Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > American
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. I–V: American
 
The Island of Cyprus
By Charles Bertrand Lewis (M Quad) (1842–1924)
 
MR. and MRS. BOWSER had finished dinner and were seated in the back parlor, when Mr. Bowser laid aside the paper he had been glancing over.  1
  “Pitkins was in the office this afternoon, and the change in him was something amazing.”  2
  “Yes,” replied Mrs. Bowser.  3
  “I couldn’t help but pity him, though I know he is all to blame. There’s no doubt he drove Mrs. Pitkins into running away.”  4
  “I think he did.”  5
  “They say he was a regular domestic tyrant. He knew all, and wouldn’t acknowledge that she had common sense. If he gave her a dollar he expected her to make it go as far as ten, and he was constantly taunting her that she was no housekeeper.”  6
  “I’ve heard so,” remarked Mrs. Bowser.  7
  “That’s the way with some men, and I wonder that their wives stand it so long. By what right does a husband boss a wife? Matrimony is an equal partnership, as I understand it. The wife has all the rights of a husband, and in most cases she is just as intelligent and possessed of just as good judgment. By what legal or moral right does a husband hand his wife a dollar for pin-money and then go out and squander nine for his own selfish pleasures?”  8
  “I don’t know,” admitted Mrs. Bowser, who was wishing the conversation had taken some other turn.  9
  “As a matter of fact—as a matter of fact and right, Mrs. Bowser, you have as much right to our money as I have. Half of it belongs to you. Instead of coaxing and begging for money, you should demand it.”  10
  “Yes,” very doubtfully.  11
  “I know men,” continued Mr. Bowser, as he warmed up to his subject, “who are jealous of their wives’ intelligence, and who sit down on them at every opportunity. Thank Heaven, I am not of that sort! I have always been proud and pleased at your general knowledge of things. The fact that you are about as well-posted as I am makes me proud.”  12
  “Does it?” asked Mrs. Bowser, with a blush and a smile.  13
  “Of course it does! I sometimes find that you are a bit ahead of me on things, and that pleases me the more. If I can learn anything from you I shall be glad of it.”  14
  “Won’t you get mad if I tell you where you were wrong in talking to Mr. Abner last evening about the Chinese?”  15
  “No, of course not. If I am in the wrong I want to be set right. What was it?”  16
  “You said the war between China and Japan was caused by a dispute over the Island of Cyprus.”  17
  “Yes, and I didn’t say it without knowing what I was talking about!”  18
  “The trouble arose over Corea, my dear. The Island of Cyprus is in the Mediterranean Sea, thousands of miles away, while Corea is——”  19
  “Mrs. Bowser, do you suppose I’ve lived for forty-nine years without knowing where the Island of Cyprus is?” interrupted Mr. Bowser, as he flushed up.  20
  “You know, of course, and it was probably a slip of the tongue when you said that the Japanese and Chinese got into a dispute over it.”  21
  “Never! There was no slip about it! I am not in the habit of making slips when talking history. The dispute began over the Island of Cyprus.”  22
  “Don’t you remember when Turkey ceded that Island to England?”  23
  “No, ma’am, I don’t; nor does any one else! The dispute began over Cyprus, and Corea had nothing to do with it. The idea of your trying to post me on current events strikes me as rather cheeky!”  24
  “But right here in the paper, Mr. Bowser, is news from Corea in connection with the war.”  25
  “I can’t help what is in the paper! That’s the way with you and all other wives. Let a husband admit that you know a tenth of what he does, and you try to make him out a numskull. It was Cyprus, of course. The idea of your standing up and making me out an idiot!”  26
  “You know where Corea is, of course?” queried Mrs. Bowser after a long silence, during which Mr. Bowser’s face took on a deeper red and his breathing became more labored.  27
  “Are you talking to me?” he demanded, as he stood up and extended his arm and pointed his finger full at her. “Do I know where my own house is? Have I got brains enough to drop off a street-car? Have I ever been sent to an idiot asylum?”  28
  Mrs. Bowser made no reply. She realized her great mistake and regretted it, but it was too late.  29
  “When a wife thinks she knows as much as her husband—when she even thinks she knows more—things are getting ready for a calamity! She should know her place, and her husband should see that she keeps it. The next thing you’ll be getting up and talking about your legal rights!”  30
  “You—you said you were proud and pleased at my knowledge of things,” put in Mrs. Bowser, as he stamped around the room.  31
  “And because I admitted that you might possibly have the horse sense to know that both ends of a street-car stopped at the same time, you presume to correct me about the Island of Cyprus! Didn’t I say that was the way of all wives? I can see now what sort of a life poor Pitkins must have led, and what a glad relief it was when he found she had run away. Look around you, Mrs. Bowser, and see what sort of a house this is! If you’d pay some attention to our home, instead of having your nose stuck into a newspaper, we might take some little comfort!”  32
  “I’d like to see one kept in better order!” returned Mrs. Bowser, with a show of spirit.  33
  “But don’t sass me back! When a wife begins to sass back, her husband should get his eyes open. I did intend to hand you out a ten-dollar bill this evening and tell you to go down and use it as you liked, but now I sha’n’t do it. It would simply be throwing money away. I came home this evening prepared to sit down and enjoy my fireside, and you see how I have been disappointed. It was with the kindest feelings that I frankly admitted that you might possibly know cornstalks from cabbages, and you repaid me by trying to make out that I ought to be led around by a guardian for fear I’d fall into the sewer. They talk about the hundreds of divorces coming up in the courts every term. The only wonder is that there are not thousands and tens of thousands—that there is a husband left in the land who can put up with these things.”  34
  “All I said was that it was Corea, and not Cyprus,” quietly observed Mrs. Bowser.  35
  “But I say it was Cyprus!” shouted Mr. Bowser. “Don’t I know! Isn’t it my business to know! Would I be idiot enough to say Cyprus if it wasn’t Cyprus! Can any human being on the face of this earth imagine a wife knowing more than her husband about any subject more serious than whooping-cough and nursing-bottles! Mrs. Bowser, you have brought it on your own head! You have finally loaded the last hair on the camel’s back! Our lawyers will get together to-morrow and arrange matters, and if you don’t want to go to Texas you can go to Corea! I’m going to bed. If our child wakes up, kiss him for me and tell him his father will always love and cherish him, but that he had a dignity to maintain, and was driven to maintain it at the sacrifice of his home and happiness!”  36
 
 
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