Twenty Years of Hus'ling - novelonlinefull.com
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The next day, after dinner, I asked him if he was going to make that call and hear me sell polish.
He said yes, he was ready to start then.
He started, and I followed closely after him; and in a very few minutes after he was admitted, I rang the bell and was also admitted by the servant, and ushered into the parlor where Johnny was sitting alone. The girl informed me that her mistress would be down very soon.
I asked Johnny, in a low tone, if he had met the lady of the house yet.
He said he had not, but she had sent word that she would see him in a few moments.
I stepped across the room near him and began looking at some pictures, then carelessly set my valise down by his chair, and after looking at a few more pictures, returned to my own chair, near the hall door, and awaited the lady's coming.
She soon entered the parlor, her two grown daughters accompanying her.
As they glanced from one of us to the other, I arose and said:
"Madam, I am informed that you have offered your property here for sale.
I am desirous of purchasing a property of this description, as I want a house with several vacant lots adjoining on which to build a stave and barrel factory."
She said they had often spoken about selling out if they had a good chance; but didn't know that their neighbors, or any one else, had ever been informed of it. I then asked her if she would show me the house.
She said she would, and as we were about to leave the room I turned to her and said:
"Madam, perhaps this gentleman would like your attention before we leave the room. I see he has something for sale in his valise."
She turned to him and said:
"What is it sir?"
Johnny sat there deathly pale, his eyes fairly popping out of his head and his whole body shaking like a poplar leaf. He first glanced at the valise, then at the lady, and after giving me a wistful, weary, woe-begone look, carefully picked up the valise and rising from his chair faltered out:
"Madam, you don't want to buy any varnish, do you?"
"No sir, indeed I do not and----"
"Well that is what I thought. I'll bid you good day, ladies," and he bowed himself out.
After being shown through the house and answering innumerable questions about stave and barrel-making, and where I had formerly been in business, I left for the hotel where I found Johnny patiently waiting my return.
As I entered the hotel office he met me near the door and said:
"Johnston I'd rather have been caught stealing chickens than in that horrible predicament; don't you ever do it again."
I a.s.sured him I had no idea of ever being able to do it again, or to perpetrate a similar joke on him, even though I were ever so anxious to do so.
After it was all over he seemed to appreciate the joke, but made me all sorts of offers if I would not tell it to his wife when we got home.
I asked for the valise and he said he had paid a small boy to bring it to the hotel, and he supposed it was at the office, for he wouldn't carry it through town under any circ.u.mstances, and if those people where he called would deed him their house and lot he wouldn't again go through what he did during those few awful seconds. He said that when I began talking about the house and lot he thought at first I had either got things badly mixed up or had gone crazy; and then when he suddenly thought of himself and the predicament it had left him in, he thought _he_ would go crazy. The very first thing he thought of was that I had up and told the same identical story that he was to tell, and that he was actually left without a sign of an excuse for calling on those people. It never occurred to him that he could possibly introduce himself as a polish vender although he fully realized that the valise had been saddled on to him; and he was sitting there in a dazed condition wondering how he should get out of a sc.r.a.pe when I called the lady's attention to him. And only for the fact that I mentioned him as a man with something for sale he possibly never would have came to his senses again, and would no doubt have been arrested or kicked out of the house.
I asked him why he didn't ask the lady if she didn't wish to buy instead of saying, "Madam, you don't want to buy do you?"
"Great Heavens, I was afraid as it was that she would say that she wanted to buy and if she had I would have fainted dead away."
This satisfied me that Johnny would never make a polish vender and I advised him to return home, which he did.
I then went to Clyde, Ohio, where my family were keeping house. I had sent them there from Bronson, Michigan a few weeks before. It had taken the greater portion of the money I had been making to get them comfortably settled at housekeeping and to buy necessary clothing for them. I had now begun to hand over a few dollars to Mr. Keefer occasionally to help him out at times when he was badly in need of money.
I lost no time in getting out canva.s.sing again and had set my mind on some day having a nice stock of auction goods.
It occurred to me about this time that I might possibly prevail upon merchants doing business in country towns to advertise and make an auction sale and clean out their old hard stock. I suggested the idea to one of the leading merchants of a town where I was canva.s.sing. He readily fell in with it, and after I convinced him of my ability to sell the goods, he advertised a sale which brought large crowds of people from all directions, and our success was more than gratifying.
He acknowledged that we had converted hundreds of dollars' worth of goods into money that had been in his store for years and probably would have remained there for years to come.
With a strong letter of recommendation from this merchant, I found no trouble in persuading the leading merchant in each and every town I visited to make an auction sale. I was to receive a regular commission on all sales made, and to sell only during the evenings and Sat.u.r.day afternoons. This afforded me a very nice income, but I still clung to my polish, and kept hus'ling when I wasn't selling at auction.
It is not generally known by auctioneers that this plan of operating is a practical one. Nevertheless it is, and there is not only a wide field for them, but it is a fact that the average merchant can well afford to and _will_ give a good live auctioneer a large percentage for clearing out his odds and ends, as often as once a year, and this can be continued from place to place the year round.
Many a young man, who has the ability and might easily learn the profession and adapt himself to it, could as easily establish himself in a well-paying business in that way as to plod along in the same old rut year in and year out, without any future prospect for obtaining either money or experience.
As for the latter, I have always considered every year's experience I had as an auctioneer equal to any three years of other business.
On my new plan of operating, I at once saw that success, especially during the fall and winter season, was a.s.sured me.
This was in the fall of 1876, when Hayes and Tilden were candidates for the Presidency. I had never interested myself in politics in the least, up to this time, and hardly knew which side either man was running on.
But Mr. Hayes being from my own county, and I might add the fact that I then had in my possession a history of one branch of my father's family which contained his name, and enabled me to prove him at least a fourteenth cousin, I at once became interested in him and anxious to see him in the Presidential chair.
I likewise began reading up on politics; and seeing the necessity of familiarizing myself with the party platforms, so as to be able to score every Democrat I met in good shape, I took the precaution to preserve every good Republican speech I read, and at my leisure cut such extracts from them as I considered good.
After getting a lot of these together I arranged them so as to read smoothly, and pasted in a sc.r.a.p book; and discovered that I had a "bang up" political speech. I lost no time in committing it to memory, and was thereby successful in carrying everything by storm.
As I could talk louder, longer and faster than the average person, I usually experienced little trouble in making the Democrats "lay still."
At last, however, I came in contact with one landlord who was a Democrat and who made it so very unpleasant for me that I concluded to manufacture a Democratic speech also, in order to be prepared for another such occasion.
Therefore I did the same as I did with the Republican speech; and although I rather preferred Hayes, I didn't think my own prospects for a post office were so flattering but that, when I considered it a matter of policy, I could deliver a Democratic speech as well. This I often did, with as much success as with the Republican.
Whenever I registered at a strange hotel, the first inquiry I made was about the landlord's politics; and he always found me with him.
Before the campaign was over I had argued about equally for both parties, and the day before election I felt that I ought to go into mourning, because whichever was elected I knew I would be sorry it wasn't the other.
I had been a red hot Democrat at Gallion, Ohio, and had made a great many hotel-office speeches there, greatly to the satisfaction of the landlord and his friends.
From there I went to Crestline, where I felt obliged to be a Republican, and immediately made the acquaintance of two professional men, one a doctor and the other a lawyer. Both were Republicans, and frequented the hotel where I boarded. Neither of them could read very easily, on account of having what I used to call "slivers in their eyes," caused by excessive drinking. They enjoyed politics, however, and used to ask me to read aloud to them. In order to flatter me and keep me interested in the reading, every time I would finish an article the old lawyer would jump up and down in his chair, and say:
"He's a good reader, a Jim-dandy reader."
"Damfeain't, damfeain't," the doctor would chime in, also jumping up and down in his chair.
"Read some more, Johnston; read some more, you're a bully good reader."
I of course had frequent occasions to deliver my Republican speech while there, or at least extracts from it; and as I also established quite a reputation as an auctioneer, the two professional gentlemen said I ought to have been making political speeches during the entire campaign.