“SO you are a book agent?” said Frank, and now looked at the young man
with increased interest. “May I ask what books you sell?”
“I am taking orders for three works—a new and beautifully illustrated
set of Cooper’s works, an Illustrated History of the United States, and
a new cook-book. Here are some samples,” and the young man brought them
forth from his bag.
“They certainly look very fine,” answered Frank, after inspecting the
“Perhaps I can sell you a set of the Cooper.”
“Thank you; I can’t afford them.”
“Or a cook-book for your wife,” and the book agent laughed. “Get her a
cook-book and she won’t kill you off when she cooks for you.”
“I’ll have to get the wife first—and means to support her,” and now
Frank laughed, too. “May I ask if there is much money in selling books?
If I can’t get a steady job I might take it up,” he went on, seriously.
“Selling books is a great speculation, my friend. You might make fifty
dollars a week at it, and you might not make a dollar. It all depends on
what you have to sell, what territory you cover, and what your abilities
as a salesman are.”
“Yes, that must be true. But, somehow, I think I could sell books, if I
had the right kind.”
“Many think they can do the same, but out of a hundred who try, not a
dozen succeed. It’s very discouraging at the start. To make a success
you’ve got to have lots of ‘stick-to-it’ in you.”
“May I ask what firm you represent? Or, perhaps you don’t care to tell?”
“Oh, I’m perfectly willing to tell you, and if you want to try your luck
with them go ahead. My name is Oscar Klemner, and I represent the Barry
Marden Publishing Company, of Philadelphia—one of the largest publishing
houses in the subscription book business. Here is their card,” and Oscar
Klemner handed it over.
“Thank you. My name is Frank Hardy, and I come from Claster.”
“Glad to know you, Hardy, and if you take up books I hope you make a big
success of it.”
“Will you tell me how they pay for the work?”
“Certainly. An agent gets twenty per cent. for getting an order, and
twenty per cent. more if he delivers and collects.”
“Do you do both?”
“Sometimes; but at other times I merely take orders, and when I can’t
get orders I take to delivering the orders some fellow more lucky than
myself has obtained.”
“You wanted me to tell you about some folks here.”
“Yes. Here is a list of names. I want to visit the people in regular
order, according to where they live, if I can. I don’t want to waste my
time skipping from one end of the town to the other and back.”
Frank looked over the list carefully.
“I know all these people, and if you wish it, I’ll go around with you.”
“Won’t it be too much trouble?”
“No. And besides, it will give me a little insight into the business.”
“All right, then. Come ahead, Hardy. I’ll give you a practical lesson in
both the art of delivering books and in taking new orders. You see, some
of these people have merely asked about the books, not ordered them.”
Having rested himself, Oscar Klemner said he was ready to start, and
Frank offered to carry the leather hand-bag for him.
“Never mind; I’ll carry it myself. I’m so used to it, I’d feel lost
They were soon at the first house, where the book agent delivered a
cook-book and collected three dollars for it. The transaction was
quickly over, and they passed on to the next place.
“That was certainly a quick way to make sixty cents,” thought our hero.
“We don’t always have it so easy,” said the agent, as if reading what
was in Frank’s mind. “Sometimes folks won’t take the books they have
“What do you do then?”
“It depends. If it’s a written order, we show it, and demand that it be
The next place to stop at was one where a minister had written that he
wished to look at the illustrated history. The book agent showed the
history and dilated eloquently on its worth and cheapness, but the man
of the church refused to order just then, although he said he might do
“That was a disappointment,” said Frank, as they hurried off, after half
an hour had been wasted in the effort.
“Oh, you’ll get used to them, if you ever get into this business,”
answered Oscar Klemner, cheerfully.
Frank remained with the agent until dark, visiting twelve homes and
three places of business. He took note of the fact that Oscar Klemner
collected eight dollars, and took orders for twenty-eight dollars’ worth
of books. This made thirty-six dollars in all, upon which the agent’s
commission, at twenty per cent., was $7.20.
“That is certainly a good day’s wages,” thought our hero. “I’d like to
do half as well.”
“How do you like it?” asked the book agent, when the work was over.
“I like it first-rate,” answered Frank. “I’m going to try it, if they’ll
“If you do, I wish you luck. But I wouldn’t work around here. Our men
have been through this territory pretty thoroughly.”
On parting with Frank, Oscar Klemner offered our hero a fifty-cent
“You’ve earned it,” he said.
“I don’t want the money. I am glad I got the experience,” said Frank,
and refused to accept the coin. Soon they parted; and it was many a day
before our hero saw Oscar Klemner again.
Frank did not relish the walk back to Claster, after his tramp all over
Porthaven. But there seemed no help for it, and he struck out as swiftly
as his tired limbs would permit.
“If I’m going to be a book agent, I may as well get used to walking
first as last,” he told himself. Yet, when a lumber wagon bound for
Claster came along, he was glad enough to hop up beside the driver and
ride the last half of the journey. Even then, it was nearly ten o’clock
when he got to his home.
“So you’ve had no luck, Frank?” said Mrs. Hardy. “I am sorry for you.
Have you had any supper?”
“No, mother. But don’t worry; I’ll find a couple of slices of bread or
“There is some tea on the stove, and some beans and rice pudding in the
pantry, and some cake and berries. You must be very hungry.”
“I’ve got a plan,” said Frank, when he was eating. “I’ll tell you about
it in the morning. It’s too late now.” And as soon as he had satisfied
his hunger he went to bed.
When our hero told his father and his mother of his plan, on the
following morning, both were much surprised.
“A book agent!” cried Mr. Hardy. “I don’t think they earn their salt.”
“Father, you are mistaken,” Frank answered, and then told of his
experience of the day previous. Both of his parents listened with keen
“That agent must be a remarkable man to earn so much,” said Mrs. Hardy.
“I knew a man here who tried it once, old Randolph Winter. He earned
only a few dollars a week.”
“I guess he wasn’t cut out for an agent,” answered Frank, who knew the
man mentioned to be very lazy and shiftless.
“And so you think you are cut out for an agent, Frank?” demanded his
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that. But I thought it might be worth trying—more
especially as I can’t get anything else to do.”
“Oh, it won’t do any harm to try. But don’t fill your head with any
false hopes, for you may be sadly disappointed.”
“If I try it, I’ll make up my mind to do my level best, and then take
what comes. But I’d like to go to Philadelphia and see those book
“Very well; I’ll give you the necessary money.”
While Frank was talking the matter over with his parents, Ruth came in
with several letters, and a big package from the post office.
“Here are some books for Frank!” she called out. “And a letter, too.”
“The package is from Mr. Philip Vincent, the gentleman whose spectacles
I picked up at the wreck,” said Frank. “And one of the letters is from
“What does he say, Frank?”
“I’ll read his letter out loud, mother,” answered our hero, and
proceeded to do so.
“MY DEAR YOUNG FRIEND [so ran the communication]: I must ask you to
pardon me for the delay in sending you the story book I promised.
The fact of the matter is, I had a sudden call to Chicago on
business, and just arrived in New York again yesterday.
“By this same mail I send you two illustrated story books, which I
trust will please you in every way. Later on I shall send you a new
book I am about to issue, called the Illustrated Lives of Our
Presidents, which should prove an inspiration to all young Americans
“If you ever come to New York, I shall be glad to see you.
“Yours very truly,
“What beautiful books!” cried Ruth, as she and Frank looked them over.
“I’m sure they’ll be interesting.”
“Hullo! I’ve made a discovery!” ejaculated Frank, who was reading the
printed matter at the head of the letter sheet. “Mr. Vincent is in the
subscription book business besides running a book store.”
“If that is so, you had better apply to him for a position,” put in his
“I don’t know but what I will, father. But it might look forward.”
“Not if you explained matters. Tell him how you met that young fellow,
and how you were on the point of applying to that Philadelphia house for
an opening when his books and the letter came.”
“All right; I’ll do it, and at once.”
WITHOUT delay Frank sat down and wrote a long letter to Philip Vincent,
telling that gentleman of all that had occurred, and thanking him for
the beautiful books he had forwarded. He added that he wished very much
to try his luck at selling books, and asked if Mr. Vincent could make an
opening for him. This communication he mailed before going to bed.
The next day Frank was busy helping his mother and Ruth around the
house. The servant had been allowed to leave, for Mrs. Hardy did not
wish to pay her wages any longer. As there was no school, Ruth could now
help her mother a great deal, and did so willingly, and Georgie
promised, if Frank went away, to keep the garden in order.
Nothing more had been heard of Jabez Garrison, and Mr. Hardy received
word that he would ere long be called upon to make good the amount for
which he had stood security.
“It’s hard to part with so much money,” said he to his wife. “But there
seems no help for it.”
The crushed foot was mending slowly, but it was evident that it would be
many days before the sufferer would be able to walk upon it once more.
“You will have to give it time,” said the physician. “If you do not you
may be a cripple for life.” And a specialist who was called in gave the
Two days after mailing his letter, Frank received a reply from Philip
Vincent. It was short and to the point. In it the book publisher said:
“I am perfectly willing to give you all the chance possible if you
wish to make the trial. But let me remind you that you can only win
out by doing your very best and sticking at it. It is bound to be
more or less discouraging at the start. If you wish to take hold,
come to New York soon, for I leave for Boston before long.”
“I like that letter,” was Mr. Hardy’s comment. “There is no nonsense
about it. Some publishers would make an agent believe that all he had to
do was to go out and coin money.”
“Can I go to New York to-morrow, father?” asked Frank, anxiously.
“If you wish.”
“Yes, I want to get at work just as soon as I can.”
“Very well. I will give you the necessary money.”
“It won’t be necessary, father,” answered Frank, with just a little
pride. He had a few dollars of his own, which he had been a good while
“You will need money, Frank.”
“I have fourteen dollars.”
“You have? Where did you get so much?”
“I’ve been saving all I could for two or three years.”
“It is very creditable to you, Frank. I am proud of you. If you need
more let me know. You may have to leave a deposit for the books you take
“That is true, although I fancy Mr. Vincent will trust me.”
Frank’s preparations for leaving home were very simple. He did what he
could around the house, and the next day he dressed himself in his best,
and put his money in his pocket. There was a train for New York at eight
o’clock, and he was at the station at least fifteen minutes before that
time. He bought his ticket, and was the first to board the train when it
The ride was something of a novelty, for our hero had not been to the
metropolis before. But he had studied a map of New York diligently, and
he had little difficulty in finding Mr. Vincent’s place of business,
which was located on Nassau Street.
“What can I do for you?” asked one of the clerks as he came forward.
“I would like to see Mr. Vincent,” replied Frank.
“He is busy just now.”
“Then I will wait.”
“Can’t I attend to the business?”
“I think not. I wrote to him, and he sent word for me to come and see
“What name, please?”
The clerk walked to an office in the rear and presently came back.
“Mr. Vincent will see you now,” he said, and showed Frank the way.
“Well, my young friend, I am glad to see you again,” said Philip
Vincent, as he arose from in front of a large roller-top desk and shook
hands. “Take a seat, and I’ll be at liberty in a few minutes.” And then
he turned to his desk again and began to sign some letters.
During the wait Frank glanced around the office curiously. It was
handsomely furnished, with drawings and engravings on the walls. In one
corner, at a typewriter, a private secretary was at work.
“Now, then, I’m at liberty,” said Mr. Vincent, after five minutes had
passed. “How have you been, and how is your father?”
“I’ve been well,” answered Frank, “and my father is doing as well as can
be expected, so far as his foot is concerned. But he has had great
misfortunes otherwise,” and our hero mentioned the Jabez Garrison loss
and the fire.
“That certainly is hard luck,” said Philip Vincent, sympathetically. “He
must be greatly worried.”
“And that is why you want to try your luck at selling books?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve tried to get something else to do—I mean a regular
situation—but I can’t find anything that will pay.”
“I see. Yes, regular positions on a stipulated salary are scarce.”
“I think I can sell books—anyway, I would like to try. I suppose you
don’t object to employing boys.”
“Oh, no. A book sold by a boy will yield us as much profit as one sold
by a man. But it requires talking, and I am afraid a boy could hardly
set forth the merits of the works we offer to induce subscriptions.”
“I can talk pretty well,” said Frank, smiling.
“Yes; but can you talk to the point?” asked Mr. Vincent, shrewdly.
“After I have had a chance to examine the books and understand their
“Yes; it is absolutely necessary to become acquainted with the works one
wants to sell. I have a clerk who knows our books thoroughly. If you
take hold, I’ll have him give you a regular lesson, and also give you a
pamphlet I issue, called: _Aids to Successful Book Selling_.”
“I suppose you issue a great number of books for agents?”
“I have issued a great many during the past fourteen years. But at
present I have only four books which I would advise you to try to
handle. The first question is, do you want to work in the big cities or
in small towns and country places?”
“What is the difference?”
“In the big cities you can take orders for very fine books at high
prices. In country towns and villages you can sell good-looking books
that are cheaper.”
“What would you advise me to do, Mr. Vincent?”
“I think you’ll make more of a success of it selling in small places
first. After you have some experience you can try your luck in one of
the big cities.”
This advice seemed sensible, and our hero determined to follow it.
“If I try my luck in smaller places what would you advise me to try to
“I have three works which usually appeal strongly to people in small
places and in farming communities. One is a Guide to Health, a sort of
family doctor book; another is a book on the diseases of all kinds of
cattle and poultry, and the third is a set of thirty world-famous
novels. The first two books sell at three dollars each, and are well
worth it, for they are finely illustrated and contain much valuable
information. The set of famous novels, which represent the best book of
each of thirty famous novelists, sells for twenty dollars, four dollars
when books are delivered, and two dollars per month until the entire
amount is paid.”
“And what commission do you allow agents?”
“On the health book and the cattle book, twenty-five per cent., and on
the famous novels, five dollars for each order which we accept and on
which we obtain at least ten dollars.”
“Then you make an agent wait for his commission on the novels?”
“He has to wait for part of it. He can have two dollars of the
commission as soon as we deliver the books and get our first payment.”
“Does an agent deliver the single books himself and collect?”
“Yes; we collect only on sets.”
“Do you think the center of New Jersey and eastern part of Pennsylvania
good ground to work?”
“Very good, and you might try the interior of New York as well—if you
stick at it long enough.”
“How many books would you advise my taking along?”
“Take one each of the health and cattle books, and one of the famous
novels, with a list of the rest. When you take orders, get the folks to
sign a regular order blank, stipulating when the books are to be
delivered and paid for. Set the delivery so you can deliver books in a
bunch. We can send them to you by express whenever and wherever you
“We have some neat carrying cases for our agents, and I will lend you
one of them, and also furnish you with the necessary pamphlets,
describing the books, and also order blanks.”
“I will pay you for what books I take out, Mr. Vincent.”
“I don’t want you to do that. You can consider the books as samples and
return them to me if you give up the work later. Usually I make an agent
leave a deposit for the books and the case, but I feel I can trust you.”
“Thank you very much. I’ll take good care of the books and the case
“Usually agents are also required to pay for books they order while on
the road. I shall instruct my clerk to give you credit up to fifty
dollars’ worth of goods, so you need not pay for books until after you
deliver them and get your money. Of course, if you buy books and then
cannot make folks take them you can return them to me at full value.”
“You are very kind, sir. I’ll do my best to sell books, Mr. Vincent, not
only for my own sake, but also for yours.”
“I sincerely trust you succeed. But it is hard work, my young friend;
remember that. When I first went to work I received more hard knocks
“Were you an agent?” questioned Frank, in amazement.
“Yes. I started twenty-six years ago, selling dictionaries and atlases,
and wall maps. My whole capital was exactly seven dollars and a half.”
“You must have been what they call a hustler.”
“I was.” Philip Vincent smiled. “I worked about sixteen hours out of
twenty-four, and I never lost a chance to sell a book or a map if I
could help it. If I stopped at a hotel I did my best to sell the
proprietor a map for his office, and if I was in a small town I would
try to stop overnight at the home of a teacher or minister and sell him
a dictionary or atlas.”
“And did you work from that to this great business?”
“I did. I earned almost every dollar myself. I was alone in the world,
outside of an old aunt, who, when she died, left me exactly a hundred
and ten dollars, and some old furniture that I sold for fifteen
“You ought to be proud of your success.”
“I am proud, in a way. But you can do as well if you will only hustle. I
can see that you are naturally bright, and have a winning way with you.
A winning way counts for a great deal when selling books.”
FRANK remained with Mr. Philip Vincent the best part of half an hour,
and then excused himself, for he realized that the book publisher’s time
was valuable. After the interview he was introduced to a clerk, who gave
him his samples with the case, and also the pamphlet on selling, order
blanks, and circulars advertising the books. The clerk also went over
the volumes with our hero, pointing out the good points and the best
“Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get an order the first day you are
out,” said the clerk, on parting. “One of our best agents was out two
days before he received an order.”
“I’ll give it a week’s trial and stick to it like a bulldog to a man’s
leg,” answered Frank, and this raised a laugh, in which he joined.
Now he was in New York, Frank could not resist the temptation to look
around a little. Saying he would call for his sample case later, he left
Mr. Vincent’s store and strolled up Nassau Street until he reached City
Hall Park, and crossing the Park back of the post office, came out on
“New York is certainly a busy place,” was his mental comment, as he
gazed at the crowds of people, and the broad highway filled with trucks
and surface cars. “It’s a regular bee-hive for business.”
Having ample time to spare, he determined to ride uptown as far as
Forty-second Street and take a look at the shops and the Grand Central
He was soon on the car, and took a seat near the front door. Scarcely
had he got settled when the door opened and a tall, slab-sided
individual, on whose calculating features “Yankee” was plainly written,
stepped into the car.
“Extry fine day this is,” he remarked to Frank.
“It certainly is,” was our hero’s polite reply.
“Been a fine summer right along.”
“That is true.”
At that moment the conductor came up and Frank handed him a nickel,
which was promptly rung up on the register.
“Fare, please?” said the conductor to the down-east countryman.
“How much’ll it be?” asked the individual addressed, as he pulled out
“Five cents! Why, that’s what you charge fer going the hull trip, don’t
“And you carry a feller five miles fer five cents?”
“We do,” and now the conductor, a bright young man, began to smile.
“That’s just a cent a mile. Well, now, I ain’t going but a mile—little
short if anything. Thet’ll be just a cent. Here’s the copper.”
So speaking, the countryman drew out a dingy copper cent which had
evidently been stored away for some years. He tried to pass it over, but
the conductor shook his head, while several began to laugh.
“What’s the matter, mister?” asked the individual from down east.
“Can’t take that, Mr. Smith. Our charge is five cents without regard to
“Gee shoo! Say, my name ain’t Smith. It’s Perkins—Joel Perkins.”
“All right, Mr. Perkins. We charge five cents no matter how far you go.”
“And do you count that fair?” demanded Joel Perkins. “I’d like to argy
the p’int a little with you. Just supposin’ you was a trader an’ kept
flour to sell, and I and another man came to buy flour. Now, if I took
one barrel and tudder man took five would you think it fair to charge me
jest as much as the other man; come now, answer me fair and square?”
“I can’t stop to argue,” answered the conductor, who was in a hurry to
collect other fares. “Just you pay your five cents, or I’ll call the
“Gee shoo! I don’t want no police, nohow!” cried Joel Perkins, in alarm.
“Then pay up, and do it right away.”
“Here’s your money,” groaned the countryman, and passed over five cents.
“But it’s a swindle just the same,” he added defiantly.
Frank had been much amused, and it was all he could do to keep from
laughing outright. “I’m glad I’m not so jolly green as all that,” he
“Bound to get your money away from you somehow,” remarked the countryman
to him, after a pause.
“I know how you can get square,” answered our hero.
“Ride your five miles, and more.”
“By gosh! Thet’s an idee.”
“You can ride more than five miles if you wish.”
“Yes, but if I go too far, I’ll have to pay another five cents to git
back, won’t I?”
“Then I ain’t goin’ to do it,” answered Joel Perkins. “Where be you
a-going?” he asked, after another pause.
“I’m going up to the Grand Central Depot.”
“Thet’s where I cum in yesterday. I’m from Stoneville, Vermont. Ever
been up that way?”
“’Tain’t much of a place. Squire Rasperwick owns almost the hull of it.
His daughter is engaged to marry my nephew, Joe Swallowtail.”
“Is that so?”
“I come down to the city to buy my nephew something nice fer the
wedding. But they ask a pile fer nice things down here. I priced a rug
an’ they wanted twenty-eight dollars fer it. ‘Say, mister,’ sez I, ‘I
don’t want the hull dozen, I only want one.’ And then he told me to git
out o’ the shop.”
“Perhaps you’ll find a cheaper rug somewhere else?”
“Sumbuddy told me to go to the Bowery, but I ain’t going. I know a
feller that went there onct, an’ he got drugged an’ robbed o’ nine
dollars and thirty-four cents. They ain’t going to rob me, not much they
“I hope not.”
“Do you belong in New York?”
“No; I come from New Jersey.”
“Gosh! Ain’t you afraid to travel around here alone?”
“Maybe you work here?”
“Where do you work?”
“I am going to start out to-morrow as a book agent.”
“Gee shoo! A book agent. I thought most o’ them fellers was swindlers.”
“Do I look like a swindler?”
“Can’t say as you do, but a feller has to be careful. Wot books do you
As well as he was able, Frank described the various volumes to Joel
Perkins. The countryman grew very much interested.
“I’d like to see thet family doctor book, an’ the cattle book,” he
remarked. “Perhaps they would make good wedding presents.”
“You certainly ought to have those books on the farm,” returned Frank,
quickly, and then, seized with a sudden idea, he went on: “Why not come
back with me and let me show you the books? It won’t cost you a cent.”
“But we’ve got to ride back, ain’t we?”
“Yes, but I’ll pay your fare. I know you’ll think the books a bargain
when you see them. Every family ought to have a good doctor’s book, and
every farmer ought to have a good cattle book.”
“Has thet doctor’s book got in it about rheumatism and liver trouble?”
“To be sure it has.”
“And does the cattle book tell about sheep and sech?”
“Yes, sir; and both books have hundreds of pictures, too.”
“Then I’ll look at ’em, an’ if they are good fer anything, I’ll buy
’em,” concluded Joel Perkins.
Frank at once stopped the car and he and the countryman alighted. Then a
car going in the other direction was hailed, and both got on board, and
Frank paid the fare as he had agreed.
“You must be rich?” remarked the countryman.
“No, Mr. Perkins; if I was I wouldn’t be selling books for a living.”
“I suppose thet’s so. You look like a smart, clever boy.”
“I like to see a feller strikin’ out fer himself. It shows he’s got
backbone in him. Now, I had to strike out fer myself when I was twelve
“Is it possible?”
“Worked on old Jed Scudder’s farm fer a dollar a month an’ found—and Jed
didn’t find me none too good nuther. Sometimes I didn’t git half enough
to eat. But I watched my chances an’ saved every cent, an’ now I got a
farm o’ my own.”
“I am sure you deserve it.”
“I do. I work hard yet—gitting up at five every morning, winter an’
summer, and milkin’ twelve to sixteen keows.”
So the talk ran on until the post office was reached, when both left the
“Now, if you will wait here a minute, I’ll get my case of books,” said
Frank. “I left them in a store a short distance away.”
“Wot place is this?”
“This is the New York post office.”
“Thought it might be, but I wasn’t sure. It’s about the biggest post
office I ever see. Wonder if there’s a letter fer me?”
“You can easily find out, Mr. Perkins. Wait till I find the proper
window for you.”
“Can’t a feller go to any winder?”
“To hum, there ain’t but one winder. The post office is in Si Hopper’s
grocery store,” and Joel Perkins chuckled.
Frank found the proper window of the General Delivery, and leaving the
countryman to ask for letters, he ran off down Nassau Street to get his
case of sample goods.
When he got back he found Joel Perkins reading a letter he had received
from one of his daughters. He was greatly pleased over the
communication, and doubly pleased to think it had reached him through
such a big establishment as the New York post office.
“It beats all how they kin keep track o’ a feller,” he remarked. “I
didn’t no more than ask fer a letter than the fellow inside handed it
over. He seemed to be a-waiting fer me to call.”
Having finished his letter, Joel Perkins looked at the two books which
Frank had brought forth for his inspection. Frank showed him the most
important illustrations, and pointed out the chapters on rheumatism in
one volume, and the chapters on sheep and their diseases in the other.
“Wot about liver complaints?” questioned the countryman. “I allow as how
there’s some o’ thet in our family.”
“Here is a whole chapter on liver troubles, with eight pictures of the
liver,” answered our hero.
“Putty good books, ain’t they?”
“Yes, sir. If you buy them you’ll never regret it.”
“And how much did you say they were?”
“Six dollars for the two. They ought to bring five dollars each, but the
publishers want to make them popular, so they put the price at three
dollars per volume.”
“All right, I’ll take ’em.”
“Thank you, Mr. Perkins. If you’ll come with me I’ll get you two copies
that have never been handled.”
“Yes, I want brand-new ones—in case I give ’em to my nephew. But maybe
I’ll keep ’em,” concluded the countryman.
WHEN Frank entered Mr. Vincent’s store and said he wanted a new copy of
each of the three-dollar books, the clerk who filled the order was very
“Didn’t you get your case?” he asked.
“Yes. The two books are sold, and I want to deliver them.”
“Good for you. You haven’t wasted any time, I see.”
Joel Perkins looked the two books over and then Frank had them wrapped
up. With something like a sigh the countryman paid over the six dollars.
“It’s a mountain o’ money fer jest two books,” he said. “But I like you,
an’ I guess it’s all right.”
Frank saw him to the corner of the street, and directed him to the
Brooklyn Bridge, and so they parted. Then the young book agent hurried
back to Philip Vincent’s store.
“Let me congratulate you on your first sale,” said Mr. Vincent, who had
heard of the occurrence through the clerk. “I see you have lost no time.
I think you’ll make a success of it.”
“I’m sure I will,” said Frank. “And, Mr. Vincent, I want to take along
four copies of the health book and four copies of the cattle book. They
won’t weigh much and I may be able to sell them on the spot, as they
say, where folks won’t wait several days or a week for delivery.”
“That is a good plan. Some folks get out of the notion of buying books
if you keep them waiting too long for the volumes.”
“I’ll pay you for the books I’ve sold and also for those I wish to take
along,” added Frank.
“You can pay for what you’ve sold, Frank; the balance I’ll trust you
for,” said the book publisher, and so it was settled.
Having made his first sale, the young book agent was anxious to
continue, and so he concluded to take the first train he could get for
Bardon, a village on the railroad, three miles from Claster. With his
case in one hand and his extra books in the other, he hurried to the
ferry, and was soon on the train.
“I certainly can’t complain of the start I’ve made,” he told himself.
“My commission on the two books is a dollar and a half. If I sell four
books a day I’ll be making three dollars, and three dollars a day is
eighteen dollars a week. That is more than many a man earns. But perhaps
I won’t be able to sell so many books. Yet I’m going to try my best.”
It was a ride of nearly two hours to Bardon, and the young book agent
spent the time in studying the books he wanted to sell, and also in
reading over the hints to agents and the other pamphlets furnished him.
He was naturally quick to grasp anything new, and by the time he had
finished he felt himself able to talk intelligently about all of his
Having sat in one position for over an hour he felt somewhat cramped,
and so moved from one car to the next, just for the exercise.
He was passing through the second car when he came face to face with a
gentleman who had once lived in Claster, but who had moved to Newark.
“How do you do, Frank?” said the gentleman, whose name was Robert
Begoin. He was a lawyer and had once done a little legal business for
“How are you, Mr. Begoin?” answered our hero, and paused. Then the
lawyer held out his hand and they shook hands.
“Sit down. Going home, I suppose?”
“I am going to Bardon first.”
“Is that so? So am I. How are your folks these days, Frank?”
“Father is getting along as well as can be expected, sir.”
“Why, has he been sick?”
“No, sir, but he met with an accident,” and our hero related some of the
“That is too bad. Well, your father can make the railroad foot the
“So they say.”
“To be sure he can. Has he had legal advice yet?”
“I think not.”
“Then tell him, for me, that he had better do nothing with the company
until he gets advice from a lawyer.”
“I’ll tell him. But why is that best, if I may ask?”
“If he is not careful they will pay him some small amount, and then get
him to sign papers releasing them from further obligations. I know a
woman whose husband was killed on the railroad. She accepted five
hundred dollars, and released the railroad. If she had brought suit she
might have got ten or fifteen thousand dollars.”
“I see. Will you be in Claster one of these days?”
“I am going there day after to-morrow.”
“Then I wish you’d call on father. I know he’d like to see you, and
perhaps he will want to retain you as his lawyer.”
“Certainly I’ll call on him. But I don’t want to force my services on
him,” answered Robert Begoin.
“I know that, sir. I’ll tell him I met you and that I asked you to
“What are you doing for a living? I see you have a case of goods with
“I am selling books.”
“Indeed? What sort of books?”
“I’ll show you,” answered Frank, and lost no time in bringing out the
various volumes. The lawyer was not particularly interested in the
health book or the cattle book, but took pleasure in looking over the
set of novels by famous authors.
“I have always thought I’d like something like this,” he said. “I do not
care to have all the works of each author, even if that person happens
to be famous. I want the cream of their writings.”
“Well, you get the cream, and nothing but the cream in this set,” said
Frank. “It is certainly a set of books that ought to be in every
library. The print is large, the paper first-class, and you can see that
the binding is very handsome and durable. The illustrations are by the
“And what is such a set worth?”
“Twenty dollars, in this binding, and if you want the half-calf
binding—the very best—the price is thirty dollars.”
“That is certainly a fair value for the money. Can you deliver the books
to my residence in Newark?”
“Then I will take a set in half-calf. When will I get them?”
“I’ll send in the order to-night. The books ought to come by the day
“All right. And how do you want your pay?”
“You can pay when you get the books, Mr. Begoin,” answered Frank. He
knew the lawyer would not wish to pay in installments, and so said
nothing on that point.
“Very well, I’ll make note of it,” said Robert Begoin, and put it down
in a little vest-pocket blank book he carried.
“I am very much obliged to you for the order,” went on Frank, as he
packed up his books once more, and took the lawyer’s home address.
“Those are the kind of orders I like to get.”
“I hope selling books pays you, Frank.”
“I don’t know how much it will pay me yet. This is my first day at it.”
“Is that so! Why, you talked as if you were an old hand at the
“Did I? I am glad to hear it. I was afraid folks would take me for a
“I didn’t take you for one, and I think I can read people pretty well.
You evidently like the work.”
“I do, Mr. Begoin.”
“That is half the battle—to be in love with one’s occupation. A man
can’t be a lawyer unless he likes it, and is cut out for it—and the same
with a book agent. Is this your first sale?”
“No, sir,” and Frank related how he had fallen in with Joel Perkins and
sold him the two volumes. The lawyer from Newark laughed heartily.
“You certainly took time by the forelock,” he said.
“I made a dollar and a half on that sale.”
“Good! And I presume you will make a little more on the books you have
“The publisher allows me five dollars on each order in ordinary binding
and seven dollars for an order in half-calf.”
“Then your sales to-day will bring you in eight dollars and a half.
You’ll soon get rich at that rate.”
“I don’t expect such success every day.”
“No, it would be looking for too much. You may have days when you won’t
sell a volume.”
“Perhaps—but I am going to try my best to sell at least one book every
The train was now approaching Bardon, and in a few minutes the two
alighted and Frank bid the lawyer good-by.
“I’ll tell father you’ll call,” said he.
“Very well,” answered Robert Begoin.
Bardon contained only a handful of stores and not over twoscore of
houses. Anxious to sell all the books he could, Frank visited the first
store next to the depot. It was a grocery, and the proprietor was busy
over his books.
“What can I do for you, young man?” he asked, abruptly.
“If you have a few minutes to spare, I’d like to show you some books,”
“Don’t want any books,” was the curt reply.
“I have a very fine family doctor book that——”
“Don’t want any books.”
“It won’t cost anything to look at them.”
“Yes, it will—it will cost my time. I don’t want to be bothered,”
grumbled the storekeeper, and seeing he could do nothing with the man
our hero left the place.
“Failure Number One,” he murmured, grimly. “Well, I am not going to let
it discourage me.”
The next place was a butcher shop, and Frank found the proprietor
chopping meat on his block.
“Vot vill you haf?” demanded the butcher, who was a round-faced, jolly
“I’d like to show you some books.”
“Ach, yah, I vos vaiting for you. Vait till I got dis meat chobbed. Den
I buy me a pook,” said the butcher.
Frank waited for a moment, wondering if the butcher really meant to buy
a book, or if he was only fooling.
“I have a family doctor book and one on cattle and poultry, and their
diseases,” he went on, opening his case.
“Vot is dot?” The butcher stopped chopping meat and stared at him.
Frank repeated what he had said, and showed the books. The fat butcher
commenced to laugh.
“I ton’t want me dose pooks,” he said. “I ton’t read English; I read
Cherman. I dink me you got some plank pooks to sell. I vant a plank book
to write down orders in. See, like dis,” and he held up a counter book.
He was so good-natured that Frank had to laugh with him. “I see,” he
said and packed up his books again. “When I am selling blank books I’ll
come around and see you.” He walked to the door, and then came back.
“What do you pay for such a book as that?”
“Could you use half a dozen of them if I got them for you?”
“Yah, I dake a dozen, den I got pooks enough for a long dimes.”
“All right, I’ll get you a dozen next week,” and Frank put the order on
a blank sheet of paper he carried. At a wholesale stationer’s place in
New York he had seen such books in the window at a dollar and a quarter
a dozen. He knew he could send the money for them and have them shipped
to him by freight at a cost of not more than twenty or thirty cents.
From the butcher shop Frank went to the remaining stores, and then to
the first of the private dwellings. At the latter place he met a shrewd
middle-aged man, who looked his cattle and poultry book over with keen
“That’s a pretty good book,” he said. “How much?”
“It isn’t worth it. I’ll give you a dollar and a half.”
“No, sir, the price is three dollars, and I think you’ll find it worth
every cent of it.”
“I’ll give you two dollars.”
“Sorry, but I can’t do it.”
“Then make it two and a half.”
“I would if I could, but I am not allowed to cut the price.”
At this the man sighed.
“Then I suppose I’ll have to pay what you ask. Have you a nice, clean
copy with you?”
“All right, hand it over.”
“I can get it for you in about fifteen minutes.”
“Then do it.”
Leaving his case with the man, Frank ran back to the depot, where he had
left his package with the ticket seller. He had been cautioned not to
sell books right out of hand, for in many places to do that would
require a peddler’s license. Soon he came back with the volume.
“It didn’t take you long,” said the would-be purchaser.
“No, sir, I ran all the way.”
“Humph! So you won’t take less than three dollars?”
“I can’t. But I tell you what I’ll do. I see you have some chickens for
“Yes, all you want.”
“What will you charge for a nice chicken, cleaned and dressed? My father
is home sick and I’d like to take one to him.”
“I’ll let you have your pick for sixty cents.”
“Then I’ll take one,” answered Frank.