Old Ben. Franklin said it was his opinion that, between imprisonment and
being at large in debt to your neighbor, there was no difference
worthy the name of it. Some people have a monstrous sight of courage in
debt, more than they have out of it, while we have known some, who,
though not afraid to stand fire or water, shook in their very
boots--wilted right down, before the frown of a creditor! A man that can
dun to de
th, or stand a deadly dun, possesses talents no Christian
need envy; for, next to Lucifer, we look upon the confirmed "diddler"
and professional dun, for every ignoble trait in the character of
mankind. A friend at our elbow has just possessed us of some facts so
mirth-provoking, (to us, not to him,) that we jot them down for the
amusement and information of suffering mankind and the rest of creation,
who now and then get into a scrimmage with rogues, lawyers and law. And
perhaps it may be as well to let the indefatigable tell his own story:
"You see, Cutaway dealt with me, and though he knew I was dead set
against crediting anybody, he would insist, and did--get into my
books. I let it run along until the amount reached sixty dollars, and
Cutaway, instead of stopping off and paying me up, went in deeper!
Getting in debt seemed to make him desperate, reckless! One day he came
in when I was out; he and his wife look around, and, by George! they
select a handsome tea-set, worth twenty dollars, and my fool clerk sends
"'Tell him to charge it!' says Cutaway, to the boy who took the china
home; and I did charge it.
"The upshot of the business was, I found out that Cutaway was a
confirmed diddler; he got all he wanted, when and where he could, upon
the 'charge it' principle, and had become so callous to duns, that his
moral compunctions were as tough as sole leather--bullet-proof.
"I was vexed, I was mad, I determined to break one of my 'fixed
principles,' and go to law; have my money, goods, or a row! I goes to
a lawyer, states my case, gave him a fee and told him to go to work.
"Cutaway, of course, received a polite invitation to step up to Van
Nickem's office and learn something to his advantage; and he attended. A
few days afterwards I dropped in.
"'Your man's been here,' says Van Nickem, smilingly.
"'Has, eh? Well, what's he done?' said I.
"'O, he acknowledges the debt, says he thinks you are rather hurrying
up the biscuits, and thinks you might have sent the bill to him instead
of giving it to me for collection,' says the lawyer.
"'Send it to him!' says I. 'Why I sent it fifty times;--sent my clerk
until he got ashamed of going, and my boy went so often that his boots
got into such a way of going to Cutaway's shop, that he had to change
them with his brother, when he was going anywhere else!'
"'He appears to be a clever sort of a fellow,' said Van.
"'He is,' said I, 'the cleverest, most perfectly-at-home diddler in
"'Well,' said Van Nickem, 'Cutaway acknowledges the debt, says he's
rather straightened just now, but if you'll give him a little more
time, he'll fork up every cent; so if I were you, I'd wait a little
"Well, I did wait. I didn't want to appear more eager for law than a
lawyer, so I waited--three months. At the end of that time, early one
Saturday morning, in came Cutaway. 'Aha!' says I, 'you are going to
fork now, at last; it's well you come, for I'd been down on you on
Monday, bright and early!'"
"You didn't say that to him, did you?" we observed.
"O, bless you, no. I said that to myself, but I met him with a
smile, and with a 'how d'ye do, Cutaway?' and in my excitement at the
prospect of receiving the $80, which I then wanted the worst kind, I
shook hands with him, asked how his family was, and got as familiar and
jocular with him as though he was the most cherished friend I had in the
world! Well, now what do you suppose was the result of that interview
"Paid you a portion, or all of your bill against him, we suppose," was
"Not by a long shot; with the coolness of a pirate he asked me to credit
him for a handsome wine-tray, a dozen cut goblets and glasses, and a
pair of decanters; he expected some friends from New York that evening,
was going to give them a 'set out' at his house, and one of the guests,
in consideration of former favors rendered by him, was pledged--being a
man of wealth--to loan him enough funds to pay his debts, and take up a
mortgage on his residence."
"You laughed at his impudence, and kicked him out into the street?" said
"I hope I may be hung if I didn't let him have the goods, and he took
them home with him, swearing by all that was good and bad, he would
settle with me early the following Monday morning. I saw no more of
him for two weeks! I went to Van Nickem's, he laughed at me. The bill
was now $100. I was raging. I told Van Nickem I'd have my money out of
Cutaway, or I'd advertise him for a villain, swindler, and scoundrel."
"'He'd sue you for libel, and obtain damages,' said Van.
"'Then I'll horsewhip him, sir, within an inch of his life, in the open
street!' said I, in a heat.
"'You might rue that,' said Van. 'He'd sue you for an assault, and
give you trouble and expense.'
"'Then I suppose I can do nothing, eh?--the law being made for the
benefit of such villains!'
"'We will arrest him,' said Van.
"'Well, then what?' said I.
"'We will haul him up to the bull ring, we will have the money, attach
his property, goods or chattels, or clap him in jail, sir!' said Van
Nickem, with an air of determination.
"I felt relieved; the hope of putting the rascal in jail, I confess, was
dearer to me than the $100. I told Van to go it, give the rascal jessy,
and Van did; but after three weeks' vexatious litigation, Cutaway went
to jail, swore out, and, to my mortification, I learned that he had been
through that sort of process so often that, like the old woman's skinned
eels, he was used to it, and rather liked the sensation than otherwise!
Well, saddled with the costs, foiled, gouged, swindled, and laughed at,
you may fancy my feelinks, as Yellow Plush remarks."
"So you lost the $100--got whipped, eh?" we remarked.
"No, sir," said our litigious friend. "I cornered him, I got old
Cutaway in a tight place at last, and that's the pith of the
transaction. Cutaway, having swindled and shaved about half the
community with whom he had any transactions,--got his affairs all
fixed smooth and quiet, and with his family was off for California. I
got wind of it,--Van Nickem and I had a conference.
"'We'll have him,' says Van. 'Find out what time he sails, where the
vessel is, &c.; lay back until a few hours before the vessel is to cut
loose, then go down, get the fellow ashore if you can, talk to him, soft
soap him, ask him if he won't pay if he has luck in California, &c., and
so on, and when you've got him a hundred yards from the vessel, knock
him down, pummel him well; I'll have an officer ready to arrest both of
you for breach of the peace; when you are brought up, I'll have a
charge made out against Cutaway for something or other, and if he
don't fork out and clear, I'm mistaken,' said Van. I followed his advice
to the letter; I pummelled Cutaway well; we were taken up and fined, and
Cutaway was in a great hurry to say but little and get off. But Van and
the writ appeared. Cutaway looked streaked--he was alarmed. In two
hours' time he disgorged not only my bill, but a bill of forty dollars
costs! He then cut for the ship, the meanest looking white man you ever
If Mr. Cutaway don't take the force of that moral, salt won't save