“To seek the outer world was a perilous undertaking for fear that the triply-named knife might come to grief; but a snug harbor was reached at last, and hugging the precious bit, the Spectator mysteriously disappeared on reaching his home. No one must know of his success until the mystery was cleaned, brightened, and restored to pristine beauty. The Spectator rubbed the gummy surface with kerosene, and then polished it with flannel. Then warm water and a tooth brush were brought into play, and the oil all removed. Then a long dry polishing, and the restoration was complete. Certainly no other Smalltowner had such a wooden knife; and it was indeed beautiful. Black in a cross light, red in direct light, and kaleidoscopic by gaslight. Ah, such a prize! The family knew that something strange was transpiring, but what no one had an inkling. They must wait patiently, and they did. The Spectator proudly appeared, his prize in hand. ‘See there!’ he cried in triumph, and they all looked eagerly; and when the Spectator’s pride was soaring at its highest, a younger daughter cried, ’Why, papa, it’s the back of a hair-brush!’ And it was.”
An auctioneer usually tries to be off-hand, waggish, and brisk—a cross between a street peddler and a circus clown, with a hint of the forced mirth of the after-dinner speaker. Occasionally the jokes are good and the answers from the audience show the ready Yankee wit.
Once an exceedingly fat man, too obese to descend from his high wagon, bought an immense dinner bell and he was hit unmercifully. A rusty old fly-catcher elicited many remarks—as “no flies on that.” I bought several chests, half full of rubbish, but found, alas! no hidden treasure, no missing jewels, no money hid away by miserly fingers and forgotten. Jake Corey, who was doing some work for me, encouraged me to hope. He said: “I hear ye patronize auctions putty reg’lar; sometimes there is a good deal to be made that way, and then ag’in there isn’t. I never had no luck that way, but it’s like getting married, it’s a lottery! Folks git queer and put money in some spot, where they’re apt to forgit all about it. Now I knew a man who bought an old hat and a sight of other stuff; jest threw in the hat. And when he got home and come to examine it ef thar warn’t three hundred dollars in good bills, chucked in under the sweater!”
“You ought to git over to Mason’s auction to Milldon, sure. It’s day after to-morrow at nine sharp. You see he’d a fortune left him, but he run straight through it buying the goldarndest things you ever heerd tell on—calves with six legs, dogs with three eyes or two tails, steers that could be druv most as well as hosses (Barnum he got hold o’ ’em and tuk ’em round with his show); all sorts o’ curious fowl and every outlandish critter he could lay his hands on. ’T stands to reason he couldn’t run that rig many years. Your goin’s on here made me think o’ Mason. He cut a wide swath for a time.