The proprietor of the necktie stand was a slender, dark-complexioned young man of about twenty-five, or thereabouts.
His name was George Barry. Paul had known him for over a year, and whenever he passed his stand was accustomed to stop and speak with him.
"Well, George, how's business?" asked Paul.
"Fair," said Barry. "That isn't what's the matter."
"What is it, then?"
"I'm sick. I ought not to be out here to-day."
"What's the matter with you?"
"I've caught a bad cold, and feel hot and feverish. I ought to be at home and abed."
"Why don't you go?"
"I can't leave my business."
"It's better to do that than to get a bad sickness."
"I suppose it is. I am afraid I am going to have a fever. One minute I'm hot, another I'm cold. But I can't afford to close up my business."
"Why don't you get somebody to take your place?"
"I don't know anybody I could get that I could trust. They'd sell my goods, and make off with the money."
"Can you trust me?" asked Paul, who saw a chance to benefit himself as well as his friend.
"Yes, Paul, I could trust you, but I'm afraid I couldn't pay you enough to make it worth while for you to stand here."
"I haven't got anything to do just now," said Paul. "I was in the prize-package business, but two fellows stole my stock in trade, and I'm not going into it again. It's about played out. I'm your man. Just make me an offer."
"I should like to have you take my place for a day or two, for I know you wouldn't cheat me."
"You may be sure of that."
"I am sure. I know you are an honest boy, Paul. But I don't know what to offer you."
"How many neckties do you sell a day?" asked Paul, in a businesslike tone.
"About a dozen on an average."
"And how much profit do you make?"
"It's half profit."
Paul made a short calculation. Twelve neckties at twenty-five cents each would bring three dollars. Half of this was a dollar and a half.
"I'll take your place for half profits," he said.
"That's fair," said George Barry. "I'll accept your offer. Can you begin now?"
"Then I'll go home and go to bed. It's the best place for me."
"You'd better. I'll come round after closing up, and hand over the money."
"All right! You know where I live?"
"I'm not sure."
"No. — Bleecker street."
"I'll come up this evening."
George Barry walked away, leaving Paul in charge of his business.
He did so with perfect confidence. Not every boy in Paul's circumstances can be trusted, but he felt sure that Paul would do the right thing by him.
I may as well say, in this connection, that George Barry had a mother living. They occupied two rooms in a lodging-house in Bleecker street, and lived very comfortably. Mrs. Barry had an allowance of two hundred dollars a year from a relation. This, with what she earned by sewing, and her son by his stand, supported them very comfortably, especially as they provided and cooked their own food, which was, of course, much cheaper than boarding. Still, the loss of the young man's earnings, even for a short time, would have been felt, though they had a reserve of a hundred dollars in a savings bank, from which they might draw if necessary. But George did not like to do this. The arrangement which he made with Paul was a satisfactory one, for with half his usual earnings they would still be able to keep out of debt, and not be compelled to draw upon the fund in the bank. Of course, something depended on Paul's success as a salesman, but he would not be likely to fall much below the average amount of sales. So, on the whole, George Barry went home considerably relieved in mind, though his head was throbbing, and he felt decidedly sick.
Arrived at home, his mother, who understood sickness, at once took measures to relieve him.
"Don't mind the loss of a few days, George," she said, cheerfully; "we shall be able to get along very well."
"It'll only be part loss, mother," he said. "I've got Paul Hoffman to take my place for half the profits."
"Paul Hoffman! Do I know him?"
"I don't think he has ever been here but I have known him for a year."
"Can you trust him?"
"Yes, I'm not at all afraid. He is a smart boy, and as honest as he is smart. I think he will sell nearly as much as I would."
"That is an excellent arrangement. You needn't feel uneasy, then."
"No, the business will go on right."
"I should like to see your salesman."
"You'll see him to-night, mother. He's coming round this evening to let me know how he's got along, and hand over the money he's taken."
"You'd better be quiet now, George, and go to sleep, if you can. I'll make you some warm tea. I think it'll do you good."
Meanwhile Paul assumed charge of George Barry's business. He was sorry his friend was sick, but he congratulated himself on getting into business so soon.
"It's more respectable than selling prize packages," thought Paul. "I wish I had a stand of my own."
He was still a street merchant, but among street merchants there are grades as well as among merchants whose claim to higher respectability rests upon having rent to pay. Paul felt that it was almost like having a shop of his own. He had always looked up to George Barry as standing higher than himself in a business way, and he felt that even if his earnings should not be as great, that it was a step upward to have sole charge of his stand, if only for a day or two.
Paul's ambition was aroused. It was for his interest to make as large sales as possible. Besides, he thought he would like to prove to George Barry that he had made a good selection in appointing him his substitute.
Now, if the truth must be told, George Barry himself was not possessed of superior business ability. He was lacking in energy and push. He could sell neckties to those who asked for them, but had no particular talent for attracting trade. He would have been a fair clerk, but was never likely to rise above a very moderate success. Paul was quite different. He was quick, enterprising, and smart. He was a boy likely to push his way to success unless circumstances were very much against him.
"I'd like to sell more than George Barry," he said to himself. "I don't know if I can, but I'm going to try."
The day was half over, and probably the most profitable, so far as business was concerned. Paul had only four or five hours left.
"Let me see," he said to himself. "I ought to sell six neckties to come up to the average of half a day's sale. I wonder whether I can do it."
As his soliloquy ended, his quick eye detected a young man glancing at his stock, and he observed that he paused irresolutely, as if half inclined to purchase.
"Can't I sell you a necktie to-day?" asked Paul, promptly.
"I don't know," said the other. "What do you charge?"
"You can have your choice for twenty-five cents. That is cheap, isn't it?"
"Yes, that's cheap. Let me look at them."
"Here's one that will suit your complexion," said Paul.
"Yes, that's a pretty one. I think I'll take it."
"You have to pay twice as much in the shops," continued Paul, as he rolled it up. "You see, we have no rent to pay, and so we can sell cheap. You'll save money by always buying your neckties here."
"The only objection to that is that I don't live in the city. I am here only for a day. I live about fifty miles in the country."
"Then I'll tell you what you'd better do," said Paul. "Lay in half a dozen, while you are about it. It'll only be a dollar and a half, and you'll save as much as that by doing it."
"I don't know but you are right," said his customer, whom the suggestion impressed favorably. "As you say, it's only a dollar and a half, and it'll give me a good stock."
"Let me pick them out for you," said Paul, briskly, "unless there's something you see yourself."
"I like that one."
"All right. What shall be the next?"
Finally, the young man selected the entire half-dozen, and deposited a dollar and a half in Paul's hands.
"Come and see me again," said Paul, "and if you have any friends coming to the city, send them to me."
"I will," said the other.
"Tell them it's the first stand south of the Astor House. Then they won't miss it."
"That's a good beginning," said Paul to himself, with satisfaction. "Half a day's average sales already, and I've only been here fifteen minutes. Let me see, what will my profits be on that? Three shillings, I declare. That isn't bad, now!"
Paul had reason to be satisfied with himself. If he had not spoken, the young man would very probably have gone on without purchasing at all, or, at any rate, remained content with a single necktie. Paul's manner and timely word had increased his purchase sixfold. That is generally the difference between a poor salesman and one of the first class. Anybody can sell to those who are anxious to buy; but it takes a smart man to persuade a customer that he wants what otherwise he would go without. The difference in success is generally appreciated by dealers, and a superior salesman is generally paid a handsome salary.
"I don't believe George Barry would have sold that man so many ties," thought Paul. "I hope I shall have as good luck next time."
But this, of course, was not to be expected. It is not every customer who can be persuaded to buy half-a-dozen ties, even by the most eloquent salesman. However, in the course of an hour more, Paul had sold three more to single customers. Then came a man who bought two. Then there was a lull, and for an hour Paul sold none at all. But business improved a little toward the close of the afternoon, and when it was time to close up, our young merchant found that he had disposed of fifteen.
"My share of the profits will be ninety-three cents," thought Paul, with satisfaction. "That isn't bad for an afternoon's work."