Twenty Years of Hus'ling - novelonlinefull.com
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Hardly a word had pa.s.sed between us since supper. Finally, discovering that I was awake, he asked me if I was comfortable. I a.s.sured him that I was resting splendidly.
He then asked, in a low tone, how I liked the supper, and what I thought of the boarding house.
I replied that I thought the supper was fine, and that everything was neat and clean and nice and tidy, the old lady a splendid cook, a good conversationalist, and had a nice family of well-bred children; and as for myself, _I liked it, it was so home-like_. Johnny made no reply, but as I could see, was doing considerable thinking.
For breakfast we had hominy and coffee. If there was ever one thing I detested more than another, it was hominy. But I partook of it heartily, and conversed as pleasantly as possible with Johnny and the old lady.
For dinner we had a small piece of tainted beef-steak with some warmed over sour potatoes and warm biscuit and b.u.t.ter.
I praised the dinner and especially the biscuit. The children never failed to occupy their customary places nor to perform their usual evolutions.
For supper the cup of tea and mola.s.ses cake were again brought out.
The third day Johnny once more asked me how I liked the boarding-house.
"Well, Johnny, I think it is nice. Every thing is neat and clean and nice and tidy. The old lady is a splendid cook, a good conversationalist and has a nice family of well-bred children, and as for myself _I like it, it's so home-like_."
We made several successful auction sales, and I kept canva.s.sing with the polish.
Johnny found considerable difficulty in pa.s.sing the time pleasantly at the boarding-house. Having previously stopped at first-cla.s.s hotels, the contrast was far from agreeable, and I could see he was getting restive and dissatisfied.
I had determined to use every effort in trying to keep him there as long as possible. My experience had taught me that a cheap boarding-house was no place to stop at, and I thought the sooner he learned the lesson the better it would be for him.
On the fifth day, when he asked how I liked it by that time, I again repeated:
"Why, Johnny, I think it's nice. Everything is neat and clean and nice and tidy, the old lady is a splendid cook and a good conversationalist, and has a nice family of well-bred children; and as for myself, _I like it, it's so home-like_."
I noticed he eyed me very closely this time, but as I managed to get through without a smile, and appeared thoroughly in earnest, he seemed to consider it best not to express his opinion; and as I asked no questions he said nothing, but looked pale and haggard, and appeared nervous and anxious.
Matters went on as usual, with no improvement at the boarding-house, except on Sunday for dinner we had flour gravy, which I was very fond of, and complimented the old lady on her way of making it.
Johnny had nothing to say; and as he cared nothing for gravy, ate but little, and looked silly.
As we pa.s.sed into the sitting-room together I remarked:
"That's the kind of a dinner I like; _it's so home-like_."
He eyed me closely, said nothing, but looked bewildered.
On the seventh day at noon, as I was coming in from canva.s.sing, I met him down town. He looked haggard and hungry. When I came up and said "it's about dinner-time, isn't it?" he answered: "Great Caesar! it's about time to eat, anyhow, and I have got to have a square meal once more."
"Well, come with me, Johnny, I'll take you to a nice place."
He followed, and as we pa.s.sed into the restaurant the cashier said:
"How are you to-day Mr. Johnston?"
We took a seat at one of the tables, when Johnny began watching me closely. Directly one of the waiters came to us and said:
"Mr. Johnston, we have your favorite dish, to-day, and it's very fine."
"Very well, then bring me a New England dinner."
At this Johnny's eyes fairly glistened, and he turned ghastly pale. Then jumping to his feet and pounding the table with his fist, he cried out:
"Johnston, you're a ---- fraud! and have nearly succeeded in starving me to death, and ---- me if I----"
"But, sit down--sit down; let me explain--let me explain."
He resumed his seat, when I began with:
"You see, Johnny, I thought you were partial to boarding-houses, and as everything was neat and clean and nice and tid----"
"Oh, tidy be ----! Cuss your nice old lady, and her good conversation, and all the ---- well-bred kids. I'll be cussed if you'll ever come any such smart tricks on me again. The best will be none too good for me, hereafter. I thought all the while that you were feeling mighty gay for a man living on wind and water, and sleeping on a bunch of straw. And I suppose, if the truth were known, you slipped off up to some hotel every night after I got to sleep, and staid till five o'clock in the morning, and then returned in time to make a ---- fool of me. But look out for breakers hereafter. No more clean, nice, tidy boarding-houses for me, no matter how home-like it is, nor how good a talker the old woman is. I am through--through forever, even though all the well-bred children in Missouri starve for the want of income from boarders, I am going to move to-day."
We then moved to a respectable hotel, where both were delighted with the wonderful change.
After leaving Kansas City we remained together for some time, but Johnny made no improvement in his manner of living till finally his money was gone and his stock was reduced to a mere handful of goods. At last one Sat.u.r.day afternoon we went out to make a sale and I cleaned out the last dollars' worth and then sold the trunks and declared the business defunct.
Johnny protested, but I argued with him that the sooner he sold out entirely and spent the money the sooner he could call on his wife for more.
He said that was so, and he guessed he would telegraph her to sell another house and lot and send him the proceeds immediately, with which he would purchase more goods.
I laughed at the idea and little thought he would do so till about two weeks later he opened a letter one day containing a draft for several hundred dollars, and said:
"Johnston there is nothing like striking it rich;" and then queried in an under tone: "If a man has nothing and his wife has plenty who does the property belong to?"
He liked the auction business and immediately ordered more goods and also began showing more extravagance than ever in buying clothing and a disposition to go out with "the boys" at every town we visited.
I kept "hus'ling" with my polish and let Johnny pay my hotel bills and the commission due me on auction sales.
I soon saw that all arguments were lost on him so long as his wife owned another house and lot, so concluded to stay with him as long as there was anything in it.
He was not long, however, in again bringing the business to a focus. It happened in this way: One afternoon while I was out selling polish he engaged in a quiet game of cards "with just enough at stake to make it interesting," and when the game ended he had not only lost all his ready cash, but had borrowed about twice as much on the goods as they were worth, and had also lost that.
He then asked me to loan him some money which I refused to do, but a.s.sured him that I would not see him want for the necessaries of life as long as he was with me.
I now thought it a good time to urge him to try to sell polish, and lost no time in doing so. When pressed he declared he wouldn't be caught going to a house with a valise in his hand for fifty dollars a day.
But he said he had often wished he could be sitting in some one's house some time when I entered and see how I managed.
I then proposed that he should make some plausible excuse for visiting a certain house that we should agree upon, and I would call while he was there.
The next day was Sunday, and when we were out walking he located a house, and we fixed the next day as the time.
I asked him what excuse he would make few calling.
He said he would make believe he wanted to buy their house and lot, and the lots adjoining them, and that his intentions were to build a stave and barrel factory. He had been foreman in such a factory, and could talk it right to the point.