Twenty Years of Hus'ling - novelonlinefull.com
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The third house I visited was that of a middle-aged gentleman who, after purchasing a bottle of my renovator, expressed a desire to become an agent for its sale. I informed him that I was sole proprietor and could give him a very good chance. He asked what I would take for Washtenaw County, Michigan. I saw at once that he was anxious to invest in territory, and as my preparation was not patented, I decided to accommodate him by letting him have the exclusive sale of it in that county for a reasonable consideration. I proposed to let him have the agency for that county for fifty dollars. The idea pleased him, but he thought the price rather high. He had raised a very fine garden and had a nice lot of vegetables in his cellar, which he showed me with a good deal of pride. While looking them over I took a careful inventory of every thing and became satisfied that he had enough stowed away for two families, and as soon as we returned from the cellar I began negotiating for a portion of each kind. His wife as well as himself was elated with the prospect of trading some of the products of their garden for a good paying business, and in less than an hour I closed a deal, immediately ordered a team and after loading up with potatoes, beets, turnips, apples, cabbage, etc., and receiving ten dollars in cash drove home with vegetables enough to last us several weeks.
I gave the gentleman a written agreement that he could have the exclusive sale for the polish in the said County. After the trade was made he asked me where he was going to get the polish, and wanted me to give him the recipe for making it. This I refused to do but explained that I could furnish it to him at a certain price per dozen. He then wanted to know if I had any other agents traveling. I told him I had not.
He then asked if I cared if he sold in other Counties. I answered him that I did not.
"Well," he next asked, "what in Heaven's name have I been paying you for, any how?"
"Experience," I answered.
He became excited, and said he didn't need experience.
I told him I thought he did, and that I considered the price very low for the amount I had let him have.
After chaffing him a few moments and getting him exceedingly nervous, I gave him the recipe with full instructions in the manner of making sales. This pleased him, and he began preparations for canva.s.sing outside of town.
I then visited a wood-yard with a view to purchasing a load, but found it would cost about as much for a cord of wood in Ann Arbor as it would for a farm in Dakota. I then inquired of the proprietor how other poor devils managed to keep warm in the town.
I was told that many of them used c.o.ke at ten cents per bushel, procured at the gas works.
My landlady informed me that she could furnish us with a stove (in place of the one we were using) that would burn c.o.ke. I consented to allow her to make the exchange, and borrowing a wheel-barrow started for the gas factory where I bought a bushel.
When I returned the new stove was ready and I began starting a fire. It took about two hours time and the whole bushel of c.o.ke to start it, and I was obliged to "hus'le" back after another load forthwith. We were successful in getting a good fire started, but very soon discovered that it required a full bushel of c.o.ke at a time in the fire-box to keep it up, even during moderate weather.
We were quite well satisfied, however, for several days, or until the extreme cold weather set in, when by being obliged to open the drafts of our stove to get sufficient heat, we discovered it took about two bushels at a time constantly in the stove to keep it running, and to my disgust I found at such times that the old stove would burn about a bushel a minute. Thus I had the poor satisfaction of seeing my money float up the chimney at the rate of about ten cents a minute. I didn't even have the satisfaction of enjoying this expensive luxury, as I was compelled to divide my time between hauling c.o.ke with the old wheel-barrow and "hus'ling" out with the polish to raise money to pay for it and our provisions. However I was not a continual sufferer from cold, although still wearing my summer clothes, as this constant "hus'ling" kept me in a sultry condition both mentally and physically.
Time pa.s.sed on bringing very little change to my straitened circ.u.mstances. I was illy prepared to withstand the severity of a Michigan winter. I had no hose except half worn cotton ones, no warm underwear or over-shoes which I sorely needed in my endless tramping from house to house, and no overcoat until February. The only articles of winter apparel I had were a pair of woolen mittens and a pair of ear m.u.f.flers, both of which I got from an old lady in exchange for furniture polish, and which will be seen ill.u.s.trated in the photograph I sent to my mother while in this sorry condition.
It was the night before Christmas, and the contents of my pocket-book were meager indeed. Pedestrians were hurrying to and fro, arms and pockets filled with packages to gladden the hearts of the loved ones at home. My naturally buoyant spirits fell to zero as I thought of my wife and baby boy and realized that I had nothing for them with which to make merry on the morrow.
I turned my steps homeward well-nigh disheartened. My sales had been slow that day owing to the universal purchasing of holiday goods and the scarcity of money left in the family purse. However, I suddenly determined to make one more effort, and see what might be my success in effecting another sale before going home. I therefore called at a s.p.a.cious stone front mansion, was admitted by the servant and ushered into the handsomely furnished parlor to await the coming of the mistress.
It was a home of luxury, evidenced by the rich carpets, elegant pieces of furniture, paintings of well-known artists and beautiful bric-a-brac in an expensive cabinet.
There was no biting chill from Jack Frost in this home. In the short time I sat there I wondered if the occupants appreciated the good things around them. How could they, if they had never known hunger and cold and discomfort?
These queries kept entering my mind:
"Will such furniture as this ever be mine? Will I ever be the owner of a stove as nice as that base-burner? Will carpets as luxurious as these ever belong to me? Will I ever be able to dress comfortably and genteelly?"
It would be a very difficult matter to describe to the reader my thoughts on that occasion. (I will add that I made a sale.)
In these later years when my income has been sufficient to warrant me in buying any thing I desire for personal comfort, I often think of the cheerless experiences of that winter. And I can truthfully say that my heart goes out to the homeless and dest.i.tute, and I am always willing to extend a helping hand to those who show a willingness to help themselves.
That was a long winter, take it all in all; but we managed to get three meals a day, notwithstanding I had an attack of bilious fever which made matters look very gloomy.
For several years I had never failed to have one of these attacks in the winter.
Realizing what to expect when the usual symptoms--chills--began to overpower me, I decided at once to make some sort of provision for my family.
I called at a butcher shop, and after ordering twenty pounds of beef-steak and getting it in my possession I asked the butcher to charge it. He said he didn't care to do business in that way. I told him I didn't care to either but----
"But," he interrupted "_I_ don't have to do business that way."
"Well sir, I do. So you see that's the difference between you and me, and as possession is about ten points of law I guess you will do better and will no doubt get your pay more quickly if you will quietly submit to my proposition."
I then explained to him my circ.u.mstances.
He asked why I didn't explain in the first place.
I replied "because I needed the meat."
Then he asked my name and said he hoped I would be honest with him.
I next called at a grocery and gave quite an extensive order to be delivered at our room.
In about an hour the groceries and a sack of flour were brought to the door. I ordered them inside, and then the bill was presented. I folded it and put it my pocket, saying:
"Just tell Mr. ---- to charge this."
"All right sir," the boy replied and drove off.
In less than twenty minutes the proprietor came rushing down fairly frothing at the mouth, and in a high state of exasperation rapped at the door, and when admitted asked excitedly what in thunder I meant.
I coolly explained that we simply meant to try and exist another day or two if buckwheat flour and coffee and sugar would keep us alive.
He said I couldn't live on his flour and coffee.
I politely informed him that I had no use for his, as I had plenty of my own just then.
"Well, why in thunder did you come and 'stand me off' in this way if you had plenty of your own?"
"But my dear sir, I had none of my own before I called on you."
"The devil you hadn't. And do you claim sir, that you own the things just delivered from my store?"
"Of course I do, but I don't deny that I owe you, and am willing to confess judgment if you wish me to do so."
After he had cooled off a little I stated my condition, when he too asked why I didn't explain in the beginning.
I answered that I had been on earth too long to take any such chances.
I had a siege of about ten days' sickness, after which I "hus'led" out, and by extra exertion managed to acc.u.mulate money enough to pay up my grocery and butcher bills. This greatly pleased the proprietors, and proved the means of making them my best friends, and just such as might come very convenient to have, in case of absolute necessity.
During my several months' absence from home my correspondence with my mother had been more limited than usual. I felt that during my entire career I had never shown a disposition to loaf or to sponge my living.
While I had frequently been a.s.sisted, I had kept a strict account of every dollar, and had regarded it, in each instance, as a business loan, expecting to pay it back some day; and had never asked for a.s.sistance except when I actually needed it. It was impossible at that time for me to understand my mother's policy in abruptly refusing me aid, when I felt that she was at least able to a.s.sist me a little.
At any rate, I was immensely "red-headed" all the time, and declared that I would fight it out on that line, if I had to wear my summer clothes all winter. I had declared that I would never return home till I was comfortably well fixed, or at least in a fair way to prosper. How well I kept my word will be seen farther on.
I remember during that siege, a coal and wood-dealer offered me a position in his office at fifteen dollars per week, which I declined with thanks, explaining that I had started out in life to "hus'le," and try and accomplish something of my own accord; and to go to work in a stupid, quiet business on a salary, at that late day, would be a disgrace to the profession. He argued that I would be sure of a comfortable living, anyhow. I agreed with him, but declared that I would never be sure of anything beyond that; and I would rather live from hand to mouth till such time as I could better my condition and possibly make money rapidly.