Twenty Years of Hus'ling - novelonlinefull.com
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"So I have, but it's in a draft."
"Well, what on earth are we to do? I have spent my last dollar. Guess we'll have to take them home in a street-car."
We started, and reached the corner of Randolph and Clark just as it set in to rain. Upon inquiry we learned to our dismay that all-night cars were not running on Randolph street, and that none would be running before daylight.
Just across the street, standing around the Court House as usual, were any number of hack-men.
I was completely non-plussed, and I don't recollect ever having been placed in closer quarters, or in a position where I felt more humiliated. I thought of Albert's draft, and stepping up to him said in a low tone as quickly as possible:
"Give me your draft and I'll get it cashed at the Sherman House."
He replied that it was in the hotel safe. I came near fainting, then finally said:
"Ladies, please excuse me one moment. I'll call a carriage."
So saying I stepped across the street, wondering on the way what I would do. I had no watch to leave as security, nor a piece of jewelry of any kind. Every thing of this sort was used by me as stock in trade. I knew better than to ask for credit, and realized that my life would be in danger to hire a carriage and undertake to "stave them off" afterwards.
So the reader will readily understand that I was at my wits' end; but at the last moment my senses came to me, and I instantly thought of a scheme to help us out. I asked a hack-man what he would charge to take us to a certain street and number on the West Side. He said two dollars.
He might as well have said two hundred. I at once found fault with the price, and managed to get into an altercation with him and three or four others, and talked loud enough for Albert and the young ladies to hear.
As I approached them I did so in a very excited manner, with my hat in one hand and a large empty pocket-book in the other, and roundly cursing all the cab-men in Chicago.
"What's the matter?" asked one of the girls.
"Matter? Great Heavens! Do you suppose I'll give seven dollars to one of these robbers to carry us over on the West Side?"
"Indeed you will not," shouted the brave little lady. "We'll walk."
"That's just what we will do," I cried, as I took her by the arm and hus'led her down street, fearing she might change her mind, followed by the other couple; and we made a rapid trip, pattering through the rain and mud, congratulating ourselves on our shrewdness and courage in getting even with the Chicago cab-men.
And now, after this digression, to resume:
After receiving the twenty-five dollars from Albert, I bought a few necessaries, and a ticket for Chicago, where I arrived June fifteenth, 1881, with but a few dollars. I called immediately on a firm I had dealt with a little the year before, and of whom I could buy goods at twenty-five per cent. less than from the one I first began dealing with.
After explaining my circ.u.mstances, giving references and asking the proprietor if he would sell me some stock on credit, he said he would limit me to fifty dollars, to begin with; and would increase it as my capital increased. I considered this reasonable, and selected forty dollars' worth. I made it a point to select just this amount on account of it having exactly the amount of my very first jewelry investment years before at Columbus, Ohio, when I started out peddling.
I then a Goodrich steamer for Muskegon, Michigan, arriving there the following morning.
I started out with a determination to sell a bill of goods; and although every merchant laughed me in my face when I showed up my stock, I kept "hus'ling," and finally struck one man who bought twenty dollars' worth.
This enabled me to take a fifteen-dollar package from the express office which I had ordered C.O.D. from the wholesaler, after buying my first stock on credit.
I now began traveling over precisely the same territory and visiting the same towns and merchants that I had called upon the year before, when on my first trip.
On my second day out, at Holton, Michigan, while sitting in the hotel, a traveling man remarked that the firm across the street was the best in the country to do business with, if a drummer could only manage to show his goods to them; but as they visited the Chicago market every two weeks they would not under any circ.u.mstances look at a drummer's goods.
Owing to the fact that I very much enjoyed calling on those who were the hardest to be convinced, I took special delight in making this firm a visit. I carried my case with me, and after setting it on the counter in front of the proprietor, asked permission to show him my goods. He flew into a rage, and declared he would not buy from any drummer. I still persisted, and he continued to sizzle around at a fierce rate. The more he did so the more I insisted on showing him my goods.
Finally, seeing the utter uselessness of trying to get his attention, I very quietly put the key in the lock of my case and unlocked it, and returned the key to my pocket. I then took hold of the case and as I bade him good-bye swung it around off the counter as if to leave the store. Of course the top raised up and the side lid fell down, letting the trays fall out on the floor, the same as occurred on the railroad track. The jewelry scattered all over the floor, and I began to apologize, and told him of my wretched disaster once before with the same case. I was very sorry to annoy him with such an accident. He saw at once that I was to all appearances very much embarra.s.sed, and in a sympathetic manner a.s.sured me that there was no harm done, so far as he was concerned, and began helping me to gather up the goods.
As I picked up one piece after another I would call his attention to them, and say: "That is one of the best sellers I ever saw;" "this is the latest style;" and "here is an article of the most peculiar design I ever saw."
In the meantime he became interested, and began asking prices; and finally gave me an order for from one-half to a dozen each of a nice a.s.sortment of goods. I at once saw that he supposed I was selling by sample, and took his order for about three times the amount of my stock in trade. I sent the order in to the house, and they filled it and gave me my commission, which amounted to nearly fifty dollars.
When I returned to the hotel and informed the gentleman whom I had gotten my information from that I had taken such an order, he was much surprised. Of course I was not so indiscreet as to relate how I had accomplished it. After I had become better acquainted with this firm, and they had become regular customers, I related the facts to them, much to their amus.e.m.e.nt.
I continued to hus'le, as before. My health was not first-cla.s.s, but I improved rapidly, and was very soon in a better condition physically than I had been for years. My success was fair during the summer. I visited Chicago frequently, and succeeded in establishing a limited credit of two hundred dollars with my new firm, but found it a hard matter to accomplish that much. I made good use of it, however, and when the busy season was approaching for the fall and holiday trade I determined to strike for a larger credit. This was not only with a view to extending my business, but I realized that at the rate I was progressing, I would soon want to establish a business of my own, and unless there was some wholesale jeweler to whom I could refer the Eastern manufacturers, I would have a hard time to get a start.
When I asked the manager of the concern for an extension of credit he said I could extend it a little. I therefore began selecting a stock of goods, which I insisted on having billed as fast as I picked them out.
That night, when I had finished and had the goods in my cases (I now carried two), and had them charged on the books and the bills for them in my pocket, and was about ready to start for the train, the proprietor chanced to discover that I had bought nearly one thousand dollars worth.
He threw up both hands in holy horror and declared I should never leave the store with all those goods.
I informed him that the goods had been properly billed and charged to me, and I had legal possession of them; and as my train was to leave soon it was my intention to take my departure.
I pointed to the front windows and reminded him and about twenty clerks who stood looking on, that we were about three stories up, and the first man who laid a hand on me or my goods would land through one of those windows on the sidewalk below, if I had to go down with him.
Saying which, I grabbed my cases, and with the further remark: "Gentlemen, make room for me now; I am ready to start," pa.s.sed out with not a word spoken, and everything as quiet as death.
Two or three of the clerks were good friends of mine, and were only too glad to see me force a credit for myself; and I doubt if they could have been induced to interfere had Mr. Streicher demanded it.
The first town I visited on this trip was Oconto, Wisconsin, which I reached the following morning; and before nine o'clock I had made a cash sale of one hundred and fifty dollars, and went immediately to the express office and remitted it to the house. And as business was brisk I remitted from one to three hundred dollars per day to them. In a few days I received a letter from Mr. S. offering me a credit of two or three thousand dollars, if I needed it.
I congratulated myself, and no one else, for this much-needed and desirable credit, realizing that had I let him have his way I would have been ten years gaining his confidence to this extent.
I now began to "turn myself loose," and with my nice line of goods there was no such thing as failure. I found it as easy to make a hundred dollars now, as one dollar at any previous time in my life. I visited Chicago often to buy new stock.
While speaking of Mr. Streicher (p.r.o.nounced Striker), a little incident connected with his name occurred about this time, which may prove interesting to the reader.
He was about to make a trip to New York, and as Albert and myself were contemplating a visit home we concluded to accompany him that far on his journey. My folks had often heard us speak of the gentleman, so when we arrived at Toledo, Albert said he would telegraph them to meet us at the depot, as they would no doubt be glad to see him. He therefore sent a message as follows: "Meet us at the noon train with Streicher."
The telegraph operator at Clyde "bulled" the message, and copied it, "Meet us at the noon train with stretcher."
It so happened that I met some friends at Toledo who persuaded me to remain there till the next day. Albert and Mr. Streicher went on, and when they alighted from the train at Clyde the platform was packed with people. It being Sunday, every one had turned out. The undertaker, Mr.
Terry, with his ambulance, and a stretcher placed on the platform near where the express car usually stopped, Mr. Keefer and my half-sisters greatly agitated, and my mother crying, as Albert and Mr. S. approached them, both wondering at the unusual excitement.
"Where is Perry? What has happened to Perry? Is he dead, or only hurt?"
These inquiries were made hurriedly, and when informed that nothing had happened they asked why he had telegraphed for a stretcher.
"Stretcher," said Albert, "you're crazy! I didn't telegraph for a stretcher, but said meet Streicher and me at the noon train."
When the facts became known, the a.s.semblage seemed to look upon the matter as a good joke upon themselves, and wended their way homeward looking disgusted and disappointed, plainly showing that their morbid curiosity had not been quite satisfied.
The next day, when I arrived and had been told of the occurrence, I asked Albert what my mother said.
"Well, she said she expected Perry would be killed sooner or later any how."
"What did Mr. Keefer say?"
"Oh, he said, 'It beat the devil.'"