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wanted was exercise. If that thought had been an empty
glycerin-can, it would have saved a windfall of luck for

But exercise would tone him down, and exercise him
I should. I laughed to myself to think how I would



trounce him around the yard. I didn't laugh again that
afternoon. I got him unhitched, and then wondered how
I was to get him out of the stall without carrying him out.
I pushed, but he wouldn't budge. I stood looking at him
in the face, thinking of something to say, when he sud-
denly solved the difficulty by veering about and plunging
for the door, I followed, as a matter of course, because I
had a tight hold on the rope, and hit about every partition-
stud worth speaking of on that side of the barn. Mrs.
Perkins was at the window and saw us come out of the
door. She subsequently remarked that we came out skip-
ping like two innocent children. The skipping was en-
tirely unintentional on my part. I felt as if I stood on
the verge of eternity. My legs may have skipped, but my
mind was filled with awe.

I took the animal out to exercise him. He exercised
me before I got through with it. He went around a few
times in a circle; then he stopped suddenly, spread out
his forelegs, and looked at me. Then he leaned forward
a little, and hoisted both hind legs, and threw about two
coal-hods of mud over a line full of clothes Mrs. Perkins
had just hung out.

That excellent lady had taken a position at the window,
and, whenever the evolutions of the awful beast per-
mitted, I caught a glance of her features. She appeared
to be very much interested in the proceedings ; but the in-
stant that the mud flew, she disappeared from the win-
dow, and a moment later she appeared on the stoop with
a long poker in her hand, and fire enough in her eye to
heat it red-hot.

Just then Stiver's horse stood up on his hind legs and
tried to hug me with the others. This scared me. A horse
never shows his strength to such advantage as when he
is coming down on you like a frantic pile-driver. I in-



stantly dodged, and the cold sweat fairly boiled out of me.

It suddenly came over me that I had once figured in a
similar position years ago. My grandfather owned a little
white horse that would get up from a meal at Delmonico's
to kick the President of the United States. He sent me
to the lot one day, and unhappily suggested that I often
went after that horse and suffered all kinds pf defeat in
getting him out of the pasture, but I had never tried to
ride him. Heaven knows I never thought of it. I had
my usual trouble with him that day. He tried to jump
over me, and push me down in a mud-hole, and finally
got up on his hind legs and came waltzing after me with
facilities enough to convert me into hash, but I turned
and just made for that fence with all the agony a prospect
of instant death could crowd into me. If our candidate
for the Presidency had run one-half as well, there would
be seventy-five postmasters in Danbury to-day, instead of

I got him out finally, and then he was quiet enough,
and I took him up alongside the fence and got on him. He
stopped an instant, one brief instant, and then tore off
down the road at a frightful speed. I lay down on him
and clasped my hands tightly around his neck, and
thought of my home. When we got to the stable I was
confident he would stop, but he didn't. He drove straight
at the door. It was a low door, just high enough to per-
mit him to go in at lightning speed, but there was no room
for me. I saw if I struck that stable the struggle would
be a very brief one. I thought this all over in an instant,
and then, spreading put my arms and legs, emitted a
scream, and the next moment I was bounding about in
the filth of that stable-yard. All this passed through my
mind as Stiver's horse went up into the air. It fright-
ened Mrs. Perkins dreadfully.



"Why, you old fool!'* she said; "why don't you get
rid of him?"

"How can I ?" said I, in desperation.

"Why, there are a thousand ways," said she.

This is just like a woman. How differently a states-
man would have answered !

But I could think of only two ways to dispose of the
beast. I could either swallow him where he stood and
then sit down on him, or I could crawl inside of him and
kick him to death.

But I was saved either of these expedients by his com-
ing towards me so abruptly that I dropped the rope in
terror, and then he turned about, and, kicking me full
of mud, shot for the gate, ripping the clothes-line in two,
and went on down the street at a horrible gallop, with
two of Mrs, Perkins' garments, which he hastily snatched
from the line, floating over his neck in a very picturesque

So I was afterwards told. I was too full of mud my-
self to see the way into the house.

Stiver got his horse all right, and stays at home to care
for him. Mrs. Perkins has gone to her mother's to re-
cuperate, and I am healing as fast as possible.




I had not seen Perkins for six months or so and things
were dull. I was beginning to tire of sitting indolently
in my office with nothing to do but clip coupons from my
bonds. Money is good enough, in its way, but it is not
interesting unless it is doing something lively — doubling
itself or getting lost. What I wanted was excitement —
an adventure — and I knew that if I could find Perkins
I could have both. A scheme is a business adventure,
and Perkins was the greatest schemer in or out of Chi-

Just then Perkins walked into my office.

"Perkins," I said, as soon as he had arranged his feet
comfortably on my desk, "I'm tired. I'm restless. I
have been wishing for you for a month. I want to go into
a big scheme and make a lot of new, up-to-date cash.
I'm sick of this tame, old cash that I have. It isn't inter-
esting. No cash is interesting except the coming cash."

"I'm with you," said Perkins, "what is your scheme?"

"I have none," I said sadly, "that is just my trouble.
I have sat here for days trying to think of a good practical
scheme, but I can't. I don't believe there is an unworked
scheme in the whole wide, wide world."

Perkins waved his hand.

"My boy," he exclaimed, "there are millions ! You've
thousands of 'em right here in your office! You're fall-

*Copyright, 1904, by Leslie's Magazine.



ing over them, sitting on them, walking on them!
Schemes? Everything is a scheme. Everything has
money in it !"

I shrugged my shoulders.

"Yes," I said, "for you. But you are a genius."

"Genius, yes," Perkins said smiHng cheerfully, "else
why Perkins the Great? Why Perkins the originator?
Why the Great and Only Perkins of Portland ?"

"All right," I said, "what I want is for your genius to
get busy. I'll give you a week to work up a good scheme."

Perkins pushed back his hat and brought his feet to
the floor with a smack.

"Why the delay?" he queried, "time is money. Hand
me something from your desk."

I looked in my pigeonholes and pulled from one a
small ball of string. Perkins took it in his hand and
looked at it with great admiration.

"What is it?" he asked seriously.

"That," I said humoring him, for I knew something
great would be evolved from his wonderful brain, "is
a ball of red twine I bought at the ten-cent store. I
bought it last Saturday. It was sold to me by a freckled
young lady in a white shirtwaist. I paid — "

"Stop!" Perkins cried, "what is it?"

I looked at the ball of twine curiously. I tried to see
something remarkable in it. I couldn't. It remained a
simple ball of red twine and I told Perkins so.

"The difference," declared Perkins, "between medi-
ocrity and genius! Mediocrity always sees red twine;
genius sees a ball of Crimson Cord !"

He leaned back in his chair and looked at me trium-
phantly. He folded his arms as if he had settled the
matter. Plis attitude seemed to say that he had made a
fortune for us. Suddenly he reached forward, and



grasping my scissors, began snipping pff small lengths of
the twine.

"The Crimson Cord!" he ejaculated. "What does it
suggest ?"

I told him that it suggested a parcel from the drug-
gist's. I had often seen just such twine about a drug-
gist's parcel.

Perkins sniffed disdainfully.

"Druggists?" he exclaimed with disgust. "Mystery!
Blood! The Crimson Cord.' Daggers! Murder! Strang-
ling! Clues! 'The Crimson Cord' — "

He motioned wildly with his hands as if the possibili-
ties of the phrase were quite beyond his power of expres-

"It sounds like a book," I suggested.

"Great !" cried Perkins. "A novel ! The novel ! Think
of the words 'A Crimson Cord' in blood-red letters six
feet high on a white ground!" He pulled his hat over
his eyes and spread out his hands, and I think he shud-

"Think of *A Crimson Cord,' " he muttered, "in blood-
red letters on a ground of dead, sepulchral black, with a
crimson cord writhing through them like a serpent."

He sat up suddenly and threw one hand in the air.

"Think," he cried, "of the words in black on white
with a crimson cord drawn taut across the whole ad !"

He beamed upon me.

"The cover of the book," he said quite calmly, "will
be white — virgin, spotless white — with black lettering,
and the cord in crimson. With each copy we will give a
crimson silk cord for a book-mark. Each copy will be
done up in a white box and tied with crimson cord."

He closed his eyes and tilted his head upward.

"A thick book," he said, "with deckel edges and pic-



lures by Christy. No, pictures by Pyle. Deep, mysterious
pictures! Shadows and gloom! And wide, wide mar-
gins. And a gloomy foreword. One fifty per copy, at
all booksellers."

Perkins opened his eyes and set his hat straight with a
quick motion of his hand. He arose and pulled on his

"Where are you going ?" I asked.

"Contracts !" he said. "Contracts for advertising ! We
must boom *The Crimson Cord.' We must boom her

He went out and closed the door. Presently, when I
supposed him well on the way down town, he opened the
door and inserted his head.

"Gilt tops," he announced. "One million copies the
first impression !"

And then he was gone.


A week later Chicago and the greater part of the United
States was placarded with "The Crimson Cord." Per-
kins did his work thoroughly and well, and great was the
interest in the mysterious title. It was an old dodge, but
a good one. Nothing appeared on the advertisements but
the mere title. No word as to what "The Crimson Cord"
was. Perkins merely announced the words and left them
to rankle in the reader's mind, and as a natural conse-
quence each new advertisement served to excite new in-

When we made our contracts for magazine advertising
— and we took a full page in every worthy magazine —
the publishers were at a loss to classify the advertisement,
and it sometimes appeared among the breakfast foods,



and sometimes sandwiched in between the automobiles
and the hot water heaters. Only one publication placed
it among the books.

But it was all good advertising, and Perkins was a busy-
man. He racked his inventive brain for new methods
of placing the title before the public. In fact so busy was
he at his labor of introducing the title that he quite forgot
the book itself.

One day he came to the office with a small, rectangular
package. He unwrapped it in his customary enthusiastic
manner, and set on my desk a cigar box bound in the
style he had selected for the binding of "The Crimson
Cord." It was then I spoke of the advisability of having
something to the book besides the cover and a boom.

"Perkins," I said, "don't you think it is about time we
got hold of the novel — the reading, the words ?"

For a moment he seemed stunned. It was clear that he
had quite forgotten that book-buyers like to have a little
reading matter in their books. But he was only dismayed
for a moment.

"Tut!" he cried presently. "All in good time! The
novel is easy. Anything will do. I'm no literary man. I
don't read a book in a year. You get the novel."

"But I don't read a book in five years !" I exclaimed. "I
don't know anything about books. I don't know where to
get a novel."

"Advertise !" he exclaimed. "Advertise ! You can get
anything, from an apron to an ancestor, if you adver-
tise for it. Offer a prize — offer a thousand dollars for the
best novel. There must be thousands of novels not in use."

Perkins was right. I advertised as he suggested and |

learned that there were thousands of novels not in use. '

They came to us by basketfuls and cartloads. We had
novels of all kinds — historical and hysterical, humorous



and numerous, but particularly numerous. You would
be surprised to learn how many ready-made novels can
be had on short notice. It beats quick lunch. And most
of them are equally indigestible. I read one or two but
I was no judge of novels. Perkins suggested that we
draw lots to see which we should use.

It really made little difference what the story was about.
"The Crimson Cord" fits almost any kind of a book. It is
a nice, non-committal sort of title, and might mean the
guilt that bound two sinners, or the tie of affection that
binds lovers, or a blood relationship, or it might be a
mystification title with nothing in the book about it.

But the choice settled itself. One morning a manu-
script arrived that was tied with a piece of red twine, and
we chose that one for good luck because of the twine.
Perkins said that was a sufificient excuse for the title, too.
We would publish the book anonymously, and let it be
known that the only clue to the writer was the crimson
cord with which the manuscript was tied! when we re-
ceived it. It would be a first-class advertisement.

Perkins, however, was not much interested in the story,
and he left me to settle the details. I wrote to the author
asking him to call, and he turned out to be a young

Our interview was rather shy. I was a little doubtful
about the proper way to talk to a real author, being purely
a Chicagoan myself, and I had an idea that while my
usual vocabulary was good enough for business purposes
it might be too easy-going to impress a literary person
properly, and in trying to talk up to her standard I had
to be very careful in my choice of words. No publisher
Hkes to have his authors think he is weak in the grammar

Miss Rosa Belle Vincent, however, was quite as flus-



tered as I was. She seemed ill-at-ease and anxious to get
away, which I supposed was because she had not often
conversed with pubhshers who paid a thousand dollars
cash in advance for a manuscript.

She was not at all what I had thought an author would
look like. She didn't even wear glasses. If I had met
her on the street I should have said : "There goes a pretty
flip stenographer." She was that kind — ^big picture hat
and high pompadour.

I was afraid she would try to run the talk into literary
lines and Ibsen and Gorky, where I would have been
swamped in a minute, but she didn't, and, although I had
wondered how to break the subject of money when con-
versing with one who must be thinking of nobler things,
I found she was less shy when on that subject than when
talking about her book.

"Well now," I said, as soon as I had got her seated,
"we have decided to buy this novel of yours. Can you
recommend it as a thoroughly respectable and intellectual
production ?"

She said she could.

"Haven't you read it ?" she asked in some surprise.

"No," I stammered. "At least, not yet. I'm going to
as soon as I can find the requisite leisure. You see, we
are very busy just now — very busy. But if you can vouch
for the story being a first-class article — something, say,
like The Vicar of Wakefield' or 'David Harum' — we'll
take it."

"Now you're talking," she said. "And do I get the
check now ?"

"Wait," I said; "not so fast. I have forgotten one
thing," and I saw her face fall. "We want the privilege
of publishing the novel under a title ol our own, and
anonymously. If that Is not satisfactory the deal is off,"



She brightened in a moment.

"It's a go, if that's all," she said. "Call it whatever you
please, and the more anonymous it is the better it will suit
yours truly."

So we settled the matter then and there, and when I
gave her our check for a thousand she said I was all right.


Half an hour after Miss Vincent had left the office
Perkins came in with his arms full of bundles, which he
opened, spreading their contents on my desk.

He had a pair of suspenders with nickel-silver mount-
ings, a tie, a lady's belt, a pair of low shoes, a shirt, a box
of cigars, a package of cookies, and a half-dozen other
things of divers and miscellaneous character. I poked
them over and examined them, while he leaned against
the desk with his legs crossed. He was beaming upon me.

"Well," I said, "what is it— a bargain sale?"

Perkins leaned over and tapped the pile with his long

"Aftermath !" he crowed, "aftermath !"

"The dickens it is," I exclaimed, "and what has after-
math got to do with this truck? It looks like the after-
math of a notion store."

He tipped his "Air-the-Hair" hat over one ear and put
his thumbs in the armholes of his "ready-tailored" vest.

"Genius!" he announced. "Brains! Foresight! Else
why Perkins the Great ? Why not Perkins the Nobody ?"

He raised the suspenders tenderly from the pile and
fondled them in his hands.

"See this?" he asked, running his finger along the red
corded edge of the elastic. He took up the tie and ran his
nail along the red stripe that formed the selvedge on the



back, and said : "See this ?" He pointed to the red laces
of the low shoes and asked, "See this?" And so through
the whole collection.

"What is it ?" he asked. "It's genius ! It's foresight."

He waved his hand over the pile.

"The aftermath !" he exclaimed.

"These suspenders are the Crimson Cord suspenders.
These shoes are the Crimson Cord shoes. This tie is the
Crimson Cord tie. These crackers are the Crimson Cord
brand Perkins & Co, get out a great book, 'The Crim-
son Cord!' Sell five million copies. Dramatized, it runs
three hundred nights. Everybody talking Crimson Cord.
Country goes Crimson Cord crazy. Result — up jump
Crimson Cord this and Crimson Cord that. Who gets
the benefit ? Perkins & Co. ? No ! We pay the advertis-
ing bills and the other man sells his Crimson Cord cigars.
That is usual."

"Yes," I said, "I'm smoking a David Harum cigar this
minute, and I am wearing a Carvel collar."

"How prevent it?" asked Perkins. "One way only, —
discovered by Perkins. Copyright the words 'Crimson
Cord' as trade-mark for every possible thing. Sell the
trade-mark on royalty; ten per cent, of all receipts for
'Crimson Cord' brands comes to Perkins & Co. Get a
cinch on the aftermath !"

"Perkins !" I cried, "I admire you. You are 2. genius.
And have you contracts with all these — notions ?"

"Yes," said Perkins, "that's Perkins' method. Who
originated the Crimson Cord ? Perkins did. Who is en-
titled to the profits on the Crimson Cord? Perkins is.
Perkins is wide awake all the time. Perkins gets a profit
pn the aftermath and the math and the before the math."

And so he did. He made his new contracts with the
magazines on the exchange plan — we gave a page of ad-



vertising in the "Crimson Cord" for a page of advertis-
ing in the magazine. We guaranteed five million circu-
lation. We arranged with all the manufacturers of the
Crimson Cord brands of goods to give coupons, one hun-
dred of which entitled the holder to a copy of "The Crim-
son Cord." With a pair of Crimson Cord suspenders
you get five coupons ; with each Crimson Cord cigar, one
coupon ; and so on.


On the first of October we announced in our adver-
tisement that "The Crimson Cord" was a book ; the great-
est novel of the century; a thrilling, exciting tale of love.
Miss Vincent had told me it was a love story. Just to
make everything sure, however, I sent the manuscript to
Professor Wiggins, who is the most erudite man I ever
met. He knows eighteen languages, and reads Egyptian
as easily as I read English. In fact his specialty is old
Egyptian ruins and so on. He has written several books
on them.

Professor said the novel seemed to him very light and
trashy, but grammatically O. K. He said he never read
novels, not having time, but he thought that "The Crim-
son Cord" was just about the sort of thing a silly public
that refused to buy his "Some Light on the Dynastic Pro-
clivities of the Hyksos" would scramble for. On the
whole I considered the report satisfactory.

We found we would be unable to have Pyle illustrate
the book, he being too busy, so we turned it over to a
young man at the Art Institute.

That was the fifteenth of October, and we had prom-
ised the book to the public for the first of November, but
we had it already in type and the young man, his name



was Gilkowsky, promised to work night and day on the

The next morning, almost as soon as I reached the
office, Gilkowsky came in. He seemed a little hesitant, but
I welcomed him warmly, and he spoke up.

*T have a girl to go with," he said, and I wondered
what I had to do with Mr. Gilkowsky's girl, but he con-
tinued :

"She's a nice girl and a good looker, but she's got bad
taste in some things. She's too loud in hats, and too
trashy in literature. I don't like to say this about her,
but it's true and I'm trying to educate her in good hats
and good literature. So I thought it would be a good
thing to take around this 'Crimson Cord' and let her
read it to me."

I nodded.

"Did she like it?" I asked.

Mr, Gilkowsky looked at me closely.

"She did," he said, but not so enthusiastically as I had

"It's her favorite book. Now, I don't know what your
scheme is, and I suppose you know what you are doing
better than I do ; but I thought perhaps I had better come
around before I got to work on the illustrations and see
if perhaps you hadn't given me the wrong manuscript."

"No, that was the right manuscript," I said. "Was
there anything wrong about it ?"

Mr. Gilkowsky laughed nervously.

"Oh, no!" he said. "But did you read it?"

I told him I had not because I had been so rushed with
details connected with advertising the book.

"Well," he said, "I'll tell you. This girl of mine reads
pretty trashy stuff, and she knows about all the cheap
novels there are. She dotes on 'The Duchess,' and puts



her last dime into Braddon. She knows them all by heart.

Have you ever read 'Lady Audley's Secret' ?"
"I see," I said. "One is a sequel to the other."
"No," said Mr. Gilkowsky. "One is the pther. Some

one has flim-flammed you and sold you a typewritten

copy of 'Lady Audley's Secret' as a new novel."

When I told Perkins he merely remarked that he
thought every publishing house ought to have some one in
it who knew something about books, apart from the ad-
vertising end, although that was, of course, the most im-
portant. He said we might go ahead and publish "Lady
Audley's Secret" under the title of "The Crimson Cord,"
as such things had been done before, but the best thing
to do would be to charge Rosa Belle Vincent's thousand
dollars to Profit and Loss and hustle for another novel —
something reliable and not shop-worn.

Perkins had been studying the literature market a little
and he advised me to get something from Indiana this
time, so I telegraphed an advertisement to the Indianap-
olis papers and two days later we had ninety-eight his-
torical novels by Indiana authors from which to choose.
Several were of the right length, and we chose one and
sent it to Mr. Gilkowsky with a request that he read it to
his sweetheart. She had never read it before.

We sent a detective to Dillville, Indiana, where the
author lived, and the report we received was most satis-

The author was a sober, industrious young man, just
out of the high school, and bore a first-class reputation
for honesty. He had never been in Virginia, where the
scene of his story was laid, and they had no library in



Dillville, and pur detective assured us that the young man
was in every way fitted to write a historical novel.

Online LibraryKate Milner RabbThe wit and humor of America (Volume 2) → online text (page 5 of 24)