Toasts and Forms of Public Address


[Would come in well after several had declined to speak, the goose being the one who finally consents and tells the story.]

A lady had been looking for a friend for a long time without success. Finally, she came upon her in an unexpected way. “Well,” she exclaimed, “I’ve been on a perfect wild-goose chase all day long, but, thank goodness, I’ve found you at last.”


[To show that the chairman may safely confide in his own power to manage such poor material as the person who tells the story assumes himself to be.]

“And now what is it?” asked the sage, as the young man timidly approached. “Pray, tell me,” asked the youth, “does a woman marry a man because of her confidence in the man, or because of her confidence in her ability to manage him?” For once the sage had to take the question under advisement.


[The following illustrates the advantages of a happy retort, the importance of a felicitous phrase, or of quick thought and ready speech. It might be said that the preceding speaker was as ready as:]

When Napoleon (then a student at Brienne) was asked how he would supply himself with provisions in a closely-invested town, he answered, without a moment’s hesitation, “From the enemy,” which so pleased the examiners that they passed him without further questions.

10. [The Russian General Suvaroff is said to have promoted one of his sergeants for giving substantially the same answer.]

The Emperor Paul, of Russia, was so provoked by the awkwardness of an officer on review that he ordered him to resign at once and retire to his estate. “But he has no estate,” the commander ventured. “Then give him one!” thundered the despot, whose word was law, and the man gained more by his blunders than he could have done by years of the most skillful service.

11. [The anger of an actor took the same turn as that of the Czar.]

Colley Cibber once missed his “cue,” and the confusion that followed spoiled the best passage of Betterton, who was manager as well as actor. He rushed behind the scenes in a towering passion, and exclaimed, “Forfeit, Master Colley; you shall be fined for such stupidity!” “It can’t be done,” said a fellow-actor, “for he gets no salary.” “Put him down for ten shillings a week and fine him five!” cried the furious manager.


[The need of accuracy, or how insignificant things sometimes change the meaning, is shown by the following.]

A merchant of London wrote his East India factor to send him 2 or 3 apes; but he forgot to write the “r” in “or,” and the factor wrote that he had sent 80, and would send the remainder of the 2 0 3 as soon as they could be gathered in.

13. A very well-known writer had a similar experience. He was selling copies of his first literary venture, and telegraphed to the publisher to send him “three hundred books at once.” He answered. “Shall I send them on an emigrant train, or must they go first-class? Had to scour the city over to get them. You must be going into the hotel business on a great scale to need so many Cooks.” I was bewildered; but all was explained when a copy of the dispatch showed that the telegraph clerk had mistaken the small “b” for a capital “C.”


[A guest pleading to be excused from a speech or a song might say that he wanted to be accounted as “Johnny Peep” in the following story which Allan Cunningham tells of Robert Burns.]

Strolling one day in Cumberland the poet lost his friends, and thinking to find them at a certain tavern he popped his head in at the door. Seeing no one there but three strangers, he apologized, and was about to retire, when one of the strangers called out, “Come in, Johnny Peep.” This invitation the convivial poet readily accepted, and spent a very pleasant time with his newly-found companions. As the conversation began to flag, it was proposed that each should write a verse, and place it, together with two-and-six pence, under the candlestick, the best poet to take the half-crowns, while the unsuccessful rhymers were to settle the bill among them. According to Cunningham, Burns obtained the stakes by writing:

“Here am I, Johnny Peep; I saw three sheep, And these three sheep saw me. Half-a-crown apiece Will pay for their fleece, And so Johnny Peep goes free.”


[Probably this boy would have seen the necessity of avoiding such rich banquets as this.]

“Say, ma, do they play base-ball in heaven?”

“Why, no, my dear; of course not. Why do you ask?”

“Huh! Well, you don’t catch me being good and dying young then; that’s all.”


[“Brevity is the soul of wit;” and calculation and economy are very commendable; but they may be carried to extremes. This may be used when the last speaker has closed a little abruptly.]

This is the message the telegraph messenger handed a young man from his betrothed “Come down as soon as you can; I am dying. Kate.”

Eight hours later he arrived at the summer hotel, to be met on the piazza by Kate herself.

“Why, what did you mean by sending me such a message?” he asked.

“Oh!” she gurgled, “I wanted to say that I was dying to see you, but my ten words ran out, and I had to stop.”