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A General Disquisition on “Hinges” by Jonathan F. Kelley


Did you ever see a real, true, unadulterated specimen of Down East, enter a store, or other place of every-day business, for the purpose of “looking around,” or dicker a little? They are “coons,” they are, upon all such occasions. We noted one of these “critters” in the store of a friend of ours, on Blackstone Street, recently. He was a full bloom Yankee—it stuck out all over him. He sauntered into the store, as unconcerned, quietly, and familiarly, as though in no great hurry about anything in particular, and killing time, for his own amusement. Absalom, Abijah, Ananias, Jedediah, or Jeremiah, or whatever else his name may have been, wore a very large fur cap, upon a very small and close-cut head; his features were mightily pinched up; there was a cunning expression about the corner of his eyes, not unlike the embodiment of—“catch a weazel asleep!” while the smallness of his mouth, thinness and blue cast of his chin and lips, bespoke a keen, calculating, pinch a four-pence until it squeaked like a frightened locomotive temperament! His “boughten” sack coat, fitting him all over, similar to a wet shirt on a broom-handle, was pouched out at the pockets with any quantity of numerous articles, in the way of books and boots, pamphlets and perfumery, knick-knacks and gim-cracks, calico, candy, &c. His vest was short, but that deficiency was made up in superfluity of dickey, and a profusion of sorrel whiskers. Having got into the store, he very leisurely walked around, viewing the hardware, separately and minutely, until one of the clerks edged up to him:

“What can we do for you to-day, sir?”

Looking quarteringly at the clerk for about two full minutes, says he—

“I'd dunno, just yet, mister, what yeou kin do.”

“Those are nice hinges, real wrought,” says the clerk, referring to an article the “customer” had just been gazing at with evident interest.

“Rale wrought?” he asked, after another lapse of two minutes.

“They are, yes, sir,” answered the clerk. Then followed another pause; the Yankee with both his hands sunk deep into his trowsers' pockets, and viewing the hinges at a respectful distance, in profound calculation, three minutes full.

“They be, eh?” he at length responded.

“Yes, sir, warranted,” replied the clerk. Another long pause. The Yankee approached the hinges, two steps—picks up a bundle of the article, looks knowingly at them two minutes—

“Yeou don't say so?”

“No doubt about that, at all,” the clerk replies, rather pertly, as he moves off to wait upon another customer, who bought some eight or ten dollars' worth of cutlery and tools, paid for them, and cleared out, while our Yankee genius was still reconnoitering the hinges.

“I say, mister, where's them made?” inquires the Yankee.

“In England, sir,” replied the clerk.

“Not in Neuw England, I'll bet a fo'pence!”

“No, not here—in Europe.”

“I knowed they warn't made areound here, by a darn'd sight!”

“We've plenty of American hinges, if you wish them,” said the clerk.

“I've seen hinges made in aour place, better'n them.”

“Perhaps you have. We have finer hinges,” answered the clerk.

“I 'spect you have; I don't call them anything great, no how!”

“Well, here's a better article; better hinges—”

“Well, them's pooty nice,” said the Yankee, interrupting the clerk, “but they're small hinges.”

“We have all sizes of them, sir, from half an inch to four inches.”

“You hev?” inquiringly observed the Yankee, as the clerk again left him and the hinges, to wait on another customer, who bought a keg of nails, &c., and left.

“I see you've got brass hinges, tew!” again continued the Yankee, after musing to himself for twenty minutes, full.

“O, yes, plenty of them,” obligingly answered the clerk.

“How's them brass 'uns work?”

“Very well, I guess; used for lighter purposes,” said the clerk.

“Put 'em on desks, and cubber-doors, and so on?”

“Yes; they are used in a hundred ways.”

“Hinges,” says the Yankee, after a pause, “ain't considered, I guess, a very neuw invenshun?”

“I should think not,” half smilingly replied the clerk.

“D'yeou ever see wooden hinges, mister?”

“Never,” candidly responded the clerk.

“Well, I hev,” resolutely echoed the Yankee.

“You have, eh?”

“E' yes, plenty on 'em—eout in Illinoi; seen fellers eout there that never seen an iron hinge or a razor in their lives!”

“I wasn't aware our western friends were so far behind the times as that,” said the clerk.

“It's a fact—dreadful, tew, to be eout in a place like that,” continued the Yankee. “I kept school eout there, nigh on to a year; couldn't stand it—”

“Ah, indeed!” mechanically echoed the poor clerk.

“No, sir; dreadful place, some parts of Illinoi; folks air almighty green; couldn't tell how old they air, nuff on 'em; when they get mighty old and bald-headed, they stop and die off, of their own accord.”

“Illinois must be a healthy place?” observed the clerk.

“Healthy place! I guess not, mister; fever and ague sweetens 'em, I tell you. O, it's dreadful, fever and ague is!”

“That caused you to leave, I suppose?” said the clerk.

“Well, e' yes, partly; the climate, morals, and the water, kind o' went agin me. The big boys had a way o' fightin', cursin', and swearin', pitchin' apple cores and corn at the master, that didn't exactly suit me. Finally, one day, at last, the boys got so confeounded sassy, and I got the fever and agy so bad, that they shook daown the school-house chimney, and I shook my hair nearly all eout by the roots, with the agy—so I packed up and slid!

The clerk being again called away to wait on a fresh customer, the Yankee was left to his meditations and survey. Having some twenty more minutes to walk around the store, and examine the stock, he brought up opposite the clerk, who was busy tying up gimlets, screws, and stuff, for a carpenter's apprentice. Yankee explodes again.

“Got a big steore of goods layin' areound here, haven't yeou?”

“We have, sir, a fair assortment,” said the clerk.

“Them Illinoi folks haven't no idee what a place this Boston is; they haven't. I tried to larn 'em a few things towards civilization, but 'twaren't no sort o' use tryin'!”

“New country yet; the Illinois folks will brighten up after a while, I guess,” said the clerk. “Did you wish to examine any other sort of hinges, sir?” he continued.

“Hain't I seen all yeou hev?”

“O, no; here we have another variety of hinges, steel, copper, plated, &c. These are fine for parlor doors, &c.,” said the clerk.

“E' yes them air nice, I swow, mister; look like rale silver. I 'spect them cost somethin'?”

“They come rather high,” said the clerk, “but we've got them as low as you can buy them in the market.”

“I want to know!” quietly echoes the Yankee.

“Yes, sir; what do you wish to use them for?” says the clerk.

“Use 'em?” responded the Yankee.

“Yes; what priced hinges did you require?”

“What priced hinges?—”

“Exactly! Tell me what you require them for, and I can soon come at the sort of hinges you require,” said the clerk, making an effort to come to a climax.

“Who said I wanted any hinges?”

“Who said you wanted any? Why, don't you want to buy hinges?”

“Buy hinges? Why, no; I don't want nothin'; I only came in to look areound!”

Having looked around, the imperturbable Yankee stepped out, leaving the poor clerk—quite flabbergasted!


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