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Twenty Years of Hus'ling Part 50

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Directly in came a drummer for a grocery house, and began telling how much his sales had been in that town: To one grocer a car-load each of rice, nutmegs, cinnamon and pepper, besides several hundred barrels of flour and as many chests of tea. I told him I didn't doubt his word, but would thank him to give me back my hat. He discovered his mistake, and was about to trade back, when I happened to think of what a splendid chance I had for making a little raise. As he handed me my hat I said:

"Thunderation! Do you suppose I am going to let you give me back my hat with that big grease-spot on it? Not much, sir. Have you been down in some grocer's cellar with my hat on? Now, sir, you can either give me five dollars to buy a new hat, or give me one dollar and we'll trade hats."

He willingly handed over the dollar, and after apologizing, offered to treat in order to quiet me down.

I then made a bee-line for the nearest drugstore, where I ordered a half gallon of the "Incomprehensible" to be prepared for the next day.

The old valise I had was a large-sized one, in which I carried my clothing; but I made room for the polish, and started out the next day on foot, arriving at a small town late that night, with four dollars in cash, and some stock on hand.

The following morning I started back to where I had left the old horse and wagon. Arriving there, I hitched up and started through the country, selling polish to the farmers. It took about all I could rake and scrape to keep my family, myself and the old horse eating.

While on this trip as I was passing through Wapakanetta, Ohio, a familiar voice came from a crowd of lookers-on saying:

"Halloo, Johnston, where you going?"

And an old acquaintance of mine came running to the wagon and hastily explained that he had the agency of a valuable patent which he was then trying to sell County and State rights in and wanted me to join him. I told him that I had promised my mother never to sell another Patent right, and then asked what success he had met with. He said not any yet, but----

"But," I interrupted, "I suppose you have succeeded in spending what money you had, and are now broke."

"Yes, that's it exactly."

"Well, Frank, misery likes company. Get in here and we'll travel together."

He did so and we had quite a siege of it. We bought another valise and I immediately began educating him in selling polish. He made a very fair salesman and as I was to furnish him with the polish at a stipulated sum, I felt that I could very soon be deriving an income from his services. My idea was to keep him with me till he could get acquainted with the business and then arrange with some drug house to ship him what he wanted and pay me my profits.

[Illustration: A SUCCESSFUL SURGICAL OPERATION.--PAGE 454.]

Our third day out we drove into a small hamlet, and after hitching the old nag to a post began operations. I called at a house where there was considerable excitement and learned that an old lady had fallen down stairs and either broken or badly sprained her ankle. The principal cause for excitement was the fact that no Doctor could be found. As I passed from the house I saw Frank crossing the street a block or two away and called to him. He came right up and I explained to him the critical condition of the old lady and suggested that he should go in and play surgeon as they were unable to find a doctor at home. He consented and we went in together. Frank looked wise, and I did the talking. Finally one of the women in attendance beckoned us to the bedside. Frank made a hasty examination, and with my assistance helped her to a chair and began pulling the victim around the room by her crippled leg. She yelled and kept yelling, we pulled and kept pulling, her son swore and kept swearing, while the dog barked and kept barking.

Everything was in a hubbub and every one excited. The neighboring women soon left in disgust. The more we pulled the more excited we all became and the more assurance Frank seemed to have that pulling was the only remedy. We were very soon rewarded with success, for a moment later the joint went back into place, snapping like a pistol, which gave the old lady immediate relief. Then Frank _did_ look wise and I dubbed him Doctor Frank at once.

They inquired where he was practicing, and he told them he was a traveling Doctor. I suddenly spoke up and said:

"Why, ladies, this gentleman graduated at Whiting, Indiana. You've all heard of that place?"

"O, yes, we've all read of it," they answered in chorus.

When asked what his charges would be he glanced at me as if undecided what to make it. I raised both hands intimating ten dollars as the proper figure. He said:

"Well, the usual charge for a case of this kind is twenty dollars, but I'll charge you only ten."

They hesitated, and grudgingly paid the price, but were well satisfied with the operation. We had many a hearty laugh over the ridiculous manner in which the ten dollars was obtained.

We continued to peddle around over the country, taking in small inland towns.

The old horse was an elephant on my hands, but he was all I possessed in the world; and being unable to find a buyer, I could do no better than to stick by him unless I chose to give him away, which I hardly considered business-like. But I would have made money and saved trouble had I done so, for he was the means of getting me into two or three little fights. One in particular I will relate.

Doctor Frank and myself were driving into New Baltimore one Saturday evening, and as the old horse went heaving and crippling along we seemed to be the attraction for every one on the street. Suddenly a young man who was sitting out in front of a store on the cross-railing between two hitching posts cried out at the very top of his voice:

"Whoa!"

The old nag, as usual, came to a sudden halt, and every one of a large crowd of men standing near by began to laugh.

I realized that if their risibilities were so easily aroused at seeing him stop, it would be a regular circus for them to see me get him in motion again; so I coolly handed the lines to Doctor Frank, and said:

"Here, hold these, and I'll make believe I have business in that store; and after this crowd has dispersed, I'll come out and we'll try and make another start."

I climbed out and walked toward the store. As I got even with the young chap who had stopped us, and noticed him still sitting there, with his feet swinging backward and forward and a look of triumph on his face, I suddenly changed my course, and stepping up to him, quickly dealt him a right-hander straight from the shoulder. He received the blow directly under the chin, and it set him spinning around the rail like a trapeze performer on a horizontal bar. I then returned to the wagon, climbed in, picked up my club and made preparations for another move.

Before making the start we had the pleasure of witnessing several revolutions by the young gentleman, after which he was helped to the ground by some friends; and as we were moving away, under the strong pressure of my club and the hard pushing of the lines by Doctor Frank, our smart youth looked more silly and terror-stricken than he did gay and frisky a few moments before, when the laugh was all on his side.

As we passed along down street everything was as quiet as a funeral; and although every man may have wanted to laugh, they all looked sober and sanctimonious, and as we imagined, took extra precautions to look sorrowful and sympathetic, as we rode along, looking savagely at them, apparently ready to spring from the wagon and pounce upon them at a second's warning.

We then drove to the hotel, where we took quarters.

The next day, Sunday, while we were standing out in front, a man came up and began interrupting us in our conversation, and became rather abusive when we asked him to go away and not interfere with our affairs. He then said he was a lawyer and a gentleman, if he _had_ been drinking a little, and he could whip half-a-dozen such men as we were; and so saying he shook his fist under Doctor Frank's nose. He soon discovered his mistake, for no sooner had he done so than he received a straight left-hander from Frank, right on his big red nose. I shall never forget his looks, as he began backing up, in a dazed condition, and kept backing round and round in a circle, with the blood spurting and his nose flattened all over his face, and finally, not being able to keep on his feet any longer, landed squarely, in a sitting posture, right in the middle of a puddle of water that had been made by a severe rain-storm that morning.

He had no sooner landed in the water, than not less than two dozen men came running from a saloon across the street; and the leader of the mob, a man about as large again as either of us, and who, we afterwards learned, was the pugilist of the town, came rushing up to us and said:

"Any man that will strike a drunken man is a coward."

From this we inferred that the whole thing was a put-up job, and our only way out was to assert our rights and fight our way through.

He was coolly informed that we were not looking for fights, but we never been placed on the list of cowards yet. He said:

"Well, I am here to clean both you fellows out."

"Very well, I guess you can commence on me," said Doctor Frank; and they opened up. The crowd gathered closely around, and I became a little excited, and fearful lest some one should assist the stranger by kicking or hitting Frank. While they were scuffling on the ground I stuck close by them, and realizing that my little escapade of the day before would have a tendency to give me considerable prestige, I continued to cry out, at the top of my voice:

"Gentlemen, stand back, stand back; the first man who interferes here to-day will get knocked out in less than a second, and I'm the boy that can do it."

Every one was yelling for the pugilist but myself; and I continued talking encouragingly to Frank at the very top of my voice:

"Stay by him, Doctor, old boy, stay by him, stay by him, never give up, stay by him, make him lay still. I can whip any man that dares to interfere."

For a few moments when the pugilist was on top of the Doctor it looked rather dubious, but I knew the sort of stuff Frank was made of and kept yelling:

"Never quit, Frank, die on the spot. Stay by him."

A second later the pugilist had not only been turned, but the fight had also turned, for Frank was on top and it was not long till the pugilist screamed:

"Take him off, take him off."

I said to Frank: "Let the poor devil up now, he has enough."

Frank raised up, looking a little the worse for the battle, but victory was plainly written in his countenance. When he went into the hotel office to wash, the landlord informed him that he had whipped the bully of the town. About this time I felt considerably like having a little brush myself, with some one, and stepping outside I asked in a loud tone of voice if there was any one there who was not quite satisfied, and if there was I would like to try any one of them a round or two just to accommodate them. No one responded.

During my several years' experience I had learned to avoid any such scenes as this one, and fully realized how easy it was to become involved in trouble through a fracas. But at this particular time I was really anxious to show fight and willing to take a whipping if I couldn't hold my own. We were not molested in that town again.

I remember that Sunday night the office of the hotel was filled with men who came in and expressed themselves as in sympathy with us; and I well remember, too, the number of Wild West stories we related of our experience on the frontier with wild Indians and Polar bears, and when we finished relating them, how surprised many seemed to be that they had all escaped with their lives during the late combat.

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Twenty Years of Hus'ling Part 50 summary

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