Old St. Andrews



The Redoubtable Jim French



There is no man connected with the CPR who has had more experiences to the square inch than Jim French, the "cullud gemman" who does the honors so gracefully in President Van Horne's private car, and there is none who can relate his experiences more quaintly or more forcibly, or who can interlard them with more swear-words, than the aforesaid James. In fact, from the rugged cliffs of Cape Breton to the ocean-laved shores of British Columbia James French stands out alone and unique, the ne plus ultra, as it were, of all that is scientific and quaint in latter day profanity. Yet Jim is not bad, or vicious. On the contrary, he is as meek as a mouse, as generous as a lord, as sharp as a steel trap, and his heart is as big as the car in which he drives. Surrounded by wealth and luxury, Jim has had his dreams of greatness, but alas, many of them have not panned out as he had anticipated.

One of these, he related to the Beacon, while the President's car was waiting on the track at the Bar Road, the other day. It was while he was in Victoria, B. C., some years ago, that Jim experienced one of these ecstatic dreams. Somebody had whispered in his ear that if he invested his spare cash—he had about $225 in his inside pocket just then—in opium that he could treble his money back east. The vision of the wealth that was to roll in upon him as a result of this speculation nearly turned his head, and after a feverish night he pocketed his wealth next day and invested the whole of it in opium at $7.50 a point. He got back to Montreal with his investment, and lost no time in seeking out the leading druggist. "I told him that I had about $300 worth of the stuff, and asked him what he would give me for it. He looked at a little book, and then told me that it was worth $4.50 a pound. "Gee Whillakers! How my heart beat! only $4.50 a pound and I had paid $7.50 for it! I thought he was mistaken, but he showed me it in black and white. You see, the market for opium's something like wheat—it—it—what in — — — — do you call it—oh, yes—it fluctuates. One day it's up and the next day it's down. I struck it on the down grade. And how my heart beat!" "I tried every dealer in Montreal, but not one of them would give me a cent more than $4.50.

Then I took it home and stowed it under the bed, and told the old woman not to let any of the children tech it. She wanted to know what it was. 'Dynamite! Dynamite!' says I. 'Don't you let them children tech it!' Then she screamed, and told me to take it out, or we'd all be blowed up. At last, I told her all about it. She looked daggers at me, but none of them children teched it." "Some time after this I was in Chicago. I took the stuff with me. Only $5 a pound there! How my heart beat! I tried in other Yankee towns, but it was no go. And all this time I might have been getting 4 percent for my money if it hadn't been for that — — — — villain in Victoria! A shame, wan't it?"

"Next year, I was going to British Columbia, and I took it along with me. Tried to sell it to all the Chinese camps we passed, but couldn't do it. None of them would give me what I had paid for it. At that time, the track stopped at Port Moody. Of course, you know where Port Moody is. Well, there was a big Chinaman there and I hooked onto him." "'How muchee givee me?' I asked." "'Givee you seven dollee hop!' said John." "Seven dollars and a half! Gee Whillakers, how my heart beat! Just to think I was going to get my money back! Then I thought I'd strike for more, just for interest, you know!" "'Worth more than that,' said I." "'Seven dollee hop, all I givee. Gettee it in Victoria for seven dollee hop.'" "'But I have nearly three hundred dollars worth.'" "'Allee sammee thousand dollee; me take it seven dollee hop.'" "And you ought to have seen me 'hop' for that car. Gee Whillakers! How my heart beat! I took every blessed ounce of it and sold it to John. And it'll be a cold day again before you see me buying opium."

"Got salted on hats, too! yes, I did. You know those straw hats, those cheap hats, those ornery hats, those — — — — things that farmers wear in the fields! Of course, you do. Well, a friend told me in British Columbia that there was a bonanza for me in it, if I took a lot of them out. I could get fifty cents apiece for them. Went to a Montreal dealer, and asked him the price of them wholesale. 'Four cents,' said he. 'I'll take all you have,' said I. His eyes got big as saucers, and I guess he thought I was crazy. He sold me about three hundred of the — — — —things on a string. They filled my room near about. When I got to Donald the man that was to give me fifty cents for them had busted up, skipped out, vamoosed. And there I was with a half a car load of the — — — — things to sell, and only an hour or two or sell them in! How my heart beat! I hustled around, and at last found a chap that offered to take them off my hands for five cents apiece! A cent profit after lugging them for nearly three thousand miles! Whew! I've had quite enough of opium and hats. No more of them for me, please. But here's the old man." And Jim scurried off to the kitchen to arrange a tempting repast for the President.—St. Andrews Beacon, April 13, 1893.