Old Gorgon Graham
George Horace Lorimer
Part 2 out of 3
here was the chance to make a man of him.
We were all ready for Mister Percy when he came back, and Ham got
right down to business.
"Young man, I've decided to help you out of this hole," he began.
Percy chippered right up. "Thank you, sir," he said.
"Yes, I'm going to help you," the old man went on. "I'm going to take
all your trades off your hands and assume all your obligations at the
"Thank you, sir."
"Stop interrupting when I'm talking, I'm going to take up all your
obligations, and you're going to pay me three million dollars for
doing it. When the whole thing's cleaned up that will probably leave
me a few hundred thousand in the hole, but I'm going to do the
generous thing by you."
Percy wasn't so chipper now. "But, father," he protested, "I haven't
got three million dollars; and you know very well I can't possibly
raise any three million dollars."
"Yes, you can," said Ham. "There's the million I gave you: that makes
one. There's your interest in the business; I'll buy it back for a
million: that makes two. And I'll take your note at five per cent, for
the third million. A fair offer, Mr. Graham?"
"Very liberal, indeed, Mr. Huggins," I answered.
"But I won't have anything to live on, let alone any chance to pay you
back, if you take my interest in the business away," pleaded Percy.
"I've thought of that, too," said his father, "and I'm going to give
you a job. The experience you've had in this campaign ought to make
you worth twenty-five dollars a week to us in our option department.
Then you can board at home for five dollars a week, and pay ten more
on your note. That'll leave you ten per for clothes and extras."
Percy wriggled and twisted and tried tears. Talked a lot of flip-flap
flub-doodle, but Ham was all through with the proud-popper business,
and the young man found him as full of knots as a hickory root, and
with a hide that would turn the blade of an ax.
Percy was simply in the fix of the skunk that stood on the track and
humped up his back at the lightning express--there was nothing left of
him except a deficit and the stink he'd kicked up. And a fellow can't
dictate terms with those assets. In the end he left the room with a
ring in his nose.
After all, there was more in Percy than cussedness, for when he
finally decided that it was a case of root hog or die with him, he
turned in and rooted. It took him ten years to get back into his
father's confidence and a partnership, and he was still paying on the
million-dollar note when the old man died and left him his whole
fortune. It would have been cheaper for me in the end if I had let the
old man disinherit him, because when Percy ran that Mess Pork corner
three years ago, he caught me short a pretty good line and charged me
two dollars a barrel more than any one else to settle. Explained that
he needed the money to wipe out the unpaid balance of a million-dollar
note that he'd inherited from his father.
I simply mention Percy to show why I'm a little slow to regard members
of my family as charitable institutions that I should settle
endowments on. If there's one thing I like less than another, it's
being regarded as a human meal-ticket. What is given to you always
belongs to some one else, and if the man who gave it doesn't take it
back, some fellow who doesn't have to have things given to him is apt
to come along and run away with it. But what you earn is your own, and
apt to return your affection for it with interest--pretty good
Your affectionate father,
P.S.--I forgot to say that I had bought a house on Michigan Avenue for
Helen, but there's a provision in the deed that she can turn you out
if you don't behave.
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.
CHICAGO, January 17, 189-.
_Dear Pierrepont_: After you and Helen had gone off looking as if
you'd just bought seats on 'Change and been baptized into full
membership with all the sample bags of grain that were handy, I found
your new mother-in-law out in the dining-room, and, judging by the
plates around her, she was carrying in stock a full line of staple and
fancy groceries and delicatessen. When I struck her she was crying
into her third plate of ice cream, and complaining bitterly to the
butler because the mould had been opened so carelessly that some salt
had leaked into it.
Of course, I started right in to be sociable and to cheer her up, but
I reckon I got my society talk a little mixed--I'd been one of the
pall-bearers at Josh Burton's funeral the day before--and I told her
that she must bear up and eat a little something to keep up her
strength, and to remember that our loss was Helen's gain.
Now, I don't take much stock in all this mother-in-law talk, though
I've usually found that where there's so much smoke there's a little
fire; but I'm bound to say that Helen's ma came back at me with a
sniff and a snort, and made me feel sorry that I'd intruded on her
sacred grief. Told me that a girl of Helen's beauty and advantages had
naturally been very, very popular, and greatly sought after. Said that
she had been received in the very best society in Europe, and might
have worn strawberry leaves if she'd chosen, meaning, I've since found
out, that she might have married a duke.
[Illustration: Crying into her third plate of ice cream]
I tried to soothe the old lady, and to restore good feeling by
allowing that wearing leaves had sort of gone out of fashion with the
Garden of Eden, and that I liked Helen better in white satin, but
everything I said just seemed to enrage her the more. Told me plainly
that she'd thought, and hinted that she'd hoped, right up to last
month, that Helen was going to marry a French nobleman, the Count de
Somethingerino or other, who was crazy about her. So I answered that
we'd both had a narrow escape, because I'd been afraid for a year that
I might wake up any morning and find myself the father-in-law of a
Crystal Slipper chorus-girl. Then, as it looked as if the old lady was
going to bust a corset-string in getting out her answer, I modestly
slipped away, leaving her leaking brine and acid like a dill pickle
that's had a bite taken out of it.
Good mothers often make bad mothers-in-law, because they usually
believe that, no matter whom their daughters marry, they could have
gone farther and fared better. But it struck me that Helen's ma has
one of those retentive memories and weak mouths--the kind of memory
that never loses anything it should forget, and the kind of mouth that
can't retain a lot of language which it shouldn't lose.
Of course, you want to honor your mother-in-law, that your days may be
long in the land; but you want to honor this one from a distance, for
the same reason. Otherwise, I'm afraid you'll hear a good deal about
that French count, and how hard it is for Helen to have to associate
with a lot of mavericks from the Stock Yards, when she might be
running with blooded stock on the other side. And if you glance up
from your morning paper and sort of wonder out loud whether Corbett or
Fitzsimmons is the better man, mother-in-law will glare at you over
the top of her specs and ask if you don't think it's invidious to make
any comparisons if they're both striving, to lead earnest, Christian
lives. Then, when you come home at night, you'll be apt to find your
wife sniffing your breath when you kiss her, to see if she can catch
that queer, heavy smell which mother has noticed on it; or looking at
you slant-eyed when she feels some letters in your coat, and wondering
if what mother says is true, and if men who've once taken chorus-girls
to supper never really recover from the habit.
On general principles, it's pretty good doctrine that two's a company
and three's a crowd, except when the third is a cook. But I should say
that when the third is Helen's ma it's a mob, out looking for a chance
to make rough-house. A good cook, a good wife and a good job will make
a good home anywhere; but you add your mother-in-law, and the first
thing you know you've got two homes, and one of them is being run on
You want to remember that, beside your mother-in-law, you're a
comparative stranger to your wife. After you and Helen have lived
together for a year, you ought to be so well acquainted that she'll
begin to believe that you know almost as much as mamma; but during the
first few months of married life there are apt to be a good many tie
votes on important matters, and if mother-in-law is on the premises
she is generally going to break the tie by casting the deciding vote
with daughter. A man can often get the best of one woman, or ten men,
but not of two women, when one of the two is mother-in-law.
When a young wife starts housekeeping with her mother too handy, it's
like running a business with a new manager and keeping the old one
along to see how things go. It's not in human nature that the old
manager, even with the best disposition in the world, shouldn't knock
the new one a little, and you're Helen's new manager. When I want to
make a change, I go about it like a crab--get rid of the old shell
first, and then plunge right in and begin to do business with the new
skin. It may be a little tender and open to attack at first, but it
doesn't take long to toughen up when it finds out that the
responsibility of protecting my white meat is on it.
You start a woman with sense to making mistakes and you've started her
to learning common-sense; but you let some one else shoulder her
natural responsibilities and keep her from exercising her brain, and
it'll be fat-witted before she's forty. A lot of girls find it mighty
handy to start with mother to look after the housekeeping and later to
raise the baby; but by and by, when mamma has to quit, they don't
understand that the butcher has to be called down regularly for
leaving those heavy ends on the steak or running in the shoulder chops
on you, and that when Willie has the croup she mustn't give the little
darling a stiff hot Scotch, or try to remove the phlegm from his
throat with a button-hook.
There are a lot of women in this world who think that there's only one
side to the married relation, and that's their side. When one of them
marries, she starts right out to train her husband into kind old
Carlo, who'll go downtown for her every morning and come home every
night, fetching a snug little basketful of money in his mouth and
wagging his tail as he lays it at her feet. Then it's a pat on the
head and "Nice doggie." And he's taught to stand around evenings,
retrieving her gloves and handkerchief, and snapping up with a pleased
licking of his chops any little word that she may throw to him. But
you let him start in to have a little fun scratching and stretching
himself, or pawing her, and it's "Charge, Carlo!" and "Bad doggie!"
Of course, no man ever believes when he marries that he's going to
wind up as kind Carlo, who droops his head so that the children can
pull his ears, and who sticks up his paw so as to make it easier for
his wife to pull his leg. But it's simpler than you think.
As long as fond fathers slave and ambitious mothers sacrifice so that
foolish daughters can hide the petticoats of poverty under a silk
dress and crowd the doings of cheap society into the space in their
heads which ought to be filled with plain, useful knowledge, a lot of
girls are going to grow up with the idea that getting married means
getting rid of care and responsibility instead of assuming it.
A fellow can't play the game with a girl of this sort, because she
can't play fair. He wants her love and a wife; she wants a provider,
not a lover, and she takes him as a husband because she can't draw his
salary any other way. But she can't return his affection, because her
love is already given to another; and when husband and wife both love
the same person, and that person is the wife, it's usually a life
sentence at hard labor for the husband. If he wakes up a little and
tries to assert himself after he's been married a year or so, she
shudders and sobs until he sees what a brute he is; or if that doesn't
work, and he still pretends to have a little spirit, she goes off into
a rage and hysterics, and that usually brings him to heel again. It's
a mighty curious thing how a woman who has the appetite and instincts
of a turkey--buzzard will often make her husband believe that she's as
high-strung and delicate as a canary-bird!
It's been my experience that both men and women can fool each other
before marriage, and that women can keep right along fooling men after
marriage, but that as soon as the average man gets married he gets
found out. After a woman has lived in the same house with a man for a
year, she knows him like a good merchant knows his stock, down to any
shelf-worn and slightly damaged morals which he may be hiding behind
fresher goods in the darkest corner of his immortal soul. But even if
she's married to a fellow who's so mean that he'd take the pennies off
a dead man's eyes (not because he needed the money, but because he
hadn't the change handy for a two-cent stamp), she'll never own up to
the worst about him, even to herself, till she gets him into a divorce
I simply mention these things in a general way. Helen has shown signs
of loving you, and you've never shown any symptoms of hating yourself,
so I'm not really afraid that you're going to get the worst of it now.
So far as I can see, your mother-in-law is the only real trouble that
you have married. But don't you make the mistake of criticizing her to
Helen or of quarrelling with her. I'll attend to both for the family.
You simply want to dodge when she leads with the right, take your full
ten seconds on the floor, and come back with your left cheek turned
toward her, though, of course, you'll yank it back out of reach just
before she lands on it. There's nothing like using a little diplomacy
in this world, and, so far as women are concerned, diplomacy is
knowing when to stay away. And a diplomatist is one who lets the other
fellow think he's getting his way, while all the time _he's_ having
his own. It never does any special harm to let people have their way
with their mouths.
What you want to do is to keep mother-in-law from mixing up in your
family affairs until after she gets used to the disgrace of having a
pork-packer for a son-in-law, and Helen gets used to pulling in
harness with you. Then mother'll mellow up into a nice old lady who'll
brag about you to the neighbors. But until she gets to this point,
you've got to let her hurt your feelings without hurting hers. Don't
you ever forget that Helen's got a mother-in-law, too, and that it's
some one you think a heap of.
Whenever I hear of a fellow's being found out by his wife, it always
brings to mind the case of Dick Hodgkins, whom I knew when I was a
young fellow, back in Missouri. Dickie was one of a family of twelve,
who all ran a little small any way you sized them up, and he was the
runt. Like most of these little fellows, when he came to match up for
double harness, he picked out a six-footer, Kate Miggs. Used to call
her Honeybunch, I remember, and she called him Doodums.
Honeybunch was a good girl, but she was as strong as a six-mule team,
and a cautious man just naturally shied away from her. Was a pretty
free stepper in the mazes of the dance, and once, when she was
balancing partners with Doodums, she kicked out sort of playful to
give him a love pat and fetched him a clip with her tootsey that gave
him water on the kneepan. It ought to have been a warning to Doodums,
but he was plumb infatuated, and went around pretending that he'd been
kicked by a horse. After that the boys used to make Honeybunch mighty
mad when she came out of dark corners with Doodums, by feeling him to
see if any of his ribs were broken. Still he didn't take the hint, and
in the end she led him to the altar.
We started in to give them a lovely shivaree after the wedding,
beginning with a sort of yell which had been invented by the only
fellow in town who had been to college.
As I remember, it ran something like this:
_Hun, hun, hunch!
Bun, bun, bunch!
But as soon as we got this off, and before we could begin on the
dishpan chorus, Honeybunch came at us with a couple of bed-slats and
cleaned us all out.
Before he had married, Doodums had been one of half a dozen half-baked
sports who drank cheap whisky and played expensive poker at the
Dutchman's; and after he'd held Honeybunch in his lap evenings for a
month, he reckoned one night that he'd drop down street and look in on
the boys. Honeybunch reckoned not, and he didn't press the matter, but
after they'd gone to bed and she'd dropped off to sleep, he slipped
into his clothes and down the waterspout to the ground. He sat up till
two o'clock at the Dutchman's, and naturally, the next morning he had
a breath like a gasoline runabout, and looked as if he'd been
attending a successful coon-hunt in the capacity of the coon.
Honeybunch smelt his breath and then she smelt a mouse, but she wasn't
much of a talker and she didn't ask any questions--of him. But she had
brother Jim make some inquiries, and a few days later, when Doodums
complained of feeling all petered out and wanted to go to bed early,
she was ready for him.
Honeybunch wasn't any invalid, and when she went to bed it was to
sleep, so she rigged up a simple little device in the way of an alarm
and dropped off peacefully, while Doodums pretended to.
When she began to snore in her upper register and to hit the high C,
he judged the coast was clear, and leaped lightly out of bed. Even
before he'd struck the floor he knew there'd been a horrible mistake
somewhere, for he felt a tug as if he'd hooked a hundred-pound
catfish. There was an awful ripping and tearing sound, something
fetched loose, and his wife was sitting up in bed blinking at him in
the moonlight. It seemed that just before she went to sleep she'd
pinned her nightgown to his with a safety pin, which wasn't such a bad
idea for a simple, trusting, little village maiden.
"Was you wantin' anything, Duckie Doodums?" she asked in a voice like
the running of sap in maple-sugar time.
"N-n-nothin' but a drink of water, Honeybunch sweetness," he stammered
[Illustration: "N-n-nothin' but a drink of water"]
"You're sure you ain't mistook in your thirst and that it ain't a
suddint cravin' for licker, and that you ain't sort of p'intin' down
the waterspout for the Dutchman's, Duckie Doodums?"
"Shorely not, Honeybunch darlin'," he finally fetched up, though he
was hardly breathing.
"Because your ma told me that you was given to somnambulasticatin' in
your sleep, and that I must keep you tied up nights or you'd wake up
some mornin' at the foot of a waterspout with your head bust open and
a lot of good licker spilt out on the grass."
"Don't you love your Doodums anymore?" was all Dickie could find to
say to this; but Honeybunch had too much on her mind to stop and swap
valentines just then.
"You wouldn't deceive your Honeybunch, would you, Duckie Doodums?"
"I shorely would not."
"Well, don't you do it, Duckie Doodums, because it would break my
heart; and if you should break my heart I'd just naturally bust your
head. Are you listenin', Doodums?"
Doodums was listening.
"Then you come back to bed and stay there."
Doodums never called his wife Honeybunch after that. Generally it was
Kate, and sometimes it was Kitty, and when she wasn't around it was
usually Kitty-cat. But he minded better than anything I ever met on
less than four legs.
Your affectionate father,
P.S.--You might tear up this letter.
From John Graham, at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago, to his son,
Pierrepont, at Yemassee-on-the-Tallahassee. In replying to his
father's hint that it is time to turn his thoughts from love to lard,
the young man has quoted a French sentence, and the old man has been
both pained and puzzled by it.
CHICAGO, January 24, 189-.
_Dear Pierrepont_: I had to send your last letter to the fertilizer
department to find out what it was all about. We've got a clerk there
who's an Oxford graduate, and who speaks seven languages for fifteen
dollars a week, or at the rate of something more than two dollars a
language. Of course, if you're such a big thinker that your ideas rise
to the surface too fast for one language to hold 'em all, it's a
mighty nice thing to know seven; but it's been my experience that
seven spread out most men so thin that they haven't anything special
to say in any of them. These fellows forget that while life's a
journey, it isn't a palace-car trip for most of us, and that if they
hit the trail packing a lot of weight for which they haven't any
special use, they're not going to get very far. You learn men and what
men should do, and how they should do it, and then if you happen to
have any foreigners working for you, you can hire a fellow at fifteen
per to translate hustle to 'em into their own fool language. It's
always been my opinion that everybody spoke American while the tower
of Babel was building, and that the Lord let the good people keep
right on speaking it. So when you've got anything to say to me, I want
you to say it in language that will grade regular on the Chicago Board
Some men fail from knowing too little, but more fail from knowing too
much, and still more from knowing it all. It's a mighty good thing to
understand French if you can use it to some real purpose, but when all
the good it does a fellow is to help him understand the foreign
cuss-words in a novel, or to read a story which is so tough that it
would make the Queen's English or any other ladylike language blush,
he'd better learn hog-Latin! He can be just the same breed of yellow
dog in it, and it don't take so much time to pick it up.
Never ask a man what he knows, but what he can do. A fellow may know
everything that's happened since the Lord started the ball to rolling,
and not be able to do anything to help keep it from stopping. But when
a man can do anything, he's bound to know something worth while. Books
are all right, but dead men's brains are no good unless you mix a live
one's with them.
It isn't what a man's got in the bank, but what he's got in his head,
that makes him a great merchant. Rob a miser's safe and he's broke;
but you can't break a big merchant with a jimmy and a stick of
dynamite. The first would have to start again just where he
began--hoarding up pennies; the second would have his principal assets
intact. But accumulating knowledge or piling up money, just to have a
little more of either than the next fellow, is a fool game that no
broad-gauged man has time enough to sit in. Too much learning, like
too much money, makes most men narrow.
I simply mention these things in a general way. You know blame well
that I don't understand any French, and so when you spring it on me
you are simply showing a customer the wrong line of goods. It's like
trying to sell our Pickled Luncheon Tidbits to a fellow in the black
belt who doesn't buy anything but plain dry-salt hog in hunks and
slabs. It makes me a little nervous for fear you'll be sending out a
lot of letters to the trade some day, asking them if their stock of
Porkuss Americanuss isn't running low.
The world is full of bright men who know all the right things to say
and who say them in the wrong place. A young fellow always thinks that
if he doesn't talk he seems stupid, but it's better to shut up and
seem dull than to open up and prove yourself a fool. It's a pretty
good rule to show your best goods last.
Whenever I meet one of those fellows who tells you all he knows, and a
good deal that he doesn't know, as soon as he's introduced to you, I
always think of Bill Harkness, who kept a temporary home for
broken-down horses--though he didn't call it that--back in Missouri.
Bill would pick up an old critter whose par value was the price of one
horse-hide, and after it had been pulled and shoved into his stable,
the boys would stand around waiting for crape to be hung on the door.
But inside a week Bill would be driving down Main Street behind that
horse, yelling Whoa! at the top of his voice while it tried to kick
holes in the dashboard.
Bill had a theory that the Ten Commandments were suspended while a
horse-trade was going on, so he did most of his business with
strangers. Caught a Northerner nosing round his barn one day, and
inside of ten minutes the fellow was driving off behind what Bill
described as "the peartest piece of ginger and cayenne in Pike
County." Bill just made a free gift of it to the Yankee, he said, but
to keep the transaction from being a piece of pure charity he accepted
fifty dollars from him.
The stranger drove all over town bragging of his bargain, until some
one casually called his attention to the fact that the mare was
stone-blind. Then he hiked back to Bill's and went for him in broken
Bostonese, winding up with:
"What the skip-two-and-carry-one do you mean, you old
hold-your-breath-and-take-ten-swallows, by stealing my good money.
Didn't you know the horse was blind? Why didn't you tell me?"
"Yep," Bill bit off from his piece of store plug; "I reckon I knew the
hoss was blind, but you see the feller I bought her of"--and he paused
to settle his chaw--"asked me not to mention it. You wouldn't have me
violate a confidence as affected the repertashun of a pore dumb
critter, and her of the opposite sect, would you?" And the gallant
Bill turned scornfully away from the stranger.
There were a good many holes in Bill's methods, but he never leaked
information through them; and when I come across a fellow who doesn't
mention it when he's asked not to, I come pretty near letting him fix
his own salary. It's only a mighty big man that doesn't care whether
the people whom he meets believe that he's big; but the smaller a
fellow is, the bigger he wants to appear. He hasn't anything of his
own in his head that's of any special importance, so just to prove
that he's a trusted employee, and in the confidence of the boss, he
gives away everything he knows about the business, and, as that isn't
much, he lies a little to swell it up. It's a mighty curious thing how
some men will lie a little to impress people who are laughing at them;
will drink a little in order to sit around with people who want to get
away from them; and will even steal a little to "go into society" with
people who sneer at them.
The most important animal in the world is a turkey-cock. You let him
get among the chickens on the manure pile behind the barn, with his
wings held down stiff, his tail feathers stuck up starchy, his
wish-bone poked out perky, and gobbling for room to show his fancy
steps, and he's a mighty impressive fowl. But a small boy with a rock
and a good aim can make him run a mile. When you see a fellow swelling
up and telling his firm's secrets, holler Cash! and you'll stampede
him back to his hall bedroom.
I dwell a little on this matter of loose talking, because it breaks up
more firms and more homes than any other one thing I know. The father
of lies lives in Hell, but he spends a good deal of his time in
Chicago. You'll find him on the Board of Trade when the market's
wobbling, saying that the Russians are just about to eat up Turkey,
and that it'll take twenty million bushels of our wheat to make the
bread for the sandwich; and down in the street, asking if you knew
that the cashier of the Teenth National was leading a double life as a
single man in the suburbs and a singular life for a married man in the
city; and out on Prairie Avenue, whispering that it's too bad Mabel
smokes Turkish cigarettes, for she's got such pretty curly hair; and
how sad it is that Daisy and Dan are going to separate, "but they do
say that he--sh! sh! hush; here she comes." Yet, when you come to wash
your pan of dirt, and the lies have all been carried off down the
flume, and you've got the color of the few particles of solid,
eighteen-carat truth left, you'll find it's the Sultan who's smoking
Turkish cigarettes; and that Mabel is trying cubebs for her catarrh;
and that the cashier of the Teenth National belongs to a whist club in
the suburbs and is the superintendent of a Sunday-school in the city;
and that Dan has put Daisy up to visiting her mother to ward off a
threatened swoop down from the old lady; and that the Czar hasn't done
a blame thing except to become the father of another girl baby.
It's pretty hard to know how to treat a lie when it's about yourself.
You can't go out of your way to deny it, because that puts you on the
defensive; and sending the truth after a lie that's got a running
start is like trying to round up a stampeded herd of steers while the
scare is on them. Lies are great travellers, and welcome visitors in a
good many homes, and no questions asked. Truth travels slowly, has to
prove its identity, and then a lot of people hesitate to turn out an
agreeable stranger to make room for it.
About the only way I know to kill a lie is to live the truth. When
your credit is doubted, don't bother to deny the rumors, but discount
your bills. When you are attacked unjustly, avoid the appearance of
evil, but avoid also the appearance of being too good--that is, better
than usual. A man can't be too good, but he can appear too good.
Surmise and suspicion feed on the unusual, and when a man goes about
his business along the usual rut, they soon fade away for lack of
nourishment. First and last every fellow gets a lot of unjust
treatment in this world, but when he's as old as I am and comes to
balance his books with life and to credit himself with the mean things
which weren't true that have been said about him, and to debit himself
with the mean things which were true that people didn't get on to or
overlooked, he'll find that he's had a tolerably square deal. This
world has some pretty rotten spots on its skin, but it's sound at the
There are two ways of treating gossip about other people, and they're
both good ways. One is not to listen to it, and the other is not to
repeat it. Then there's young Buck Pudden's wife's way, and that's
better than either, when you're dealing with some of these old heifers
who browse over the range all day, stuffing themselves with gossip
about your friends, and then round up at your house to chew the cud
and slobber fake sympathy over you.
Buck wasn't a bad fellow at heart, for he had the virtue of trying to
be good, but occasionally he would walk in slippery places. Wasn't
very sure-footed, so he fell down pretty often, and when he fell from
grace it usually cracked the ice. Still, as he used to say, when he
shot at the bar mirrors during one of his periods of temporary
elevation, he paid for what he broke--cash for the mirrors and sweat
and blood for his cussedness.
Then one day Buck met the only woman in the world--a mighty nice girl
from St. Jo--and she was hesitating over falling in love with him,
till the gossips called to tell her that he was a dear, lovely fellow,
and wasn't it too bad that he had such horrid habits? That settled it,
of course, and she married him inside of thirty days, so that she
could get right down to the business of reforming him.
I don't, as a usual thing, take much stock in this marrying men to
reform them, because a man's always sure of a woman when he's married
to her, while a woman's never really afraid of losing a man till she's
got him. When you want to teach a dog new tricks, it's all right to
show him the biscuit first, but you'll usually get better results by
giving it to him after the performance. But Buck's wife fooled the
whole town and almost put the gossips out of business by keeping Buck
straight for a year. She allowed that what he'd been craving all the
time was a home and family, and that his rare-ups came from not having
'em. Then, like most reformers, she overdid it--went and had twins.
Buck thought he owned the town, of course, and that would have been
all right if he hadn't included the saloons among his real estate. Had
to take his drinks in pairs, too, and naturally, when he went home
that night and had another look at the new arrivals, he thought they
Buck straightened right out the next day, went to his wife and told
her all about it, and that was the last time he ever had to hang his
head when he talked to her, for he never took another drink. You see,
she didn't reproach him, or nag him--simply said that she was mighty
proud of the way he'd held on for a year, and that she knew she could
trust him now for another ten. Man was made a little lower than the
angels, the Good Book says, and I reckon that's right; but he was made
a good while ago, and he hasn't kept very well. Yet there are a heap
of women in this world who are still right in the seraphim class. When
your conscience doesn't tell you what to do in a matter of right and
wrong, ask your wife.
Naturally, the story of Buck's final celebration came to the gossips
like a thousand-barrel gusher to a drilling outfit that's been finding
dusters, and they went one at a time to tell Mrs. Buck all the
dreadful details and how sorry they were for her. She would just sit
and listen till they'd run off the story, and hemstitched it, and
embroidered it, and stuck fancy rosettes all over it. Then she'd smile
one of those sweet baby smiles that women give just before the
hair-pulling begins, and say:
"Law, Mrs. Wiggleford"--the deacon's wife was the one who was
condoling with her at the moment--"people will talk about the best of
us. Seems as if no one is safe nowadays. Why, they lie about the
deacon, even. I know it ain't true, and you know it ain't true, but
only yesterday somebody was trying to tell me that it was right
strange how a professor and a deacon got that color in his beak, and
while it might be inflammatory veins or whatever he claimed it was,
she reckoned that, if he'd let some one else tend the alcohol barrel,
he wouldn't have to charge up so much of his stock to leakage and
Of course, Mrs. Buck had made up the story about the deacon, because
every one knew that he was too mean to drink anything that he could
sell, but by the time Buck's wife had finished, Mrs. Wiggleford was so
busy explaining and defending him that she hadn't any further interest
in Buck's case. And each one that called was sent away with a special
piece of home scandal which Mrs. Buck had invented to keep her mind
from dwelling on her neighbor's troubles.
She followed up her system, too, and in the end it got so that women
would waste good gossip before they'd go to her with it. For if the
pastor's wife would tell her "as a true friend" that the report that
she had gone to the theatre in St. Louis was causing a scandal, she'd
thank her for being so sweetly thoughtful, and ask if nothing was
sacred enough to be spared by the tongue of slander, though she, for
one, didn't believe that there was anything in the malicious talk that
the Doc was cribbing those powerful Sunday evening discourses from a
volume of Beecher's sermons. And when they'd press her for the name of
her informant, she'd say: "No, it was a lie; she knew it was a lie,
and no one who sat under the dear pastor would believe it; and they
mustn't dignify it by noticing it." As a matter of fact, no one who
sat under Doc Pottle would have believed it, for his sermons weren't
good enough to have been cribbed; and if Beecher could have heard one
of them he would have excommunicated him.
Buck's wife knew how to show goods. When Buck himself had used up all
the cuss-words in Missouri on his conduct, she had sense enough to
know that his stock of trouble was full, and that if she wanted to get
a hold on him she mustn't show him stripes, but something in cheerful
checks. Yet when the trouble-hunters looked her up, she had a full
line of samples of their favorite commodity to show them.
I simply mention these things in a general way. Seeing would naturally
be believing, if cross-eyed people were the only ones who saw crooked,
and hearing will be believing when deaf people are the only ones who
don't hear straight. It's a pretty safe rule, when you hear a heavy
yarn about any one, to allow a fair amount for tare, and then to
verify your weights.
Your affectionate father,
P.S.--I think you'd better look in at a few of the branch houses on
your way home and see if you can't make expenses.
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
CHICAGO, February 1, 189-.
_Dear Pierrepont_: Judging from the way the orders are coming in, I
reckon that you must be lavishing a little of your surplus ardor on
the trade. So long as you are in such good practise, and can look a
customer in the eye and make him believe that he's the only buyer you
ever really loved, you'd better not hurry home too fast. I reckon
Helen won't miss you for a few hours every day, but even if she should
it's a mighty nice thing to be missed, and she's right there where you
can tell her every night that you love her just the same; while the
only way in which you can express your unchanged affection for the
house is by sending us lots of orders. If you do that you needn't
bother to write and send us lots of love.
The average buyer is a good deal like the heiress to a million dollars
who's been on the market for eight or ten years, not because there's
no demand for her, but because there's too much. Most girls whose
capital of good looks is only moderate, marry, and marry young,
because they're like a fellow on 'Change who's scalping the
market--not inclined to take chances, and always ready to make a quick
turn. Old maids are usually the girls who were so homely that they
never had an offer, or so good-looking that they carried their
matrimonial corner from one option to another till the new crop came
along and bust them. But a girl with a million dollars isn't a
speculative venture. She can advertise for sealed proposals on her
fiftieth birthday and be oversubscribed like an issue of 10 per cent.
Government bonds. There's no closed season on heiresses, and,
naturally, a bird that can't stick its head up without getting shot at
becomes a pretty wary old fowl.
A buyer is like your heiress--he always has a lot of nice young
drummers flirting and fooling around him, but mighty few of them are
so much in earnest that they can convince him that their only chance
for happiness lies in securing his particular order. But you let one
of these dead-in-earnest boys happen along, and the first thing you
know he's persuaded the heiress that he loves her for herself alone or
has eloped from town with an order for a car-load of lard.
A lot of young men start off in business with an idea that they must
arm themselves with the same sort of weapons that their competitors
carry. There's nothing in it. Fighting the devil with fire is all
foolishness, because that's the one weapon with which he's more expert
than any one else. I usually find that it's pretty good policy to
oppose suspicion with candor, foxiness with openness, indifference
with earnestness. When you deal squarely with a crooked man you scare
him to death, because he thinks you're springing some new and
extra-deep game on him.
A fellow who's subject to cramps and chills has no business in the
water, but if you start to go in swimming, go in all over. Don't be
one of those chappies who prance along the beach, shivering and
showing their skinny shapes, and then dabble their feet in the surf,
pour a little sand in their hair, and think they've had a bath.
You mustn't forget, though, that it's just as important to know when
to come out as when to dive in. I mention this because yesterday some
one who'd run across you at Yemassee told me that you and Helen were
exchanging the grip of the third degree under the breakfast-table, and
trying to eat your eggs with your left hands. Of course, this is all
very right and proper if you can keep it up, but I've known a good
many men who would kiss their wives on the honeymoon between swallows
of coffee and look like an ass a year later when she chirruped out at
the breakfast-table, "Do you love me, darling?" I'm just a little
afraid that you're one of those fellows who wants to hold his wife in
his lap during the first six months of his married life, and who, when
she asks him at the end of a year if he loves her, answers "Sure." I
may be wrong about this, but I've noticed a tendency on your part to
slop over a little, and a pail that slops over soon empties itself.
It's been my experience that most women try to prove their love by
talking about it, and most men by spending money. But when a
pocketbook or a mouth is opened too often nothing but trouble is left
Don't forget the little attentions due your wife, but don't hurt the
grocer's feelings or treat the milkman with silent contempt in order
to give them to her. You can hock your overcoat before marriage to buy
violets for a girl, but when she has the run of your wardrobe you
can't slap your chest and explain that you stopped wearing it because
you're so warm-blooded. A sensible woman soon begins to understand
that affection can be expressed in porterhouse steaks as well as in
American beauties. But when Charlie, on twenty-five a week, marries a
fool, she pouts and says that he doesn't love her just the same
because he takes her to the theatre now in the street-cars, instead of
in a carriage, as he used to in those happy days before they were
married. As a matter of fact, this doesn't show that she's losing
Charlie's love, but that he's getting his senses back. It's been my
experience that no man can really attend to business properly when
he's chased to the office every morning by a crowd of infuriated
florists and livery-men.
Of course, after a girl has spent a year of evenings listening to a
fellow tell her that his great ambition is to make her life one grand,
sweet song, it jars her to find the orchestra grunting and snoring
over the sporting extra some night along six months after the
ceremony. She stays awake and cries a little over this, so when he
sees her across the liver and bacon at breakfast, he forgets that he's
never told her before that she could look like anything but an angel,
and asks, "Gee, Mame, what makes your nose so red?" And that's the
place where a young couple begins to adjust itself to life as it's
lived on Michigan Avenue instead of in the story-books.
There's no rule for getting through the next six months without going
back to mamma, except for the Brute to be as kind as he knows how to
be and the Angel as forgiving as she can be. But at the end of that
time a boy and girl with the right kind of stuff in them have been
graduated into a man and a woman. It's only calf love that's always
bellering about it. When love is full grown it has few words, and
sometimes it growls them out.
I remember, when I was a youngster, hearing old Mrs. Hoover tell of
the trip she took with the Doc just after they were married. Even as a
young fellow the Doc was a great exhorter. Knew more Scripture when he
was sixteen than the presiding elder. Couldn't open his mouth without
losing a verse. Would lose a chapter when he yawned.
Well, when Doc was about twenty-five, he fell in love with a mighty
sweet young girl, Leila Hardin, who every one said was too frivolous
for him. But the Doc only answered that it was his duty to marry her
to bring her under Christian influences, and they set off down the
river to New Orleans on their honeymoon.
Mrs. Hoover used to say that he hardly spoke to her on the trip. Sat
around in a daze, scowling and rolling his eyes, or charged up and
down the deck, swinging his arms and muttering to himself. Scared her
half to death, and she spent all her time crying when he wasn't
around. Thought he didn't love her any more, and it wasn't till the
first Sunday after she got home that she discovered what had ailed
him. Seemed that in the exaltation produced by his happiness at having
got her, he'd been composing a masterpiece, his famous sermon on the
Horrors of Hell, that scared half of Pike County into the fold, and
popularized dominoes with penny points as a substitute for
dollar-limit draw-poker among those whom it didn't quite fetch.
Curious old cuss, the Doc. Found his wife played the piano pretty
medium rotten, so when he wanted to work himself into a rage about
something he'd sit down in the parlor and make her pound out "The
It's a mighty lucky thing that the Lord, and not the neighbors, makes
the matches, because Doc's friends would have married him to Deacon
Dody's daughter, who was so chuck full of good works that there was no
room inside her for a heart. She afterward eloped with a St. Louis
drummer, and before he divorced her she'd become the best lady poker
player in the State of Missouri. But with Leila and the Doc it was a
case of give-and-take from the start--that is, as is usual with a good
many married folks, she'd give and he'd take. There never was a better
minister's wife, and when you've said that you've said the last word
about good wives and begun talking about martyrs, because after a
minister's wife has pleased her husband she's got to please the rest
of the church.
I simply mention Doc's honeymoon in passing as an example of the fact
that two people can start out in life without anything in common
apparently, except a desire to make each other happy, and, with that
as a platform to meet on, keep coming closer and closer together until
they find that they have everything in common. It isn't always the
case, of course, but then it's happened pretty often that before I
entered the room where an engaged couple were sitting I've had to
cough or whistle to give them a chance to break away; and that after
they were married I've had to keep right on coughing or whistling for
the same couple to give them time to stop quarreling.
There are mighty few young people who go into marriage with any real
idea of what it means. They get their notion of it from among the
clouds where they live while they are engaged, and, naturally, about
all they find up there is wind and moonshine; or from novels, which
always end just before the real trouble begins, or if they keep on,
leave out the chapters that tell how the husband finds the rent and
the wife the hired girls. But if there's one thing in the world about
which it's possible to get all the facts, it's matrimony. Part of them
are right in the house where you were born, and the neighbors have the
It's been my experience that you've got to have leisure to be unhappy.
Half the troubles in this world are imaginary, and it takes time to
think them up. But it's these oftener than the real troubles that
break a young husband's back or a young wife's heart.
A few men and more women can be happy idle when they're single, but
once you marry them to each other they've got to find work or they'll
find trouble. Everybody's got to raise something in this world, and
unless people raise a job, or crops, or children, they'll raise Cain.
You can ride three miles on the trolley car to the Stock Yards every
morning and find happiness at the end of the trip, but you may chase
it all over the world in a steam yacht without catching up with it. A
woman can find fun from the basement to the nursery of her own house,
but give her a license to gad the streets and a bunch of matinee
tickets and shell find discontent. There's always an idle woman or an
idle man in every divorce case. When the man earns the bread in the
sweat of his brow, it's right that the woman should perspire a little
There are two kinds of discontent in this world--the discontent that
works and the discontent that wrings its hands. The first gets what it
wants, and the second loses what it has. There's no cure for the first
but success; and there's no cure at all for the second, especially if
a woman has it; for she doesn't know what she wants, and so you can't
give it to her.
Happiness is like salvation--a state of grace that makes you enjoy the
good things you've got and keep reaching out, for better ones in the
hereafter. And home isn't what's around you, but what's inside you.
I had a pretty good illustration of this whole thing some years ago
when a foolish old uncle died and left my cellar boss, Mike
Shaughnessy, a million dollars. I didn't bother about it particularly,
for he'd always been a pretty level-headed old Mick, and I supposed
that he'd put the money in pickle and keep right along at his job. But
one morning, when he came rooting and grunting into my office in a
sort of casual way, trying to keep a plug hat from falling off the
back of his head, I knew that he was going to fly the track. Started
in to tell me that his extensive property interests demanded all his
attention now, but I cut it short with:
"Mike, you've been a blamed good cellar boss, but you're going to make
a blamed bad millionaire. Think it over."
Well, sir, I'm hanged if that fellow, whom I'd raised from the time he
was old enough to poke a barrel along the runways with a pointed
stick, didn't blow a cloud of cigar smoke in my face to show that he
was just as big as I was, and start tight in to regularly cuss me out.
But he didn't get very far. I simply looked at Mm, and said sudden,
"Git, you Mick," and he wilted back out of the office just as easy as
if he hadn't had ten cents.
I heard of him off and on for the next year, putting up a house on
Michigan Avenue, buying hand-painted pictures by the square foot and
paying for them by the square inch--for his wife had decided that they
must occupy their proper station in society--and generally building up
a mighty high rating as a good thing.
As you know, I keep a pretty close eye on the packing house, but on
account of my rheumatism I don't often go through the cellars. But
along about this time we began to get so many complaints about our dry
salt meats that I decided to have a little peek at our stock for
myself, and check up the new cellar boss. I made for him and his gang
first, and I was mightily pleased, as I came upon him without his
seeing me, to notice how he was handling his men. No hollering, or
yelling, or cussing, but every word counting and making somebody hop.
I was right upon him before I discovered that it wasn't the new
foreman, but Mike, who was bossing the gang. He half ducked behind a
pile of Extra Short Clears when he saw me, but turned, when he found
that it was too late, and faced me bold as brass.
"A nice state you've let things get in while I was away, sorr," he
It was Mike, the cellar boss, who knew his job, and no longer Mr.
Shaughnessy, the millionaire, who didn't know his, that was talking,
so I wasn't too inquisitive, and only nodded.
"Small wonder," he went on, "that crime's incr'asing an' th' cotton
crop's decreasing in the black belt, when you're sendin' such mate to
the poor naygurs. Why don't you git a cellar man that's been raised
with the hogs, an' 'll treat 'em right when they're dead?"
"I'm looking for one," says I.
"I know a likely lad for you," says he.
"Report to the superintendent," says I; and Mike's been with me ever
since. I found out when I looked into it that for a week back he'd
been paying the new cellar boss ten dollars a day to lay around
outside while he bossed his job.
Mike sold his old masters to a saloon-keeper and moved back to
Packingtown, where he invested all his money in houses, from which he
got a heap of satisfaction, because, as his tenants were compatriots,
he had plenty of excitement collecting his rents. Like most people who
fall into fortunes suddenly, he had bought a lot of things, not
because he needed them or really wanted them, but because poorer
people couldn't have them. Yet in the end he had sense enough to see
that happiness can't be inherited, but that it must be earned.
Being a millionaire is a trade like a doctor's--you must work up
through every grade of earning, saving, spending and giving, or you're
no more fit to be trusted with a fortune than a quack with human life.
For there's no trade in the world, except the doctor's, on which the
lives and the happiness of so many people depend as the millionaire's;
and I might add that there's no other in which there's so much
Your affectionate father,
From John Graham, at Mount Clematis, Michigan, to his son, Pierrepont,
at the Union Stock Yards, Chicago. The young man has done famously
during the first year of his married life, and the old man has decided
to give him a more important position.
MOUNT CLEMATIS, January 1, 1900.
_Dear Pierrepont_: Since I got here, my rheumatism has been so bad
mornings that the attendant who helps me dress has had to pull me over
to the edge of the bed by the seat of my pajamas. If they ever give
way, I reckon I'll have to stay in bed all day. As near as I can
figure out from what the doctor says, the worse you feel during the
first few days you're taking the baths, the better you really are. I
suppose that when a fellow dies on their hands they call it a cure.
I'm by the worst of it for to-day, though, because I'm downstairs.
Just now the laugh is on an old boy with benevolent side-whiskers,
who's sliding down the balusters, and a fat old party, who looks like
a bishop, that's bumping his way down with his feet sticking out
straight in front of him. Shy away from these things that end in an
ism, my boy. From skepticism to rheumatism they've an ache or a pain
in every blamed joint.
Still, I don't want to talk about my troubles, but about your own.
Barton leaves us on the first, and so we shall need a new assistant
general manager for the business. It's a ten-thousand-dollar job, and
a nine-thousand-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine-dollar man can't fill it.
From the way in which you've handled your department during the past
year, I'm inclined to think that you can deliver that last dollar's
worth of value. Anyway, I'm going to try you, and you've got to make
good, because if you should fail it would be a reflection on my
judgment as a merchant and a blow to my pride as a father. I could
bear up under either, but the combination would make me feel like
As a matter of fact, I can't make you general manager; all I can do is
to give you the title of general manager. And a title is like a suit
of clothes--it must fit the man who tries to wear it. I can clothe you
in a little brief authority, as your old college friend, Shakespeare,
puts it, but I can't keep people from laughing at you when they see
you swelling around in your high-water pants.
It's no use demanding respect in this world; you've got to command it.
There's old Jim Wharton, who, for acting as a fourth-class consul of a
fifth-class king, was decorated with the order of the garter or the
suspender or the eagle of the sixth class--the kind these kings give
to the cook when he gets just the right flavor of garlic in a fancy
sauce. Jim never did a blame thing in his life except to inherit a
million dollars from a better man, who happened to come over on the
Cunard Line instead of the Mayflower, but he'd swell around in our
best society, with that ribbon on his shirt-front, thinking that he
looked like Prince Rupert by Louis the Fourteenth and Lady Clara Vere
de Vere, instead of the fourth assistant to the floor manager at the
Plumbers' ball. But you take Tom Lipton, who was swelled up into Sir
Thomas because he discovered how to pack a genuine Yorkshire ham in
Chicago, and a handle looks as natural on him as on a lard pail.
A man is a good deal like a horse--he knows the touch of a master, and
no matter how lightly the reins are held over him, he understands that
he must behave. But let a fellow who isn't quite sure of himself begin
sawing on a horse's mouth, and the first thing you know the critter
bucks and throws him.
You've only one pair of eyes with which to watch 10,000 men, so unless
they're open all the time you'll be apt to overlook something here and
there; but you'll have 10,000 pairs of eyes watching you all the time,
and they won't overlook anything. You mustn't be known as an easy
boss, or as a hard boss, but as a just boss. Of course, some just men
lean backward toward severity, and some stoop down toward mercy. Both
kinds may make good bosses, but I've usually found that when you hold
the whip hand it's a great thing not to use the whip.
It looks like a pretty large contract to know what 10,000 men are
doing, but, as a matter of fact, there's nothing impossible about it.
In the first place, you don't need to bother very much about the
things that are going all right, except to try to make them go a
little better; but you want to spend your time smelling out the things
that are going all wrong and laboring with them till you've persuaded
them to lead a better life. For this reason, one of the most important
duties of your job is to keep track of everything that's out of the
usual. If anything unusually good happens, there's an unusually good
man behind it, and he ought to be earmarked for promotion; and if
anything unusually bad happens, there's apt to be an unusually bad man
behind that, and he's a candidate for a job with another house.
A good many of these things which it's important for you to know
happen a little before beginning and a little after quitting time; and
so the real reason why the name of the boss doesn't appear on the
time-sheet is not because he's a bigger man than any one else in the
place, but because there shouldn't be any one around to take his time
when he gets down and when he leaves.
You can tell a whole lot about your men from the way in which they
come in and the way in which they go home; but because a fellow is in
the office early, it doesn't always mean that he's panting to begin
work; it may mean that he's been out all night. And when you see a
fellow poring over his books after the others have quit, it doesn't
always follow that he's so wrapped up in his work that he can't tear
himself away from it. It may mean that during business hours he had
his head full of horse-racing instead of figures, and that he's
staying to chase up the thirty cents which he's out in his balance.
You want to find out which.
The extra-poor men and the extra-good men always stick their heads up
above the dead-level of good-enough men; the first to holler for help,
and the second to get an extra reach. And when your attention is
attracted to one of these men, follow him up and find out just what
sort of soil and fertilizer he needs to grow fastest. It isn't enough
to pick likely stock; you've got to plant it where the conditions are
right to develop its particular possibilities. A fellow who's got the
making of a five-thousand-dollar office man in him may not sell enough
lard to fry a half-portion of small potatoes if you put him on the
road. Praise judiciously given may act on one man like an application
of our bone-meal to a fruit tree, and bring out all the pippins that
are in the wood; while in the other it may simply result in his going
all to top.
You mustn't depend too much on the judgment of department heads and
foremen when picking men for promotion. Take their selection if he is
the best man, but know for yourself that he is the best man.
Sometimes a foreman will play a favorite, and, as any fellow who's
been to the races knows, favorites ain't always winners. And
sometimes, though not often, he'll try to hold back a good man through
jealousy. When I see symptoms of a foreman's being jealous of a man
under him, that fellow doesn't need any further recommendation to me.
A man's never jealous of inferiority.
It's a mighty valuable asset for a boss, when a vacancy occurs in a
department, to be able to go to its head when he recommends Bill Smith
for the position, and show that he knows all about Bill Smith from his
number-twelve socks up to his six-and-a-quarter hat, and to ask:
"What's the matter with Tom Jones for the job?" When you refuse to
take something just as good in this world, you'll usually find that
the next time you call the druggist has the original Snicker's
Sassafras Sneezer in stock.
It's mighty seldom, though, that a really good man will complain to
you that he's being held down, or that his superior is jealous of him.
It's been my experience that it's only a mighty small head that so
small an idea as this can fill. When a fellow has it, he's a good deal
like one of those girls with the fatal gift of beauty in her
imagination, instead of her face--always believing that the boys don't
dance with her because the other girls tell them spiteful things about
Besides always having a man in mind for any vacancy that may occur,
you want to make sure that there are two men in the office who
understand the work of each position in it. Every business should be
bigger than any one man. If it isn't, there's a weak spot in it that
will kill it in the end. And every job needs an understudy. Sooner or
later the star is bound to fall sick, or get the sulks or the swelled
head, and then, if there's no one in the wings who knows her lines,
the gallery will rotten-egg the show and howl for its money back.
Besides, it has a mighty chastening and stimulating effect on the star
to know that if she balks there's a sweet young thing in reserve who's
able and eager to go the distance.
Of course, I don't mean by this that you want to play one man against
another or try to minimize to a good man his importance to the house.
On the contrary, you want to dwell on the importance of all positions,
from that of office-boy up, and make every man feel that he is a vital
part of the machinery of the business, without letting him forget that
there's a spare part lying around handy, and that if he breaks or goes
wrong it can be fitted right in and the machine kept running. It's
good human nature to want to feel that something's going to bust when
you quit, but it's bad management if things are fixed so that anything
In hiring new men, you want to depend almost altogether on your own
eyes and your own judgment. Remember that when a man's asking for a
job he's not showing you himself, but the man whom he wants you to
hire. For that reason, I never take on an applicant after a first
interview. I ask him to call again. The second time he may not be made
up so well, and he may have forgotten some of his lines. In any event,
hell feel that he knows you a little better, and so act a little
easier and talk a little freer.
Very often a man whom you didn't like on his first appearance will
please you better on his second, because a lot of people always appear
at their worst when they're trying to appear at their best. And again,
when you catch a fellow off guard who seemed all right the first time,
you may find that he deaconed himself for your benefit, and that all
the big strawberries were on top. Don't attach too much importance to
the things which an applicant has a chance to do with deliberation, or
pay too much attention to his nicely prepared and memorized speech
about himself. Watch the little things which he does unconsciously,
and put unexpected questions which demand quick answers.
If he's been working for Dick Saunders, it's of small importance what
Dick says of him in his letter of recommendation. If you want Dick's
real opinion, get it in some other way than in an open note, of which
the subject's the bearer. As a matter of fact, Dick's opinion
shouldn't carry too much weight, except on a question of honesty,
because if Dick let him go, he naturally doesn't think a great deal of
him; and if the man resigned voluntarily, Dick is apt to feel a little
sore about it. But your applicant's opinion of Dick Saunders is of
very great importance to you. A good man never talks about a real
grievance against an old employer to a new one; a poor man always
pours out an imaginary grievance to any one who will listen. You
needn't cheer in this world when you don't like the show, but silence
is louder than a hiss.
Hire city men and country men; men who wear grandpa's Sunday suit;
thread-bare men and men dressed in those special four-ninety-eight
bargains; but don't hire dirty men. Time and soap will cure dirty
boys, but a full-grown man who shrinks from the use of water
externally is as hard to cure as one who avoids its use internally.
It's a mighty curious thing that you can tell a man his morals are bad
and he needs to get religion, and hell still remain your friend; but
that if you tell him his linen's dirty and he needs to take a bath,
you've made a mortal enemy.
Give the preference to the lean men and the middleweights. The world
is full of smart and rich fat men, but most of them got their
smartness and their riches before they got their fat.
Always appoint an hour at which you'll see a man, and if he's late a
minute don't bother with him. A fellow who can be late when his own
interests are at stake is pretty sure to be when yours are. Have a
scribbling pad and some good letter paper on a desk, and ask the
applicant to write his name and address. A careful and economical man
will use the pad, but a careless and wasteful fellow will reach for
the best thing in sight, regardless of the use to which it's to be
Look in a man's eyes for honesty; around his mouth for weakness; at
his chin for strength; at his hands for temperament; at his nails for
cleanliness. His tongue will tell you his experience, and under the
questioning of a shrewd employer prove or disprove its statements as
it runs along. Always remember, in the case of an applicant from
another city, that when a man says he doesn't like the town in which
he's been working it's usually because he didn't do very well there.
You want to be just as careful about hiring boys as men. A lot of
employers go on the theory that the only important thing about a boy
is his legs, and if they're both fitted on and limber they hire him.
As a matter of fact, a boy is like a stick of dynamite, small and
compact, but as full of possibilities of trouble as a car-load of
gunpowder. One bad boy in a Sunday-school picnic can turn it into a
rough-house outfit for looting orchards, and one little cuss in your
office can demoralize your kids faster than you can fire them.
I remember one boy who organized a secret society, called the
Mysterious League. It held meetings in our big vault, which they
called the donjon keep, and, naturally, when one of them was going on,
boys were scarcer around the office than hen's teeth. The object of
the league, as I shook it out of the head leaguer by the ear, was to
catch the head bookkeeper, whom the boys didn't like, and whom they
called the black caitiff, alone in the vault some night while he was
putting away his books, slam the door, and turn the combination on
him. Tucked away in a corner of the vault, they had a message for him,
written in red ink, on a sheep's skull, telling him to tremble, that
he was in the hands of the Mysterious League, and that he would be led
at midnight to the torture chamber. I learned afterward that when the
bookkeeper had reached in his desk to get a pen, a few days before, he
had pulled out a cold, clammy, pickled pig's foot, on which was
printed: "Beware! first you will lose a leg!"
I simply mention the Mysterious League in passing. Of course, boys
will be boys, but you mustn't let them be too cussed boyish during
business hours. A slow boy can waste a lot of the time of a
five-thousand-dollar man whose bell he's answering; and a careless boy
can mislay a letter or drop a paper that will ball up the work of the
most careful man in the office.
It's really harder to tell what you're getting when you hire a boy
than when you hire a man. I found that out for keeps a few years ago,
when I took on the Angel Child. He was the son of rich parents, who
weren't quite rich enough to buy chips and sit in the game of the
no-limit millionaires. So they went in for what they called the simple
life. I want to say right here that I'm a great believer in the simple
life, but some people are so blamed simple about it that they're
idiotic. The world is full of rich people who talk about leading the
simple life when they mean the stingy life. They are the kind that are
always giving poorer people a chance to chip in an even share with
them toward defraying the expenses of the charities and the
entertainments which they get up. They call it "affording those in
humbler walks an opportunity to keep up their self-respect," but what
they really mean is that it helps them to keep down their own
The Angel Child's mother was one of these women who talk to people
that aren't quite so rich as she in the tone of one who's commending a
worthy charity; but who hangs on the words of a richer woman like a
dog that hopes a piece of meat is going to be thrown at it, and yet
isn't quite sure that it won't get a kick instead. As a side-line, she
made a specialty of trying to uplift the masses, and her husband
furnished the raw material for the uplifting, as he paid his men less
and worked 'em harder than any one else in Chicago.
Well, one day this woman came into my office, bringing her only son
with her. He was a solemn little cuss, but I didn't get much chance to
size him up, because his ma started right in to explain how he'd been
raised--no whipping, no--but I cut it short there, and asked her to
get down to brass tacks, as I was very busy trying to see that
70,000,000 people were supplied with their daily pork. So she
explained that she wanted me to give the Angel Child a job in my
office during his summer vacation, so that he could see how the other
half lived, and at the same time begin to learn self-reliance.
I was just about to refuse, when it occurred to me that if he had
never really had a first-class whipping it was a pity not to put him
in the way of getting one. So I took him by the hand and led him to
headquarters for whippings, the bench in the shipping department,
where a pretty scrappy lot of boys were employed to run errands, and
told the boss to take him on.
I wasn't out of hearing before one kid said, "I choose him," and
another, whom they called the Breakfast-Food Baby, because he was so
strong, answered, "Naw; I seen him first."
I dismissed the matter from my mind then, but a few days later, when I
was walking through the shipping department, it occurred to me that I
might as well view the remains of the Angel Child, if they hadn't been
removed to his late residence. I found him sitting in the middle of
the bench, looking a little sad and lonesome, but all there. The other
boys seemed to be giving him plenty of room, and the Breakfast-Food
Baby, with both eyes blacked, had edged along to the end of the bench.
I beckoned to the Angel Child to follow me to my private office.
"What does this mean, young man?" I asked, when he got there. "Have
you been fighting?"
"Yes, sir," he answered, sort of brightening up.
"Michael and Patrick the first day, sir."
"Did you lick 'em?"
"I had rather the better of it," he answered, as precise as a slice of
"And the second?"
"Why, the rest of 'em, sir."
"Including the Breakfast-Food--er, James?"
He nodded. "James is very strong, sir, but he lacks science. He drew
back as if he had a year to hit me, and just as he got good and ready
to strike, I pasted him one in the snoot, and followed that up with a
left jab in the eye."
I hadn't counted on boxing lessons being on the bill of fare of the
simple life, and it raised my hopes still further to see from that
last sentence how we had grafted a little Union Stock Yards on his
Back Bay Boston. In fact, my heart quite warmed to the lad; but I
looked at him pretty severely, and only said:
"Mark you, young man, we don't allow any fighting around here; and if
you can't get along without quarrelling with the boys in the shipping
department, I'll have to bring you into these offices, where I can
have an eye on your conduct."
There were two or three boys in the main office who were spoiling for
a thrashing, and I reckoned that the Angel Child would attend to their
cases; and he did. He was cock of the walk in a week, and at the same
time one of the bulliest, daisiest, most efficient, most respectful
boys that ever worked for me. He put a little polish on the other
kids, and they took a little of the extra shine off him. He's in
Harvard now, but when he gets out there's a job waiting for him, if
he'll take it.
That was a clear case of catching an angel on the fly, or of
entertaining one unawares, as the boy would have put it, and it taught
me not to consider my prejudices or his parents in hiring a boy, but
to focus my attention on the boy himself, when he was the one who
would have to run the errands. The simple life was a pose and pretense
with the Angel Child's parents, and so they were only a new brand of
snob; but the kid had been caught young and had taken it all in
earnest; and so he was a new breed of boy, and a better one than I'd
ever hired before.
Your affectionate father,
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.
MOUNT CLEMATIS, January 25, 1900.
_Dear Pierrepont_: They've boiled everything out of me except the
original sin, and even that's a little bleached, and they've taken
away my roll of yellow-backs, so I reckon they're about through with
me here, for the present. But instead of returning to the office, I
think I'll take your advice and run down to Florida for a few weeks
and have a "try at the tarpon," as you put it. I don't really need a
tarpon, or want a tarpon, and I don't know what I could do with a
tarpon if I hooked one, except to yell at him to go away; but I need a
burned neck and a peeled nose, a little more zest for my food, and a
little more zip about my work, if the interests of the American hog
are going to be safe in my hands this spring. I don't seem to have so
much luck as some fellows in hooking these fifty-pound fish lies, but
I always manage to land a pretty heavy appetite and some big nights'
sleep when I strike salt water. Then I can go back to the office and
produce results like a hen in April with eggs at eleven cents a dozen.
[Illustration: I don't really need a tarpon ... but I need a burned
neck and a peeled nose]
Health is like any inheritance--you can spend the interest in work and
play, but you mustn't break into the principal. Once you do, and it's
only a matter of time before you've got to place the remnants in the
hands of a doctor as receiver; and receivers are mighty partial to
fees and mighty slow to let go. But if you don't work with him to get
the business back on a sound basis there's no such thing as any
further voluntary proceedings, and the remnants become remains.
It's a mighty simple thing, though, to keep in good condition, because
about everything that makes for poor health has to get into you right
under your nose. Yet a fellow'll load up with pie and buckwheats for
breakfast and go around wondering about his stomach-ache, as if it
were a put-up job that had been played on him when he wasn't looking;
or he'll go through his dinner pickling each course in a different
brand of alcohol, and sob out on the butler's shoulder that the booze
isn't as pure as it used to be when he was a boy; or he'll come home
at midnight singing "The Old Oaken Bucket," and act generally as if
all the water in the world were in the well on the old homestead, and
the mortgage on that had been foreclosed; or from 8 P.M. to 3 G.X.
he'll sit in a small game with a large cigar, breathing a blend of
light-blue cigarette smoke and dark-blue cuss-words, and next day,
when his heart beats four and skips two, and he has that queer,
hopping sensation in the knees, he'll complain bitterly to the other
clerks that this confining office work is killing him.
Of course, with all the care in the world, a fellow's likely to catch
things, but there's no sense in sending out invitations to a lot of
miscellaneous microbes and pretending when they call that it's a
surprise party. Bad health hates a man who is friendly with its
enemies--hard work, plain food, and pure air. More men die from worry
than from overwork; more stuff themselves to death than die of
starvation; more break their necks falling down the cellar stairs than
climbing mountains. If the human animal reposed less confidence in his
stomach and more in his legs, the streets would be full of healthy men
walking down to business. Remember that a man always rides to his
grave; he never walks there.
When I was a boy, the only doubt about the food was whether there
would be enough of it; and there wasn't any doubt at all about the
religion. If the pork barrel was full, father read a couple of extra
Psalms at morning prayers, to express our thankfulness; and if it was
empty, he dipped into Job for half an hour at evening prayers, to
prove that we were better off than some folks. But you don't know what
to eat these days, with one set of people saying that only beasts eat
meat, and another that only cattle eat grain and green stuff; or what
to believe, with one crowd claiming that there's nothing the matter
with us, as the only matter that we've got is in our minds; and
another crowd telling us not to mind what the others say, because
they've got something the matter with their minds. I reckon that what
this generation really needs is a little less pie and a little more
I dwell on this matter of health, because when the stomach and liver
ain't doing good work, the brain can't. A good many men will say that
it's none of your business what they do in their own time, but you
want to make it your business, so long as it affects what they do in
your time. For this reason, you should never hire men who drink after
office hours; for it's their time that gets the effects, and your time
that gets the after-effects. Even if a boss grants that there's fun in
drinking, it shouldn't take him long to discover that he's getting the
short end of it, when all the clerks can share with him in the morning
is the head and the hangover.
I might add that I don't like the effects of drinking any more than
the after-effects; and for this reason you should never hire men who
drink during business hours. When a fellow adds up on whisky, he's apt
to see too many figures; and when he subtracts on beer, he's apt to
see too few.
It may have been the case once that when you opened up a bottle for a
customer he opened up his heart, but booze is a mighty poor salesman
nowadays. It takes more than a corkscrew to draw out a merchant's
order. Most of the men who mixed their business and their drinks have
failed, and the new owners take their business straight. Of course,
some one has to pay for the drinks that a drummer sets up. The drummer
can't afford it on his salary; the house isn't really in the
hospitality business; so, in the end, the buyer always stands treat.
He may not see it in his bill for goods, but it's there, and the smart
ones have caught on to it.
After office hours, the number of drinks a fellow takes may make a
difference in the result to his employer, but during business hours
the effect of one is usually as bad as half a dozen. A buyer who
drinks hates a whisky breath when he hasn't got one himself, and a
fellow who doesn't drink never bothers to discover whether he's being
talked to by a simple or a compound breath. He knows that some men who
drink are unreliable, and that unreliable men are apt to represent
unreliable houses and to sell unreliable goods, and he hasn't the time
or the inclination to stop and find out that this particular salesman
has simply had a mild snort as an appetizer and a gentle soother as a
digester. So he doesn't get an order, and the house gets a black eye.
This is a very, very busy world, and about the only person who is
really interested in knowing just how many a fellow has had is his
wife, and she won't always believe him.
Naturally, when you expect so much from your men, they have a right
to expect a good deal from you. If you want them to feel that your
interests are theirs, you must let them see that their interests are
yours. There are a lot of fellows in the world who are working just for
glory, but they are mostly poets, and you needn't figure on finding
many of them out at the Stock Yards. Praise goes a long way with a good
man, and some employers stop there; but cash goes the whole distance,
and if you want to keep your growing men with you, you mustn't expect
them to do all the growing. Small salaries make slow workers and
careless clerks; because it isn't hard to get an underpaid job. But a
well-paid man sticketh closer than a little brother-in-law-to-be to the
fellow who brings the candy. For this reason, when I close the books at
the end of the year, I always give every one, from the errand boys up,
a bonus based on the size of his salary and my profits. There's no way
I've ever tried that makes my men take an interest in the size of my
profits like giving them a share. And there's no advertisement for a
house like having its men going around blowing and bragging because
they're working for it.
Again, if you insist that your men shan't violate the early-closing
ordinance, you must observe one yourself. A man who works only half a
day Saturday can usually do a day and half's work Monday. I'd rather
have my men hump themselves for nine hours than dawdle for ten.
Of course, the world is full of horses who won't work except with the
whip, but that's no reason for using it on those who will. When I get
a critter that hogs my good oats and then won't show them in his gait,
I get rid of him. He may be all right for a fellow who's doing a
peddling business, but I need a little more speed and spirit in mine.
A lot of people think that adversity and bad treatment is the test of
a man, and it is--when you want to develop his strength; but
prosperity and good treatment is a better one when you want to develop
his weakness. By keeping those who show their appreciation of it and
firing those who don't, you get an office full of crackerjacks.
While your men must feel all the time that they've got a boss who can
see good work around a corner, they mustn't be allowed to forget that
there's no private burying-ground on the premises for mistakes. When a
Western town loses one of its prominent citizens through some careless
young fellow's letting his gun go off sudden, if the sheriff buys a
little rope and sends out invitations to an inquest, it's apt to make
the boys more reserved about exchanging repartee; and if you pull up
your men sharp when you find them shooting off their mouths to
customers and getting gay in their correspondence, it's sure to cut
down the mortality among our old friends in the trade. A clerk's never
fresh in letters that the boss is going to see.
The men who stay in the office and plan are the brains of your
business; those who go out and sell are its arms; and those who fill
and deliver the orders are its legs. There's no use in the brains
scheming and the arms gathering in, if the legs are going to deliver
the goods with a kick.
That's another reason why it's very important for you to be in the
office early. You can't personally see every order filled, and tell
whether it was shipped promptly and the right goods sent, but when the
telegrams and letters are opened, you can have all the kicks sorted
out, and run through them before they're distributed for the day.
That's where you'll meet the clerk who billed a tierce of hams to the
man who ordered a box; the shipper who mislaid Bill Smith's order for
lard, and made Bill lose his Saturday's trade through the delay; the
department head who felt a little peevish one morning and so wrote
Hardin & Co., who buy in car-lots, that if they didn't like the smoke
of the last car of Bacon Short Clears they could lump it, or words to
that effect; and that's where you'll meet the salesman who played a
sure thing on the New Orleans track and needs twenty to get to the
next town, where his check is waiting. Then, a little later, when you
make the rounds of the different departments to find out how it
happened, the heads will tell you all the good news that was in the
Of course, you can keep track of your men in a sneaking way that will
make them despise you, and talk to them in a nagging spirit that will
make them bristle when they see you. But it's your right to know and
your business to find out, and if you collect your information in an
open, frank manner, going at it in the spirit of hoping to find
everything all right, instead of wanting to find something all wrong;
and if you talk to the responsible man with an air of "here's a place
where we can get together and correct a weakness in our business"--not
my business--instead of with an "Ah! ha! I've-found-you-out"
expression, your men will throw handsprings for your good opinion.
Never nag a man tinder any circumstances; fire him.
A good boss, in these days when profits are pared down to the quick,
can't afford to have any holes, no matter how small, in his
management; but there must be give enough in his seams so that every
time he stoops down to pick up a penny he won't split his pants. He
must know how to be big, as well as how to be small.
Some years ago, I knew a firm who did business under the name of
Foreman & Sowers. They were a regular business vaudeville team--one
big and broad-gauged in all his ideas; the other unable to think in
anything but boys' and misses' sizes. Foreman believed that men got
rich in dollars; Sowers in cents. Of course, you can do it in either
way, but the first needs brains and the second only hands. It's been
my experience that the best way is to go after both the dollars and
Well, sir, these fellows launched a specialty, a mighty good thing,
the Peep o' Daisy Breakfast Food, and started in to advertise. Sowers
wanted to use inch space and sell single cases; Foreman kicked because
full pages weren't bigger and wanted to sell in car-lots, leaving the
case trade to the jobbers. Sowers only half-believed in himself, and
only a quarter in the food, and only an eighth in advertising. So he
used to go home nights and lie awake with a living-picture exhibit of
himself being kicked out of his store by the sheriff; and out of his
house by the landlord; and, finally, off the corner where he was
standing with his hat out for pennies, by the policeman. He hadn't a
big enough imagination even to introduce into this last picture a
sport dropping a dollar bill into his hat. But Foreman had a pretty
good opinion of himself, and a mighty big opinion of the food, and he
believed that a clever, well-knit ad. was strong enough to draw teeth.
So he would go home and build steam-yachts and country places in his
Naturally, the next morning, Sowers would come down haggard and
gloomy, and grow gloomier as he went deeper into the mail and saw how
small the orders were. But Foreman would start out as brisk and busy
as a humming-bird, tap the advertising agent for a new line of credit
on his way down to the office, and extract honey and hope from every
Sowers begged him, day by day, to stop the useless fight and save the
remains of their business. But Foreman simply laughed. Said there
wouldn't be any remains when he was ready to quit. Allowed that he
believed in cremation, anyway, and that the only way to fix a brand on
the mind of the people was to burn it in with money.
Sowers worried along a few days more, and then one night, after he had
been buried in the potter's field, he planned a final stroke to stop
Foreman, who, he believed, didn't know just how deep in they really
were. Foreman was in a particular jolly mood the next morning, for he
had spent the night bidding against Pierrepont Morgan at an auction
sale of old masters; but he listened patiently while Sowers called off
the figures in a sort of dirge-like singsong, and until he had wailed
out his final note of despair, a bass-drum crash, which he thought
would bring Foreman to a realizing sense of their loss, so to speak.
"That," Sowers wound up, "makes a grand total of $800,000 that we have
Foreman's head drooped, and for a moment he was deep in thought, while
Sowers stood over him, sad, but triumphant, in the feeling that he had
at last brought this madman to his senses, now that his dollars were
"Eight hundred thou!" the senior partner repeated mechanically. Then,
looking up with a bright smile, he exclaimed: "Why, old man, that
leaves us two hundred thousand still to spend before we hit the
They say that Sowers could only gibber back at him; and Foreman kept
right on and managed some way to float himself on to the million mark.
There the tide turned, and after all these years it's still running
his way; and Sowers, against his better judgment, is a millionaire.
I simply mention Foreman in passing. It would be all foolishness to
follow his course in a good many situations, but there's a time to
hold on and a time to let go, and the limit, and a little beyond, is
none too far to play a really good thing. But in business it's quite
as important to know how to be a good quitter as a good fighter. Even
when you feel that you've got a good thing, you want to make sure that
it's good enough, and that you're good enough, before you ask to have
the limit taken off. A lot of men who play a nice game of authors get
their feelings hurt at whist, and get it in the neck at poker.
You want to have the same principle in mind when you're handling the
trade. Sometimes you'll have to lay down even when you feel that your
case is strong. Often you'll have to yield a point or allow a claim
when you know you're dead right and the other fellow all wrong. But
there's no sense in getting a licking on top of a grievance.
Another thing that helps you keep track of your men is the habit of
asking questions. Your thirst for information must fairly make your
tongue loll out. When you ask the head of the canning department what
we're netting for two-pound Corned Beef on the day's market for
canners, and he has to say, "Wait a minute and I'll figure it out," or
turn to one of his boys and ask, "Bill, what are twos netting us?" he
isn't sitting close enough to his job, and, perhaps, if Bill were in
his chair, he'd be holding it in his lap; or when you ask the chief
engineer how much coal we burned this month, as compared with last,
and why in thunder we burned it, if he has to hem and haw and say he
hasn't had time to figure it out yet, but he thinks they were running
both benches in the packing house most of the time, and he guesses
this and reckons that, he needs to get up a little more steam himself.
In short, whenever you find a fellow that ought to know every minute
where he's at, but who doesn't know what's what, he's pretty likely to
be _It_. When you're dealing with an animal like the American hog,
that carries all its profit in the tip of its tail, you want to make
sure that your men carry all the latest news about it on the tip of
It's not a bad plan, once in a while, to check up the facts and
figures that are given you. I remember one lightning calculator I had
working for me, who would catch my questions hot from the bat, and
fire back the answers before I could get into position to catch. Was a
mighty particular cuss. Always worked everything out to the sixth
decimal place. I had just about concluded he ought to have a wider
field for his talents, when I asked him one day how the hams of the
last week's run had been averaging in weight. Answered like a streak;
but it struck me that for hogs which had been running so light they
were giving up pretty generously. So I checked up his figures and
found 'em all wrong. Tried him with a different question every day for
a week. Always answered quick, and always answered wrong. Found that
he was a base-ball rooter and had been handing out the batting
averages of the Chicagos for his answers. Seems that when I used to
see him busy figuring with his pencil he was working out where Anson
stood on the list. He's not in Who's Who in the Stock Yards any more,
Your affectionate father,
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.
MAGNOLIA VILLA, February 5, 1900.
_Dear Pierrepont_: Last week I started back to Nature, as you advised,
but at the Ocean High Roller House I found that I had to wear
knee-breeches, which was getting back too far, or creases in my
trousers, which wasn't far enough. So we've taken this little place,
where there's nothing between me and Nature but a blue shirt and an
old pair of pants, and I reckon that's near enough.
I'm getting a complexion and your ma's losing hers. Hadn't anything
with her but some bonnets, so just before we left the hotel she went
into a little branch store, which a New York milliner runs there, and
tried to buy a shade hat.
"How would this pretty little shepherdess effect do?" asked the girl
who was showing the goods, while she sized me up to see if the weight
of my pocketbook made my coat sag.
"How much is it?" asked your ma.
"Fifty dollars," said the girl, as bright and sassy as you please.
"I'm not such a simple little shepherdess as that," answered your ma,
just a little brighter and a little sassier, and she's going around
bareheaded. She's doing the cooking and making the beds, because the
white girls from the North aren't willing to do "both of them works,"
and the native niggers don't seem to care a great deal about doing any
work. And I'm splitting the wood for the kitchen stove, and an
occasional fish that has committed suicide. This morning, when I was
casting through the surf, a good-sized drum chased me up on shore, and
he's now the star performer in a chowder that your ma has billed for
They call this place a villa, though it's really a villainy; and what
I pay for it rent, though it's actually a robbery. But they can have
the last bill in the roll if they'll leave me your ma, and my
appetite, and that tired feeling at night. It's the bulliest time
we've had since the spring we moved into our first little cottage back
in Missouri, and raised climbing-roses and our pet pig, Toby. It's
good to have money and the things that money will buy, but it's good,
too, to check up once in a while and make sure you haven't lost the
things that money won't buy. When a fellow's got what he set out for
in this world, he should go off into the woods for a few weeks now and
then to make sure that he's still a man, and not a plug-hat and a
frock-coat and a wad of bills.
You can't do the biggest things in this world unless you can handle
men; and you can't handle men if you're not in sympathy with them; and
sympathy begins in humility. I don't mean the humility that crawls for
a nickel in the street and cringes for a thousand in the office; but
the humility that a man finds when he goes gunning in the woods for
the truth about himself. It's the sort of humility that makes a fellow
proud of a chance to work in the world, and want to be a square
merchant, or a good doctor, or an honest lawyer, before he's a rich
one. It makes him understand that while life is full of opportunities
for him, it's full of responsibilities toward the other fellow, too.
That doesn't mean that you ought to coddle idleness, or to be slack
with viciousness, or even to carry on the pay-roll well-meaning
incompetence. For a fellow who mixes business and charity soon finds
that he can't make any money to give to charity; and in the end,
instead of having helped others, he's only added himself to the burden
of others. The kind of sympathy I mean holds up men to the bull-ring
without forgetting in its own success the hardships and struggles and
temptations of the fellow who hasn't got there yet, but is honestly
trying to. There's more practical philanthropy in keeping close to
these men and speaking the word that they need, or giving them the
shove that they deserve, than in building an eighteen-hole golf course
around the Stock Yards for them. Your force can always find plenty of
reasons for striking, without your furnishing an extra one in the poor
quality of the golf-balls that you give them. So I make it a rule that
everything I hand out to my men shall come in the course of business,
and be given on a business basis. When profits are large, they get a
large bonus and a short explanation of the business reasons in the
office and the country that have helped them to earn it; when profits
are small, the bonus shrinks and the explanation expands. I sell the
men their meats and give them their meals in the house restaurant at
cost, but nothing changes hands between us except in exchange for work
If you want a practical illustration of how giving something for
nothing works, pick out some one who has no real claim on you--an old
college friend who's too strong to work, or a sixteenth cousin who's
missed connections with the express to Fortune--and say: "You're a
pretty good fellow, and I want to help you; after this I'm going to
send you a hundred dollars the first of every month, until you've made
a new start." He'll fairly sicken you with his thanks for that first
hundred; he'll call you his generous benefactor over three or four
pages for the second; he'll send you a nice little half-page note of
thanks for the third; he'll write, "Yours of the first with inclosure
to hand--thanks," for the fourth; he'll forget to acknowledge the
fifth; and when the sixth doesn't come promptly, he'll wire collect:
"Why this delay in sending my check--mail at once." And all the time
he won't have stirred a step in the direction of work, because he'll
have reasoned, either consciously or unconsciously: "I can't get a job
that will pay me more than a hundred a month to start with; but I'm
already drawing a hundred without working; so what's the use?" But
when a fellow can't get a free pass, and he has any sort of stuff in
him, except what hoboes are made of, he'll usually hustle for his car
fare, rather than ride through life on the bumpers of a freight.
The only favor that a good man needs is an opportunity to do the best
work that's in him; and that's the only present you can make him once
a week that will be a help instead of a hindrance to him. It's been my
experience that every man has in him the possibility of doing well
some one thing, no matter how humble, and that there's some one, in
some place, who wants that special thing done. The difference between
a fellow who succeeds and one who fails is that the first gets out and
chases after the man who needs him, and the second sits around waiting
to be hunted up.
When I was a boy, we were brought up to believe that we were born
black with original sin, and that we bleached out a little under old
Doc Hoover's preaching. And in the church down Main Street they taught
that a lot of us were predestined to be damned, and a few of us to be
saved; and naturally we all had our favorite selections for the first
bunch. I used to accept the doctrine of predestination for a couple of
weeks every year, just before the Main Street church held its
Sunday-school picnic, and there are a few old rascals in the Stock
Yards that make me lean toward it sometimes now; but, in the main, I
believe that most people start out with a plenty of original goodness.
The more I deal in it, the surer I am that human nature is all off
the same critter, but that there's a heap of choice in the cuts. Even
then a bad cook will spoil a four-pound porterhouse, where a good one
will take a chuck steak, make a few passes over it with seasoning and
fixings, and serve something that will line your insides with
happiness. Circumstances don't make men, but they shape them, and you
want to see that those under you are furnished with the right set of
Every fellow is really two men--what he is and what he might be; and
you're never absolutely sure which you're going to bury till he's
dead. But a man in your position can do a whole lot toward furnishing
the officiating clergyman with beautiful examples, instead of horrible
warnings. The great secret of good management is to be more alert to
prevent a man's going wrong than eager to punish him for it. That's
why I centre authority and distribute checks upon it. That's why I've
never had any Honest Old Toms, or Good Old Dicks, or Faithful Old
Harrys handling my good money week-days and presiding over the
Sabbath-school Sundays for twenty years, and leaving the old man short
a hundred thousand, and the little ones short a superintendent, during
the twenty-first year.
It's right to punish these fellows, but a suit for damages ought to
lie against their employers. Criminal carelessness is a bad thing, but
the carelessness that makes criminals is worse. The chances are that,
to start with, Tom and Dick were honest and good at the office and
sincere at the Sunday-school, and that, given the right circumstances,
they would have stayed so. It was their employers' business to see
that they were surrounded by the right circumstances at the office and
to find out whether they surrounded themselves with them at home.
A man who's fundamentally honest is relieved instead of aggrieved by
having proper checks on his handling of funds. And the bigger the
man's position and the amount that he handles, the more important this
is. A minor employee can take only minor sums, and the principal harm
done is to himself; but when a big fellow gets into you, it's for
something big, and more is hurt than his morals and your feelings.
I dwell a little on these matters, because I want to fix it firmly in
your mind that the man who pays the wages must put more in the weekly
envelope than money, if he wants to get his full money's worth. I've
said a good deal about the importance of little things to a boss;
don't forget their importance to your men. A thousand-dollar clerk
doesn't think with a ten-thousand-dollar head; a fellow whose view is
shut in by a set of ledgers can't see very far, and so stampedes
easier than one whose range is the whole shop; a brain that can't
originate big things can't forget trifles so quick as one in which the
new ideas keep crowding out the old annoyances. Ten thousand a year
will sweeten a multitude of things that don't taste pleasant, but
there's not so much sugar in a thousand to help them down. The sting
of some little word or action that wouldn't get under your skin at
all, is apt to swell up one of these fellows' bump of self-esteem as
big as an egg-plant, and make it sore all over.
It's always been my policy to give a little extra courtesy and
consideration to the men who hold the places that don't draw the extra
good salaries. It's just as important to the house that they should
feel happy and satisfied as the big fellows. And no man who's doing
his work well is too small for a friendly word and a pat on the back,
and no fellow who's doing his work poorly is too big for a jolt that
will knock the nonsense out of him.
You can't afford to give your men a real grievance, no matter how
small it is; for a man who's got nothing to occupy thin but his work
can accomplish twice as much as one who's busy with his work and a
grievance. The average man will leave terrapin and champagne in a
minute to chew over the luxury of feeling abused. Even when a man
isn't satisfied with the supply of real grievances which life affords,
and goes off hunting up imaginary ones, like a blame old gormandizing
French hog that leaves a full trough to root through the woods for
truffles, you still want to be polite; for when you fire a man there's
no good reason for doing it with a yell.
Noise isn't authority, and there's no sense in ripping and roaring and
cussing around the office when things don't please you. For when a
fellow's given to that, his men secretly won't care a cuss whether
he's pleased or not. They'll jump when he speaks, because they value
their heads, not his good opinion. Indiscriminate blame is as bad as
undiscriminating praise--it only makes a man tired.
I learned this, like most of the sense I've got--hard; and it was only
a few years ago that I took my last lesson in it. I came down one
morning with my breakfast digesting pretty easy, and found the orders
fairly heavy and the kicks rather light, so I told the young man who
was reading the mail to me, and who, of course, hadn't had anything
special to do with the run of orders, to buy himself a suit of clothes
and send the bill to the old man.
Well, when the afternoon mail came in, I dipped into that, too, but
I'd eaten a pretty tony luncheon, and it got to finding fault with its
surroundings, and the letters were as full of kicks as a drove of
Missouri mules. So I began taking it out on the fellow who happened to
be handiest, the same clerk to whom I had given the suit of clothes in
the morning. Of course, he hadn't had anything to do with the run of
kicks either, but he never put up a hand to defend himself till I was
all through, and then he only asked:
"Say, Mr. Graham, don't you want that suit of clothes back?"
[Illustration: "Say, Mr. Graham, don't you want that suit of clothes
Of course, I could have fired him on the spot for impudence, but I
made it a suit and an overcoat instead. I don't expect to get my
experience on free passes. And I had my money's worth, too, because it
taught me that it's a good rule to make sure the other fellow's wrong
before you go ahead. When you jump on the man who didn't do it, you
make sore spots all over him; and it takes the spring out of your leap
for the fellow who did it.
One of the first things a boss must lose is his temper--and it must
stay lost. There's about as much sense in getting yourself worked up
into a rage when a clerk makes a mistake as there is in going into the
barn and touching off a keg of gunpowder under the terrier because he
got mixed up in the dark and blundered into a chicken-coop instead of
a rat-hole. Fido may be an all-right ratter, in spite of the fact that
his foot slips occasionally, and a cut now and then with a switch
enough to keep him in order; but if his taste for chicken develops
faster than his nose for rats, it's easier to give him to one of the
neighbors than to blow him off the premises.
Where a few words, quick, sharp, and decisive, aren't enough for a
man, a cussing out is too much. It proves that he's unfit for his
work, and it unfits you for yours. The world is full of fellows who
could take the energy which they put into useless cussing of their
men, and double their business with it.
Your affectionate father,
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