Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Mr. Samuel Slick
By Thomas Chandler Haliburton (1796–1865)
From ‘The Clockmaker’

I HAD heard of Yankee clock-peddlers, tin-peddlers, and Bible-peddlers,—especially of him who sold Polyglot Bibles (all in English) to the amount of sixteen thousand pounds. The house of every substantial farmer had three substantial ornaments: a wooden clock, a tin reflector, and a Polyglot Bible. How is it that an American can sell his wares at whatever price he pleases, where a Bluenose would fail to make a sale at all? I will inquire of the Clockmaker the secret of his success.  1
  “What a pity it is, Mr. Slick,”—for such was his name,—“what a pity it is,” said I, “that you, who are so successful in teaching these people the value of clocks, could not also teach them the value of time.”  2
  “I guess,” said he, “they have got that ring to grow on their horns yet, which every four-year-old has in our country. We reckon hours and minutes to be dollars and cents. They do nothing in these parts but eat, drink, smoke, sleep, ride about, lounge at taverns, make speeches at temperance meetings, and talk about ‘House of Assembly.’ If a man don’t hoe his corn, and he don’t get a crop, he says it is owing to the bank; and if he runs into debt and is sued, why, he says the lawyers are a curse to the country. They are a most idle set of folks, I tell you.”  3
  “But how is it,” said I, “that you manage to sell such an immense number of clocks, which certainly cannot be called necessary articles, among a people with whom there seems to be so great a scarcity of money?”  4
  Mr. Slick paused, as if considering the propriety of answering the question, and looking me in the face, said in a confidential tone:—  5
  “Why, I don’t care if I do tell you; for the market is glutted, and I shall quit this circuit. It is done by a knowledge of soft sawder and human natur’. But here is Deacon Flint’s,” said he; “I have but one clock left, and I guess I will sell it to him.”  6
  At the gate of a most comfortable-looking farm-house stood Deacon Flint, a respectable old man who had understood the value of time better than most of his neighbors, if one might judge from the appearance of everything about him. After the usual salutation, an invitation to “alight” was accepted by Mr. Slick, who said he wished to take leave of Mrs. Flint before he left Colchester.  7
  We had hardly entered the house before the Clockmaker pointed to the view from the window, and addressing himself to me, said: “If I was to tell them in Connecticut there was such a farm as this away down-east here in Nova Scotia, they wouldn’t believe me. Why, there ain’t such a location in all New England. The deacon has a hundred acres of dike—”  8
  “Seventy,” said the deacon, “only seventy.”  9
  “Well, seventy: but then there is your fine deep bottom; why, I could run a ramrod into it—”  10
  “Interval, we call it,” said the deacon, who, though evidently pleased at this eulogium, seemed to wish the experiment of the ramrod to be tried in the right place.  11
  “Well, interval, if you please—though Professor Eleazer Cumstick, in his work on Ohio, calls them bottoms—is just as good as dike. Then there is that water privilege, worth three or four thousand dollars, twice as good as what Governor Cass paid fifteen thousand dollars for. I wonder, deacon, you don’t put up a carding-mill on it; the same works would carry a turning-lathe, a shingle machine, a circular saw, grind bark, and—”  12
  “Too old,” said the deacon; “too old for all those speculations.”  13
  “Old!” repeated the Clockmaker, “not you: why, you are worth half a dozen of the young men we see nowadays; you are young enough to have”—here he said something in a lower tone of voice, which I did not distinctly hear: but whatever it was, the deacon was pleased; he smiled, and said he did not think of such things now.  14
  “But your beasts—dear me, your beasts must be put in and have a feed;” saying which, he went out to order them to be taken to the stable.  15
  As the old gentleman closed the door after him, Mr. Slick drew near to me, and said in an undertone, “That is what I call ‘soft sawder.’ An Englishman would pass that man as a sheep passes a hog in a pasture, without looking at him; or,” said he, looking rather archly, “if he was mounted on a pretty smart horse, I guess he’d trot away if he could. Now I find—” Here his lecture on “soft sawder” was cut short by the entrance of Mrs. Flint.  16
  “Jist come to say good-by, Mrs. Flint.”  17
  “What, have you sold all your clocks?”  18
  “Yes, and very low too; for money is scarce, and I wish to close the consarn—no, I am wrong in saying all, for I have just one left. Neighbor Steel’s wife asked to have the refusal of it, but I guess I won’t sell it; I had but two of them, this one and the feller of it, that I sold Governor Lincoln. General Green, the Secretary of State for Maine, said he’d give me fifty dollars for this here one—it has composition wheels and patent axles, is a beautiful article, a real first-chop, no mistake, genuine superfine—but I guess I’ll take it back; and besides, Squire Hawk might think kinder hard that I did not give him the offer.”  19
  “Dear me!” said Mrs. Flint, “I should like to see it; where is it?”  20
  “It is in a chest of mine over the way, at Tom Tape’s store. I guess he can ship it on to Eastport.”  21
  “That’s a good man,” said Mrs. Flint, “jist let’s look at it.”  22
  Mr. Slick, willing to oblige, yielded to these entreaties and soon produced the clock,—a gaudy, highly varnished, trumpery-looking affair. He placed it on the chimney-piece, where its beauties were pointed out and duly appreciated by Mrs. Flint, whose admiration was about ending in a proposal, when Mr. Flint returned from giving his directions about the care of the horses. The deacon praised the clock; he too thought it a handsome one: but the deacon was a prudent man; he had a watch; he was sorry, but he had no occasion for a clock.  23
  “I guess you’re in the wrong furrow this time, deacon: it ain’t for sale,” said Mr. Slick; “and if it was, I reckon neighbor Steel’s wife would have it, for she gave me no peace about it.”  24
  Mrs. Flint said that Mr. Steel had enough to do, poor man, to pay his interest, without buying clocks for his wife.  25
  “It is no consarn of mine,” said Mr. Slick, “as long as he pays me, what he has to do: but I guess I don’t want to sell it, and besides, it comes too high; that clock can’t be made at Rhode Island under forty dollars.—Why, it ain’t possible!” said the Clockmaker in apparent surprise, looking at his watch; “why, as I’m alive, it is four o’clock, and if I haven’t been two hours here! How on airth shall I reach River Philip to-night? I’ll tell you what, Mrs. Flint; I’ll leave the clock in your care till I return, on my way to the States. I’ll set it a-going, and put it to the right time.”  26
  As soon as this operation was performed, he delivered the key to the deacon with a sort of serio-comic injunction to wind up the clock every Saturday night,—which Mrs. Flint said she would take care should be done, and promised to remind her husband of it, in case he should chance to forget it.  27
  “That,” said the Clockmaker, as soon as we were mounted, “that I call ‘human natur’’! Now, that clock is sold for forty dollars; it cost me just six dollars and fifty cents. Mrs. Flint will never let Mrs. Steel have the refusal, nor will the deacon learn, until I call for the clock, having once indulged in the use of a superfluity, how difficult it is to give it up. We can do without any article of luxury we have never had; but when once obtained, it is not in human natur’ to surrender it voluntarily. Of fifteen thousand sold by myself and partners in this province, twelve thousand were left in this manner, and only ten clocks were ever returned; when we called for them they invariably bought them. We trust to ‘soft sawder’ to get them into the house, and to human natur’ that they never come out of it.”  28

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