Twenty Years of Hus'ling - novelonlinefull.com
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"Make it five dollars more, and it's a trade," said he.
"I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll wrestle you, run a foot-race, or spit at a mark, to see whether I shall pay five dollars extra or not."
He "sized me up" for a moment, and said he guessed he'd wrestle with me; and asked me to name my hold. I proposed "rough-and-tumble."
We then laid off our coats and took hold, and in much less time than it takes to tell it my heels and hat were flying in the air, and a second later I found myself sprawling in the middle of the road on my back.
After rising to his feet he was about to put his coat on, when I asked if he was going to give up.
"Give up? Great Caesar! didn't I throw you fair and square?"
"Yes, you did that time; but the best three in five is what wins where I came from."
"All right, sir. Three in five goes, then."
By this time we had gotten rested, and took hold again. I felt in my bones that my five dollars was a goner, but determined to do my best, and managed to make it pretty lively for him. Finally, however, he landed me again squarely on my back.
While taking a rest he remarked that "side-hold" was his favorite way to wrestle.
I told him that I also preferred "side-hold."
The fact was, I preferred almost anything for a change. I couldn't see that I was likely to lose much, at any rate, and was glad to accept almost anything. A moment later my wife called time, and we took "side-hold."
For some unaccountable reason I felt more confident, and in less than two seconds I had him on _his_ back. I then began laughing and told him I had only been fooling with him, and asked how he'd like to divide the five dollars and call it a draw. He was extremely good-natured, and seemed to enjoy the sport as much, if not more, than I did, but said he wasn't the "draw" kind; and if I expected to get any part, or the whole of that five dollars I'd have to do some tall wrestling. I have often thought since that the fellow must have known what he was talking about, for when he took hold of me the fourth round, one would have thought he was about to decide a bet of thousands of dollars.
I took in the situation at once, and the thought uppermost in my mind was to try to save my neck, regardless of the five dollars.
I was not mistaken when I thought I saw "blood in his eye," for sure enough he proved himself a terror, and in less time than any previous round he again had my heels in the air and landed me on my back the third time.
I acknowledged myself vanquished, and after paying him the fifty-five dollars, we exchanged horses and separated on the best of terms.
A few moments later, after my wife and I had started on with our new horse, I asked her how she liked traveling. She laughed heartily at the absurdity of our plan for deciding the trade, and replied that with the recreation, excitement and change of climate, she thought that I would improve in health whether she did or not.
I soon discovered that my scheme of traveling by team was going to be just the thing to help me sell off the large surplus of goods which I still had on hand. I had always done the bulk of my business with general-store merchants.
On this trip we learned that there was a general stagnation in trade, and especially with this cla.s.s of goods; and to undertake to push more jewelry on those who then had more than they needed and more than they could pay for, would be foolish and unbusiness-like. I also found that my agent who had been traveling through that section, had sold to anybody and everybody, regardless of credit-standing, or responsibility.
I quickly decided to adopt a new system of operation.
On referring to my map and commercial book I found any number of what are termed Cross-Road stores,--that is, merchants residing and doing business off the railroads, and in very small towns where traveling agents were not likely to stop. I could find any number of these right on the lines of roads where my agents had been traveling, and where I had considerable money due me, which I was anxious to collect.
I began at once by calling on this cla.s.s of trade. Business was exceedingly dull with all of them, and as I hardly ever found a single one who had experimented with the sale of jewelry, I found but little difficulty in convincing the majority that the only thing they lacked to boom their trade was a stock of my goods. At any rate, I found my sales running four or five times as high as any one of my agents had been making. I managed to keep in range of the larger towns where money was due me from old customers, and would make it a point to call on them and demand an immediate settlement of some kind. If they couldn't pay cash, I would take notes, which could be used as trade paper with my creditors, by endorsing the same.
About this time I received a long confidential letter from my book-keeper, saying he had been looking over the books carefully, and found that I was owing twenty-six thousand dollars which was past due, besides what was not yet due; and as there wasn't a dollar in the bank, and the majority of our customers were not prompt in the payment of their bills, he couldn't see how I ever expected to pull through; then after apologizing for offering me advice, suggested that I return at once, and make a clean breast of it by making an a.s.signment; and after settling up for from twenty-five to fifty cents on the dollar, I could commence on a new and firmer basis.
I replied to this letter as soon as I could get hold of pen and paper. I reminded him that I had never thus far received an unpleasant communication from a single one of my creditors.
In other words, I had never yet received what might be considered a dunning letter, but on the contrary nearly every one of them had, in one way or another, given me to understand that they had implicit confidence in me, and were willing and glad to favor me all they could.
I also explained to him my new system of operating, and showed him how I expected to sell goods and collect money too.
I then closed my letter by saying that in the future, if he entertained an idea that I had got to fail in business, I wished he would kindly keep it to himself, as there would be time enough for me to consider the matter after my creditors had become dissatisfied; and added that as far as I was personally concerned, I intended to stick to the wreck as long as there was a hand-hold left; and that I'd pay one hundred cents on the dollar if I had to collect my bills at the muzzle of a shot-gun. I then cautioned him about keeping up my plan of letter-writing, and a.s.sured him that at that particular stage of the game a good letter would often take the place of a small check; and that I should depend upon him to "hold them down," while I would keep hus'ling and turn our stock into cash, as well as to collect up closely; and with this system properly manipulated there would very soon be a perceptible change.
In answer to this he said he was going to treat it as a personal letter, and intended to keep it for future reference, in case he or any of his friends should ever get in close quarters; he believed that as I had now hit on a plan for unloading our large stock of goods, and with my determination and bull-dog tenacity, he felt certain of success.
This was the last time I ever heard the word "a.s.signment" used in connection with my business, and I hope circ.u.mstances will never bring it up again.
My wife and I continued on through the northern part of the lower peninsula of Michigan, and I must say, that although my business affairs were considerably muddled, I never made a more enjoyable trip than this.
After my separation with Flo. I had often declared that I would never marry again; and I now saw where I might have made a serious mistake, had I adhered to that declaration. With a wife full of hope, and a determination to do all in her power for my comfort and happiness, and a particular faculty for working hand in hand with me, I could see a bright future, even in the darkest days of my financial trouble.
We continued to trade horses occasionally, or at least often enough to break the monotony; and after we had been out a few weeks, I traded jewelry for a handsome pair of ponies, harness and carriage. My wife's health improved rapidly; she found considerable amus.e.m.e.nt at first in driving this team, following after me. Very often, when we would find it convenient to do so, I would give her a case of goods and let her drive to some distant store and make a sale while I would drive to another town, and we would meet at still another point at night.
I agreed to give her ten per cent. on all the goods she could sell to any new customer, and on all they would buy in the future. She made several customers in this way, and as we are still selling them lots of goods, they are known to our book-keepers as Anna's customers, and she never fails to call regularly for her commissions. When she became tired of driving the ponies I traded them off.
We had some queer experiences that summer in making collections. One firm had been owing me one hundred and twenty dollars for a long time, and at last the entire establishment was turned over to the man's wife and the business carried on in her name. This was at Farwell, Michigan.
We drove up in front of the store, and I went in to see what the chances were for collecting.
I was informed by the wife that her husband was absent from the store. I told her my name, and called her attention to the fact that she had in her show-case a lot of jewelry my agent had sold her husband on credit.
She said that didn't make any difference; she had bought him out, and those goods were hers.
I then said:
"Madam, I am going to have you arrested."
"For grand larceny."
Her clerk laughed me in the face; but she changed color, and calling me into the back room, said:
"Where did you ever know me before? Were you ever in Pittsburg?"
"Where did I know you? Were I ever in Pittsburg? Well, you'll find out where I knew you, and whether I was ever in Pittsburg, before you get through with me. I'll have you locked up inside of ten minutes if you don't settle with me," saying which I started out.
She called me back, and in much agitation said:
"Now see here; there is not a soul in this town knows that I have ever been married before, and if I _have_ committed larceny by not getting a divorce from my first husband, it will do you no good to have me arrested, and will only make me lots of trouble."
I saw that I had her cornered, and immediately took advantage of it, and said:
"Madam, just think of it! a woman with two husbands! Don't you know that larceny is one of the worst offenses a person can be guilty of, in this state? I am surprised that a woman of your intelligence should take the desperate chance of committing larceny, and grand larceny at that."
She asked what the difference was between larceny and grand larceny, in a case. I replied:
"Grand larceny is a case where a woman leaves her first husband in one state and marries her second in another without a divorce; and twenty years in the penitentiary is a very common sentence for grand larceny in Michigan."
By this time she was trembling with fear, and said she would pay me in full if I would agree never to mention her name in connection with that larceny affair.