POTASH & PERLMUTTER
THEIR COPARTNERSHIP VENTURES AND ADVENTURES
BY MONTAGUE GLASS
GROSSET & DUNLAP PUBLISHERS :: NEW YORK
Copyright, 1909, by The Curtis Publishing Company Copyright, 1910, by Howard E. Altemus Copyrighted 1911, by Doubleday, Page & Company.
THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.
Potash & Perlmutter
"No, siree, sir," Abe Potash exclaimed as he drew a check to the order of his attorney for a hundred and fifty dollars, "I would positively go it alone from now on till I die, Noblestone. I got my stomach full with Pincus Vesell already, and if Andrew Carnegie would come to me and tell me he wants to go with me as partners together in the cloak and suit business, I would say 'No,' so sick and tired of partners I am."
For the twentieth time he examined the dissolution agreement which had ended the firm of Vesell & Potash, and then he sighed heavily and placed the document in his breast pocket.
"Cost me enough, Noblestone, I could assure you," he said.
"A hundred and fifty ain't much, Potash, for a big lawyer like Feldman," Noblestone commented.
Abe flipped his fingers in a gesture of deprecation.
"That is the least, Noblestone," he rejoined. "First and last I bet you I am out five thousand dollars on Vesell. That feller got an idee that there ain't nothing to the cloak and suit business but auction pinochle and taking out-of-town customers to the theayter. Hard work is something which he don't know nothing about at all. He should of been in the brokering business."
"The brokering business ain't such a cinch neither," Noblestone retorted with some show of indignation. "A feller what's in the brokering business has got his troubles, too, Potash. Here I've been trying to find an opening for a bright young feller with five thousand dollars cash, y'understand, and also there ain't a better designer in the business, y'understand, and I couldn't do a thing with the proposition. Always everybody turns me down. Either they got a partner already or they're like yourself, Potash, they just got through with a partner which done 'em up good."
"If you think Pincus Vesell done me up good, Noblestone," Potash said, "you are mistaken. I got better judgment as to let a lowlife like him get into me, Noblestone. I lost money by him, y'understand, but at the same time he didn't make nothing neither. Vesell is one of them fellers what you hear about which is nobody's enemy but his own."
"The way he talks to me, Potash," Noblestone replied, "he ain't such friends to you neither."
"He hates me worser as poison," Abe declared fervently, "but that ain't neither here nor there, Noblestone. I'm content he should be my enemy. He's the kind of feller what if we would part friends, he would come back every week and touch me for five dollars yet. The feller ain't got no money and he ain't got no judgment neither."
"But here is a young feller which he got lots of common sense and five thousand dollars cash," Noblestone went on. "Only one thing which he ain't got."
"I seen lots of them fellers in my time, Noblestone," he said. "Everything about 'em is all right excepting one thing and that's always a killer."
"Well, this one thing ain't a killer at all," Noblestone rejoined, "he knows the cloak and suit business from A to Z, and he's a first-class A number one feller for the inside, Potash, but he ain't no salesman."
"So long as he's good on the inside, Noblestone," Abe said, "it don't do no harm if he ain't a salesman, because there's lots of fellers in the cloak and suit business which calls themselves drummers, y'understand Every week regular they turn in an expense account as big as a doctor's bill already, and not only they ain't salesmen, Noblestone, but they don't know enough about the inside work to get a job as assistant shipping clerk."
"Well, Harry Federmann ain't that kind, Potash," Noblestone went on. "He's been a cutter and a designer and everything you could think of in the cloak and suit business. Also the feller's got good backing. He's married to old man Zudrowsky's daughter and certainly them people would give him a whole lot of help."
"What people do you mean?" Abe asked.
"Zudrowsky & Cohen," Noblestone answered. "Do you know 'em, Potash?"
Abe laughed raucously.
"Do I know 'em?" he said. "A question! Them people got a reputation among the trade which you wouldn't believe at all. Yes, Noblestone, if I would take it another partner, y'understand, I would as lief get a feller what's got the backing of a couple of them cut-throats up in Sing Sing, so much do I think of Zudrowsky & Cohen."
"All I got to say to that, Potash, is that you don't know them people, otherwise you wouldn't talk that way."
"Maybe I don't know 'em as good as some concerns know 'em, Noblestone, but that's because I was pretty lucky. Leon Sammet tells me he wouldn't trust 'em with the wrapping paper on a C. O. D. shipment of two dollars."
Noblestone rose to his feet and assumed an attitude of what he believed to be injured dignity.
"I hear enough from you, Potash," he said, "and some day you will be sorry you talk that way about a concern like Zudrowsky & Cohen. If you couldn't say nothing good about 'em, you should shut up your mouth."
"I could say one thing good about 'em, Noblestone," Abe retorted, as the business broker opened the store door. "They ain't ashamed of a couple of good old-time names like Zudrowsky & Cohen."
This was an allusion to the circumstance that Philip Noblestone had once been Pesach Edelstein, and the resounding bang with which the broker closed the door behind him, was gratifying evidence to Abe that his parting shot had found its target.
"Well, Noblestone," Zudrowsky cried, as the broker entered the show-room of Zudrowsky & Cohen, "what did he say?"
"He says he wouldn't consider it at all," Noblestone answered. "He ain't in no condition to talk about it anyway, because he feels too sore about his old partner, Pincus Vesell. That feller done him up to the tune of ten thousand dollars."
In Noblestone's scheme of ethics, to multiply a fact by two was to speak the truth unadorned.
"S'enough, Noblestone," Zudrowsky cried. "If Potash lost so much money as all that, I wouldn't consider him at all. One thing you got to remember, Noblestone. Me, I am putting up five thousand dollars for Harry Federmann, and what that feller don't know about business, Noblestone, you could take it from me, would make even you a millionaire, if you would only got it in your head."
Noblestone felt keenly the doubtfulness of Zudrowsky's compliment, but for a lack of a suitable rejoinder he contented himself by nodding gravely.
"So I wouldn't want him to tie up with a feller like Potash, what gets done up so easy for ten thousand dollars," Zudrowsky went on. "What I would like, Noblestone, is that Harry should go as partners together with some decent, respectable feller which got it good experience in the cloak business and wouldn't be careless with my five thousand dollars. I needn't to tell you, Noblestone, if I would let Harry get his hands on it, I might as well kiss myself good-by with that five thousand dollars."
Noblestone waggled his head from side to side and made inarticulate expressions of sympathy through his nose.
"How could you marry off your daughter to a schafskopf like Federmann?" he asked.
"It was a love match, Noblestone," Zudrowsky explained. "She falls in love with him, and he falls in love with her. So naturally he ain't no business man, y'understand, because you know as well as I do, Noblestone, a business man ain't got no time to fool away on such nonsense."
"Sure, I know," Noblestone agreed. "But what makes Federmann so dumb? He's been in the cloak and suit business all his life, ain't he?"
"What's that got to do with it?" Zudrowsky exclaimed. "Cohen and me got these here fixtures for fifteen years already, and you could more expect them tables and racks they should know the cloak and suit business as Harry Federmann. They ain't neither of 'em got no brains, Noblestone, and that's what I want you to get for Harry,—some young feller with brains, even though he ain't worth much money."
"Believe me, Mr. Zudrowsky," Noblestone replied. "It ain't such an easy matter these times to find a young feller with brains what ain't got no money, Mr. Zudrowsky, and such young fellers don't need no partners neither. And, anyhow, Mr. Zudrowsky, what is five thousand dollars for an inducement to a business man? When I would go around and tell my clients I got a young feller with five thousand dollars what wants to go in the cloak and suit business, they laugh at me. In the cloak and suit business five thousand dollars goes no ways."
"Five thousand ain't much if you are going to open up as a new beginner, Noblestone," Zudrowsky replied, "but if you got a going concern, y'understand, five thousand dollars is always five thousand dollars. There's lots of business men what is short of money all the time, Noblestone. Couldn't you find it maybe a young feller which is already established in business, y'understand, and what needs doch a little money?"
Noblestone slapped his thigh.
"I got it!" he said. "I'll go around and see Sam Feder of the Kosciusko Bank."
Half an hour later Noblestone sat in the first vice-president's office at the Kosciusko Bank, and requested that executive officer to favor him with the names of a few good business men, who would appreciate a partner with five thousand dollars.
"I'll tell you the truth, Noblestone," Mr. Feder said, "we turn down so many people here every day, that it's a pretty hard thing for me to remember any particular name. Most of 'em is good for nothing, either for your purpose or for ours, Noblestone. The idee they got about business is that they should sell goods at any price. In figuring the cost of the output, they reckon labor, so much; material, so much; and they don't take no account of rent, light, power, insurance and so forth. The consequence is, they lose money all the time; and they put their competitors in bad too, because they make 'em meet their fool prices. The whole trade is cut up by them fellers and sooner as recommend one for a partner for your client, I'd advise him to take his money and play the ponies with it."
At this juncture a boy entered and handed Mr. Feder a card.
"Tell him to come right in," Feder said, and then he turned to Noblestone. "You got to excuse me for a few minutes, Noblestone, and I'll see you just as soon as I get through."
As Noblestone left the first vice-president's office, he encountered Feder's visitor, who wore an air of furtive apprehension characteristic of a man making his initial visit to a pawn shop. Noblestone waited on the bench outside for perhaps ten minutes, when Mr. Feder's visitor emerged, a trifle red in the face.
"That's my terms, Mr. Perlmutter," Feder said.
"Well, if I would got to accept such a proposition like that, Mr. Feder," the visitor declared, "I would sooner bust up first. That's all I got to say."
He jammed his hat down on his head and made for the door.
"Now, Mr. Noblestone, I am ready for you," Feder cried, but his summons fell on deaf ears, for Noblestone was in quick pursuit of the vanishing Perlmutter. Noblestone overtook him at the corner and touched his elbow.
"How do you do, Mr. Perlmutter!" he exclaimed.
Perlmutter stopped short and wheeled around.
"Huh?" he said.
"This is Mr. Sol Perlmutter, ain't it?" Noblestone asked.
"No, it ain't," Perlmutter replied. "My name is Morris Perlmutter, and the pair of real gold eye-glasses which you just picked up and would let me have as a bargain for fifty cents, ain't no use to me neither."
"I ain't picked up no eye-glasses," Noblestone said.
"No?" Morris Perlmutter rejoined. "Well, I don't want to buy no blue white diamond ring neither, y'understand, so if it's all the same to you I got business to attend to."
"So do I," Noblestone went on, "and this is what it is. Also my name is there too."
He showed Morris a card, which read as follows: TELEPHONE CONNECTION REAL ESTATE & INSURANCE IN ALL ITS BRANCHES PHILIP NOBLESTONE BUSINESS BROKER G E T A P A R T N E R 594 EAST HOUSTON STREET NEW YORK
"Don't discount them good accounts, Mr. Perlmutter," he added, "it ain't necessary."
"Who told you I want to discount some accounts?" Morris asked.
"If I see a feller in a dentist's chair," Noblestone answered, "I don't need to be told he's got the toothache already."
After this Morris was easily persuaded to accept Noblestone's invitation to drink a cup of coffee, and they retired immediately to a neighboring bakery and lunch room.
"Yes, Mr. Noblestone," Morris said, consulting the card. "I give you right about Feder. That feller is worser as a dentist. He's a bloodsucker. Fifteen hundred dollars gilt-edged accounts I offer him as security for twelve hundred, and when I get through with paying DeWitt C. Feinholtz, his son-in-law, what is the bank's lawyer, there wouldn't be enough left from that twelve hundred dollars to pay off my operators."
"That's the way it is when a feller's short of money," Noblestone said. "Now, if you would got it a partner with backing, y'understand, you wouldn't never got to be short again."
With this introductory sentence, Noblestone launched out upon a series of persuasive arguments, which only ended when Morris Perlmutter had promised to lunch with Zudrowsky, Harry Federmann and Noblestone at Wasserbauer's Cafe and Restaurant the following afternoon at one o'clock.
For the remainder of the day, Philip Noblestone interviewed as much of the cloak and suit trade as he could cover, with respect to Morris Perlmutter's antecedents, and the result was entirely satisfactory. He ascertained that Morris had worked his way up from shipping clerk, through the various grades, until he had reached the comparative eminence of head cutter, and his only failing was that he had embarked in business with less capital than experience. At first he had met with moderate success, but a dull season in the cloak trade had temporarily embarrassed him, and the consensus of opinion among his competitors was that he had a growing business but was over-extended.
Thus when Noblestone repaired to the office of Zudrowsky & Cohen at closing time that afternoon, he fairly outdid himself extolling Morris Perlmutter's merits, and he presented so high colored a picture that Zudrowsky deprecated the business broker's enthusiasm.
"Say, looky here, Noblestone," he said, "enough's enough. All I want is a partner for my son-in-law which would got common sense and a little judgment. That's all. I don't expect no miracles, y'understand, and the way I understand it from you, this feller Morris Perlmutter is got a business head like Andrew Carnegie already and a shape like John Drew."
"I never mentioned his name because I don't know that feller at all," Noblestone protested. "But Perlmutter is a fine business man, Mr. Zudrowsky, and he's a swell dresser, too."
"A feller what goes to a bank looking for accommodations," Zudrowsky replied, "naturally don't put on his oldest clothes, y'understand, but anyhow, Noblestone, if you would be around here at half past twelve to-morrow, I will see that Harry gets here too, and we will go down to Wasserbauer's and meet the feller."
It was precisely one o'clock the following day when Morris Perlmutter seated himself at a table in the rear of Wasserbauer's Cafe and Restaurant.
"Yes, sir, right away!" Louis, the waiter, cried, as he deposited a plate of dill pickles on the adjoining table, at which sat a stout middle-aged person with a napkin tucked in his neck.
"Koenigsberger Klops is good to-day, Mr. Potash," Louis announced.
"Pushing the stickers, Louis, ain't it?" the man at the next table said. "You couldn't get me to eat no chopped meat which customers left on their plates last week already. I never believe in buying seconds, Louis. Give me a piece of roast beef, well done, and a baked potato."
"Right away, Mr. Potash," Louis said, as he passed on to Perlmutter's table. "Now, sir, what could I do for you?"
"Me, I am waiting here for somebody," Morris replied. "Bring me a glass of water and we will give our order later."
"Right away!" said Louis, and hustled off to fill Abe Potash's order, whereat Abe selected a dill pickle to beguile the tedium of waiting. He grasped it firmly between his thumb and finger, and neatly bisected it with his teeth. Simultaneously the pickle squirted, and about a quarter of a pint of the acid juice struck Morris Perlmutter in the right eye.
"Excuse me," Abe cried. "Excuse me."
"S'all right," Morris replied. "I seen what you was doing and I should of ordered an umbrella instead of a glass of water already."
Abe laughed uproariously.
"Dill pickles is uncertain like Paris fashions," he commented. "You could never tell what they would do next."
"I bet yer," Morris replied. "Last year people was buying silks like they was crazy, y'understand, and this year you would think silks was poison. A buyer wouldn't touch 'em at all, and that's the way it goes."
Abe rose with the napkin tucked in his neck, and carrying the dish of dill pickles with him, he sat down at Morris' table, to which Louis brought the roast beef a moment later.
"I seen you was in the cloak and suit business as soon as I looked at you," Abe said. "I guess I'll eat here till your friends come."
"Go ahead," Morris replied. "It's already quarter past one, and if them fellers don't come soon, I'm going to eat, too."
"What's the use waiting?" Abe said. "Eat anyhow. This roast beef is fine. Try some of it on me."
"Why should I stick you for my lunch?" Morris rejoined. "I see them suckers ain't going to show up at all, so I guess I'll take a sandwich and a cup of coffee."
He motioned to Louis.
"Right away!" Louis cried. "Yes, sir, we got some nice Koenigsberger Klops to-day mit Kartoffel Kloes."
"What d'ye take this gentleman for, anyway, Louis?" Abe asked. "A garbage can? Give him a nice slice of roast beef well done and a baked potato. Also bring two cups of coffee and give it the checks to me."
By a quarter to two Abe and Morris had passed from business matters to family affairs, and after they had exchanged cigars and the conversation had reached a stage where Morris had just accepted an invitation to dine at Abe's house, Noblestone and Zudrowsky entered, with Harry Federmann bringing up in the rear. Harry was evidently in disfavor, and his weak, blond face wore the crestfallen look of a whipped child, for he had been so occupied with his billing and cooing up town, that he had forgotten his business engagement.
"Hallo, Mr. Perlmutter," Noblestone cried, and then he caught sight of Morris' companion and the remains of their generous meal. "I thought you was going to take lunch with us."
"Do I got to starve, Mr. Who's-this—I lost your card—just because I was fool enough to take up your proposition yesterday? I should of known better in the first place."
"But this here young feller, Mr. Federmann, got detained uptown," Zudrowsky explained. "His wife got took suddenly sick."
"Why, she may have to have an operation," Noblestone said in a sudden burst of imaginative enthusiasm.
"You should tell your troubles to a doctor," Abe said, rising from the table. "And besides, Noblestone, Mr. Perlmutter don't want no partner just now."
"But," Perlmutter began, "but, Mr. Potash——"
"That is to say," Abe interrupted, "he don't want a partner with no business experience. Me, I got business experience, as you know, Mr. Noblestone, and so we fixed it up we would go as partners together, provided after we look each other up everything is all right."
He looked inquiringly at Perlmutter, who nodded in reply.
"And if everything is all right," Perlmutter said, "we will start up next week."
"Under the firm name," Abe added, "of Potash & Perlmutter."
In less than ten days the new firm of Potash & Perlmutter were doing business in Abe Potash's old quarters on White Street with the addition of the loft on the second floor. Abe had occupied the grade floor of an old-fashioned building, and agreeable to Morris' suggestion the manufacturing and cutting departments were transferred to the second floor, leaving Abe's old quarters for show-room, office and shipping purposes. It was further arranged that Abe's share of the copartnership work should be the selling end and that Morris should take charge of the manufacturing. Both partners supervised the accounting and credit department with the competent assistance of Miss R. Cohen, who had served the firm of Vesell & Potash in the same capacity.
For more than a year Morris acted as designer, and with one or two unfortunate exceptions, the styles he originated had been entirely satisfactory to Potash & Perlmutter's growing trade.
The one or two unfortunate exceptions, however, had been a source of some loss to the firm. First, there were the tourists' coats which cost Potash & Perlmutter one thousand dollars; then came the purple directoires; total, two thousand dollars charged off to profit and loss on the firm's books.
"No, Mawruss," Abe said, when his partner spoke of a new model, which he termed the Long Branch Coatee, "I don't like that name. Anyhow, Mawruss, I got it in my mind we should hire a designer. While I figure it that you don't cost us nothing extra, Mawruss, a couple of stickers like them tourists and that directoire model puts us in the hole two thousand dollars. On the other hand, Mawruss, if we get a good designer, Mawruss, all we pay him is two thousand a year and we're through."
"I know, Abe," Morris replied, "but designers can turn out stickers, too."
"Sure, they can, Mawruss," Abe went on, "but they got a job to look out for, Mawruss, while you are one of the bosses here, whether you turn out stickers or not. No, Mawruss, I got enough of stickers already. I'm going to look out for a good, live designer, a smart young feller like Louis Grossman, what works for Sammet Brothers. I bet you they done an increased business of twenty per cent. with that young feller's designs. I met Ike Gotthelf, buyer for Horowitz & Finkelbein, and he tells me he gave Sammet Brothers a two-thousand-dollar order a couple of weeks ago, including a hundred and twenty-two garments of that new-style they got out, which they call the Arverne Sacque, one of Louis Grossman's new models."
"Is that so?" said Morris. "Well, you know what I would do if I was you, Abe? I'd see Louis Grossman and offer him ten dollars a week more than Sammet Brothers pays him, and the first thing you know he'd be working for us and not for Sammet Brothers."
"You got a great head, Mawruss," Abe rejoined ironically. "You got the same idee all of a sudden what I think about a week ago already. I seen Louis Grossman yesterday, and offered him fifteen, not ten."
"And what did he say?"
"He says he's working by Sammet Brothers under a contract, Mawruss, what don't expire for a year yet, and they're holding up a quarter of his wages under the contract, which he is to forfeit if he don't work it out."
"Don't you believe it, Abe," Morris broke in. "He's standing out for more money."
"Is he?" said Abe with some heat. "Well, I seen the contract, Mawruss, so either I'm a liar or not, Mawruss, ain't it?"
Here they were interrupted by the entrance of a customer, Ike Herzog, of the Bon Ton Credit Outfitting Company.
"Ah, Mr. Herzog!" Abe cried, rising to his feet and extending both hands in greeting. "Glad to see you. Ain't it a fine weather?"
Mr. Herzog grunted in reply.
"Potash," he said, "when I give you that order last week, I don't know whether I didn't buy a big lot of your style fifty-nine-ten, ain't it?"
"Yes, you did," said Abe.
"Well," said Herzog, "I want to cancel that part of the order."
"Cancel it!" Abe cried. "Why, what's the matter with them garments? Ain't the samples made up right?"
"Sure, they're made up right," said Herzog, "only I seen something what I like better. It's about the same style, only more attractive. I mean Sammet Brothers' style forty-one-fifty—their new Arverne Sacque."
"Mr. Herzog!" Abe cried.
Herzog raised a protesting palm.
"Now, Potash," he said, "you know whatever I buy in staples you get the preference; but when anybody's got a specialty like that Arverne Sacque, what's the use of talking?"
He shook hands cordially.
"I'll be around to see you in about a week," he said, and the next moment the door closed behind him.
"Well, Mawruss, that settles it," said Abe, putting on his hat. "When we lose a good customer like Ike Herzog, I gets busy right away."
"Where are you going, Abe?" Morris asked.
Abe struggled into his overcoat and seized his umbrella.
"Round to Sammet Brothers," he replied. "I'm going to get that young feller away from them if I got to pay 'em a thousand dollars to boot."
Leon Sammet, head of the copartnership of Sammet Brothers, sat in the firm's sample room and puffed gloomily at a Wheeling stogy. His brother, Barney Sammet, stood beside him reading aloud from a letter which he held in his hand.
"'Gents,'" he said, "'your shipment of the fourteenth instant to hand, and in reply will say we ain't satisfied with nothing but style forty-one-fifty. Our Miss Kenny is a perfect thirty-six, and she can't breathe in them Empires style 3022, in sizes 36, 38 or 40. What is the matter with you, anyway? We are returning them via Eagle Dispatch. We are yours truly, The Boston Store, Horowitz & Finkelbein, Proprietors.'"
"Yes, Barney," Leon commented, "that's a designer for you, that Louis Grossman. His Arverne Sacques is all right, Barney, but the rest is nix. He's a one garment man. Tell Miss Aaronstamm to bring in her book. I want to send them Boston Store people a letter."
A moment later Miss Aaronstamm entered, and sat down at a sample table.
"Write to the Boston Store," Leon Sammet said. "'Horowitz & Finkelbein, Proprietors, Gents'—got that? 'We received your favor of the eighteenth instant, and in reply would say we don't accept no styles what you return.' Got that? 'If your Miss Kenny can't breathe in them garments that ain't our fault. They wasn't made to breathe in; they was made to sell. You say she is a perfect thirty-six. How do we know that? We ain't never measured her, and we don't believe you have, neither. Anyway, we ain't taking back no goods what we sold once. Yours truly.' That's all, Miss Aaronstamm. I guess that'll fix 'em. What, Barney?"
Barney nodded gloomily.
"I tell you, Barney," Leon went on, "I wish I never seen that Louis Grossman. He certainly got into us good and proper."
"I don't know, Leon," said Barney. "That Arverne Sacque was a record seller."
"Arverne Sacque!" Leon cried. "That's all everybody says. We can't make a million dollars out of one garment alone, Barney. We can't even make expenses. I'm afraid we'll go in the hole over ten thousand dollars if we don't get rid of him."
"But we can't get rid of him," said Barney. "We got a contract with him."
"Don't I know it?" said Leon, sadly. "Ain't I paid Henry D. Feldman a hundred dollars for drawing it up? He's got us, Barney. Louis Grossman's got us and no mistake. Well, I got to go up to the cutting-room and see what he's doing now, Barney. He can spoil more piece-goods in an hour than I can buy in a week."
He rose wearily to his feet and was half-way to the stairs in the rear of the store when Abe Potash entered.
"Hallo, Leon!" Abe called. "Don't be in a rush. I want to talk to you."
Leon returned to the show-room and shook hands limply with Abe. It was a competitor's, not a customer's, shake.
"Well, Abe," he said, "how's business?"
"If we got a good designer like you got, Leon," Abe replied, "we would——"
"A good designer!" Barney broke in. "Why——"
His involuntary disclaimer ended almost where it began with a furtive, though painful, kick from his elder brother.
"A good designer, Abe," Leon went on hastily, "is a big asset, and Louis Grossman is a first-class A Number One designer. We done a tremendous spring business through Louis. I suppose you heard about our style forty-one-fifty?"
"Them Arverne Sacques," he said. "Yes, I heard about it from everybody I meet. He must be a gold-mine, that Louis Grossman."
"He is," Leon continued. "Our other styles, too, he turns out wonderful. Our Empire models what he designs for us, Abe, I assure you is also making a tremendous sensation. You ought to see the letter we got this morning from Horowitz & Finkelbein."
Barney blew his nose with a loud snort.
"I guess I'll go upstairs, and see what the boys is doing in the cutting-room, Leon," he said, and made a hasty exit.
"Not that Louis Grossman ain't a good cutting-room foreman, too, Abe," said Leon, "but we're just getting in some new piece-goods and Barney wants to check 'em off. But I ain't asked you yet what we can do for you? A recommendation, maybe? Our credit files is open to you, Abe."
Abe pushed his hat back from his forehead and mopped his brow. Then he sat down and lit a cigar.
"Leon," he commenced, "what's the use of making a lot of talk about it. I'm going to talk to you man to man, Leon, and no monkey-business about it nor nothing. I'm going to be plain and straightforward, Leon, and tell it to you right from the start what I want. I don't believe in no beating bushes around, Leon, and when I say a thing I mean it. I got to talk right out, Leon. That's the kind of man I am."
"All right, Abe," Leon said. "Don't spring it on me too sudden, though."
"Well," Abe continued, "it's this way."
He gave one last puff at his cigar.
"Leon," he said, "how much will you take for Louis Grossman?"
"Take!" Leon shouted. "Take! Why, Abe——"
He stopped suddenly, and, recovering his composure just in the nick of time, remained silent.
"I know, Leon, he's a valuable man," Abe said earnestly, "but I'm willing to be fair, Leon. Of course I ain't a hog, and I don't think you are."
"No, I ain't," Leon replied quite calmly; "I ain't a hog, and so I say I wouldn't take nothing for him, Abe, because, Abe, if I told you what I would take for him, Abe, then, maybe, you might have reason for calling me a hog."
"Oh, no, I wouldn't, Leon," Abe protested. "I told you I know he's a valuable man, so I want you should name a price."
"I should name a price!" Leon cried. "Why, Abe, I'm surprised at you. If I go to a man to sell something what I like to get rid of it, and he don't want, then I name the price. But if a man comes to me to buy something what I want to keep, and what he's got to have, Abe, then he names the price. Ain't it?"
Abe looked critically at the end of his smoldering cigar.
"Well, Leon," he said at length, "if I must name a price, I suppose I must. Now I know you will think me crazy, Leon, but I want to get a good designer bad, Leon, and so I say"—here he paused to note the effect—"five hundred dollars."
Leon held out his hand.
"I guess you got to excuse me, Abe," he said. "I'd like it first rate to stay here and visit with you all morning but I got work to do, and so I hope you'll excuse me."
"Seven hundred and fifty," Abe said.
"Fifteen hundred dollars," Leon replied quite firmly.
For twenty minutes Abe's figure rose and Leon's fell until they finally met at ten hundred thirty-three, thirty-three.
"He's worth it, Abe, believe me," said Leon, as they shook hands on the bargain. "And now let's fix it up right away."
Half an hour later, Abe, Louis Grossman and Leon Sammet entered the spacious law offices of Henry D. Feldman, who bears the same advisory relation to the cloak and suit trade as Judge Gary did to the steel and iron business.
The drawing of the necessary papers occupied the better part of the day and it was not until three o'clock in the afternoon that the transaction was complete. By its terms Sammet Brothers in consideration of $1,033.33 paid by Potash & Perlmutter, released Louis Grossman from his contract, and Louis entered into a new agreement with Potash & Perlmutter at an advance of a thousand a year over the compensation paid him by Sammet Brothers. In addition he was to receive from Potash & Perlmutter five per cent. of the profits of their business, payable weekly, the arrangement to be in force for one year, during which time neither employer nor employee could be rid one of the other save by mutual consent.
"It comes high, Mawruss," Abe said to his partner, after he had returned to the store, "but I guess Louis's worth it."
"I hope so," Morris replied. "Now we can make up some of them Arverne Sacques."
"No, Mawruss," Abe replied, "I'm sorry to say we can't, because, by the agreement what Henry D. Feldman drew up, Sammet Brothers has the sole right to make up and sell the Arverne Sacques; but I seen to it, Mawruss, that we got the right to make up and sell every other garment what Louis Grossman originated for them this season."
He smiled triumphantly at his partner.
"And," he concluded, "he's coming to work Monday morning."
At the end of three disillusionizing weeks Abe Potash and Morris Perlmutter sat in the show-room of their place of business. Abe's hat was tilted over his eyes and he whistled a tuneless air. Morris was biting his nails.
"Well, Mawruss," Abe said at length, "when we're stuck we're stuck; ain't it? What's the use of sitting here like a couple of mummies; ain't it?"
Morris ceased biting his nails.
"Yes, Abe," he said, "ten hundred and thirty-three, thirty-three for a designer what couldn't design paper-bags for a delicatessen store. I believe he must have took lessons in designing from a correspondence school."
"Believe me, Mawruss, he learned it by telephone," Abe replied. "But cussing him out won't do no good, Mawruss. The thing to do now is to get busy and turn out some garments what we can sell. Them masquerade costumes what he gets up you couldn't sell to a five-and-ten-cent store."
"All right," Morris said. "Let's have another designer and leave Louis to do the cutting."
"Another designer!" Abe exclaimed. "No, Mawruss, you're a good enough designer for me. I always said it, Mawruss, you're a first-class A Number One designer."
Thus encouraged, Morris once more took up the work of the firm's designing, and he labored with the energy of despair, for the season was far spent. At length he evolved four models that made Abe's eyes fairly bulge.
"That's snappy stuff, Mawruss," he said, as he examined the completed samples one morning. "I bet yer they sell like hot cakes."
Abe's prophecy more than justified itself, and in ten days they were completely swamped with orders. Abe and Morris went around wearing smiles that only relaxed when they remembered Louis Grossman and his hide-bound agreement, under which he drew five per cent. of the firm's profits and sixty dollars a week.
"Anyhow, Mawruss, we'll get some return from Louis Grossman," Abe said. "I advertised in the Daily Cloak and Suit Record yesterday them four styles of yours as the four best sellers of the season, originated by the creator of the Arverne Sacque. Ike Herzog was in the first thing this morning and bought two big lots of each one of the models. Ike's a great admirer of Louis Grossman, Mawruss. I bet yer when Sammet Brothers saw that ad they went crazy; ain't it?"
"But," Morris protested, "why should Louis Grossman get the credit for my work?"
"Because, Mawruss, you know them Arverne Sacques is the best sellers put out in the cloak and suit business this year," Abe replied. "And besides, Mawruss, we may be suckers, but that ain't no reason why Sammet Brothers should know it."
"Don't worry, Abe," said Morris; "they know they stuck us good and plenty when they released Louis Grossman."
"Do they?" Abe rejoined. "Well, they don't know it unless you told 'em. Louis Grossman won't tell 'em and I didn't tell 'em when I met Leon and Barney at lunch to-day."
"What did you tell 'em!" Morris asked, somewhat alarmed.
"I told 'em, Mawruss, that the season is comparatively young yet, but we already made from ten to twenty per cent. more sales by our new designer. I told Leon them new styles what Louis Grossman got up for us is selling so big we can't put 'em out fast enough."
"And what did Leon say?" Morris asked.
"He didn't say nothing," Abe replied, "but he looked like his best customer had busted up on him. Then I showed him the order what we got from Ike Herzog, and he started in right away to call Barney down for going home early the day before. I tell you, Mawruss, he was all broke up."
"I know, Abe," Morris commented, "that's all right, too, but, all the same, we ain't got much of a laugh on them two boys, so long as Louis Grossman loafs away upstairs drawing sixty dollars a week and five per cent. of the profits."
"Well," Abe replied, "what are you going to do about it? Henry D. Feldman drew up the contract, and you know, Mawruss, contracts what Henry D. Feldman makes nobody can break."
"Can't they?" Morris cried. "Well, if Henry D. Feldman made it can't Henry D. Feldman break it? What good is the lawyer, anyhow, what can't get us out of the contract what he fixed up himself?"
Abe pondered over the situation for five minutes.
"You're right, Mawruss," he said at length; "I'll go and see Henry D. Feldman the first thing to-morrow morning."
The next morning Leon Sammet sat at his roll-top desk in his private office, while Barney went over the morning mail.
"Hallo," Barney cried, "here's a check from Horowitz & Finkelbein for the full amount of their bill, Leon. I guess they thought better of that return shipment they made of them bum garments that Louis Grossman designed. They ain't made no deduction on account of it."
"Bum garments, nothing," Leon commented. "Them garments was all right, Barney. I guess we didn't know how to treat Louis Grossman when he worked by us. Look at the big success he's making by Potash & Perlmutter. I bet yer they're five thousand ahead on the season's sales already. We thought they was suckers when they paid us ten thirty-three, thirty-three for him, but I guess the shoe pinches on the other foot, Barney. I wish we had him back, that's all. Them four new designs what he made for Potash & Perlmutter is tremendous successes. What did he done for us, Barney? One garment, the Arverne Sacque, and I bet yer them four styles will put the Arverne Sacque clean out of business."
"Well, Leon," said Barney, "you traded him off so smart, why don't you get him back? Why don't you see him, Leon?"
"I did see him," said Leon. "I called at his house last night."
"And what did he say?" Barney asked.
"He said he's under contract, as you know, with Potash & Perlmutter, and that if we can get him out of it he's only too glad to come back to us. But Henry D. Feldman drew up that contract, Barney, and you know as well as I do, Barney, that what Henry D. Feldman draws up is drawn up for keeps, ain't it?"
"There's loopholes in every contract, Leon," said Barney, "and a smart lawyer like Henry D. Feldman can find 'em out quick enough. Why don't you go right round and see Henry D. Feldman? Maybe he can fix it so as to get Louis back here."
Leon shut down his roll-top desk and seized his hat.
"That's a good idea, Barney," he said. "I guess I'll take your advice."
It is not so much to know the law, ran Henry D. Feldman's motto, paraphrasing a famous dictum of Judge Sharswood, as to look, act and talk as though you knew it. To this end Mr. Feldman seldom employed a word of one syllable, if it had a synonym of three or four syllables, and such phrases as res gestae, scienter, and lex fori delicti were the very life of his conversation with clients.
"The information which you now disclose, Mr. Sammet," he said, after Leon had made known his predicament, "is all obiter dicta."
Leon blushed. He imagined this to be somewhat harsh criticism of the innocent statement that he thought Potash & Perlmutter could be bluffed into releasing Louis Grossman.
"Imprimis," Mr. Feldman went on, "I have not been consulted by Mr. Grossman about what he desires done in the matter, but, speaking ex cathedra, I am of the opinion that some method might be devised for rescinding the contract."
"You mean we can get Potash & Perlmutter to release him?"
"Precisely," said Mr. Feldman, "and in a very elementary and efficacious fashion."
"Well, I ain't prepared to pay so much money at once," said Leon.
Now, when it came to money matters, Henry D. Feldman's language could be colloquial to the point of slang.
"What's biting you now?" he said. "I ain't going to charge you too much. Leave it to me, and if I deliver the goods it will cost you two hundred and fifty dollars."
Leon sighed heavily, but he intended getting Louis back at all costs, not, however, to exceed ten thirty-three, thirty-three.
"Well, I ain't kicking none if you can manage it," he replied. "Tell us how to go about it."
Straightway Mr. Feldman unfolded a scheme which, stripped of its technical phraseology, was simplicity itself. He rightly conjectured that the most burdensome feature of the contract, so far as Potash & Perlmutter were concerned, was the five per cent. share of the profits that fell to Louis Grossman each week. He therefore suggested that Louis approach Abe Potash and request that, instead of five per cent. of the profits, he be paid a definite sum each week, for the cloak and suit business has its dull spells between seasons, when profits occasionally turn to losses. Thus Louis could advance as a reason that he would feel safer if he be paid, say, twenty dollars a week the year round in lieu of his uncertain share of the profits.
"Abe Potash will jump at that," Leon commented.
"I anticipate that he will," Mr. Feldman went on, "and then, after he has paid Mr. Grossman the first week's installment it will constitute a rescission of the old contract and a substitution of a new one, which will be a contract of hiring from week to week. At the conclusion of the first week their contractual relations can be severed at the option of either party."
"But I don't want them to do nothing like that," Leon said. "I just want Louis to quit his job with Potash & Perlmutter and come and work by us."
"Look a-here, Sammet," Feldman broke in impatiently. "I can't waste a whole morning talking to a boob that don't understand the English language. You're wise to the part about Louis Grossman asking for twenty dollars a week steady, instead of his share of the proceeds, ain't you?"
"Then if Potash falls for it," Feldman concluded, "as soon as Grossman gets the first twenty out of him he can throw up his job on the spot. See?"
Leon nodded again.
"Then clear out of this," said Feldman and pushed a button on his desk to inform the office-boy that he was ready for the next client.
As Leon passed through the outer office he encountered Ike Herzog of the Bon Ton Credit Outfitting Company, who was solacing himself with the Daily Cloak and Suit Record in the interval of his waiting.
"Good morning, Mr. Herzog," Leon exclaimed. "So you got your troubles, too."
"I ain't got no troubles, Leon," Ike Herzog said, "but I got to use a lawyer in my business once in awhile. Just now I'm enlarging my place, and I got contracts to make and new people to hire. I hope you ain't got no law suits nor nothing."
"Law suits ain't in my line, Mr. Herzog," Leon said. "Once in awhile I change my working people, too. That's why I come here."
"Sometimes you change 'em for the worse, Leon," Herzog commented, indicating Abe Potash's effective ad with a stubby forefinger. "You certainly made a mistake when you got rid of Louis Grossman. He's turning out some elegant stuff for Potash & Perlmutter."
Leon nodded gloomily.
"Well, we all make mistakes, Mr. Herzog," he said, "and that's why we got to come here."
"That's so," Herzog agreed, as Leon opened the door. "I hope I ain't making no mistake in what I'm going to do."
"I hope not," Leon said as he passed out. "Good morning."
Ike Herzog's interview with Henry D. Feldman was short and very much to his satisfaction, for when he emerged from Feldman's sanctum, to find Abe Potash waiting without, he could not forbear a broad smile. Abe nodded perfunctorily and a moment later was closeted with the oracle.
"Mr. Feldman," he said, "I come to ask you an advice, and as I'm pretty busy this morning, do me the favor and leave out all them caveat emptors."
"Sure thing," Feldman replied. "Tell me all about it."
"Well, then, Mr. Feldman," said Abe, "I want to get rid of Louis Grossman."
Mr. Feldman almost jumped out of his chair.
"I want to fire Louis Grossman," Abe repeated. "You remember that you drew me up a burglar-proof contract between him and us a few weeks ago, and now I want you to be the burglar and bust it up for me."
Feldman touched the button on his desk.
"Bring me the draft of the contract between Potash & Perlmutter and Louis Grossman that I dictated last month," he said to the boy who answered.
In a few minutes the boy returned with a large envelope. He was instructed never to come back empty-handed when asked to bring anything, and, in this instance the envelope held six sheets of folded legal cap, some of which contained the score of a pinochle game, played after office hours on Saturday afternoon between the managing clerk and the process-server.
Feldman put the envelope in his pocket and retired to a remote corner of the room. There he examined the contents of the envelope and, knitting his brows into an impressive frown, he took from the well-stocked shelves that lined the walls book after book of digests and reports. Occasionally he made notes on the back of the envelope, and after the space of half an hour he returned to his chair and prepared to deliver himself of a weighty opinion.
"In the first place," he said, "this man Grossman ain't incompetent in his work, is he?"
"Incompetent!" Abe exclaimed. "Oh, no, he ain't incompetent. He's competent enough to sue us for five thousand dollars after we fire him, if that's what you mean."
"Then I take it that you don't want to discharge him for incompetence and risk a law suit," Mr. Feldman went on. "Now, before we go on, how much does his share of your profits amount to each week?"
"About thirty dollars in the busy season," Abe replied.
"Then here's your scheme," said Feldman. "You go to Grossman and say: 'Look a-here, Grossman, this business of figuring out profits each week is a troublesome piece of bookkeeping. Suppose we call your share of the profits forty dollars a week and let it go at that.' D'ye suppose Grossman would take it?"
"Would a cat eat liver?" said Abe.
"Well, then," Feldman now concluded, "after Grossman accepts the offer, and you pay him the first installment of forty dollars you're substituting a new weekly contract in place of the old yearly one, and you can fire Grossman just as soon as you have a mind to."
"But suppose he sues me, anyhow?" said Abe.
"If he does," Feldman replied. "I won't charge you a cent; otherwise it'll be two hundred and fifty dollars."
He touched the bell in token of dismissal.
"This fellow, Grossman, is certainly a big money-maker," he said to himself, after Abe had gone, "for me."
The following Saturday Abe sat in the show-room making up the weekly payroll, and with his own hand he drew a check to the order of Louis Grossman for forty dollars.
"Mawruss," he said, "do me the favor and go upstairs to Louis Grossman. You know what to say to him."
"Why should I go, Abe?" Morris said. "You know the whole plan. You saw Feldman."
"But it don't look well for me," Abe rejoined. "Do me the favor and go yourself."
Morris shrugged his shoulders and departed, while Abe turned to the pages of the Daily Cloak and Suit Record to bridge over the anxious period of Morris' absence. The first item that struck his eye appeared under the heading, "Alterations and Improvements."
"The Bon Ton Credit Outfitting Company, Isaac Herzog, Proprietor," it read, "is about to open a manufacturing department, and will, on and after June 1, do all its own manufacturing and alterations in the enlarged store premises, Nos. 5940, 5942 and 5946 Second Avenue."
Abe laid down the paper with a sigh.
"There's where we lose another good customer," he said as Morris returned. A wide grin was spread over Morris' face.
"Well, Mawruss?" Abe asked.
"Yes, Abe," Morris replied. "Ten hundred and thirty-three, thirty-three you paid for him. And now you must pay him forty dollars a week. I ain't so generous, Abe, believe me. I settled with him for twenty-seven-fifty."
"Well, Mawruss, it's only for one week," Abe protested.
"I know," said Morris, "but why should he get the benefit of it?"
"Did you have much of a time getting him to take it?" Abe asked.
"It was like this," Morris explained. "I told him what you said about a lump sum in place of profits and asked him to name his price, and the first thing he says was twenty-seven-fifty."
"And you let him have it for that?" Abe cried. "You're a business man, Mawruss, I must say. I bet yer he would have took twenty-five."
He tore up the check for forty dollars and drew a new one for twenty-seven-fifty.
"Here, Mawruss," he said, "take it up to him like a good feller."
It was precisely noon when Morris delivered the check to Louis Grossman, and it was one o'clock when Louis went out to lunch.
Three o'clock struck before Abe first noted his absence.
"Ain't that feller come back from his dinner yet, Mawruss?" he asked.
"No," Morris replied. "I wonder what can be keeping him. He generally takes half an hour for his dinner."
At this juncture the telephone bell rang in the rear of the store and Abe answered it.
"Hello," he said; "yes, this is Potash & Perlmutter. Oh, hello, Leon, what can we do for you?"
"I want to speak to Louis Grossman. Can you call him to the 'phone?" Leon said.
"Louis ain't in," Abe said. "Do you want to leave a message for him?"
"Well," Leon hesitated, "the fact is—we had an appointment with him for two o'clock over here, and he ain't showed up yet."
"Appointment with Louis!" Abe said. "Why, what should you have an appointment with Louis for, Leon?"
"Well," Leon stammered, "I—now—got to see him—now—about them Arverne Sacques."
"Oh!" Abe said. "I understand. Well, he went to lunch about twelve o'clock, and he ain't come back yet. Is there anything what we can do for you, Leon?"
But Sammet had hung up the receiver without waiting for further conversation.
At four o'clock the telephone rang again, and once more Abe answered it.
"Hello," he said. "Yes, this is Potash & Perlmutter. Oh! hello, Leon! What can we do for you now?"
"Abe," Leon said, "Louis ain't showed up yet. Has he showed up at your place yet?"
"No, he ain't, Leon," Abe replied. "You seem mighty anxious to see him. Why, what for should I try to prevent him speaking to you? He ain't here, I tell you. All right, Leon; then I'm a liar."
He hung up the receiver with a bang, and an hour later when Morris and he locked up the place, Louis' absence remained a complete mystery to his employers.
On Monday morning Abe and Morris opened the store at seven-thirty, and while Morris examined the mail, Abe took up the Daily Cloak and Suit Record and scanned the business-trouble column. There were no failures of personal or firm interest to Abe, so he passed on to the new-business column. The first item caused him to gasp, and he almost swallowed the butt of his cigar. It read:
A partnership has this day been formed between Isaac Herzog and Louis Grossman, to carry on the business of the Bon Ton Credit Outfitting Company, under the same firm name. It is understood that Mr. Grossman will have charge of the designing and manufacturing end of the concern.
He handed the paper over to Morris and lit a fresh cigar.
"Another sucker for Louis Grossman," he said, "and I bet yer Henry D. Feldman drew up the copartnership papers."
When Mr. Siegmund Lowenstein, proprietor of the O'Gorman-Henderson Dry-Goods Company of Galveston, Texas, entered Potash & Perlmutter's show-room, he expected to give only a small order. Mr. Lowenstein usually transacted his business with Abe Potash, who was rather conservative in matters of credit extension, more especially since Mr. Lowenstein was reputed to play auction pinochle with poor judgment and for high stakes.
Therefore, Mr. Lowenstein intended to buy a few staples, specialties of Potash & Perlmutter, and to reserve the balance of his spring orders for other dealers who entertained more liberal credit notions than did Abe Potash. Much to his gratification, however, he was greeted by Morris Perlmutter.
"Ah, Mr. Perlmutter," he said; "glad to see you. Is Mr. Potash in?"
"He's home, sick, to-day," Morris replied.
Mr. Lowenstein clucked sympathetically.
"You don't say so," he murmured. "That's too bad. What seems to be the trouble?"
"He's been feeling mean all the winter," Morris replied. "The doctor says he needs a rest."
"That's always the way with them hard-working fellers," Mr. Lowenstein went on. "I'm feeling pretty sick myself, I assure you, Mr. Perlmutter. I've been working early and late in my store. We never put in such a season before, and we done a phenomenal holiday business. We took stock last week and we're quite cleaned out. I bet you we ain't got stuck a single garment in any line—cloaks, suits, clothing or furs."
"I'm glad to hear it," Morris said.
"And we expect this season will be a crackerjack, too," he continued. "I had to give a few emergency orders to jobbers down South before I left Galveston, we had such an early rush of spring trade."
"Is that so?" Morris commented. "I wish we could say the same in New York."
"You don't tell me!" Mr. Lowenstein rejoined. "Why, I was over by Garfunkel and Levy just now, and Mr. Levy says he is almost too busy. I looked over their line and I may place an order with them, although they ain't got too good an assortment, Mr. Perlmutter."
"Far be it from me to knock a competitor's line, Mr. Lowenstein," Morris commented, "but I honestly think they get their designers off of Ellis Island."
"Well," Mr. Lowenstein conceded, "of course I don't say they got so good an assortment what you have, Mr. Perlmutter, but they got a liberal credit policy."
"Why, what's the matter with our credit policy?" Morris asked.
"Nothing," Mr. Lowenstein replied. "Only a merchant like me, what wants to enlarge his business, needs a little better terms than thirty days. Ain't it? I'm improving my departments all the time, and I got to buy more fixtures, lay in a better stock and even build a new wing to my store building. All this costs money, Mr. Perlmutter, as you know, and contractors must be paid strictly for cash. Under the circumstances, I need ready money, and, naturally, the house what gives me the most generous credit gets my biggest order."
"Excuse me for a moment," Morris broke in, "I think I hear the telephone."
He walked to the rear of the store, where the telephone bell had been trilling impatiently.
"Hello," he said, taking the receiver off the hook.
"Hello," said a voice from the other end of the line. "Is this Potash & Perlmutter?"
"It is," said Morris.
"Well, this is Garfunkel & Levy," the voice went on. "We understand Mr. Lowenstein, of Galveston, is in your store. Will you please and call him to the 'phone for a minute?"
"This ain't no public pay station," Morris cried. "And besides, Mr. Lowenstein just left here."
He banged the receiver onto the hook and returned at once to the front of the store.
"Now, Mr. Lowenstein," he said, "what can I do for you?"
And two hours later Mr. Lowenstein left the store with the duplicate of a twenty-four-hundred-dollar order in his pocket, deliveries to commence within five days; terms, ninety days net.
"Well, Abe," Morris said the next day as his partner, Abe Potash, entered the show-room, "how are you feeling to-day?"
"Mean, Mawruss," Abe replied. "I feel mean. The doctor says I need a rest. He says I got to go away to the country or I will maybe break down."
"Is that so?" said Morris, deeply concerned. "Well, then, you'd better go right away, before you get real serious sick. Why not fix it so you can go away to-morrow yet?"
"To-morrow!" Abe exclaimed. "It don't go so quick as all that, Mawruss. You can't believe everything the doctors tell you. I ain't exactly dead yet, Mawruss. I'm like the feller what everybody says is going to fail, Mawruss. They give him till after Christmas to bust up, and then he does a fine holiday trade, and the first thing you know, Mawruss, he's buying real estate. No, Mawruss, I feel pretty mean, I admit, but I think a good two-thousand-dollar order would put me all right again, and so long as we wouldn't have no more trouble with designers, Mawruss, I guess I would stay right too."
"Well, if that's the case," said Morris, beaming all over, "I guess I can fix you up. Siegmund Lowenstein, of Galveston, was in here yesterday, and I sold him a twenty-four-hundred-dollar order, including them forty-twenty-two's, and you know as well as I do, Abe, them forty-twenty-two's is stickers. We got 'em in stock now over two months, ever since Abe Magnus, of Nashville, turned 'em back on us."
Abe's reception of the news was somewhat disappointing to Morris. He showed no elation, but selected a slightly-damaged cigar from the K. to O. first and second credit customers' box, and lit it deliberately before replying.
"How much was that last order he give us, Mawruss?" he asked.
"Four hundred dollars," Morris replied.
"And what terms?" Abe continued.
"Five off, thirty days."
"And what terms did you quote him yesterday?" asked Abe inexorably.
"Ninety days, net," Morris murmured.
Abe puffed vigorously at his cigar, and there was a long and significant silence.
"I should think, Abe," Morris said at length, "the doctor wouldn't let you smoke cigars if you was nearly breaking down."
"So long as you sell twenty-four hundred dollars at ninety days to a crook and a gambler like Siegmund Lowenstein, Mawruss," Abe replied, "one cigar more or less won't hurt me. If I can stand a piece of news like that, Mawruss, I guess I can stand anything. Why didn't you give him thirty days' dating, too, Mawruss?"
At once Morris plunged into a long account of the circumstances attending the giving of Mr. Lowenstein's order, including the telephone message from Garfunkel & Levy, and at its conclusion Abe grew somewhat mollified.
"Well, Mawruss," he said, "we took the order and I suppose we got to ship it. When you deal with a gambler like Lowenstein you got to take a gambler's chance. Anyhow, I ain't going to worry about it, Mawruss. Next week I'm going away for a fortnight."
"Where are you going, Abe?" Morris asked.
"To Dotyville, Pennsylvania," Abe replied. "We leave next Saturday. In the meantime I ain't going to worry, Mawruss."
"That's right, Abe," said Morris.
"Sure it's right," Abe rejoined. "I'm going to leave you to do the worrying, and in the meantime I guess I'll look after getting out them forty-twenty-two's. Them forty-twenty-two's—them plum-color Empires was your idee, Mawruss. You said they'd make a hit with the Southern trade, Mawruss, and I hope they do, Mawruss, for, if they don't, there ain't much chance of our getting paid for them."
A week later Abe Potash and his wife left for Dotyville, Pennsylvania, and two days afterward Morris received the following letter:
DOTY'S UNION HOUSE, Dotyville, Pennsylvania.
How is things in the store? We got here the day before yesterday and I have got enough already. It is a dead town. The food what they give us reminds me when Pincus Vesell & me was partners together as new beginners and I was making southern trips by dollar and a half a day houses American plan. The man Doty what keeps the hotel also runs the general store also. He says a fellow by the name of Levy used to run it but he couldnt make it go; he made a failure of it. I tried to sell him a few garments but he claims to be overstocked at present and I believe him. I seen some styles what he tries to get rid of it what me & Pincus Vesell made up in small lots way before the Spanish war already. It is a dead town. Me and Rosie leave tonight for Pittsburg and we are going to stay with Rosies brother in law Hyman Margolius. Write us how things is going in the store to the Outlet Auction House Hyman Margolius prop 2132 4 & 6 North Potter Ave Pittsburg Pa. You should see that Miss Cohen billed them 4022s on date we packed them as Goldman the shipping clerk forgot to give them to Arrow Dispatch when they called. That ain't our fault Morris. Write and tell me how things is going in the store and dont forget to tell Miss Cohen about the bill to S. Lowenstein as above Yours Truly A. POTASH.
P. S. How is things in the store?
During the first three days of Abe Potash's vacation he had traveled by local train one hundred and twenty miles to Dotyville, and unpacked and packed two trunks under the shrill and captious supervision of Mrs. Potash. Then followed a tiresome journey to Pittsburgh with two changes of cars, and finally, on the morning of the fourth day, at seven-thirty sharp, he accompanied Hyman Margolius to the latter's place of business.
There he took off his coat and helped Hyman and his staff of assistants to pile up and mark for auction a large consignment of clothing. After this, he called off the lot numbers while Hyman checked them in a first draft of a printed catalogue, and at one o'clock, with hands and face all grimy from contact with the ill-dyed satinets of which the clothing was manufactured, he partook of a substantial luncheon at Bleistift's Restaurant and Lunch-Room.
"Well, Abe," Hyman said, "how do you like the auction business so far as you gone yet?"
"It's a good, live business, Hymie," Abe replied; "but, the way it works out, it ain't always on the square. A fellow what wants to do his creditors buys goods in New York, we'll say, for his business in—Galveston, we'll say, and then when he gets the goods he don't even bother to unpack 'em, Hymie, but ships 'em right away to you. And you examine 'em, and if they're all O. K., why, you send him a check for about half what it costs to manufacture 'em. Then he pockets the check, Hymie, and ten days later busts up on the poor sucker what sold him the goods in New York at ninety days. Ain't that right, Hymie?"
"Why, that's the funniest thing you ever seen!" Hyman exclaimed.
"What's the funniest thing I ever seen, Hymie?"
"You talking about Galveston, for instance."
Abe turned pale and choked on a piece of rosbraten.
"What d'ye mean?" he gasped.
"Why," said Hyman, "I just received a consignment of garments from a feller called Lowenstein in Galveston. He wrote me he was overstocked."
"Overstocked?" Abe cried. "Overstocked? What color was them garments?"
"Why, they was a kind of plum color," said Hyman.
Abe put his hand to his throat and eased his collar.
"And did you send him a check for 'em yet?" he croaked.
"Not yet," said Hyman.
Abe grabbed him by the collar.
"Come!" he said. "Come quick by a lawyer!"
"What for?" Hyman asked. "You're pulling that coat all out of shape yet."
"I'll buy you another one," Abe cried. "Them plum-color garments is mine, and I want to get 'em back."
Hyman paid the bill, and on their way down the street they passed a telegraph office.
"Wait," Abe cried, "I must send Mawruss a wire."
He entered and seized a telegraph form, which he addressed to Potash & Perlmutter.
"Don't ship no more goods to Lowenstein, Morris. Will explain by letter to-night," he wrote.
"Now, Hymie," he said after he had paid for the dispatch, "we go by your lawyer."
Five minutes later they were closeted with Max Marcus, senior member of the firm of Marcus, Weinschenck & Grab, and a lodge brother of Hymie Margolius. Max made a specialty of amputation cases. He was accustomed to cashing missing arms and legs at a thousand dollars apiece for the victims of rolling-mill and railway accidents, and when the sympathetic jury brought in their generous verdict Max paid the expert witnesses and pocketed the net proceeds. These rarely fell below five thousand dollars.
"Sit down, Hymie. Glad to see you, Mr. Potash," Max said, stroking a small gray mustache with a five-carat diamond ring. "What can I do for you?"
"I got some goods belonging to Mr. Potash what a fellow called Lowenstein in Galveston, Texas, shipped me," said Hymie, "and Mr. Potash wants to get 'em back."
"Replevin, hey?" Max said. "That's a little out of my line, but I guess I can fix you up." He rang for a stenographer. "Take this down," he said to her, and turned to Abe Potash. "Now, tell us the facts."
Abe recounted the tale Mr. Lowenstein had related to Morris Perlmutter, by which Lowenstein made it appear that he was completely out of stock. Next, Hyman Margolius produced Siegmund Lowenstein's letter which declared that Lowenstein was disposing of the Empire cloaks because he was overstocked.
"S'enough," Max declared. "Tell, Mr. Weinschenck to work it up into an affidavit," he continued to the stenographer, "and bring us in a jurat."
A moment later she returned with a sheet of legal cap, on the top of which was typewritten: "Sworn to before me this first day of April, 1904."
"Sign opposite the brace," said Max, pushing the paper at Abe, and Abe scrawled his name where indicated.
"Now, hold up your right hand," said Max, and Abe obeyed.
"Do you solemnly swear that the affidavit subscribed by you is true?" Max went on.
"What affidavit?" Abe asked.
"Why, the one Weinschenck is going to draw when he comes back from lunch, of course," Max replied.
"Sure it's true," said Abe.
"All right," Max concluded briskly.
"Now give me a check for fifty dollars for my fees, five dollars for a surety company bond, and five dollars sheriff's fees, and I'll get out a replevin order on the strength of that affidavit in half an hour, and have a deputy around to the store at three o'clock to transfer the goods from Hymie to you."
"Sixty dollars is pretty high for a little thing like that, ain't it, Max?" said Hymie.
"High?" Max cried indignantly. "High? Why, if you wasn't a lodge brother of mine, Hymie, I wouldn't have stirred a hand for less than a hundred."
Thus rebuked, Abe paid over the sixty dollars, and Hymie and he went back to the store. Precisely at three a deputy sheriff entered the front door and flashed a gold badge as big as a dinner-plate. His stay was brief, and in five minutes he had relieved Abe of all his spare cigars and departed, leaving only a certified copy of the replevin order and a strong smell of whisky to signalize the transfer of the Empire gowns from Hymie to Abe.
Hardly had he banged the door behind him when a messenger boy entered and handed a telegram to Abe.
"Ain't shipped no goods but the 4022's," it read. "Have wired Lowenstein to return the 4022s. MORRIS."
"Fine! Fine!" Abe exclaimed. He tipped the boy a dime and was about to acquaint Hyman with the good news, when another messenger boy entered and delivered a second telegram to Abe. It read as follows:
"Lowenstein wires he insists on delivery entire order complete, otherwise he will sue. What shall I wire him? MORRIS."
Abe seized his hat and dashed down the street to the telegraph office.
"Gimme a blank," he said to the operator, who handed him a whole padful. For the next twenty minutes Abe scribbled and tore up by turns until he finally evolved a satisfactory missive. This he handed to the operator, who read it with a broad grin and passed it back at once.
"Wot d'ye take me for?" he said. "A bum? Dere's ladies in de main office."
Abe glared at the operator and began again.
"Here," he said to the operator after another quarter of an hour of scribbling and tearing up, "send this."
It was in the following form:
Don't send no more goods to Lowenstein " " " " wires " nobody
"Fourteen words," the operator said. "Fifty-four cents."
"What's that?" Abe cried. "What yer trying to do? Make money on me? That ain't no fourteen words. That's nine words."
"It is, hey?" the operator rejoined. "Quit yer kiddin'. Dat's fourteen words. Ditto marks don't go, see?"
"You're a fresh young feller," said Abe, paying over fifty-four cents, "and I got a good mind to report you to the head office."
The operator laughed raucously.
"G'wan!" he said. "Beat it, or I'll sick de cops onter yer. It's agin the law to cuss in Pittsburgh, even by telegraft."
When Abe returned to the Outlet Auction House's store Hyman was busy stacking up the plum-color gowns in piles convenient for shipping.
"Well, Abe," he said, "I thought you was here for a vacation. You're doing some pretty tall hustling for a sick man, I must say."
"I'll tell you the truth, Hymie," Abe replied, "I ain't got no time to be sick. It ain't half-past three yet, and I guess I'll take a couple of them garments and see what I can do with the jobbing and retail trade in this here town."
"Don't you think you'd better take it easy for a while, Abe?" Hyman suggested.
"I am taking it easy," said Abe. "So long as I ain't working I'm resting, ain't it, Hymie? And you know as well as I do, Hymie, selling goods never was work to me. It's a pleasure, Hymie, I assure you."
He placed two of the plum-colored Empire gowns under his arm, and thrusting his hat firmly on the back of his head made straight for the dry-goods district. Two hours later he returned, wearing a broad smile that threatened to engulf his stubby black mustache between his nose and his chin.
"Hymie," he said, "I'm sorry I got to disturb that nice pile you made of them garments. I'll get right to work myself and assort the sizes."
"Why, what's the trouble now, Abe?" Hyman asked.
"I disposed of 'em, Hymie," Abe replied. "Two hundred to Hamburg and Weiss. Three hundred to the Capitol Credit Outfitting Company, and five hundred to Feinroth and Pearl."
"Hold on there, Abe!" Hymie exclaimed. "You only got six hundred, and you sold a thousand garments."
"I know, Hymie," said Abe, "but I'm going home to-morrow, and I got a month in which to ship the balance."
"Going home?" Hyman cried.
"Sure," said Abe. "I had a good long vacation, and now I got to get down to business."
One morning, two weeks later, Abe sat with his feet cocked up on his desk in the show-room of Potash & Perlmutter's spacious cloak and suit establishment. Between his teeth he held a fine Pittsburgh cheroot at an angle of about ninety-five degrees to his protruding under-lip, and he perused with relish the business-trouble column of the Daily Cloak and Suit Record.
"Now, what do you think of that?" he exclaimed.
"What do I think of what, Abe?" Morris inquired.
For answer Abe thrust the paper toward his partner with one hand, and indicated a scare headline with the other.
"Fraudulent Bankruptcy in Galveston," it read. "A petition in bankruptcy was filed yesterday against Siegmund Lowenstein, doing business as the O'Gorman-Henderson Dry-Goods Company, in Galveston, Texas. When the Federal receiver took charge of the bankrupt's premises they were apparently swept clean of stock and fixtures. It is understood that Lowenstein has fled to Matamoros, Mexico, where his wife preceded him some two weeks ago. The liabilities are estimated at fifty thousand dollars, and the only asset is the store building, which is valued at ten thousand dollars and is subject to mortgages aggregating about the same amount. The majority of the creditors are in New York City and Boston."
Morris returned the paper to his partner without comment.
"You see, Mawruss," said Abe, as he lit a fresh cheroot. "Sometimes it pays to be sick. Ain't it?"
"Never no more, Mawruss," said Abe Potash to his partner as they sat in the show-room of their spacious cloak and suit establishment one week after Abe's return from Pittsburgh. "Never no more, Mawruss, because it ain't good policy. This is strictly a wholesale business, and if once we sell a friend one garment that friend brings a friend, and that friend brings also a friend, and the first thing you know, Mawruss, we are doing a big retail business at a net loss of fifty cents a garment."
"But this ain't a friend, Abe," Morris protested. "It's my wife's servant-girl. She seen one of them samples, style forty-twenty-two, them plum-color Empires what I took it home to show M. Garfunkel on my way down yesterday, and now she's crazy to have one. If she don't get one my Minnie is afraid she'll leave."
"All right," Abe said, "let her leave. If my Rosie can cook herself and wash herself, Mawruss, I guess it won't hurt your Minnie. Let her try doing her own work for a while, Mawruss. I guess it'll do her good."
"But, anyhow, Abe, I told the girl to come down this morning and I'd give her one for two dollars, and I guess she'll be here most any time now."
"Well, Mawruss," said Abe, "this once is all right, but never no more. We ain't doing a cloak and suit business for the servant-girl trade."
Further discussion was prevented by the entrance of the retail customer herself. Morris jumped quickly to his feet and conducted her to the rear of the store, while Abe silently sought refuge in the cutting-room upstairs.
"What size do you think you wear, Lina?" Morris asked.
"Big," Lina replied. "Fat."
"Yes, I know," Morris said, "but what size?"
"Very fat," Lina replied. She was a Lithuanian and her generous figure had never known the refining influence of a corset until she had landed at Ellis Island two years before.
"That's the biggest I got, Lina," Morris said, producing the largest-size garment in stock. "Maybe if you try it on over your dress you'll get some idea of whether it's big enough."
Lina struggled feet first into the gown, which buttoned down the back, and for five minutes Morris labored with clenched teeth to fasten it for her.
"That's a fine fit," he said, as he concluded his task. He led her toward the mirror in the front of the show-room just as M. Garfunkel entered the store door.
"Hallo, Mawruss," he cried. "What's this? A new cloak model you got?"
Morris blushed, while Lina and M. Garfunkel both made a critical examination of the garment's eccentric fit.
"Why, that's one of them forty-twenty-two's what I ordered a lot of this morning, Mawruss. Ain't it?"
Morris gazed ruefully at the plum-color gown and nodded.
"Then don't ship that order till you hear from me," M. Garfunkel said. "I guess I got to hustle right along."
"Don't be in a hurry, Mr. Garfunkel," Morris cried. "You ain't come in the store just to tell me that, have you?"
"Yes, I have," said Garfunkel, his eye still glued to Lina's bulging figure. "That's all what I come for. I'll write you this afternoon."
He slammed the door behind him and Morris turned to the unbuttoning of the half-smothered Lina.
"That'll be two dollars for you, Lina," he said, "and I guess it'll be about four hundred for us."
At seven the next morning, when Abe came down the street from the subway, a bareheaded girl sat on the short flight of steps leading to Potash & Perlmutter's store door. As Abe approached, the girl rose and nodded, whereat Abe scowled.
"If a job you want it," he said, "you should go round to the back door and wait till the foreman comes."
"Me no want job," she said. "Me coosin."
"Cousin!" Abe cried. "Whose cousin?"
"Lina's coosin," said the girl. She held out her hand and, opening it, disclosed a two-dollar bill all damp and wrinkled. "Me want dress like Lina."
"What!" Abe cried. "So soon already!"
"Lina got nice red dress. She show it me last night," the girl said. "Me got one, too."
She smiled affably, and for the first time Abe noticed the smooth, fair hair, the oval face and the slender, girlish figure that seemed made for an Empire gown. Then, of course, there was the two-dollar bill and its promise of a cash sale, which always makes a strong appeal to a credit-harried mind like Abe's. "Oh, well," he said with a sigh, leading the way to the rack of Empire gowns in the rear of the store, "if I must I suppose I must."
He selected the smallest gown in stock and handed it to her.
"If you can get into that by your own self you can have it for two dollars," he said, pocketing the crumpled bill. "I don't button up nothing for nobody."
He gathered up the mail from the letter-box and carried it to the show-room. There was a generous pile of correspondence, and the very first letter that came to his hand bore the legend, "The Paris. Cloaks, Suits and Millinery. M. Garfunkel, Prop." Abe mumbled to himself as he tore it open.
"I bet yer he claims a shortage in delivery, when we ain't even shipped him the goods yet," he said, and commenced to read the letter; "I bet yer he——"
He froze into horrified silence as his protruding eyes took in the import of M. Garfunkel's note. Then he jumped from his chair and ran into the store, where the new retail customer was primping in front of the mirror.
"Out," he yelled, "out of my store."
She turned from the fascinating picture in the looking-glass to behold the enraged Abe brandishing the letter like a missile, and with one terrified shriek she made for the door and dashed wildly toward the corner.
Morris was smoking an after-breakfast cigar as he strolled leisurely from the subway, and when he turned into White Street Abe was still standing on the doorstep.
"What's the matter?" Morris asked.
"Matter!" Abe cried. "Matter! Nothing's the matter. Everything's fine and dandy. Just look at that letter, Mawruss. That's all."
Morris took the proffered note and opened it at once.
"Gents," it read. "Your Mr. Perlmutter sold us them plum-color Empires this morning, and he said they was all the thing on Fifth Avenue. Now, gents, we sell to the First Avenue trade, like what was in your store this afternoon when our Mr. Garfunkel called, and our Mr. Garfunkel seen enough already. Please cancel the order. Your Mr. Perlmutter will understand. Truly yours, The Paris. M. Garfunkel, Prop."
M. Garfunkel lived in a stylish apartment on One Hundred and Eighteenth Street. His family consisted of himself, Mrs. Garfunkel, three children and a Lithuanian maid named Anna, and it was a source of wonder to the neighbors that a girl so slight in frame could perform the menial duties of so large a household. She cooked, washed and sewed for the entire family with such cheerfulness and application that Mrs. Garfunkel deemed her a treasure and left to her discretion almost every domestic detail. Thus Anna always rose at six and immediately awakened Mr. Garfunkel, for M. Garfunkel's breakfast was an immovable feast, scheduled for half-past six.
But on the morning after he had purchased the plum-color gowns from Potash & Perlmutter it was nearly eight before he awoke, and when he entered the dining-room, instead of the two fried eggs, the sausage and the coffee which usually greeted him, there were spread on the table only the evening papers, a brimming ash-tray and a torn envelope bearing the score of last night's pinochle game.
He was about to return to the bedroom and report Anna's disappearance when a key rattled in the hall door and Anna herself entered. Her cheeks were flushed and her hair was blown about her face in unbecoming disorder. Nevertheless, she smiled the triumphant smile of the well-dressed.
"Me late," she said, but Garfunkel forgot all about his lost breakfast hour when he beheld the plum-color Empire.
"Why," he gasped, "that's one of them forty-twenty-two's I ordered yesterday."
Anna lifted both her arms the better to display the gown's perfection, and Garfunkel examined it with the eye of an expert.
"Let's see the back," he said. "That looks great on you, Anna."
He spun her round and round in his anxiety to view the gown from all angles.
"I must have been crazy to cancel that order," he went on. "Where did you get it, Anna?"
"Me buy from Potash & Perlmutter," she said. "My coosin Lina works by Mr. Perlmutter. She gets one yesterday for two dollar. Me see it last night and like it. So me get up five o'clock this morning and go downtown and buy one for two dollar, too."
M. Garfunkel made a rapid mental calculation, while Anna left to prepare the belated breakfast.
He estimated that Anna had paid a little less for her retail purchase than the price Potash & Perlmutter had quoted to him for hundred lots.
"They're worth it, too," he said to himself. "Potash & Perlmutter is a couple of pretty soft suckers, to be selling goods below cost to servant-girls. I always thought Abe Potash was a pretty hard nut, but I guess I'll be able to do business with 'em, after all."
At half-past ten M. Garfunkel entered the store of Potash & Perlmutter and greeted Abe with a smile that blended apology, friendliness and ingratiation in what M. Garfunkel deemed to be just the right proportions. Abe glared in response.
"Well, Abe," M. Garfunkel cried, "ain't it a fine weather?"
"Is it?" Abe replied. "I don't worry about the kind of weather it is when I gets cancelations, Mr. Garfunkel. What for you cancel that order, Mr. Garfunkel?"
M. Garfunkel raised a protesting palm.
"Now, Abe," he said, "if you was to go into a house what you bought goods off of and seen a garment you just hear is all the rage on Fifth Avenue being tried on by a cow——"
"A cow!" Abe said. "I want to tell you something, Mr. Garfunkel. That lady what you see trying on them Empires was Mawruss' girl what works by his wife, and while she ain't no Lillian Russell nor nothing like that, y'understand, if you think you should get out of taking them goods by calling her a cow you are mistaken."
The qualities of ingratiation and friendliness departed from M. Garfunkel's smile, leaving it wholly apologetic.
"Well, Abe, as a matter of fact," he said, "I ain't canceled that order altogether absolutely, y'understand. Maybe if you make inducements I might reconsider it."
"Inducements!" Abe cried. "Inducements is nix. Them gowns costs us three dollars apiece, and we give 'em to you for three-ten. If we make any inducements we land in the poorhouse. Ain't it?"
"Oh, the price is all right," M. Garfunkel protested, "but the terms is too strict. I can't buy all my goods at ten days. Sammet Brothers gives me a line at sixty and ninety days, and so I do most of my business with them. Now if I could get the same terms by you, Abe, I should consider your line ahead of Sammet Brothers'."
"Excuse me," Abe interrupted. "I think I hear the telephone ringing."
He walked to the rear of the store, where the telephone bell was jingling.
"Miss Cohen," he said to the bookkeeper as he passed the office, "answer the 'phone. I'm going upstairs to speak to Mr. Perlmutter."
He proceeded to the cutting-room, where Morris was superintending the unpacking of piece-goods.
"Mawruss," he said, "M. Garfunkel is downstairs, and he says he will reconsider the cancelation and give it us a big order if we let him have better terms. What d'ye say, Mawruss?"
Morris remained silent for a minute.
"Take a chance, Abe," he said at length. "He can't bust up on us by the first bill. Can he?"
"No," Abe agreed hesitatingly, "but he might, Mawruss?"
"Sure he might," said Morris, "but if we don't take no chances, Abe, we might as well go out of the cloak and suit business. Sell him all he wants, Abe."
"I'll sell him all he can pay for, Mawruss," said Abe, "and I guess that ain't over a thousand dollars."
He returned to the first floor, where M. Garfunkel eagerly awaited him, and produced a box of the firm's K. to M. first and second credit customers' cigars.
"Have a smoke, Mr. Garfunkel," he said.
M. Garfunkel selected a cigar with care and sat down.
"Well, Abe," he said, "that was a long talk you had over the telephone."
"Sure it was," Abe replied. "The cashier of the Kosciusko Bank on Grand Street rang me up. He discounts some of our accounts what we sell responsible people, and he asks me that in future I get regular statements from all my customers—those that I want to discount their accounts in particular."
M. Garfunkel nodded slowly.
"Statements—you shall have it, Abe," he said, "but I may as well tell you that it's foolish to discount bills what you sell me. I sometimes discount them myself. I'll send you a statement, anyhow. Now let's look at your line, Abe. I wasted enough time already."
For the next hour M. Garfunkel pawed over Potash & Perlmutter's stock, and when he finally took leave of Abe he had negotiated an order of a thousand dollars; terms, sixty days net.
The statement of M. Garfunkel's financial condition, which arrived the following day, more than satisfied Morris Perlmutter and, had it not been quite so glowing in character, it might even have satisfied Abe Potash.
"I don't know, Mawruss," he said; "some things looks too good to be true, Mawruss, and I guess this is one of them."
"Always you must worry, Abe," Morris rejoined. "If Vanderbilt and Astor was partners together in the cloak and suit business, and you sold 'em a couple of hundred dollars' goods, Abe, you'd worry yourself sick till you got a check. I bet yer Garfunkel discounts his bill already."
Morris' prophecy proved to be true, for at the end of four weeks M. Garfunkel called at Potash & Perlmutter's store and paid his sixty-day account with the usual discount of ten per cent. Moreover, he gave them another order for two thousand dollars' worth of goods at the same terms.
In this instance, however, full fifty-nine days elapsed without word from M. Garfunkel, and on the morning of the sixtieth day Abe entered the store bearing every appearance of anxiety.
"Well, Abe," Morris cried, "what's the matter now? You look like you was worried."
"I bet yer I'm worried, Mawruss," Abe replied.
"Well, what's the use of worrying?" he rejoined. "M. Garfunkel's account ain't due till to-day."
"Always M. Garfunkel!" Abe cried. "M. Garfunkel don't worry me much, Mawruss. I'd like to see a check from him, too, Mawruss, but I ain't wasting no time on him. My Rosie is sick."
"Sick!" Morris exclaimed. "That's too bad, Abe. What seems to be the trouble?"
"She got the rheumatism in her shoulder," Abe replied, "and she tries to get a girl by intelligent offices to help her out, but it ain't no use. It breaks her all up to get a girl, Mawruss. Fifteen years already she cooks herself and washes herself, and now she's got to get a girl, Mawruss, but she can't get one."
Morris clucked sympathetically.
"Maybe that girl of yours, Mawruss," Abe went on as though making an innocent suggestion, "what we sell the forty-twenty-two to, maybe she got a sister or a cousin maybe, what wants a job, Mawruss."
"I'll telephone my Minnie right away," Morris said, and as he turned to do so M. Garfunkel entered. Abe and Morris rushed forward to greet him. Each seized a hand and, patting him on the back, escorted him to the show-room.
"First thing," M. Garfunkel said, "here is a check for the current bill."
"No hurry," Abe and Morris exclaimed, with what the musical critics call splendid attack.
"Now that that's out of the way," M. Garfunkel went on, "I want to give you another order. Only thing is, Mawruss, you know as well as I do that in the installment cloak and suit business a feller needs a lot of capital. Ain't it?"
"And if he buys goods only for cash or thirty or sixty days, Abe," M. Garfunkel continued, "he sometimes gets pretty cramped for money, because his own customers takes a long time to pay up. Ain't it?"
Abe nodded, too.
"Well, then," M. Garfunkel concluded, "I'll give you boys a fine order, but this time it's got to be ninety days."
Abe puffed hard on his cigar, and Morris loosened his collar, which had become suddenly tight.
"I always paid prompt my bills. Ain't it?" M. Garfunkel asked.
"Sure, Mr. Garfunkel," Abe replied. "That you did do it. But ninety days is three months, and ourselves we got to pay our bills in thirty days."
"However," Morris broke in, "that is neither there nor here. A good customer is a good customer, Abe, and so I'm agreeable."
This put the proposition squarely up to Abe, and he found it a difficult matter to refuse credit to a customer whose check for two thousand dollars was even then reposing in Abe's waistcoat pocket.
"All right," Abe said. "Go ahead and pick out your goods."
For two solid hours M. Garfunkel went over Potash & Perlmutter's line and, selecting hundred lots of their choicest styles, bought a three-thousand-dollar order.
"We ain't got but half of them styles in stock," said Morris, "but we can make 'em up right away."
"Then, them goods what you got in stock, Mawruss," said Garfunkel, "I must have prompt by to-morrow, and the others in ten days."
"That's all right," Morris replied, and when M. Garfunkel left the store Abe and Morris immediately set about the assorting of the ordered stock.