Photographer's Note

During the Emperor Napoleon's retreat from Russia, he passed through a Jewish community. The enemy was close upon his heels and he feared for his life. Looking about for a refuge, he dashed into a house in which lived a Jewish tailor.

In a tremulous voice Napoleon pleaded with the tailor "Hide me, quick! If the Russians find me they'll kill me!"

Although the little tailor had no idea who the stranger was, he was moved to pity for a fellow human being. So he said to the emperor, "Get under the featherbed and lie still."

Napoleon got into bed and the tailor piled on him one featherbed, and another, and then still another. It wasn't long before the door burst open and two Russian soldiers, armed with spears, rushed into the house.

"Is anybody hiding in here?" they demanded roughly.

"Who would be foolish enough to hide in my house?" asked the tailor, falling back on the traditional
Jewish manner of answering a question with a question.

The soldiers pried into every corner but found no one. As they were leaving, just for good measure, they stuck their spears several times through the featherbeds.

When the door had finally closed on them, Napoleon crawled out from under the pile of featherbeds, deathly pale and covered with persperation, but safe.
Turning to the tailor, he said, "I want you to know that I am the Emperor Napoloen. Because you have saved me from certain death you can ask me three favors. No matter what they are I will grant them to you."

The little tailor thought for awhile, then he said, "Your Majesty, the roof of my house is leaking, but I do not have the money to repair it. Would you be so kind and have it fixed for me?"

"Blockhead!" exclaimed Napoleon impatiently. "Is that the greatest favor you can ask of an emperor? But never mind--I'll see that your roof is fixed. Now you can make your second wish, but be sure this time that it is something substantial."

The humble tailor scratched his head, utterly perplexed. What on earth could he ask for? His face suddenly brightened.

"Some months ago, Your Majesty," he began, "another tailor opened his shop across the way and he is ruining my business. Would it be too much trouble for you to ask him to find another location?"

"What a fool! cried Napoleon disdainfully. "Very well, my friend, I'll ask your competitor to go to the devil. Now you must try and think of something that is really important. Bear in mind, though, that this is positively the last favor I'll grant you."

The tailor knitted his brow and thought and thought. Suddenly an impish look came into his eyes.
"Begging your pardon, Emperor," he asked with burning curiosity, "But I'd very much like to know how you felt while the Russian soldiers were poking their spears through the featherbed."

"Imbecile!" cried Napoleon, beside himself with rage. "How dare you put such a question to an emperor? For your insolence I'll have you shot at dawn!"

So said, so done. He called in three French soldiers who placed the little tailor in irons and led him away to the guardhouse.

That night the tailor could not sleep. He wept and quaked, quaked and wept. Then he recited the prayer of confession and made his peace with God.

Promptly at dawn he was taken out of his cell and tied to a tree. A firing squad drew up opposite and aimed their muskets at him. Nearby stood an officer with watch in hand, waiting to give the signal to fire. He lifted his hand and began to count: "one - two - thr--" But before he could complete the word, the Emperor's aide-de-camp dashed up on horseback, crying "Stop! Don't Shoot!"

The courier then went up to the tailor and said to him, "His Majesty, the Emperor, gives you his gracious pardon. He also asked me to give you this note."

The tailor heaved a deep sigh and began to read, "You wanted to know," wrote Napoleon, "How I felt under the featherbed in your house. Well, now you know!"

From the Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor Compiled and Edited by Henry D. Spalding. Copyright 1969 by Henry D. Spalding. Jonathan David Publishers.


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