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Ch. 1 - Stories Shorter Still

Among the latest follies in fiction is the perpetual
demand for stories shorter and shorter still. 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 rainwater, will swell to the
dimensions of a dollar-fifty novel.

(I) AN IRREDUCIBLE DETECTIVE STORY

HANGED BY A HAIR
OR A MURDER MYSTERY MINIMISED

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) A 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 twert lithlier to rest me in yon glade than to
foray me forth in yon fray! Twert 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 aside his hauberk, his
baldrick, 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) A CONDENSED INTERMINABLE NOVEL

FROM THE CRADLE TO THE GRAVE
OR A THOUSAND PAGES FOR A DOLLAR

NOTE.-This story originally contained two hundred and
fifty thousand words. But by a marvellous feat of
condensation it is reduced, without the slightest loss,
to a hundred and six words.

(I)

Edward Endless lived during his youth
in Maine,
in New Hampshire,
in Vermont,
in Massachusetts,
in Rhode Island,
in Connecticut.

(II)

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 to 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 Alphabetic,
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.

(III)

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 alter 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!)

Stephen Leacock