While visiting Naples, last fall, I took a great interest in the wonderful museum there, of objects that have been exhumed from the ruins of Pompeii. It is a remarkable collection, including, among other things, the cumbersome machinery of a large woolen factory, the receipts, contracts, statements of sales, etc., etc., of bankers, brokers, and usurers. I was told that the exhumist also ran into an Etruscan bucket-shop in one part of the city, but, owing to the long, dry spell, the buckets had fallen to pieces.
The object which engrossed my attention the most, however, was what seems to have been a circular issued prior to the great volcanic vomit of 79 A.D., and no doubt prior even to the Christian era. As the date is torn off however, we are left to conjecture the time at which it was issued. I was permitted to make a copy of it, and with the aid of my hired man, I have translated it with great care.
Office of Lucretius & Procalus,
Flour, Bran, Shorts, Middlings, Screenings, Etruscan Hen Feed, and Other
Highest Cash Price Paid for Neapolitan Winter Wheat and Roman Corn
Why haul your Wheat through the sand to Herculaneum when we pay the same price here?
Office and Mill, Via VIII, Near the Stabian Gate, Only Thirteen Blocks From the P.O., Pompeii.
Dear Sir: This circular has been called out by another one issued last month by Messrs. Toecorneous & Chilblainicus, alleged millers and wheat buyers of Herculaneum, in which they claim to pay a quarter to a half-cent more per bushel than we do for wheat, and charge us with docking the farmers around Pompeii a pound per bushel more than necessary for cockle, wild buck-wheat, and pigeon-grass seed. They make the broad statement that we have made all our money in that way, and claim that Mr. Lucretius, of our mill, has erected a fine house, which the farmers allude to as the “wild buckwheat villa.”
We do not, as a general rule, pay any attention to this kind of stuff; but when two snide romans, who went to Herculaneum without a dollar and drank stale beer out of an old Etruscan tomato-can the first year they were there, assail our integrity, we feel justified in making a prompt and final reply. We desire to state to the Roman farmers that we do not test their wheat with the crooked brass tester that has made more money for Messrs. Toecorneous & Chilblainicus than their old mill has. We do not do that kind of business. Neither do we buy a man’s wheat at a cash price and then work off four or five hundred pounds of XXXX Imperial hog feed on him in part payment. When we buy a man’s wheat we pay him in money. We do not seek to fill him up with sour Carthagenian cracked wheat and orders on the store.
We would also call attention to the improvements that we have just made in our mill. Last week we put a handle in the upper burr, and we have also engaged one of the best head millers in Pompeii to turn the crank day-times. Our old head miller will oversee the business at night, so that the mill will be in full blast night and day, except when the head miller has gone to his meals or stopped to spit on his hands.
The mill of our vile contemporaries at Herculaneum is an old one that was used around Naples one hundred years ago to smash rock for the Neapolitan road, and is entirely out of repair. It was also used in a brick-yard here near Pompeii; then an old junk man sold it to a tenderfoot from Jerusalem as an ice-cream freezer. He found that it would not work, and so used it to grind up potato bugs for blisters. Now it is grinding ostensible flour at Herculaneum.