MY FIRST VISIT TO PORTLAND
by Major Jack Downing
In the fall of the year 1829, I took it into my head I'd 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,--
"I am going to Portland, whether or no; and I'll see what this world
is made of yet."
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 he gave
it to me; and says he,--
"Jack, this is all I can do for you; but go and lead an honest life,
and I believe I shall hear good of you yet."
He turned and walked across the room, but I could see the tears start
into his eyes. And mother sat down and had a hearty crying-spell.
This made me feel rather bad for a minit or two, and I almost had a
mind to give it up; and then again father's dream came into my mind,
and I mustered up courage, and declared I'd go. So I tackled up the
old horse, and packed in a load of axe-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 didn't know how long I should be gone. And 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 eat some supper, and went
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, "I'll 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, "stranger," and he looked mighty kind of knowing, says he, "if
you want to make out to your mind, you must do as the steamboats
"Well," says I, "how do they do?" for I didn't know what a steamboat
was, any more than the man in the moon.
"Why," says he, "they go ahead. And you must drive about among the
folks here just as though you were at home, on the farm among the
cattle. Don't be afraid of any of them, but figure away, and I dare
say you'll get into good business in a very little while. But," says
he, "there's one thing you must be careful of; and that is, not to
get into the hands of those are folks that trades up round Huckler's
Row, for ther's 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 Sally's ag'in, and got some breakfast; and then I walked all over
the town, to see what chance I could find to sell my axe-handles and
things and to get into business.
After I had walked about three or four hours, I come along towards
the upper end of the town, where I found there were stores and shops
of all sorts and sizes. And I met a feller, and says I,--
"What place is this?"
"Why, this," says he, "is Huckler's Row."
"What!" says I, "are these the stores where the traders in Huckler's
And says he, "Yes."
"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 ain't 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 I goes into the best-looking store among 'em. And I see
some biscuit on the shelf, and says I,--
"Mister, how much do you ax apiece for them 'ere biscuits?"
"A cent apiece," says he.
"Well," says I, "I shan't give you that, but, if you've a mind to,
I'll give you two cents for three of them, for I begin to feel a
little as though I would like to take a bite."
"Well," says he, "I wouldn't sell 'em to anybody else so, but, seeing
it's you, I don't care if you take 'em."
I knew he lied, for he never seen me before in his life. Well, he
handed down the biscuits, and I took 'em and walked round the store
awhile, to see what else he had to sell. At last says I,--
"Mister, have you got any good cider?"
Says he, "Yes, as good as ever ye see."
"Well," says I, "what do you ax a glass for it?"
"Two cents," says he.
"Well," says I, "seems to me I feel more dry than I do hungry now.
Ain't you a mind to take these 'ere biscuits again, and give me a
glass of cider?"
And says he,--
"I don't care if I do."
So he took and laid 'em on the shelf again, and poured out a glass
of cider. I took the cider and drinkt it down, and, to tell the
truth, it was capital good cider. Then says I,--
"I guess it's time for me to be a-going," and I stept along towards
the door; but says he,--
"Stop, mister: I believe you haven't paid me for the cider?"
"Not paid you for the cider!" says I. "What do you mean by that?
Didn't the biscuits that I give you just come to the cider?"
"Oh, ah, right!" says he.
So I started to go again, and says he,--
"But stop there, mister: you didn't pay me for the biscuits."
"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? Ain't
they there now on your shelf? What more do you want? I guess, sir,
you don't whittle me in that way."
So I turned about and marched off, and left the feller staring and
scratching his head, as though he was struck with a dunderment.
Howsomever, I didn't want to cheat him, only jest to show 'em it
wa'n't so easy a matter to pull my eye-teeth out; so I called in
next day and paid him two cents.
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~