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A Man of Samples Something about the men he met "On the Road"   By:

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"When do you start, Tom?"

"At midnight."

"Well, good by; sock it to 'em; send us in some fat orders."

"I'll do it, or die; good by."

And then I sat down to think it all over. Our traveling man was off on a wedding tour, and I had agreed to take his place for this one trip. As the hour drew near for me to start, my courage proportionately sank, until I now heartily wished that I had never consented to go. What if I failed? I had been stock clerk and house salesman for three years; I had been successful; my position was a good one, and one that would grow better; there was nothing to be made by success on the road, as I had no intention of continuing there, and failure might be the means of making my place in the house less secure. What an infernal fool I was! If there had been any way under heaven for me to get out of it I would have hailed the opening with delight. I would have blessed any accident that would have been the means of sending me to bed for a week or two, and I would have taken the small pox thankfully. But there was no release. Like an ass, as I was, I had agreed to take Mallon's trip, and I must go ahead if it made or unmade me.

I ate my supper with a heavy heart, bade my landlady and her daughters a solemn good by, then went to the theater to forget my sorrows. At midnight I was checking my sample trunk for Albany, and persuading the baggagemaster that 218 pounds were exactly 120. I succeeded; but it took three ten cent cigars to do it.

The reason I call the town Albany is because that is not its name, and I may as well say here that as I write about actual incidents I don't propose to "lay myself liable" by giving the name of any town or any dealer. If I call him Smith it will naturally follow that he was not Smith.

If Albany had been a hundred or more miles away I would have taken a berth in the sleeper, but we were due there at 2 o'clock, so I dozed and nodded and swore to myself during the two hours' ride. I wanted to get there, but I dreaded it, too. Stories I had heard traveling men tell about poor beds, mean men, dirty food, and unprincipled competitors all came back to me in a distorted fashion, and if I didn't have a nightmare I must have experienced a slight touch of delirium tremens.

"How much of a town is Albany?" I asked the conductor.

"No town at all; just a crossing."

"No hotel there?"

"Oh, yes; they call it a hotel."

This was exactly what I expected. Probably no one would be up and I could walk around the town for the next four hours. What an idiot I was! By thunder, I would break my leg or my arm the first thing I did and get out of this foolish


What, so soon! Those were the two shortest hours I had ever known.

No lights anywhere; no one about; nothing but

"Hotel, sir?"

Good; here was a ray of comfort. "Hotel? Well, I should say so. Where is your light?"

"Here it is." And a lantern came around a corner as the train dashed off on its way.

"Don't mind your trunk; that will be taken care of and I'll get it in the morning. Here, Dan, lead the way,"

We walked a square or two and went into a neat appearing office. Bed? Yes, I might as well get a few hours' sleep. And I was given a very comfortable room. I lay in bed trying to recall our customer's name, and preparing my speech of introduction when . Some one was rapping at the door. What's up? Breakfast! What, breakfast already? Why, I hadn't thought I was asleep at all.

As I looked over the register, after breakfast, dreading to start out, I asked the clerk;

"Been any gun men here lately?"

"None since last week. Layton was here from Pittsburg on the 22d."

"Did he sell anything?"

"I think he did sell Cutter a small bill"

"How many stores are there here?"

"Three that sell guns... Continue reading book >>

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