THE SAD STORY OF A LOST MEMORY



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THE SAD STORY OF A LOST MEMORY



I had not noticed the man sitting beside me in the bus until he addressed me.

"Excuse me, sir," he said, "but is my face familiar to you by any chance?"

I turned and studied him for a second or two. I was able to assure him that he was an entire stranger to me. He did not seem at all surp­rised. "It was just a chance," he said. "You see, sir, I am under the disadvantage of not knowing who I am." '

"I have just returned from a voyage," he continued, "during the course of which I had the misfortune to lose my memory. I understand from received information that I was seating one fine day on the deck of the ship, when suddenly the ship gave a lurch and I fell on to my head and was unconscious for three days. During this period all my possessions on the ship were stolen and all trace of my identity remo­ved. Even the name of my tailor was cut out from the suit I was wea­ring. I didn't know anything about myself and I was unknown to any of my fellow-passengers. Everyone agreed that there was only one possible remedy, namely, that I should receive another violent blow on the he­ad, which would, as all the authorities say, restore my memory to its former state.

The idea was taken up enthusiastically, and I gladly admitted that all the ship's crew and also the passengers did what they could for me in this respect.

It became quite customary for every who met me to hit me play­fully over the head with all possible weapon.

With all these helps I received a great many blows on the head, but my memory stubbornly refused to return."

The stranger paused in his recital.

I raised my walking stick. "This is but a poor weapon, I'm afra­id," I said. "Still, any little service I can render..."

"No, no," said the stranger hurriedly, "the time for that is past. I am now gathering funds to enable me to prosecute inquiries at the port from which the boat sailed, and should you, kind sir..."

6. IRVING STONE

AT THE ART DEALER’S

 

The little bell on the front door rang. A stranger walked in. "That picture you have in the window, " he said "That still life. Who is it by?"

"Paul Cezanne. "

"Cezanne? I have never heard of him. Is it for sale?"

"Ah, no, alas, it is already ..."

Madame Tanguy saw her chance. She quickly rose from the chair, pushed Tanguy out of the way, and ran up to the man eagerly.

"But of course it is for sale. It is a beautiful still life, is it not, Monsieur? Have you ever seen such apples before? We will sell it to you cheap, if you admire it. "

"How much?"

"How much, Tanguy?" asked Madame Tanguy raising her voice, Tanguy swallowed hard. "Three hundred … "

"Tanguy!"

"Well, one hundred francs!"

"A handred francs? I wonder … " said the stranger. "For an unk­nown painter... I’m afraid that's too expensive. I don't think I can afford it. I was only prepared to spend about twenty five. "

The canvas was immediately taken out of the window and put before the customer.

"See, Monsieur, it is a big picture. There are four apples. Four apples are a hundred francs. You only want to spend twenty five. Then why not take one apple? The price is only twenty five francs."

When the price was mentioned the man began to study the canvas with new interest. "Yes, that's all right. Just cut this apple the full length of the canvas and I'll take it."

Madame Tanguy hurried to her apartment and returned with a pair of scissors. The end apple was cut off, wrapped in a piece of paper and handed to the man. He paid the money and walked out with the can­vas under his arm. The spoiled masterpiece lay on the counter.

"My favorite Cezanne," cried Tanguy unhappily. "I'll miss it so! I put it in the window. I wanted people to see it for a moment and go away happy. "

Madame Tanguy interrupted him. "Next time someone wants a Cezanne and hasn't much money, sell him an apple. Take anything you can get for it. They are worthless anyway, he paints so many of them."

7. FRANK J. HARDY

 

LOOKING FOR WORK

 

A man stopped near a large plant. He had an old coat, old shoes, and no socks on. The man wanted to get some work. He was out of work. He could not buy bread, milk, and new clothes for his children. He went to the door, stopped and looked at his old coat and shoes, coughed and then opened the door.

He came into a room, where he saw an old man.

"What can I do for you?" asked the old man.

"I want some work, please," said the poor man.

"We have no work now," said the old man. "But when we have work, we give it only to people who have been at the war."

"I have been at the front. I have got a medal," said the poor man quickly. "Can you give me some work? I have been out of work for three years. I have done my best to get work, but I could not. They did not give us work when we came back from the front."

"I am sorry. We have no work now. Come later."

"I see," said the poor man, "I am sorry," and he left the room.

He went into the street. He wanted to have a rest. He wanted some hot soup and some bread. He went to other plants. Every day he went and asked for work. But he got no work. Every day they told him that there was no work. He could not go home and tell his wife that he co­uld not get any work. He came to a fine house with a garden around it. He went into the garden. A woman came out of the house.

"Could you give me some work?" the man asked. "I have done diffe­rent garden work. Will you give me work in your garden?"

The woman looked at his poor clothes, and at his old shoes. She was frightened.

"Why have you come into the garden?" she cried. "I do not want a worker in the house or in the garden. Go away! Leave the garden!"

"I have been at the front," cried the man. "I have fought for the country, for you, and now I have no work, no bread, no clothes!"

"Leave the garden! Quick!" shouted the woman and closed the door. The man went out into the street again. Evening came. It became colder, and it rained and rained. He began to cough. After a time the man came to a bridge. He stopped there and looked at the river. Then he took his medal out of his pocket, looked at it and dropped it into the river.

 

 

8. О. HENRY

AT THE DOCTOR'S

Му doctor took me to see a consulting physician. I liked him im­mensely. "Have you a pain in the back of your head?" he asked.

I told him I had not.

"Shut your eyes," he ordered, "put your feet close together, and jump backward as fast as you can."

I always was a good jumper with my eyes shut, so I obeyed. My he­ad struck the edge of the bathroom door, which had been left open and was only three feet away. The doctor was sorry. He had overlooked the fact that the door was open. He closed it.

"Now touch your nose with your right forefinger, " he said.

"Where is it?" I asked. "On your face," said he.

"I mean my right forefinger," I explained.

"Oh, excuse me, " he said. He reopened the bathroom door, and I took my finger out of the crack of it. "Now, " he said, "gallop like a horse for about five minutes around the room. " I gave the best imita­tion I could of a disqualified horse. Then he listened to my chest again. The physician held up his forefinger within three inches to my nose. "Look at my finger, " he commanded.

He explaied that this was a test of the action of the brain. It seemed easy to me. I never once mistook his finger.

After asking me if I had a crazy grand-uncle or a cousin, the two doctors, the casual physician and the regular doctor, retired to the bathroom and sat on the edge of the bathtub for their consultation.

The doctors came out looking grave. They wrote out a diet list to which I was to be restricted. It had everything that I had ever heard of to eat on it except snails.

"You must follow this diet strictly, " said the doctors.

"I'd follow it a mile if I could get one-tenth of what's on it," I answered.

"Of next importance, " they went on, "is outdoor air and exercise. And here is a prescription that will be of great benefit to you. "

Then all of us took something. They took their hats, and I took my departure. I went to a druggist and showed him the prescription.

"It will be two dollars 87 cents for an ounce bottle, " he said.

"Will you give me a piece of your wrapping cord?" said I.

I made a hole in the prescription, ran the cord through it, tied it around my neck, and went out.

 

9. W. SAROYAN

 

OLD COUNTRY ADVICE TO THE AMERICAN TRAVELLER

 

One day my Uncle Melik traveled from Fresno to New York. Before he got aboard the train his Uncle Garro paid him a visit and told him about the dangers of travel.

"When you get on the train," the old man said, "choose your seat carefully, sit down and do not look about."

"Yes, sir," my uncle said.

"Several moments after the train begins to move," the old man sa­id, "two men wearing uniforms will come down the aisle and ask you for your ticket. Ignore them. They will be impostors[40]. On your way to the diner a very beautiful young woman will run into you on purpose and almost embrace you," the old man said. "She will be extremely apolo­getic and attractive, and your natural wish will be to become friends with her. Don't do this, go into the diner and eat. The woman will be an adventures. If she speaks, pretend to be deaf. That is the only way out of it. I have traveled. I know what I'm talking about. On your way back to your seat from the diner," the old man said, "you will pass through the smoker. There you will find a game of cards in progress. The players will be three middle-aged men with expensive lo­oking rings on their fingers. They will nod at you pleasantly and one of them will invite you to join the game. Tell them you don't speak English."

"Yes, sir," my uncle said.

"One thing more," the old man said. "When you go to bed at night, take your money out of your pocket and put it in your shoe. Put your shoe under the pillow, keep your head on the pillow all night, and don't sleep."

"Yes, sir," my uncle said.

The old man went away and the next day my Uncle Melik got aboard the train and went to New York. The two men in uniform were not impos­tors, the beautiful young woman did not sit at his table in the diner, and there was no card game in progress in the smoker. My uncle put his money in the shoe and put his shoe under the pillow and didn't sleep all night the first night, but the second night he abandoned the whole ritual.

The second day in the diner my uncle went to sit at a table with a young lady. He started a poker game in the smoker, and long before the train got to New York my uncle knew everybody aboard the train and everybody knew him. While the train was travelling through Ohio, my uncle and two young ladies sang American songs together.

The journey was a very pleasant one.

 

10. J.Webster.

Daddy – Long – Legs[41]

 

215 Fergussen Hall,

September 24th.

Dear Kind-Trustee-Who-Sends-Orphans- to-College,

Here I am! I travelled yesterday for four hours in a train. It's a funny sensation, isn't it? I never rode in one before.

College is the biggest, most bewildering place - I get lost whene­ver 1 leave my room. I will write you a description later when I'm fe­eling less confused; also I will tell you about my lessons. Classes don't begin untill Monday morning, and this is Saturday night. But I wanted to write a letter first just to get acquainted.

It seems strange for me to be writing letters to somebody you don't know. It seems strange to be writing letters at all - I've never writ­ten more than three or four in my life, so please excuse me if these are not a model kind.

Before leaving yesterday morning, Mrs. Lippett and I had a very se­rious talk. She told me how to behave all the rest of my life, and es­pecially how to behave toward the kind gentleman who is doing so much for me. I must take care to be Very Respectful.

But how can one be very respectful to a person who wishes to be called John Smith? Why couldn't you have picked out a name with a little personality?

I have been thinking about you a great deal this summer; having so­mebody take an interest in me after all these years, makes me feel as though I have found a sort of family. It seems as though I belonged to somebody now, and it's a very comfortable feeling. I must say, howe­ver, that when I think about you, my imagination has very little to work upon. There are just three things that I know:

I. You are tall.

II. You are rich.

III. You hate girls.

I suppose I might call you Dear Mr. Girl-Hater. Only that's sort of insulting to me. Or Dear Mr. Rich-Man, but that's insulting to you, as though money were the only important thing about you.

So I've decided to call you Dear Daddy-Long-Legs[42]. I hope you won't mind. It's just a private pet name - we won't tell Mrs. Lippett.

The ten o'clock bell is going to ring in two minutes. Our day is divided into sections by bells. We eat and sleep and study by bells. It's very enlivening; I feel like a fire-horse all of the time. There it goes! Lights out. Good night.

Observe with what precision I obey rules - due to my training in the John Grier Home[43].

Yours most respectfully,

Jerusha Abbott.

 

 

October 10th.

Dear Daddy-Long- Legs,

Did you ever hear of Michael Angelo?

He was a famous artist who lived in Italy in the Middle Ages. Eve­rybody in English Literature[44] seemed to know about him and the whole class laughed because I thought he was an archangel. He sounds like an archangel, doesn't he? The trouble with college is that you are expec­ted to know such a lot of things you've never learned. It's very con­fusing at times. But now, when the girls talk about things that I've never heard of, I just keep still and look them up in the encyclopedia.

I made an awful mistake the first day. Somebody mentioned Maurice Maeterlinck, and I asked if she was a Freshman[45]. That joke has gone all over college. But anyway, I'm just as bright in class as any of the others - and brighter than some of them!

Sallie is the most amusing person in the world - and Julia Rutledge Pendleton the least so. It's strange what a mixture the registrar can make in the matter of roommates. Sallie thinks everything is funny -even flunking - and Julia is bored at everything. She never makes the slightest effort to be pleasant. She believes that if you are a Pend­leton, that fact alone admits you to heaven without any further exami­nation. Julia and I were born to be enemies.

Jerusha Abbott.

 

11. Michel Bond. A Bear from Peru in England

 

PLEASE LOOK AFTER- THIS BEAR

Mr and Mrs Brown first met Paddington on a railway platform. In fact, that was how he came to have such an unusual name for a bear, for Paddington was the name of the station.

The Browns were there to meet their daughter Judy, who was coming home from school for the holidays. It was a warm summer day and the station was crowded with people on their way to the seaside. Trains were whistling, taxis hooting, porters rushing about shouting at one an­other, and altogether there was so much noise that Mr Brown, who saw him first, had to tell his wife several times before she understood.

"A bear? On Paddington station?" Mrs Brown looked at her husband in amazement. " Don't be silly, Henry. There can't be!"

Mr Brown adjusted his glasses. "But there is," he in­sisted. "I distinctly saw it. Over there - behind those mailbags. It was wearing a funny kind of hat."

Without waiting for a reply he caught hold of his wife's arm and pushed her through the crowd, round a trolley laden with chocolate and cups of tea, past a book­stall, and through a gap in a pile of suitcases towards the Lost Property Office.

"There you are," he announced, triumphantly, pointing towards a dark corner. "I told you so!"

Mrs Brown followed the direction of his arm and dimly made out a small, furry object in the shadows. It seemed to be sitting on some kind of suitcase and around its neck there was a label with some writing on it. The suitcase was old and battered and on the side, in large letters, were the words wanted on voyage[46].

Mrs Brown clutched at her husband. "Why, Henry," she exclaimed. "I believe you were right after all. It is a bear!"

She peered at it more closely. It seemed a very unusual kind of bear. It was brown in colour, a rather dirty brown, and it was wearing a most odd-looking hat, with a wide brim, just as Mr Brown had said. From beneath the brim two large, round eyes stared back at her.

Seeing that something was expected of it the bear stood up and politely raised its hat, revealing two black ears. "Good afternoon," it said, in a small, clear voice.

"Er ... good afternoon," replied Mr Brown, doubtfully. There was a moment of silence.

The bear looked at them inquiringly. "Can 1 help you?"

Mr Brown looked rather embarrassed. "Well ... no. Er ... as a matter of fact, we were wondering if we could help you."

Mrs Brown bent down. "You're a very small bear," she said.

The bear puffed out its chest. "I'm a very rare sort of bear," he replied, importantly. "There aren't many of us left where I come from."

"And where is that?" asked Mrs Brown.

The bear looked round carefully before replying. "Dark­est Peru. I'm not really supposed to be here at all. I'm a stowaway[47]!"

"A stowaway?" Mr Brown lowered his voice and looked anxiously over his shoulder. He almost expected to see a policeman standing behind him with a notebook and pencil, taking everything down.

"Yes," said the bear. "I emigrated, you know." A sad expression came into its eyes. "I used to live with my Aunt Lucy in Peru, but she had to go into a home for retired bears."

"You don't mean to say you've come all the way from South America by yourself?" exclaimed Mrs Brown.

The bear nodded. "Aunt Lucy always said she wanted me to emigrate when 'I was old enough. That's why she taught me to speak English."

"But whatever did you do for food?" asked Mr Brown. "You must be starving."

Bending down, the bear unlocked the suitcase with a small key, which it also had round its neck, and brought out an almost empty glass jar. "I ate marmalade," he said, rather proudly. "Bears like marmalade. And I lived in a lifeboat."

"But what are you going to do now?" said Mr Brown. "You can't just sit on Paddington station waiting for something to happen."

"Oh, I shall be all right ... I expect." The bear bent down to do up its case again. As he did so Mrs Brown caught a glimpse of the writing on the label. It said, simply, please look after this bear. thank you.

She turned appealingly to her husband. "Oh, Henry, what shall we do? We can't just leave him here. There's no knowing what might happen to him. London's such a big place when you've nowhere to go. Can't he come and stay with us for a few days?"

Mr Brown hesitated. "But Mary, dear, we can't take him ... not just like that. After all ..."

"After all, what Mrs Brown's voice had a firm note to it. She looked down at the bear. "He is rather sweet. And he'd be such company for Jonathan and Judy. Even if it's only for a little while. They'd never forgive you if they knew you'd left him here."

"It all seems highly irregular," said Mr Brown, doubt­fully. "I'm sure there's a law about it." He bent down. "Would you like to come and stay with us?" he asked. "That is," he added, hastily, not wishing to offend the bear, "if you've nothing else planned."

The bear jumped and his hat nearly fell off with excitement. "Oooh, yes, please. I should like that very much. I've nowhere to go and everyone seems in such a hurry."

"Well, that's settled then," said Mrs Brown, before her husband could change his mind. "And you can have mar­malade for breakfast every morning, and —" she tried hard to think of something else that bears might like.

"Every morning?" The bear looked as if it could hardly believe its ears. "I only had it on special occasions at home. Marmalade's very expensive in Darkest Peru."

"Then you shall have it every morning starting to­morrow," continued Mrs Brown. "And honey on Sunday."

A worried expression came over the bear's face. "Will it cost very much?" he asked. "You see, I haven't very much money."

"Of course not. We wouldn't dream of charging you anything. We shall expect you to be one of the family, shan't we, Henry?" Mrs Brown looked at her husband for support.

"Of course," said Mr Brown. "By the way," he added, "if you are coming home with us you'd better know our names. This is Mrs Brown and I'm Mr Brown."

The bear raised its hat politely — twice. "I haven't really got a name," he said. "Only a Peruvian one which no one can understand."

"Then we'd better give you an English one," said Mrs Brown. "It'll make things much easier." She looked round the station for inspiration. "It ought to be something spe­cial," she said thoughtfully. As she spoke an engine stand­ing in one of the platforms gave a loud whistle and let off a cloud of steam. "I know what!" she exclaimed. "We found you on Paddington station so we'll call you Paddington!"

"Paddington!" The bear repeated it several times to make sure. "It seems a very long name."

"Quite distinguished," said Mr Brown. "Yes, I like Paddington as a name. Paddington it shall be."

Mrs Brown stood up. "Good. Now, Paddington, I have to meet our little daughter, Judy, off the train. She's coming home from school. I'm sure you must be thirsty after your long journey, so you go along to the buffet with Mr Brown and he'll buy you a nice cup of tea."

Paddington licked his lips. "I'm very thirsty," he said. "Sea water makes you thirsty." He picked up his suitcase, pulled his hat down firmly over his head, and waved a paw politely in the direction of the buffet. "After you, Mr Brown."

"Er ... thank you, Paddington," said Mr Brown.

"Now, Henry, look after him," Mrs Brown called after them. "And for goodness' sake, when you get a moment, take that label off his neck. It makes him look like a par­cel. I'm sure he'll get put in a luggage van or something if a porter sees him."

The buffet was crowded when they entered but Mr Brown managed to find a table for two in a corner. By standing on a chair Paddington could just rest his paws comfortably on the glass top. He looked around with interest while Mr Brown went to fetch the tea. The sight of everyone eating reminded him of how hungry he felt. There was a half-eaten bun on the table but just as he reached out his paw a waitress came up and swept it into a pan.

"You don't want that, dearie," she said, giving him a friendly pat. "You don't know where it's been."

Paddington felt so empty he didn't really mind where it had been but he was much too polite to say anything.

"Well, Paddington," said Mr Brown, as he placed two steaming cups of tea on the table and a plate piled high with cakes. "How's that to be going on with?"

Paddington's eyes glistened. "It's very nice, thank you," he exclaimed, eyeing the tea doubtfully. "But it's rather hard drinking out of a cup. I usually get my head stuck, or else my hat falls in and makes it taste nasty."

Mr Brown hesitated. "Then you'd better give your hat to me. I'll pour the tea into a saucer for you. It's not really done in the best circles, but I'm sure no one will mind just this once."

Paddington removed his hat and laid it carefully on the table while Mr Brown poured out the tea. He looked hun­grily at the cakes, in particular at a large cream-and-jam one which Mr Brown placed on a plate in front of him.

"There you are, Paddington," he said, "I'm sorry they haven't any marmalade ones, but they were the best I could get."

"I'm glad I emigrated,” said Paddington, as he reached out a paw and pulled the plate nearer. ''Do you think anyone would mind if I stood on the table to eat?"

Before Mr Brown could answer he had climbed up and placed his right paw firmly on the bun. It was a very large bun, the biggest and stickiest Mr Brown had been able to find, and in a matter of moments most of the inside found its way on to Paddingston's whiskers. People started to nudge each other and began staring in their direction. Mr Brown wished he had chosen a plain, ordinary bun, but he wasn't very experienced in the ways of bears. He stirred his tea and looked out of the window, pretending he had tea with a bear on Paddington station every day of his life.

"Henry! "The sound of his wife's voice brought him back to earth with a start. "Henry, whatever are you doing to that poor bear? Look at him! He's covered all over with cream and jam."

Mr Brown jumped up in confusion. "He seemed rather hungry," he answered, lamely.

Mrs Brown turned to her daughter. "This is what happens when I leave your father alone for five min­utes."

Judy clapped her hands excitedly. "Oh, Daddy, is he really going to stay with us?"

"If he does," said Mrs Brown, "I can see someone other than your father will have to look after him. Just look at the mess he's in!"

Paddington, who all this time had been too interested in his bun to worry about what was going on, suddenly became aware that people were talking about him. He looked up to see that Mrs Brown had been joined by a little girl, with laughing blue eyes and long, fair hair. He jumped up, meaning to raise his hat, and in his haste slipped on a patch of strawberry jam which somehow or other had found its way on to the glass table-top. For a brief moment he had a dizzy impression of everything and everyone being upside down. He waved his paws wildly in the air and then, before anyone could catch him, he somersaulted backwards and landed with a splash in his saucer of tea. He jumped up even quicker than he had sat down, because the tea was still very hot, and promptly stepped into Mr Brown's cup.

Judy threw back her head and laughed until the tears rolled down her face. "Oh, Mummy, isn't he funny!" she cried.

Paddington, who didn't think it at all funny, stood for a moment with one foot on the table and the other in Mr Brown’s tea. There were large patches of white cream all over his face, and on his left ear there was a lump of strawberry jam.

“You wouldn't think," said Mrs Brown, "that anyone could get in such a state with just one bun."

Mr. Brown coughed. He had just caught the stern eye[48] of a watress on the other side of the counter. "Perhaps," he said, "we'd better go. I'll see if I can find a taxi." He picked up Judy's belongings and hurried outside.

Paddington stepped gingerly off the table and, with a last look at the sticky remains of his bun, climbed down on to the floor.

Judy took on of his paws. "Come along, Paddington. We’ll take you home and you can have a nice hot bath. Then you can tell me all about South America. I’m sure you must have had lots of wonderful adventures.

I have," said Paddington, earnestly. "Lots,' Things are always happening to me. I’m that sort of bear."

Then they came out of the buffet, Mr Brown, had already found a taxi and he waved them across. The driver looked hard at Paddington and then at the inside of his nice, clean taxi.

"Bears is sixpence extra," he said, gruffly. "Sticky bears is ninepence!"

"He can't help being sticky, driver," said Mr Brown. "He's just had a nasty accident."

The driver hesitated. "All right, op in[49]. But mind none of it comes off on me interior. I only cleaned it out this morning."

The Browns trooped obediently into the back of the taxi. Mr and Mrs Brown and Judy sat in the back, while Paddington stood on a tip-up seat behind the driver so that he could see out of the window.

The sun was shining as they drove out of the station and after the gloom and the noise everything seemed bright and cheerful. They swept past a group of people at a bus stop and Paddington waved. Several people stared and one man raised his hat in return. It was all very friendly. After weeks of sitting alone in a lifeboat there was so much to see. There were people and cars and big, red buses everywhere - it wasn't a bit like Darkest Peru.

Paddington kept one eye out of the window in case he missed anything. With his other eye he carefully exam­ined Mr and Mrs Brown and Judy. Mr Brown was fat and jolly, with a big moustache and glasses, while Mrs Brown, who was also rather plump, looked like a larger edition of Judy. Paddington had just decided he was going to like staying with the Browns when the glass window behind the driver shot back and a gruff voice said, "Where did you say you wanted to go?"

Mr Brown leaned forward. "Number thirty-two, Wind­sor Gardens."

The driver cupped his ear with one hand. "Can't ear[50] you," he shouted.

Paddington tapped him on the shoulder. "Number thirty-two, Windsor Gardens," he repeated.

The taxi driver jumped at the sound of Paddington's voice and narrowly missed hitting a bus. He looked down at his shoulder and glared. "Cream!" he said, bitterly. "All over me new coat!"

Judy giggled and Mr and Mrs Brown exchanged glances. Mr Brown peered at the meter. He half-expected to see a sign go up saying they had to pay another sixpence.

"I beg your pardon," said Paddington. He bent forward and tried to rub the stain off with his other paw. Several bun crumbs and a smear of jam added themselves mysteri­ously to the taxi driver's coat. The driver gave Paddington a long, hard look. Paddington raised his hat and the driver slammed the window shut again.

"Oh dear," said Mrs Brown.' "We really shall have to give him a bath as soon as we get indoors. It's getting everywhere."

Paddington looked thoughtful. It wasn't so much that he didn't like baths; he really didn't mind being covered with jam and cream. It seemed a pity to wash it all off quite so soon. But before he had time to consider the mat­ter the taxi stopped and the Browns began to climb out. Paddington picked up his suitcase and followed Judy up a flight of white steps to a big green door.

"Now you're going to meet Mrs Bird," said Judy. "She looks after us. She's a bit fierce sometimes and she grumbles a lot but she doesn't really mean it. I'm sure you'll like her."

Paddington felt his knees begin to tremble. He looked round for Mr and Mrs Brown, but they appeared to be having some sort of argument with the taxi driver. Behind the door he could hear footsteps approaching.

"I'm sure I shall like her, if you say so," he said, catch­ing sight of his reflection on the brightly polished letter- box. "But will she like me?"

 

12. James Thurber

 

UNIVERSITY DAYS

 

Another course that I didn't like, but somehow managed to pass was economics. I went to that class straight from the botany class, which didn't help me any in understanding either subject. I used to get them mixed up. But not as another student in my economics class who came there direct from a physics laboratory. He was a tackle[51] on the football team, named Brown. At that time Ohio State University had one of the best football teams in the country, and Brown was one of its outstanding stars. In order to have the right to play it was necessary for him to keep up in his studies, a very difficult matter, for while he was not dumber than an ox he was not any smarter. Most of his professors were lenient[52] and helped him along. None gave him more hints in answering questions, or asked him simpler ones than the economics professor, a thin, timid man named Bassum. One day we were on the subject of transportation and distribution, it came Brown's turn to answer a question. "Name one means of transportation," the professor said to him. No light came into the fellow's eyes. "Just any means of transportation," said the professor Brown sat staring at him. "That is," pursued the professor, "any medium, agency, or method of going from one place to another." Brown had the look of a man who is being led into a trap. "You may choose among steam, horse-drawn or electrically propelled vehicles," said the instructor. "I might suggest the one commonly taken in making long journeys across land." There was a profound silence in which everybody moved uneasily, including Brown and Mr. Bassum. Mr. Bassum suddenly broke the silence in an amazing manner. "Choo-choo-choo," he said, in a low voice, and turned instantly scarlet. He glanced appealingly around the room. All of us, of course, shared Mr. Bassum's desire that Brown should stay abreast of the class in economics, for the Illinois game, one of the hardest and most important of the season, was only a week off. "Toot, toot, too-tooooooooooooot!" some student with a deep voice moaned, and we all looked encouragingly at Brown. Somebody else gave a fine imitation of a locomotive letting off steam. Mr. Bassum himself rounded the little show. "Ding, ding, ding," he said, hopefully. Brown was staring at the floor now, trying to think, his great brow furrowed, his huge hands rubbing together, his face red. "How did you come to college this year, Mr. Brown?" asked the professor. "Chuffa chuffa, chuffa chuffa." "My father sent me," said the football player. "What on?" asked Bassum. "I got an allowance," said the football player, in a low, husky voice, obviously embarrassed. "No, no," said Bassum. "Name a means of transportation. What did you ride in?" "Train," said Brown. "Quite right," said the professor...

 

13. H. Munro

 

MRS. PACKLETIDE'S TIGEK

 

It was Mrs. Packletide's pleasure and intention that she should shoot a tiger. Not that the desire to kill had suddenly come to her. The compelling motive for the intention was the fact that Loona Bimberton had recently been carried eleven miles in an airplane and talked of nothing else; only a per­sonally procured tiger skin and a heavy harvest of press photographs could successfully counter that sort of thing. Mrs. Packletide had already arranged in her mind the lunch she would give in her house in Curzon Street, in Loona Bimberton's honour, with a tiger skin occupying most of the foreground and all the conversation.

Circumstances proved favourable. Mrs. Packletide had offered a thousand rupees for the opportunity of shooting a tiger, and it so happened that an old tiger was in the habit of coming to a neighbouring village at night. He was so old that he had to abandon game-killing and confine his appe­tite to the smaller domestic animals. The prospect of getting the thousand rupees stimulated the commercial instincts of the villagers; children were posted night and day in the jungle to watch the tiger, and the cheeper kind of goats were left about to keep him satisfied with his present quar­ters. The one great anxiety was lest he should die of old age[53] before the day of Mrs. Packletide's shoot.

The great night arrived. A platform had been constructed in a comfortable big tree, and on it sat Mrs. Packletide and her paid companion, Miss Mebbin. A goat, with a loud bleat, such as even a partially deaf tiger might be expected to hear on a still night, was tied down at a correct distance.

"I suppose we are in some danger?" said Miss Mebbin.

She was not really afraid of the wild beast, but she did not wish to perform an atom more service than she had been paid for.

"Nonsense," said Mrs. Packletide, "it's a very old tiger. It couldn't spring up here even if he wanted to."

"If it is an old tiger I think you ought to get it cheaper. A thousand rupees is a lot of money."

Their conversation was cut short by the appearance of the animal itself.

As soon as it saw the goat it lay flat on the earth for the purpose of taking a short rest before beginning the attack.

"I believe it is ill," said Louisa Mebbin, loudly.

"Hush!" said Mrs. Packletide, and at that moment the tiger began moving towards the goat.

"Now, now!" urged Miss Mebbin with some excitement, "if he doesn't touch the goat we needn't pay for it."

The rifle flashed out with a loud report, and the great yellow beast rolled over in the stillness of death. In a mo­ment a crowd of excited villagers appeared on the scene, and their triumph found a ready echo in the heart of Mrs. Packletide; already that lunch in Gurzon Street seemed much nearer.

It was Louisa Mebbin who drew attention to the fact that the goat was dying from a bullet wound; while no trace of the rifle's work could be found on the tiger. Evi­dently the wrong animal had been hit, and the tiger had died of heart failure, caused by the sudden report of the rifle. Mrs. Packletide did not like the discovery, but the villagers gladly supported the fiction that she had shot the beast. And Miss Mebbin was a paid companion. There­fore, Mrs. Packletide faced the cameras with a light heart, and her picture appeared on the pages of all papers in England and America. As for Loona Bimberton, she refused to look at a paper for weeks. The lunch-party she declined.

The tiger skin was inspected and admired, and Mrs. Packletide went to a costume ball in the character of Diana[54].

"How amused everyone would be if they knew what really happened," said Louisa Mebbin a few days after the ball.

"What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Packletide quickly.

"How you shot the goat and frightened the tiger to death," said Miss Mebbin, with her disagreeably pleasant laugh.

"No one would believe it," said Mrs. Packletide, her face changing colour.

"Loona Bimberton would," said Miss Mebbin. Mrs. Packletide's face settled on an ugly shade of greenish white.

"You surely wouldn't give away?" she asked.

"I've seen a week-end cottage near Dorking[55] that I should like to buy," said Miss Mebbin. "Six hundred and eighty. Quite cheap, only I don't happen to have the mon­ey."

Louisa Mebbin's pretty week-end cottage is the wonder and admiration of her friends.

Mrs. Packletide does no more shooting.

"The incidental expenses are so heavy," she says to in­quiring friends.

 

THE MOUSE

 

Theodoric Voter had been brought up, from in­fancy to the middle age, by a fond mother whose chief wish had been to keep him away from what she called the coarser realities of life. When she died she left Theodoric alone in a world that was as real as ever, and a good deal coarser than he had thought. To a man of his temperament and upbringing even a simple railway journey was an annoying experience, and as he settled himself down in a second-class compart­ment one September morning he felt very uneasy. He had been staying at a country house. The pony carriage that was to take him to the station had never been prop­erly ordered and when the moment for his departure drew near, the coachman was nowhere to be found. In this emergency Theodoric, to his disgust, had to harness the pony himself in an ill-lighted outhouse called a stable, and smelling very like one — except in patches where it smelt of mice. Theodoric was not actually afraid of mice, yet classed them among the coarser incidents of life. As the train glided out of the station Theodoric's nervous imagination accused him of smelling of stable-yard, and possibly of having a straw or two on his usually well-brushed garments. Fortunately the only other occu­pant of the compartment, a lady of about the same age as himself, was sleeping; the train was not due to stop till the terminus[56] was reached, in about an hour's time, and the carriage was of the old-fashioned sort, that had no communication with a corridor, therefore nobody could intrude on Theodoric's semi-privacy. And yet the train had scarcely gained speed before be became aware that he was not alone with the sleeping lady; he was not even alone in his own clothes. A warm, creeping move­ment over his flesh betrayed the unwelcome presence of a strayed mouse, that had evidently got in during the episode of the pony harnessing. Shakes and wildly di­rected pinches failed to drive out the intruder, and soon Theodoric understood that nothing but undressing would save him of his tormentor, and to undress in the presence of a lady, even for so excusable a purpose, was an idea that made him blush. He had never been able to bring himself even to the mild exposure of socks in the presence of the fair sex. And yet — the lady in this case was to all appearances soundly asleep; the mouse, on the other hand, seemed to be trying to crowd a Wanderjahr into a few minutes[57]. Theodoric decided on the bravest under­taking in his life. Blushing like a beetroot and keeping an agonized watch on his sleeping fellow-traveller, he swiftly and noiselessly fastened the ends of his railway-rug[58] to the racks on either side of the carriage, so that a substantial curtain hung across the compartment. In the narrow dressing-room that he had thus improvised he began with violent haste to extricate himself and the mouse from his clothes. As the mouse jumped wildly to the floor, the rug, slipping its fastenings at either end, also came down with a -flap, and almost simultaneously the awakened sleeper opened her eyes. With a move ment almost quicker than the mouse's, Theodoric seized the rug and hid himself under it in the further corner of the carriage. The blood raced and beat in the veins of his neck and forehead, while he waited dumbly for the lady to speak. She, however, continued staring at him in silence. How much had she seen, Theodoric asked himself, and in any case what on earth must she think of his pres­ent position?

"I think I have caught a chill," he said desperately.

"Really, I'm sorry," she replied. "I was just going to ask you to open the window."

"I fancy it's malaria," he added; his teeth were chat­tering slightly, as much from fright as from a desire to support his theory.

"I've got some brandy in my bag, if you kindly reach it down for me," said his companion.

"No — I mean, I never take anything for it," he assured her earnestly.

"I suppose you caught it in the Tropics?" Theodoric, whose acquaintance with the Tropics was limited to Ceylon tea, felt that even the malaria was slipping from him. Would it be possible, he wondered, to disclose the real state of affairs to her ?

"Are you afraid of mice?" he asked, growing more scarlet in the face.

"Not unless they come in quantities. Why do you ask?"

"I had one crawling inside my clothes just now," said Theodoric in a voice that hardly seemed his own."It was a most awkward situation."

"It must have been, if you wear your clothes very tight," she observed; "but mice have strange ideas of comfort."

"I had to get rid of it while you were asleep," he con­tinued; then, with a gulp, he added, "and getting rid of it brought me to — to this."

"Surely one small mouse wouldn't cause a chill," she exclaimed gaily.

Evidently she had detected something in his situa­tion and was enjoying his confusion. All the blood of his body seemed to have mobilized in one blush. And then, as he thought of it, he was seized with terror. With every minute that passed the train was rushing nearer to the crowded terminus where he would be watched by dozens of eyes instead of the one paralysing pair that watched him from the further corner of the carriage. There was a chance that his fellow-traveller might fall asleep again, but every time Theodoric stole a glance at her he saw her open unwinking eyes. .

"I think we must be getting near now," she presently observed.

The words acted like a signal. Like a hunted beast he threw aside the rug and struggled frantically into his clothes. He saw small suburban stations racing past the window and felt an icy silence in that corner towards which he dared not look. Then as he sank back in his seat, dressed and almost delirious, the train slowed down, and the woman spoke.

"Would you be so kind," she asked, "as to get me a porter to put me into a cab? It's a shame to trouble you when you're feeling unwell, but my blindness makes me so helpless at railway stations,"

 

 

14. Ring Lardner

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

My husband has to spend almost all his time in the theater and that leaves me alone in a hotel, if his musical is running out-of-town, and pretty soon people find out whose wife I am and introduce themselves, and the next thing you know they are inviting us for a week or a week­end. Then it's up to me to think of some reason why we can't come. Ben absolutely hates visiting and thinks there ought to be a law against invitations. After a couple of visits Ben thought of a method of putting off people[59]. He would write himself a telegram and sign it with the name of one of the famous producers, and leave the telegram with his secretary with the instructions to send it to us twenty-four hours later. When it arrived at whatever place we were, we would put on long faces and say how sorry we were, but of course business was business, so good­bye. There was never any suspicion even when the telegrams were ridic­ulous, like this one:

Both the leading actors have laryngitis Stop[60] Score must be rewritten half a tone lower Stop Come at once Stop

C.B. Dillingham

 

However, if we happened to be enjoying ourselves, then Ben would

say to our hosts that he wasn't going to let any theatrical producer spoil his fun.

Last September we were invited to come and spend a week with a nice, intelligent couple, the Thayers. "I promise you," Mrs. Thayer said, "that you won't be disturbed at all; we won't invite people in. I won't allow Mr. Drake to even touch the piano. All day he can do nothing or anything, just as he pleases."

We accepted the invitation. "If they stick to their promise, it may be a lot better than staying in New York where my producer won't give me a minute's peace," said Ben. "And if things aren't as good as they look, we always have that telegram."

The Thayers met us at the station in an expensive-looking limousine. "Ralph," said Mrs. Thayer to her husband, "you sit in one of the little seats and Mr. and Mrs. Drake will sit back here with me."

"I'd rather have one of the little seats myself," said Ben and he meant it.

"No, sir!" said Mrs. Thayer. "You came to us for a rest, and we're not going to start you off uncomfortable." It was no use arguing.

All through the drive Ben was unable to think of anything but how terrible his coat would look when he got out.

After luncheon we had coffee.

"Don't you take cream, Mr. Drake?" Mrs. Thayer asked. "No. Never."

"But that's because you don't get good cream in New York." "No. It's because I don't like cream in coffee."

"You would like our cream. We have our own cows. Won't vou try just a little?"

"No, thanks."

"But just a little, to see how rich it is." She poured some cream into Ben's coffee-cup and for a second I held my breath and closed my eyes for fear of seeing Ben throwing the cup in her face.

After luncheon we were sitting in the living-room when Ben rose and went straight to the piano.

"None of that!" said Mrs. Thayer. "I haven't forgotten my promise."

"But there is a melody in my head that I'd like to try."

"Oh, yes, I know all about that. You just think that you MUST play to us! We invited you here for yourself, not to enjoy your talent."

Ben walked over to the book-case and took a book out.

"What book is that?" asked Mrs. Thayer.

"The Great Gatsby," said Ben. "I've always wanted to read it."

"Heavens!" said Mrs. Thayer as she took it away from him. "That's old! You'll find the newest ones there on the table. We keep pretty well up to date. Ralph and I are both great readers. Just try one of those books in that pile. They're all goоd."

Ben took a book, sat down and opened it.

"Man! Man!" exclaimed Mrs. Thayer. "You've picked the most uncomfortable chair in the house."

"He likes straight chairs," I said.

"It makes me uncomfortable just to look at you. You'd better take this chair here. It's the softest, nicest chair you've ever sat on."

"I like hard straight chairs," said Ben, fighting down his annoyance[61] but he sank into the soft, nice one and again opened the book.

"Oh, you never can see there!" said the fussy Mrs. Thayer. "You'll ruin your eyes. Get up just a minute and let Ralph move your chair to that lamp."

"I don't believe I want to read just now," said Ben.

And so it went on all through the afternoon and evening.

Just as we were getting to sleep, Mrs. Thayer knocked on our door. "I'm afraid you haven't covers enough," she called.

"Thanks," I said. "We're quite warm."

"I'm afraid you aren't," continued Mrs. Thayer to whom it never occurred how annoying she was.

"Lock the door," said Ben ill-temperedly, "before she comes in and feels our feet."

All through breakfast next morning we waited for the telephone call about the telegram. The phone did ring once and Mrs. Thayer an­swered, but we couldn't hear what she said.

After breakfast Ben told Mrs. Thayer that he had a feeling that he must be back in New York.

"That's very strange," said Mrs. Thayer, "because a telegram came to you at breakfast time. I wasn't going to tell you about it because I had promised that you wouldn't be disturbed. I remember the tele­gram by heart. It ran:

Bass drum part all wrong. Would like you to come to the theater tonight.

Gene Buck

 

Just as the trainmen were shouting "Board!" Mrs. Thayer said:

"Please forgive me if I have done something terrible, but I answered Mr. Buck's telegram. I wired: 'Mr. Ben Drake resting at my home. Must not be bothered. Suggest that you keep bass drums still for a week. And I signed my name."

 

 

15. DAMON RUNYON

 

SENSE OF HUMOUR

 

One night I am standing[62] in front of Mindy’s restaurant on Broadway, thinking of practically nothing whatever, when all of a sudden I feel a very terrible pain in my left foot.

In fact, this pain is so very terrible that it causes me to leap up and down like a bullfrog, and to let out loud cries of agony, and to speak some very profane language, which is by no means my custom, although of course I recognize the pain as coming from a hot foot, because I often experience this pain before.

Furthermore, I know Joe the Joker must be in the neighbour­hood, as Joe the Joker has the most wonderful sense of humour of anybody in this town, and is always around giving people the hot foot, and gives it to me more times than I can remember. In fact, I hear Joe the Joker invents the hot foot, and it finally becomes a very popular idea all over the country.

The way you give a hot foot is to sneak up behind some guy who is standing around thinking of not much, and stick a paper match to his shoe between the sole and the upper along about where his little toe ought to be, and then light the match. By and by the guy will feel a terrible pain in his foot and will start stamping around, and hollering, and carrying on[63] general­ly, and it is always a most comical sight and a wonderful laugh to one and all to see him suffer.

No one in the world can give a hot foot as good as Joe the Joker, because it takes a guy who can sneak up very quiet on the guy who is to get the hot foot, and Joe can sneak up so quiet many guys on Broadway are willing to lay you odds[64] that he can give a mouse a hot foot if you can find a mouse that wears shoes. Furthermore, Joe the Joker can take plenty of care of himself in case the guy who gets the hot foot feels like taking the matter up[65], which sometimes happens, especially with guys who get their shoes made to order at forty bobs per copy and do not care to have holes burned in these shoes.

But Joe does not care what kind of shoes the guys are wear­ing when he feels like giving out hot foots, and furthermore, he does not care who the guys are, although many citizens think he makes a mistake the time he gives a hot foot to Frankie Ferocious. In fact, many citizens are greatly horrified by this action, and go around saying no good will come of it.

This Frankie Ferocious comes from over in Brooklyn, where he is considered a rising citizen in many respects, and by no means a guy to give hot foots to, especially as Frankie Ferocious has no sense of humour whatever. In fact, he is always very solemn, and nobody ever sees him laugh, and he certainly does not laugh when Joe the Joker gives him a hot foot one day on Broadway when Frankie Ferocious is standing talking over a business matter with some guys from the Bronx.

He only scowls at Joe, and says something in Italian, and while I do not understand Italian, it sounds so unpleasant that I guarantee I will leave town inside of the next two hours if he says it to me.

Of course Frankie Ferocious’s name is not really Ferocious, but something in Italian like Feroccio, and I hear he originally comes from Sicily, although he lives in Brooklyn for quite some years, and from a modest beginning, he builds himself up until he is a very large operator in merchandise of one kind and .another, especially alcohol. He is a big guy of maybe thirty-odd, and he has hair blacker than a yard up a chimney, and black eyes, and black eyebrows, and a slow way of looking at people.

Nobody knows a whole lot about Frankie Ferocious, because he never has much to say, and he takes his time saying it[66], but everybody gives him plenty of room when he comes around, as there are rumours that Frankie never likes to be crowded. As far as I am concerned, I do not care for any part of Frankie Ferocious, because his slow way of looking at people always makes me nervous, and I am always sorry Joe the Joker gives him a hot foot, because I figure Frankie Ferocious is bound to consider it a most disrespectful action, and hold it against everybody that lives on the Island of Manhattan.

But Joe the Joker only laughs when anybody tells him he is out of line in giving Frankie the hot foot, and says it is not his fault if Frankie has no sense of humour. Furthermore, Joe says he will not only give Frankie another hot foot if he gets a chance, but that he will give hot foots to the Prince of Wales or Mussolini, if he catches them in the right spot, although Regret, the horse player, states that Joe can have twenty to one any time that he will not give Mussolini any hot foots and get away with it.

Anyway, just as I suspect, there is Joe the Joker watching me when I feel the hot foot, and he is laughing very heartily, and furthermore, a large number of other citizens are also laughing heartily, because Joe the Joker never sees any fun in giving people the hot foot unless others are present to enjoy the joke.

Well, naturally when I see who gives me the hot foot 1 join in the laughter, and go over and shake hands with Joe, and when I shake hands with him there is more laughter, because it seems Joe has a hunk of Limburger cheese in his duke, and what I shake hands with is this Limburger. Furthermore, it ia some of Mindy's Limburger cheese, and everybody knows Mindy’s Limburger is very squashy, and also very loud.

Of course I laugh at this, too, although to tell the truth I will laugh much more heartily if Joe the Joker drops dead in front of me, because I do not like to be made the subject of laughter on Broadway. But my laugh is really quite hearty when Joe takes the rest of the cheese that is not on my fingers and smears it on the steering-wheels of some automobiles parked in front of Mindy's, because I get to thinking of what the driv­ers will say when they start steering their cars.

Then I get to talking to Joe the Joker, and I ask him how things are up in Harlem, where Joe and his younger brother Freddy, and several other guys have a small organization oper­ating in beer, and Joe says things are as good as can be expected considering business conditions. Then I ask him how Rosa is getting along, this Rosa being Joe the Joker’s ever-loving wife, and a personal friend of mine, as I know her when she is Rosa Midnight and is singing in the old Hot Box before Joe hauls off and marries her.

Well, at this question Joe the Joker, starts laughing, and I can see that something appeals to his sense of humour, and finally he speaks as follows:

"Why," he says, "do you not hear the news about Rosa? She takes the wind on[67] me a couple of months ago for my friend Frankie Ferocious, and is living in an apartment over in Brooklyn, right near his house, although," Joe says, "of course you understand I am telling you this only to answer your question, and not to holler copper on[68] Rosa."

Then he lets out another large ha-ha, and in fact Joe the Joker keeps laughing until I am afraid he will injure himself internally. Personally, I do not see anything comical in a guy's ever-loving wife taking the wind on him for a guy like Frankie Ferocious, so when Joe the Joker quiets down a bit I ask him what is funny about the proposition.

"Why," Joe says, "I have to laugh every time I think of how the big greaseball is going to feel when he finds out how expen­sive Rosa is. I do not know how many things Frankie Ferocious has running for him in Brooklyn," Joe says, "but he better try to move himself in on the mint[69] if he wishes to keep Rosa going."

Then he laughs again, and I consider it wonderful the way Joe is able to keep his sense of humour even in such a situation, as this, although up to this time I always think Joe is very daffy indeed about Rosa, who is a little doll, weighing maybe ninety pounds with her hat on and quite cutе.

Now I judge from what Joe the Joker tells me that Frankie Ferocious knows Rosa before Joe marries her and is always pitching to her when she is singing in the Hot Box, and even after she is Joe’s ever-loving wife, Frankie occasionally calls her up, especially when he commences to be a rising citizen of Brooklyn, although of course Joe does not learn about these calls until later. And about the time Frankie Ferocious commences to he a rising citizen of Brooklyn, things begin breaking a little tough for Joe the Joker, what with the depression and all, and he has to economize on Rosa in spots, and if there is one thing Rosa cannot stand it is being economized on.

Along about now, Joe the Joker gives Frankie Ferocious the hot foot, and just as many citizens state at the time, it is a mistake, for Frankie starts calling Rosa up more than somewhat, and speaking of what a nice place Brooklyn is to live in - which it is, at that - and between these boosts for Brooklyn and Joe the Joker's economy, Rosa hauls off leaving Joe a note telling him that if he does not like it he knows what he can do.

"Well, Joe," I say, after listening to his story, "I always hate to hear of these little domestic difficulties among my friends, but maybe this is all for the best. Still, I feel sorry tor you, if it will do you any good," I say.

"Do not feel sorry for me," Joe says, "If you wish to feel sorry for anybody, feel sorry for Frankie Ferocious, and," ha says, "if you can spare a little more sorrow, give it to Rosa."

And Joe the Joker laughs very hearty again and starts tell­ing me about a little scatter that he has up in Harlem where he keeps a chair fixed up with electric wires so he can give anybody that sits down in it a nice jolt, which sounds very humorous to me.



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