Story type: Literature
“Well, squire, as I wer’ tellin’ on ye, when I went around pedlin’ notions, I met many queer folks; some on ’em so darn’d preoud and sassy, they wouldn’t let a feller look at ’em; a-n-d ‘d shut their doors and gates, bang into a feller’s face, jest as ef a Yankee pedler was a pizen sarpint! Then there waa-s t’other kind o’ human critters, so pesky poor, or ‘nation stingy, they’d pinch a fourpence till it’d squeal like a stuck pig. Ye-e-s, I do swow, I’ve met some critters so dog-ratted mean, that ef you had sot a steel trap onder their beds, a-n-d baited it with three cents, yeou’d a cotch ther con-feoun-ded souls afore mornin’!”
“Massy sakes!” responded the squire.
“Fact! by ginger!” echoed the ex-pedler.
“Well, go on, Ab,” said the squire, giving his pipe another ‘charge,’ and lighting up for the yarn Absalom Slamm had promised the gals, soon as the quilt was out and refreshments were handed around.
“Go on, Ab–let’s hear abeout that scrape yeou had with the school marm and her gals.”
“Wall, I will, squire; gals, spread yeourselves areound and squat; take care o’ yeour corset strings, and keep deth-ly still. Wall; neow, yeou all sot? Hain’t none o’ ye been in the pedlin’ business, I guess; wall, no matter, tho’ it’s dread-ful pleasant sometimes: then again at others, ‘taint.”
“Go on, Ab, go on,” said the squire.
“Ye-e-s; wall, as I was saying, ‘beout tradin’, none o’ yeou ever been in the tradin’ way? Wall, it deon’t matter a cent; as I was agoin’ to say, I had hard, hard luck one season–got clean busted all tew smash! O-o-o! it was dre-a-a-dful times; jest abeout the time Gineral Jackson clapped his we-toe on the hull o’ the banks, kersock. Wall, yeou see, I got broke all tew flinders. My ole hoss died, the sun and rain beat up my wagon, I sold eout my notions tew a feller that paid me all in ceounter-fit money, and then he dug eout, as Parson Dodge says, to undiskivered kedn’try.
“There was only one way abeout it; I was beound to dew somethin’, instead o’ goin’ to set deown and blubber; and as I layed stretched eout in bed one Sunday morning, in Marm Smith’s tavern, in the cockloft among the old stuff, I spies a darn’d ole consarn that took my fancy immazin’! As Deb Brown said, when she ‘sperienced rele-gen, I felt my sperrets raisin’ me clean eout o’ bed, and eout I beounced, like a pea in a hot skillet. Deown I goes to Marm Smith; the ole lady was dressed up to death in her Sunday-go-to-meetin’s, and jest as preoud and sassy as her darn’d ole skin ceould heould in.
“‘Marm Smith,’ sez I, ‘yeou hain’t got no ole stuff yeou deon’t want tew sell nor nuthin’, dew ye?’
“‘ Ab Slamm,’ sez she, plantin’ her thumbs on her hip joints, and as the milishey officer ses on trainin’ day, comin’ at me, ‘right face,’ she spread herself like a clapboard. ‘Ab Slamm,’ sez she, ‘what on airth possesses yeou to talk o’ tradin’ on the Sabbath?’
“‘Wall,’ sez I, ‘Marm Smith, yeou needn’t take on so ‘beout it; I guess a feller kin ax a question witheout tradin’ or breakin’ the Sabbath all tew smash, either! Neow,’ says I, ‘yeou got some ole plunder up ther in the cockloft, where yeou stuck me to sleep; ’tain’t much use to yeou, and one article I see I want to trade fur.’
“Wall, we didn’t trade ‘zactly. Marm Smith, yeou see, got dre-e-e-adful relejus ‘beout that time–wouldn’t let her gals draw ther breth scacely, and shot her roosters all up in the cellar every Sunday. Fact, by ginger! Wall, yeou see, Marm Smith were agin tradin’ on Sunday, but she sed I might arrange it with Ben, her barkeeper, and so I got the instrument, any heow.”
“What was it, Ab?” inquired the squire.
“Massy sakes, tell us!” says the gals.
“I sha’n’t dew it, till I tell the hull abeout it,” Ab replied, rather choosing, like Captain Cuttle, to break the gist of his information into small chunks, and so make it the more telling and comparatively interesting.
“When I got the instrument, and paid Marm Smith my board bill, I wer in possession of a cash capital of jest three fo’pences. I took my jack-knife, and unjinted the instrument, cleaned it off, then wrapped the different sections up in a paper, put the hull in my little yaller trunk, and dug eout. When I got clean eout o’ sight and hearin’ of everybody I’d ever hear’n tell on, I stopped r-i-g-h-t in my track. My cash capital wer gone, my mortal remains were holler as a flute, and my old trunk had worn a hole clean through the shoulder o’ my best Sunday coat. I put up, and sez I tew the landlord:
“‘Squire, what sort o’ place is this for a sheow?’
“‘For a sh-e-ow?’ sez he.
“‘Ye-e-e-s,’ sez I.
“‘What a’ yeou got to sh-e-o-w?’ sez he.
“‘The most wonderful instrument ever inwent-‘d,’ sez I.
“‘What’s ‘t fur?’ sez he.
“‘For the wimen,’ sez I.
“‘O! sez he, lookin’ alfired peart and smeart, as tho’ he’d seen a flock o’ l’fants; ‘quack doctor, I s’pose, eh?’
“‘No, I ben’t a quack doctor, nuther,’ sez I, priming up at the insin-i-wa-tion.
“‘Wall, what on airth hev yeou got, any heow ?’ sez he.
“When he ‘poligized in that sort o’ way, in course I up and told him the full perticklers ‘beout a wonderful instrument I had for the ladies and wimen folks. A-n-d heow I wanted to sheow it before some o’ the female sim-i-nar-ries, and give a lectoor on’t.
“‘By bunker!’ sez he, ‘then yeou’ve cum jest teou the spot; three miles up the road is the great Jargon Institoot, ‘spressly for young ladies, wher they teach ’em the ‘rethmetic, French scollopin’, and High-tall-ion curlycues; dancin’, tight-lacin’, hair-dressin’, and so forth, with the use of curlin’ irons, forty pinanners, and parfumeries chuck’d in.’
“‘Yeou deon’t say so?’ sez I.
“‘Yes, I doos,’ sez he; and then yeou had orter seen me make streaks fur the Jargon Institoot.
“I feound the place, knocked on the door, and a feller all starch’d up, lookin’ cruel nice, kem and opened the door. I axed if the marm were in. Then he wanted tew kneow which of ’em I wanted tew see. ‘The head marm of the Institoot,’ sez I. ‘Please to give me yeour keard,’ sez he. ‘You be darn’d,’ sez I; ‘I’d have yeou know, mister,’ sez I, ‘I don’t deal in keards –never did, nuther!’
“The feller show’d a heap o’ ivory, and brought deown the head marm. It weould a’ dun Marm Smith’s ole heart good to seen this dre-e-a-d-ful pius critter. She looked mighty nice, a-n-d she scolloped reound, and beow’d and cut an orful quantity o’ capers, when I ondid my business to her. I went on and told her heow in course o’ travel–
“‘In furrin pearts?’ sez she.
“‘Yes,’ sez I–‘I kim across a great instrument,’ sez I. ‘It was well known to the wimen and ladies o’ the past gin-i-rations,’ sez I.
“‘The an-shants?’ sez she.
“‘Yes, marm,’ sez I. Then she axed me wether it wer a wind instrer-ment or a stringed instrer-ment. A-n-d I told her it wer a stringed instrer-ment, but went on the hurdy-gurdy pren-cipl’, with a crank or treddle. But what I moost dwelt on, as the ox-ion-eer sez, were the great combinations of the instrer-ment, a-n-d I piled it up dre-e-e-adful! I told the marm I wanted to git the thing patented, and put before the people–the wimen and ladies in per-tick’ler–so that every gal in the univarsal world could play upon it–exercise her hands, strengthen her arms and chist, give her form a nater-al de-welop-ment, and so make the hull grist o’ wimen critters useful, as well as or-namental, as my instrer-ment was a useful necessity; for while it lent grace and beauty to the female form, and gin forth fust rate music, it was par-fect-ly scriptooral; it ceould be made to clothe the naked and feed the hon-gry. My il-o-quince had the marm. She ‘greed to buy one of my machines straight fur use of her Institoot –each school-gal to ‘put in’ by next day, when I wer to bring the instrer-ment, get my $40, and deliver a lectoor on it. Next mornin’, bright and early, I wer there; the puss wer made up, and the gals nigh abeout bilin’ over with curiosity to see my wonderful hand-limberer, arm-strengthener, chist-expander, female-beautifier, and univarsal musical machine! When they all got assembled, I ondid the machine; they wer still as death! When I sot it up, they wer breathless with wonderment; when I started it, they gin a gineral screech of delight. Then I sot deown and played ’em old hund’erd, and every gal in the room vowed right eout she’d have one made straight! O-o-o! yeou’d a died to seen the excitement that instrer-ment made in Jargon Institoot. The head marm wanted my ortergraff, and each o’ the gals a lock o’ my hair. But just then, a confeounded ole woolly-headed Virginny nigger wench, cook o’ the Jargon Institoot, kem in, and the moment she clapped her ole eyes on my inwention, she roared reight eout, ‘O! de Lud, ef dar ain’t one de ole Virginny spinnin’ wheels!‘ I kinder had bus’ness somewheres else ‘beout that time! I took with a leaving!”