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Ben. McConachy's Great Dog Sell by Jonathan F. Kelley

 

A great many dogmas have been written, and may continue to be written, on dogs. Confessing, once, to a dogmatical regard for dogs, we “went in” for the canine race, with a zeal we have bravely outgrown; and we live to wonder how men—to say nothing of spinsters of an uncertain age—can heap money and affections upon these four-legged brutes, whose sole utility is to doze in the corner or kennel, terrify stray children, annoy horsemen, and keep wholesome meat from the stomachs of many a poor, starving beggar at your back gate. There is no use for dogs in the city, and precious little use for them any where else; and as Boz says of oysters—you always find a preponderance of dogs where you find the most poor people. Philadelphia's the place for dogs; in the suburbs, especially after night, if you escape from the onslaught of the rowdies, you will find the dogs a still greater and more atrocious nuisance. No rowdy, or gentleman at large, in the Quaker City, feels finished, without a lean, lank, hollow dog trotting along at their heels; while the butchers and horse-dealers revel in a profusion of mastiffs and dastardly curs, perfectly astounding—to us. This brings us to a short and rather pithy story of a dog sell.

Some years ago, a knot of men about town, gentlemen highly “posted up” on dogs, and who could talk hoss and dog equal to a Lord Bentick, or Hiram Woodruff, or “Acorn,” or Col. Bill Porter, of the “Spirit,” were congregated in a famous resort, a place known as Hollahan's. A dog-fight that afternoon, under the “Linden trees,” in front of the “State House,” gave rise to a spirited debate upon the result of the battle, and the respective merits of the two dogs. Words waxed warm, and the disputants grew boisterously eloquent upon dogs of high and low degree,—dogs they had read of, and dogs they had seen; and, in fact, we much doubt, if ever before or since—this side of “Seven Dials” or St. Giles', there was a more thorough and animated discussion, on dogs, witnessed.

An old and rusty codger, one whose outward bruises might have led a disciple of Paley to imagine they had caused a secret enjoyment within, sat back in the nearest corner, towards the stove, a most attentive auditor to the thrilling debate. Between his outspread feet, a dog was coiled up, the only indifferent individual present, apparently unconcerned upon the subject.

“Look here,” says the old codger, tossing one leg over t'other, and taking an easy and convenient attitude of observation; “look here, boys, you're talkin' about dogs!

“Dogs?” says one of the most prominent speakers.

“Dogs,” echoes the old one.

“Why, yes, daddy, we are talking about dogs.”

“What do you know about dogs?” says a full-blown Jakey, looking sharply at the old fellow.

“Know about dogs?

“A' yes-s,” says Jakey. “I bet dis five dollars, ole feller, you don't know a Spaniel from a butcher's cur!

“Well,” responds the old one, transposing his legs, “may be I don't, but it's my 'pinion you'd make a sorry fiste at best, if you had tail and ears a little longer!”

This sally amused all but the young gentleman who “run wid de machine,” and attracted general attention towards the old man, in whose eyes and wrinkles lurked a goodly share of mother wit and shrewdness. Jakey backing down, another of the by-standers put in.

“Poppy, I expect you know what a good dog is?”

“I reckon, boys, I orter. But I'm plaguy dry listening to your dog talk—confounded dry!”

“What'll you drink, daddy?” said half a dozen of the dog fanciers, thinking to wet the old man's whistle to get some fun out of him. “What'll you drink?—come up, daddy.”

“Sperrets, boys, good old sperrets,” and the old codger drank; then giving his lips a wipe with the back of his hand, and drawing out a long, deep “ah-h-h-h!” he again took his seat, observing, as he partially aroused his ugly and cross-grained mongrel—

“Here's a dog, boys.”

“That your dog, dad?” asked several.

“That's my dog, boys. He is a dog.”

“Ain't he, tho'?” jocularly responded the dog men.

“What breed, daddy, do you call that dog of yours?” asked one.

“Breed? He ain't any breed, he ain't. Stand up, Barney, (jerking up the sneaking-looking thing.) He's no breed, boys; look at him—see his tushes; growl, Barney, growl!—Ain't them tushes, boys? He's no breed, boys; he's original stock!

“Well, so I was going to say,” says one.

“That dog,” says another, “must be valuable.”

“Waluable?” re-echoes the old man; “he is all that, boys; I wouldn't sell him; but, boys, I'm dry, dry as a powder horn—so much talkin' makes one dry.”

“Well, come up, poppy; what'll you take?” said the boys.

“Sperrets, boys; good old sperrets. I do like good sperrets, boys, and that sperrets, Mister (to the ruffled-bosomed bar-keeper), o' your'n is like my dog—can't be beat!

“Well, daddy,” continued the dog men, “where'd you get your dog?”

“That dog,” said the old fellow, again giving his mouth a back-hander, and his “ah-h-h!” accompaniment; “well, I'll tell you, boys, all about it.”

“Do, poppy, that's right; now, tell us all about it,” they cried.

“Well, boys, 'd any you know Ben. McConachy, out here at the Risin' Sun Tavern?”

“We've heard of him, daddy—go on,” says they.

“Well, I worked for Ben. McConachy, one winter; he was a pizen mean man, but his wife—wasn't she mean? Why, boys, she'd spread all the bread with butter afore we sat down to breakfast; she'd begin with a quarter pound of butter, and when she'd got through, she had twice as much left.”

“But how about the dog, daddy? Come, tell us about your dog.”

“Well, yes, I'll tell you, boys. You see, Ben. McConachy owned this dog; set up, Barney—look at his ears, boys—great, ain't they? Well, Ben's wife was mean—meaner than pizen. She hated this dog; she hated any thing that et; she considered any body, except her and her daughter (a pizen ugly gal), that et three pieces of bread and two cups of coffee at a meal, awful!

“Blow the old woman; tell us about the dog, poppy,” said they.

“Now, I'm coming to the pint—but, Lord! boys, I never was so dry in my life. I am dry—plaguy dry,” said the old one.

“Well, daddy, step up and take something; come,” said the dog men; “now let her slide. How about the dog?

“Ah-h-h-h! that's great sperrets, boys. Mister (to the bar-keeper), I don't find such sperrets as that often. Well, boys, as you're anxious to hear about the dog, I'll tell you all about him. You see, the old woman and Ben. was allers spatten 'bout one thing or t'other, and 'specially about this dog. So one day Ben. McConachy hears a feller wanted to buy a good dog, down to the drove yard, and he takes Barney—stand up, Barney—see that, boys; how quick he minds! Great dog, he is. Well, Ben. takes Barney, and down he goes to the drove yard. He met the feller; the feller looked at the dog; he saw Barney was a dog—he looked at him, asked how old he was; if that was all the dog Ben. owned, and he seemed to like the dog—but, boys, I'm gittin' dry—rotted dry—”

“Go on, tell us all about the dog, then we'll drink,” says the boys.

“'Well,' says Ben. McConachy to the feller, 'now, make us an offer for him.' Now, what do you suppose, boys, that feller's first offer was?”

The boys couldn't guess it; they guessed and guessed; some one price, some another, all the way from five to fifty dollars—the old fellow continuing to say “No,” until they gave it up.

“Well, boys, I'll tell you—that feller, after looking and looking at Ben. McConachy's dog, tail to snout, half an hour—didn't offer a red cent for him! Ben. come home in disgust and give the dog to me—there he is. Now, boys, we'll have that sperrets.”

But on looking around, the boys had cut the pit—mizzled!

 
 
 

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