THE HOOSIER AND THE SALT PILE
BY DANFORTH MARBLE
"I'm sorry," said Dan, as he knocked the ashes from his regalia,
as he sat in a small crowd over a glass of sherry, at Florence's,
New York, one evening,--"I'm sorry that the stages are disappearing
so rapidly. I never enjoyed traveling so well as in the slow coaches.
I've made a good many passages over the Alleghanies, and across
Ohio, from Cleveland to Columbus and Cincinnati, all over the South,
down East, and up North, in stages, and I generally had a good time.
"When I passed over from Cleveland to Cincinnati, the last time,
in a stage, I met a queer crowd. Such a corps, such a time, you
never did see. I never was better amused in my life. We had a good
team,--spanking horses, fine coaches, and one of them drivers you
read of. Well, there was nine 'insiders,' and I don't believe there
ever was a stage full of Christians ever started before, so chuck
full of music.
"There was a beautiful young lady going to one of the Cincinnati
academies; next to her sat a Jew peddler,--Cowes and a market;
wedging him was a dandy black-leg, with jewelry and chains around
about his breast and neck enough to hang him. There was myself,
and an old gentleman with large spectacles, gold-headed cane, and
a jolly, soldering-iron-looking nose; by him was a circus-rider,
whose breath was enough to breed yaller fever and could be felt
just as easy as cotton velvet! A cross old woman came next, whose
look would have given any reasonable man the double-breasted blues
before breakfast; alongside of her was a rale backwoods preacher,
with the biggest and ugliest mouth ever got up since the flood.
He was flanked by the low comedian of the party, an Indiana Hoosier,
'gwine down to Orleans to get an army contrac' to supply the forces,
then in Mexico, with beef.
"We rolled along for some time. Nobody seemed inclined to 'open.' The
old aunty sat bolt upright, looking crab-apples and persimmons at the
hoosier and the preacher; the young lady dropped the green curtain of
her bonnet over her pretty face, and leaned back in her seat to nod
and dream over japonicas and jumbles, pantalets and poetry; the old
gentleman, proprietor of the Bardolph nose, looked out at the corduroy
and swashes; the gambler fell off into a doze, and the circus convoy
followed suit, leaving the preacher and me vis-a-vis and saying
nothing to nobody. 'Indiany,' he stuck his mug out of the window and
criticized the cattle we now and then passed. I was wishing somebody
would give the conversation a start, when 'Indiany' made a break.
"'This ain't no great stock country,' says he to the old gentleman
with the cane.
"'No, sir,' says the old gentleman. 'There's very little grazing here,
and the range is pretty much wore out.'
"Then there was nothing said again for some time. Bimeby the hoosier
"'It's the d---dest place for 'simmon-trees and turkey-buzzards I
ever did see!'
"The old gentleman with the cane didn't say nothing, and the preacher
gave a long groan. The young lady smiled through her veil, and the
old lady snapped her eyes and looked sideways at the speaker.
"'Don't make much beef here, I reckon,' says the hoosier.
"'No,' says the gentleman.
"'Well, I don't see how in h-ll they all manage to get along in a
country whar thar ain't no ranges and they don't make no beef. A man
ain't considered worth a cuss in Indiany what hasn't got his brand
on a hundred head.'
"'Yours is a great beef country, I believe,' says the old gentleman.
"'Well, sir, it ain't anything else. A man that's got sense enuff to
foller his own cow-bell with us ain't in no danger of starvin'. I'm
gwine down to Orleans to see if I can't git a contract out of Uncle
Sam to feed the boys what's been lickin' them infernal Mexicans so
bad. I s'pose you've seed them cussed lies what's been in the papers
about the Indiany boys at Bony Visty.'
"'I've read some accounts of the battle,' says the old gentleman,
'that didn't give a very flattering account of the conduct of some
of our troops.'
"With that, the Indiany man went into a full explanation of the affair,
and, gettin' warmed up as he went along, begun to cuss and swear like
he'd been through a dozen campaigns himself. The old preacher listened
to him with evident signs of displeasure, twistin' and groanin' till
he couldn't stand it no longer.
"'My friend,' says he, 'you must excuse me, but your conversation would
be a great deal more interesting to me--and I'm sure would please the
company much better--if you wouldn't swear so terribly. It's very wrong
to swear, and I hope you'll have respect for our feelin's, if you hain't
no respect for your Maker.'
"If the hoosier had been struck with thunder and lightnin', he couldn't
have been more completely tuck aback. He shut his mouth right in the
middle of what he was sayin', and looked at the preacher, while his
face got as red as fire.
"'Swearin',' says the old preacher, 'is a terrible bad practice, and
there ain't no use in it, nohow. The Bible says, Swear not at all,
and I s'pose you know the commandments about swearin'?'
"The old lady sort of brightened up,--the preacher was her 'duck of
a man'; the old fellow with the nose and cane let off a few 'umph,
ah! umphs'; but 'Indiany' kept shady; he appeared to be cowed down.
"'I know,' says the preacher, 'that a great many people swear without
thinkin', and some people don't b'lieve the Bible.'
"And then he went on to preach a regular sermon ag'in swearing, and to
quote Scripture like he had the whole Bible by heart. In the course of
his argument he undertook to prove the Scriptures to be true, and told
us all about the miracles and prophecies and their fulfilment. The old
gentleman with the cane took a part in the conversation, and the
hoosier listened, without ever opening his head.
"'I've just heard of a gentleman,' says the preacher, 'that's been
to the Holy Land and went over the Bible country. It's astonishin'
to hear what wonderful things he has seen. He was at Sodom and
Gomorrow, and seen the place whar Lot's wife fell.'
"'Ah!' says the old gentleman with the cane.
"'Yes,' says the preacher; 'he went to the very spot; and, what's the
remarkablest thing of all, he seen the pillar of salt what she was
"'Is it possible!' says the old gentleman.
"'Yes, sir; he seen the salt, standin' thar to this day.'
"'What!' says the hoosier, 'real genewine, good salt?'
"'Yes, sir, a pillar of salt, jest as it was when that wicked woman
was punished for her disobedience.'
"All but the gambler, who was snoozing in the corner of the coach,
looked at the preacher,--the hoosier with an expression of countenance
that plainly told us that his mind was powerfully convicted of an
"'Right out in the open air?' he asked.
"'Yes, standin' right in the open field, whar she fell.'
"'Well, sir,' says 'Indiany,' 'all I've got to say is, if she'd
dropped in our parts, the cattle would have licked her up afore
"The preacher raised both his hands at such an irreverent remark,
and the old gentleman laughed himself into a fit of asthmatics,
what he didn't get over till we came to the next change of horses.
The hoosier had played the mischief with the gravity of the whole
party; even the old maid had to put her handkerchief to her face,
and the young lady's eyes were filled with tears for half an hour
afterward. The old preacher hadn't another word to say on the
subject; but whenever we came to any place, or met anybody on the
road, the circus-man nursed the thing along by asking what was the
price of salt."
~~~~~~~ THE END ~~~~~~~