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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Isaac Kahn Friedman (1870–1931)

Hungry Henry’s Touching Tale

From “Autobiography of a Beggar”

“GENTS,” began Henry, “yer needn’t be afeerd ter eat dis bread, ’cause I come by it honestly, an’ don’t let yer appetites be spoiled fer fear dat yer robbin’ meh. I’m proud ter say fer oncet in meh life, I had enuf ter eat. I meets a cove terday an’ I springs de old dodge on ter him.

“‘Mister,’ says I, ‘does yer mind helpin’ a man whats’ starvin’ ter de price ef a meal?’

“De cove smiles, an’ he says, like all de coves says, ‘Why don’t yer work?’

“‘Well,’ says I, ‘I worked in a rollin’-mill, an’ de mill shut down last week, an’ I ain’t been able fer ter find nothin’ ter do, an’ I ain’t eat a bite since den.’

“‘Yer must be hungry,’ says he wid a grin.

“‘Hungry!’ says I; ‘I’m dyin’ ter eat.’

“‘Well,’ says he, ‘we’ll see what we kin do,’ an’ he pulls out a handful of shiners dat would make yer eyes water.

“He fishes out a quarter, an’ I puts meh hand out. Den he puts de quarter back, an’ I swears ter myself. Den he fishes out a half, an’ I puts out both meh hands. Den he puts de half back, an’ I swears aloud, an’ he laffs.

“‘If yer hungry,’ says he, ‘come wid meh an’ I’ll get yer a meal!’

“Gents, I was hungry in dead earnest; but seein’ de cove had fun wid meh, I t’ought I’d have fun wid de cove, an’ I hangs back.

“‘Come on,’ says he; ‘I t’ought yer was hungry?’

“‘I am,’ says I, ‘but I don’t like ter eat in de places were yer goes. Give meh de dime an’ let meh go where I wants.’

“‘Not much,’ says he; ‘I knowed yer was a-playin’ orff!’

“Well, de cove takes meh ter a saloon, an’ he says ter de barkeep’, ‘Dis boy is hungry; he’s a-starvin’, an’ he wants a big san’wich!’

“He grins, an’ de guy behin’ de bar grins. I was a-grinnin’ too, fer I didn’t want de guy ter think dat I wasn’t on ter him. But in meh stomick I feels queer, an’ meh mouth waters; fer I was hungry enuf ter cry an’ no joke, an’ youse fellers knows dat when I’m hungry, I’m hungry.

“‘Den,’ says I ter de cove, unhitchin’ two buttons, ‘I gets all I wants er I don’t eat, eh?’

“‘Sure thing,’ says de cove.

“De guy cuts two bricks ef bread, an’ he puts a trowelful ef ham atween. It being double size, de cove puts down two dimes, an’ de guy grins an’ de cove laffs.

“De san’wich goes down quicker en de two dimes. An’ I says ter de guy, ‘I wants a san’wich next time; yer ain’t a-feedin’ a mouse er a canary-bird!’

“An’ fer half a hour I keeps de guy a-cuttin’ an’ de cove a-payin’, an’ meh jus’ beginnin’ ter feel dat food had crossed meh hungry lips!

“‘Yer cost meh fifty cents already,’ says de cove; ‘ain’t yer ever goin’ ter quit?’

“‘Don’t talk quit,’ says I; ‘I ain’t begun; I’m just workin’ up a appertite. When a man ain’t eat nothin’ fer a week a man’s hungry!’

“‘It looks as ef yer ain’t eat nothin’ fer a year,’ says de guy, his mouth open an’ his eyes out, ez ef I was a freak, which I ain’t.

“‘It may be a year,’ puts in I, ‘’fore I strikes dis snap ag’in! I’m layin’ in a serply. Now, please don’t bother meh, an’ leave meh give meh attention ter eatin’.’

“‘It’s one dollar,’ pipes de cove when de guy was a-layin’ de foundation fer de sixth; ‘ain’t yer afeard of indigestion?’

“‘No,’ I says, ‘I ain’t had dat complaint since de time when I eat fer two weeks widout takin’ time fer sleep!’

“‘Say,’ says de guy, layin’ down his knife an’ rubbin’ his arm, ‘yer ought ter git some one ter feed yer by de hour!’

“I gives him one look, an’ I says, ‘Ef I did, I’d git some one ter do de feedin’ ez knows how ter make a san’wich; yer ain’t a-cuttin’ fer a inwalid.’

“Den I takes de knife from de guy an’ I makes a san’wich ez was a san’wich.

“‘Dat’ll cost yer thirty cents,’ says de guy to de cove.

“De cove turns pale. ‘How much ’ill yer take ter quit?’ axes he.

“‘I’ll calkerlate,’ says I, ‘an’ I’ll let yer know in half a hour.’

“‘Yer no lightnin’ calkerlator,’ says he.

“‘No, not when I’m eatin’,’ answers I.

“‘I can’t stay here all de night,’ says de cove; ‘I must catch a train.’

“‘All right,’ says I, ‘I’ll eat a bit quicker.’

“‘Yes, we close at twelve sharp,’ says de guy.

“‘It’s only nine now,’ smiles I; ‘I’ll be thru by dat time.’

“‘I’m glad ter hear dat,’ says de cove. Den he says ter de guy: ‘Yer gives dis feller two loaves of bread an’ a ham, an’ let him take it home. An’ de next time I meets yer,’ says he ter meh, ‘I’ll give yer a dime widout axin’ ef yer hungry.’

“‘An’ de next time a gentleman axes yer fer de price of a meal,’ says I, ‘yer wants ter take his word fer it, an’ not believe dat he’s a liar ’cause he’s poor!’

“I takes meh ham an’ bread an’ I walks away, an’ de cove calls out an’ he says:

“‘I wants yer name; I wants ter know yer when we meets ag’in.’

“‘Hungry Henry,’ answers I.

“‘Yer name must have been born wid yer,’ says he.”

Before the laughter aroused by Hungry Henry’s story had died away, Blind Bill arose to his feet, and, as if moved by an overwhelming impulse of generosity shouted, “Gents, I’ll treat!”

Bill’s liberality was greeted with a wide-spread look of disappointment, for the restricting clause, “That is, if McQuinn will trust me,” usually followed his unselfish offer. Now McQuinn never trusted anybody, and Bill’s munificence passed current for the homage which stinginess pays to generosity. This time, however, the unexpected happened. Bill held a yellow coin to the light.

“Dis is de real article,” began he, “an’ it breaks meh heart ter break it. It’s de first dat I ever had in meh life. I would like ter keep it fer a pocket-piece. Gents,” spoke he solemnly as a campaign orator, “dere is ez much here ez in five silver dollars er in five hundred cents.”

“My,” whispered Charlie the Conner, “he’s eddicated.”

Blind Bill continued: “It takes de Govermint ter squeeze five hundred cents in dis small coin, an’ der ain’t no one else dat kin do de trick.”

“Dat’s right,” shouted Pete the Squealer. “I got pinched fer tryin’ it.”

Heedless of the laughter which followed Pete’s observation, Bill went on:

“But dat ain’t here, an’ it ain’t dere; de Govermint had nothin’ ter say; I earned it. I’ll tell yer how it was guv ter meh, an’ den I’ll let yer judge fer yereselves whether I earned it er not.”

“Yer earned it! Yer earned it!” exclaimed Humble Hinky jeeringly, desirous of cutting a long story short and getting at the gist of the matter, which was the treat.

Bill looked at his interrupter scornfully. “I didn’t earn it dat quick,” retorted he; “I had ter work fer it.” And he was about to give an account of his adventure when Humble Hinky interrupted with, “An’ now yer wants ter make us work fer it.”

“It’ll give yer a thirst, fer de story is dry,” and straightway Bill began the tale of