Charles N. Crewdson.

Tales of the Road online

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"At any rate, my clothing friend was having much difficulty. He was
making the best argument he could, telling the customer it mattered
not what firm he dealt with, _that_ firm was going to collect a
hundred cents on the dollar when his bill was due; and that any firm
he dealt with would be under obligations to him for the business he
had given to it instead of his being under obligations to the firm. He
was also arguing against personal friendship and saying he would very
soon find out whether the man he was dealing with was his friend or
not if he quit buying goods from him. He was getting down to the hard
pan argument that the merchant, under all circumstances, should do his
business where he thought he could do it to best advantage to himself.

"The merchant would not start to picking out a line himself, so my
friend laid on a table a line of goods and was, as a final struggle,
trying to persuade the merchant to buy that selection, a good thing to
do. It is often as easy to sell a merchant a whole line of goods as
one item. But the merchant said no.

"Just as I started out of the room, in came a bell boy with a
telegram. My clothing friend, as he read the message, looked as if he
were hitched to an electric wire. He stood shocked - with the telegram
in his hand - not saying a word. Then he turned to me, handed me the
message and, without speaking, went over, laid down on the bed, and
buried his face in a pillow. Poor fellow. I never felt so sorry for
anybody in my life! The message told that his mother was dead.

"I asked the stubborn customer to come into the next room, where I
showed him the message.

"'After all, a "touch of pity makes the whole world akin",' the
merchant said to me:

"'Just tell your friend, when he is in shape again to talk business,
that he may send me the line he picked out and that I really like it
first rate."

Sometimes the tragedies of the road show a brighter side. Once, an old
time Knight of the Grip, said to me, as we rode together:

"Do you know, a touching, yet a happy thing, happened this morning
down in Missoula?

"I was standing in my customer's store taking sizes on his stock. I
heard the notes of a concertina and soon, going to the front door, I
saw a young girl singing in the street. In the street a good looking
woman was pulling the bellows of the instrument. Beside her stood two
girls - one of ten, another of about fourteen. They took turns at
singing - sometimes in the same song.

"All three wore neat black clothes - not a spark of color about them
except the sparkling keys of the concertina. They were not common
looking, poorly clad, dirty street musicians. They were refined, even
beautiful. The little group looked strangely out of place. I said to
myself: 'How have these people come to this?'

"How those two girls could sing! Their voices were sweet and full. I
quit my business, and a little bunch of us - two more of the boys on
the road having joined me - stood on the sidewalk.

"The little girl sang this song," continued my companion, reading from
a little printed slip:

"Dark and drear the world has grown as I wan-der
all a-lone,
And I hear the breezes sob-bing thro' the pines.
I can scarce hold back my tears, when the southern
moon ap-pears,
For 'tis our humble cottage where it shines;
Once again we seem to sit, when the eve-ning lamps
are lit,
With our faces turned to-ward the golden west,
When I prayed that you and I ne'er would have to
say 'Good-bye,'
But that still to-gether we'd be laid to rest.

"As she sang, a lump kind of crawled up in my throat. None of us
spoke.

"She finished this verse and went into the crowd to sell printed
copies of their songs, leaving her older sister to take up the chorus.
And I'll tell you, it made me feel that my lot was not hard when I saw
one of those sweet, modest little girls passing around a cup, her
mother playing in the dusty street, and her sister singing, - to just
any one that would listen.

"The chorus was too much for me. I bought the songs. Here it is:

CHORUS.

"Dear old girl, the rob-in sings a-bove you,
Dear old girl, it speaks of how I love you,
The blind-ing tears are fall-ing,
As I think of my lost pearl,
And my broken heart is call-ing,
Calling you, dear old girl.

"Just as the older sister finished this chorus and started to roll
down the street a little brother, who until now had remained in his
baby carriage unnoticed, the younger girl came where we were. I had to
throw in a dollar. We all chipped in something. One of the boys put
his fingers deep into the cup and let drop a coin. Tears were in his
eyes. He went to the hotel without saying a word.

"The little girl went away, but soon she came back and said: 'One of
you gentlemen has made a mistake. You aimed, mama says, to give me a
nickel, but here is a five-dollar gold piece.'

"'It must be the gentleman who has gone into the hotel,' said I.

"Then I'll go find him,' said the little girl. 'Where is it?'

"Well, sir, what do you suppose happened? The little girl told the man
who'd dropped in the five, how her father, who had been well to do,
was killed in a mine accident in Colorado and that although he was
considerable to the good, creditors just wiped up all he had left his
family. The mother - the family was Italian - had taught her children
music and they boldly struck out to make their living in the streets.
It was the best they could do.

"The man who had put in the five was a jewelry salesman from New York.
While out on a trip he had lost his wife and three children in the
Slocum disaster. He just sent the whole family, - the mother, the two
sisters, and the baby - to New York and told them to go right into his
home and live there - that he would see them through.

"I was down at the depot when the family went aboard, and it was
beautiful to see the mother take that man's hand in both of hers and
the young girls hug him and kiss him like he was their father."







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Online LibraryCharles N. CrewdsonTales of the Road → online text (page 19 of 19)