I simply mention these things in a general way. You know blame well that I don’t understand any French, and so when you spring it on me you are simply showing a customer the wrong line of goods. It’s like trying to sell our Pickled Luncheon Tidbits to a fellow in the black belt who doesn’t buy anything but plain dry-salt hog in hunks and slabs. It makes me a little nervous for fear you’ll be sending out a lot of letters to the trade some day, asking them if their stock of Porkuss Americanuss isn’t running low.
The world is full of bright men who know all the right things to say and who say them in the wrong place. A young fellow always thinks that if he doesn’t talk he seems stupid, but it’s better to shut up and seem dull than to open up and prove yourself a fool. It’s a pretty good rule to show your best goods last.
Whenever I meet one of those fellows who tells you all he knows, and a good deal that he doesn’t know, as soon as he’s introduced to you, I always think of Bill Harkness, who kept a temporary home for broken-down horses—though he didn’t call it that—back in Missouri. Bill would pick up an old critter whose par value was the price of one horse-hide, and after it had been pulled and shoved into his stable, the boys would stand around waiting for crape to be hung on the door. But inside a week Bill would be driving down Main Street behind that horse, yelling Whoa! at the top of his voice while it tried to kick holes in the dashboard.
Bill had a theory that the Ten Commandments were suspended while a horse-trade was going on, so he did most of his business with strangers. Caught a Northerner nosing round his barn one day, and inside of ten minutes the fellow was driving off behind what Bill described as “the peartest piece of ginger and cayenne in Pike County.” Bill just made a free gift of it to the Yankee, he said, but to keep the transaction from being a piece of pure charity he accepted fifty dollars from him.
The stranger drove all over town bragging of his bargain, until some one casually called his attention to the fact that the mare was stone-blind. Then he hiked back to Bill’s and went for him in broken Bostonese, winding up with:
“What the skip-two-and-carry-one do you mean, you old hold-your-breath-and-take-ten-swallows, by stealing my good money. Didn’t you know the horse was blind? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Yep,” Bill bit off from his piece of store plug; “I reckon I knew the hoss was blind, but you see the feller I bought her of”—and he paused to settle his chaw—“asked me not to mention it. You wouldn’t have me violate a confidence as affected the repertashun of a pore dumb critter, and her of the opposite sect, would you?” And the gallant Bill turned scornfully away from the stranger.