Read CHAPTER XIX of Twenty Years of Hus'ling , free online book, by J. P. Johnston, on


I remained at this town about a fortnight, when I received a letter from an old acquaintance then in Toledo, Ohio, but who had formerly practiced medicine in Bronson, Michigan.

He urged me to join him at once, to take an interest in the most gigantic scheme ever conceived.

The Doctor was a veritable Colonel Sellers.

His hair and moustache were snowy white.

He wore a pair of gold spectacles, and carried a gold-headed cane; and altogether, was quite a distinguished-looking individual.

He was of a nervous temperament quick in action and speech; and would swear like a pirate, and spin around like a jumping-jack when agitated in the least.

I took the first train for Toledo, and was soon ushered into the Doctor’s private room at the hotel. Without any preliminaries he said to me:

“Well sir, Johnston, I’m a Clairvoyant a Clairvoyant, sir. By laying my hands on the table, in this manner, I can tell a lady just how old she is, how long she has been married, how many children she has, and if she is ailing I can tell just what her complaint is, and how long she has been sick, and all about her.”

“Can’t you tell as much about a man as you can about a woman?”

“Well, it, I s’pose I can, all but the children part of it.”

He wanted me to act as his agent, and I should have half the profits.

We decided to go through Michigan. I wrote up a circular, and sent a notice to a couple of towns to be printed in their local papers.

The Doctor said he would pay all expenses till we got started; consequently I sent what money I had to my wife.

We visited several towns, meeting with no success and constantly running behind principally on account of the Doctor’s lack of proficiency as a Clairvoyant.

I was anxious to return to my furniture polish, but the Doctor would have nothing of the kind. He declared himself a gentleman of too much refinement and dignity to allow a man in his company to descend to peddling from house to house.

I concluded to stay with him till his money gave out.

At Ypsilanti our business, as usual, was a total failure. The Doctor said he knew of a town where we would be sure to meet with the grandest success. The name of the town was Pontiac.

I at once sent notices to the papers there, and some circulars to the landlord of one of the hotels, announcing the early arrival of the celebrated Clairvoyant physician, Doctor .

The Doctor was so very sanguine of success in this particular town, that we built our hopes on making a small fortune in a very short time. Consequently we talked about it a great deal.

Whenever it became necessary to speak of Pontiac, I found it almost impossible to remember the name; but the name Pocahontas would invariably come to my mind in its stead.

This caused me so much annoyance that I proposed to the doctor that we call it thus. This he agreed to, and thereafter Pontiac was dead to us, and Pocahontas arose from its ashes. We very soon became so accustomed to the change as to be unable to think of the right name when necessary to do so.

When we were ready to leave Ypsilanti we walked to the depot, not, of course, because it expensive to ride, but just for exercise, “you know.”

On our way, the Doctor happened to think that we must leave orders at the post office to have our mail forwarded.

I accompanied him there. He stepped up to the delivery window and said:

“My name is Doctor . If any mail comes for me here, please forward it to Pocahontas.”

“Pocahontas?” the clerk queried.

“Yes sir, Pocahontas, Michigan.”

“I guess you’re mistaken, Doctor, at least I

“Not by a dang sight! I guess I know where I am going,” was the Doctor’s answer.

I began laughing, and started to leave, when the Doctor saw his blunder and said, excitedly:

“No, no! My mistake; my mistake, Mr. clerk. I mean I mean dang it! Dod blast it! what do I mean? Where am I going? Where the devil is it? Why you know, don’t you? Dang it! where is it? Johnston, you devilish fool! come and tell this man the name of that cussed town. Why it’s Poca no, no; here, Johnston, I knew you would make consummate fools of us. I knew it all the time.”

By this time several people had gathered about, and were interested listeners, while the clerk gazed through the window with a look of sympathy for the man he no doubt thought insane.

I couldn’t, to save me, think of the right name, and immediately started towards the depot, leaving the Doctor to settle the mail matter.

Directly he came tearing down the street, up to where I stood.

I was laughing immoderately at his blunder. He threw down his old valise, and said:

“You are a smart man, you are! Just see what a cussed fool you made of yourself and

“Well,” I interrupted, “never mind me, Doctor, how did it happen that you didn’t make a fool of yourself?”

“I did; I did, sir, until I explained what an infernal fool you were.”

“Did you finally think of the right name?”

“Think of it? No! Of course I didn’t think of it, you idiot. I have no idea of ever getting it right again.”

We had to go to Detroit, and there change cars for our destination. On our way there the Doctor took matters very seriously, and said I was just one of that kind that was always doing something to make an everlasting fool of myself and every one else.

When we arrived at Detroit he handed me the money for our fare.

We walked to the ticket office, and I laid down the money and said: “Two tickets to Pocahontas.”

“Poca what?” said the agent, “Where in the deuce is that?”

I turned to the Doctor and said:

“Great Heavens! Where are we going? Tell me the name.”

“Oh, you cussed fool, you ought to be dumped into the Detroit River! See what you have done!”

At this he began to prance around, tearing backwards and forwards and swearing at the top of his voice, calling me all manner of names, and at last said to the agent:

“We are both infernal fools, and don’t know where we are going; but no one is to blame but that idiot over there,” pointing to me.

I then said to the people gathered around, looking on with a mixture of surprise and curiosity:

“Gentlemen, we are on our way to some town with an Indian name.”

One man suggested Ypsilanti.

“Oh, Ypsilanti!” the Doctor shrieked. “That’s where we came from.”

Another said Pontiac.

“There, there, that’s it!” the Doctor cried. “Now buy your tickets, and let’s go aboard the train before we get locked up!”

I secured the tickets, making sure that they read PONTIAC, and we boarded the train.

The Doctor took a seat by himself, and while sitting there, looked at me over his spectacles, with his plug hat on the back of his head, and his chin resting on his cane. He continued to make the atmosphere blue, in a quiet way, and repeatedly referred to the fact that we must certainly have appeared like two very brilliant traveling men.

I was beginning to feel that I had caused considerable trouble and humiliation.

Suddenly the Doctor jumped to his feet, and starting from the car on a run, cried out:

“Good ! I haven’t re-checked my trunk.”

I ran after him. He made a bee line for the baggage room, and rushing up to the counter, threw down his check and yelled:

“For ’s sake, hurry up and re-check my trunk before the train leaves.”

“Where to?” asked the baggage-man.

“To Pocahontas!” screamed the Doctor.

“Poca-the-devil!” said the agent.

Then began a genuine circus. Neither of us could think of the right name, and the train was to leave in less than three minutes.

The Doctor began to hop up and down, swearing like a trooper, swinging his cane and looking at me, and cried out at the very top of his voice:

“Tell the man where we’re going, you idiotic fool! You’re to blame, and you ought to have your infernal neck broken. Why don’t you tell the man? Tell him tell him, you idiot! Great ! if that train leaves us, I’ll

The threat was interrupted by the baggage-man putting his head through the window and saying:

“There’s an Insane Asylum being built at Pontiac. Perhaps that’s where

“That’s the place that’s where we want to go. Check ’er, check ’er, check ’er quick!” the Doctor yelled. Then turning to me said:

“There! you infernal fool, now I hope you feel satisfied,” and in a low tone said:

“Look at this crowd of people you have attracted here.”

“Well, what’s the difference? They’ll think I am taking you to the Insane Asylum, so that lets us out.”

“The devil they will! They’ll think it’s you that’s crazy. Didn’t I tell them you were a fool?”

The trunk was put on none too soon, and the Doctor continued to abuse me to his heart’s content during nearly the whole distance.

I was too much pleased to do anything but laugh; and what made it more ridiculous to me, was that the Doctor could see nothing funny about it, and never cracked a smile. He kept harping on the undignified position it had placed him in. I remained quiet, and let him cuss, till at last he quieted down. A few moments later the conductor passed through the car, and the Doctor, looking up over his spectacles, said:

“Conductor, aren’t we almost to Pocahantas?”

“Almost where?”

“I mean I mean, well dang it! never mind, never mind,” he stammered.

At this, he jumped to his feet, starting for the front car, turned and looked at me, and while shaking his cane, yelled as he passed out:

“Laugh! you infernal fool, laugh!” And the door slammed.

On arriving at Pontiac, just as the train was stopping I looked into the front car and saw the Doctor rising from his seat. I opened the door, and changing the tone of my voice, sang out, “POCAHONTAS!” and dodged back into the car and took my seat.

The Doctor came out onto the platform, and looking in, saw me sitting there, apparently asleep.

He opened the door and said:

“Come on, Johnston; we are at Poca come on come on, you dang fool; don’t you know where we are?”

I jumped to my feet and went out sleepily, rubbing my eyes, and told him I was glad he woke me up.

“Yes, I should think you would be; but I was a fool that I didn’t let you stay there. The devil knows where you would have landed.”

I suggested that I might have brought up at Pocahontas.

“Great Heavens! don’t mention that name to me again.”

After registering at the hotel and settling in a room we began discussing our prospects. But in a few minutes the Doctor said:

“Johnston, we have simply raised the devil.”

“How so?”

“Why, do you know, the whole dang Railroad company have got to calling this town Pocahontas!”

“I guess not.”

“But, by the Eternal Gods! I know it is so. When our train stopped at the depot, the brake-man opened the door and yelled, ‘Pocahontas!’ at the top of his voice.”

“O, thunder! Doctor; you have been so excited all night that you couldn’t tell what he called.”

“I couldn’t?” he thundered out. “Don’t you s’pose I could tell the difference between Pocahontas and and well, Johnston, you cussed fool, I’ll never be able to call this infernal town by its right name again. I am going to retire.”

We remained at that hotel but one day, not being able to make satisfactory rates, besides being dunned for our board in advance.

We then called on an elderly widow lady who was running a fourth-class hotel. She seemed favorably impressed with the Doctor, which fact made us feel quite comfortable, for the time being.

I “hus’led” out with a lot of hand-bills, which I scattered over the town, and returned to the hotel to await results.

The first afternoon there came a middle-aged Irish woman to consult the doctor while in a Clairvoyant state. He seated her opposite himself, put his hands on the table, looked wise, and began:

“Madam you have been married several years, and have three children. You are forty-six years of age, have been afflicted several years, and have a cancer in the stomach. It will cost you twenty dollars for medicine enough to last you

“To last me a life-time, I s’pose,” she cried out, and continued: “Docther, me dear old man, you’re an old jackass! a hombug, a hypocrite and an imposcher! Sure, I niver had a married husband, and a divil of a choild am I the mither of. I am liss than thirty-foive, and a healthier, more robust picture of humanity niver stood before your domm miserable gaze! The cancer in me stomick is no more nor liss than a pain in me left shoulder, which any domn fool of a docther wud know was the rheumatics. To the divil wid yer domned impostorousness and highfalutin hombuggery! Good day, Docther, darlint; good day. May the divil transmogrify you into a less pretentious individual, wid more brains and a domm sight less impecuniosity!”

Our landlady had converted the up-stairs sitting room into a reception room and private office for the Doctor, by drawing a heavy curtain as a partition. It was my duty to remain in the reception half of the room to entertain the callers, while the Doctor was occupied in the consultation half, with the patient. Therefore I had a grand opportunity to witness the scene with our Celtic patient, by peeking between the curtains.

The Doctor was fairly paralyzed, and had a ghastly, sickening expression of countenance during the interview.

He made no attempt to speak further.

As she passed out and slammed the door behind her, I opened the curtains and cried out:


The Doctor began to rave and plunge and swear by note.

He said I had no better sense than to try to make a curiosity of him, and I would make a sight better blower for a side-show than traveling agent for a celebrated physician; and that if I had the pluck of a sick kitten, I would have thrown that old Irish woman out, rather than sit there and snicker at her tirade and abuse of him.

In a few minutes a lady of German extraction called. The Doctor was in no very fit condition of mind to go into a state of Clairvoyance.

With the excuse that business was too pressing to take time to do so, he asked the lady to explain her affliction. In broken English she said:

“Obber you don’t kan do vat you vas advertisement, I go.”

“Well, dang it, sit down, then,” growled the Doctor; and placing a chair for her, came to the partition and said to me, in an undertone:

“Now, you blamed fool, if you can’t be dignified you had better leave.”

“All right, Doctor; but you may need me to throw her out, so I’ll stay.”

He rejoined his patient and went through with his usual mysterious performances, and said;

“Madam, you are of German descent.”

“Yah, yah, das ish so,” she answered.

“Your weight is about two hundred pounds,” was his next venture.

“Yah, yah; das ish so too,” she replied. “How you vas know all dem tings?”

“You are not married

“Vas?” she began, almost terror-stricken.

“ long,” he interposed.

“Oh, you mean not married long time, Doctor? Das ist schust right.”

“You are twenty-two years of age, and the mother of one child,” he next ventured.

“How you vas know all dot?” she asked, excitedly.

“You can be cured, madam; but it will take some little time to do it, and you must take my medicine exactly as I direct you.”

“How mooch costen?”

“Twenty dollars for the first lot of medicine, and when that is gone I’ll see you again.”

She then said:

“Vel, Doctor, I youst got ten dollar. You take dot, und I pay you de undter ten last week.”

“Not much,” said the Doctor, firmly. “Twenty dollars or nothing.”

I then looked in, and calling him to me, whispered:

“Great Heavens! don’t let her leave with that ten dollars. Take it; take it quick!”

“Well, but the fool wants to pay the balance last week instead of next week.”

“But suppose she never pays? You haven’t even told her what her complaint is yet; and it’s worth ten dollars to get out of that.”

“Thunderation! haven’t I told her that yet?” he asked, in great excitement.

I assured him in the negative. He immediately returned to the patient and said:

“Well, I guess I’ll let you pay me the ten dollars.”

“But, Doctor,” she ejaculated; “you no tell me yet where am I sick.”

“Indeed I did tell you, and I’ll not tell you again unless you pay me.”

“Nix, Doctor; I pays no monish till I knows where am I sick,” and she abruptly left the room.

Then ensued another stormy scene. The Doctor said if I hadn’t called him to me and commenced whispering around, he would have got her twenty dollars, sure.

“But you had better take half and trust for the other half than to get nothing at all,” I remonstrated.

“Yes,” said the Doctor, still unconvinced, “and it wouldn’t be but a few days till everybody would be owing us; and we never could collect a cent.”

I saw the utter uselessness and foolishness of an argument with him, and said no more and let him swear it out.

Among other ills that the Doctor claimed to be an expert at treating, was deafness, and we so advertised.

In a day or two an old lady called while the Professor was out.

She asked if I were the Doctor, and turned her left ear to catch my reply.

I answered in a professional manner: “Madam, you are deaf.”

“Well, you are right, Doctor, so I am; and I thought I would run in and see if you could help me.”

I stepped to the Doctor’s instrument case, and picking up some sort of a weapon, returned to the old lady, and stretching first one ear open and then the other, after making sure that she always turned her left ear to me to hear, I said:

“Madam, the drum of your right ear is almost entirely destroyed, and I am certain there is no help for it; but I can surely help your left ear.”

“Well, Doctor, I think you know your business, for I certainly can scarcely hear with my right ear. How much will it cost?”

“Ten dollars.”

“Well, I don’t want to pay out so much now, as I have already been to so much expense with it.”

“Well, you pay me five dollars, and owe me the balance, to be paid on condition that I help you.”

She agreed to this, and handed me that amount. I was at a loss to know what to give her, and in a constant fear that the Doctor would make his appearance and spoil it all.

I excused myself, and stepping back to the “laboratory,” began searching for something. At last I happened to think of a French moustache wax I had in one of my pockets, with which to train my young and struggling moustache. I quickly brought forth the box, soaked the paper label, and after removing it, smoothed the top of the pomade nicely over, wrapped it in paper, and gave it to her with directions for use; and invited her to call again and let me know how she got along. (As I recall this experience, my only cause for self-congratulation is, that what I gave her would do her no harm, if it did no good.)

She had no sooner made her exit than the Doctor “bobbed up serenely.” I explained to him how I had manipulated things, and showed him my five dollars.

He began to rip and tear and swear, and declared he would dissolve partnership with me.

He said I would ruin his reputation, and get us both in jail.

I said: “Well, Doctor, I of course wouldn’t want either of your patients, the Irish or Dutch woman, to hear of this, but

“Never mind, never mind about my patients. You take care of your own, and I’ll do the same.”

“Oh, thunder! all that ails you is that you are jealous because I am doing more business than you are.”

“Holy Moses!” he quickly replied, flying into another rage, “you think now, you know more than all the profession, don’t you?”

“Well, I feel that I have something to be proud of. We have been out nearly three weeks, and I have taken the only money that we have received.”

He then wanted to know if I didn’t expect to turn the five dollars into the business. I told him I did, but thought it a good idea for us to get out some special circulars advertising myself, and see if we couldn’t raise a few dollars.

This was too much for the Doctor, and he went off “like shot out of a gun.” He declared me a perfect ass. I said further:

“But, Doctor, I think I am superior to you in one respect.”

“In what?”

“Well, I have more brains than impecuniosity, anyhow.”

This was the signal for another stampede.

We remained there several days, and finally became completely stranded.

The Doctor worried, fretted, stormed, fumed, and declared I was to blame for the whole cussed thing.

I then, began to talk about going out “hus’ling” again.

“Oh, yes; it’s well enough for you to talk. You can ‘hus’le,’ but what can I do? I’d look nice running around peddling your cussed old dope, wouldn’t I?”

I remarked that I thought he would do well among the Dutch and Irish, if he didn’t use too much impecuniosity, and would learn to take their money when they offered it.

He said I hadn’t the sense of a young gosling, and if I didn’t quit twitting him of those things, he would pack up and leave, if he had to walk out of town. I said to him:

“Well, Doctor, if you do start out on foot, I’d advise you to take a few bottles of my Incomprehensible Compound, double-distilled furniture and piano lustre.”

He gazed at me over his spectacles with a sickly smile, then jumping to his feet, began his customary tirade, and pranced back and forth like a caged animal.