Old Gorgon Graham
George Horace Lorimer
Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Beth Trapaga and the Online Distributed
[Illustration: Exchanging the grip of the third degree]
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
[Illustration: "We'll make the young people's society ride this
rooster out of town on a rail"]
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"H--l!" he said.
"Yes," I answered; "that's it. Good lard gone wrong; but it's going to
do a great work."
[Illustration: "That's it--good lard gone wrong"]
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
She was mighty sorry about it, but she'd never heard of any way of
getting money except asking papa for it, and she'd sort of supposed
that every one asked papa when they wanted any, and, why didn't I ask
papa? I finally made her see that I couldn't ask my papa, because I
hadn't any, and that I couldn't ask hers, because it was against the
rules of the game as I played it, and that was her first real lesson
in high finance and low finances.
I gave her the second when she came to me about the twentieth of the
month and kissed me on the ear and sent a tickly little whisper after
it to the effect that the household appropriation for the month was
exhausted and the pork-barrel and the meal-sack and the chicken-coop
were in the same enfeebled condition.
I didn't say anything at first, only looked pretty solemn, and then I
allowed that she'd have to go into the hands of a receiver. Well, sir,
the way she snuggled up to me and cried made me come pretty close to
weakening, but finally I told her that I reckoned I could manage to be
appointed by the court and hush up the scandal so the neighbors
wouldn't hear of it.
I took charge of her little books and paid over to myself her
housekeeping money each month, buying everything myself, but
explaining every move I made, until in the end I had paid her out of
debt and caught up with my salary again. Then I came home on the first
of the month, handed out her share of the money, and told her that the
receiver had been discharged by the court.
My! but she was pleased. And then she paid me out for the scare I'd
given her by making me live on side-meat and corn-bread for a month,
so she'd be sure not to get the sheriff after her again. Of course, I
had to tell her all about it in the end, and though she's never
forgotten what she learned about money during the receivership, she's
never quite forgiven the receiver.
Speaking of receiving, I notice the receipts of hogs are pretty light.
Hold your lard prices up stiff to the market. It looks to me as if
that Milwaukee crowd was getting under the February delivery.
Your affectionate father,
P.S.--You've got to square me with Helen.
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
NEW YORK, December 12, 189-.
_Dear Pierrepont_: These fellows at the branch house here have been
getting altogether too blamed refined to suit me in their ideas of
what's a fair day's work, so I'm staying over a little longer than I
had intended, in order to ring the rising bell for them and to get
them back into good Chicago habits. The manager started in to tell me
that you couldn't do any business here before nine or ten in the
morning--and I raised that boy myself!
We had a short season of something that wasn't exactly prayer, but was
just as earnest, and I think he sees the error of his ways. He seemed
to feel that just because he was getting a fair share of the business
I ought to be satisfied, but I don't want any half-sports out gunning
with me. It's the fellow that settles himself in his blind before the
ducks begin to fly who gets everything that's coming to his decoys. I
reckon we'll have to bring this man back to Chicago and give him a
beef house where he has to report at five before he can appreciate
what a soft thing it is to get down to work at eight.
I'm mighty glad to hear you're getting so many wedding presents that
you think you'll have enough to furnish your house, only you don't
want to fingermark them looking to see it a hundred-thousand-dollar
check from me ain't slipped in among them, because it ain't.
I intend to give you a present, all right, but there's a pretty wide
margin for guessing between a hundred thousand dollars and the real
figures. And you don't want to feel too glad about what you've got,
either, because you're going to find out that furnishing a house with
wedding presents is equivalent to furnishing it on the installment
plan. Along about the time you want to buy a go-cart for the twins,
you'll discover that you'll have to make Tommy's busted old
baby-carriage do, because you've got to use the money to buy a
tutti-frutti ice-cream spoon for the young widow who sent you a
doormat with "Welcome" on it. And when she gets it, the young widow
will call you that idiotic Mr. Graham, because she's going to have
sixteen other tutti-frutti ice-cream spoons, and her doctor's told her
that if she eats sweet things she'll have to go in the front door like
Then when you get the junk sorted over and your house furnished with
it, you're going to sit down to dinner on some empty soap-boxes, with
the soup in cut-glass finger-bowls, and the fish on a hand-painted
smoking-set, and the meat on dinky, little egg-shell salad plates, with
ice-cream forks and fruit knives to eat with. You'll spend most of that
meal wondering why somebody didn't send you one of those hundred and
sixteen piece five-dollar-ninety-eight-marked-down-from-six sets of
china. While I don't mean to say that the average wedding present
carries a curse instead of a blessing, it could usually repeat a few
cuss-words if it had a retentive memory.
Speaking of wedding presents and hundred-thousand-dollar checks
naturally brings to mind my old friend Hamilton Huggins--Old Ham they
called him at the Yards--and the time he gave his son, Percival, a
Take him by and large, Ham was as slick as a greased pig. Before he
came along, the heft of the beef hearts went into the fertilizer
tanks, but he reasoned out that they weren't really tough, but that
their firmness was due to the fact that the meat in them was naturally
condensed, and so he started putting them out in his celebrated
condensed mincemeat at ten cents a pound. Took his pigs' livers, too,
and worked 'em up into a genuine Strasburg pate de foie gras that made
the wild geese honk when they flew over his packing-house. Discovered
that a little chopped cheek-meat at two cents a pound was a blamed
sight healthier than chopped pork at six. Reckoned that by running
twenty-five per cent. of it into his pork sausage he saved a hundred
thousand people every year from becoming cantankerous old dyspeptics.
Ham was simply one of those fellows who not only have convolutions in
their brains, but kinks and bow-knots as well, and who can believe
that any sort of a lie is gospel truth just so it is manufactured and
labeled on their own premises. I confess I ran out a line of those
pigs' liver pates myself, but I didn't do it because I was such a
patriot that I couldn't stand seeing the American flag insulted by a
lot of Frenchmen getting a dollar for a ten-cent article, and that
simply because geese have smaller livers than pigs.
For all Old Ham was so shrewd at the Yards, he was one of those
fellows who begin losing their common-sense at the office door, and
who reach home doddering and blithering. Had a fool wife with the
society bug in her head, and as he had the one-of-our-leading-citizens
bug in his, they managed between them to raise a lovely warning for a
Sunday-school superintendent in their son, Percival.
Percy was mommer's angel boy with the sunny curls, who was to be
raised a gentleman and to be "shielded from the vulgar surroundings
and coarse associations of her husband's youth," and he was proud
popper's pet, whose good times weren't going to be spoiled by a
narrow-minded old brute of a father, or whose talents weren't going to
be smothered in poverty, the way the old man's had been. No, sir-ee,
Percy was going to have all the money he wanted, with the whisky
bottle always in sight on the sideboard and no limit on any game he
wanted to sit in, so that he'd grow up a perfect little gentleman and
know how to use things instead of abusing them.
I want to say right here that I've heard a good deal of talk in my
time about using whisky, and I've met a good many thousand men who
bragged when they were half loaded that they could quit at any moment,
but I've never met one of these fellows who would while the whisky
held out. It's been my experience that when a fellow begins to brag
that he can quit whenever he wants to, he's usually reached the point
where he can't.
Naturally, Percy had hardly got the pap-rag out of his mouth before he
learned to smoke cigarettes, and he could cuss like a little gentleman
before he went into long pants. Took the four-years' sporting course
at Harvard, with a postgraduate year of draw-poker and natural
history--observing the habits and the speed of the ponies in their
native haunts. Then, just to prove that he had paresis, Old Ham gave
him a million dollars outright and a partnership in his business.
Percy started in to learn the business at the top--absorbing as much
of it as he could find room for between ten and four, with two hours
out for lunch--but he never got down below the frosting. The one thing
that Old Ham wouldn't let him touch was the only thing about the
business which really interested Percy--the speculating end of it. But
everything else he did went with the old gentleman, and he was always
bragging that Percy was growing up into a big, broad-gauged merchant.
He got mighty mad with me when I told him that Percy was just a
ready-made success who was so small that he rattled round in his seat,
and that he'd better hold in his horses, as there were a good many
humps in the road ahead of him.
Old Ham was a sure-thing packer, like myself, and let speculating
alone, never going into the market unless he had the goods or knew
where he could get them; but when he did plunge into the pit, he
usually climbed out with both hands full of money and a few odd
thousand-dollar bills sticking in his hair. So when he came to me one
day and pointed out that Prime Steam Lard at eight cents for the
November delivery, and the West alive with hogs, was a crime against
the consumer, I felt inclined to agree with him, and we took the bear
side of the market together.
Somehow, after we had gone short a big line, the law of supply and
demand quit business. There were plenty of hogs out West, and all the
packers were making plenty of lard, but people seemed to be frying
everything they ate, and using lard in place of hair-oil, for the
Prime Steam moved out as fast as it was made. The market simply sucked
up our short sales and hollered for more, like a six-months shoat at
the trough. Pound away as we would, the November option moved slowly
up to 8-1/2, to 9, to 9-1/2. Then, with delivery day only six weeks
off, it jumped overnight to 10, and closed firm at 12-1/4. We stood to
lose a little over a million apiece right there, and no knowing what
the crowd that was under the market would gouge us for in the end.
As soon as 'Change closed that day, Old Ham and I got together and
gave ourselves one guess apiece to find out where we stood, and we
both guessed right--in a corner.
We had a little over a month to get together the lard to deliver on
our short sales or else pay up, but we hadn't had enough experience in
the paying-up business to feel like engaging in it. So that afternoon
we wired our agents through the West to start anything that looked
like a hog toward Chicago, and our men in the East to ship us every
tierce of Prime Steam they could lay their hands on. Then we made
ready to try out every bit of hog fat, from a grease spot up, that we
could find in the country. And all the time the price kept climbing on
us like a nigger going up a persimmon tree, till it was rising
So far the bull crowd had managed to keep their identity hidden, and
we'd been pretty modest about telling the names of the big bears,
because we weren't very proud of the way we'd been caught napping, and
because Old Ham was mighty anxious that Percy shouldn't know that his
safe old father had been using up the exception to his rule of no
It was a near thing for us, but the American hog responded nobly--and
a good many other critters as well, I suspect--and when it came on
toward delivery day we found that we had the actual lard to turn over
on our short contracts, and some to spare. But Ham and I had lost a
little fat ourselves, and we had learned a whole lot about the
iniquity of selling goods that you haven't got, even when you do it
with the benevolent intention of cheapening an article to the
We got together at his office in the Board of Trade building to play
off the finals with the bull crowd. We'd had inspectors busy all night
passing the lard which we'd gathered together and which was arriving
by boat-loads and train-loads. Then, before 'Change opened, we passed
the word around through our brokers that there wasn't any big short
interest left, and to prove it they pointed to the increase in the
stocks of Prime Steam in store and gave out the real figures on what
was still in transit. By the time the bell rang for trading on the
floor we had built the hottest sort of a fire under the market, and
thirty minutes after the opening the price of the November option had
melted down flat to twelve cents.
We gave the bulls a breathing space there, for we knew we had them all
nicely rounded up in the killing-pens, and there was no hurry. But on
toward noon, when things looked about right, we jumped twenty brokers
into the pit, all selling at once and offering in any sized lots for
which they could find takers. It was like setting off a pack of
firecrackers--biff! bang! bang! our brokers gave it to them, and when
the smoke cleared away the bits of that busted corner were scattered
all over the pit, and there was nothing left for us to do but to pick
up our profits; for we had swung a loss of millions over to the other
side of the ledger.
Just as we were sending word to our brokers to steady the market so as
to prevent a bad panic and failures, the door of the private office
flew open, and in bounced Mr. Percy, looking like a hound dog that had
lapped up a custard pie while the cook's back was turned and is
hunting for a handy bed to hide under. Had let his cigarette go
out--he wore one in his face as regularly as some fellows wear a pink
in their buttonhole--and it was drooping from his lower lip, instead
of sticking up under his nose in the old sporty, sassy way.
"Oh, gov'ner!" he cried as he slammed the door behind him; "the
market's gone to hell."
"Quite so, my son, quite so," nodded Old Ham approvingly; "it's the
bottomless pit to-day, all right, all right."
I saw it coming, but it came hard. Percy sputtered and stuttered and
swallowed it once or twice, and then it broke loose in:
"And oh! gov'ner, I'm caught--in a horrid hole--you've got to help me
"Eh! what's that!" exclaimed the old man, losing his
just-after-a-hearty-meal expression. "What's
that--caught--speculating, after what I've said to you! Don't tell me
that you're one of that bull crowd--Don't you dare do it, sir."
"Ye-es," and Percy's voice was scared back to a whisper; "yes; and
what's more, I'm the whole bull crowd--the Great Bull they've all been
talking and guessing about."
Great Scott! but I felt sick. Here we'd been, like two pebbles in a
rooster's gizzard, grinding up a lot of corn that we weren't going to
get any good of. I itched to go for that young man myself, but I knew
this was one of those holy moments between father and son when an
outsider wants to pull his tongue back into its cyclone cellar. And
when I looked at Ham, I saw that no help was needed, for the old man
was coming out of his twenty-five-years' trance over Percy. He didn't
say a word for a few minutes, just kept boring into the young man with
his eyes, and though Percy had a cheek like brass, Ham's stare went
through it as easy as a two-inch bit goes into boiler-plate. Then,
"Take that cigaroot out of your mouth," he bellered. "What d'ye mean
by coming into my office smoking cigareets?"
Percy had always smoked whatever he blamed pleased, wherever he blamed
pleased before, though Old Ham wouldn't stand for it from any one
else. But because things have been allowed to go all wrong for
twenty-five years, it's no reason why they should be allowed to go
wrong for twenty-five years and one day; and I was mighty glad to see
Old Ham rubbing the sleep out of his eyes at last.
"But, gov'ner," Percy began, throwing the cigarette away, "I really--"
"Don't you but me; I won't stand it. And don't you call me gov'ner. I
won't have your low-down street slang in my office. So you're the
great bull, eh? you bull-pup! you bull in a china shop! The great
bull-calf, you mean. Where'd you get the money for all this
cussedness? Where'd you get the money? Tell me that. Spit it
[Illustration: "Tried to bust your poor old father"]
"Well, I've got a million dollars," Percy dribbled out.
"Had a million dollars, and it was my good money," the old man moaned.
"And an interest in the business, you know."
"Yep; I oughter. I s'pose you hocked that."
"Not exactly; but it helped me to raise a little money."
"You bet it helped you; but where'd you get the rest? Where'd you
raise the money to buy all this cash lard and ship it abroad? Where'd
you get it? You tell me that."
"Well, ah--the banks--loaned--me--a---good deal."
"On your face."
"Not exactly that--but they thought--inferred--that you were
interested with me--and without--" Percy's tongue came to a full stop
when he saw the old man's face.
"Oh! they did, eh! they did, eh!" Ham exploded. "Tried to bust your
poor old father, did you! Would like to see him begging his bread,
would you, or piking in the bucket-shops for five-dollar bills! Wasn't
satisfied with soaking him with his own million! Couldn't rest when
you'd swatted him with his own business! Wanted to bat him over the
head with his own credit! And now you come whining around--"
"Don't you dad me, dad-fetch you--don't you try any Absalom business
on me. You're caught by the hair, all right, and I'm not going to chip
in for any funeral expenses."
Right here I took a hand myself, because I was afraid Ham was going to
lose his temper, and that's one thing you can't always pick up in the
same place that you left it. So I called Ham off, and told Percy to
come back in an hour with his head broker and I'd protect his trades
in the meanwhile. Then I pointed out to the old man that we'd make a
pretty good thing on the deal, even after we'd let Percy out, as he'd
had plenty of company on the bull side that could pay up; and anyway,
that the boy was a blamed sight more important than the money, and
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