From the profits of my book I have already satisfied my creditors, repaid Mrs. Slater, bought our home and secured a moderate income. "Still," the publishers write, "there seems no end to the demand for 'Romance and Tragedy'"; and they enclose a handsome cheque, one of many that have reached me.
My wife kisses me and—I awaken.
'Tis but a dream—will it come true?
The public must decide.
"FROM GOD AND THE KING"
After the "Dream" came a trying period; long and exasperating delay in the publication of the book; frequent promising but unsuccessful efforts to secure a business connection that would afford a living for my family; a continued strain which my nervous system was ill prepared to stand and always, just when it seemed as though there was no way to turn, some light and help came.
My contract with my publisher called for some financial contribution from me—not a large sum, expressed in dollars, but monumental in the effort required to raise it. Most of the amount was gained through advance sales of the book, the rest I was forced reluctantly, to raise in small loans. This was accomplished after much correspondence, chiefly with my former customers in the trade.
Amongst others to whom I wrote requesting assistance in this matter was one man, formerly a broker in New York and to whose firm I had given a good deal of business in the old days. He is now connected with the Chicago branch of one of the trusts. He returned my letter after writing across it in red ink: "Had you not held your head so d—n high in your halcyon days, I might respond. You should look to the 'Four Hundred' for help."
Consumed with envy in the days of my success, it afforded him, no doubt, some gratification to kick a man when he is down, but his effort brought only a smile—the animus was so apparent and the effort so feeble.
At last! The book was published.
A few copies were sent to the press; the advance orders filled and then I commenced a canvass by mail to dispose of the remainder of the edition. Perhaps one-quarter of my sales were to strangers, the rest to people who knew me, or knew of me, in business and social life.
The press reviews were very favorable. This was gratifying, but the letters that came to me from all over the country from friends, acquaintances, and strangers brought rays of sunshine that after the dark days were dazzling in their brilliancy.
A few friends and a number of acquaintances I expected would be kindly critics, but when I gave to the world the outpourings of my heart, with the sale of the book went the right of criticism, and as there are always some who cannot or will not understand us, I was prepared for anything—except what I received.
I could not have foreseen how strangers, in remitting for their copy, would send a cheque for many times its published price, writing that "the book was worth it." I never dreamed of the large number of acquaintances that must now be enrolled as friends—not the old sort but the real thing. Nor could I have expected the material aid, that came to me when so sorely needed, would have come so largely from those who knew me only through my book. Least of all did I have any premonition that within a few months after its publication, the book would be the medium of bringing me in personal contact with a gentleman, who has made possible, in a great measure, the fulfillment of my "Dream."
And yet, such is the fact!
After an exchange of letters and in response to his kind invitation, I called at his office, and as he grasped my hand I felt that I had found a friend—how great a friend I did not then know.
The first call was followed by many others, and I was always welcomed with the cordial greeting that is born of sincerity and sired by true friendship. He took a keen interest in my affairs, discussed with me my plans for again becoming a "moneymaker," and was ever ready to lend a helping hand to bridge over the hard spots that were more or less frequent.
Among other business prospects, there was held out to me the possibility of becoming manager of a branch office of a New York Stock Exchange firm in Washington, D. C. This position I lost in competition with a man who had already an established clientele. Then came an offer from another Washington concern, an opening in a congenial and remunerative business, that would give me only a small income to commence with, but which through a prospective early reorganization of the concern presented great possibilities. This I accepted.
As soon as it was decided we were to settle in Washington or its vicinity, came the longing for a country home, not only as a matter of choice, but the practical side appealed to us.
We believed we could make a farm certainly self-supporting and probably a paying proposition. Our amateur experience in earlier years had always been successful. We did not think there was much to be made in farming, as it is generally understood, but the farm would give us our living and certain specialties we thought could be relied on for profit. Hot-house cucumbers, cold frame violets, mushrooms, and last, but by no means least, the putting up "home-made," in glass of vegetables and fruits for sale to private buyers. In this department my wife is a master hand. In our prosperous days she always superintended such work in our home and always with unqualified success. No better market than Washington could be desired for such products and we longed for the opportunity to cater to it.
We talked it all over one evening and called it a fairy tale, it seemed so far beyond the bounds of our possibilities.
As a singular coincidence, there came to me the following day a catalogue of farms, published by a Washington real estate agent. Looking it over, I clipped from its columns the following:
334. $8000. 150 acres. "Chestnut Ridge." Elegant property delightfully located. Land of excellent quality, adapted to all agricultural purposes; 50 or more acres of valuable woodland, embracing every variety, suitable for timber ties and telegraph poles; many cool and pleasant groves; handsome 3-story mansion; library, parlor, dining-room, butler's room, pantry, kitchen, laundry, bath, 7 bed-rooms, attic and 1 cupola room; open fire-place; grate; latrobe; approach to mansion through driveway lined with evergreens, encircling beautiful lawn; water supply ample and pure; 2 springs, 2 wells and a constant running stream, with a tributary run, adding greatly to the possibilities of the place. A lake, 150x75 feet, furnishes pleasure in summer and sufficient ice in winter. Every kind and variety of fruit; small fruit and grapes in abundance. The outhouses embrace office, ice-house, gardener's house, stone dairy, barn with loft and wagon sheds, hay-barracks and extensive poultry-houses, systematically arranged for handling chickens and eggs. This choice property is only 14 miles from Baltimore, near the Washington Boulevard, and overlooks the surrounding country for miles; magnificent scenery and a healthy, lovely home worthy the attention of connoisseur.
"The very place we want," said my wife, and I agreed with her.
I carried the clipping in my pocket, and a day or two later, when calling on my friend I showed it to him. He, like myself, is an enthusiastic lover of the country. We talked it all over, and as I was leaving him, he said: "I don't know but I might help you in the matter of that farm."
I do not think I grasped all that remark meant. Certainly I had no idea then, that within a few months I should be writing this chapter in my "Den" at "Chestnut Ridge."
I went to Washington, looked at the property, and after looking at sixty-two other farms in Maryland and Virginia, returned to New York and was authorized by my friend to make an offer for the place.
Before making the offer I wanted my wife to see the farm. When she did so, she was delighted.
The day we spent in roaming over the broad acres, with the happy thought in our hearts that this was to be our home, will ever be a red-letter day in our calendar of life.
After a few day's negotiations the purchase was closed, and when the necessary repairs to buildings had been completed and the farm equipped we took possession.
[Footnote: To the author, it seems unnatural to close this chapter without any expression of the one all-absorbing feeling that almost overpowered us as we realized we again had a home and yet he cannot ignore the wishes of his friend.]
A FOUNDATION PRINCIPLE
"It is well to profit by the folly of others"
One morning in my mail I found a letter from which I quote:
"I have read your book with much interest. If it is to have a large sale and you wish it to do good, as I presume you do, you should write another chapter explaining that you failed because you lost sight of the one thing necessary to permanent success, and state clearly what it is."
Though I had no personal acquaintance with the writer, I knew him as one of New York's most successful business men, a man whose name carries great weight.
A personal interview followed, and I learned from him a lesson, too late, perhaps, for me to reap the benefit, but I am passing it on in the hope that it will not fall on altogether barren soil, though I know how difficult it is to persuade young men of the wisdom to be gained through another's experience.
Economy in personal and family expenditures was the text from which the lesson was drawn.
In my prosperous days when I made large annual profits, I did not realize how foolishly extravagant was my scale of living, for every year I was adding a handsome amount to my accumulations which were steadily increasing, and yet, looked at from the standpoint of this clear-headed, successful business man, I was expending far more than what should have been regarded as my income.
It will be remembered that in the early years of my career, shortly after my marriage, I was handicapped by the loss through a stock speculation of all my savings. This was followed by dull times and increasing burdens, and it was not until the year 1878 that my profits materially exceeded my absolutely necessary expenditures. During that year I lived comfortably and happily on an expenditure of three thousand dollars. My profits were twelve thousand, and I started the year 1879 with nine thousand dollars to the good.
Taking my expenditure of three thousand dollars as a necessary basis, no matter what my profits in 1879 were, I was warranted in spending only the three thousand dollars plus the interest on the nine thousand, which was my capital. This was the principle imparted to me by the man who had put it in practice and who believes it to be a foundation principle in business, and that neglecting to make it the corner-stone is the cause of nine out of ten of the failures in the business world.
Then he asked me to figure out how it would have worked in my case. I did so and was astounded at the results. I may add it gave me many hours of hard thinking over "what might have been."
In order to make the working of the principle entirely clear to my readers, I have tabulated the figures for fifteen years, calculating interest at six per cent, and showing for each year the profits of my business, the permissible expenditure, and the amount of capital as it would have been on December 3lst.
Year Profits Expenditure Capital, Dec. 3lst
1878..........$ 12,000 $3,000 $ 9,000 1879.......... 16,000 3,540 22,000 1880.......... 21,000 4,320 40,000 1881.......... 28,000 5,400 65,000 1882.......... 21,000 6,900 83,000 1883.......... 24,000 7,980 104,000 1884.......... 30,000 9,240 131,000 1885.......... 15,000 10,860 143,000 1886.......... 36,000 11,580 176,000 1887.......... 61,000 13,560 234,000 1888.......... 120,000 17,040 351,000 1889.......... 72,000 24,060 420,000 1890.......... 68,000 28,200 485,000 1891.......... 80,000 32,100 562,000 1892.......... 70,000 36,720 629,000
This brings me up to January, 1893, the period when I considered the question of retiring from business and decided against doing so for the reason that the income from my capital if invested would have been far below my annual expenditures.
How would it have been had I lived the fifteen years on the scale as figured out?
My capital invested at six per cent, would have realized an income greater than my expenditure in any previous year! But look a little further.
If during all those years I had been in possession of such amounts of capital as the evolution of this principle would have brought me, I am perfectly confident that the profits of my business, handsome as they were, would have been much larger. The money would have produced earnings far in excess of six per cent., and in January, 1893, the capital would surely have been set down in seven figures.
Surely those longed-for years of travel would have been mine—or, suppose I had remained in business? I could not have failed for my capital would have safely carried me over.
And now to conclude the brief addition to my narrative.
The late Robert Ingersoll once said:
"Hope is the only universal liar who maintains his reputation for veracity."
Hope promised me, in the prospective reorganization of the Washington concern, the certainty of a complete fulfillment of my "Dream." Hope lied! The reorganization is indefinitely postponed. Now, hope promises me success in a prospective business connection in Baltimore, and I still have faith in him.
Once more in active business life with all the old energy and ambition and in perfect health, I may yet have another fifteen years to put in practice a principle that I know to be sound.