The Man that
knew 'em All by
If you have ever been around some, and taken notice of things, you
have doubtless seen the man who knows pretty much every thing and every
I've seen them frequently. As the old preacher observed to a
venerable lady, in reference to forerunners, I see 'em now.
Well, talking of that rare and curious specimen of the human family,
the man that knows every body, I've rather an amusing reminiscence of
one of 'em. Stopping over night at the Virginia House, in that
jumping off place of Western Virginia, Wheeling, some years ago, I had
the pleasure or pastime of meeting several of the big guns of the
nation, on their way from Washington city, home. It was in August, I
think, when, as is most generally the case, the Ohio river gets
monstrous low and feeble; when all of the large steamers are past
getting up so far, and travelling down the river becomes quite amusing
to amateurs, and particularly tedious and monotonous to business
people, bound home. Three hundred travellers, more or less, were laying
back at the Virginia and United States, in the aforesaid
hardscrabble of a city, or town, waiting for the river to get up, or
some means for them to get down.
The session of Congress had closed at Washington, some time before,
and as almost all of the M. C.'s, U. S. S.'s, wire pullers, hangers on,
blacklegs, horse jockeys, etc., etc., came over the National Road to
Wheeling, to take the river for Southern and Western destinations, of
course the assemblage at that place, at that time, was promiscuous, and
quite interesting; at least, Western and Southern men always make
themselves happy and interesting, home or abroad, and particularly so
when travelling. It was a glorious thing for the proprietors of the
hotels, to have such a host of guests, as a house full of company
always is a host, the guests having nothing else to do but lay back,
eat, drink, and be merry, and foot the bills when ready, or when
opportunity offers, togo.
They drank and smoked, and drank again, and told jests, and played
games and tricks, and thus passed the time along. Among the multitude
was one of those ever-talkative and chanting men of the world, who knew
all places and all menas he would have it. Just after removing
the cloth, at dinner, a knot of the old jokers, bacchanalians and wits,
settled away in a cluster, at the far end of a long table, and were
having a very pleasant time. The man of all talk was there; he was the
very nucleus of all that was being said or done. He was from
below, somewhere, on his way, as he informed the crowd, to Washington
city, upon affairs of no slight importance to himself and the country
Oho! says one of the party, a sly, winking, fat and rosy
gentleman, whom we shall designate hereafter, you're bound to the
Yes, sir, responded the man of all talk.
Of course you've been there before? says the interrogator, nudging
a friend, and winking at the rest.
What? Me been in Washington before? Ha, ha! me been
there before! Bless you, me been in Washington city!
Oho! ha, ha! says the interrogator, you're one of the caucus
folks, eh? One of them wire pullers we read about, eh?
Me? Caucus? Ha, ha! Mum's the word, gents, (looking
killingly cunning.) Come, gentlemen, let's fill up. Ha, ha! me pulling
theha, ha! Well, here's to the old Constitution; let's hang by her,
while there's aaa button on Jabe's coat.
And they all responded, of course, to this eloquent sentiment.
Here's to Jabe's buttons, coat, hat, and breeches.
Excuse me, continued the first operator, after the toast was wet
down, you'll please excuse me, in behalf of some of my friends here;
as you've been down in that dratted place, and must know a good deal of
the goings on there, I'd like to inquire about a few things we Western
folks don't more than get an inkling of, through the papers.
Certainly; go on, sir, says the victim, assuming all the dignity
and depth of a man that's appealed to to settle a ponderous matter.
I'd like to inquire if those Kitchen Cabinet disclosures of the
Pennsylvania Senator, were true. Had you ever any means of satisfying
yourself that there is, or was, a real service of gold in the
Aye! that's what we'd all like to know, says another.
How many pieces were there?
What were they?
Aye, and what their heft was?
Mum, gentlemen; let's drinkno tales out of school, ha, ha! No,
nomum's the word. And looking funny and deep, merry and wise, all at
one and the same time, the man of all talk proposed to drink and
But they wouldn't drink, and insisted on the secret being let
outthey wanted a decided and positive answer, from a man who knew the
Gentlemen, said the victim, dropping his voice into a sort of
melo-dramatic stage whisper, and stooping quite over the table, so as
to collect the several heads and ears as close into a phalanx as
possible: gentlemen, it's a fact!
What? says the party.
All gold! says the victim.
A gold service? inquires the party.
Thirty-eight pieces! continued the victim.
Solid gold? chimed the rest.
Just half a ton in heft!
You don't tell us that?
Know it; eat out of 'em, then weighed 'em all!
P-h-e-w! whistled some, while others went into stronger
Fact, by the great
Oh, it's all right, sir; no doubt of it now, sir, said the mover
of the business, grasping the victim's upraised arm.
Then, of course, sir, you're well acquainted with Matty Van; on
good terms with the little Magician, continued the leading wag.
Me? me on good terms with Matty? Ha, ha! that is a good
joke; never go to Washington without cracking a bottle with the little
fox, and staying over night with him. Me on good terms with
Matty? We've had many a spree together! Yes, sir! and
the knowing one winked right and left.
Well, there's old Bullion, continued one of the interrogators, a
fine portly old gent, you know him, of course?
What, Tom Benton? Bless your souls, I don't know my letters half as
well as I know old Tom.
And Bill Allen, of Ohio? asked another. What sort of a fellow is
Bill Allen? Lord O! isn't he a coon? Bill Allen? I wish I had a
dime for every horn, and game of bluff, we've had together.
Well, there's another of 'em, inquiringly asked a fat,
farmer-looking old codger: Dr. Duncan, how's he stand down there about
Oh, well, he's a pretty good sort of an old chap, but, gents,
between you and I, (with another whisper,) there is a good deal of the
'old fogie' senna and salts about him. But then he's death and the pale
hoss on poker.
What, Doctor Duncan? says they.
Why, y-e-e-s, of course. Didn't he skin me out of my watch last
winter, playing poker, at Willard's?
Well, continued the fat farmer-looking man, I didn't know Duncan
Mum, not a word out of school; ha, ha! Let's drink, gents. Gamble?
Lord bless you, it's common as dish-water down thereI've played
euchre for hours with old Tom Benton, Harry Clay and Gen. Scott,
right behind the speaker's chair!
Then they all drank, of course, and some of the party
liked to have choked. The company now proposed to adjourn to the
smoking room, and they arose and left the table accordingly. The man of
all talk promenaded out on to the steps, and in course of half an hour,
says the leading spirit of the late dinner, or wine party, to him:
Ferguson, sir; George Adolphus Ferguson is my address, sir,
responded the victim.
Mr. Ferguson, did you know that your friend Benton was in town?
inquired the wag.
What, Tom Benton here?
And Allen, continued the wag.
What, Bill Allen, too? says the victim.
And Doctor Duncan.
You don't tell me all them fellows are here?
Yes, sir, your friends are all here. Come in and see them; your
friends will be delighted, says the wag, taking Mister Ferguson by the
arm, to lead him in.
Ha, ha! I'm aaha, ha! won't we have a time? But you just
step inI aI'll be in in one moment, but in less than half the
time, Mr. Ferguson mizzled, no one knew whither!
The gentlemen at the table, it is almost needless to say, were no
others than Benton, Allen, Duncan, and some three or four other
arbiters of the fate of our immense and glorious nation, in her
councils, and fresh from the capital.
Ferguson has not been heard of since.