The American Weekly reports two strange accidents that occurred in New Jersey last year. Nine elephants were plodding peacefully toward the Newark fair grounds when a small boy urged his insignificant puppy to “sic ’em.” The pup yapped shrilly at the heels of the leading elephant, and all nine pachyderms thereupon stampeded, scattering traffic and destruction until they were finally rounded up by six radio cops, two emergency squads, and a flock of motorcycle police.
A few blocks away a Mrs. Fitzgerald refused admission to a bedraggled and bleeding figure at the door, then discovered it was her husband Michael who had fallen off the third-floor sleeping porch…
That brings to mind the story of the battered figure at the Hotel Astor who demanded the key to Room 614.
“Room 614 is occupied by a Mr. James Collins,” said the clerk at the desk.
“I know it,” rasped the applicant. “I’m James Collins. I just fell out of the window.”
Meyer Levin tells this story about a little eight-year-old girl in a Pennsylvania orphan asylum. She was a gangly, painfully unattractive child, with annoying mannerisms and secretive ways that set her apart from the others. She was shunned by the children and actively disliked by the teachers. The head of the institution longed only for a legitimate excuse to pack her off to a reform school, or get her out of the place some other way.
One afternoon if looked as though her opportunity had arrived. The girl who was the child’s very unwilling roommate reported that she was conducting a clandestine correspondence with somebody outside the grounds.
“I’ve seen her write these notes every day for a week now,” she reported. “Just a little while ago she took one of them and hid it in a tree near the brick wall.”
The head of the asylum and her assistant could scarcely conceal their elation.
“We’ll soon get to the bottom of this,” they agreed. “Show us where she left the note.”
Sure enough, they found the note in the branches of the tree.
The headmistress pounced on it. Then she hung her head and passed it silently to her assistant.
It read: “To whoever finds this: I love you.”
Mark Twain made a fortune out of his books, went bankrupt when he turned publisher himself, and then paid every cent of his debts and became rich again by virtue of new writings and fabulously successful lecture tours. His financial troubles did not increase his affection for the banking fraternity. He defined a banker as a man who “loaned you an umbrella when the sun was shining and demanded its return the moment it started to rain.” He invented the story of a bank president who was proud of a glass eye that had been made for him by the greatest artist in Paris.
“Twain, you need $5000,” he quoted this gentleman. “I’ll give it to you if you can guess which of my eyes is the glass one.”
“It’s the left one, of course,” snapped Twain. “It’s the only one with a glint of human kindness in it.” On another occasion, Twain sought to borrow a book from a banker who lived next door to him. “You’ll have to read it here,” said the neighbor. “I make it a rule never to let any book go out of my library.” The next night the banker asked for the use of Twain’s lawn-mower.
“Sure thing,” agreed Twain. “But you’ll have to use it on my lawn. I make the same rules you do.”
Under Cover, the sensational expose of American Fascists and Quislingites, was turned down by a dozen publishers before it was signed up by Button’s. Every year, some manuscript that has been kicked around from pillar to post pops up as a huge best-seller.
Publishers never know just where the next success is going to come from, what obscure little writer is suddenly going to blossom into another Sinclair Lewis or Ernest Hemingway. John Galsworthy used to tell about a luncheon he had with his publisher near the beginning of his career, just before he sailed to the Far East on a P. and O. steamer.
“There is no new talent coming along in London,” sighed the publisher. “The writing profession is going to the dogs.”
“Cheer up,” said Galsworthy. “Maybe I’ll run across something while I’m on my trip.”
Several days out of England, while his boat was steaming down the West African coast, Galsworthy was approached by a diffident ship’s officer, with a manuscript under his arm.
“Mr. Galsworthy,” he said, “may I impose upon you to read this manuscript for me? English is not my native tongue, and I have never tried to write a book before. I won’t be too disappointed, therefore, if you think I’ve been wasting my time.”
Galsworthy promised the officer he would glance through the script. The officer’s name was Joseph Conrad. The book was Almayer’s Folly.