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Selling a Landlord by Jonathan F. Kelley


During the great gathering of people in Quakerdom, while the Whigs were dovetailing in Old Zack, an artful dodger, a queer quizzing Boston friend of mine, thought a little side play wouldn't be out of the way, so to work he goes to get up a muss, and I'll tell you how he managed it, nice as wax.

Among the Boston delegates—self-constituted, a la Gen. Commander—was a certain gentleman, remarkable for his probity, decorum, and extreme sensitiveness. Well, A., the wag, and B., the victim, landed together, but selected, in the general overflow and hurly-burly, different lodgings. Next morning, A. finds B. stowed away in ——'s Hotel, fine as a fiddle, snug as a bug, in a good room, and doing about as well as could be expected. A. had had indifferent luck, and the quarters he had lit upon were any thing but comfortable, the inmates of the Hotel being stowed away in tiers, like herrings in a box. A. thought he'd oust his innocent and unsuspecting friend, and crack his joke, if it cost a law suit, just for the sake of variety.

With the address, and partly the dress—a white hat—of a man of the mace, A. steps up to the bar of ——'s Hotel, and after carefully scrutinizing the register, finds the autograph of the victim, then smiles suspiciously, enough to say to the observant bar-keeper—

“Aha! I've found him!” Then leaning cautiously forward towards that person, says A.—

“Is this man here yet? Is he in the house?”

“I b'leave he is, sur,—I know he is, sur,” says the Milesian, overlooking the register himself.

“Come here last night?” continues A., in his suspicious strain.

“He did, sur!” answers the grog-mixer.

“Has nothing but a valise and umbrella?” says A.

“Nothing else, sur, I believe,” is the reply.

“That's him! that's him! I've found him!” exultantly exclaims A., while the bar-keeper and landlord, who had now come forward, eagerly wanted to know if any thing was wrong with the gentleman whose arrival was being discussed.

“Step aside, sir,” says A. to the proprietor; “I don't want any disturbance made, at such a time; it might do your fine establishment more harm than good; but, there is a person stopping in your house that I have followed from Boston; I have kept my eye on his movements(!); I know his designs, his practices, well; I'm on his track—he dodged me last night, but I've found him—”

“Well, do you pretend to assert that this man (scrutinizing the register) is a pick-pocket, a thief, or something of the kind, sir?” earnestly inquired the proprietor.

“You keep mum, sir,” said A., coolly tapping the lappel of the landlord's coat—“I've got him safe! Let him rest for awhile—I've got him! Do you understand?” says the wag, winking a knowing, significant wink at the landlord.

“No, cuss me if I do understand you, sir!” sharply replies the landlord. “If there is a dangerous or disreputable person in my house, sir, I would thank you to tell me, sir, and I will soon put him where the dogs won't bite him, sir!”

“There is no use of unnecessary alarm, my friend,” says A., in a low tone; “the truth is, this person whom I have followed here, has made a heavy draw on one of our Boston banks, by means of certain checks and certificates, and—”

“Oho! That's it, eh?” interposes the landlord, beginning to see his guest in a more dignified light, that of a splendid thief; so his rigid frown, called in play by the supposition that a petty rascal was on his premises, subsided into a wise smile, which A. interrupts with—

“You've hit it; but keep quiet! Don't let us go too far before we're sure the bird is in our cage. He's worth attending to; I'm not sure he's got the abstracted money about him; but when he settles with you, just notice the size of his wallet, and its contents; may have an officer handy, if you like. If he has a large roll of notes, especially on the Traders' Bank, nab him, and keep him until I come,” said A.

“Where do you stop, sir?” inquired the landlord.

“At the ——, Chestnut street,” A. replies.

“Shall be attended to, sir, I warrant you. Is there a reward out, sir, for this person?” says the landlord.

“O! no; it has all been kept quiet. Policy, you see; he left in such a hurry, he thought he'd be lost sight of in this crowd here in your city. If he has the money, we'll make 'a spec,' you understand?”

“I see, I see,” said the befogged landlord; “I'll keep a sharp look out for him, and let you know the moment I find him fairly out.”

That afternoon, as B. called for his bill at the bar of ——'s Hotel, the landlord was about, all in a twitter, with two policemen in the distance, and sundry especial friends hanging about, to whom the landlord had unbosomed the affair. All were anxiously watching the result of the business. B. hands forth his capacious wallet, stuffed with “documents” of the Traders' Bank, of Boston,—from which institution he had drawn a pile of funds, to invest in coal at Richmond,—and no sooner did B. place an X, of the Traders' Bank, upon the bar, than the excited landlord's eyes danced like shot on a hot shovel, and giving the constables the cue, poor B. found himself waited upon, in a brace of shakes, by those two custodians, while the landlord grabbed the wallet out of B.'s hand, with a suddenness that completely mesmerized him.

“Gentlemen,” says the landlord to the officers, “do your duty!”

“Why, look here!” says B., squirming about in the grasp of the officers, and reaching over for the landlord and his wallet—“what the thunder are you about? Come, I say, none of your darn'd nonsense now; let me go, I tell you, and hand back that wallet, Mister ——.”

But B. was “a goner.” They favored him with no explanation, of course, and were about trotting him forth to the Mayor's office, when a well known Anthracite merchant came in, in quest of B. Some inquiry followed, explanation ensued, and the result was, that after poor B. got a little reconciled to the joke, he joined issue with a laughing chorus at the expense of the sold landlord, who, in consideration of all hands keeping mum, put the party through a course of juleps.

I may as well observe, that I regret there is no particular moral to this sketch.


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