OLD GORGON GRAHAM
More Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to His Son
by George Horace Lorimer
With pictures by F.R. Gruger and Martin Justice
FROM A SON TO HIS FATHER
I. From John Graham, head of the house of Graham & Company, pork packers, in Chicago, familiarly known on 'Change as Old Gorgon Graham, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards.
The old man is laid up temporarily for repairs, and Pierrepont has written asking if his father doesn't feel that he is qualified now to relieve him of some of the burden of active management
II. From John Graham, at the Schweitzerkasenhof, Carlsbad, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago.
The head of the lard department has died suddenly, and Pierrepont has suggested to the old man that there is a silver lining to that cloud of sorrow
III. From John Graham, at the Schweitzerkasenhof, Carlsbad, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago.
A friend of the young man has just presented a letter of introduction to the old man, and has exchanged a large bunch of stories for a small roll of bills
IV. From John Graham, at the Hotel Cecil, London, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago.
The old man has just finished going through the young man's first report as manager of the lard department, and he finds it suspiciously good
V. From John Graham, at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago.
The young man has hinted vaguely of a quarrel between himself and Helen Heath, who is in New York with her mother, and has suggested that the old man act as peacemaker
VI. From John Graham, at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago.
The young man has written describing the magnificent wedding presents that are being received, and hinting discreetly that it would not come amiss if he knew what shape the old man's was going to take, as he needs the money
VII. From John Graham, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago, to his son, Pierrepont, at Yemassee-on-the-Tallahassee.
The young man is now in the third quarter of the honeymoon, and the old man has decided that it is time to bring him fluttering down to earth
VIII. From John Graham, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago, to his son, Pierrepont, at Yemassee-on-the-Tallahassee.
In replying to his father's hint that it is time to turn his thoughts from love to lard, the young man has quoted a French sentence, and the old man has been both pained and puzzled by it
IX. From John Graham, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago, to his son, Pierrepont, care of Graham & Company's brokers, Atlanta.
Following the old man's suggestion, the young man has rounded out the honeymoon into a harvest moon, and is sending in some very satisfactory orders to the house
X. From John Graham, at Mount Clematis, Michigan, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago.
The young man has done famously during the first year of his married life, and the old man has decided to give him a more important position
XI. From John Graham, at Mount Clematis, Michigan, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago.
The young man has sent the old man a dose of his own medicine, advice, and he is proving himself a good doctor by taking it
XII. From John Graham, at Magnolia Villa, on the Florida Coast, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago.
The old man has started back to Nature, but he hasn't gone quite far enough to lose sight of his business altogether
XIII. From John Graham, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago, to his son, Pierrepont, care of Graham & Company, Denver.
The young man has been offered a large interest in a big thing at a small price, and he has written asking the old man to lend him the price
XIV. From John Graham, at the Omaha branch of Graham & Company, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago.
The old man has been advised by wire of the arrival of a prospective partner, and that the mother, the son, and the business are all doing well
From John Graham, head of the house of Graham & Company, pork packers, in Chicago, familiarly known on 'Change as Old Gorgon Graham, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards. The old man is laid up temporarily for repairs, and Pierrepont has written asking if his father doesn't feel that he is qualified now to relieve him of some of the burden of active management.
CARLSBAD, October 4, 189-.
Dear Pierrepont: I'm sorry you ask so many questions that you haven't a right to ask, because you put yourself in the position of the inquisitive bull-pup who started out to smell the third rail on the trolley right-of-way—you're going to be full of information in a minute.
In the first place, it looks as if business might be pretty good this fall, and I'm afraid you'll have your hands so full in your place as assistant manager of the lard department that you won't have time to run my job, too.
Then I don't propose to break any quick-promotion records with you, just because you happened to be born into a job with the house. A fond father and a fool son hitch up into a bad team, and a good business makes a poor family carryall. Out of business hours I like you better than any one at the office, but in them there are about twenty men ahead of you in my affections. The way for you to get first place is by racing fair and square, and not by using your old daddy as a spring-board from which to jump over their heads. A man's son is entitled to a chance in his business, but not to a cinch.
It's been my experience that when an office begins to look like a family tree, you'll find worms tucked away snug and cheerful in most of the apples. A fellow with an office full of relatives is like a sow with a litter of pigs—apt to get a little thin and peaked as the others fat up. A receiver is next of kin to a business man's relatives, and after they are all nicely settled in the office they're not long in finding a job for him there, too. I want you to get this firmly fixed in your mind, because while you haven't many relatives to hire, if you ever get to be the head of the house, you'll no doubt marry a few with your wife.
For every man that the Lord makes smart enough to help himself, He makes two who have to be helped. When your two come to you for jobs, pay them good salaries to keep out of the office. Blood is thicker than water, I know, but when it's the blood of your wife's second cousin out of a job, it's apt to be thicker than molasses—and stickier than glue when it touches a good thing. After you have found ninety-nine sound reasons for hiring a man, it's all right to let his relationship to you be the hundredth. It'll be the only bad reason in the bunch.
I simply mention this in passing, because, as I have said, you ain't likely to be hiring men for a little while yet. But so long as the subject is up, I might as well add that when I retire it will be to the cemetery. And I should advise you to anchor me there with a pretty heavy monument, because it wouldn't take more than two such statements of manufacturing cost as I have just received from your department to bring me back from the graveyard to the Stock Yards on the jump. And until I do retire you don't want to play too far from first base. The man at the bat will always strike himself out quick enough if he has forgotten how to find the pitcher's curves, so you needn't worry about that. But you want to be ready all the time in case he should bat a few hot ones in your direction.
Some men are like oak leaves—they don't know when they're dead, but still hang right on; and there are others who let go before anything has really touched them. Of course, I may be in the first class, but you can be dead sure that I don't propose to get into the second, even though I know a lot of people say I'm an old hog to keep right along working after I've made more money than I know how to spend, and more than I could spend if I knew how. It's a mighty curious thing how many people think that if a man isn't spending his money their way he isn't spending it right, and that if he isn't enjoying himself according to their tastes he can't be having a good time. They believe that money ought to loaf; I believe that it ought to work. They believe that money ought to go to the races and drink champagne; I believe that it ought to go to the office and keep sober.
When a man makes a specialty of knowing how some other fellow ought to spend his money, he usually thinks in millions and works for hundreds. There's only one poorer hand at figures than these over-the-left financiers, and he's the fellow who inherits the old man's dollars without his sense. When a fortune comes without calling, it's apt to leave without asking. Inheriting money is like being the second husband of a Chicago grass-widow—mighty uncertain business, unless a fellow has had a heap of experience. There's no use explaining when I'm asked why I keep on working, because fellows who could put that question wouldn't understand the answer. You could take these men and soak their heads overnight in a pailful of ideas, and they wouldn't absorb anything but the few loose cuss-words that you'd mixed in for flavoring. They think that the old boys have corralled all the chances and have tied up the youngsters where they can't get at them; when the truth is that if we all simply quit work and left them the whole range to graze over, they'd bray to have their fodder brought to them in bales, instead of starting out to hunt the raw material, as we had to. When an ass gets the run of the pasture he finds thistles.
I don't mind owning up to you, though, that I don't hang on because I'm indispensable to the business, but because business is indispensable to me. I don't take much stock in this indispensable man idea, anyway. I've never had one working for me, and if I had I'd fire him, because a fellow who's as smart as that ought to be in business for himself; and if he doesn't get a chance to start a new one, he's just naturally going to eat up yours. Any man can feel reasonably well satisfied if he's sure that there's going to be a hole to look at when he's pulled up by the roots.
I started business in a shanty, and I've expanded it into half a mile of factories; I began with ten men working for me, and I'll quit with 10,000; I found the American hog in a mud-puddle, without a beauty spot on him except the curl in his tail, and I'm leaving him nicely packed in fancy cans and cases, with gold medals hung all over him. But after I've gone some other fellow will come along and add a post-graduate course in pork packing, and make what I've done look like a country school just after the teacher's been licked. And I want you to be that fellow. For the present, I shall report at the office as usual, because I don't know any other place where I can get ten hours' fun a day, year in and year out.
After forty years of close acquaintance with it, I've found that work is kind to its friends and harsh to its enemies. It pays the fellow who dislikes it his exact wages, and they're generally pretty small; but it gives the man who shines up to it all the money he wants and throws in a heap of fun and satisfaction for good measure.
A broad-gauged merchant is a good deal like our friend Doc Graver, who'd cut out the washerwoman's appendix for five dollars, but would charge a thousand for showing me mine—he wants all the money that's coming to him, but he really doesn't give a cuss how much it is, just so he gets the appendix.
I've never taken any special stock in this modern theory that no fellow over forty should be given a job, or no man over sixty allowed to keep one. Of course, there's a dead-line in business, just as there is in preaching, and fifty's a good, convenient age at which to draw it; but it's been my experience that there are a lot of dead ones on both sides of it. When a man starts out to be a fool, and keeps on working steady at his trade, he usually isn't going to be any Solomon at sixty. But just because you see a lot of bald-headed sinners lined up in the front row at the show, you don't want to get humorous with every bald-headed man you meet, because the first one you tackle may be a deacon. And because a fellow has failed once or twice, or a dozen times, you don't want to set him down as a failure—unless he takes failing too easy. No man's a failure till he's dead or loses his courage, and that's the same thing. Sometimes a fellow that's been batted all over the ring for nineteen rounds lands on the solar plexus of the proposition he's tackling in the twentieth. But you can have a regiment of good business qualities, and still fail without courage, because he's the colonel, and he won't stand for any weakening at a critical time.
I learned a long while ago not to measure men with a foot-rule, and not to hire them because they were young or old, or pretty or homely, though there are certain general rules you want to keep in mind. If you were spending a million a year without making money, and you hired a young man, he'd be apt to turn in and double your expenses to make the business show a profit, and he'd be a mighty good man; but if you hired an old man, he'd probably cut your expenses to the bone and show up the money saved on the profit side; and he'd be a mighty good man, too. I hire both and then set the young man to spending and the old man to watching expenses.
Of course, the chances are that a man who hasn't got a good start at forty hasn't got it in him, but you can't run a business on the law of averages and have more than an average business. Once an old fellow who's just missed everything he's sprung at gets his hooks in, he's a tiger to stay by the meat course. And I've picked up two or three of these old man-eaters in my time who are drawing pretty large salaries with the house right now.
Whenever I hear any of this talk about carting off old fellows to the glue factory, I always think of Doc Hoover and the time they tried the "dead-line-at-fifty" racket on him, though he was something over eighty when it happened.
After I left Missouri, Doc stayed right along, year after year, in the old town, handing out hell to the sinners in public, on Sundays, and distributing corn-meal and side-meat to them on the quiet, week-days. He was a boss shepherd, you bet, and he didn't stand for any church rows or such like nonsense among his sheep. When one of them got into trouble the Doc was always on hand with his crook to pull him out, but let an old ram try to start any stampede-and-follow-the-leader-over-the-precipice foolishness, and he got the sharp end of the stick.
There was one old billy-goat in the church, a grocer named Deacon Wiggleford, who didn't really like the Elder's way of preaching. Wanted him to soak the Amalekites in his sermons, and to leave the grocery business alone. Would holler Amen! when the parson got after the money-changers in the Temple, but would shut up and look sour when he took a crack at the short-weight prune-sellers of the nineteenth century. Said he "went to church to hear the simple Gospel preached," and that may have been one of the reasons, but he didn't want it applied, because there wasn't any place where the Doc could lay it on without cutting him on the raw. The real trouble with the Deacon was that he'd never really got grace, but only a pretty fair imitation.
Well, one time after the Deacon got back from his fall trip North to buy goods, he tried to worry the Doc by telling him that all the ministers in Chicago were preaching that there wasn't any super-heated hereafter, but that each man lived through his share of hell right here on earth. Doc's face fell at first, but he cheered up mightily after nosing it over for a moment, and allowed it might be so; in fact, that he was sure it was so, as far as those fellows were concerned—they lived in Chicago. And next Sunday he preached hell so hot that the audience fairly sweat.
He wound up his sermon by deploring the tendency to atheism which he had noticed "among those merchants who had recently gone up with the caravans to Babylon for spices" (this was just his high-toned way of describing Deacon Wiggleford's trip to Chicago in a day-coach for groceries), and hoped that the goods which they had brought back were better than the theology. Of course, the old folks on the mourners' bench looked around to see how the Deacon was taking it, and the youngsters back on the gigglers' bench tittered, and everybody was happy but the Deacon. He began laying for the Doc right there. And without meaning to, it seems that I helped his little game along.
Doc Hoover used to write me every now and then, allowing that hams were scarcer in Missouri and more plentiful in my packing-house than they had any right to be, if the balance of trade was to be maintained. Said he had the demand and I had the supply, and he wanted to know what I was going to do about it. I always shipped back a tierce by fast freight, because I was afraid that if I tried to argue the point he'd come himself and take a car-load. He made a specialty of seeing that every one in town had enough food and enough religion, and he wasn't to be trifled with when he discovered a shortage of either. A mighty good salesman was lost when Doc got religion.
Well, one day something more than ten years ago he wrote in, threatening to make the usual raid on my smoke-house, and when I answered, advising him that the goods were shipped, I inclosed a little check and told him to spend it on a trip to the Holy Land which I'd seen advertised. He backed and filled over going at first, but finally the church took it out of his hands and arranged for a young fellow not long out of the Theological Seminary to fill the pulpit, and Doc put a couple of extra shirts in a grip and started off. I heard the rest of the story from Si Perkins next fall, when he brought on a couple of car-loads of steers to Chicago, and tried to stick me half a cent more than the market for them on the strength of our having come from the same town.
It seems that the young man who took Doc's place was one of these fellows with pink tea instead of red blood in his veins. Hadn't any opinions except your opinions until he met some one else. Preached pretty, fluffy little things, and used eau de Cologne on his language. Never hit any nearer home than the unspeakable Turk, and then he was scared to death till he found out that the dark-skinned fellow under the gallery was an Armenian. (The Armenian left the church anyway, because the unspeakable Turk hadn't been soaked hard enough to suit him.) Didn't preach much from the Bible, but talked on the cussedness of Robert Elsmere and the low-downness of Trilby. Was always wanting everybody to lead the higher life, without ever really letting on what it was, or at least so any one could lay hold of it by the tail. In the end, I reckon he'd have worked around to Hoyle's games—just to call attention to their wickedness, of course.
The Pillars of the church, who'd been used to getting their religion raw from Doc Hoover, didn't take to the bottle kindly, and they all fell away except Deacon Wiggleford. He and the youngsters seemed to cotton to the new man, and just before Doc Hoover was due to get back they called a special meeting, and retired the old man with the title of pastor emeritus. They voted him two donation parties a year as long as he lived, and elected the Higher Lifer as the permanent pastor of the church. Deacon Wiggleford suggested the pastor emeritus extra. He didn't quite know what it meant, but he'd heard it in Chicago, and it sounded pretty good, and as if it ought to be a heap of satisfaction to a fellow who was being fired. Besides, it didn't cost anything, and the Deacon was one of those Christians who think that you ought to be able to save a man's immortal soul for two bits.
The Pillars were mighty hot next day when they heard what had happened, and were for calling another special meeting; but two or three of them got together and decided that it was best to lay low and avoid a row until the Doc got back.
He struck town the next week with a jugful of water from the River Jordan in one hand and a gripful of paper-weights made of wood from the Mount of Olives in the other. He was chockful of the joy of having been away and of the happiness of getting back, till they told him about the Deacon's goings on, and then he went sort of gray and old, and sat for a minute all humped up.
Si Perkins, who was one of the unregenerate, but a mighty good friend of the Doc's, was standing by, and he blurted right out: "You say the word, Doc, and we'll make the young people's society ride this rooster out of town on a rail."
That seemed to wake up the Elder a bit, for he shook his head and said, "No nonsense now, you Si"; and then, as he thought it over, he began to bristle and swell up; and when he stood it was to his full six feet four, and it was all man. You could see that he was boss of himself again, and when a man like old Doc Hoover is boss of himself he comes pretty near being boss of every one around him. He sent word to the Higher Lifer by one of the Pillars that he reckoned he was counting on him to preach a farewell sermon the next Sunday, and the young man, who'd been keeping in the background till whatever was going to drop, dropped, came around to welcome him in person. But while the Doc had been doing a heap of praying for grace, he didn't propose to take any chances, and he didn't see him. And he wouldn't talk to any one else, just smiled in an aggravating way, though everybody except Deacon Wiggleford and the few youngsters who'd made the trouble called to remonstrate against his paying any attention to their foolishness.
The whole town turned out the next Sunday to see the Doc step down. He sat beside the Higher Lifer on the platform, and behind them were the six deacons. When it came time to begin the services the Higher Lifer started to get up, but the Doc was already on his feet, and he whispered to him:
"Set down, young man"; and the young man sat. The Doc had a way of talking that didn't need a gun to back it up.
The old man conducted the services right through, just as he always did, except that when he'd remembered in his prayer every one in America and had worked around through Europe to Asia Minor, he lingered a trifle longer over the Turks than usual, and the list of things which he seemed to think they needed brought the Armenian back into the fold right then and there.
By the time the Doc got around to preaching, Deacon Wiggleford was looking like a fellow who'd bought a gold brick, and the Higher Lifer like the brick. Everybody else felt and looked as if they were attending the Doc's funeral, and, as usual, the only really calm and composed member of the party was the corpse.
"You will find the words of my text," Doc began, "in the revised version of the works of William Shakespeare, in the book—I mean play—of Romeo and Juliet, Act Two, Scene Two: 'Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say good-night till it be morrow,'" and while the audience was pulling itself together he laid out that text in four heads, each with six subheads. Began on partings, and went on a still hunt through history and religion for them. Made the audience part with Julius Caesar with regret, and had 'em sniffling at saying good-by to Napoleon and Jeff Davis. Made 'em feel that they'd lost their friends and their money, and then foreclosed the mortgage on the old homestead in a this-is-very-sad-but-I-need-the-money tone. In fact, when he had finished with Parting and was ready to begin on Sweet Sorrow, he had not only exhausted the subject, but left considerable of a deficit in it.
They say that the hour he spent on Sweet Sorrow laid over anything that the town had ever seen for sadness. Put 'em through every stage of grief from the snuffles to the snorts. Doc always was a pretty noisy preacher, but he began work on that head with soft-pedal-tremolo-stop preaching and wound up with a peroration like a steamboat explosion. Started with his illustrations dying of consumption and other peaceful diseases, and finished up with railroad wrecks. He'd been at it two hours when he got through burying the victims of his last illustration, and he was just ready to tackle his third head with six subheads. But before he took the plunge he looked at his watch and glanced up sort of surprised:
"I find," he said, "that we have consumed more time with these introductory remarks than I had intended. We would all, I know, like to say good-by till to-morrow, did our dear young brother's plans permit, but alas! he leaves us on the 2:17. Such is life; to-day we are here, to-morrow we are in St. Louis, to which our young friend must return. Usually, I don't approve of traveling on the Sabbath, but in a case like this, where the reasons are very pressing, I will lay aside my scruples, and with a committee of deacons which I have appointed see our pastor emeritus safely off."
The Doc then announced that he would preach a series of six Sunday night sermons on the six best-selling books of the month, and pronounced the benediction while the Higher Lifer and Deacon Wiggleford were trying to get the floor. But the committee of deacons had 'em by the coat-tails, and after listening to their soothing arguments the Higher Lifer decided to take the 2:17 as per schedule. When he saw the whole congregation crowding round the Doc, and the women crying over him and wanting to take him home to dinner, he understood that there'd been a mistake somewhere and that he was the mistake.
Of course the Doc never really preached on the six best-selling books. That was the first and last time he ever found a text in anything but the Bible. Si Perkins wanted to have Deacon Wiggleford before the church on charges. Said he'd been told that this pastor emeritus business was Latin, and it smelt of popery to him; but the Doc wouldn't stand for any foolishness. Allowed that the special meeting was illegal, and that settled it; and he reckoned they could leave the Deacon's case to the Lord. But just the same, the small boys used to worry Wiggleford considerably by going into his store and yelling: "Mother says she doesn't want any more of those pastor emeritus eggs," or, "She'll send it back if you give us any more of that dead-line butter."
If the Doc had laid down that Sunday, there'd probably have been a whole lot of talk and tears over his leaving, but in the end, the Higher Lifer or some other fellow would have had his job, and he'd have become one of those nice old men for whom every one has a lot of respect but no special use. But he kept right on, owning his pulpit and preaching in it, until the Great Call was extended to him.
I'm a good deal like the Doc—willing to preach a farewell sermon whenever it seems really necessary, but some other fellow's.
Your affectionate father,
From John Graham, at the Schweitzerkasenhof, Carlsbad, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago. The head of the lard department has died suddenly, and Pierrepont has suggested to the old man that there is a silver lining to that cloud of sorrow.
CARLSBAD, October 20, 189-.
Dear Pierrepont: I've cabled the house that you will manage the lard department, or try to, until I get back; but beyond that I can't see. Four weeks doesn't give you much time to prove that you are the best man in the shop for the place, but it gives you enough to prove that you ain't. You've got plenty of rope. If you know how to use it you can throw your steer and brand it; if you don't, I suppose I won't find much more than a grease-spot where the lard department was, when I get back to the office. I'm hopeful, but I'm a good deal like the old deacon back in Missouri who thought that games of chance were sinful, and so only bet on sure things—and I'm not betting.
Naturally, when a young fellow steps up into a big position, it breeds jealousy among those whom he's left behind and uneasiness among those to whom he's pulled himself up. Between them he's likely to be subjected to a lot of petty annoyances. But he's in the fix of a dog with fleas who's chasing a rabbit—if he stops to snap at the tickling on his tail, he's going to lose his game dinner.
Even as temporary head of the lard department you're something of a pup, and where there's dog there's fleas. You've simply got to get used to them, and have sense enough to know that they're not eating you up when they're only nibbling a little at your hide. And you don't want to let any one see that a flea-bite can worry you, either. A pup that's squirming and wriggling and nosing around the seat of the trouble whenever one of his little friends gets busy, is kicked out into the cold, sad night in the end. But a wise dog lies before the fire with a droop in his ear and a dreamy look in his eyes until it gets to the point where he can't stand 'em any longer. Then he sneaks off under the dining-room table and rolls them out into the carpet.
There are two breeds of little things in business—those that you can't afford to miss and those that you can't afford to notice. The first are the details of your own work and those of the men under you. The second are the little tricks and traps that the envious set around you. A trick is always so low that a high-stepper can walk right over it.
When a fellow comes from the outside to an important position with a house he generally gets a breathing-space while the old men spar around taking his measure and seeing if he sizes up to his job. They give him the benefit of the doubt, and if he shows up strong and shifty on his feet they're apt to let him alone. But there isn't any doubt in your case; everybody's got you sized up, or thinks he has, and those who've been over you will find it hard to accept you as an equal, and those who've been your equals will be slow to regard you as a superior. When you've been Bill to a man, it comes awkward for him to call you mister. He may do it to your face, but you're always Bill again when you've turned the corner.
Of course, everybody's going to say you're an accident. Prove it. Show that you're a regular head-on collision when anything gets in your way. They're going to say that you've got a pull. Prove it—by taking up all the slack that they give you. Back away from controversy, but stand up stubborn as a mule to the fellow who's hunting trouble. I believe in ruling by love, all right, but it's been my experience that there are a lot of people in the world whom you've got to make understand that you're ready to heave a brick if they don't come when you call them. These men mistake kindness for weakness and courtesy for cowardice. Of course, it's the exception when a fellow of this breed can really hurt you, but the exception is the thing that you always want to keep your eye skinned for in business. When it's good growing weather and the average of the crop is ninety-five, you should remember that old Satan may be down in Arizona cooking up a sizzler for the cornbelt; or that off Cuba-ways, where things get excited easy, something special in the line of tornadoes may be ghost-dancing and making ready to come North to bust you into bits, if it catches you too far away from the cyclone cellar. When a boy's face shines with soap, look behind his ears.
Up to this point you've been seeing business from the seat of the man who takes orders; now you're going to find out what sort of a snap the fellow who gives them has. You're not even exchanging one set of worries for another, because a good boss has to carry all his own and to share those of his men. He must see without spying; he must hear without sneaking; he must know without asking. It takes a pretty good guesser to be a boss.
The first banana-skin which a lot of fellows step on when they're put over other men is a desire to be too popular. Of course, it's a nice thing to have everyone stand up and cheer when your name is mentioned, but it's mighty seldom that that happens to any one till he's dead. You can buy a certain sort of popularity anywhere with soft soap and favors; but you can't buy respect with anything but justice, and that's the only popularity worth having.
You'll find that this world is so small, and that most men in it think they're so big, that you can't step out in any direction without treading on somebody's corns, but unless you keep moving, the fellow who's in a hurry to get somewhere is going to fetch up on your bunion. Some men are going to dislike you because you're smooth, and others because you have a brutal way of telling the truth. You're going to repel some because they think you're cold, and others will cross the street when they see you coming because they think you slop over. One fellow won't like you because you're got curly hair, and another will size you up as a stiff because you're bald. Whatever line of conduct you adopt you're bound to make some enemies, but so long as there's a choice I want you to make yours by being straightforward and just. You'll have the satisfaction of knowing that every enemy you make by doing the square thing is a rascal at heart. Don't fear too much the enemy you make by saying No, nor trust too much the friend you make by saying Yes.
Speaking of being popular naturally calls to mind the case of a fellow from the North named Binder, who moved to our town when I was a boy, and allowed that he was going into the undertaking business. Absalom Magoffin, who had had all the post-mortem trade of the town for forty years, was a queer old cuss, and he had some mighty aggravating ways. Never wanted to talk anything but business. Would buttonhole you on the street, and allow that, while he wasn't a doctor, he had had to cover up a good many of the doctor's mistakes in his time, and he didn't just like your symptoms. Said your looks reminded him of Bill Shorter, who' went off sudden in the fifties, and was buried by the Masons with a brass band. Asked if you remembered Bill, and that peculiar pasty look about his skin. Naturally, this sort of thing didn't make Ab any too popular, and so Binder got a pretty warm welcome when he struck town.
He started right out by saying that he didn't see any good reason why an undertaker should act as if he was the next of kin. Was always stopping people on the streets to tell them the latest, and yelling out the point in a horse-laugh. Everybody allowed that jolly old Binder had the right idea; and that Magoffin might as well shut up shop. Every one in town wanted to see him officiate at a funeral, and there was a lot of talk about encouraging new enterprises, but it didn't come to anything. No one appeared to have any public spirit.
Seemed as if we'd never had a healthier spring than that one. Couldn't fetch a nigger, even. The most unpopular man in town, Miser Dosher, came down with pneumonia in December, and every one went around saying how sad it was that there was no hope, and watching for Binder to start for the house. But in the end Dosher rallied and "went back on the town," as Si Perkins put it. Then the Hoskins-Bustard crowds took a crack at each other one court day, but it was mighty poor shooting. Ham Hoskins did get a few buckshot in his leg, and that had to come off, but there were no complications.
By this time Binder, though he still laughed and cracked his jokes, was beginning to get sort of discouraged. But Si Perkins used to go round and cheer him up by telling him that it was bound to come his way in the end, and that when it did come it would come with a rush.
Then, all of a sudden, something happened—yellow jack dropped in from down New Orleans way, and half the people in town had it inside a week and the other half were so blamed scared that they thought they had it. But through it all Binder never once lost his merry, cheery ways. Luckily it was a mild attack and everybody got well; but it made it mighty easy for Doc Hoover to bring sinners tinder conviction for a year to come.
When it was all over Binder didn't have a friend in town. Leaked out little by little that as soon as one of the men who'd been cheering for jolly old Binder got yellow jack, the first thing he did was to make his wife swear that she'd have Magoffin do the planting.
You see, that while a man may think it's all foolishness for an undertaker to go around solemn and sniffling, he'll be a little slow about hiring a fellow to officiate at his funeral who's apt to take a sense of humor to it.
Si Perkins was the last one to get well, and the first time he was able to walk as far as the store he made a little speech. Wanted to know if we were going to let a Connecticut Yankee trifle with our holiest emotions. Thought he ought to be given a chance to crack his blanked New England jokes in Hades. Allowed that the big locust in front of Binder's store made an ideal spot for a jolly little funeral. Of course Si wasn't exactly consistent in this, but, as he used to say, it's the consistent men who keep the devil busy, because no one's ever really consistent except in his cussedness. It's been my experience that consistency is simply a steel hoop around a small mind—it keeps it from expanding.
Well, Si hadn't more than finished before the whole crowd was off whooping down the street toward Binder's. As soon as they got in range of the house they began shooting at the windows and yelling for him to come out if he was a man, but it appeared that Binder wasn't a man—leastways, he didn't come out—and investigation showed that he was streaking it back for Connecticut.
I simply mention this little incident as an example of the fact that popularity is a mighty uncertain critter and a mighty unsafe one to hitch your wagon to. It'll eat all the oats you bring it, and then kick you as you're going out of the stall. It's happened pretty often in my time that I've seen a crowd pelt a man with mud, go away, and, returning a few months or a few years later, and finding him still in the same place, throw bouquets at him. But that, mark you, was because first and last he was standing in the right place.
It's been my experience that there are more cases of hate at first sight than of love at first sight, and that neither of them is of any special consequence. You tend strictly to your job of treating your men square, without slopping over, and when you get into trouble there'll be a little bunch to line up around you with their horns down to keep the wolves from cutting you out of the herd.
Your affectionate father,
From John Graham, at the Schweitzerkasenhof, Carlsbad, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago. A friend of the young man has just presented a letter of introduction to the old man, and has exchanged a large bunch of stories for a small roll of bills.
CARLSBAD, October 24, 189-.
Dear Pierrepont: Yesterday your old college friend, Clarence, blew in from Monte Carlo, where he had been spending a few days in the interests of science, and presented your letter of introduction. Said he still couldn't understand just how it happened, because he had figured it out by logarithms and trigonometry and differential calculus and a lot of other high-priced studies that he'd taken away from Harvard, and that it was a cinch on paper. Was so sure that he could have proved his theory right if he'd only had a little more money that it hardly seemed worth while to tell him that the only thing he could really prove with his system was old Professor Darwin's theory that men and monkeys began life in the same cage. It never struck me before, but I'll bet the Professor got that idea while he was talking with some of his students.
Personally, I don't know a great deal about gambling, because all I ever spent for information on the subject was $2.75—my fool horse broke in the stretch—and that was forty years ago; but first and last I've heard a lot of men explain how it happened that they hadn't made a hog-killing. Of course, there must be a winning end to gambling, but all that these men have been able to tell about is the losing end. And I gather from their experiences that when a fellow does a little gambling on the side, it's usually on the wrong side.
The fact of the matter is, that the race-horse, the faro tiger, and the poker kitty have bigger appetites than any healthy critter has a right to have; and after you've fed a tapeworm, there's mighty little left for you. Following the horses may be pleasant exercise at the start, but they're apt to lead you to the door of the poorhouse or the jail at the finish.
To get back to Clarence; he took about an hour to dock his cargo of hard luck, and another to tell me how strange it was that there was no draft from his London bankers waiting to welcome him. Naturally, I haven't lived for sixty years among a lot of fellows who've been trying to drive a cold-chisel between me and my bank account, without being able to smell a touch coming a long time before it overtakes me, and Clarence's intentions permeated his cheery conversation about as thoroughly as a fertilizer factory does a warm summer night. Of course, he gave me every opportunity to prove that I was a gentleman and to suggest delicately that I should be glad if he would let me act as his banker in this sudden emergency, but as I didn't show any signs of being a gentleman and a banker, he was finally forced to come out and ask me in coarse commercial words to lend him a hundred. Said it hurt him to have to do it on such short acquaintance, but I couldn't see that he was suffering any real pain.
Frankly, I shouldn't have lent Clarence a dollar on his looks or his story, for they both struck me as doubtful collateral, but so long as he had a letter from you, asking me to "do anything in my power to oblige him, or to make his stay in Carlsbad pleasant," I let him have the money on your account, to which I have written the cashier to charge it. Of course, I hope Clarence will pay you back, but I think you will save bookkeeping by charging it off to experience. I've usually found that these quick, glad borrowers are slow, sad payers. And when a fellow tells you that it hurts him to have to borrow, you can bet that the thought of having to pay is going to tie him up into a bow-knot of pain.
Right here I want to caution you against giving away your signature to every Clarence and Willie that happens along. When your name is on a note it stands only for money, but when it's on a letter of introduction or recommendation it stands for your judgment of ability and character, and you can't call it in at the end of thirty days, either. Giving a letter of introduction is simply lending your name with a man as collateral, and if he's no good you can't have the satisfaction of redeeming your indorsement, even; and you're discredited. The first thing that a young merchant must learn is that his brand must never appear on a note, or a ham, or a man that isn't good. I reckon that the devil invented the habit of indorsing notes and giving letters to catch the fellows he couldn't reach with whisky and gambling.
Of course, letters of introduction have their proper use, but about nine out of ten of them are simply a license to some Clarence to waste an hour of your time and to graft on you for the luncheon and cigars. It's getting so that a fellow who's almost a stranger to me doesn't think anything of asking for a letter of introduction to one who's a total stranger. You can't explain to these men, because when you try to let them down easy by telling them that you haven't had any real opportunity to know what their special abilities are, they always come back with an, "Oh! that's all right—just say a word and refer to anything you like about me."
I give them the letter then, unsealed, and though, of course, they're not supposed to read it, I have reason to think that they do, because I've never heard of one of those letters being presented. I use the same form on all of them, and after they've pumped their thanks into me and rushed around the corner, they find in the envelope: "This will introduce Mr. Gallister. While I haven't had the pleasure of any extended acquaintance with Mr. Gallister, I like his nerve."
It's a mighty curious thing, but a lot of men who have no claim on you, and who wouldn't think of asking for money, will panhandle both sides of a street for favors that mean more than money. Of course, it's the easy thing and the pleasant thing not to refuse, and after all, most men think, it doesn't cost anything but a few strokes of the pen, and so they will give a fellow that they wouldn't ordinarily play on their friends as a practical joke, a nice sloppy letter of introduction to them; or hand out to a man that they wouldn't give away as a booby prize, a letter of recommendation in which they crack him up as having all the qualities necessary for an A1 Sunday-school superintendent and bank president.
Now that you are a boss you will find that every other man who comes to your desk is going to ask you for something; in fact, the difference between being a sub and a boss is largely a matter of asking for things and of being asked for things. But it's just as one of those poets said—you can't afford to burn down the glue factory to stimulate the demand for glue stock, or words to that effect.
Of course, I don't mean by this that I want you to be one of those fellows who swell out like a ready-made shirt and brag that they "never borrow and never lend." They always think that this shows that they are sound, conservative business men, but, as a matter of fact, it simply stamps them as mighty mean little cusses. It's very superior, I know, to say that you never borrow, but most men have to at one time or another, and then they find that the never-borrow-never-lend platform is a mighty inconvenient one to be standing on. Be just in business and generous out of it. A fellow's generosity needs a heap of exercise to keep it in good condition, and the hand that writes out checks gets cramped easier than the hand that takes them in. You want to keep them both limber.
While I don't believe in giving with a string tied to every dollar, or doing up a gift in so many conditions that the present is lost in the wrappings, it's a good idea not to let most people feel that money can be had for the asking. If you do, they're apt to go into the asking business for a living. But these millionaires who give away a hundred thousand or so, with the understanding that the other fellow will raise another hundred thousand or so, always remind me of a lot of boys coaxing a dog into their yard with a hunk of meat, so that they can tie a tin can to his tail—the pup edges up licking his chops at the thought of the provisions and hanging his tail at the thought of the hardware. If he gets the meat, he's got to run himself to death to get rid of the can.
While we're on this subject of favors I want to impress on you the importance of deciding promptly. The man who can make up his mind quick, makes up other people's minds for them. Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clear and straight and lays bare the fat and the lean; indecision, a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind it. Say yes or no—seldom perhaps. Some people have such fertile imaginations that they will take a grain of hope and grow a large definite promise with bark on it overnight, and later, when you come to pull that out of their brains by the roots, it hurts, and they holler.
When a fellow asks for a job in your department there may be reasons why you hate to give him a clear-cut refusal, but tell him frankly that you see no possibility of placing him, and while he may not like the taste of the medicine, he swallows it and it's down and forgotten. But you say to him that you're very sorry your department is full just now, but that you think a place will come along later and that he shall have the first call on it, and he goes away with his teeth in a job. You've simply postponed your trouble for a few weeks or months. And trouble postponed always has to be met with accrued interest.
Never string a man along in business. It isn't honest and it isn't good policy. Either's a good reason, but taken together they head the list of good reasons.
Of course, I don't mean that you want to go rampaging along, trampling on people's feelings and goring every one who sticks up a head in your path. But there's no use shilly-shallying and doddering with people who ask questions and favors they have no right to ask. Don't hurt any one if you can help it, but if you must, a clean, quick wound heals soonest.
When you can, it's better to refuse a request by letter. In a letter you need say only what you choose; in a talk you may have to say more than you want to say.
With the best system in the world you'll find it impossible, however, to keep a good many people who have no real business with you from seeing you and wasting your time, because a broad-gauged merchant must be accessible. When a man's office is policed and every one who sees him has to prove that he's taken the third degree and is able to give the grand hailing sign, he's going to miss a whole lot of things that it would be mighty valuable for him to know. Of course, the man whose errand could be attended to by the office-boy is always the one who calls loudest for the boss, but with a little tact you can weed out most of these fellows, and it's better to see ten bores than to miss one buyer. A house never gets so big that it can afford to sniff at a hundred-pound sausage order, or to feel that any customer is so small that it can afford not to bother with him. You've got to open a good many oysters to find a pearl.
You should answer letters just as you answer men—promptly, courteously, and decisively. Of course, you don't ever want to go off half-cocked and bring down a cow instead of the buck you're aiming at, but always remember that game is shy and that you can't shoot too quick after you've once got it covered. When I go into a fellow's office and see his desk buried in letters with the dust on them, I know that there are cobwebs in his head. Foresight is the quality that makes a great merchant, but a man who has his desk littered with yesterday's business has no time to plan for to-morrow's.
The only letters that can wait are those which provoke a hot answer. A good hot letter is always foolish, and you should never write a foolish thing if you can say it to the man instead, and never say it if you can forget it. The wisest man may make an ass of himself to-day, over to-day's provocation, but he won't tomorrow. Before being used, warm words should be run into the cooling-room until the animal heat is out of them. Of course, there's no use in a fool's waiting, because there's no room in a small head in which to lose a grievance.
Speaking of small heads naturally calls to mind a gold brick named Solomon Saunders that I bought when I was a good deal younger and hadn't been buncoed so often. I got him with a letter recommending him as a sort of happy combination of the three wise men of the East and the nine muses, and I got rid of him with one in which I allowed that he was the whole dozen.
I really hired Sol because he reminded me of some one I'd known and liked, though I couldn't just remember at the time who it was; but one day, after he'd been with me about a week, it came to me in a flash that he was the living image of old Bucker, a billy-goat I'd set aheap of store by when I was a boy. That was a lesson to me on the foolishness of getting sentimental in business. I never think of the old homestead that echo doesn't answer, "Give up!"; or hear from it without getting a bill for having been born there.
Sol had started out in life to be a great musician. Had raised the hair for the job and had kept his finger-nails cut just right for it, but somehow, when he played "My Old Kentucky Home," nobody sobbed softly in the fourth row. You see, he could play a piece absolutely right and meet every note just when it came due, but when he got through it was all wrong. That was Sol in business, too. He knew just the right rule for doing everything and did it just that way, and yet everything he did turned out to be a mistake. Made it twice as aggravating because you couldn't consistently find fault with him. If you'd given Sol the job of making over the earth he'd have built it out of the latest text-book on "How to Make the World Better," and have turned out something as correct as a spike-tail coat—and every one would have wanted to die to get out of it.
Then, too, I never saw such a cuss for system. Other men would forget costs and prices, but Sol never did. Seemed he ran his memory by system. Had a way when there was a change in the price-list of taking it home and setting it to poetry. Used "Ring Out, Wild Bells," by A. Tennyson, for a bull market—remember he began it "Ring Off, Wild Bulls"—and "Break, Break, Break," for a bear one.
It used to annoy me considerable when I asked him the price of pork tenderloins to have him mumble through two or three verses till he fetched it up, but I didn't have any real kick coming till he got ambitious and I had to wait till he'd hummed half through a grand opera to get a quotation on pickled pigs' feet in kits. I felt that we had reached the parting of the ways then, but I didn't like to point out his way too abruptly, because the friend who had unloaded him on us was pretty important to me in my business just then, and he seemed to be all wrapped up in Sol's making a hit with us.
It's been my experience, though, that sometimes when you can't kick a man out of the back door without a row, you can get him to walk out the front way voluntarily. So when I get stuck with a fellow that, for some reason, it isn't desirable to fire, I generally promote him and raise his pay. Some of these weak sisters I make the assistant boss of the machine-shop and some of the bone-meal mill. I didn't dare send Sol to the machine-shop, because I knew he wouldn't have been there a week before he'd have had the shop running on Goetterdaemmerung or one of those other cuss-word operas of Wagner's. But the strong point of a bone-meal mill is bone-dust, and the strong point of bone-dust is smell, and the strong point of its smell is its staying qualities. Naturally it's the sort of job for which you want a bald-headed man, because a fellow who's got nice thick curls will cheat the house by taking a good deal of the product home with him. To tell the truth, Sol's hair had been worrying me almost as much as his system. When I hired him I'd supposed he'd finally molt it along with his musical tail-feathers. I had a little talk with him then, in which I hinted at the value of looking clear-cut and trim and of giving sixteen ounces to the pound, but the only result of it was that he went off and bought a pot of scented vaseline and grew another inch of hair for good measure. It seemed a pity now, so long as I was after his scalp, not to get it with the hair on.
Sol had never seen a bone-meal mill, but it flattered him mightily to be promoted into the manufacturing end, "where a fellow could get ahead faster," and he said good-by to the boys in the office with his nose in the air, where he kept it, I reckon, during the rest of his connection with the house.
If Sol had stuck it out for a month at the mill I'd have known that he had the right stuff in him somewhere and have taken him back into the office after a good rub-down with pumice-stone. But he turned up the second day, smelling of violet soap and bone-meal, and he didn't sing his list of grievances, either. Started right in by telling me how, when he got into a street-car, all the other passengers sort of faded out; and how his landlady insisted on serving his meals in his room. Almost foamed at the mouth when I said the office seemed a little close and opened the window, and he quoted some poetry about that being "the most unkindest cut of all." Wound up by wanting to know how he was going to get it out of his hair.
I broke it to him as gently as I could that it would have to wear out or be cut out, and tried to make him see that it was better to be a bald-headed boss on a large salary than a curly-headed clerk on a small one; but, in the end, he resigned, taking along a letter from me to the friend who had recommended him and some of my good bone-meal.
I didn't grudge him the fertilizer, but I did feel sore that he hadn't left me a lock of his hair, till some one saw him a few days later, dodging along with his collar turned up and his hat pulled down, looking like a new-clipped lamb. I heard, too, that the fellow who had given him the wise-men-muses letter to me was so impressed with the almost exact duplicate of it which I gave Sol, and with the fact that I had promoted him so soon, that he concluded he must have let a good man get by him, and hired him himself.
Sol was a failure as a musician because, while he knew all the notes, he had nothing in himself to add to them when he played them. It's easy to learn all the notes that make good music and all the rules that make good business, but a fellow's got to add the fine curves to them himself if he wants to do anything more than beat the bass-drum all his life. Some men think that rules should be made of cast iron; I believe that they should be made of rubber, so that they can be stretched to fit any particular case and then spring back into shape again. The really important part of a rule is the exception to it.
Your affectionate father,
P.S.—Leave for home to-morrow.
From John Graham, at the Hotel Cecil, London, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago. The old man has just finished going through the young man's first report as manager of the lard department, and he finds it suspiciously good.
LONDON, December 1, 189-.
Dear Pierrepont: Your first report; looks so good that I'm a little afraid of it. Figures don't lie, I know, but that's, only because they can't talk. As a matter of fact, they're just as truthful as the man who's behind them.
It's been my experience that there are two kinds of figures—educated and uneducated ones—and that the first are a good deal like the people who have had the advantage of a college education on the inside and the disadvantage of a society finish on the outside—they're apt to tell you only the smooth and the pleasant things. Of course, it's mighty nice to be told that the shine of your shirt-front is blinding the floor-manager's best girl; but if there's a hole in the seat of your pants you ought to know that, too, because sooner or later you've got to turn your back to the audience.
Now don't go off half-cocked and think I'm allowing that you ain't truthful; because I think you are—reasonably so—and I'm sure that everything you say in your report is true. But is there anything you don't say in it?
A good many men are truthful on the installment plan—that is, they tell their boss all the good things in sight about their end of the business and then dribble out the bad ones like a fellow who's giving you a list of his debts. They'll yell for a week that the business of their department has increased ten per cent., and then own up in a whisper that their selling cost has increased twenty. In the end, that always creates a worse impression than if both sides of the story had been told at once or the bad had been told first. It's like buying a barrel of apples that's been deaconed—after you've found that the deeper you go the meaner and wormier the fruit, you forget all about the layer of big, rosy, wax-finished pippins which was on top.
I never worry about the side of a proposition that I can see; what I want to get a look at is the side that's out of sight. The bugs always snuggle down on the under side of the stone.
The best year we ever had—in our minds—was one when the superintendent of the packing-house wanted an increase in his salary, and, to make a big showing, swelled up his inventory like a poisoned pup. It took us three months, to wake up to what had happened, and a year to get over feeling as if there was sand in our eyes when we compared the second showing with the first. An optimist is as bad as a drunkard when he comes to figure up results in business—he sees double. I employ optimists to get results and pessimists to figure them up.
After I've charged off in my inventory for wear and tear and depreciation, I deduct a little more just for luck—bad luck. That's the only sort of luck a merchant can afford to make a part of his calculations.
The fellow who said you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear wasn't on to the packing business. You can make the purse and you can fill it, too, from the same critter. What you can't do is to load up a report with moonshine or an inventory with wind, and get anything more substantial than a moonlight sail toward bankruptcy. The kittens of a wildcat are wildcats, and there's no use counting on their being angoras.
Speaking of educated pigs naturally calls to mind Jake Solzenheimer and the lard that he sold half a cent a pound cheaper than any one else in the business could make it. That was a long time ago, when the packing business was still on the bottle, and when the hogs that came to Chicago got only a common-school education and graduated as plain hams and sides and lard and sausage. Literature hadn't hit the hog business then. It was just Graham's hams or Smith's lard, and there were no poetical brands or high-art labels.
Well, sir, one day I heard that this Jake was offering lard to the trade at half a cent under the market, and that he'd had the nerve to label it "Driven Snow Leaf." Told me, when I ran up against him on the street, that he'd got the name from a song which began, "Once I was pure as the driven snow." Said it made him feel all choky and as if he wanted to be a better man, so he'd set out to make the song famous in the hope of its helping others. Allowed that this was a hard world, and that it was little enough we could do in our business life to scatter sunshine along the way; but he proposed that every can which left his packing-house after this should carry the call to a better life into some humble home.
I let him lug that sort of stuff to the trough till he got tired, and then I looked him square in the eye and went right at him with:
"Jake, what you been putting in that lard?" because I knew mighty well that there was something in it which had never walked on four feet and fattened up on fifty-cent corn and then paid railroad fare from the Missouri River to Chicago. There are a good many things I don't know, but hogs ain't one of them.
Jake just grinned at me and swore that there was nothing in his lard except the pure juice of the hog; so I quit fooling with him and took a can of "Driven Snow" around to our chemist. It looked like lard and smelt like lard—in fact, it looked better than real lard: too white and crinkly and tempting on top. And the next day the chemist came down to my office and told me that "Driven Snow" must have been driven through a candle factory, because it had picked up about twenty per cent. of paraffin wax somewhere.
Of course, I saw now why Jake was able to undersell us all, but it was mighty important to knock out "Driven Snow" with the trade in just the right way, because most of our best customers had loaded up with it. So I got the exact formula from the chemist and had about a hundred sample cans made up, labeling each one "Wandering Boy Leaf Lard," and printing on the labels: "This lard contains twenty per cent. of paraffin."
I sent most of these cans, with letters of instruction, to our men through the country. Then I waited until it was Jake's time to be at the Live Stock Exchange, and happened in with a can of "Wandering Boy" under my arm. It didn't take me long to get into conversation with Jake, and as we talked I swung that can around until it attracted his attention, and he up and asked:
"What you got there, Graham?"
"Oh, that," I answered, slipping the can behind my back—"that's a new lard we're putting out—something not quite so expensive as our regular brand."
Jake stopped grinning then and gave me a mighty sharp look.
"Lemme have a squint at it," says he, trying not to show too keen an interest in his face.
I held back a little; then I said: "Well, I don't just know as I ought to show you this. We haven't regularly put it on the market, and this can ain't a fair sample of what we can do; but so long as I sort of got the idea from you I might as well tell you. I'd been thinking over what you said about that lard of yours, and while they were taking a collection in church the other day the soprano up and sings a mighty touching song. It began, 'Where is my wandering boy to-night?' and by the time she was through I was feeling so mushy and sobby that I put a five instead of a one into the plate by mistake. I've been thinking ever since that the attention of the country ought to be called to that song, and so I've got up this missionary lard"; and I shoved the can of "Wandering Boy" under his eyes, giving him time to read the whole label.
"H—l!" he said.
"Yes," I answered; "that's it. Good lard gone wrong; but it's going to do a great work."
Jake's face looked like the Lost Tribes—the whole bunch of 'em—as the thing soaked in; and then he ran his arm through mine and drew me off into a corner.
"Graham," said he, "let's drop this cussed foolishness. You keep dark about this and we'll divide the lard trade of the country."
I pretended not to understand what he was driving at, but reached out and grasped his hand and wrung it. "Yes, yes, Jake," I said; "we'll stand shoulder to shoulder and make the lard business one grand sweet song," and then I choked him off by calling another fellow into the conversation. It hardly seemed worth while to waste time telling Jake what he was going to find out when he got back to his office—that there wasn't any lard business to divide, because I had hogged it all.
You see, my salesmen had taken their samples of "Wandering Boy" around to the buyers and explained that it was made from the same formula as "Driven Snow," and could be bought at the same price. They didn't sell any "Boy," of course—that wasn't the idea; but they loaded up the trade with our regular brand, to take the place of the "Driven Snow," which was shipped back to Jake by the car-lot.
Since then, when anything looks too snowy and smooth and good at the first glance, I generally analyze it for paraffin. I've found that this is a mighty big world for a square man and a mighty small world for a crooked one.
I simply mention these things in a general way. I've confidence that you're going to make good as head of the lard department, and if, when I get home, I find that your work analyzes seventy-five per cent, as pure as your report I shall be satisfied. In the meanwhile I shall instruct the cashier to let you draw a hundred dollars a week, just to show that I haven't got a case of faith without works. I reckon the extra twenty-five per will come in mighty handy now that you're within a month of marrying Helen.
I'm still learning how to treat an old wife, and so I can't give you many pointers about a young one. For while I've been married as long as I've been in business, and while I know all the curves of the great American hog, your ma's likely to spring a new one on me tomorrow. No man really knows anything about women except a widower, and he forgets it when he gets ready to marry again. And no woman really knows anything about men except a widow, and she's got to forget it before she's willing to marry again. The one thing you can know is that, as a general proposition, a woman is a little better than the man for whom she cares. For when a woman's bad, there's always a man at the bottom of it; and when a man's good, there's always a woman at the bottom of that, too.
The fact of the matter is, that while marriages may be made in heaven, a lot of them are lived in hell and end in South Dakota. But when a man has picked out a good woman he holds four hearts, and he needn't be afraid to draw cards if he's got good nerve. If he hasn't, he's got no business to be sitting in games of chance. The best woman in the world will begin trying out a man before she's been married to him twenty-four hours; and unless he can smile over the top of a four-flush and raise the ante, she's going to rake in the breeches and keep them.
The great thing is to begin right. Marriage is a close corporation, and unless a fellow gets the controlling interest at the start he can't pick it up later. The partner who owns fifty-one per cent. of the stock in any business is the boss, even if the other is allowed to call himself president. There's only two jobs for a man in his own house—one's boss and the other's office-boy, and a fellow naturally falls into the one for which he's fitted.
Of course, when I speak of a fellow's being boss in his own home, I simply mean that, in a broad way, he's going to shape the policy of the concern. When a man goes sticking his nose into the running of the house, he's apt to get it tweaked, and while he's busy drawing it back out of danger he's going to get his leg pulled, too. You let your wife tend to the housekeeping and you focus on earning money with which she can keep house. Of course, in one way, it's mighty nice of a man to help around the place, but it's been my experience that the fellows who tend to all the small jobs at home never get anything else to tend to at the office. In the end, it's usually cheaper to give all your attention to your business and to hire a plumber.
You don't want to get it into your head, though, that because your wife hasn't any office-hours she has a soft thing. A lot of men go around sticking out their chests and wondering why their wives have so much trouble with the help, when they are able to handle their clerks so easy. If you really want to know, you lift two of your men out of their revolving-chairs, and hang one over a forty-horse-power cook-stove that's booming along under forced draft so that your dinner won't be late, with a turkey that's gobbling for basting in one oven, and a cake that's gone back on you in a low, underhand way in another, and sixteen different things boiling over on top and mixing up their smells. And you set the other at a twelve-hour stunt of making all the beds you've mussed, and washing all the dishes you've used, and cleaning all the dust you've kicked up, and you boss the whole while the baby yells with colic over your arm—you just try this with two of your men and see how long it is before there's rough-house on the Wabash. Yet a lot of fellows come home after their wives have had a day of this and blow around about how tired and overworked they are, and wonder why home isn't happier. Don't you ever forget that it's a blamed sight easier to keep cool in front of an electric fan than a cook-stove, and that you can't subject the best temper in the world to 500 degrees Fahrenheit without warming it up a bit. And don't you add to your wife's troubles by saying how much better you could do it, but stand pat and thank the Lord you've got a snap.
I remember when old Doc Hoover, just after his wife died, bought a mighty competent nigger, Aunt Tempy, to cook and look after the house for him. She was the boss cook, you bet, and she could fry a chicken into a bird of paradise just as easy as the Doc could sizzle a sinner into a pretty tolerable Christian.
The old man took his religion with the bristles on, and he wouldn't stand for any Sunday work in his house. Told Tempy to cook enough for two days on Saturday and to serve three cold meals on Sunday.
Tempy sniffed a little, but she'd been raised well and didn't talk back. That first Sunday Doc got his cold breakfast all right, but before he'd fairly laid into it Tempy trotted out a cup of hot coffee. That made the old man rage at first, but finally he allowed that, seeing it was made, there was no special harm in taking a sup or two, but not to let it occur again. A few minutes later he called back to Tempy in the kitchen and asked her if she'd been sinful enough to make two cups.
Doc's dinner was ready for him when he got back from church, and it was real food—that is to say, hot food, a-sizzling and a-smoking from the stove. Tempy told around afterward that the way the old man went for her about it made her feel mighty proud and set-up over her new master. But she just stood there dripping perspiration and good nature until the Doc had wound up by allowing that there was only one part of the hereafter where meals were cooked on Sunday, and that she'd surely get a mention on the bill of fare there as dark meat, well done, if she didn't repent, and then she blurted out:
"Law, chile, you go 'long and 'tend to yo' preaching and I'll 'tend to my cookin'; yo' can't fight the debbil with snow-balls." And what's more, the Doc didn't, not while Aunt Tempy was living.
There isn't any moral to this, but there's a hint in it to mind your own business at home as well as at the office. I sail to-morrow. I'm feeling in mighty good spirits, and I hope I'm not going to find anything at your end of the line to give me a relapse.
Your affectionate father,
From John Graham, at the Waldorf-Astoria, New York, to his son, Pierrepont, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago. The young man has hinted vaguely of a quarrel between himself and Helen Heath, who is in New York with her mother, and has suggested that the old man act as peacemaker.
NEW YORK, December 8, 189-.
Dear Pierrepont: I've been afraid all along that you were going to spoil the only really sensible thing you've ever done by making some fool break, so as soon as I got your letter I started right out to trail down Helen and her ma. I found them hived up here in the hotel, and Miss Helen was so sweet to your poor old pa that I saw right off she had a stick cut for his son. Of course, I didn't let on that I knew anything about a quarrel, but I gradually steered the conversation around to you, and while I don't want to hurt your feelings, I am violating no confidence when I tell you that the mention of your name aroused about the same sort of enthusiasm that Bill Bryan's does in Wall Street—only Helen is a lady and so she couldn't cuss. But it wasn't the language of flowers that I saw in her eyes. So I told her that she must make allowances for you, as you were only a half-baked boy, and that, naturally, if she stuck a hat-pin into your crust she was going to strike a raw streak here and there.
She sat up a little at that, and started in to tell me that while you had said "some very, very cruel, cruel things to her, still—" But I cut her short by allowing that, sorry as I was to own it, I was afraid you had a streak of the brute in you, and I only hoped that you wouldn't take it out on her after you were married.
Well, sir, the way she flared up, I thought that all the Fourth of July fireworks had gone off at once. The air was full of trouble—trouble in set pieces and bombs and sizzy rockets and sixteen-ball Roman candles, and all pointed right at me. Then it came on to rain in the usual way, and she began to assure me between showers that you were so kind and gentle that it hurt you to work, or to work at my horrid pig-sticking business, I forget which, and I begged her pardon for having misjudged you so cruelly, and then the whole thing sort of simmered off into a discussion of whether I thought you'd rather she wore pink or blue at breakfast. So I guess you're all right. Only you'd better write quick and apologize.
I didn't get at the facts of the quarrel, but you're in the wrong. A fellow's always in the wrong when he quarrels with a woman, and even if he wasn't at the start he's sure to be before he gets through. And a man who's decided to marry can't be too quick learning to apologize for things he didn't say and to be forgiven for things he didn't do. When you differ with your wife, never try to reason out who's in the wrong, because you'll find that after you've proved it to her shell still have a lot of talk left that she hasn't used.
Of course, it isn't natural and it isn't safe for married people, and especially young married people, not to quarrel a little, but you'll save a heap of trouble if you make it a rule never to refuse a request before breakfast and never to grant one after dinner. I don't know why it is, but most women get up in the morning as cheerful as a breakfast-food ad., while a man will snort and paw for trouble the minute his hoofs touch the floor. Then, if you'll remember that the longer the last word is kept the bitterer it gets, and that your wife is bound to have it anyway, you'll cut the rest of your quarrels so short that she'll never find out just how much meanness there is in you. Be the silent partner at home and the thinking one at the office. Do your loose talking in your sleep.
Of course, if you get a woman who's really fond of quarreling there isn't any special use in keeping still, because she'll holler if you talk back and yell if you don't. The best that you can do is to pretend that you've got a chronic case of ear-ache, and keep your ears stuffed with cotton. Then, like as not, she'll buy you one of these things that you hold in your mouth so that you can hear through your teeth.
I don't believe you're going to draw anything of that sort with Helen, but this is a mighty uncertain world, especially when you get to betting on which way the kitten is going to jump—you can usually guess right about the cat—and things don't always work out as planned.
While there's no sure rule for keeping out of trouble in this world, there's a whole set of them for getting into it.
I remember a mighty nice, careful mother who used to shudder when slang was used in her presence. So she vowed she'd give her son a name that the boys couldn't twist into any low, vulgar nick-name. She called him Algernon, but the kid had a pretty big nose, and the first day he was sent to school with his long lace collar and his short velvet pants the boys christened him Snooty, and now his parents are the only people who know what his real name is.
After you've been married a little while you're going to find that there are two kinds of happiness you can have—home happiness and fashionable happiness. With the first kind you get a lot of children and with the second a lot of dogs. While the dogs mind better and seem more affectionate, because they kiss you with their whole face, I've always preferred to associate with children. Then, for the first kind of happiness you keep house for yourself, and for the second you keep house for the neighbors.
You can buy a lot of home happiness with a mighty small salary, but fashionable happiness always costs just a little more than you're making. You can't keep down expenses when you've got to keep up appearances—that is, the appearance of being something that you ain't. You're in the fix of a dog chasing his tail—you can't make ends meet, and if you do it'll give you such a crick in your neck that you won't get any real satisfaction out of your gymnastics. You've got to live on a rump-steak basis when you're alone, so that you can appear to be on a quail-on-toast basis when you have company. And while they're eating your quail and betting that they're cold-storage birds, they'll be whispering to each other that the butcher told their cook that you lived all last week on a soup-bone and two pounds of Hamburger steak. Your wife must hog it around the house in an old wrapper, because she's got to have two or three of those dresses that come high on the bills and low on the shoulders, and when she wears 'em the neighbors are going to wonder how much you're short in your accounts. And if you've been raised a shouting Methodist and been used to hollering your satisfaction in a good hearty Glory! or a Hallelujah! you've got to quit it and go to one of those churches where the right answer to the question, "What is the chief end of man?" is "Dividend," and where they think you're throwing a fit and sick the sexton on to you if you forget yourself and whoop it up a little when your religion gets to working.
Then, if you do have any children, you can't send them to a plain public school to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic, because they've got to go to a fashionable private one to learn hog-Latin, hog-wash, and how much the neighbors are worth. Of course, the rich children are going to say that they're pushing little kids, but they've got to learn to push and to shove and to butt right in where they're not wanted if they intend to herd with the real angora billy-goats. They've got to learn how to bow low to every one in front of them and to kick out at every one behind them. It's been my experience that it takes a good four-year course in snubbing before you can graduate a first-class snob.
Then, when you've sweat along at it for a dozen years or so, you'll wake up some morning and discover that your appearances haven't deceived any one but yourself. A man who tries that game is a good deal like the fellow who puts on a fancy vest over a dirty shirt—he's the only person in the world who can't see the egg-spots under his chin. Of course, there isn't any real danger of your family's wearing a false front while I'm alive, because I believe Helen's got too much sense to stand for anything of the sort; but if she should, you can expect the old man around with his megaphone to whisper the real figures to your neighbors.
I don't care how much or how little money you make—I want you to understand that there's only one place in the world where you can live a happy life, and that's inside your income. A family that's living beyond its means is simply a business that's losing money, and it's bound to go to smash. And to keep a safe distance ahead of the sheriff you've got to make your wife help. More men go broke through bad management at home than at the office. And I might add that a lot of men who are used to getting only one dollar's worth of food for a five-dollar bill down-town, expect their wives to get five dollars' worth of food for a one-dollar bill at the corner grocery, and to save the change toward a pair of diamond earrings. These fellows would plant a tin can and kick because they didn't get a case of tomatoes.
Of course, some women put their husband's salaries on their backs instead of his ribs; but there are a heap more men who burn up their wives' new sealskin sacques in two-bit cigars. Because a man's a good provider it doesn't always mean that he's a good husband—it may mean that he's a hog. And when there's a cuss in the family and it comes down to betting which, on general principles the man always carries my money. I make mistakes at it, but it's the only winning system I've ever been able to discover in games of chance.
You want to end the wedding trip with a business meeting and talk to your wife quite as frankly as you would to a man whom you'd taken into partnership. Tell her just what your salary is and then lay it out between you—so much for joint expenses, the house and the housekeeping, so much for her expenses, so much for yours, and so much to be saved. That last is the one item on which you can't afford to economize. It's the surplus and undivided profits account of your business, and until the concern accumulates a big one it isn't safe to move into offices on Easy Street.
A lot of fool fathers only give their fool daughters a liberal education in spending, and it's pretty hard to teach those women the real facts about earning and saving, but it's got to be done unless you want to be the fool husband of a fool wife. These girls have an idea that men get money by going to a benevolent old party behind some brass bars and shoving a check at him and telling him that they want it in fifties and hundreds.
You should take home your salary in actual money for a while, and explain that it's all you got for sweating like a dog for ten hours a day, through six long days, and that the cashier handed it out with an expression as if you were robbing the cash-drawer of an orphan asylum. Make her understand that while those that have gets, when they present a check, those that haven't gets it in the neck. Explain that the benevolent old party is only on duty when papa's daughter has a papa that Bradstreet rates AA, and that when papa's daughter's husband presents a five-dollar check with a ten-cent overdraft, he's received by a low-browed old brute who calls for the bouncer to put him out. Tell her right at the start the worst about the butcher, and the grocer, and the iceman, and the milkman, and the plumber, and the gas-meter—that they want their money and that it has to come out of that little roll of bills. Then give her enough to pay them, even if you have to grab for your lunch from a high stool. I used to know an old Jew who said that the man who carved was always a fool or a hog, but you've got to learn not to divide your salary on either basis.
Make your wife pay cash. A woman never really understands money till she's done that for a while. I've noticed that people rarely pay down the money for foolish purchases—they charge them. And it's mighty seldom that a woman's extravagant unless she or her husband pays the bills by check. There's something about counting out the actual legal tender on the spot that keeps a woman from really wanting a lot of things which she thinks she wants.
When I married your ma, your grandpa was keeping eighteen niggers busy seeing that the family did nothing. She'd had a liberal education, which, so far as I've been able to find out, means teaching a woman everything except the real business that she's going into—that is, if she marries. But when your ma swapped the big house and the eighteen niggers for me and an old mammy to do the rough work, she left the breakfast-in-bed, fine-lady business behind her and started right in to get the rest of the education that belonged to her. She did a mighty good job, too, all except making ends meet, and they were too elastic for her at first—sort of snapped back and left a deficit just when she thought she had them together.