Our "Shorter Still Stories

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Our "Shorter Still" Stories

Specially edited by STEPHEN LEACOCK

The public of to-day urgently demands shorter and shorter stories. The only thing to do is to meet this demand at the source and check it. Any of the stories below, if left to soak overnight in a barrel of rain-water, will swell to the dimensions of a dollar-fifty novel.

 

I
Our Irreducible Detective-story

Hanged by a Hair:
or, a Murder Mystery Minimized

 

THE mystery had now reached its climax. First, the man had been undoubtedly murdered; secondly, it was absolutely certain that no conceivable person had done it. It was therefore time to call in the great detective.

He gave one searching glance at the corpse. In a moment he whipped out a microscope.

"Ha! ha!" he said as he picked a hair off the lapel of the dead man's coat. "The mystery is now solved."

He held up the hair.

"Listen!" he said. "We have only to find the man who lost this hair, and the criminal is in our hands."

The inexorable chain of logic was complete.

The detective set himself to the search. For four days and nights he moved, unobserved, through the streets of New York, scanning closely every face he passed, looking for a man who had lost a hair.

On the fifth day he discovered a man disguised as a tourist, his head enveloped in a steamer cap that reached below his ears. The man was about to go on board the Gloritania.

The detective followed him on board.

"Arrest him!" he said, and then drawing himself to his full height, he brandished aloft the hair.

"This is his," said the great detective. "It proves his guilt."

"Remove his hat!" said the ship's captain, sternly.

They did so.

The man was entirely bald.

"Ha!" said the great detective without a moment of hesitation. "He has committed not one murder, but about a million.

 

II
Our Compressed Old English Novel

Swearword, the Unpronounceable

Chapter One and Only

 

"Ods-bodikins!" exclaimed Swearword, the Saxon, wiping his mailed brow with his iron hand, "a fair morn withal! Methinks 't wert lithlier to rest me in yon green glade than to foray me forth in yon fray. Wert it not?"

But there happened to be a real Anglo-Saxon standing by.

"Where, in Heaven's name," he said in sudden passion, "did you get that line of English?"

"Churl," said Swearword, "it is Anglo-Saxon."

"You 're a liar!" shouted the Saxon. "It is not. It is Harvard College, Sophomore Year, Option No. 6."

Swearword, now in like fury, threw his haubeck, his baldric, and his needlework on the grass.

"Lay on!" said Swearword.

"Have at you!" cried the Saxon.

They laid on and had at one another.

Swearword was killed.

Thus luckily the whole story was cut off on the first page and ended.

 

III
Our Interminable Novel

From the Cradle to the Grave: or,
a Thousand Pages for a Dollar

 

This story was sent to us still wet from the pens of that gifted group of modern writers, Messrs.——but, no, we must not mention their names. As it reached us, the story contained two hundred and fifty thousand words; but by a marvelous feat of condensation our staff has reduced it, without the slightest loss, to a hundred and six words.

 

Chapters 1 to 100

Edward Endless lived during his youth in Maine,

in New Hampshire,
in Vermont,
in Massachusetts,
in Rhode Island,
in Connecticut.
 

Chapters 101 to 1000

Then the lure of the city lured him. His fate took him to New York, to Chicago, and to Philadelphia.

In Chicago he lived

in a boarding-house on Lasalle Avenue,
then he boarded
in a living house on Michigan Avenue.

In New York he

had a room in an eating-house on Forty-first Street,
and then
ate in a rooming-house on Forty-second Street.

In Philadelphia he

used to sleep on Chestnut Street,
and then
slept on Maple Street.

During all this time women were calling on him. He knew and came to be friends with

Margaret Jones,
Elizabeth Smith,
Arabella Thompson,
Jane Williams,
Maud Taylor.

And he also got to know pretty well

Louise Quelquechose,
Antoinette Alphabette,
and Estelle Etcetera.

And during this same time art began to call him,

Pictures began to appeal to him,
Statues beckoned to him,
Music maddened him,
and any form of recitation or
elocution drove him beside himself.
 

Chapters 1001 to 10,000

Then one day he married Margaret Jones.

As soon as he had married her he was disillusioned.
He now hated her.

Then he lived with Elizabeth Smith.

He had no sooner sat down with her than
He hated her.

Half mad, he took his things over to Arabella Thompson's flat to live with her.

The moment she opened the door of the apartment he loathed her.

He saw her as she was.

Driven sane with despair, he then—

Our staff here cut the story off. There are hundreds and hundreds of pages after this. They show Edward Endless grappling in the fight for clean politics. The last hundred pages deal with religion. Edward finds it after a big fight, but no one reads these pages. There are no women in them. Our staff cut them out and merely show at the end

Edward purified,
Uplifted,
Transluted.

The whole story is perhaps the biggest thing ever done on this continent. Perhaps!

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1925.


The author died in 1944, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.