Chasing A Fugitive Subscriber
Printers, from time immemorial--back possibly to the days of Faust--have
suffered martyrdom, more or less, at the hands of the people who didn't
pay! Many of the long-established newspaper concerns can show a "black
list" as long as the militia law, and an unpaid cash account bulky
enough to take Cuba! Country publishers suffer in this way intensely.
About one half of the "subscribers" to the Clarion of Freedom, or the
Universal Democrat, or the Whig Shot Tower, seem to labor under the
Utopian notion that printers were made to mourn over unpaid subscription
lists; or that they "got up" papers for their own peculiar amusement,
and carried them or sent them to the doors of the public for mere
pastime! Every publisher, of about every paper we ever examined, about
this time of year, has told his own story--requested his subscribers to
come forward--pay over--help to keep the mill going--creditors
easy--fire in the stove--meal in the barrel--children in bread, butter
and shoes--Sheriff at bay, and other tragical affairs connected with the
operations attendant upon unsettled cash accounts! But, how many heed
such "notices?" Paying subscribers do not read them--such applications
do not apply to them--they regret to see them in the paper, and, like
honest, common-sensed people, don't probe or meddle with other people's
shortcomings. The delinquent subscriber don't read such calls upon his
humanity--they are distasteful to him; he may squint and grin over the
notice to pay up, and chuckles to himself--"Ah, umph! dun away, old
feller; I ain't one o' that kind that sends money by mail; it might be
lost, and the man that duns me for two or three dollars' worth of
newspapers, may get it if he knows how."
Well, the good time has come. Printers now may wait no longer; the
jig's up--they have found out a way to get their money just as easy as
other laborers in the fields of science, art, mechanism, law, physic and
religion, get theirs. Let the printer cry Eureka.
Doctor Pendleton St. Clair Smith, a patron of the fine arts, best
tailors, barbers, boot blacks, and the newspaper press, was a tooth
operator of some skill and great pretension. He lived and moved in
modern style, and though no man could be more desirous of indulging in
"short credit," no man believed or acted more readily upon the
----"base is the slave that pays."
Dr. P. St. C. Smith "slipped up" one day, leaving the well done
community of Boston and the environs, for fields more congenial to his
peculiar talents. He stuck the printer, of course. His numerous
subscription accounts to the various local news and literary journals,
in the aggregate amounted to quite considerable; and the printers didn't
begin to like it! Now, it takes a Yankee to head off a Yankee, and about
this time a live, double-grand-action Yankee, named Peabody, possibly,
happened in at one of the offices, where two brother publishers were
"making a few remarks" over delinquent subscribers, and especially were
they wrought up against and giving jessy to Dr. Pendleton St. Clair
"How much does the feller owe you?" quoth Peabody.
"Owe? More than he'll ever pay during the present generation."
"Perhaps not," says Peabody; "now if you'll just give me the full
particulars of the man, his manners and customs, name and size, and
sell me your accounts, at a low notch, I'll buy 'em; I'll collect 'em,
too, if the feller's alive, out of jail, and any where around between
sunrise and sunset!"
The publishers laughed at the idea, sensibly, but finding that Peabody
was up for a trade, they traced out the accounts, &c., and for a five
dollar bill, Mr. Peabody was put in possession of an account of some
twenty odd dollars and cents against Dr. P. St. C. Smith.
Now Peabody had, some time previous to this transaction, established a
peculiar kind of Telegraph, a human galvanic battery, or endless chain
of them, extending all over the country, for collecting bad debts, and
shocking fugitives, or stubborn creditors! By a continuation of
faculties, causes and effects--shrewdness and forethought peculiar to a
man capable of seeing considerably deep into millstones--Peabody
couldn't be dodged. If he ever got his feelers on to a subject, the
equivalent was bound to be turning up! It struck him that the
collection of newspaper bills afforded him a great field for working his
Telegraph, and he hasn't been mistaken.
The scene now changes; early one morning in the pleasant month of June,
as the poet might say, Dr. Pendleton St. Clair Smith was to be seen
before his toilet glass in the flourishing city of Syracuse,--giving the
finishing stroke to his highly-cultivated beard. The satisfaction with
which he made this demonstration, evinced the sereneness of his mind and
the confidence with which he rested, in regard to his newspaper 'bills
in Boston. But a tap is heard at his door, and at his invitation the
servant comes in, announces a gentleman in the parlor, desirous of
speaking to Dr. Smith. The Doctor waits upon the visitor--
"Dr. Pendleton St. Clair Smith, I presume?"
"Ye-e-s," slowly and suspiciously responded that individual.
"I am collector, sir," continued the stranger, "for the firm of
Peabody, Grab, Catchem, and Co., Boston. I have a small (!) bill against
you, sir, to collect."
"What for?" eagerly quoth the Doctor.
"Newspaper subscriptions and advertising, sir!"
"I a--I a, you a--well, you call in this evening," says the Doctor,
tremulously fumbling in his pockets--"I'll settle with you; good
"Good morning, sir," says the collector,--"I'll call."
That afternoon, Dr. Pendleton St. Clair Smith vamosed! He had barely got
located in Syracuse, before they had traced him; if he paid the printer,
a cloud of other debts would follow, and so he up stakes and made a
"Now," says Dr. P. St. C. Smith, as he dumped himself and baggage down
in the beautiful city of Chicago, "Now I'll be out of the range of the
duns; they won't get sight or hearing of me, for a while, I'll bet a
But, alas! for the delusion; the very next morning, a very suspicious,
hatchet-faced individual, made himself known as the deputed collector of
certain newspaper accounts, forwarded from Boston, by Peabody, Grab,
Catchem, & Co. The Dr. uttered a very severe anathema; he looked quite
streaked, he faltered; he then desired the collector to call in course
of the day, and the bill would be attended to. The collector hoped it
would be attended to, and left; so did Dr. P. St. C. Smith in the next
About one month after the affair in Chicago, Dr. P. St. C. Smith was
seen strutting around in Charters st., New Orleans, confident in his
security, smiling in the brightness of the scenes around him; he had
just negotiated for an office, had already concocted his advertisements,
and subscribed for the papers, when lo! the same due bill from Boston
appeared to him, in the hand of an agent of Peabody, Grab, Catchem &
Co. The Dr. was almost tempted to pay the bill! But, then, perhaps the
agent had a hat full of others--from the same place--for larger
amounts! The next day the Doctor put for Texas! planting himself in
the pleasant town of Bexar, and cursing duns from the bottom of his
heart--he determined to keep clear of them, even if he had to bury
himself away out here in Texas. But what was his horror to find, the
first week of his hanging up in Bexar, that an agent of the firm of
Peabody, Grab, Catchem & Co., was there! The Doctor stepped to
Galveston; on the way he accidentally met a travelling agent of
Peabody, Grab, Catchem & Co. The Doctor took the Sabine slide for
Tampico; there he found the "black vomit." He up and off again, for
Mobile; his nervous system was much worked up and his pocket-book sadly
depleted! There were two alternatives--change his name, size and
profession, and live in a swamp; or settle with the firm of Peabody,
Grab, Catchem & Co. Dr. Pendleton St. Clair Smith chose the latter; he
sought and soon found in Mobile, a veritable agent, duly authorized to
receive and forward funds for Peabody, Grab, Catchem & Co., and hunt up
and down--fugitives from the printer! The Doctor paid up--felt better,
and learned the moral fact that delinquent subscribers are no longer to
be the printers' ghosts.