Read CHAPTER XIII of Twenty Years of Hus'ling , free online book, by J. P. Johnston, on


The next day I received a letter from an old gentleman living at Bronson, Mich., who had just patented a dropper for a reaping-machine, and wanted me to sell County rights for him, and establish agencies. As a drowning man clutches at a straw, so did I embrace this opportunity, and instructed him to send on his papers at once, with the model. He did so. On the day I received it my mother and myself were walking down street, when I noticed her bowing to an elderly gentleman driving a handsome pair of bay horses. I asked his name. She said it was Brother Long.

“Brother Long,” said I; “and who is Brother Long?”

“Why, he is a deacon in our church.”

“Oh, I see. I wonder if he wouldn’t like to trade those horses for patent rights?” I ventured to remark.

She sarcastically observed that she would like to see me trade him out of those beautiful horses.

That afternoon I called at his house with my model, and as I stepped in, said: “How-do-you-do, Brother Long?” He smiled pleasantly, and extending his hand inquired my name. “Why,” said I, “I am a son of your sister Keefer. Johnston is my name. Mr. Keefer is my step-father.” “O, I understand. Take a chair; lay off your hat. Aren’t you the young man who led in prayer the other evening?”

I told him I didn’t remember just what evening I did attend prayer-meeting last, but didn’t think I was the one he alluded to.

I then said: “Brother Long, I am representing Warner’s patent dropper for a reaping-machine, and am desirous of making you agent for this County. I don’t ask you to invest anything, nor to give your signature; neither do I give you mine. I simply leave you a model, and you are to sell as many as possible, on which we allow you a regular commission of twenty-five per cent. Or, if you see fit to buy a few counties, you can then make fifty per cent. on all you sell in your own territory; and should you sell any County rights for us we would allow you all over one hundred dollars that you got for them.” He said he wouldn’t care to invest the cash, although he would like to own enough County rights to make him a nice business.

I then told him I would trade for a good team of horses. He said he owned a first-class team, which he held at six hundred dollars.

I at once saw that he wasn’t very slow himself in dealing, as I had been informed that he had offered his team for three hundred dollars. He said he didn’t think he would care to let the team go and take it all in County rights; but he would take two counties and four hundred dollars in cash.

I looked the horses over, and liked them first rate; and thought they would make a fine pair on the road. I then said: “Brother Long, I am anxious to get you interested in this invention, and I’ll make you an offer, although I may not be able to carry out my part of the contract; but if I don’t, you will be one county ahead anyway.”

He asked what my proposition would be. I told him I would give him Sandusky County and four hundred dollars, provided I could induce Mr. Warner, the inventor, to advance that amount. And as evidence of my good faith and to bind the bargain, I would deed him the County then and there, and he was to keep the team till the fifteenth of the next month, when, if I didn’t take them and pay over the four hundred dollars, we would forfeit the County. He said that was perfectly satisfactory. Before leaving him I remarked that I felt certain that just as soon as he saw what a good thing he had, he would gladly take County rights for the balance due on the horses.

He said: “Possibly.”

He commenced operations at once. In a very few days he came rushing up to Mr. Keefer’s house, and with much excitement demanded a deed for four more counties. I made it out for him, and asked if he wanted to pay currency or give a check for it.

“O, no,” he said; “Neither. I want to sell them to a customer of mine, and then I’ll bring you the money.”

I informed him that such a proceeding would be contrary to my orders and custom of doing business.

He then suggested that I take the horses and give him the deed, as I had bargained for them anyhow.

I agreed to this, and he delivered them to me on presentation of the deed.

As he left the house he smiled triumphantly, and holding up the deed, said: “I’ll clear just five hundred dollars on this!”

I enjoyed a few rides, and was about to trade for a carriage and harness, when one evening a day or two after our deal, I came into the dining room from the back door of Mr. Keefer’s house, and heard the sound of a familiar voice issuing from the sitting-room. It said: “Sister Keefer, I have made a great mistake. Will you induce your son to trade back?”

I stepped inside, and Brother Long came forward in his usual solemn, prayerful manner, and taking me by the hand, said: “Brother Johnston, may the Lord have mercy upon us.”

I said: “Amen, Brother Long; what can I do for you? How many counties do you want this time?”

“My dear young brother, I have more counties than I need, more than I can use.”

“But,” I said, “you haven’t any more than you bargained for.”

“Indeed, Brother Johnston, I can never sell it all. Will you please trade back? This is my first experience in the patent-right business, and pray to the Lord it shall be the last.”

I asked what had become of his customer, and inquired his name.

Brother Long went on then to explain how an Irishman, living neighbor to him, had called at his house and, after seeing the model, went half crazy over it, and wanted to buy ten counties. He agreed to pay in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars, and in his enthusiasm made a deposit of “tin dollars, as ividence of me good faith.” On the strength of that sale he had made the trade.

“Well, Great Heavens!” said I, “aren’t you satisfied with five or six hundred dollars profit, on a little deal like that?”

“Yes,” he answered; “had I sold the counties the profits would have suited all right.”

“But you just told me you had sold them, and the Irishman had deposited ten dollars to bind the bargain.”

“True, he did,” said Brother Long, “but he came back the next day after I had traded, and said: ’A divil a bit of a county can I take at all, at all. Me old wife threatens to scald me, if I bring even one county into the house!’”

“Well, but you kept his ten dollars, didn’t you?”

“Of course I did,” he yelled out.

“Well, then, you ought to be satisfied,” I ventured to remark.

“What! Satisfied with ten dollars?”

“Yes; with all these County rights besides.”

“Brother Johnston,” said he, “will you trade back, and give me the team for the counties?”

I answered: “I am not trading for territory, Brother Long. I am selling it.”

About this time the greater portion of Brother Long’s family appeared on the scene, and were re-inforced by my mother in their entreaties to me to trade back. She said it was too bad for Brother Long, and I must do it.

Mr. Keefer said: “It did beat the dl!”

I then told Brother Long that I was like him in this respect, that I wasn’t doing business exclusively for glory; and that a few dollars, just at that stage of the game, would be a matter of great consideration with me.

He then offered me two dollars if I would trade back.

“Well, Brother Long,” said I, “you begin to talk now as I want to hear you, except that your figures are a little below my idea of a fair compensation for my trouble.”

He then anxiously inquired what my ideas were of what would be right.

“About one hundred and fifty dollars,” I answered.

“O, Heavens! what shall I do? Sister Keefer, what shall I do? Shall we engage in prayer? What shall I do? What shall I do?”

Then they surrounded me, and made a general clamor for a compromise.

I dropped to a hundred dollars.

He offered twenty-five.

I fell to seventy-five.

He offered to split the difference, and he to return all the territory except one county.

After thinking the matter all over, and considering that he was a nice old gentleman and a Methodist brother, I concluded to trade back.

A few days later Brother Long and I met in the Post-office just when the mail was being distributed, and the place crowded. We were the center of attraction.

He smiled grimly at me, and while passing by said: “The fools are not all dead yet, are they, Johnston?”

“No, Brother Long,” I answered; “and there is no fool like an old fool.”

About three weeks later I started on a tour through Ohio, making several agents and selling a few Township and County rights.

Another little experience with a Methodist deacon will come in here, and I will tell it. He was a farmer, living a few miles south of Marion, Ohio.

I had hired a rig, in the above town, to drive into the country to meet a gentleman with whom I had previously made an engagement. When our business was finished and I was about to leave, he bantered me to call on his neighbor, Deacon , who had a notorious reputation for his hatred of agents and peddlers.

As I always considered it good practice to meet such men, I was glad of the chance to make this particular visit. I reached the house just as the deacon and his sons came in for dinner.

I hitched my horse, and when about to pass through the gate the front door opened, and the man’s voice, at its highest pitch, shouted out: “Stop right where you are sir. Stop; stop, I tell you. Stop!”

I put my hand to my ear, as if hard of hearing, and imitating as nearly as I could the tone peculiar to deaf persons, said: “No, no, thank you; I don’t care to put my horse out. I can feed her after I get to Marion. No, no; never mind; just as much obliged.” By this time I had reached the door, and passed directly inside.

I had the floor.

And I did all the talking for the first half hour.

The old gentleman concluded that I was an exception to the general run of agents. He then began talking religion, as soon as I quit talking Patent rights. He said I ought to make my peace with God; and when I replied that God and I had always been on splendid terms, he became almost frantic, and said that I was worse than any lightning-rod agent, and added that there never was an agent of any kind who ever pretended to tell the truth, and he wouldn’t believe any of them under oath. I then said I wouldn’t expect him to believe my statements, so would leave the question entirely with him and his sons whether they would deal or not. They soon began talking business to the point.

I figured on paper, and showed how one son could make more money in a single year, with one County right, than they could all make on the farm in two years.

My price for the County was one hundred dollars.

They proposed to give fifty, and I offered to split the difference and take seventy-five.

This was satisfactory, provided I would take half cash, and a note for the balance payable in one year. I agreed to it, if the old gentleman would go to Marion with me and help negotiate the note.

He said he had got to go to town anyhow, and would ride with me; and the boys could drive over after him that evening.

After making out the necessary papers and receiving my cash, we started on the turn-pike road towards Marion.

While riding along, the old gentleman gave me some very wholesome advice, saying he didn’t do it because he really thought me to be a very bad fellow, but he wanted to see every young man grow up to be truthful, moral, honorable and upright. I thanked him, and told him I believed he was a mighty nice man. He said that was the reputation he bore thereabouts.

While driving leisurely along, conversing on different topics, we came to a blacksmith’s shop on a three-corners, and the old gentleman remarked that when we came to the toll-gate, if I would tell the old lady gate-keeper that I came in at that shop, I could save some toll; adding, that she needn’t know but I picked him up somewhere on the road.

“Yes, that’s so,” I answered. “That’s a mighty good scheme.”

He seemed to feel highly elated at suggesting such a brilliant idea.

As we were approaching the toll-gate, I said: “I wish you would pay my toll, and when we get to town I will get some change and hand it back to you.”

When we stopped at the gate he asked: “How much?”

The old lady says: “How far have you come on the pike?”

He turned to me as if expecting me to answer; but I was suddenly taken with a severe fit of coughing.

The deacon said: “This gentleman came in at the blacksmith shop.”

“Four cents,” said the gate-keeper. We drove on, and when I began to laugh he asked what was up.

“Well, I’ll tell you; I was just laughing to think how much more I am like Jim Fisk than you are.”

“How so?”

“Well, sir, I might possibly tell eight lies for a dollar, but I wouldn’t tell one for a shilling.”

He seemed much chagrined, when I put the matter before him as I did. He said, in explanation, that he never believed in toll-gates, anyhow, had always advocated free turn-pikes, and thought it little harm to economize at their expense.

After discounting his note at the bank, I returned home to see how “the boy” was getting on.

A few days later I took the agency for another Patent, and gave up the dropper, which was too hard to sell. An acquaintance joined me, when we started on what proved to be a red-hot Patent-right campaign, and with the usual results of all Patent-right schemes.

When ready for a start, we had just about money enough to pay our expenses to Napoleon, Ohio, where we had decided to go. On arriving there we took quarters at a first-class hotel, and began “hus’ling” to find a customer. When we had been there about ten days, the landlord, a very pleasant little gentleman, called my partner one side, and said he guessed he would have to ask us for a little money.

“Well,” said Frank, “all right, sir; all right, sir. Make out your cussed old bill. I am not in the habit of being asked for money before I am ready to leave. However, you can make out your bill, and receipt it in full, sir!”

“Oh, no, no!” he remonstrated; “I’ll do nothing of the kind, sir. It was not my intention to insult you, Let it go. Let it go. It’s all right. I meant nothing out of the way.”

Frank cooled down; and as he passed by me said, sotto voce; “I guess we can stay all summer now, if we want to.”

While at Napoleon, we had been in correspondence with several parties in different towns, who were known to me as traders. After spending two weeks there, we received a letter requesting us to visit a neighboring town, where there was a prospect for a good trade. We had succeeded in selling one Township right, which brought us cash enough for incidental expenses.

Hence we were unable to pay our hotel bill, and as the landlord was not in the office when we were ready to go, we simply left a note saying we would return later.

We were gone two weeks, barely paying expenses, and returned to Napoleon. Rushing into the hotel office, we grasped the landlord by both hands, saying: “Did you think we had jumped our board bill, landlord?”

“Well, by golly, I didn’t know what to think of it.”

“Oh, pshaw! You ought to know us by this time. How are the nice cream biscuit? Suppose you’ve got some for tea, haven’t you? Guess we’ll wash. Put us down for a good room, landlord. How are the folks, landlord?”

He said he had thought all the time we would turn up again, some day. We then explained the nature of our business, and told him he needn’t be surprised if we left suddenly at any time; but he could always look for us back, sooner or later. We remained two weeks longer, with about the same success that had attended us before.

One day the landlord pulled a chair up by me, in the office, and said very mildly and pleasantly,

“Mr. Johnston, I have never yet asked you for money, and

“No,” I quickly interrupted, “you never have, and I certainly respect you for it. If there is anything on this earth I dislike, it is a penurious, suspicious, narrow-minded landlord always dunning his guests, and treating them like tramps. And I’d leave a man’s house as soon as I could settle up and get out, if I was ever dunned by him.”

“Well, I going to say, I never make a practice of dunning gentlemen who stop with me, and

“Well, that’s right, landlord, that’s right, and you’ll make friends, in the long run, by not doing so. When I get ready to quit a hotel for good, I’ve got sense enough to ask for my bill, and then settle in full and that is all anyone can ask for. How about the cream biscuit for supper, landlord?”

He said he guessed they were going to have some; and then asked how business was, anyway.

I told him our business had almost frightened us.

He said that was good.

Frank, who was sitting behind the stove listening to the conversation, said, as I passed by him a moment later: “I guess he’ll lay still now.”

About this time we received a letter from a sewing-machine agent at Hicksville, saying he would trade a machine for a County right. We left forthwith, without even bidding the landlord good-bye.

It took us four days to trade for the machine, and money enough to pay our expenses for that time.

We shipped the machine to Napoleon, and returned there ourselves on the first train. When we entered the hotel, we both rushed for the proprietor, saying, as we grasped his hands:

“How are you, landlord? How is everything? Did you think we had left for good, landlord? Hope you didn’t think we had jumped our board-bill? Guess we’ll take a wash. Put us down for a good room, landlord. How are the cream biscuit? Suppose we’ll have some for supper. How are all the folks?”

He looked a little woe-begone, and said he was glad to see us back; and he knew we would turn up soon.

The next morning we had the sewing-machine set up in the hotel office. This seemed to console the landlord somewhat, as it was a brand new machine.

However, he appeared crest-fallen, a day or two later, when we sold it for forty dollars cash, and pocketed the money, saying nothing.

In a couple of days we took another sudden departure, for Bryan, Ohio, where we traded for an old horse, harness and wagon.

The horse proved to be an obstreperous, balky thing, and as contrary as a mule. I used all of my knowledge of horse-training, with no effect. One day, just when he had balked, we met some boys near a corn-crib, on their way home from fishing. One of them had a long fishing-rod and a stout line, I gave him twenty-five cents for it and asked him to bring an ear of corn from the field. He did so, and after tying the corn to the end of the line, I held the pole over the horse’s head, and let the corn hang about two feet from his nose. He started right off, and we had no further difficulty in persuading him to go.

If we failed to hold the corn in plain sight he would stop at once.

We hacked around over the country, first one holding the pole and then the other, becoming so accustomed to it that we often wondered what people were laughing at, as we passed them.

In a few days we arrived at Napoleon, drove up in front of the hotel, jumped out, ordered our horse put out, rushed in, grabbed the proprietor by the hands, with “How are you, landlord? Did you think we had jumped our board bill this time? How are the folks? Guess we’ll take a wash. Put us down for a good room, landlord. Any cream biscuit for supper to-night?”

He said: “By gol, I didn’t hardly know what to think of it, this time; but I thought perhaps you would turn up, after a while.”

He seemed delighted that we had brought a horse and wagon with us, and we tried to sell it to him. He would have bought, only that the fish-pole-and-corn scheme had to be kept up, to make the horse go.

After about three days we again left; and then succeeded in making a very fair trade, coming into possession of a handsome pair of horses, harness and carriage, and two hundred and fifty dollars in cash, for six County rights.

We then traded the old horse for a small pony, which we sold for twenty dollars, and started for Napoleon, arriving there after an absence of about ten days.

We drove up to the hotel, ordered our horses put out, rushed in as usual, took the proprietor by the hand, and said:

“You just about thought we had quit you for good, this time, didn’t you? Guess we’ll take a wash, landlord. Put us down for a good room. How about the cream biscuit? Folks all well? Landlord, did you notice our team? It’s the finest in the land. Have ’em taken good care of. By Jove! We’re glad to get home once more. You’re looking fine, landlord. Have a cigar?”

He put on a sickly smile, and after lighting a cigar, said he knew we would come back; and asked how our business was.

We told him it had been a little slack, on account of its being so hard to get money. We staid there a week longer, and tried every conceivable plan to force the landlord to ask us for money, but he never mentioned it during our stay. We sold our team and carriage for three hundred dollars cash, and put the money in our pockets, without ever mentioning our hotel bill, or acting as though we considered ourselves his debtors.

Then we made returns to the patentees for their share of the profits on the sales we had made.

The landlord proved himself the “sort of mettle” for our business; and at last one day I stepped up to him, reached out my hand, and said: “Well, landlord, I guess we’ll have to leave you for good.”

He shook my hand warmly, but looked uneasy and bewildered.

He talked, undertaking to let his conversation drift towards the matter of our indebtedness. Finally I got the floor, and talked at lightning speed, paying him so many compliments, in the presence of his guests, that he was completely non-plussed, and at a loss to know how to act.

Suddenly, seeming to realize that something of much importance had escaped my memory, I said: “By the way, landlord, we haven’t settled our bill, yet. How much do we owe you? Make out the bill. Mighty lucky I thought of it.”

“By gracious, that’s so! That’s a fact. You haven’t paid your bill yet, have you? Oh, well, I knew it would be all right, anyhow.”

After paying up in full, we received loud praise from him, and his assurance that the best his house afforded would never be too good for us, whenever we saw fit to stop with him; and said if we would stay a week longer he would have cream biscuit every meal.