THE CERTIFICATE CONCERNING PITMAN'S HAIR—UNENDURABLE PERSECUTION—A WARNING TO MEN WITH BALDHEADED FRIENDS—AN EXPLANATION—THE SLANDERER DISCOVERED —BENJAMIN P. GUNN—A MODEL LIFE INSURANCE AGENT.
HAVE been the victim of a somewhat singular persecution for several weeks past. When we came here to live, Judge Pitman was partially bald. Somebody induced him to apply to his head a hair restorative made by a Chicago man named Pulsifer. After using this liquid for a few months, the judge was gratified to find that his hair had returned; and as he naturally regarded the remedy with admiration, he concluded that it would be simply fair to give expression to his feelings in some form. As I happened to be familiar with all the facts of the case, the judge induced me to draw up a certificate affirming them over my signature. This he mailed to Pulsiter. I have not yet ceased to regret the weakness which permitted me to stand sponsor for Judge Pitman's hair. Of course, Pulsifer immediately inserted the certificate; with my name and residence attached to it, in half the papers in the country, as a displayed advertisement; beginning with the words, "HOPE FOR THE BALDHEADED; THE MOST REMARKABLE CURE ON RECORD," in the largest capital letters.
I have had faith in advertising since that time. And Pulsifer had confidence in it too, for he wrote to me to know what I would take to get him up a series of similar certificates of cures performed by his other patent medicines. He had a corn-salve which dragged a little in its sales, and he was prepared to offer me a commission if I would write him a strong letter to the effect that six or eight frightful corns had been eradicated from my feet with his admirable preparation. He was in a position, also, to do something handsome if I could describe a few miraculous cures that had been effected by his Rheumatic Lotion, or if I would name certain ruined stomachs which had, as it were, been born again through the influence of Pulsifer's Herb Bitters; and from the manner in which he wrote, I think he would have taken me into partnership if I had consented to write an assurance that his Ready Relief had healed a bad leg of eighteen years' standing, and that I could never feel that my duty was honorably performed until he sent me a dozen bottles more for distribution among my friends whose legs were in that defective and tiresome condition. I was obliged to decline Pulsifer's generous offer.
I heard with singular promptness from other medical men. Fillemup & Killem forwarded some of their Hair Tonic, with a request for me to try it on any bald heads I happened to encounter, and report. Doser & Co. sent on two packages of their Capillary Pills, with a suggestion to the effect that if Pitman lost his hair again he would get it back finally by following the enclosed directions. I also heard from Brown & Bromley, the agents for Johnson's Scalp Awakener. They sent me twelve bottles for distribution among my bald friends; then Smith & Smithson wrote to say that a cask of their Vesuvius Wash for the hair would be delivered in my cellar by the express company; and a man called on me from Jones, Butler & Co. with a proposition to pump out my vinegar barrel, and fill it with Balm of Peru for the gratuitous use of the afflicted in the vicinity.
But this persecution was simply unalloyed felicity when compared with the suffering that came in other forms. I will not attempt to give the number of the letters I received. I cherish a conviction that the mail received at our post-office doubled the first week after Judge Pitman's cure was announced to a hairless world. I think every bald-headed man in the Tropic of Cancer must have written to me at least twice upon the subject of Pulsifer's Renovator and Pitman's hair. Persons dropped me a line to inquire if Pitman's baldness was hereditary; and if so, if it came from his father's or his mother's side. One man, a phrenologist, sent on a plaster head mapped out into town-lots, with a suggestion that I should ink over the bumps that had been barest and most fertile in the case of Pitman, He said he had a little theory which he wanted to demonstrate. A man in San Francisco wrote to inquire if my Pitman was the same Pitman who came out to California in 1849 with a bald head; and if he was, would I try to collect two dollars Pitman had borrowed from him in that year? The superintendent of a Sunday-school in Vermont forwarded eight pages of foolscap covered with an argument supporting the theory that it was impious to attempt to force hair to grlow upon a head which had been made bald, because although Elisha was bald, we find no record in the Bible that he used renovator of any kind. He warned Pitman to beware of Absalom's fate, and to avoid riding mules out in the woods. A woman in Snyder county, Penna., sent me a poem inspired by the incident, and entitled "Lines on the Return of Pitman's Hair." A party in Kansas desired to know whether I thought Pulsifer's Renovator could be used beneficially by a man who had been scalped. Two men in New Jersey wrote, in a manner totally irrelevant to the subject, to inquire if I could get each of them a good hired girl. I received a confidential letter from a man who was willing to let me into a "good thing" if I had five hundred dollars cash capital. Mrs. Singerly, of Frankford, related that she had shaved her dog, and shaved him too close, and she would be relieved if I would inform her if the Renovator would make hair grow on a dog. A devoted mother in Rhode Island said her little boy had accidentally drank a bottle of the stuff, and she would go mad unless I could assure her that there was no danger of her child having his stomach choked up with hair. And over eleven hundred boys inquired what effect the Renovator would have on the growth of whiskers which betrayed an inclination to stagnation.
But the visitors were a more horrible torment. Bald men came to see me in droves. They persecuted me at home and abroad. If I went to church, the sexton would call me out during the prayers to see a man in the vestibule who wished to ascertain if Pitman merely bathed his head or rubbed the medicine in with a brush. When I went to a party, some bald-headed miscreant would stop me in the midst of the dance to ask if Pitman's hair began to grow in the full of the moon or when it was new. While I was being shaved, some one would bolt into the shop and insist, as the barber held me by the nose, upon knowing whether Pitman wore ventilators in his hat. If I attended a wedding, as likely as not a bare-headed outlaw would stand by me at the altar and ask if Pitman ever slept in nightcaps; and more than once I was called out of bed at night by wretches who wished to learn, before they left the town, if I thought it hurt the hair to part it behind.
It became unendurable. I issued orders to the servants to admit to the house no man with a bald head. But that very day a stranger obtained admission to the parlor; and when I went down to see him, he stepped softly around, closed all the doors mysteriously, and asked me, in a whisper, if any one could hear us. Then he pulled off a wig; and handing me a microscope, he requested me to examine his scalp and tell him if there was any hope. I sent him over to see Pitman; and I gloat over the fact that he bored Pitman for two hours with his baldness.
I am sorry now that I ever wrote anything upon the subject of his hair. A bald Pitman, I know, is less fascinating than a Pitman with hair; but rather than have suffered this misery, I would prefer a Pitman without an eye-winker, or fuzz enough on him to make a camel's-hair pencil. But I shall hardly give another certificate of cure in any event. If I should see a patent-medicine man take a mummy which died the year Joseph was sold into Egypt, and dose it until it kicked off its rags and danced the polka mazourka while it whistled the tune, I would die at the stake sooner than acknowledge the miracle on paper. Pitman's hair winds me up as far as medical certificates are concerned.
Bob has succeeded in obtaining from Mr. Magruder an explanation of the interference of that stern parent with the progress of his love affair, and we hope now to secure a happy adjustment of the difficulty.
"When I entered the room," said Bob, "the old man looked gloomy and stiff, as if he regarded me as a totally depraved being, too far gone in iniquity to be worth an effort to effect a reform. I went right at him. I told him I had heard that some one had made certain charges against me which were likely to hurt my reputation, and that it was because of these that he had refused to permit me to marry his daughter.
"He said I had stated the case correctly. Then I asked him to give me the name of the person who had made these accusations. He hesitated for a few moments, and I then declared that the charges were false and slanderous, and asserted that I had a right to know who the author of them was.
"After thinking over the matter for a while, he said, 'Well, Mr. Parker, I believe you have that right. I have thought lately that I did not perhaps treat you very fairly in not bringing you face to face in the first place with the man who accused you. But I almost pledged myself to regard his statements as confidential; and as the evidence seemed to be overwhelming against you, I concluded not to offer you the opportunity. Mrs. Magruder takes a different view of the matter. She thinks you should not be condemned without a hearing, and she distrusts your accuser. His name is Smiley—Lieutenant Smiley.'
"Then the old man went on," said Bob, "and told me that Smiley had sought a private interview with him, at which Smiley had declared that I was not only a debauchee, but an atheist. He made this statement, he told Mr. Magruder, with reluctance and regret, but he felt that as a friend of the family he had a duty to perform which was imperative. Smiley declared that he had frequently seen me under the influence of liquor, and that I had often attacked him for professing to believe in the Christian religion. A splendid old professor of religion he is!" exclaimed Mr. Parker. "And then," continued Bob, "Mr. Magruder said Smiley produced two letters, one from a man named Dewey who pretended to be the pastor of a church in Philadelphia, from which he said I was dismissed for expressing atheistical opinions, and the other from a certain Samuel Stonebury, wherein Samuel gave me a dreadful character for honesty and sobriety,
"Thereupon I informed Mr. Magruder that I knew of no clergyman named Dewey, and that I didn't believe such a man existed in Philadelphia; that I never belonged to any church, and certainly was never kicked out of one because of my atheistical opinions, for I never entertained such views. I informed him also that Mr. Stonebury was a youth who was once employed in our store, and who was discharged because I discovered that he had been stealing. How Smiley found him I can't imagine. They must have had a natural tendency to gravitate toward each other as children of the same old father of lies.
"Then Mr. Magruder said that if I could prove these facts he would not only hand Bessie over to me again, but he would also make me a very humble apology. I promised to accomplish these results, and to-morrow I will set about the work. I have no doubt at all that Stonebury wrote the letter signed 'Dewey,' and that Smiley suggested that playful little dodge to him. I will move on Smiley's works when I meet him. He is the wickedest kind of a scoundrel."
And so the case of Parker versus Smiley stands at present. I should have a higher respect for Magruder if he had acted more justly with Bob in the first place. If Mrs. Magruder's instinct and common sense had not induced her to regard Smiley with suspicion, I am afraid that Bob's wrongs would never have been righted. The doctor is evidently the wiser and better person of the two, and I am not surprised now that she keeps her husband a little in the background.
Some relatives of the Magruders named Kemper came to the village to live a few weeks ago, and they rented a house not far from mine. We have a life insurance agent in the town named Benjamin P. Gunn, and he is decidedly the most enterprising and indefatigable of the fraternity of which he is a member. He has already bored everybody in the county nearly to death, and it is easy to imagine the delight he feels when a new victim comes within his reach. The Kempers were hardly fixed in their new home when Gunn, who had been awaiting with impatience a chance to attack them, one morning called for the purpose of ascertaining if he could induce Mr. Kemper to take out a policy of insurance upon his life. In response to his summons Mrs. Kemper came into the parlor to see him. The following conversation then ensued:
"I suppose," said Gunn, "Mr. Kemper has no insurance on his life?"
"No," said Mrs. Kemper.
"Well, I'd like to get him to take a policy in our company. It's the safest in the world—the largest capital, smallest rates and biggest dividends."
"Mr. Kemper don't take much interest in such things now," said Mrs. K.
"Well, madam, but he ought to, in common justice to you. No man knows when he will die; and by paying a ridiculously small sum now, Mr. Kemper can leave his family in affluence. I'd like to hand you, for him, a few pamphlets containing statistics upon the subject; may I?"
"Of course, if you wish to."
"Don't you think he can be induced to insure?" asked Gunn.
"I hardly think so," replied Mrs. Kemper.
"He is in good health, I suppose? Has he complained lately of being sick?"
"May I ask if he has any considerable wealth?"
"Not a cent."
"Then, of course, he must insure. No poor man can afford to neglect such an opportunity. I suppose he travels sometimes—goes about in railroad cars and other dangerous places?"
"No, he keeps very quiet."
"Man of steady habits, I s'pose?"
"He is the very man I want," said Gunn. "I know l can sell him a policy."
"I don't think you can," replied Mrs. Kemper.
"Why? When will he be home? I'll call on him. I don't know of any reason why I shouldn't insure him."
"I know," replied Mrs. K.
"He has been dead twenty-seven years!" said the widow.
Then Mr. Gunn said "good-morning," and returned to his office. The widow must have told the story to some one, probably to Magruder, for it was soon known all over town, and those who had suffered from an excess of Gunn gloried in his discomfiture. As this was the first time in his career that he had ever been down, it is not surprising that several of his enemies should improve the opportunity by giving him a few vigorous kicks. The most venomous attack upon him however, appeared in the Argus. It came, I think, from that remarkable medical man Dr. Tobias Jones, who dislikes Gunn because he employs a rival physician, Dr. Brindley, to examine persons who apply for policies. He called the article
A LIFE INSURANCE AGENT.
His name was Benjamin P. Gunn, and he was the agent for a life insurance company. He came around to my office fourteen times in one morning to see if he could not persuade me to take out a policy. He used to waylay me on the street, at church, in my own house, and bore me about that policy. If I went to the opera, Gunn would buy the seat next to me, and sit there the whole evening talking about sudden death and the advantages of the ten-year plan. If I got into a railway car, Gunn would come rushing in and sit by my side, and drag out a lot of mortality tables and begin to explain how I could gouge a fortune out of his company. If I sat down to dinner in a restaurant, up would come Gunn; and seizing the chair next to me, he would tell a cheering anecdote about a man who insured in his company for $50,000 only last week, and was buried yesterday. If I attended the funeral of a departed friend, and wept as they threw the earth upon his coffin, I would hear a whisper; and turning around, there would be the indomitable Benjamin P. Gunn, bursting to say, "Poor Smith! Knew him well. Insured for ten thousand in our company. Widow left in comfortable circumstances. Let me take your name. Shall I?"
He followed me everywhere, until at last I got so sick of Gunn's persecutions that I left town suddenly one evening and hid myself in a distant city, hoping to get rid of him. At the end of two weeks I returned, reaching home at one o'clock in the morning. I had hardly got into bed before there was a ring at the door-bell. I looked out, and there was Gunn with another person. Mr. Gunn observed that he expected my return, and thought he would call about that insurance policy. He said he had the doctor with him, and if I would come down he would take my name and have me examined immediately. I was too indignant to reply. I shut the window with a slam and went to bed again. After breakfast in the morning I opened the front door, and there was Gunn sitting on the steps with his doctor, waiting for me. He had been there all night. As I came out they seized me and tried to undress me there on the pavement in order to examine me. I retreated and locked myself up in the garret, with orders to admit nobody to the house until I came downstairs.
But Gunn wouldn't be baffled. He actually rented the house next door and stationed himself in the garret adjoining mine. When he got fixed, he spent his time pounding on the partition and crying, "Hallo! I say! how about that policy? Want to take it out now?" And then—he would tell me some more anecdotes about men who were cut off immediately after paying the first premium. But I paid no attention to him and made no noise. Then he was silent for a while.
Suddenly the trap-door of my garret was wrenched off; and upon looking up, I saw Gunn, with the doctor and a crowbar and a lot of death-rates, coming down the ladder at me. I fled from the house to the Presbyterian church close by, and paid the sexton twenty dollars to let me climb up to the point of the steeple and sit astride of the ball. I promised him twenty more if he would exclude everybody from that steeple for a week. Once safely on the ball, three hundred feet from the earth, I made myself comfortable with the thought that I had Gunn at a disadvantage, and I determined to beat him finally if I had to stay there for a month.
About an hour afterward, while I was looking at the superb view to the west, I heard a rustling sound upon the other side of the steeple. I looked around, and there was Benjamin P. Gunn creeping up the side of the spire in a balloon, in which was the doctor and the tabular estimates of the losses of his company from the Tontine system. As soon as Gunn reached the ball he threw his grappling-iron into the shingles of the steeple, and asked me at what age my father died, and if any of my aunts ever had consumption or liver complaint.
Without waiting to reply, I slid down the steeple to the ground and took the first train for the Mississippi Valley. In two weeks I was in Mexico. I determined to go to the interior and seek some wild spot in some elevated region where no Gunn would ever dare to come. I mounted a mule, and paid a guide to lead me to the summit of Popocatepetl. We arrived at the foot of the mountain at noon. We toiled upward for about four hours. Just before reaching the top I heard the sound of voices; and upon rounding a point of rocks, whom should I see but Benjamin P. Gunn, seated on the very edge of the crater, explaining the endowment plan to his guide and stupefying him with a mortality table, while the doctor had the other guide a few yards off, examining him to see if he was healthy. Mr. Gunn arose and said he was glad to see me, because now we could talk over that business about the policy without fear of interruption. In a paroxysm of rage I pushed him backward into the crater, and he fell a thousand feet below with a heavy thud. As he struck the bottom I heard a voice screaming out something about "non-forfeiture;" but there was a sudden convulsion of the mountain, a cloud of smoke, and I heard no more.
But on the following Thursday an eruption began, and the first thing that was thrown out was Benjamin P. Gunn. scorched, with his hair singed off and in a profuse perspiration, but still active and ready for business. If I should be killed, I verily believe Gunn would commit suicide in order that he might follow me into the next world.
Of course this is mere burlesque and it is hardly fair treatment of Gunn. But I am gratified to learn that such ridicule does not hurt his feelings. On the day the article appeared he called to see Colonel Bangs. The colonel apprehended an assault; and rallying his clerks and reporters around him, he seized a club and gave orders that Gunn should be admitted. But Benjamin did not intend war. He grasped the colonel's hand; and after thanking him for such a handsome gratuitous advertisement, he pulled a schedule out of his pocket and argued with Bangs until the latter in despair agreed to take out another policy for ten thousand dollars in Gunn's company.
We do not regard Lieutenant Smiley as a very entertaining person at present, and of course he is not quoted with enthusiasm. But during the prevalence of the excitement created by the victory over Pitman's baldness, Smiley related an anecdote bearing upon the subject of hair which combined instruction with amusement in a remarkable degree, and it may be profitable to reproduce it here as an illustration of the demoralizing tendencies of the red man.
During the recent visit of a party of Indians to the East, one of the number, Squatting Bear, was observed to behave himself in a very remarkable and mysterious manner. He separated himself from his companions on one occasion for several hours, and was then seen returning dragging a huge Saratoga trunk behind him through the streets with a string. When he reached his lodgings with the trunk, the other Indians were puzzled. Some of them believed the trunk to be a model for a new kind of wigwam with a Mansard roof, while others conceived the idea that it was a patent bath-tub of some peculiar sort, and that Squatting Bear, in a moment of mental aberration, had been seized with an inexplicable and unprecedented desire to wash himself. The souls of the savages burned with fiery indignation as they contemplated the possibility of the adoption of this revolutionary, enervating and demoralizing practice of the pale faces by the noble red man. But when they questioned Squatting Bear and remonstrated with him, that incomprehensible brave merely placed his copper-colored finger upon his burnt-umber nose and winked solemnly with his right eye.
The trunk was carried through to the wigwam of Squatting Bear unopened, and within the precincts of his home it was hidden finally from view, and was soon entirely forgotten.
In the tribe the brave who killed the largest number of enemies in any given year and secured the usual trophies of victory was entitled to occupy the position as chief. Squatting Bear was known to have ardent aspirations for the office, and he worked hard to win it. For a while after his return he was always foremost in every fight: and when the scalps were counted around the camp-fire, he invariably had secured the greatest number. Gradually, however, certain of the braves were impressed with the notion that Squatting's trophies sometimes did not bear a very correct proportion to the ferocity of the contest or to the number of the slain. Several times, after a brief skirmish in which ten or fifteen men were killed, Squatting would come sidling home with as many scalps as there were dead men; and at the same time the other warriors would together have nearly as many more.
The braves thought it was queer, but they did not give the subject very serious attention until after the massacre of a certain band of emigrants which had passed close by the camp of the tribe. There were just twenty persons in the company, and after the butchery several Indians took the trouble to count the bodies and to keep tally with a butcher-knife upon the side of a chip. That night, when the scalps were numbered, each brave had one or two apiece, but Squatting Bear handed out exactly forty-seven of the most beautiful bunches of human hair that had ever been seen west of the Mississippi. The braves looked cross-eyed at each other and cleared their throats. Two of their number stole out to the battlefield for the purpose of counting the bodies again, and of ascertaining if this had been a menagerie with a few double-headed persons in the party.
Yes, there lay exactly twenty corpses, and, to make matters worse, one of them was a bald-headed man who, for additional security to his scalp, had run a skate-strap over his head and buckled it under his chin.
When they returned, the entire camp devoted itself to meditation and calculation.
Twenty men killed and forty-seven scalps in the possession of a single Indian, without counting those secured by other participants in the contest! The more the warriors pondered over this fact, the more perplexing it became. A brave, while eating his supper and reflecting upon the problem, would suddenly imagine he saw his way clear, and he would stop, with his mouth full of baked dog, and fix his eyes upon the wall and think desperately hard. But the solution invariably eluded him. Then all of them would glide behind their wigwams and perform abstruse mathematical calculations upon their fingers, and they would get sticks and jam the points into the sand and do hard sums out of their aboriginal arithmetic. And they would tear around through the Indian rule of three, and struggle through their own kind of vulgar fractions, and wrestle with something that they believed to be a multiplication table. But in vain. Forty-seven scalps off twenty heads! It seemed incredible and impossible.
They tried it with algebra, and let the number of heads equal x and the number of scalps equal y, and they multiplied x into y and subtracted every letter in the alphabet in succession from the result until their brains reeled; but still the mystery remained unsolved.
At last a secret council was held, and it was determined that Squatting Bear must have some powerful and wonderful charm which enabled him to perform such miracles, and all hands agreed to investigate the matter upon the first opportunity. So the next week there was another fight, in which four persons were killed, and that night Squatting actually had the audacity to rush out one hundred and eighty-seven scalps, and to ask those benighted savages, sitting around their fire, to believe that he had snatched all that hair from those four heads.
It was too much—much too much; they seized him and drove a white oak stake through his bosom to hold him still, and then they proceeded to his wigwam to ascertain how that scalp business was conducted by the Bear family. They burst open the Saratoga trunk the first thing, and there they found fifteen hundred wigs and a keg of red paint, purchased by the disgraceful aboriginal while in Philadelphia.
That concluded his career. They buried him at once in the Saratoga trunk, and the wigs with him; and ever since that time they have elected annually a committee on scalps, whose business it is to examine every hirsute trophy with a double-barreled microscope of nine hundred diameters.