Best American Humorous Short Stories HTML version

The Nice People
By Henry Cuyler Bunner (1855-1896)
[From Puck, July 30, 1890. Republished in the volume, Short Sixes: Stories to Be Read
While the Candle Burns (1891), by Henry Cuyler Bunner; copyright, 1890, by Alice
Larned Bunner; reprinted by permission of the publishers, Charles Scribner'a Sons.]
"They certainly are nice people," I assented to my wife's observation, using the colloquial
phrase with a consciousness that it was anything but "nice" English, "and I'll bet that their
three children are better brought up than most of----"
"Two children," corrected my wife.
"Three, he told me."
"My dear, she said there were two."
"He said three."
"You've simply forgotten. I'm sure she told me they had only two--a boy and a girl."
"Well, I didn't enter into particulars."
"No, dear, and you couldn't have understood him. Two children."
"All right," I said; but I did not think it was all right. As a near-sighted man learns by
enforced observation to recognize persons at a distance when the face is not visible to the
normal eye, so the man with a bad memory learns, almost unconsciously, to listen
carefully and report accurately. My memory is bad; but I had not had time to forget that
Mr. Brewster Brede had told me that afternoon that he had three children, at present left
in the care of his mother-in-law, while he and Mrs. Brede took their summer vacation.
"Two children," repeated my wife; "and they are staying with his aunt Jenny."
"He told me with his mother-in-law," I put in. My wife looked at me with a serious
expression. Men may not remember much of what they are told about children; but any
man knows the difference between an aunt and a mother-in-law.
"But don't you think they're nice people?" asked my wife.
"Oh, certainly," I replied. "Only they seem to be a little mixed up about their children."
"That isn't a nice thing to say," returned my wife. I could not deny it.