The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. IV: American
My First Visit to Portland
By Seba Smith (17921868)
IN the fall of the year 1829 I took it into my head Id go to Portland. I had heard a good deal about Portland, what a fine place it was, and how the folks got rich there proper fast; and that fall there was a couple of new papers come up to our place from there, called the Portland Courier and Family Reader, and they told a good many queer kind of things about Portland, and one thing and another; and all at once it popped into my head, and I up and told father, and says:
Father stared a little at first and said he was afraid I would get lost; but when he see I was bent upon it, he give it up, and he stepped to his chist, and opened the till, and took out a dollar and gave it to me; and says he:
This made me feel rather bad for a minit or two, and I almost had a mind to give it up; and then again fathers dream came into my mind, and I mustered up courage and declared Id go. So I tackled up the old horse, and packed in a load of ax-handles and a few notions; and mother fried me some doughnuts and put em into a box, along with some cheese and sausages, and ropped me up another shirt, for I told her I didnt know how long I should be gone. After I got rigged out, I went round and bid all the neighbors good-by and jumped in and drove off for Portland.
Aunt Sally had been married two or three years before and moved to Portland; and I inquired round till I found out where she lived, and went there and put the old horse up, and ate some supper and went to bed.
And the next morning I got up and straightened right off to see the editor of the Portland Courier, for I knew by what I had seen in his paper that he was just the man to tell me which way to steer. And when I come to see him, I knew I was right; for soon as I told him my name and what I wanted, he took me by the hand as kind as if he had been a brother, and says he:
Mister, says he, Ill do anything I can to assist you. You have come to a good town. Portland is a healthy, thriving place, and any man with a proper degree of enterprise may do well here. But, says he, strangerand he looked mighty kind of knowingsays he, if you want to make out to your mind, you must do as the steamboats do.
Why, says he, they go ahead. And you must drive about among the folks here just as tho you were at home on the farm among the cattle. Dont be afraid of any of them, but figure away, and I dare say youll get into good business in a very little while. But, says he, theres one thing you must be careful of, and that is, not to get into the hands of those are folks that trades up round Hucklers Row, for theres some sharpers up there, if they get hold of you, would twist your eye-teeth out in five minits.
Well, arter he had giv me all the good advice he could, I went back to Aunt Sallys agin and got some breakfast; and then I walked all over the town, to see what chance I could find to sell my ax-handles and things and to git into business.
Well, then, says I to myself, I have a pesky good mind to go in and have a try with one of these chaps and see if they can twist my eye-teeth out. If they can get the best end of a bargain out of me they can do what there aint a man in our place can do; and I should just like to know what sort of stuff these ere Portland chaps are made of. So in I goes into the best-looking store among em. And I see some biscuit lying on the shelf, and says I:
What! says I, do you mean to impose upon me? Do you think I am going to pay you for the biscuits, and let you keep them, too? Aint they there now on your shelf? What more do you want? I guess, sir, you dont whittle me in that way.