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“Don't Know You, Sir!” by Jonathan F. Kelley


We shall never forget, and always feel proud of the fact, that we knew so great an every-day Plato as Davy Crockett. Had the old Colonel never uttered a better idea than that everlasting good motto—“Be sure you're right, then go ahead!” his wisdom would stand a pretty good wrestle with tide and time, before his standing, as a man of genius, would pass to oblivion—be washed out in Lethe's waters. We remember hearing Col. Crockett relate, during a “speech,” a short time before he lost his life at the Alamo, in Texas—a little incident, of his being taken up in New Orleans, one night, by a gen d'arme—lugged to the calaboose, and kept there as an out-and-out “hard case,” not being able to find any body, hardly, that knew him, and being totally unable to reconcile the chief of police to the fact that he was the identical Davy Crockett, or any body else, above par! “If you want to find out your 'level,'—ad valorem, wake up some morning, noon or night—where nobody knows you!” said the Colonel, “and if you ever feel so essentially chawed up, raw, as I did in the calaboose, the Lord pity you!”

There was a “modern instance” of Colonel Crockett's “wise saw,” in the case of a certain Philadelphia millionaire, who was in the habit of carting himself out, in a very ancient and excessively shabby gig; which, in consequence of its utter ignorance of the stable-boy's brush, sponge or broom, and the hospitalities the old concern nightly offered the hens—was not exactly the kind of equipage calculated to win attention or marked respect, for the owner and driver. The old millionaire, one day in early October, took it into his head to ride out and see the country. Taking an early start, the old gentleman, and his old bob-tailed, frost-bitten-looking horse, with that same old shabby gig, about dusk, found themselves under the swinging sign of a Pennsylvania Dutch tavern, in the neighborhood of Reading. As nobody bestirred themselves to see to the traveller, he put his very old-fashioned face and wig outside of the vehicle, and called—

“Hel-lo! hos-e-lair? Landlord?”

Leisurely stalking down the steps, the Dutch hostler advanced towards the queer and questionable travelling equipage.

“Vel, vot you vont, ah?”

“Vat sal I vant? I sal vant to put oup my hoss, vis-ze stab'l, viz two pecks of oats and plenty of hay, hos-e-lair.”

“Yaw,” was the laconic grunt of the hostler, as he proceeded to unhitch old bald-face from his rigging.

“Stop one little,” said the traveller. “I see 'tis very mosh like to rain, to-night; put up my gig in ze stab'l, too.”

“Boosh, tonner and blitzen, der rain not hurt yer ole gig!”

“I pay you for vat you sal do for me, mind vat I sal say, sair, if you pleaze.”

The hostler, very surlily, led the traveller's weary old brute to the stable; but, prior to carrying out the orders of the traveller, he sought the landlord, to know if it would pay to put up the shabby concern, and treat the old horse to a real feed of hay and oats, without making some inquiries into the financial situation of the old Frenchman.

The landlord, with a country lawyer and a neighboring farmer, were at the Bar, one of those old-fashioned slatted coops, in a corner, peculiar to Pennsylvania, discussing the merits of a law suit, seizure of the property, &c., of a deceased tiller of the soil, in the vicinity. Busily chatting, and quaffing their toddy, the entrance of the poor old traveller was scarcely noticed, until he had divested himself of his old, many-caped cloak, and demurely taken a seat in the room. The hostler having reappeared, and talked a little Dutch to the host, that worthy turned to the traveller—

“Good even'ns, thravel'r!”

“Yes, sair;” pleasantly responded the Frenchman, “a little.”

“You got a hoss, eh?” continued the landlord.

“Yes, sair, I vish ze hostlair to give mine hoss plenty to eat—plenty hay, plenty oats, plenty watair, sair.”

“Yaw,” responded the landlord, “den, Jacob, give'm der oats, and der hay, and der water;” and, with this brief direction to his subordinate, the landlord turned away from the way-worn traveller to resume his conversation with his more, apparently, influential friends. The old Frenchman very patiently waited until the discussion should cease, and the landlord's ear be disengaged, that he might be apprized of the fact that travellers had stomachs, and that of the old French gentleman was highly incensed by long delay, and more particularly by the odorous fumes of roast fowls, ham and eggs, &c., issuing from the inner portion of the tavern.

“Landlord, I vil take suppair, if you please,” said he.

“Yaw; after dese gentlemans shall eat der suppers, den somesing will be prepared for you.”

“Sair!” said the old Frenchman, firing up; “I vill not vait for ze shentilmen; I vant my suppair now, directly—right away; I not vait for nobody, sair!”

“If you no like 'em, den you go off, out mine house,” answered the old sour krout, “you old barber!”

“Bar-bair!” gasped the old Frenchman, in suppressed rage. “Sair, I vill go no where, I vill stay here so long, by gar, as—as—as I please, sair!”

“Are you aware, sir,” interposed the legal gentleman, “that you are rendering gross and offensive, malicious and libellous, scandalous and burglarious language to this gentleman, in his own domicile, with malice prepense and aforethought, and a ——”

“Pooh! pooh! pooh! for you, sair!” testily replied the Frenchman.

“Pooh? To me, sir? Me, sir?” bullyingly echoed Blackstone.

“Yes, sair—pooh—pooh! von geese, sair!”

It were vain to try to depict the rage of wounded pride, the insolence of a travelling barber had stirred up in the very face of the man of law, logic, and legal lore. He swelled up, blowed and strutted about like a miffed gobbler in a barn yard! He tried to cork down his rage, but it bursted forth—

“You—you—you infernal old frog-eating, soap and lather, you—you—you smoke-dried, one-eyed,* poor old wretch, you, if it wasn't for pity's sake, I'd have you taken up and put in the county jail, for vagrancy, I would, you poverty-stricken old rascal!”

    [*] Girard, it will be remembered, had but one eye. With that,
    however, he saw as much as many do with a full pair of eyes.

“Jacob!” bawled the landlord, to his sub., “bring out der ole hoss again, pefore he die mit de crows, in mine stable; now, you ole fool, you shall go vay pout your bishenish mit nossin to eat, mit yer hoss too!” said the landlord, with an evident rush of blood and beer to his head!

“Oh, veri well,” patiently answered the old Frenchman, “veri well, sair, I sal go—but,”—shaking his finger very significantly at the landlord and lawyer, “I com' back to-morrow morning, I buy dis prop-er-tee; you, sir, sal make de deed in my name—I kick you out, sair, (to the landlord,) and to you (the lawyer), I sal like de goose. Booh!”

With this, the poor old Frenchman started for his gig, amid the “Haw! haw! haw! and ha! ha! he! he!” of the landlord and lawyer. “That for you,” said the Frenchman, as he gave the surly Dutchman-hostler a real half-dollar, took the dirty “ribbons” and drove off. Now, the farmer, one of the three spectators present, had quietly watched the proceedings, and being gifted with enough insight into human nature to see something more than “an old French barber” in the person and manner of the traveller; and, moreover, being interested in the Tavern property, followed the Frenchman; overtaking him, he at once offered him the hospitalities of his domicile, not far distant, where the traveller passed a most comfortable night, and where his host found out that he was entertaining no less a pecuniary miracle of his time— than Stephen Girard.

Early next morning, old Stephy, in his old and shady gig, accompanied by his entertainer, rode over to the two owners of the Tavern property, and with them sought the lawyer, the deeds were made out, the old Frenchman drew on his own Bank for the $13,000, gave the farmer a ten years' lease upon the place, paid the lawyer for his trouble, and as that worthy accompanied the millionaire to the door, and was very obsequiously bowing him out, old Stephy turned around on the steps, and looking sharp—with his one eye upon the lawyer, says he—

“Sair! Pooh! pooh!—Booh!” off he rode for the Tavern, where he and the landlord had a haze, the landlord was notified to leave, short metre; and being fully revenged for the insult paid his millions, old Stephen Girard, the great Philadelphia financier, rode back to where he was better used for his money, and evidently better satisfied than ever, that money is mighty when brought to bear upon an object!


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