“How do I know that the watch will keep good time and won’t go to pieces?”
The question came floating from the interested crowd gathered around the waggon of the Cheap Jack, who was offering untold bargains in jewellery.
Some talker, this; and his string of phrases, his extraordinary descriptive powers of the intricacies of the timekeepers he offered for sale, kept interest at the highest pitch.
The query was started by the fact that Bill Hawker was holding up for inspection what appeared to be a solid gold watch. He explained most minutely the works, and played upon the credulity of his audience by using all kinds of terms foreign to the tradesman in the watch-repairing line at Wattle Flat.
“How do I know the watch won’t go to pieces?” persisted the exasperating person, rather attracted by the wondrous bargain offered by the travelling-salesman of high-class watches.
“There’s a doubting Thomas for you, gentlemen! Don’t you think I have a reputation to maintain? Do you think the Ground Committee would, for one moment, allow me to offer my wares for sale if they, for one moment, imagined my wares would go to pieces, or would not go? No sir! But in order to show you my faith in the watches I offer for sale, I am prepared to give you a written guarantee.”
“How much?” laconically enquired the doubting Thomas.
“Only two quid to you,” retorted the seller of watches.
“I mean the guarantee.”
“The guarantee won’t cost you nothing, smiled Bill.
“No; I mean how long will you guarantee the watch?”
“I’ll hand you a guarantee that the watch will be kept in good repair for two years. Come on — jump up here, and I’ll give you the written guarantee.”
The offer was too tempting for doubting Thomas to resist, so he pulled out a leather purse, held together with an elastic band, counted out two notes and approached the seller.
“Let’s have a look at the ticker.”
The ticker was first rubbed with a chamois leather and then handed to Thomas for inspection. The watch was placed to the prospective buyer’s ear and as the tick seemed to be in perfect order, the back of the timepiece was opened for inspection. It appeared to be in good going order, and the glittering thing tempted Thomas.
“Here’s yer two quid. Now ante up your guarantee.”
“Righto, friend,” replied Bill Hawker, carefully placing the watch in a small cover and handing it over to the purchaser. “Now let’s fix up the guarantee.”
“This, gentleman, is my usual form of guarantee, and in order that you may know the bargain our friend has made, let me read the form of guarantee. Here it is:
“I hereby guarantee to keep in good order and repair for a term of two years the watch this day purchased on the Wattle Flat Show Ground.”
“That’s a fair guarantee,” said some one in the crowd.
“Of course it’s a fair guarantee.”
“Are you satisfied with it?” queried Bill of his purchaser.
“Seems all right,” said doubting Thomas.
“Righto!” said Bill. “Here’s a fountain pen, sign your name just there.”
And he did as he was bid. Then Thomas pocketed the guarantee and mingled with the crowd, quite convinced he knew a little too much for them smart blokes wot sold watches on the Show Ground.”
“Some ticker!” he said to a friend a few days later, “and guaranteed for two blanky years.”
In after years I learned that any question put to doubting Thomas in regard to the value of watch-guarantees was like unto holding a red rag to a bull.
Jack Moses, Beyond the City Gates: Australian Story & Verse, Sydney: Austral Publishing Co., 1923, pages 62-63
blanky = substitution for a swear word (such as “bloody”)
Vernacular spelling in the original text:
[Editor: Inserted an opening quotation mark before “How do I”.]