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Twenty Years of Hus'ling Part 8

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"Oh, I'll leave it with you."

"You ought to give your watch and chain and ten dollars," I said.

"I'll make it five."

"Let me take your watch and chain a few minutes."

"All right," he answered.

I immediately called on Mr. Kintz and said: "John, are you willing to give your gold watch and five dollars for Mr. Clock's silver watch and gold chain?"

He replied by simply handing me five dollars. I then returned to Mr.

Clock, made the trade and also received from him five dollars.

Although the amount I made was small, it came in a very opportune time, and afforded me much satisfaction, as I argued in my own mind, that if I was able to drive those kind of trades in a small way, while young, I might be able some day to make similar deals on a larger scale.

The next day, when I met Mr. Keefer, I explained how I had made ten dollars. He laughed and said: "Well, if they are both satisfied I suppose you ought to be."

The next Sunday after I had made the trade, several of the boys, including Mr. Kintz, Clock and myself, were sitting in the hotel. I was reading a paper when Mr. Kintz and Clock began a conversation about the watch trade, when Kintz remarked:

"If that gold watch had not been a lady's size I never would have paid any difference on the trade."

"Did you give any boot?" quickly asked Clock.

"Why, I gave five dollars," answered Kintz.

"The d----l you did; so did I," replied Clock.

They immediately demanded an explanation, which I gave, by declaring as the "middleman" I was ent.i.tled to all I could make; and this was the universal opinion of every one there, including the landlord, who insisted that it was a good joke and well played.

[Ill.u.s.tration]

CHAPTER VIII.

THREE DOLLARS WELL INVESTED--LEARNING TELEGRAPHY--GETTING IN DEBT--A FULL-FLEDGED OPERATOR--MY FIRST TELEGRAPH OFFICE--BUYING AND SELLING DUCKS AND FROGS WHILE EMPLOYED AS OPERATOR--MY RESIGNATION--CO-PARTNERs.h.i.+P IN THE JEWELRY AND SPECTACLE BUSINESS--HOW WE SUCCEEDED--OUR DISSOLUTION.

The next day after making this trade and procuring the ten dollars, I bought an old silver watch from a stranger who had become stranded, paying him three dollars for it. This I traded for another watch and received five dollars as a difference. From this I continued to make trades until I was the owner of ten head of fine sheep, three pigs, a shot-gun, violin, watch, and a few dollars in money, besides having paid my board at the hotel and bought necessary clothing.

When I found a buyer for my sheep and pigs, my mother said of course I couldn't be contented until I sold them and lost the money. I explained to her that, in order to speculate, it was necessary to keep re-investing and turning my money often.

Mr. Keefer said I was right, but advised me to be very careful, now that I had quite a nice start from simply nothing.

After selling out, I one day called on the day telegraph operator, Will Witmer, and while sitting in his office, asked him to explain the mysteries of telegraphy. He did so, and I then asked him to furnish me with the telegraph alphabet, which he did. I studied it that night, and the next day called at his office again, and began practicing making the letters on the instrument.

He paid me a very high compliment for my aptness, and said I was foolish for not learning the business.

I asked what the expense would be.

He said his charges would be fifteen dollars, and it would take four months anyhow, and possibly six, before I would be able to take an office.

Two days later, after giving special attention to the business, I had become quite infatuated with it, and paid over the fifteen dollars to him and two weeks' board at the hotel.

My intentions were to try and sustain myself by speculating and trafficking, but I very soon became so absorbed in my new undertaking as to be unfit for that business.

My mother was immensely pleased at the turn affairs had taken. Mr.

Keefer was both surprised and pleased, and said he would help me pay my board, although he couldn't see how I ever happened to take a liking to that business.

During this winter, my a.s.sociates and habits of life differing wholly from those of former years, I became what would now be considered "quite a dude." And having no income from business, and a limited one from Mr.

Keefer, with a fair future prospect, I took advantage of my good credit in town, and bought clothes, boots, shoes and furnis.h.i.+ng goods, and borrowed money occasionally from my friends, who never refused me.

Three months from the very day I began learning the alphabet, through the advice and recommendation of Mr. Witmer, I called on Wm. Kline, Jr., General Superintendent of Telegraph, and made application for an office.

He sent me to Whiting, Indiana, sixteen miles from Chicago, with instructions to take charge of the night office, at a salary of forty dollars per month.

On arriving there I found only a small station, and one family, with whom I was to take board, and who were living in an old abandoned water-tank.

The young man whom I relieved from night duty was promoted to day operator, and as he was thoroughly disgusted with the place he kept continually writing to the Superintendent's secretary, who was a friend of his, to get him a better office, which he did in just six weeks afterwards.

I was then promoted to his position, with no raise of salary, but which I gladly accepted.

There was plenty of duck hunting and frog catching among the settlers there, but they didn't seem to understand how to find a market for them.

I at once took advantage of this by getting a day off and a pa.s.s to Chicago, where I bargained with a commission merchant to handle all I could send him. I then returned to Whiting and arranged to have the settlers consign all their game to me, which I in turn consigned to the commission merchant. I had plenty of business and made money fast.

One day the Division Superintendent happened to get off the train, as we were loading on a lot of frogs, when he asked me who was s.h.i.+pping from that point. I told him I was. He looked at me a moment and asked, in a gruff tone:

"Does this R. R. Co. pay you to buy frogs?"

I answered: "No, they pay my board to watch the station, and I buy and sell frogs to make my salary."

The conductor and other employees who heard our remarks laughed heartily, and the Superintendent returned to his car with a broad grin.

As soon as the frog and duck season was over I began urging Mr. Kline to give me a better paying office. I also wrote home expressing my dissatisfaction with the business, and my contempt for the small salary it paid, and closed by saying I could make more money swapping jackknives than I could telegraphing, and that I never would be able to pay my debts were I to continue at it.

My mother answered; saying, that if I threw up that position and came back home she would leave the country.

In a few days I was transferred from Whiting to Swanton, Ohio, with no raise of salary, but better facilities for spending what I did get.

I remained there until the following spring, and managed to spare about five dollars per month towards reducing my home liabilities, and tight squeezing at that.

While there I made frequent visits to Toledo, where Mr. Kline's office was located, and never failed to call on him or his secretary, with a request for a better position. One day I wanted to be extra operator, and another day I would insist upon being placed in the train dispatcher's office, and again thought I would like the general freight office, either of which was considered a fine position.

Finally the secretary asked, one day, how I would like to have Mr. Kline resign in my favor.

I told him I would like it first-rate if the salary was sufficient.

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