THIS is a true story, but for various good and sufficient reasons the persons concerned must remain nameless. The central figure was the salesman for a railway supply company dealing in draft bars, steel platforms, and improved couplings. Word had come of a large contract to be let by a great railroad company, and the president of the supply company sent the salesman down from New York to get in on it.
"Stay till you get it" said the president. "It may be a day and it may be a week, but get it The only message that I want from you is: 'Contract signed,' Then you can come home; but I don't want to see you till then."
It was the salesman's first big chance, and he went at it bravely but with fear in his heart.
The Closed Door.
The beginning was not auspicious. The clerk who guarded the railroad manager's office took in his card and returned with the curt message:
"Contracts all closed yesterday. Appropriation covered. Too busy to see any more salesmen."
What was to be done? The answer seemed to be final, but the salesman came of patient stock. He sat himself down to besiege the manager. For three days he called daily at the office, and each day he was told that there was "nothing doing." Meanwhile, he ingratiated himself with the clerks in the outer office. His pockets were always filled with good cigars that found their way into the pockets of the men who did the manager's bidding.
On the fourth day the salesman's chance came. The chief clerk, who had been his special confidant, led him to one side and spoke in a low tone and to the point.
"The old man goes out to lunch at one o'clock, and usually stays an hour. Come in at half-past one and bring your samples. I'll let you into his office and you can wait for him there. The rest of it you'll have to do yourself, but I wish you luck."
When the manager returned there sat the salesman with his samples displayed temptingly on a convenient table. The railroad man smiled dryly.
"Don't you think this is rather rubbing it in?" he asked. "I'm willing to give a man his chance, but I'm busy, and you've given me about your share of bother."
"Give me just five minutes," answered the salesman. "I know you're busy, but so am I. I'm not hanging around here because I enjoy it. I have to make my living this way, and if I went back and told our president that I couldn't even get in to see you my chance of holding my job wouldn't be worth thinking about. All I want is to be able to say that I saw you and talked with you. If I can't sell you something in five minutes I can at least say that you know we're doing business, and the next time I come down I won't have to tell you who I am."
The manager looked at his watch. "I'll give you ten minutes. It's a waste of time, but such a persistent beggar deserves something."
It was the chance that the salesman was looking for, and he went at the manager as though his life depended on selling him a hundred-thousand-dollar order. When he said that all he wanted was a chance to show his goods he had told only a little more than half the truth. Not only did he want to be able to assure the home office that he had at least seen the great man, but in the back of his mind there lurked the idea that perhaps a small sale might result from the manager's grudging concession.
The ten minutes dragged out to an hour and a half. At the end of the time the manager turned to the salesman.
"Well, you win. I haven't any business to do it, and when I told you that the appropriation was exhausted I meant it. We've ordered all we meant to take, but I like you and I like your goods. Give me a contract, and I'll sign it and stretch the appropriation on my own responsibility. But in the future, for heaven's sake, get here before we've spent all our money so I can do business with you without putting my own head in danger."
That night the salesman wired back to the home office, "Contract signed," and went on his way in peace to sell more goods.