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Twenty Years of Hus'ling Part 60

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"Experience."

"Experience? Do you claim that as capital?"

"Indeed I do, sir, and worth more than all your store. I have been several years getting ready to make money, while you have been making it before you got ready. I have had too many ups and downs in my early life not to be able to profit by at least some of them sooner or later; and I can't afford now to go to work for you on a salary, and give you the benefit of all these years' experience. Not much, sir, and I'll just keep 'hus'ling.' If I can't win, I can die in the cause."

"But the probabilities are, you will never get enough ahead to start a business of your own, and will always keep in the same old rut."

"But I am not the 'rutty' kind, Mr. S. Besides, I dislike to work for any one but Johnston."

"Well, let's see how much it will take to hire you for a year."

"Very well; you mark on a piece of paper how much you will give, and I'll mark how much I'll take."

He agreed, and assured me he was going to make me an extra good offer for a new-beginner. When we had both put down our figures we threw our papers on the desk. He had marked six hundred dollars a year and expenses, and I had put down thousand dollars and expenses.

I asked, with much astonishment, if he didn't mean thousands, and he, with equal astonishment, asked if I didn't mean hundreds.

On my assuring him that I meant just what I had put down, he asked on what basis I figured. I answered, on the basis of having cleared over six hundred dollars the first month, on a capital of fifty dollars'

worth of goods and one million dollars' worth of experience.

"Great Heavens! have you cleared that much since you commenced?"

I convinced him by showing my stock and cash on hand. He said he knew, of course, that I had been selling a great many goods, but he supposed I had done so by cutting prices.

I at once made arrangements to start out again.

The firm offered me a limited credit of one hundred dollars, which I accepted, realizing that some day I would find it convenient to have some one to refer to in case I should get in shape to begin business for myself.

My wife again accompanied me, and we returned to Northern Michigan and began with excellent sales. I delivered all my goods on the spot, and sold exclusively for cash.

We continued on in this manner till fall, visiting almost every town in Northern Michigan and Wisconsin, when I had increased my stock to several hundred dollars, and was making money fast.

[Illustration]

CHAPTER XXXI.

ROBBED OF A TRUNK OF JEWELRY--ONLY A SMALL STOCK LEFT--A TERRIBLE CALAMITY--COLLAPSED--AN EMPTY SAMPLE-CASE MY SOLE POSSESSION--PEDDLING POLISH AGAIN--MAKING A RAISE--UNINTENTIONAL GENEROSITY BREAKS ME UP--MEETING AN OLD PARTNER--THE JOBBER SUPPLIES ME WITH JEWELRY--HUS'LING AGAIN WITH GREAT SUCCESS--MAKING SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS IN ONE DAY--MY HEALTH FAILS ME--I RETURN TO OHIO--A PHYSICIAN GIVES ME BUT TWO YEARS TO LIVE--HOW I FOOLED HIM.

As cold weather was approaching, my wife concluded to return to Chicago, and I proceeded towards the Northwest. At Duluth I received two large packages of new goods, which came C.O.D., and which took nearly my last dollar.

I carried with me a leather trunk in which to keep my reserved stock, and as I had but a few moments' spare time, after receiving the goods at Duluth, before the train left for Aiken, Minnesota, I put all of my new goods in the leather trunk, leaving but a small stock in my sample case. I then checked the trunk to Aiken, where I arrived at one o'clock in the morning.

From force of habit I had become accustomed to stepping forward towards the baggage car, whenever I alighted at a depot, to see that my baggage was taken off; and this time not being an exception, I remained standing by till I saw my trunk taken off and set to one side, when I proceeded to the hotel.

I expected to have a porter return to the depot and assist me in carrying it to the hotel, but on reaching there found a cheap fourth-rate house, with not less than fifty or sixty drunken woodsmen, and at once decided that the jewelry would be safer at the depot than there, and retired without it.

The next morning I presented my check and was informed that there was no piece of baggage there with a corresponding number. I told the baggage-man that I saw him take it off and set it on the platform.

He was sure he had never seen it, and at once accompanied me to Brainerd, where the general baggage-agent's report showed that the trunk had been reported taken off at Aiken; the agent at this place then produced the duplicate to my check, and stated that the conductor of the train on which I had come from Duluth had found it on the rear end of the hind car, just after leaving Aiken. The superintendent took immediate steps towards having the matter ferreted out, and very kindly gave me a pass over the road.

It was plain to be seen that the baggage-man at Aiken had gathered up some other pieces of baggage and carried them inside, and left mine on the outside, when a couple of men picked it up, and putting it on the rear end of the car, rode a mile or two upgrade to an Indian camp, where they threw it off and then jumped off themselves. These men were traced to the head of the Mississippi River, where they took a canoe and started down stream. Nothing more was ever heard of them or the goods; and as the State laws made the Railroad Company responsible for wearing apparel only, I could collect nothing from them. But as the trunk happened to contain a small compartment in which I carried my shirts, underwear, handkerchiefs, socks, etc., I made Mr. Superintendent smile, a few weeks later, when I handed in my bill for them, at Fargo. He laughed, and said he had never happened to meet a man before who wore such high-priced shirts and underwear.

After giving up my trunk and goods as lost, I looked over my stock of jewelry in the case; and although it was badly in need of a few extras to make it complete, I considered it enough to commence with again, and started out to see what I could do.

[Illustration: A COLLAPSE NEAR BRAINERD, MINN.--PAGE 557.]

I was unable to do anything at Brainerd, and concluded to visit smaller towns, where my little stock would look larger. I took an evening train, arriving at a small hamlet a few miles west, in time to work the town that evening. But fate seemed to be against me, for I couldn't make a sale, and to make time I would have to get up the next morning about half past two to get a local freight train going west.

The landlord called me, and after making my toilet I started for the depot, a few rods distant across the track. He had cautioned me about the fast express, which would be due in a few minutes going west, and which did not stop there, but passed through at lightning speed. On passing out I discovered that a terrible snow and wind storm was raging, and with much difficulty found my way towards the depot. Just as I was crossing the Railroad track the lock on my case gave way and the side lid fell down, and the top cover to which the handle was fastened raised up, letting every tray of jewelry fall in a heap in the middle of the track. I stopped to pick it up, but at that instant heard the engine whistle close by, and had no sooner gained a foothold on the platform of the depot than the engine came dashing along, with its bright head-light, and the sparks flying from it in all directions, and the steam whistle blowing and screeching like a demon, and struck my pile of trays and jewelry and sent them skyward and entirely out of existence.

A million things ran through my mind in an instant, but I think about the first I thought of was the "Incomprehensible."

I saw the utter foolishness of trying to find any of the jewelry, as the storm was raging furiously; besides, it was long before daylight. But I decided to return to the hotel and remain till morning.

When I walked into the office with my sample case still in the shape as when it "busted," the landlord gazed at me a moment, and asked what in thunder I'd been doing with my jewelry. I explained, and he said he supposed the jewelry, trays and all were still flying through the air, and if the storm kept up they probably would never stop.

His idea was about correct, I think. At any rate I never saw one dollar's worth of my goods afterwards. Of course the heavy fall of snow would very soon cover it up any how, but it is very doubtful if any of it was ever found any where in the vicinity of the depot.

The next day after satisfying myself that my stock of jewelry had vanished and that I was again "busted," I took the train for Brainerd, where I once more resorted to selling furniture polish.

While at this town I called at a house, rang the door bell and was admitted by a person whom I at once recognized as an old school teacher who had taught our district school at Galetown Corners years before. As he did not recognize me I thought I would have a little fun with him, and after introducing my polish, I produced a small book containing the names of my patrons at Brainerd, and said:

"Mister, I have here the names of those who have been buying, which I will read, to show you that it is an article of value and one that is appreciated by almost every housekeeper."

So saying I began to read off the names of people living in the old Galetown school-district, such as Mrs. M. Keefer, Mrs. John Bartlett, Mrs. Curt Dirlam, Mrs. R. E. Betts, Mrs. Alfred Hutchinson, Mrs. James Drown, Mrs. John Lefever, Mrs. Dave Ramsey, Mrs. Sidney Tuck, Mrs. Calif Luce, Mrs. Samuel Chapin, Mrs.----

"Great Scott! Do all those people live in this town?"

"Why not?" I asked.

"Why not? Caesar-ation! I used to teach school in Ohio. In a neighborhood which contained the sir names, given names, initials and all, of every person you have mentioned."

I slipped the book into my pocket and told him I could not help that, and then began to show the polish to him and the lady of the house. He was too much excited to give any attention to it, but as he was only a visitor, that did not signify much. He soon asked me to read those names over again. When I had finished he inquired of his hostess if she knew any of those people. She said no, but as she had not lived there long she would not be likely to know them. He became more excited than ever, and putting on his overcoat and hat declared his intention of calling on some of them.

Then I said to him:

"Well, this Mr. Keefer, who lives over here on the back street has a step-son by the name of Johnston. Perry, I believe, is his given name."

"Yes sir, yes sir, that's right. He was a red-headed lad and came to school to me. Say, show me where they live."

"And," I remarked, "another name I remember; the son of one of these families is Willard."

"Was it Willard Luce?" he asked.

"That's it?"

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Twenty Years of Hus'ling Part 60 summary

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