At a table where several British and one American--an officer--sat during another ocean voyage between Liverpool and Halifax in June, 1919, the officer expressed satisfaction to be getting home again. He had gone over, he said, to "clean up the mess the British had made."
To a company of Americans who had never heard it before, was told the well-known exploit of an American girl in Europe. In an ancient church she was shown the tomb of a soldier who had been killed in battle three centuries ago. In his honor and memory, because he lost his life bravely in a great cause, his family had kept a little glimmering lamp alight ever since. It hung there, beside the tomb.
"And that's never gone out in all this time?" asked the American girl.
"Well, it's out now, anyway," and she blew it out.
All the Americans who heard this were shocked all but one, who said:
There you are! There you have us at our very worst! And with this plump specimen of the American in Europe at his very worst, I turn back to the English: only, pray do not fail to give those other Americans who were shocked by the outrage of the lamp their due. How wide of the mark would you be if you judged us all by the one who approved of that horrible vandal girl's act! It cannot be too often repeated that we must never condemn a whole people for what some of the people do.
In the two-and-a-half anecdotes which follow, you must watch out for something which lies beneath their very obvious surface.
An American sat at lunch with a great English lady in her country-house. Although she had seen him but once before, she began a conversation like this:
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