"Madam you have been married several years, and have three children. You are forty-six years of age, have been afflicted several years, and have a cancer in the stomach. It will cost you twenty dollars for medicine enough to last you——"
"To last me a life-time, I s'pose," she cried out, and continued: "Docther, me dear old man, you're an old jackass! a hombug, a hypocrite and an imposcher! Sure, I niver had a married husband, and a divil of a choild am I the mither of. I am liss than thirty-foive, and a healthier, more robust picture of humanity niver stood before your domm miserable gaze! The cancer in me stomick is no more nor liss than a pain in me left shoulder, which any domn fool of a docther wud know was the rheumatics. To the divil wid yer domned impostorousness and highfalutin hombuggery! Good day, Docther, darlint; good day. May the divil transmogrify you into a less pretentious individual, wid more brains and a domm sight less impecuniosity!"
Our landlady had converted the up-stairs sitting room into a reception room and private office for the Doctor, by drawing a heavy curtain as a partition. It was my duty to remain in the reception half of the room to entertain the callers, while the Doctor was occupied in the consultation half, with the patient. Therefore I had a grand opportunity to witness the scene with our Celtic patient, by peeking between the curtains.
The Doctor was fairly paralyzed, and had a ghastly, sickening expression of countenance during the interview.
He made no attempt to speak further.
As she passed out and slammed the door behind her, I opened the curtains and cried out:
"CHANGE CARS FOR POCAHONTAS!"
The Doctor began to rave and plunge and swear by note.
He said I had no better sense than to try to make a curiosity of him, and I would make a —— sight better blower for a side-show than traveling agent for a celebrated physician; and that if I had the pluck of a sick kitten, I would have thrown that old Irish woman out, rather than sit there and snicker at her tirade and abuse of him.
In a few minutes a lady of German extraction called. The Doctor was in no very fit condition of mind to go into a state of Clairvoyance.
With the excuse that business was too pressing to take time to do so, he asked the lady to explain her affliction. In broken English she said:
"Obber you don't kan do vat you vas advertisement, I go."
"Well, dang it, sit down, then," growled the Doctor; and placing a chair for her, came to the partition and said to me, in an undertone:
"Now, you blamed fool, if you can't be dignified you had better leave."
"All right, Doctor; but you may need me to throw her out, so I'll stay."
He rejoined his patient and went through with his usual mysterious performances, and said;
"Madam, you are of German descent."
"Yah, yah, das ish so," she answered.
"Your weight is about two hundred pounds," was his next venture.
"Yah, yah; das ish so too," she replied. "How you vas know all dem tings?"
"You are not married——"
"Vas?" she began, almost terror-stricken.
"—— long," he interposed.
"Oh, you mean not married long time, Doctor? Das ist schust right."
"You are twenty-two years of age, and the mother of one child," he next ventured.
"How you vas know all dot?" she asked, excitedly.
"You can be cured, madam; but it will take some little time to do it, and you must take my medicine exactly as I direct you."
"How mooch costen?"
"Twenty dollars for the first lot of medicine, and when that is gone I'll see you again."
She then said:
"Vel, Doctor, I youst got ten dollar. You take dot, und I pay you de undter ten last week."
"Not much," said the Doctor, firmly. "Twenty dollars or nothing."
I then looked in, and calling him to me, whispered:
"Great Heavens! don't let her leave with that ten dollars. Take it; take it quick!"
"Well, but the fool wants to pay the balance last week instead of next week."
"But suppose she never pays? You haven't even told her what her complaint is yet; and it's worth ten dollars to get out of that."
"Thunderation! haven't I told her that yet?" he asked, in great excitement.
I assured him in the negative. He immediately returned to the patient and said:
"Well, I guess I'll let you pay me the ten dollars."
"But, Doctor," she ejaculated; "you no tell me yet where am I sick."
"Indeed I did tell you, and I'll not tell you again unless you pay me."
"Nix, Doctor; I pays no monish till I knows where am I sick," and she abruptly left the room.
Then ensued another stormy scene. The Doctor said if I hadn't called him to me and commenced whispering around, he would have got her twenty dollars, sure.
"But you had better take half and trust for the other half than to get nothing at all," I remonstrated.
"Yes," said the Doctor, still unconvinced, "and it wouldn't be but a few days till everybody would be owing us; and we never could collect a cent."
I saw the utter uselessness and foolishness of an argument with him, and said no more and let him swear it out.
Among other ills that the Doctor claimed to be an expert at treating, was deafness, and we so advertised.
In a day or two an old lady called while the Professor was out.
She asked if I were the Doctor, and turned her left ear to catch my reply.
I answered in a professional manner: "Madam, you are deaf."
"Well, you are right, Doctor, so I am; and I thought I would run in and see if you could help me."
I stepped to the Doctor's instrument case, and picking up some sort of a weapon, returned to the old lady, and stretching first one ear open and then the other, after making sure that she always turned her left ear to me to hear, I said:
"Madam, the drum of your right ear is almost entirely destroyed, and I am certain there is no help for it; but I can surely help your left ear."
"Well, Doctor, I think you know your business, for I certainly can scarcely hear with my right ear. How much will it cost?"
"Well, I don't want to pay out so much now, as I have already been to so much expense with it."
"Well, you pay me five dollars, and owe me the balance, to be paid on condition that I help you."
She agreed to this, and handed me that amount. I was at a loss to know what to give her, and in a constant fear that the Doctor would make his appearance and spoil it all.
I excused myself, and stepping back to the "laboratory," began searching for something. At last I happened to think of a French moustache wax I had in one of my pockets, with which to train my young and struggling moustache. I quickly brought forth the box, soaked the paper label, and after removing it, smoothed the top of the pomade nicely over, wrapped it in paper, and gave it to her with directions for use; and invited her to call again and let me know how she got along. (As I recall this experience, my only cause for self-congratulation is, that what I gave her would do her no harm, if it did no good.)
She had no sooner made her exit than the Doctor "bobbed up serenely." I explained to him how I had manipulated things, and showed him my five dollars.
He began to rip and tear and swear, and declared he would dissolve partnership with me.
He said I would ruin his reputation, and get us both in jail.
I said: "Well, Doctor, I of course wouldn't want either of your patients, the Irish or Dutch woman, to hear of this, but——"
"Never mind, never mind about my patients. You take care of your own, and I'll do the same."
"Oh, thunder! all that ails you is that you are jealous because I am doing more business than you are."
"Holy Moses!" he quickly replied, flying into another rage, "you think now, you know more than all the profession, don't you?"
"Well, I feel that I have something to be proud of. We have been out nearly three weeks, and I have taken the only money that we have received."
He then wanted to know if I didn't expect to turn the five dollars into the business. I told him I did, but thought it a good idea for us to get out some special circulars advertising myself, and see if we couldn't raise a few dollars.
This was too much for the Doctor, and he went off "like shot out of a gun." He declared me a perfect ass. I said further:
"But, Doctor, I think I am superior to you in one respect."
"Well, I have more brains than impecuniosity, anyhow."
This was the signal for another stampede.
We remained there several days, and finally became completely stranded.
The Doctor worried, fretted, stormed, fumed, and declared I was to blame for the whole cussed thing.
I then, began to talk about going out "hus'ling" again.
"Oh, yes; it's well enough for you to talk. You can 'hus'le,' but what can I do? I'd look nice running around peddling your cussed old dope, wouldn't I?"
I remarked that I thought he would do well among the Dutch and Irish, if he didn't use too much impecuniosity, and would learn to take their money when they offered it.
He said I hadn't the sense of a young gosling, and if I didn't quit twitting him of those things, he would pack up and leave, if he had to walk out of town. I said to him:
"Well, Doctor, if you do start out on foot, I'd advise you to take a few bottles of my Incomprehensible Compound, double-distilled furniture and piano lustre."
He gazed at me over his spectacles with a sickly smile, then jumping to his feet, began his customary tirade, and pranced back and forth like a caged animal.
ENGAGED TO MANAGE THE HOTEL—THE DOCTOR MY STAR BOARDER—DISCHARGING ALL THE HELP—HIRING THEM OVER AGAIN—THE DOCTOR AS TABLE WAITER—THE LANDLADY AND THE DOCTOR COLLIDE—THE ARRIVAL OF TWO HUS'LERS—HOW I MANAGED THEM—THE LANDLADY GOES VISITING—I RE-MODELED THE HOUSE—MY CHAMBERMAID ELOPES—HIRING A DUTCHMAN TO TAKE HER PLACE—DUTCHY IN DISGUISE—I FOOLED THE DOCTOR—DUTCHY AND THE IRISH SHOEMAKER.
We held frequent consultations, and discussed the situation with a feeling that our prospects were not the brightest. I again ventured to suggest that I ought to get out and "hus'le," as winter would soon be upon us, and my family would need money.
This threw him into a frenzy at once, and he reminded me that to leave him there in that predicament would be a violation of faith and true business principles. He seemed determined that we should live or die together.
One day I said to him:
"Doctor, the old landlady ought to have some one to manage her business, and——"
"Well," he quickly answered, "I'd make a devilish fine appearance trying to run this dizzy old house, wouldn't I?"
"No, but why couldn't I run it, and you be my 'star' boarder?"
"Well, that'll do, that'll do; that's different, quite different."
"You know, Doctor," said I, "we are in debt for board, and whatever we undertake must be done with much care and precision. Now, you go to the old landlady and tell her I am a practical hotel man, and the most trustworthy, energetic, economical and pushing sort of fellow you ever knew; and that she ought to hire me to take full charge of the house."
This idea pleased him mightily, and he said he believed he could fix it, and would try.
"Yes, I believe you can, if it can be done, for I know the old lady is a little bit gone on you, any how. I remember of seeing you and her in the up-stairs hall, the other day, talking in a way that showed pretty plainly how things stand."
"Well there!" he screamed, "that's the latest. Now you'll have something else to harp on, you young scapegrace, and without the slightest foundation for it. Do you think I am a fool? Do you think I'd recommend you to that old lady, when you are on the verge of scandalizing both her and myself? Not much—not much, sir; and I'll sue you for slander if you ever hint such a thing; and I'll get judgment, too, and——"
"Yes," I interrupted, "and I suppose you would attach my dozen bottles of Incomprehensible Compound to satisfy the judgment."
I then convinced him that I was only joking. Shortly afterwards he called on the old lady, and did as I requested.
She called me into the sitting-room and asked how I thought I would like to take charge of her house.
I told her I would take the position provided I could have full charge of everything, the same as if I owned the house.
She said that was just what she would like, and inquired what salary I wanted. I told her one hundred dollars per month, and board for family. She offered me seventy-five, and agreed to sign papers.
I accepted, and the next morning took possession.
My first move was to call the help all together and promptly discharge them. The old lady came running down stairs, as soon as she heard of this, and demanded an explanation.
I reminded her that I was landlord, and that if she would retire to her room and remain there quietly, all would come out right. The Doctor said I knew less about running a hotel than I did about medicine, or I never would have done such a trick as that.
I waited till the discharged help were ready to leave, and had called at the office for their pay, when I began a compromise, and succeeded in hiring all over again except two dining-room girls, at less than their regular wages. But I promised an increase to those who took an interest and worked for an advancement.
The Doctor was elated with the prospects, and fairly danced with delight.
"And now, Johnston, for some of those cream biscuit you have told us about. Now you have a chance to see how it is yourself, to be landlord."
The second day of my experience, we had about forty extra come to dinner—men in attendance at a Convention. I was short of help in the dining room, and also short of prepared victuals.
I immediately visited the Doctor in his apartment, explained the situation, and asked why he couldn't come into the dining room and help wait on table. He protested against it, but I gave him to understand that it was a case of absolute necessity.
He swore a few oaths, and said it showed how much sense I had, to discharge my help the first thing.
As an incentive for him to act, I ventured the remark that the landlady was going to help, and would like him to do so if he could.
"Is she going to help? Well, then, all right. I'll help you out this one time, but never again."
I took him to the dining room, and after he took his coat off, put a large white apron on him and gave him a few instructions. We had five kinds of meat, and I posted him thoroughly as to what he should say to the guests.
Directly I called dinner, and the tables were soon filled.
The Doctor watched from the kitchen for the cue from me to make a start. When I gave it he entered in his shirt-sleeves, with the large apron on, carrying an immense tray in one hand and his gold-headed cane in the other, and had forgotten to take his plug hat off. It was setting on the back of his head, and his appearance was grotesque in the extreme.
He gave me a look of disgust as he marched in, and faltered for a moment, as though not quite certain where to commence. Then he made another start, and stepping up to the nearest man, rested the tray on the back of his chair, and stood partially leaning on his cane; and looking over his glasses, said:
"Roast beef, roast mutton, roast—well, roast mutton, roast meat, roast— —— it! we have twenty-one different kinds of meat. What'll you have?"
By this time I had been forced to leave the room for laughter, returning as soon as I could command myself. The Doctor was up to his ears in business. Perspiring profusely, and much excited, he still hung to his cane and plug hat. He was absolutely the most comical sight I had ever witnessed.
When I met the Doctor at the kitchen door, with the tray piled up with several orders, he took time to say:
"—— it! I thought you said the landlady was going to help."
For fear he would quit, I ran to the stair-way and called her. She came down, and I explained as quickly as possible, and she said she would help; and putting on an apron, began work immediately.
We had Lima beans for dinner, and being a little short on them, were obliged to dish them out in small quantities. The Doctor served one man who, with one swoop, took into his mouth all he had, in one spoonful, and immediately handed his dish back to the Doctor, saying:
"Here, waiter, bring me another bean!"
The Doctor struck a dramatic attitude, and glared over his spectacles—one hand clasped the middle of his cane, and his plug hat poised side-wise on the back of his head, and he shouted excitedly:
"Sir, I want you to understand we know how many beans there was in that dish. Besides, I'm—I'm—I'm no —— table waiter, and I demand that you address me differently. In short, I demand satisfaction for your cussed insolence, sir!"
Every man in the dining room dropped his knife and fork and looked on in astonishment. The gentleman addressed by the Doctor apologized to his entire satisfaction, and matters went on smoothly until just as the Doctor was making for the dining room with a tray full for two newcomers. The landlady, with a tray full of dirty dishes, met him at the kitchen door. She had attempted to pass back through the wrong passage-way, and a general collision was the result. The Doctor had gotten just far enough along so that every dish on his tray went crashing on the dining-room floor, and a cup of hot tea went into the top of one shoe. Before he fairly realized whom he had collided with, he broke out with a volley of oaths sufficient to turn the old lady's hair white in a few seconds.
I hastened to the rescue, and instantly reminded him of the awful fact that he was cussing the landlady. He lost no time in apologizing politely, and assured her that he alone was to blame for the mishap.
The man who had been forced to make an apology to the Doctor a few moments before, was immensely pleased, and when about to leave the table, cried out:
"Professor, had you counted those beans before you dropped the dishes?"
The Doctor then said he guessed the rush was over now, and he would leave it for us to finish; after which he repaired to his room, and after making his toilet preparatory to eating dinner, sent for me and requested that I arrange with the landlady to dine with him, which of course I did, and also promised him that I would have my favorite cream biscuit for tea that night.
Matters went on very nicely, with the exception of experiencing considerable trouble in getting good chambermaids and table-waiters. The Doctor declared point blank that he would never, under any circumstances, wait on table again; so I saw the necessity of securing suitable help at once.
A few days later, two young men came to the hotel, registered, and began hus'ling around in a manner that reminded me of my late patent-right partner and myself in Indiana.
I spotted them at once and began taking notes on their manners. We had had cream biscuit for supper twice; and as all were unanimous in pronouncing them very fine, I had given orders to have them again on the day of the arrival of my two hus'lers. I gave my opinion of them to the Doctor, and remarked that they would have to settle in advance before I would give them a room.
He reminded me that I should not forget how convenient I had found it to be confided in by the different landlords, and that I should not be too rough on them. I fully agreed with him; but I had experienced the truth of the fact that only a small percentage of men were ever able to pay such bills, after getting behind, even though they had a disposition to do so. Consequently, I determined to commence right, and try and keep right.
That night, while the Doctor and several others were in the office, and while I was behind the counter, one of the young men came in from up town, having just visited the barber shop; and with his silk hat slightly tipped to one side of his head, and one kid glove on, stepped over near me, and after telling the latest story in his blandest and most fascinating manner, turned to me and said:
"Landlord, how about cream biscuit for supper? I hear you have——"
He was interrupted right then and there; for laying my hand gently on his shoulder, I said in a firm voice:
"You have got to pay in advance, sir."
"What's up?" he asked, excitedly.
"There is nothing up, sir," I answered, "but you have got to settle right off. The cream biscuit racket don't go, with me. Pay up, or you can't stay."
He said he would pay up till the next day, which he did, and then went in to supper.
During this interview the Doctor had commenced to laugh, and almost danced the Highland Fling in his gleeful excitement, and attempt to leave the room. As soon as the door had closed on the young man, he returned, and laughed and hopped around in his characteristic manner, and said:
"Why the cussed fool might have known that he couldn't have said a thing on earth that would have put you onto him as quick as to flatter the cream biscuit."
In less than three minutes the other hus'ler came in, and rushed up to the wash-stand to make his toilet. The Doctor looked at him over his specs, with a broad grin on his countenance.
After washing and combing his hair, he told a funny story, and said:
"Put us down for a good room, landlord. You have a nice hotel, landlord. It's everything in knowing how to run a house."
He then placed his hands behind him and backed up to the stove.
I glanced over towards the Doctor, who by this time was in the farther corner of the office, with one hand over his mouth, and the other holding his hat and cane; and one foot in the air, ready to make a break for out of doors.
I answered the young man by saying:
"Yes, sir, it's everything in knowing how to run a hotel; and you have got to pay in advance if you stay here."
"Well, I am surprised, landlord; but I supposed you were a good enough judge of character to know the difference between a gentleman and a dead beat."
I assured him that I didn't doubt his honesty, but I was willing to wager that he hadn't money enough to pay one week in advance. And as it took money to keep things running and——
"And buy cream biscuit," shouted the Doctor,——
—— I had got to have my pay in advance.
He then acknowledged that he was a little short, but would probably be able to pay the next day. I told him he could have his supper, lodging and breakfast, but nothing more.
The next morning they both came to me and owned up that they were "broke."
I then hired one of them for hostler and the other for clerk.
About this time I succeeded in getting the landlady's consent to re-model a part of the house. She said she didn't care to be bothered with it, nor to remain there and listen to the noise; so she would go and visit her friends in Detroit, and leave me to fix things to suit myself. She said also she had all confidence in me, and felt certain I would do even better than she could.
Before leaving, she instructed me to go ahead and get what I wanted, as her credit was good anywhere.
By the time had fairly reached the depot to take the train, I had engaged several carpenters, painters, plasterers, bricklayers, and teams to do our hauling.
I very soon had the old hotel in a condition suitable for business, by tearing down old partitions, building up new ones, papering and painting thoroughly, and adding a lot of new furniture and carpets.
I had the whole outside of the old shell painted, a portion of which I ordered done in brick-color, and penciled.
The latter part, the neighbors claimed, fooled the landlady so badly, when she returned a few weeks later, that she didn't know when she arrived home, and kept right on up street, making inquiries and looking for her hotel. How much truth there was in this statement I do not know, but I well remember the expression on her countenance when I answered her query of how much the whole thing would cost, by informing her that I didn't think it would amount to over fifteen hundred dollars. I remember how she fell back on the sofa in a sort of swoon, and when she recovered herself, faltered out that she was ruined forever.
I very soon convinced her, however, that the improvements had greatly enhanced the value of her property; and she seemed to appreciate my services more than ever.
During her absence of several weeks, the Doctor and I had some very interesting times.
The day after her departure our chambermaid eloped with one of the boarders. I advertised for help immediately, but without success.
About this time a young Teutonic fellow came along, and asked for something to eat. After giving him his dinner, I asked if he was looking for work. He said he was, and would work mighty cheap.
I asked if he would like to be a chambermaid, and make up beds, and sweep. He exclaimed:
"Oh, yah, yah; I youst so goot a shampermait as notting else."
"Well then, Dutchy, I'll give you four dollars per week, provided I can find a coat and vest for you to wear, as yours is too rough-looking for that business."
I then took him up-stairs and made a vigorous search for second-hand clothes, but found none. I next entered the room previously occupied by the late runaway maid, and found three old dresses and a hoop skirt left by her. I took a dress from the nail, and picking up the hoop skirt said:
"Here, Dutchy, put these on."
He shook his head slowly, and indicated to me that he wouldn't do it. I reminded him that he was in my employ, and must obey me.
Then he took off his coat and vest, and was about to divest himself of his other garments, when I instructed him to leave them on, and told him how nice the dress would be to keep his comparatively new pants clean.
After donning the dress, which fitted him well and was quite becoming to him, I borrowed the Doctor's razor, and he shaved himself clean, and parted his fair, bushy hair in the middle; and there, before me, to all appearances was a typical German girl. He entered upon his duties at once. The Doctor said he guessed we would have no more serious trouble with chambermaid elopements. I told him I wasn't so certain about that, and invited him up-stairs to see Dutchy.
When we came to the room where I had left him, I said: "Go right in, Doctor; you will find Dutchy there. I'll be back in a minute."
The Doctor bolted in, and immediately dodged back, and cried out:
"Johnston, there is a woman in there!"
"Oh, thunder! you have lost your head, since the landlady left."
This was enough; and he opened up on me with several volleys of oaths, and offered to bet me the price of a new hat that there was a woman in that room making up beds. I took the bet and entered the room, the Doctor following, and immediately crying out:
"There, smarty, there! Guess you will learn to believe what I tell you, once in a while."
"But I have won, Doctor."
"Johnston, do you claim now you bet there was a woman in here?"
"No, sir; but I'll bet the price of another hat that I can prove to you that I have won."
"All right, sir; I'll take you."
We shook hands on it, and I said:
"Dutchy, come around here and show the Doctor your pants."
He did so; and the Doctor didn't know whether to believe his own eyes or not. I asked when he would buy me the two hats. He said: "Never! I'll be —— if I will be taken in on any confidence game."
I agreed to let it go, if he would keep still about Dutchy's dress, and furnish a razor for him to shave with every morning. He promised, and we had a hearty laugh over the matter.
The next day, as I was passing through the hall-way, Dutchy came to the door of the room where he was working, and said:
"Mr. Johnston, I find a pair of pants here youst exactly like mine."
I stepped in, and sure enough, there hung a pair in the Irish shoemaker's room, the exact counterpart of Dutchy's.
I explained to Dutchy that we would have a little fun with the Irishman, and told him to wait for instructions from me before he attempted to play his part.
I then took the pants down to the office, and let the Doctor into the secret.
The next Saturday the Irishman came rushing down stairs in great excitement, and reported the loss of his pants. I said:
"Well, Irish, if you don't find them, I'll go with you to pick out another pair."
"But, be the Howly Moses! will yez pay for thim?"
I told him I'd see that he paid for them. He threatened to leave, but the Doctor helped to quiet him down.
I then found Dutchy and told him to try and call at the Irishman's room the next day when he was in, and manage in some way to raise his dress, so that the Irishman would get a glimpse of his pants. He assured me he would fix that all right.
On Sunday morning, about ten o'clock, Irish came rushing down stairs on the jump, rushed up to me, and said:
"Be the Howly St. Crispin and Moses in the bulrushes! May the divil fly away wid me if I haven't found moy pants!"
"Good! Good! Where were they?"
"Howly Moses! come wid me to wan side. I'll tell yez on the quiet."
"Never mind about the quiet, Irish. Sing out; tell everybody."
"Oh, be jabers! ye'd laste expect to find thim where I seed thim."
"Well, tell us."
"Yes, tell us," said the Doctor.
"Well," he hesitatingly said, "be the howly shmoke, the ould chambermaid has thim on, as sure as I'm a loive Irishman!"
"Oh, nonsense!" I replied. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself, to come down here in the presence of these men and try to injure the character of that poor chambermaid."
"By the great horned spoon! but she has the pants on, and Oi'll have thim, charackther or no charackther, Misther Landlord!"
"Well, now, see here, Irish, I'll bet the cigars for the crowd, that she hasn't got your pants on."
"All right, sir, all right, sir; I'll take that bet."
While we were shaking hands on the bet, the Doctor took a bundle from under the counter containing the pants and ran up to the Irishman's room, and hung them up.
We then went up-stairs, accompanied by several bystanders, and after reaching the Irishman's room, I called to the chambermaid to come in.
Irish stood waiting for me to introduce the subject to the maid, and I waited for him. I then turned to him and said:
"Well, Irish, prove your case."
"Well, be jabers! d'ye s'pose I am going to insult this lady? Not by a dang sight, pants or no pants."
I turned to Dutchy and said:
"Have you got Irish's pants on?"
"Nix; I youst got my own pants."
"Well, come around here, Dutchy, and show Irish your pants."
Obeying my order, the dress was raised, exposing the pants to view.
Irish straightened himself up, and in a very triumphant manner, said:
"Well, there, Misther Landlord, I giss yez are quite well satisfied. I'll take the cigars, and the pay for thim pants, if yez plaise."
I turned round and said:
"Whose pants are these hanging here, Irish? Did you have two pair alike?"
He looked at them and said:
"Be gobs! she took thim off while me back was turned."
I then offered to bet him the cigars that she didn't.
He said he'd bet no more, but he knew there was some chicanery, or dom hy-pocritical prognostication, somewhere.
I then asked the chambermaid to raise the dress again, which was done, and Irish left the room disgusted, and muttering a few oaths to himself. Afterwards he paid the cigars for the crowd.
He then asked if I wud explain what the divil right any chambermaid had to wear pants, anyhow.
I answered that it was none of my business, and I hoped I was too much of a gentleman to meddle with other people's private affairs.
This last assertion offended him very much, and he quickly gave me to understand that he was as much of a gintleman as I was and niver failed to moind his own business.
I told him that might be, but it was very strange to me how he should make such singular discoveries.
He then made a full explanation, and I overlooked it all.
THE DOCTOR SWINDLED—HOW WE GOT EVEN—DIAMOND CUT DIAMOND—THE DOCTOR PEDDLING STOVE-PIPE BRACKETS—HIS FIRST CUSTOMER—HIS MISHAP AND DEMORALIZED CONDITION—THE DOCTOR AND MYSELF INVITED TO A COUNTRY DANCE—HE THE CENTER OF ATTRACTION—THE DOCTOR IN LOVE WITH A CROSS-EYED GIRL—ENGAGED TO TAKE HER HOME—HIS PLAN FRUSTRATED—HE GETS EVEN WITH ME—WE CONCLUDE TO DIET HIM—THE LANDLADY RETURNS—DOES NOT KNOW THE HOUSE.
One day while I was up-town, marketing, the Doctor traded his old English gold watch and chain to a professional horse-trader, for another watch with all modern improvements. Immediately on my return he called me up-stairs, and said:
"Johnston, I have made enough on a single trade to pay me a good month's salary." And handing me the watch, said: "Look and see what an elegant thing it is. It cost the infernal fool three hundred and fifty dollars, and I got it even-up for my old-fashioned gold watch and chain."
I asked him what he valued his old watch and chain at. He said the chain would bring sixty dollars for old gold, and he didn't know what value to put on the watch. After examining it, I said:
"Well, Doctor, you made a big hit."
"Well, that's what I think," he shouted, as he hopped about in his usual frisky manner.
I again remarked:
"Yes sir, you did well. I once traded a horse and watch for a twin brother to this very watch, and mighty soon discovered that the auction price on them was three dollars and fifty cents each!"
He then flew into a rage, and cussed me and my judgment. I prevailed on him to accompany me to a jeweler, who placed the retail price at five dollars, and said it was a brass watch.
The Doctor declared he would have the fellow arrested; but I urged that the best way was to keep still, and not even let him know that he was sick of his bargain. He agreed to this, provided I would help him to get even with him in some way.
I promised I would.
The horse-trader didn't come near the hotel for a few days, and not until the Doctor had met him and treated him very nicely, thus entirely disarming him of suspicion.
One day a circus came to town, and with it a street-salesman carrying a stock of the very cheapest jewelry manufactured. He was unable to procure a license, and made no sales there. I bought from him twenty-five cents' worth of his goods. The Doctor took about half of my purchase, and wrapping them in tissue paper, put them carefully in his valise; and we awaited the arrival of our friend Sam, the horse-trader.
One evening we saw him hitching his horse outside, and made ready for him by beginning a very heated discussion concerning a deal we had been having in jewelry. As he entered we were in the hottest of it. The Doctor abused me, and I accused him of not living up to his agreement, and peremptorily demanded one hundred and sixty dollars in cash, or the return of the jewelry.
The Doctor said he couldn't pay the money under ten days, and refused to return the jewelry. Then I declared there would be a fight, unless he did one thing or the other on the spot. The Doctor then said he wouldn't disgrace himself by fighting, if he had to turn all the jewelry over to me, and got his valise at once and produced it, and my original bill to him. Sam stepped forward to examine it as I was taking a careful inventory to make sure it was all there.
I then casually remarked that I was going to see a certain man the next day, and trade it for a horse and buggy. Sam said:
"I'll trade you a nice horse and buggy for it."
"Where is your rig?" I asked.
I stepped out, and after looking the horse and wagon over, said:
"I think that whole rig is worth one hundred and fifty dollars, and I'll trade for ten dollars boot."
Sam said he would look the jewelry over again, which he did. He then offered to trade even.
I refused to do that, but told him I would trade, if he would let me keep two of the rings. He offered to let me keep one ring. The trade hung for a few moments, and at last, seeing his determination, we consummated the trade and I drove the outfit to the barn.
The Doctor didn't sleep a wink that night, and the next morning wanted me to sell out at once, and divide the money.
But, seeing a chance to tantalize him, I said:
"Doctor, who do you want me to divide with?"
"With me," he shouted. "Whom do you suppose?"
"Well, thunderation! Doctor; it was my property we traded off. Why should I give you half the profits?"
"Great Heavens!" he screamed. "Think of it! One shilling's worth of property!"
Then he sizzled around for awhile, and said I was worse than Sam, the horse-shark; because Sam didn't practice beating his friends, and I did, according to that deal.
I offered the harness to the Doctor as his share of the deal. He refused, and abused me roundly, till I took him in as full partner on the whole thing.
The next day Sam came in the hotel, and handing me one of the rings that had turned perfectly black, asked me if that was one I traded him. I told him it looked like it in shape, but not in color. He asked if I had any more like it, but assured me that he was no squealer, and would never "kick" if I had traded him brass jewelry for his farm, only he simply wanted to know how badly he had been "done up." I showed him what I had, and gave them to him. He said he would take better care of that lot than he did the first, and would try and get even in some way.
A day or two later he came in, and asked what I had to trade. I told him I had a note of one hundred and forty-two dollars, past due, against a young man in Battle Creek, Michigan, which I had traded patent rights for, and I would trade it for a horse. He looked it over, and said he would think of it. A few days later he came in again and asked how I would trade the note for his horse standing outside. After looking the animal over, I offered to trade for twenty-five dollars. He said he would trade even, and a few minutes later we made the deal, and I took the animal to the stable.
The Doctor was more pleased over this trade than I was, and so much so that I began to think he expected a half interest in it, and asked him if he did.
He said he did not; but it pleased him to see me get the best of Sam, the horse-shark.
About ten days later, as the Doctor and I were going into the post office together, we met Sam just as he had opened a letter from Battle Creek, containing a draft for the full amount of the note with interest, all amounting to something near one hundred and fifty dollars. Sam said he had written to a banker there before he traded for the note, and ascertained it was all right.
The Doctor turned ghastly pale, and I came near fainting. To think that I had traded such a note for an old plug of a horse was sickening, especially when considering our circumstances.
One day a gentleman stopped at the hotel selling wire stove-pipe brackets. They were so constructed as to fasten around the pipe of the cook-stove, and make a very convenient shelf to set the cooking utensils on.
The Doctor took a particular liking to the man selling them, and lost no opportunity to speak a good word for the invention. One day he ventured the assertion that he could sell six dozen a day to the housekeepers of that town. I suggested that he start out at once.
He was insulted, and said he was in other business. I said a poor excuse was better than none and offered to wager the price of a new hat that he couldn't sell one in a week. He then offered to bet the cigars for the crowd that he could sell one to his washerwoman.
"Yes," I replied, "I suppose she would be glad to take cats and dogs for what you owe her."
That settled it, and he raked me right and left. He said I needn't judge him from my shirtless experience at Fort Wayne (which I had related to him), and that he always paid his wash bill. He then reminded me that only for him and his money a few weeks before, I would have gone without laundered shirts many a day.
"Yes," said I, "and only for me where would you be eating now?"
"Great ——!" he ejaculated. "You cussed, impudent Arab! Who got you this job?"
"You did," I replied; "but only for your beautiful figure and winning ways catching the eye of the land——"
"Shut up! shut up!" he yelled. "Don't you open your infernal head again."
Then I apologized, and said:
"Well, Doctor, you have satisfied me that you don't owe your washerwoman, so I'll take the bet you offered to make. And," I added, "I'll bet another cigar she won't let you in the house unless you have a bundle of washing along, and show her that you have a legitimate right to call on her."
This exasperated him again, and made him more determined than ever to show us what he could do.
He selected a bracket, and started for the washerwoman, who lived directly back of the hotel, on another street. It fifteen minutes to twelve o'clock when he started.
About noon one of the kitchen girls came running to the office, and called me to come quick to the back door. I hastened, and to my astonishment found the Doctor, under the greatest excitement. No spectacles on, his hat gone, a large piece torn from his fine swallow-tailed coat, and to all appearances he had just emerged from the sewer.
"Great Heavens! Doctor; what is up?" I asked.
"Don't say a word! don't say a word!" he cried. "Get me to my room, quick, before any one sees me."
"Where is your hat?" I asked.
"Over to the washerwoman's," he gasped.
"And your cane—what has become——"
"Great Heavens! sure enough," he interrupted. "I forgot that. It's on her table. And my spectacles—the Lord knows where they are! But get me out of this, quick; and hurry over there and fix it."
"Fix what?" I asked. "What did she say, Doctor?"
"Good! all I heard her say was: 'What will my poor Mike do for his dinner?' and then she—never mind what she said, but hurry up."
I then said to him:
"Doctor, you go right through the dining room and on up-stairs to your room, and I'll go over and see if I can find what there is left of you."
He asked if there were no back stairs. I said yes, but they were very dark. I then led him to the back stair-way, and offered to accompany him to his room. But he said I should hurry over there and fix things. So, after explaining to him the back-stair route to his room, I was about to close the door on him, when he placed his hand on his head and said:
"My! just feel of this bunch. And I guess my hat is ruined, Hurry over and see about it, quick."
I closed the stair-way door and started across the back yard. When not more than six or eight rods away, I heard a noise at the house that startled me. One of the girls came running out, and screamed for me to come back, quick.
By the time I arrived there they had succeeded in hauling the Doctor out from the entrance to the stair-way, and he was completely deluged with slops.
He began swearing and cursing the chambermaid, and cursed me for hiring a Dutchman to do the work.
He then explained that after getting about two-thirds up the stairs, he had concluded to give it up and go the front way; and while descending he had come on the opposite side from that which he had ascended, and had stepped on a bucket filled with slops; and as a result he had landed at the very bottom of the stairs, with the contents all over him.
"Well, Doctor," said I, leading him to his room, "you are the most horrible-looking sight I ever beheld. It will be terrible, if the landlady comes home on the noon train."
"Good ——!" he faltered, "do you expect her home on this train? Here, let me go alone. You hurry over there. —— that lazy Dutchman! Why didn't he empty the slops?"
I then made a fresh start for the Doctor's washerwoman. On the way I found his spectacles in a ditch, which had no water in, but plenty of mud. He had gotten out of the regular path, and in his excitement had waded into the ditch.
Upon reaching the house, I found the old lady under a high pressure of exasperation and excitement. When I asked if Doctor —— had been there,
"Howly Moses!" she shrieked, "I shud think he had been here, wid his dommed old stove-pipe demolisher. Be jabbers! he got a good whack over the head wid me mop-stick to pay for his flabbergasted stubbornness. And I think he'll have to sell more nor wan of thim pesky wire flumadoodles before he can replace the ould plug hat, which yez'll foind layin' theer in the wud-box."
I asked for an explanation.
She showed me how the Doctor had come in without any authority, and insisted on putting "wan of thim dom things on her stove-poipe." After fastening it on and explaining its purpose, he asked her to set her kettle of boiled dinner on, and see how stout and strong it was. This she refused to do, not believing it to be safe.
But the Doctor, "wid his dom jackass stubbornness," as she termed it, had forcibly taken the kettle from her hands and lifted it to the bracket.
No sooner was it done than the whole thing, bracket, stove-pipe, and kettle of dinner went crashing to the floor; and without further ceremony she grabbed the nearest weapon to her, which happened to be the mop-stick, and assailed the intruder. She first struck his hat, knocking it off and bruising it badly, and next gave him a good whack over the head.
I asked how he tore his coat. She said, as he passed out on the jump his coat caught on a nail, but it didn't lessen his speed one bit.
I returned to the hotel with the Doctor's hat, cane, spectacles, and the wire bracket, which the irate woman declared she wouldn't give house-room to.
The Doctor was in quite a critical condition. His head was badly swollen, several bruises were on his body from the fall down stairs, and a high fever had set in, compelling him to take to his bed.
His first question, when I entered his room, was: "What did she say?" and the second was: "Did the landlady come on the train?"
I answered both, and gave him all the aid and consolation in my power. Among other things, I promised if he ever recovered we would have his favorite pie and coffee every meal for two weeks. This pleased him greatly, for his appetite for apple pie and Java coffee was seldom if ever satisfied.
He recovered in a few days, and said he was glad the landlady didn't return in the midst of that fracas.
A few days later he came rushing into the hotel from up town, and said:
"I just met an old friend and former patron, who used to live in the southern part of the State. He now lives five miles from here, and they are going to have a dance at his house next Friday night. He wants me to come out, and bring you with me, as I told him all about you, and whose daughter you married. He has always known John Higgins, your father-in-law. I told him we would be there, so you must make calculations to go."
"All right, Doctor; we'll drive our horse out."
"That's what we'll do, that's what we'll do," he laughingly remarked.
If there was any one thing the Doctor prided himself in more than another, it was his gracefulness in "tripping the light fantastic toe."
He talked of nothing else from that time till Friday, and made more preparations for the occasion than the average person would for his own wedding.
When the hostler drove our rig to the front door, the Doctor with his highly polished boots, his heavy-checked skin-tight pants (then the height of fashion), his swallow-tailed coat—renovated and mended for the occasion, his low-cut vest, and his immaculate shirt-front with a large flaming red neck-tie, his face cleanly shaven, his ivory-white moustache waxed and twisted, his gold-headed cane and gold spectacles, and lastly, his newly ironed hat—standing there, as described, he certainly made a very striking appearance.
On our way out he became very impatient to make faster time, and declared that we got cheated when we traded the jewelry for such an infernal horse, and wanted to sell his half to me. I told him I would buy him out if he would take his pay in board. He became excited at once, and said he would be an idiot to do that, as it was just the same as understood that I was to board him, if I got the hotel to run.
"But suppose I should remain here for five years," said I, "what then?"
"What then?" he quickly ejaculated, "why then I suppose you'd find me here to the end of that time. I started out with you, and I intend to stay with you."
We were royally received at the farmer's residence, and the Doctor at once became the center of attraction for those already assembled, and continued so during the evening. He told his latest stories, and I told one occasionally, bringing in "Pocahontas," "Stove-pipe bracket," "Irish patient," "Brass watches," etc., etc., any one of which had the tendency to keep the Doctor "riled up," and in constant fear lest I should dwell on facts or go into particulars.
At last he called me out on the porch, and said:
"Now sir —— you, I am among aristocratic friends, who have always honored and respected me; and you have come about as near telling some of your cussed miserable stories about me as I want you to to-night. So now be guarded, sir. Remember I am among my friends, and not yours; so I warn you to be careful."
I assured him that I meant no reflection on him, and would be guarded.
Directly the musicians came, and all was ready to begin. The Doctor was one of the first to lead out, with the hostess for a partner.
Everything went on smoothly. Hard cider flowed freely, and the Doctor indulged often. The gentlemen all kept their hats on, including the Doctor and myself, as etiquette didn't seem to require their removal.
More cider, plenty of music and constant dancing, warmed up everybody; and very soon the gentlemen removed their coats, the Doctor and myself following suit. The more we danced, the more we wanted to dance; and the Doctor never missed a single set.
We were both introduced to the belles of the neighborhood. The Doctor was a general favorite with them, which fact caused considerable jealousy among not a few of the young gentlemen present.
Taking in the situation, I took special pains to say to all the boys that the Doctor was a nice old fellow, and meant no harm.
Finally, about ten o'clock, the Simon-pure aristocracy appeared on the scene. This was a young lady who had a very handsome face and a beautiful figure. But she was very cross-eyed. In spite of this defect she was very attractive, and being a graceful dancer, had no lack of offers to dance. I received an introduction to her, and soon after, the Doctor was introduced as per his request.
He became much infatuated with her, and she didn't seem to dislike him very much. At any rate, they danced nearly every set together. When supper was announced he waited upon her. It so happened that the Doctor sat at the end of the table, she to his left at the side of the table, and I to his right, opposite her.
The first thing I said was:
"All I care for is pie and coffee."
The Doctor looked sober and enraged.
After all were nicely seated, I told one or two old chestnuts, when the Doctor ventured on one of his latest. Then I said:
"Doctor, we are all alike. It simply shows our 'impecuniosity' to sit here and tell stories, when we ought to finish our meal and make room for others."
Nobody laughed, so I told another. It was about an old gentleman going out to sell stove-pipe brackets. Everybody laughed but the Doctor. I then said:
"Doctor, let's hear from you, now."
He was too full for utterance, and as I very well knew, would have given considerable for a chance to express himself.
After supper he called me out on the porch and said he just expected every minute that I was going to mention his name in connection with that peddling story, and it was well I didn't.
"Well, Doctor, I didn't mean you at all."
"The d——l you didn't! I wonder who you meant, if not me."
I then said:
"I see you are having a nice time. Nice girl, you have taken a fancy to; but I was introduced to her before you were."
"Well, it doesn't make any difference about that," he answered. "She will have nothing to do with you."
"Because I told her you were a married man, and that settled it."
"Oh, ho! I see, Doctor. I see you were afraid I would out-shine you, weren't you?"
"Not much, sir; not much. I know what she thinks of me, and just how well I stand in her estimation. She is a rich man's daugh——".
"Yes," I interrupted, "and she will never speak to you, after to-night."
"She will, unless you tell some of your infernal yarns and connect me with them; and if you do, I'll—I'll——"
"But, Doctor," I said, hastily, "what will the landlady say, when she gets home and sees how things are going?"
"Oh, you cussed idiot!" he screamed. "Do you think she has a string tied to me? What do you s'pose I care for her? Is she any comparison to this young lady?"
"No, I suppose not; but, Doctor, you are fooled in this girl; and I'll bet you didn't tell her about my being married till after supper."
"What makes you think that?"
"Well, I noticed that she kept looking at me all the time we were eating."
"No such a —— thing. I know she was looking at me. I know she was. And another thing I know——"
"Yes," I put in, "and another thing I know."
"Well, sir, while we were at the table she kept her feet pressing against my feet all the time."
"Oh, you idiot! Those were my feet that were pressing against yours."
"Then if you knew they were mine, why did you keep pushing yours against them all the time?"
Under much excitement he answered:
"Because—because, sir, I—I—I thought I would have a little fun with you. That's why."
"Yes; because you thought they were the girl's feet. That's why."
Then assuming his usual dramatic attitude, and striking his breast with his clinched fist, he cried out:
"Johnston, if you cast any imputation against the character of this young lady, you will have to answer to me, sir. Now remember what I tell you."
"Well, Doctor, you had better go in and resume dancing. You are losing lots of fun."
"Yes," he quickly answered. "I know I am; I know I am. This is what I get for introducing you into society."
We then returned to the dancing room, and the Doctor found no difficulty in getting the attention of the cross-eyed belle.
By this time the boys were jealous, anyway, and would have nothing to do with her.
About two o'clock in the morning the Doctor came to me and said:
"Johnston, I am going to take this young lady home."
"How far does she reside from here?"
"About six miles."
"Have you ordered a livery team?"
"Not by a dang sight. Why should I? Can't I use our horse and buggy?"
I replied that I thought not.
"I think I can, I know I can, and I know I will. The half of that rig belongs to me. I have agreed to take her, and I must do it."
"Well, I should think you had better be starting, if you are going with our horse, and expect to return before morning."
"We will not start till the dance breaks up, Mr. Johnston," was his defiant answer.
"Where am I to stay?" I asked, "What am I going to do while you are traveling six miles and back, with that old plug of a horse, after everybody has gone home?"
"That, sir, is a matter of no concern to me; but that young lady must be taken home by me to-night, and no disappointment."
Then he and the cross-eyed girl took their places for another quadrille.
By this time I was not in the best of humor myself, and began to feel that the Doctor was getting the best of me.
My first thought was to hitch up and drive home, leaving him in the lurch. But while considering the matter, my opportunity came; and I was not slow to take advantage of it.
During the progress of the dance, when "Gents to the right and balance" was called, the Doctor left his cross-eyed partner to make the round of the set. I rushed up to her immediately and said as quickly as possible:
"My dear Miss, you must not dance the Doctor so hard. He has fits, and is liable to fall over in one at any moment. Why, in driving along in a carriage he is liable to drop right out in the middle of the road, leaving the horse to go to destruction."
"Thank you, thank you," she said.
I then stepped back to await results.
While talking with her, I noticed the Doctor eying me with suspicion, but my interview was so very short that he appeared relieved on my leaving her.
By this time he came balancing around, with his plug hat on the back of his head, his spectacles hanging over his nose, and grasping his gold-headed cane about the center with his left hand, and still retaining in his right hand a soiled napkin which he had brought from the table and mistaken for his handkerchief, he came balancing up to his partner with a regular Highland-fling step, a most fascinating and bewitching smile on his countenance, and looked her straight in the face.
She looked completely dumbfounded, seemed to have instantly lost interest in all worldly affairs, and stood stock still, staring cross-eyed at the Doctor, as if expecting to see him frothing and foaming at the mouth.
He then seized her about the waist, fairly lifting her from the floor; after swinging her two or three times around, again stood her up where he found her, when he seemed to suddenly comprehend that something was wrong, and instantly changed countenance.
The young lady then turned to him and said very reluctantly:
"Doctor, I wish to ask you to excuse me from our engagement this evening."
Suddenly remembering my interview with her, he said:
"What did that —— red-headed hyena say to you? What did he say? What did he say? Tell me; tell me, quick! What did he say? I must know—I must know."
"Oh, nothing much, Doctor."
"I demand to know immediately. Tell me—tell me now."
"Well, Doctor, he says you have fits."
"Fits? fits? What! I have fits? Gracious Heavens! What—when—how—where is he? Where is the infernal red-headed liar? Bring him to me and let me paralyze him."
While saying this he was plunging and spinning around in his usual jumping-jack manner, swinging his cane in one hand and slamming his plug hat on the floor with the other.
The floor-manager stepped up and asked what the matter was. The Doctor shrieked out:
"Good ——! do I look like a man who has fits? Would you think, to look at me, that I ever had fits?"
The floor-manager placed his hands on his shoulders, and said, sympathetically:
"Never mind, Doctor, you are not going to have a fit. Keep cool, Doctor. Keep perfectly quiet. You will soon get over it. Step outside into the cool air, and you will soon get over it."
"Get over what?" said the exasperated man. "You infernal fool, what are you talking about? Do you think I don't know enough to take care of myself?"
About a second later I stepped into an adjoining room, and there met the cross-eyed girl with her things on ready to leave. She said she didn't know how she would get home, as her friends had gone and left her, expecting the Doctor to act as her escort.
I confessed that I was only joking, and we had better fix it up and let the Doctor take her home.
She nearly went into spasms when I suggested it, and said she wouldn't dare ride a rod with such a man.
The Doctor's farmer friend, our host, came to me and said I had better take the young lady home, and let the Doctor remain with them all night, and he would take him to town the next afternoon. This was satisfactory to the young miss, so we immediately slipped away, without consulting the Doctor, or even bidding him good night.
On our way, I asked her if she would be willing to consent to a meeting with the Doctor, or open a correspondence with him. She refused emphatically to do either, despite the fact that I declared the whole thing a joke.
She said his actions at the last were enough to convince her that it was no joking affair. I was anxious to do something in the Doctor's behalf to atone for the injury to his feelings that I was the cause of, but the matter had gone too far.
I certainly had every reason to regret that things had turned out as they had, for the seventeen miles of travel in taking the girl home and returning to town proved too much for the old nag, and I did not reach my hotel until after nine o'clock that morning. I was at a loss to know how to fix things with the Doctor so as to make matters smooth, and have him cherish no hard feelings.
I had decided that my moustache was a failure, and had concluded to have it cut off. A plan came into my mind by which I felt certain I could manage to please the Doctor so well as to be able to bring about a feeling of harmony.
I arranged with my clerk that when we saw the Doctor coming I would lean back in one of the office chairs, apparently asleep, and when he came in the clerk should pick up a pair of shears from the window-sill and suggest that he (the Doctor) should clip one side of my moustache off, and let me run around during the evening a laughing-stock to every one.
It worked to a charm. The Doctor jumped at the chance, and cut one side close to my lip, after which I was routed up, and was received by him with much coolness.
The clerk had posted every one to say nothing to me; and as I appeared as ridiculous as possible, and everybody laughed heartily, the Doctor felt that he had perpetrated a huge joke on me.
He was more than pleased when I happened to glance in the mirror, and discovered my predicament, as he was sitting in the office.
The cross-eyed girl was not referred to for several days; and when I did mention her, the Doctor changed color, and immediately became dejected. Everything moved along smoothly for several days thereafter.
The Doctor, as before stated, was very fond of pie and coffee, especially apple pie, and generally preferred them the first thing before his regular meal, instead of waiting to have them served as a dessert.
Becoming dissatisfied with my dining-room and kitchen help, I had discharged them and hired an entire new force. When giving them instructions I gave the dining-room girls a description of the Doctor, and pointed out the seat he usually occupied; and cautioned them in particular not under any circumstances to give him pie or coffee.
They seemed curious to know the reason, and I explained that he was crazy, and the very moment he drank a swallow of coffee or ate a mouthful of pie he became raving at once, and would be liable to murder the whole lot of them; and the doctors had given strict orders never to let him have either.
That day we had apple pie for dinner, and I managed to have one of the boarders, who always sat at the same table with the Doctor, get into the dining room a little ahead of him, and to have some apple pie and a cup of coffee by his plate. The Doctor entered as usual, and after looking over the table, said:
"Bring me some apple pie and coffee."
"We have no pie or coffee, Doctor," was the girl's weak and trembling reply.
"Do you claim you have none at all?" was his quick inquiry.
"None at all, Doctor," she answered.
"And haven't you had any for dinner?" was his next question.
"No, sir," she replied.
"The d——l you say! What's that over there?" he asked, pointing to his neighbor's plate. The girl stammered a moment, and said:
"Doctor, we are instructed not to give you pie or coffee."
"Who the d——l gave you such instructions?" demanded he.
"Well," said she, evidently wishing not to compromise me, "the doctor says you mustn't have either."
"Great ——! what doctor said so? Who told you the doctor said so? Why did he say I should not have pie or coffee?" he shouted.
"Because he says you are crazy," she hesitatingly answered.
"Great Heavens! girl; it's you that's crazy!" and slamming his fist on the table, and jumping to his feet, he demanded an explanation instantly.
The girl ran to the kitchen, and the Doctor after her. The rest fled for their lives, screaming at the top of their voices and scattering in all directions. Some ran into the yard, some up stairs, and the poor frightened girl who had attempted to take his order took refuge in the cellar, the Doctor after her, yelling at the top of his voice, still demanding an explanation. He barricaded the cellar-way by swinging his cane and banging it against a tin wash-boiler near the entrance, and declared that the girl never should see daylight again unless she revealed the source of her information.
It was now about one o'clock, and the landlady had arrived on the noon train; and, after locating her newly painted hotel, came in just in time to catch us in the heat of the excitement, and the Doctor in the cellar in the midst of his controversy.
She demanded an explanation, and became very nervous when the cook excitedly told her that the Doctor had gone raving crazy, and had driven one of the girls down cellar.
She asked me why I didn't go down after him. I told her I didn't dare to.
Directly he came stamping up the stairs, swearing at the top of his voice, and said he just expected it was the work of that cussed red-headed d——l.
As he emerged from the cellar-way, with his wild defiant look and an oath on his lips, and saw the landlady standing in the doorway, he looked the picture of despair.
He faltered for a moment, during which time there was another general stampede. I was the first to start on the run, with the old lady following after, leaving the Doctor by himself. He tried to find some one to listen to him, but the moment he would venture near any one about the house, they would fly away at lightning speed.
The landlady asked how long he had been so and suggested calling a physician, or having him sent to an asylum.
After the matter had gone as far as I thought it should, and farther than I had any idea it ever would go, I began to explain that it was only a joke. But again the thing had gone too far. My dining-room girls immediately quit work, declaring that I couldn't fool them, as they had seen enough.
With considerable difficulty I satisfied the landlady that it was only a joke.
It then became necessary to satisfy her that the extensive improvements on the house had been a good investment. While up stairs showing her the changes I had made, I noticed the Doctor's door was opened, and that he was inside.
Suddenly we came to a room directly opposite his, which I had had papered and re-furnished, and she remarked that it suited her exactly, and that it showed good taste. I said, in a loud tone:
"Well, landlady, the Doctor suggested this, and I have depended largely on his taste and judgment."
We then stepped to the Doctor's door, and were invited in. She aided me as much as possible in keeping up a conversation, and complimented the Doctor on his exquisite taste.
He was immensely pleased, and after she left I remained with him a few moments.
He jumped up and closed the door, and was about to give me a tongue-lashing, when I anticipated him by saying:
"Doctor, don't it beat thunder about that girl? Great Heavens! Had I known she was just out of the Asylum I never would have hired her. And isn't it strange that she twits every one else of being crazy? I wouldn't have her around ten days for the price of the hotel. But you will not be bothered any more, Doctor, for she is gone."
He gave me a very searching look, and said:
"Johnston, was it she or I that was considered crazy?"
"Well Doctor, I understand that she was crazy and you followed her down cellar to prevent her from committing suicide. At least that is the way the matter has been represented to the landlady and me."
"Well, I understood," said he seeming much relieved, "that they considered me crazy."
"O, my! Doctor! the landlady considers you one of the bravest and most courageous men she ever saw, to follow a raving maniac down cellar the way you did."
He said he was really surprised to learn that such was the case, as he had gotten quite a different idea.
A few days later my wife and boy arrived, as I had sent for them some days before.
The Doctor and I sold off our personal property and things moved on very harmoniously.
One day a lady called to consult him professionally and paid him five dollars in cash. This gave him renewed courage and he declared his intention of locating there permanently, as he not only believed it to be a good point, but he was rapidly becoming known and could very soon establish himself in a lucrative practice.
The business of the hotel increased, and to the landlady's astonishment, was making money. She could not understand how it had cleared so much, till I explained to her that I had raised the rates from one dollar to one dollar fifty and two dollars per day. She became much frightened and declared I would ruin her business.
I declared it would be run on those terms, or not at all if I run it. She became reconciled, and in a few weeks found a responsible party who paid her a good rental for the house and furniture, and leased it for a term of years.
OUT OF A POSITION—MOVED TO ANN ARBOR—HOW I MADE A RAISE—A RETURN TO FURNITURE POLISH—SELLING EXPERIENCE—HAULING COKE—MY SUMMER CLOTHES IN A SNOW-STORM—A GLOOMY CHRISTMAS—AN ATTACK OF BILIOUS FEVER—ESTABLISHING AN ENFORCED CREDIT—THE PHOTOGRAPH I SENT MY MOTHER—ENGAGED AS AN AUCTIONEER AT TOLEDO, OHIO—MY FIRST SALE.
The leasing of the hotel by the landlady threw me out of a position, and at a time when cold weather had set in, and I had spent all the money I had received for the horses, besides the salary I had drawn, in clothing my wife and boy comfortably. I had intended to provide myself with winter clothing with my next month's salary, but the change came too suddenly for me. Consequently I was left with my summer clothes, and a dozen bottles of Furniture and Piano Polish as stock in trade.
As soon as I saw there was going to be a change in the hotel, I wrote to an old lady in Ann Arbor, whose name was given me by a medical student, making inquiries about furnished rooms for light housekeeping.
She wrote in reply that she could rent me one room suitable for that purpose, at one dollar per week. We decided to go there, as we could not procure furnished rooms in Pontiac for light housekeeping, besides I considered Ann Arbor a good town to operate in.
I had just money enough to pay our traveling expenses, and explained to my wife we had better leave on the morning train, which would get us into Ann Arbor at two o'clock in the afternoon. And as that day would be Saturday, I could "hus'le" out and sell polish enough to pay our rent and buy provisions for over Sunday.
She agreed with me and we started accordingly. But our train was belated by a freight train being ditched, so we did not reach our destination till six o'clock that night without a single cent in our pockets.
The night was dark and gloomy and the snow flying, while I hus'led around in my low-cut shoes, high-water pants, summer ulster and a straw hat. We walked nearly all over the town, following directions given by first one fool and then another, lugging the boy and our baggage, searching for Mrs. Hogan, corner of Second and Ann streets. At last we reached the place and I introduced myself as the one who had engaged a room of her by letter. After explaining to the old lady that we had just arrived from Pontiac, she looked us over carefully and remarked:
"You didn't walk did you?"
I replied that we had come part of the way on the cars, and then I told her of our march around town.
I noticed at once that she was anxious about her rent, as we had taken possession. So I said to my wife:
"Well I must go out instantly to find those parties, or I wont be able to see them till Monday. I will be back just as soon as I possibly can, so you must not worry. Mrs. Hogan will you direct me to a wood yard?"
"Never mind the wood Mr. Johnston. It will be impossible to get a load delivered to-night. I will let you have enough to last over Sunday."
We thanked her and she left the room.
Then my wife said she had often told her parents that she was sure of three meals a day as long as I lived, but she guessed I was cornered for once in my life.
"But," said I "if it were only one meal that we were liable to miss it would not be so terrible, but here it is late Saturday and if I can't raise enough for supper, I certainly can't for over Sunday. But this is what the preacher termed a 'wood-chuck case' and something must be done at once."
She didn't understand what the wood-chuck case meant, till I told her that it simply meant we were "out of meat."
I picked up my little valise, containing twelve bottles of Furniture Polish and started out. I walked down town, not knowing what to do. The snow was flying through my straw hat and the wind whistling around me at a terrible rate as I stood on the corner wondering where to go next. I looked up street and saw a meat market to which I was naturally attracted. Although the gentleman in attendance was very busy, I rushed in with:
"How are you this evening sir? I am glad to find you when you have time to look at my wonderful preparation for renovating furniture, I'll show you how nicely it operates right here on your desk."
Then as I began polishing it up, I rattled on at lightning speed, explaining how perfectly dry it would become in less than a minute from the time it was applied leaving no chance for dust or dirt to settle and stick upon the furniture it was not in the least sticky or gummy to the fingers giving no displeasure in using a cloth—any lady could apply it and easily renovate her own furniture it would remove all fly specks from picture frames and brackets as well as stained furniture caused by hot dishes hot water cologne camphor or medicine and——
"And for goodness sake, what else?" cried he. "Will it make you stop talking if I'll take a bottle?"
"Yes sir, I always stop then."
"How much is it a bottle?" he asked.
"One dollar, and I want but fifty cents in cash and the balance in steak."
He was about to say he would take it, when he asked who in thunder I was, anyhow, and if I had ever patronized him, and stated that he didn't remember ever seeing me before.
I now realized that the moment had arrived when to decide the meat question. I had got to be equal to the occasion. Looking up at him, I confidently said:
"Well, for Heaven's sake! Don't you remember my little red-headed brother that comes in here after meat every day?"
"Oh, yes, that little hair-lipped cuss," said he. I laughed, said:
"Well, he isn't a bad sort of a lad, when you get acquainted with him."
He then cut off four pounds of steak and gave me, with fifty cents cash, and I departed in much better spirits than when I called. I then made a bee-line for the nearest grocery store; and although I found the proprietor very busy I managed to get his attention, and after showing him my preparation on one of his show-cases, succeeded in selling him a bottle for one dollar.
I offered to take it in groceries, but he said he preferred to pay cash, and let me do the same when I patronized him. I invested seventy-five cents in potatoes, coffee, sugar, etc., and then started for a bakery, where I came in contact with a lady. She fought me very hard, but I needed bread, and worked like a trooper to get it without parting with the few shillings I had. I at last succeeded in getting her so far interested as to ask the price.
Realizing that her intuitive quickness and shrewdness surpassed that of my two gentlemen patrons, and that she evinced but little interest, anyhow, I reduced the price to fifty cents, and offered to take half in trade and the balance in cash. This she agreed to, and I very soon departed with my arms full of provisions, and one dollar in cash.
I then visited Tremain's drug store, and ordered more Polish put up, to be ready the following Monday.
I went directly home, more pleased with my success than anything I had ever before accomplished. Nor can I now remember of ever succeeding in anything since, that gave me more satisfaction. As I entered the room, about nine o'clock, with my arms loaded with packages, my wife sang out:
"Little late, but still in the ring."
With grim irony I replied: "And the villain still pursued her."
However, I appreciated the joke as much as she did; and we were but a few moments in preparing a meal that each pronounced the best we had ever partaken of.
Our landlady looked in upon us again that night, when I handed her the dollar due for rent, saying as I did so, that I might as well pay it then as to wait till Monday.
We felt quite comfortable, and congratulated ourselves on our success in pulling through, and making such a narrow escape.
My wife's faith in the three-meals-a-day theory was strengthened more than ever after this; and I felt myself that I had come about as near missing a meal as I would probably ever again experience.
When Monday morning came I was ready for business with my nine bottles of Polish.
The first house I visited was a large stone front, showing the owner to be a man of wealth. I noticed the front window blinds were closed, and as it was Monday morning I concluded that the lady of the house would likely be found at the side door, or possibly overseeing in the laundry. The latter I found to be the case, and when I rang the bell she answered it herself. Upon seeing me with my valise, she slammed the door in my face, and I heard the bolt shove, as though expecting me to attempt to break in.
This exasperated me more than the rebuff, and I could feel my hair standing straight up almost piercing my straw hat. I started around toward the front of the house, expecting to try the next neighbor. When I neared the front steps, I was seized with a determination to either get into that house or make the old lady some trouble for her impudence. So I ran up and pulled the bell vigorously several times. Directly I heard the doors opening and closing and a general rustling about through the rooms, when suddenly the front door opened just far enough to admit me and I landed in the hall-way with a single bound. The lady recognized me and said:
"Here you are again."
"Yes'm here I am and I am here to convince you that I am no house-burglar nor highway robber I am here with a valuable article which you can not afford to be without nor can any other housekeeper and were I to leave without showing it you would always pride yourself on getting rid of one impostor I must insist on showing you the value of my preparation which I can do on the hat-tree here in the hall."
I then began polishing, and kept up a ceaseless run of talk, much to the disgust of her highness, who insisted that all peddlers and agents were tramps, virtually speaking. I managed however, to do most of the talking and at last convinced her from its rapid drying qualities that it was almost indispensable. I then closed a sale with her, and as she had been so very courteous and complimentary in her opinion of agents and peddlers, I let her have two bottles for three dollars.
The third house I visited was that of a middle-aged gentleman who, after purchasing a bottle of my renovator, expressed a desire to become an agent for its sale. I informed him that I was sole proprietor and could give him a very good chance. He asked what I would take for Washtenaw County, Michigan. I saw at once that he was anxious to invest in territory, and as my preparation was not patented, I decided to accommodate him by letting him have the exclusive sale of it in that county for a reasonable consideration. I proposed to let him have the agency for that county for fifty dollars. The idea pleased him, but he thought the price rather high. He had raised a very fine garden and had a nice lot of vegetables in his cellar, which he showed me with a good deal of pride. While looking them over I took a careful inventory of every thing and became satisfied that he had enough stowed away for two families, and as soon as we returned from the cellar I began negotiating for a portion of each kind. His wife as well as himself was elated with the prospect of trading some of the products of their garden for a good paying business, and in less than an hour I closed a deal, immediately ordered a team and after loading up with potatoes, beets, turnips, apples, cabbage, etc., and receiving ten dollars in cash drove home with vegetables enough to last us several weeks.
I gave the gentleman a written agreement that he could have the exclusive sale for the polish in the said County. After the trade was made he asked me where he was going to get the polish, and wanted me to give him the recipe for making it. This I refused to do but explained that I could furnish it to him at a certain price per dozen. He then wanted to know if I had any other agents traveling. I told him I had not.
He then asked if I cared if he sold in other Counties. I answered him that I did not.
"Well," he next asked, "what in Heaven's name have I been paying you for, any how?"
"Experience," I answered.
He became excited, and said he didn't need experience.
I told him I thought he did, and that I considered the price very low for the amount I had let him have.
After chaffing him a few moments and getting him exceedingly nervous, I gave him the recipe with full instructions in the manner of making sales. This pleased him, and he began preparations for canvassing outside of town.
I then visited a wood-yard with a view to purchasing a load, but found it would cost about as much for a cord of wood in Ann Arbor as it would for a farm in Dakota. I then inquired of the proprietor how other poor devils managed to keep warm in the town.
I was told that many of them used coke at ten cents per bushel, procured at the gas works.
My landlady informed me that she could furnish us with a stove (in place of the one we were using) that would burn coke. I consented to allow her to make the exchange, and borrowing a wheel-barrow started for the gas factory where I bought a bushel.
When I returned the new stove was ready and I began starting a fire. It took about two hours time and the whole bushel of coke to start it, and I was obliged to "hus'le" back after another load forthwith. We were successful in getting a good fire started, but very soon discovered that it required a full bushel of coke at a time in the fire-box to keep it up, even during moderate weather.
We were quite well satisfied, however, for several days, or until the extreme cold weather set in, when by being obliged to open the drafts of our stove to get sufficient heat, we discovered it took about two bushels at a time constantly in the stove to keep it running, and to my disgust I found at such times that the old stove would burn about a bushel a minute. Thus I had the poor satisfaction of seeing my money float up the chimney at the rate of about ten cents a minute. I didn't even have the satisfaction of enjoying this expensive luxury, as I was compelled to divide my time between hauling coke with the old wheel-barrow and "hus'ling" out with the polish to raise money to pay for it and our provisions. However I was not a continual sufferer from cold, although still wearing my summer clothes, as this constant "hus'ling" kept me in a sultry condition both mentally and physically.
Time passed on bringing very little change to my straitened circumstances. I was illy prepared to withstand the severity of a Michigan winter. I had no hose except half worn cotton ones, no warm underwear or over-shoes which I sorely needed in my endless tramping from house to house, and no overcoat until February. The only articles of winter apparel I had were a pair of woolen mittens and a pair of ear mufflers, both of which I got from an old lady in exchange for furniture polish, and which will be seen illustrated in the photograph I sent to my mother while in this sorry condition.
It was the night before Christmas, and the contents of my pocket-book were meager indeed. Pedestrians were hurrying to and fro, arms and pockets filled with packages to gladden the hearts of the loved ones at home. My naturally buoyant spirits fell to zero as I thought of my wife and baby boy and realized that I had nothing for them with which to make merry on the morrow.
I turned my steps homeward well-nigh disheartened. My sales had been slow that day owing to the universal purchasing of holiday goods and the scarcity of money left in the family purse. However, I suddenly determined to make one more effort, and see what might be my success in effecting another sale before going home. I therefore called at a spacious stone front mansion, was admitted by the servant and ushered into the handsomely furnished parlor to await the coming of the mistress.
It was a home of luxury, evidenced by the rich carpets, elegant pieces of furniture, paintings of well-known artists and beautiful bric-a-brac in an expensive cabinet.
There was no biting chill from Jack Frost in this home. In the short time I sat there I wondered if the occupants appreciated the good things around them. How could they, if they had never known hunger and cold and discomfort?
These queries kept entering my mind:
"Will such furniture as this ever be mine? Will I ever be the owner of a stove as nice as that base-burner? Will carpets as luxurious as these ever belong to me? Will I ever be able to dress comfortably and genteelly?"
It would be a very difficult matter to describe to the reader my thoughts on that occasion. (I will add that I made a sale.)
In these later years when my income has been sufficient to warrant me in buying any thing I desire for personal comfort, I often think of the cheerless experiences of that winter. And I can truthfully say that my heart goes out to the homeless and destitute, and I am always willing to extend a helping hand to those who show a willingness to help themselves.
That was a long winter, take it all in all; but we managed to get three meals a day, notwithstanding I had an attack of bilious fever which made matters look very gloomy.
For several years I had never failed to have one of these attacks in the winter.
Realizing what to expect when the usual symptoms—chills—began to overpower me, I decided at once to make some sort of provision for my family.
I called at a butcher shop, and after ordering twenty pounds of beef-steak and getting it in my possession I asked the butcher to charge it. He said he didn't care to do business in that way. I told him I didn't care to either but——
"But," he interrupted "I don't have to do business that way."
"Well sir, I do. So you see that's the difference between you and me, and as possession is about ten points of law I guess you will do better and will no doubt get your pay more quickly if you will quietly submit to my proposition."
I then explained to him my circumstances.
He asked why I didn't explain in the first place.
I replied "because I needed the meat."
Then he asked my name and said he hoped I would be honest with him.
I next called at a grocery and gave quite an extensive order to be delivered at our room.
In about an hour the groceries and a sack of flour were brought to the door. I ordered them inside, and then the bill was presented. I folded it and put it my pocket, saying:
"Just tell Mr. —— to charge this."
"All right sir," the boy replied and drove off.
In less than twenty minutes the proprietor came rushing down fairly frothing at the mouth, and in a high state of exasperation rapped at the door, and when admitted asked excitedly what in thunder I meant.
I coolly explained that we simply meant to try and exist another day or two if buckwheat flour and coffee and sugar would keep us alive.
He said I couldn't live on his flour and coffee.
I politely informed him that I had no use for his, as I had plenty of my own just then.
"Well, why in thunder did you come and 'stand me off' in this way if you had plenty of your own?"
"But my dear sir, I had none of my own before I called on you."