have eaten out of the drum. I have drunk and am well pleased. I have said, ` Knox Ompax,' and it is finished."

The effect was magical, the astonished Irishman fell back; his friends began to question him. " ? What barley ?" " Where's the hamper ?" " What have you been drinking?" and Shelley walked away unmolested.


When General Sickles, after the second battle of Bull Run, assumed cornmand of a division of the Army of the Potomac, he gave an elaborate farewell dinner to the officers of his old Excelsior Brigade.

" Now, boys, we will have a family gathering," he said to them, as they assembled in his quarters.

Pointing to the table, he continued: " Treat it as you would the enemy."

As the feast ended, an Irish officer was discovered by Sickles in the act of stowing away three bottles of champagne in his saddle-bags.

" What are you doing, sir," gasped the astonished General.

" Obeying orders, sir," replied the captain, in a firm voice: " You told us to treat the dinner as we would the enemy, and you know, General, what we Can't kill we capture."


An Irish street-car conductor called out shrilly to the passengers standing in the aisle:

" Will thim in front glaze to move up, so that thim behind can take the places of thim in front, an' lave room for thim who are nayther in front nor behind?"


" What's the matter with you," asked a gentleman of a friend whom he met. " You looked puzzled and worried."

" I am," said the friend. " Maybe you can help me out."

"Well, what is it?"

" I am subject at intervals," said the friend, " to the wildest craving for beefsteak and onions. It has all the characteristics of a confirmed drunkard's craving for rum. This desire came upon me a few minutes ago, and I determined to gratify it. Then suddenly I remembered that I had promised to call this evening on some ladies, and I must keep that promise. Yet my stomach is shouting for beefsteak and onions, and I am wavering between duty and appetite."

" Can't you wait until after the call ?" asked the gentleman, solicitously.

" Never," said the friend, earnestly.

" Can't you postpone the call ?"

" Impossible," declared the friend.

" Well," said the gentleman, " I'll tell you what to do: go to John Chamberlin's cafe; order your beef-steak and onions, and eat them. When you get your bill it will be so big that it will quite take your breath, away."


"And now," said the learned lecturer on geology who had addressed a small but deeply attentive audience at the village hall, " I have tried to make these problems, abstruse as they may appear, and involving in their solution the best thoughts, the closest analysis, and the most profound investigations of our ablest scientific men for many years; I have tried, I say, to make them seem comparatively simple and easily understood, in the light of modern knowledge. Before I close this lecture I shall be glad to answer any questions that may occur to you as to points that appear to need clearing up or that may have been overlooked."

There was a silence of a few moments, and then an anxious-looking man in the rear of the hall rose up.

" I would take it as a favor," he said, " if you could tell me whether science has produced as yet any re-liable and certain cure for warts."


One of the managers of a home for destitute colored children tells a funny story about the institution. She went out there to see how things were getting along, and found a youngster as black as the inside of a coal mine tied to a bed-post, with his hands be-hind him.

" What is that boy tied up there for?" she demanded of the attendant.

" For lying, ma'am. He is the worstist, lyingest nigger I ever seen."

" What's his name ?

" George Washington, ma'am," was the paralyzing reply.


" What is this new substance I hear so much about ?" asked the eminent scientist's wife.

" What new substance, my dear ?"

" The element in the air that has just been detected."

" Oh ! that, my dear," he answered, beaming over his spectacles with the good nature of superior wisdom, " is known as argon !"

"Oh I"

" Yes; its discovery is one of the most remarkable triumphs of the age. It has revolutionized some of the old theories, or at least it will revolutionize them before it gets through."

" What is it ?"

"It's—er—a—did you say, what is it?"

" I said that."

" Well—ahem—you see, we haven't as yet discovered much about it except its name."


An Episcopal clergyman passing his vacation in Indiana met an old farmer who declared that he was a " 'Piscopal."

" To what parish do you belong ?" asked the clergy-man."

" Don't know nawthin"bout enny parish," was the answer.

" Well, then," continued the clergyman, " what diocese do you belong to ?"

" They ain't nawthin' like that 'round here," said the farmer.

"Who confirmed you, then?" was the next question.

" Nobody," answered the farmer.

" Then how are you an Episcopalian ?" asked the clergyman.

" Well," was the reply, " you see it's this way: Last winter I went down to Arkansas visitin', and while I was there I went to church, and it was called 'Piscopal, and I he'rd them say ` that they left undone the things what they'd' oughter done and they had done some things what they oughten done,' and I says to myself, says I: ` That's my fix exac'ly, and ever since I considered myself a 'Piscopalian."

The clergyman shook the old fellow's hand, and laughingly said:

" Now I understand, my friend, why the member-ship of our church is so large."


A little girl brought a note to her school-teacher one morning, which read as follows: " Dear teacher, please excuse Johnny for not coming to school to-day. He is dead." Johnny was excused.

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