"I'm afraid I don't quite understand, madam," I said.
"Of course you do not understand, Brother Phipps," she said, "I can tell that by your liverish look and sunken chest."
"Really!" I protested.
"Laughter is our best medicine, Brother Phipps," she went on. "Medical science tells us that a good hearty laugh exercises the diaphragm, larynx, many, many little-used muscles, stimulates the circulation and develops the area of the lungs! Look at me!"
She threw back her shoulders, roaring with laughter.
"My word!" I exclaimed. She was indeed, Bayard, the picture of robust health. She looked at me more closely and said:
"I see that I have come upon one who has not yet heard our Message." She put the Bennett Cerf in my arms and said, "Come, Brother Phipps, we shall have a bite in the cafeteria, and I shall tell you of the Message that will change your life, dear man."
Well, Bayard, once we had carried our trays to a table in the cafeteria, Sister Billie Beaver related (amid occasional peals of laughter that made other passengers turn and look at her curiously) the Message of her mentor, Bishop "Tex" Mitchell, the evangelist who founded Panhandle Divinity College and is now broadcasting from a powerful radio station across the Mexican border. It seems that certain enemies of Bishop "Tex" forced him to leave the country following wholly unfounded charges made by a certain baton twirler in the college's football marching band.
Despite the desperate effort of his enemies to silence him, Bishop "Tex" had continued to win followers, who were known as the Love Laughers—the name growing out of the Laughter is Love theme. Since Bishop "Tex" had established permanent residence in Mexico, he had personal representatives throughout the world, spreading the doctrine that since people laugh when they are happy, happiness can be generated by laughing for little or no reason. According to Sister Billie, Love Laughers were meeting in all the principal cities of the U.S. Services usually began, she said, with a reading of "ticklers," such as are to be found in the works of Bennett Cerf. Sister Billie said that when a suitable fund had been raised, a monster "laugh crusade" was to be launched. It was hoped, she said, that Bennett Cerf could be persuaded to appear in person and read from his works at Madison Square Garden in New York. I must confess, Bayard, that my enthusiasm for the "laugh crusade" grew as Sister Billie talked (and laughed) on.
"If memory serves," I put in, "it was Max Beerbohm who said that of all the people who have lived on earth, not one is known to have died of laughter!"