A Peddler's Crime: 1880


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Woman, being trustful by nature and ignorant of evil, is the predestinated prey of the peddler. It is seldom that the peddler attacks a man, for he knows that in all probability he will be received with coldness, and that his wares will be sneered at and his veracity doubted. Women, on the other hand, are always curious to see the contents of a peddler's pack, and are quite ready to believe whatever he says. When he assures them that he is offering them an opportunity to buy valuable articles at a ridiculously cheap rate, they hasten to buy.

What is really inexplicable is the fact that, though a woman may have been cheated by six successive peddlers, she never permits her experience to lead her to distrust the seventh. She accepts his assurance that he has the only genuine preparation for replating old spoons, and that his eau de Cologne is manufactured by the original Farina. This faith in peddlers, rising triumphant over every obstacle, is sublime as well as touching, and is a distinctive trait of all good women.

Now and then we find a man who is such by mistake, and who is thoroughly feminine in his habits of mind. Mr. Baldwin is conceded by all the inhabitants of Oshkosh to be wholly free from masculine vices, and is as blameless in his conduct as the most eminent local mother in Israel, but there is a universal conviction that his sex is an error, and that he was originally intended to be a woman. This fully explains the feminine readiness with which he yields to the wiles of peddlers. They seem to be drawn to him as by magnetic attraction, and they never fail to sell him something. It is rumored that Mr. Baldwin has dozens of bottles of infamous perfumery, and scores of packages of brass jewelry in his room, which he has bought from time to time of peddlers who had won his confidence, while the number of articles of like origin and character which he has presented to the young ladies of Oshkosh is painfully large.

Of course, it is difficult to hold Mr. Baldwin guiltless in this matter, but his errors have been the result of his femininity, and surely the peddlers who have taken a base advantage of his weakness deserve by far the greater share of blame.

When, on Friday last, Mr. Baldwin bought of a peddler a bottle of hair cement, with the view of presenting it to Miss Bartlett, he meant to do a kind and thoughtful act. He knew that ladies are addicted to using various preparations, such as bandoline, mucilage, and bloom of youth for the purpose of keeping their hair in place and giving it a smooth and glossy appearance. The peddler told him that his hair cement was far superior to anything of the kind now in the market, and that no lady who had once used it would consent at any price to be without it. Mr. Baldwin, therefore, bought a bottle of the hair cement, and sent it to Miss Bartlett with a neatly-written note, in which he inadvertently renewed his vows of affection, while entreating her to use the cement that very evening for his sake. For what followed the peddler should be held primarily responsible, for it is idle to pretend that, had Mr. Baldwin foreseen the consequences of his act, he would ever have placed the fatal bottle in the hands of one to whom he was devotedly attached.

About 8 o'clock in the evening Mr. Baldwin called on Miss Bartlett, and was delighted to notice the unusually glossy appearance of her hair. She said that there was no doubt that the hair cement was better than bandoline in point of adhesiveness, and that she hoped it would prove to be all that a woman's heart could wish. Still, she was a little afraid that it was a trifle too sticky, inasmuch as the bottle had already glued itself fast to her dressing-table. Mr. Baldwin said he hoped not, and assured her that the peddler who sold him the bottle was an honest man, who could not tell a lie. The lovers then ceased to discuss the subject of hair cement, and seating themselves on the sofa, proceeded to the business of the evening, which is said to have been the solution of a series of problems of quadratic equations.

At a little after 9 o'clock there was a sudden alarm of father in the front hall. In like circumstances the prudent young lady always turns up the light and seats herself in the rocking-chair, a feat that can be done by young ladies in good practice in from three to five seconds. When Miss Bartlett undertook to rise with a view to the light and the rocking-chair, she exclaimed "Oh, my!" in agonized tones, and to Mr. Baldwin's immense astonishment, remained in her original position. There was not a second to be lost, for already the boots of the father were heard upon the floor, and he was on the point of turning the door-knob. Mr. Baldwin earnestly begged Miss Bartlett to recall her energies, or at all events to move and permit him to take the rocking-chair, but while she was entreating him with sobs not to stir, the door opened and the father was upon them.

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Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: A Peddler's Crime: 1880
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: New York Times Jun 24, 1880. p. 4 (1 page)
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