Twenty Years of Hus'ling - novelonlinefull.com
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The lawyer said he frequently went out to different points and made speeches, and wanted me to go along the next time he went.
In a few days he asked me to accompany him fifteen miles to a cross-roads school house the following evening. He was to make a speech, and expected to meet a man from Gallion who would also speak; and he wanted me to go with him, and get up and bury the Democratic party forever, in that part of the country.
I at first hesitated, on account of having been a Democrat while at Gallion, as I feared that the gentleman from there might have heard me arguing at the hotel, and would give me away.
Fortunately, however, he failed to put in an appearance. The lawyer delivered his speech, and after informing his audience that the Gallion man was unable to come, introduced me as a subst.i.tute sent by him, and represented me as a very promising young lawyer from Fremont, Ohio, the very town where Mr. Hayes had always resided. I could tell them more of his personal characteristics than any politician in the field.
[Ill.u.s.tration: A BADLY MIXED POLITICAL SPEECH NEAR CRESTLINE, O.--PAGE 438]
I opened up on them like a thunderbolt, and succeeded in fairly mopping the floor with the Democratic party.
After talking a full half hour, and relating many a little story which I had picked up for the occasion, and was carrying my audience along under full sail, with almost a full string counted up for the Republican party, the old lawyer who sat behind me, pulled my coat-tail, and began to laugh slightly. I noticed also a few intelligent-looking gentlemen looking suspiciously at one another and laughing immoderately.
I became conscious that something was wrong, and suddenly realized that I had unconsciously switched off onto my Democratic speech.
I hesitated a moment, and on a second's reflection realized that I had been talking Democracy several minutes, and had said several things that I couldn't take back. I became fl.u.s.tered, and hesitated and stumbled more or less till I heard the lawyer say, in a low voice:
"Dang it, get out of it the best you can, and close 'er up--close 'er up quick."
I then said:
"Gentlemen, I am compelled to make an honest, frank confession to you.
In the first place I must admit that my politics have become somewhat tangled up in this particular speech; and as an apology for it must honestly confess that I am a Democrat, and have been traveling all over the country making Democratic speeches.
"But I was paid an extra stipulated price this evening to come over here as a subst.i.tute and make a Republican speech; and dang me if I haven't got fogged up. So, gentlemen, you must take the will for the deed; and if you are able to unravel my speech, you are welcome to whichever portion pleases you best."
Everybody laughed and yelled, and the majority of them wanted to shake me by the hand and congratulate me.
The old lawyer said one good thing about it was, that the biggest part of my speech was Republican, anyhow; and that I told them a good many plain truths, too, while I was at it.
I asked how about the Democratic part. Weren't they facts, too?
"Well, yes, I guess they were; but, thank G.o.d, there wasn't much of it."
He said he couldn't see how on earth I could have gotten my politics so badly mixed, and only for the fact that he positively knew me to be engaged in selling polish and auctionering he would surely take my word for it that I was a Democratic stump speaker. He said further, if I had politics down a little bit finer, he couldn't see anything to prevent me from striking a job in almost any town, as I would be sure to find either a Democratic or Republican meeting wherever I went.
CONTINUE TO SELL FOR MERCHANTS--WELL PREPARED FOR WINTER--TRADING A SHOT-GUN FOR A HORSE AND WAGON--AUCTIONEERING FOR MYSELF--MR. KEEFER NEEDING HELP--HOW I RESPONDED--TURNING MY HORSE OUT TO PASTURE--ENGAGED TO SELL ON COMMISSION--HOW I SUCCEEDED--OUT OF A JOB--BUSTED--HOW I MADE A RAISE--A RETURN TO THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE--PEDDLING WITH A HORSE AND WAGON--MEETING AN OLD FRIEND--MISERY LIKES COMPANY--WE HUS'LE TOGETHER--PERFORMING A SURGICAL OPERATION--A PUGILISTIC ENCOUNTER--OUR WILD-WEST STORIES--BROKE AGAIN--A HARD CUSTOMER--ANOTHER RAISE.
I kept up my plan of engaging with merchants to sell out their acc.u.mulated hard stocks, and never lost an opportunity to put in my spare time selling polish. I was determined that old Jack Frost should not catch me again with my summer clothes on and no coal in the bin; and when winter came, my family and myself were well provided for. We had plenty of coal and wood, a cellar well filled with all kinds of winter vegetables, a half barrel of corned beef, a barrel of flour, a tub of b.u.t.ter, and I was still "hus'ling." Snow storms could not be severe enough to keep me from peddling; and although I called on many ladies who plainly showed their disgust at me for tracking the snow over their carpets, I knew I was working for a good cause, and that they had only to see to be convinced.
I was obliged to spend considerable money for additional furniture for housekeeping and the general comforts of life; and when spring came again I was a little short financially, but determined, now that my family were comfortably situated, to make an earnest effort to procure a stock of auction goods for myself.
One day while canva.s.sing with the polish, a young man wanted to trade for the recipe so he could travel with it. I soon struck a deal with him and received seventeen dollars in cash and an old shot-gun. I laid the money away carefully, thinking I would try and sell the gun and have that much towards a stock of goods. I did not succeed, however, in making this sale, and so took it home with me.
One day as I was walking down town I met two men leading a poor, old, bony horse out of town and carrying a gun.
I learned from their conversation that they were going to kill the old nag. I asked the reason and they said he was so old he couldn't eat and was starving to death. I examined his mouth and found his front teeth were so very long that when the mouth was closed there was a considerable s.p.a.ce between the back teeth, which of course, would prevent him from grinding the feed.
I inquired of the owner if he also owned a wagon or harness. He said he did. I next asked what he would take for the whole rig, horse, harness and wagon.
He wanted twenty-five dollars. I told him about my shot-gun and offered to trade with him. He accompanied me to my house and I very quickly closed a trade, receiving the whole outfit for the gun.
[Ill.u.s.tration: MY FIRST SALE AS PROPRIETOR AND AUCTIONEER AT REPUBLIC, OHIO.--PAGE 445.]
I was not long in filing the old horse's front teeth down, by which he was enabled to eat, much to his satisfaction and to my gain.
I then ordered seventeen dollars' worth of notions, bought an old second hand trunk, had a couple of tin lamps made to use for street illumination, and started on my first trip as proprietor and auctioneer.
The old horse I think meant all right enough, that is if he meant any thing at all, but he wasn't much good. He couldn't have been built right in the first place, for though he could eat more than three ordinary horses and seemed willing enough to make a good showing, yet I was always obliged to get out and push whenever we came to the least incline; and at the slightest noise sounding like the word "whoa" he would stop instantly. But with him, stopping was one thing and starting another.
I made a practice of commencing early in the morning and selling polish among the farmers during the day-time, and driving into some country town just at night-fall and making an auction sale on the street by torch light.
I had small packages of notions sent on ahead C.O.D. from the wholesale house with which I was dealing. In this way I was able to carry on quite a business.
I bantered every one I met to trade horses, but no one seemed to take a particular fancy to my animal.
I kept up this system of auctioneering and selling polish till into the summer, and had succeeded in getting a trunk full of goods, and began to feel that I was in a fair way to make money rapidly.
One day I received a letter from Mr. Keefer saying he must have help from some source. His note was coming due at the bank besides other obligations which he must meet, and if it were possible for me to a.s.sist him in any way he wished I would do so.
This was the first time he had ever asked me for a.s.sistance, and not once could I remember that he had ever refused me aid when I asked it of him.
It was not necessary for him to make any explanations to convince me that he really needed help, for the many times he had so generously handed out to me was sufficient proof that he would more willingly give to, than take from me. Consequently I was not long in deciding to close out my goods at once and send him the proceeds.
The next morning after making my evening sale I sent him what money I had, with a promise of more as soon as I could sell out. I made two more sales before I was able to close out the last of my stock, and sent him the money.
The next town I stopped at was Bodkins; and the landlord of the hotel, Mr. Lehman, informed me that his father, living in another town, owned a large stock of general merchandise, and wanted to sell it out; and asked what I thought about selling it at auction. I explained it would be the proper caper. He telegraphed for his father, who came up, and they wanted to hire me by the day or week.
I told them it was against my principles to work on salary, but I would take ten per cent. and all my expenses. This they agreed on. After turning the old horse out to pasture, we started for the old gentleman's home, and began making arrangements for an auction sale there, preparatory to starting out on the road.
We advertised extensively; and as the stock consisted of almost everything, including a lot of ready-made clothing, we drew an immense crowd, and made a sale of over twelve hundred dollars on Sat.u.r.day afternoon and evening.
I remember when Sunday morning came I was unable to above a whisper; but I had one hundred and twenty dollars in cash as my commission, ready to send to Mr. Keefer on Monday morning.
We moved the balance of the stock to another town, where our sales ran from one to three hundred dollars per day. I had a settlement every night, as soon as the receipts were counted, and on the following morning sent the money to Mr. Keefer, reserving only enough to pay my family expenses, which I practiced sending home every Friday.
We succeeded in closing out the bulk of this large stock of goods, when one day, at St. Mary's, Ohio, after I had sent my last dollar to Mr.
Keefer, the proprietor made a trade with a real-estate agent, receiving a farm for the remainder of the stock. I was notified that my services were no longer required. My board was paid up to the following day, but I hadn't a dollar to my name.
Of course, the first thing that entered my mind was the "Incomprehensible" and the only thing needed was a dollar or two with which to invest in a few bottles.
That day at noon, when I came out of the dining-room from dinner, my light-colored Derby hat was missing; and as another one was there which resembled mine very closely, and fitted me exactly, I put it on, keeping a look-out for the wearer of my own. As it had a large grease-spot on one side, from the dripping of oil from my street lamps I knew I could tell it easily.