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

OUT OF A POSITION--MOVED TO ANN ARBOR--HOW I MADE A RAISE--A RETURN TO FURNITURE POLISH--SELLING EXPERIENCE--HAULING COKE--MY SUMMER CLOTHES IN A SNOW-STORM--A GLOOMY CHRISTMAS--AN ATTACK OF BILIOUS FEVER--ESTABLISHING AN ENFORCED CREDIT--THE PHOTOGRAPH I SENT MY MOTHER--ENGAGED AS AN AUCTIONEER AT TOLEDO, OHIO--MY FIRST SALE.

The leasing of the hotel by the landlady threw me out of a position, and at a time when cold weather had set in, and I had spent all the money I had received for the horses, besides the salary I had drawn, in clothing my wife and boy comfortably. I had intended to provide myself with winter clothing with my next month’s salary, but the change came too suddenly for me. Consequently I was left with my summer clothes, and a dozen bottles of Furniture and Piano Polish as stock in trade.

As soon as I saw there was going to be a change in the hotel, I wrote to an old lady in Ann Arbor, whose name was given me by a medical student, making inquiries about furnished rooms for light housekeeping.

She wrote in reply that she could rent me one room suitable for that purpose, at one dollar per week. We decided to go there, as we could not procure furnished rooms in Pontiac for light housekeeping, besides I considered Ann Arbor a good town to operate in.

I had just money enough to pay our traveling expenses, and explained to my wife we had better leave on the morning train, which would get us into Ann Arbor at two o’clock in the afternoon. And as that day would be Saturday, I could “hus’le” out and sell polish enough to pay our rent and buy provisions for over Sunday.

She agreed with me and we started accordingly. But our train was belated by a freight train being ditched, so we did not reach our destination till six o’clock that night without a single cent in our pockets.

The night was dark and gloomy and the snow flying, while I hus’led around in my low-cut shoes, high-water pants, summer ulster and a straw hat. We walked nearly all over the town, following directions given by first one fool and then another, lugging the boy and our baggage, searching for Mrs. Hogan, corner of Second and Ann streets. At last we reached the place and I introduced myself as the one who had engaged a room of her by letter. After explaining to the old lady that we had just arrived from Pontiac, she looked us over carefully and remarked:

“You didn’t walk did you?”

I replied that we had come part of the way on the cars, and then I told her of our march around town.

I noticed at once that she was anxious about her rent, as we had taken possession. So I said to my wife:

“Well I must go out instantly to find those parties, or I wont be able to see them till Monday. I will be back just as soon as I possibly can, so you must not worry. Mrs. Hogan will you direct me to a wood yard?”

“Never mind the wood Mr. Johnston. It will be impossible to get a load delivered to-night. I will let you have enough to last over Sunday.”

We thanked her and she left the room.

Then my wife said she had often told her parents that she was sure of three meals a day as long as I lived, but she guessed I was cornered for once in my life.

“But,” said I “if it were only one meal that we were liable to miss it would not be so terrible, but here it is late Saturday and if I can’t raise enough for supper, I certainly can’t for over Sunday. But this is what the preacher termed a ‘wood-chuck case’ and something must be done at once.”

She didn’t understand what the wood-chuck case meant, till I told her that it simply meant we were “out of meat.”

I picked up my little valise, containing twelve bottles of Furniture Polish and started out. I walked down town, not knowing what to do. The snow was flying through my straw hat and the wind whistling around me at a terrible rate as I stood on the corner wondering where to go next. I looked up street and saw a meat market to which I was naturally attracted. Although the gentleman in attendance was very busy, I rushed in with:

“How are you this evening sir? I am glad to find you when you have time to look at my wonderful preparation for renovating furniture, I’ll show you how nicely it operates right here on your desk.”

Then as I began polishing it up, I rattled on at lightning speed, explaining how perfectly dry it would become in less than a minute from the time it was applied leaving no chance for dust or dirt to settle and stick upon the furniture it was not in the least sticky or gummy to the fingers giving no displeasure in using a cloth any lady could apply it and easily renovate her own furniture it would remove all fly specks from picture frames and brackets as well as stained furniture caused by hot dishes hot water cologne camphor or medicine and

“And for goodness sake, what else?” cried he. “Will it make you stop talking if I’ll take a bottle?”

“Yes sir, I always stop then.”

“How much is it a bottle?” he asked.

“One dollar, and I want but fifty cents in cash and the balance in steak.”

He was about to say he would take it, when he asked who in thunder I was, anyhow, and if I had ever patronized him, and stated that he didn’t remember ever seeing me before.

I now realized that the moment had arrived when to decide the meat question. I had got to be equal to the occasion. Looking up at him, I confidently said:

“Well, for Heaven’s sake! Don’t you remember my little red-headed brother that comes in here after meat every day?”

“Oh, yes, that little hair-lipped cuss,” said he. I laughed, said:

“Well, he isn’t a bad sort of a lad, when you get acquainted with him.”

He then cut off four pounds of steak and gave me, with fifty cents cash, and I departed in much better spirits than when I called. I then made a bee-line for the nearest grocery store; and although I found the proprietor very busy I managed to get his attention, and after showing him my preparation on one of his show-cases, succeeded in selling him a bottle for one dollar.

I offered to take it in groceries, but he said he preferred to pay cash, and let me do the same when I patronized him. I invested seventy-five cents in potatoes, coffee, sugar, etc., and then started for a bakery, where I came in contact with a lady. She fought me very hard, but I needed bread, and worked like a trooper to get it without parting with the few shillings I had. I at last succeeded in getting her so far interested as to ask the price.

Realizing that her intuitive quickness and shrewdness surpassed that of my two gentlemen patrons, and that she evinced but little interest, anyhow, I reduced the price to fifty cents, and offered to take half in trade and the balance in cash. This she agreed to, and I very soon departed with my arms full of provisions, and one dollar in cash.

I then visited Tremain’s drug store, and ordered more Polish put up, to be ready the following Monday.

I went directly home, more pleased with my success than anything I had ever before accomplished. Nor can I now remember of ever succeeding in anything since, that gave me more satisfaction. As I entered the room, about nine o’clock, with my arms loaded with packages, my wife sang out:

“Little late, but still in the ring.”

With grim irony I replied: “And the villain still pursued her.”

However, I appreciated the joke as much as she did; and we were but a few moments in preparing a meal that each pronounced the best we had ever partaken of.

Our landlady looked in upon us again that night, when I handed her the dollar due for rent, saying as I did so, that I might as well pay it then as to wait till Monday.

We felt quite comfortable, and congratulated ourselves on our success in pulling through, and making such a narrow escape.

My wife’s faith in the three-meals-a-day theory was strengthened more than ever after this; and I felt myself that I had come about as near missing a meal as I would probably ever again experience.

When Monday morning came I was ready for business with my nine bottles of Polish.

The first house I visited was a large stone front, showing the owner to be a man of wealth. I noticed the front window blinds were closed, and as it was Monday morning I concluded that the lady of the house would likely be found at the side door, or possibly overseeing in the laundry. The latter I found to be the case, and when I rang the bell she answered it herself. Upon seeing me with my valise, she slammed the door in my face, and I heard the bolt shove, as though expecting me to attempt to break in.

This exasperated me more than the rebuff, and I could feel my hair standing straight up almost piercing my straw hat. I started around toward the front of the house, expecting to try the next neighbor. When I neared the front steps, I was seized with a determination to either get into that house or make the old lady some trouble for her impudence. So I ran up and pulled the bell vigorously several times. Directly I heard the doors opening and closing and a general rustling about through the rooms, when suddenly the front door opened just far enough to admit me and I landed in the hall-way with a single bound. The lady recognized me and said:

“Here you are again.”

“Yes’m here I am and I am here to convince you that I am no house-burglar nor highway robber I am here with a valuable article which you can not afford to be without nor can any other housekeeper and were I to leave without showing it you would always pride yourself on getting rid of one impostor I must insist on showing you the value of my preparation which I can do on the hat-tree here in the hall.”

I then began polishing, and kept up a ceaseless run of talk, much to the disgust of her highness, who insisted that all peddlers and agents were tramps, virtually speaking. I managed however, to do most of the talking and at last convinced her from its rapid drying qualities that it was almost indispensable. I then closed a sale with her, and as she had been so very courteous and complimentary in her opinion of agents and peddlers, I let her have two bottles for three dollars.

The third house I visited was that of a middle-aged gentleman who, after purchasing a bottle of my renovator, expressed a desire to become an agent for its sale. I informed him that I was sole proprietor and could give him a very good chance. He asked what I would take for Washtenaw County, Michigan. I saw at once that he was anxious to invest in territory, and as my preparation was not patented, I decided to accommodate him by letting him have the exclusive sale of it in that county for a reasonable consideration. I proposed to let him have the agency for that county for fifty dollars. The idea pleased him, but he thought the price rather high. He had raised a very fine garden and had a nice lot of vegetables in his cellar, which he showed me with a good deal of pride. While looking them over I took a careful inventory of every thing and became satisfied that he had enough stowed away for two families, and as soon as we returned from the cellar I began negotiating for a portion of each kind. His wife as well as himself was elated with the prospect of trading some of the products of their garden for a good paying business, and in less than an hour I closed a deal, immediately ordered a team and after loading up with potatoes, beets, turnips, apples, cabbage, etc., and receiving ten dollars in cash drove home with vegetables enough to last us several weeks.

I gave the gentleman a written agreement that he could have the exclusive sale for the polish in the said County. After the trade was made he asked me where he was going to get the polish, and wanted me to give him the recipe for making it. This I refused to do but explained that I could furnish it to him at a certain price per dozen. He then wanted to know if I had any other agents traveling. I told him I had not.

He then asked if I cared if he sold in other Counties. I answered him that I did not.

“Well,” he next asked, “what in Heaven’s name have I been paying you for, any how?”

“Experience,” I answered.

He became excited, and said he didn’t need experience.

I told him I thought he did, and that I considered the price very low for the amount I had let him have.

After chaffing him a few moments and getting him exceedingly nervous, I gave him the recipe with full instructions in the manner of making sales. This pleased him, and he began preparations for canvassing outside of town.

I then visited a wood-yard with a view to purchasing a load, but found it would cost about as much for a cord of wood in Ann Arbor as it would for a farm in Dakota. I then inquired of the proprietor how other poor devils managed to keep warm in the town.

I was told that many of them used coke at ten cents per bushel, procured at the gas works.

My landlady informed me that she could furnish us with a stove (in place of the one we were using) that would burn coke. I consented to allow her to make the exchange, and borrowing a wheel-barrow started for the gas factory where I bought a bushel.

When I returned the new stove was ready and I began starting a fire. It took about two hours time and the whole bushel of coke to start it, and I was obliged to “hus’le” back after another load forthwith. We were successful in getting a good fire started, but very soon discovered that it required a full bushel of coke at a time in the fire-box to keep it up, even during moderate weather.

We were quite well satisfied, however, for several days, or until the extreme cold weather set in, when by being obliged to open the drafts of our stove to get sufficient heat, we discovered it took about two bushels at a time constantly in the stove to keep it running, and to my disgust I found at such times that the old stove would burn about a bushel a minute. Thus I had the poor satisfaction of seeing my money float up the chimney at the rate of about ten cents a minute. I didn’t even have the satisfaction of enjoying this expensive luxury, as I was compelled to divide my time between hauling coke with the old wheel-barrow and “hus’ling” out with the polish to raise money to pay for it and our provisions. However I was not a continual sufferer from cold, although still wearing my summer clothes, as this constant “hus’ling” kept me in a sultry condition both mentally and physically.

Time passed on bringing very little change to my straitened circumstances. I was illy prepared to withstand the severity of a Michigan winter. I had no hose except half worn cotton ones, no warm underwear or over-shoes which I sorely needed in my endless tramping from house to house, and no overcoat until February. The only articles of winter apparel I had were a pair of woolen mittens and a pair of ear mufflers, both of which I got from an old lady in exchange for furniture polish, and which will be seen illustrated in the photograph I sent to my mother while in this sorry condition.

It was the night before Christmas, and the contents of my pocket-book were meager indeed. Pedestrians were hurrying to and fro, arms and pockets filled with packages to gladden the hearts of the loved ones at home. My naturally buoyant spirits fell to zero as I thought of my wife and baby boy and realized that I had nothing for them with which to make merry on the morrow.

I turned my steps homeward well-nigh disheartened. My sales had been slow that day owing to the universal purchasing of holiday goods and the scarcity of money left in the family purse. However, I suddenly determined to make one more effort, and see what might be my success in effecting another sale before going home. I therefore called at a spacious stone front mansion, was admitted by the servant and ushered into the handsomely furnished parlor to await the coming of the mistress.

It was a home of luxury, evidenced by the rich carpets, elegant pieces of furniture, paintings of well-known artists and beautiful bric-a-brac in an expensive cabinet.

There was no biting chill from Jack Frost in this home. In the short time I sat there I wondered if the occupants appreciated the good things around them. How could they, if they had never known hunger and cold and discomfort?

These queries kept entering my mind:

“Will such furniture as this ever be mine? Will I ever be the owner of a stove as nice as that base-burner? Will carpets as luxurious as these ever belong to me? Will I ever be able to dress comfortably and genteelly?”

It would be a very difficult matter to describe to the reader my thoughts on that occasion. (I will add that I made a sale.)

In these later years when my income has been sufficient to warrant me in buying any thing I desire for personal comfort, I often think of the cheerless experiences of that winter. And I can truthfully say that my heart goes out to the homeless and destitute, and I am always willing to extend a helping hand to those who show a willingness to help themselves.

That was a long winter, take it all in all; but we managed to get three meals a day, notwithstanding I had an attack of bilious fever which made matters look very gloomy.

For several years I had never failed to have one of these attacks in the winter.

Realizing what to expect when the usual symptoms chills began to overpower me, I decided at once to make some sort of provision for my family.

I called at a butcher shop, and after ordering twenty pounds of beef-steak and getting it in my possession I asked the butcher to charge it. He said he didnt care to do business in that way. I told him I didnt care to either but

“But,” he interrupted “I don’t have to do business that way.”

“Well sir, I do. So you see that’s the difference between you and me, and as possession is about ten points of law I guess you will do better and will no doubt get your pay more quickly if you will quietly submit to my proposition.”

I then explained to him my circumstances.

He asked why I didn’t explain in the first place.

I replied “because I needed the meat.”

Then he asked my name and said he hoped I would be honest with him.

I next called at a grocery and gave quite an extensive order to be delivered at our room.

In about an hour the groceries and a sack of flour were brought to the door. I ordered them inside, and then the bill was presented. I folded it and put it my pocket, saying:

“Just tell Mr. to charge this.”

“All right sir,” the boy replied and drove off.

In less than twenty minutes the proprietor came rushing down fairly frothing at the mouth, and in a high state of exasperation rapped at the door, and when admitted asked excitedly what in thunder I meant.

I coolly explained that we simply meant to try and exist another day or two if buckwheat flour and coffee and sugar would keep us alive.

He said I couldn’t live on his flour and coffee.

I politely informed him that I had no use for his, as I had plenty of my own just then.

“Well, why in thunder did you come and ‘stand me off’ in this way if you had plenty of your own?”

“But my dear sir, I had none of my own before I called on you.”

“The devil you hadn’t. And do you claim sir, that you own the things just delivered from my store?”

“Of course I do, but I don’t deny that I owe you, and am willing to confess judgment if you wish me to do so.”

After he had cooled off a little I stated my condition, when he too asked why I didn’t explain in the beginning.

I answered that I had been on earth too long to take any such chances.

I had a siege of about ten days’ sickness, after which I “hus’led” out, and by extra exertion managed to accumulate money enough to pay up my grocery and butcher bills. This greatly pleased the proprietors, and proved the means of making them my best friends, and just such as might come very convenient to have, in case of absolute necessity.

During my several months’ absence from home my correspondence with my mother had been more limited than usual. I felt that during my entire career I had never shown a disposition to loaf or to sponge my living. While I had frequently been assisted, I had kept a strict account of every dollar, and had regarded it, in each instance, as a business loan, expecting to pay it back some day; and had never asked for assistance except when I actually needed it. It was impossible at that time for me to understand my mother’s policy in abruptly refusing me aid, when I felt that she was at least able to assist me a little.

At any rate, I was immensely “red-headed” all the time, and declared that I would fight it out on that line, if I had to wear my summer clothes all winter. I had declared that I would never return home till I was comfortably well fixed, or at least in a fair way to prosper. How well I kept my word will be seen farther on.

I remember during that siege, a coal and wood-dealer offered me a position in his office at fifteen dollars per week, which I declined with thanks, explaining that I had started out in life to “hus’le,” and try and accomplish something of my own accord; and to go to work in a stupid, quiet business on a salary, at that late day, would be a disgrace to the profession. He argued that I would be sure of a comfortable living, anyhow. I agreed with him, but declared that I would never be sure of anything beyond that; and I would rather live from hand to mouth till such time as I could better my condition and possibly make money rapidly.

I felt that to settle down on a salary in such a business would be the means of falling into a certain rut, from which it would be hard to extricate myself. And I have thus far never had occasion to regret having taken that position.

About this time I received a letter from my mother anxiously inquiring what business I had engaged in after quitting the hotel, and if we were all comfortably fixed for the winter.

She closed by saying that as she had no picture of me since I was eighteen years of age she wished I would have my photograph taken and sent to her.

On reading this letter I remarked to my wife that I would send her a likeness that would make her sick. I replied to her, agreeing to send it as soon as I could have some taken. I also answered her questions as to my business engagements and how we were situated, by saying that I occasionally fell back on the furniture polish and did considerable canvassing with it, but my principal business was hauling coke, and had been all winter; and as for comfort, we had never before experienced any thing equal to it.

After mailing my letter to her I wrote to the landlord at Adrian, where I had left the old carpet-bag which had been my companion to New York as well as on my first polish tour, and asked him to get it from the attic of his hotel, and forward to me by express. He did so immediately.

I then borrowed a long linen duster about three sizes too small for me from the “man Friday” employed in the drug store, and repaired to a photograph gallery. I pulled my suspenders up as much as possible in order to make my pants ridiculously short. I donned the linen duster and with tight squeezing managed to button it around me, and turning up the collar pinned it over with a long black shawl-pin. I put on my straw hat, ear muffs, and heavy woolen mittens, struck as awkward an attitude as possible with my toes turned in, and with the old carpet-bag in hand was duly photographed.

While they were being printed I received another letter from my mother congratulating us on our splendid success in making ourselves comfortable during such a hard winter, and said we ought to be thankful that the Lord had blessed us with so many comforts. But one thing in my letter puzzled them all, and that was, what in the world I meant by saying that my principal business was hauling coke. They couldn’t imagine that I had hired out as a teamster, and if I had, they couldn’t see how I could work for some one else and sell polish too. She said when she read my letter Mr. Keefer declared that “that boy would keep hustling and die with his boots on before he would ever hire out as a teamster or any thing else.” And he wanted her to find out at once what on earth it meant. I answered in a few days, stating that I had spent the greater portion of the winter hauling coke a distance of about a mile in a wheel-barrow for our own use and that it took about a bushel a minute to keep us comfortable. I enclosed my photograph, saying that I had stopped on my way home from canvassing one afternoon and had it taken just as I appeared on the street.

I also explained that at the last house where I had stopped they had set the dog on me and he had torn a piece out of my linen ulster and I hadn’t noticed it till after the picture was taken.

I received an immediate reply to this letter acknowledging the receipt of the photograph and making a few comments.

About the first thing she said was that her advice to me would be never to let another winter catch me in Michigan, but to start South and try to reach a locality where linen ulsters and straw hats were more adapted to the climate.

She said she thought the mittens and ear mufflers were very becoming and her first impulse was to send me a pair of Mr. Keefer’s old rubber boots, but on second thought had made up her mind that the tops would hardly reach the bottom of my pants and had concluded that the shoes I was wearing would be more becoming and much easier to walk in.

She concluded her remarks by saying she didn’t see what objection I had to burning wood or nice hard coal, instead of hauling coke so far in a wheel-barrow; and asked how I liked “hus’ling” by this time. She also said that I had carried the old carpet-bag so long that it bore a strong resemblance to myself; and advised me to hang to it, as it might some day be considered a valuable relic, especially if I should ever get rich by “hus’ling,” or become a member of Congress.

Although I felt that she had shown herself equal to the occasion, by replying as she did, my answer to this letter was sufficient to let her know that I asked no favors, and had no intention of doing so.

As soon as spring opened and moving and house-cleaning became the order of the day, my business began to improve, and I made money fast. I bought myself a nice suit of clothes, and other necessary wearing apparel; and I moved my family back to Bronson, where I paid their board and left them sufficient means to procure clothing and pay incidental expenses.

I went to Toledo, expecting to canvass with my polish, and very soon called on an old acquaintance who was telegraphing. While chatting with him a gentleman came in and wrote a message to be sent to an auctioneer at Cleveland, asking him to come to Toledo and travel with him. The operator asked me if I would like to send the message, for a little practice. I told him I would, and stepped inside the office to do so. After reading it, I stepped forward and accosted the stranger with: “What kind of an auctioneer do you wish to employ, sir?”

He replied that he was traveling with a large wagon that cost him fifteen hundred dollars, drove four fine horses, employed two musicians, was selling Yankee Notions, and needed a good man who could sell goods on the down-hill plan, or “Dutch Auction,” as some termed it. I told him that I was an auctioneer, and would engage with him.

He asked me to step out and take a drink. I said: “Thank you, I don’t care for anything to drink.”

“Well, come and take a cigar.”

“Thank you. I never smoke, either.”

He asked if there was anything I did to pass the time pleasantly. I said:

“Yes, sir. I attend to business, when I have any to attend to.”

He inquired what I was engaged in at the present time. I opened my valise and showed him, and several others standing by, what I was selling, and polished up an office desk to show its superior qualities. He asked the price, and on being told, handed me a dollar and took two bottles, after which I sold three more bottles to different gentlemen in the office.

The auction man looked at me a moment, and then laughingly inquired if I could talk as well on Yankee Notions as I could on polish. Then he added that he couldn’t understand how any man could make a living with such a thing, and foolishly asked if I ever sold any of it.

I answered his question by asking if I had not sold him two bottles, as well as three other men in his presence; and asked if he was in the habit of buying everything he saw, whether he needed it or not. He said he bought it because he thought it a valuable article to have in the house, and was going to send it to his wife.

He asked what my price would be per week to work for him. I told him it was strictly against my principles to work on a salary and would prefer to engage on commission even if I didn’t make as much money.

He explained that he usually remained in a town from three days to a week and sold on the street during the evening and Saturday afternoons. He offered me twenty-five dollars per week and all expenses, or five per cent. on all my gross sales and all expenses. I accepted the latter, provided he would not expect me to do anything but sell goods at the times specified. This suited him and I started with him that afternoon for the West. He informed me that the auctioneer he had been employing drank too much liquor and was in consequence unfit for duty half the time. I assured him that he would experience no such trouble with me.

He said that was one reason why he concluded to take me, and confessed that had I accepted his invitation to take a drink he would never have given me the position.

During our first ten miles’ ride I was racking my brain for something to say when I should jump up to make my first sale. I had never sold a dollars’ worth of goods of any kind at auction, and the only experience of a similar nature that I had ever had was the four days’ sale of prize soap.

However, I valued that four days’ experience very highly at that juncture as I felt that it was experience, at any rate, and would no doubt help me in the way of giving me self-confidence.

Fortunately for me, the first town we stopped at had the license so very high that we could not afford to pay it, and decided to continue westward and postpone our first sale till the next night. This gave me an opportunity for further study, which I grasped eagerly.

I slept but little that night, but spent the time in manufacturing a line of talk on the different kinds of goods handled by my employer, and the preparation of a suitable opening speech.

At any rate, the next evening when we drove into Blissfield, Michigan, I determined that it should be a success, although I dreaded the opening of my first sale.

After supper we seated our musicians at the rear end of the wagon-box and started on our parade around town.

Loud singing and the sweet strains of music routed every body in town.

I remember one song they used to sing that always took immensely. It was to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia.” The chorus was:

“Come out, come out, you hungry wearied souls.
Come out, come out, we’re here to do you good.
We’ve marched from East to West, and North, and now we’re going South,
To supply the wants of those way down in Georgia.”

When we drove back to a convenient corner and lighted our immense torches it seemed to me that the towns-people had turned out en masse and gathered around us.

After one or two more pieces by the musicians my proprietor handed me the keys and directed me to open up. I removed the covers from the top of the goods and then began sorting them over carefully. I then laid off my coat and again went through the goods.

Next I threw off my vest and sorted over more goods, till at last realizing that the time had come when something must be said, I looked knowingly over the vast concourse of people and then removed my hat.

A death-like stillness prevailed.

The cold perspiration stood out on my forehead in big drops.

Something about the size of a watermelon appeared to be in my throat.

I feared the sound of my own voice. My knees were weak, and knocking together.

I looked over my audience the second time, and was about to venture to say something, when I happened to think that I hadn’t taken off my cuffs and collar, and proceeded to do so, when to my horror I heard a young man in the audience say, in a tone loud enough for all to hear:

“You bet yer life he is fixing to give us the biggest game of talk we ever heard.”

It was then I realized that the great preparations I had been making, and the knowing looks I had been giving, had only confirmed their supposition that I was certainly capable of doing credit to such a complete and pretentious turn-out.

Could I have lassoed and hung that fellow to the nearest tree, I would gladly have done so; for it seemed to almost completely demoralize me and unfit me for the occasion. And I would have given ten times the price of the whole outfit could I have been spirited away forty miles.

I again discovered myself perspiring more freely than ever. I had fixed the torches several times, had gone through the entire stock of goods three or four times, and had taken off every article of clothing that I dared to, all with the vain hope that something would occur to break the horrid stillness. Such was not the case, however. The eyes of every one were centered upon me those of the proprietor and musicians as well as the audience.

When finally ready to begin my speech, I suddenly discovered that I couldn’t recall a single word that I had so carefully prepared for the occasion.

At all events the very last moment had arrived when I had got to either open up and say something, or desert the whole paraphernalia.

At last I broke out in a low husky voice; and in less than two minutes I was rattling away with an introductory speech, which my employer afterwards complimented me on, and said that from it, alone, my sale was half made before offering a single dollar’s worth of goods for sale.

I continued to use that same speech for years, with an occasional slight variation, but was never able to improve on it very much.

I then began my sale, and very soon felt perfectly at home, and made a great hit, much to the evident satisfaction of my employer, and entirely so to myself.