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He appeared rather incredulous, and seemed doubtful of my sincerity, and when he called on Monday morning as requested, and closed the deal as agreed upon, he looked me over carefully as though not quite certain of my sanity, and finally said:
"Well, Mr. Johnston, I have been in the real estate business for a long time and have transacted business with many different men, but there are two things I have done with you that I never did before."
"What are they?" I asked.
"Well, I never sold a house in the dark before, nor have I ever closed a deal of this kind in fifteen minutes before, and never heard of a similar case, especially with entire strangers."
We took possession on the first of September, and immediately began the building of a barn which was completed in due time.
We very soon became dissatisfied with suburban life, and anxious to return to the city; but having expended considerable money in building the barn, and other improvements, we decided to remain at all hazards.
Six months later one of my most valuable horses was taken sick, and died on a Sat.u.r.day morning. On the following Monday, just as I had gotten settled down to business in my office, I received a telephone message from a friend at Woodlawn Park, to the effect that my barn was on fire, but that my horses, harnesses and carriages were all safe.
I immediately said to my wife:
"Well, you can get ready to move now. A horse died Sat.u.r.day, the barn burned Monday and we'll move Tuesday."
So saying, I called up my printer, Mr. G. M. D. Libby, by telephone, and dictated a hand-bill to be printed _immediately_, advertising all of our household furniture to be sold at auction.
The bills were run off at once, and before the fire engines and crowds had left the scene of the fire, I was on the ground distributing circulars.
The question was frequently asked, who was going to be the auctioneer.
I would reply that I thought of trying it myself. This amused the questioners and I had a large crowd in attendance, many of whom no doubt came to hear me in my first effort at auctioneering. The evening after the sale I called at of the grocery stores in the town, and several men were discussing me as an auctioneer, and all agreed that for a beginner I did mighty well. One man said that a person would naturally suppose that the fellow had had years of experience as an auctioneer.
We moved immediately after making the sale, and found a tenant for the house without any trouble; and as I have been offered an advance of several hundred dollars on the price I paid for the place, I have had no reason to regret my hasty purchase. I lost but little on the sale of my household goods, and collected insurance for a portion of the loss on the barn, so I came out pretty well after all.
We were glad enough, however, to get back to the city, and rented a suite of rooms at the Pullman Building, which we still occupy; and being located near my place of business, we find it much pleasanter, and waste no time running after and waiting for, suburban trains.
During our residence at Woodlawn Park, we became so accustomed to running to catch trains, that through force of habit, no matter where we were, or how far from a Railroad track, the moment we would hear the sound of a bell ringing, or a steam whistle blowing, our first impulse was to start on the dead run.
I will here mention the particulars of a trade I made for the barber's shop, while residing in the suburb.
One day I traded for a small, handsome horse, and the following morning saddled him and went out for a horse-back ride. On my return I happened to stop in front of the barber shop, when the tonsorial artist asked how I'd trade my horse for the shop.
"I'll leave it with you," was my reply.
"I'll trade even."
"All right, sir; it's a bargain. Come and get the horse, and give me the keys."
So saying, I dismounted and took possession. After mounting the animal, he said he'd take it to the barn, and return in a few moments and continue to run the shop for me till I could hire another barber. He then left me in charge. No sooner had he done so than a well-dressed stranger came rushing into the shop, threw off his hat and coat, took a seat in the chair, and said:
"Please hurry up, Mr. Barber, as I want to catch the next train for the city."
Expecting the barber to return at once, I thought it a good idea to try and hold my first customer till he should arrive. I therefore threw off my hat and coat, grabbed the mug, made a lot of lather, and began daubing it on as thick as possible all over his face. I then wiped it off, and lathered him again, expecting the barber in every minute to take the job off my hands.
As he did not come, I was obliged to resort to the towel the second time, and lather him once more. Then stepping to the door to see if the barber was visible, and discovering that he was not I returned to my customer, and wiping off his face began lathering him again. I now saw that he was getting nervous and anxious, and concluded to try and entertain him with some sort of a "ghost story." Just as I was trying to conjure up something to "spring on him" he remarked that I wasn't very sparing of my soap.
"No, sir. I am not stingy with soap; and by the way, this soap is different from any you ever saw before. This, sir, is the homa-jona, radical, tragical, incomprehensible compound extract of the double-distilled rute-te-tute shaving soap."
I then went on with my auction talk on soap already familiar to the reader, and spun it out to him as rapidly as I could, without a pause, or the least hesitation.
While doing so, instead of making my usual gestures, I kept the brush full of lather, and with increased enthusiasm slashed it on, first on one side and then on the other, till I had gone through a large part of my auction talk.
Meanwhile I had been constantly thinking of a story told me, when but a small boy, of a young man in a country town who had been placed in almost exactly the same predicament that I was in at that moment. I made up my mind, if worse came to worse, I would get out of my sc.r.a.pe the same as the other fellow did.
Therefore, having nearly finished my soap talk, I wiped his face once more, and had made up a lot of new lather to give him one more round, when I squared myself in front of him in a confidential way, and said:
"And another thing about this soap that I haven't told you about, is----"
"Well, by Heavens! man," he interrupted, "you have got to hurry."
I saw that the poor fellow was fairly paralyzed, and didn't know whether to try and make his escape or not.
"Sure enough," I replied, as I lathered him up again, and went on with more talk about my soap. I felt certain that the barber would return before I could finish lathering him this time; but he did not and I was obliged to wipe off his face again, and had succeeded in giving one more coat of lather, when he raised up in the chair and said:
"Great guns! ain't you ever going to shave me?"
"Oh!" I answered, with apparent surprise, "do you want to get shaved?"
"Why, of course I do, you infernal fool! What do you suppose I----?"
"Oh, well," I replied, recalling the aforesaid story to mind, "you get shaved across the street. We only lather, here."
[Ill.u.s.tration: OH WELL, YOU GET SHAVED ACROSS THE STREET, ETC.--PAGE 656.]
He jumped from the chair, s.n.a.t.c.hed a towel from the rack, wiped off part of the lather, seized his hat and coat, and was swearing like a pirate, as he rushed out with his ears and neck full of lather.
Just as he pa.s.sed out the barber came in, and I called, "Next!" at the top of my voice. After crossing the street he started for the depot, but continued to gaze towards the barber shop with a look of vengeance, as he wiped off the lather with his handkerchief.
The barber was at a loss to understand the meaning of such actions on the part of a customer; but I readily explained to him that the fellow was mad because he didn't like our kind of soap.
A few moments later one of the regular customers came in, and had just taken his seat in the chair, when I noticed marked on the mirror in front of him, "Shaving, 10 cents."
I stepped to the gla.s.s and wiping the cipher off, made a 5 in its place.
Our customer quickly asked what that meant. I replied:
"That means that this shop has changed hands, and from this time on, prices on all work done here will be sufficient to warrant success."
He jumped to his feet, declaring that he would not allow any man to come such a game on him, and that he'd never pay fifteen cents for a shave.
He left the shop in high dudgeon, and the barber declared I'd ruin the business in less than ten days.
I kept the price up, however, and after hiring a man to run it, made it a paying investment. A few months later I sold out to the man who now runs it. About a week after my experience in the barber shop, my horses and carriage had been driven around in front of my place of business, and myself and wife were about to take a drive. Two or three acquaintances happened along, and we conversed with them for a few moments before driving away. I noticed my late victim standing on the sidewalk staring at me with all the eyes he had. We drove away, leaving him still staring.
Not long after this, one of these friends just referred to came to my office, and asked if I had anything to do with a barber shop at Woodlawn Park.
With apparent surprise, I asked the meaning of the inquiry. He said the day we went out for a drive a strange gentleman stepped up to him and asked what that man's name was, and what he was doing with such a team.
My friend answered, "Why, that is Johnston, the wholesale jeweler, and he owns that team."