Slow and Sure by T. S. Arthur
"YOU'D better take the whole case. These goods will sell as fast as
they can be measured off."
The young man to whom this was said by the polite and active
partner in a certain jobbing house in Philadelphia, shook his head and
"No, Mr. Johnson. Three pieces are enough for my sales. If they go
off quickly, I can easily get more."
"I don't know about that, Mr. Watson," replied the jobber. "I shall
be greatly mistaken if we have a case of these goods left by the end
of a week. Every one who looks at them, buys. Miller bought two whole
cases this morning. In the original packages, we sell them at a half
cent per yard lower than by the piece."
"If they are gone, I can buy something else," said the cautious
"Then you won't let me sell you a case?"
"You buy too cautiously," said Johnson.
"Do you think so?"
"I know so. The fact is, I can sell some of your neighbors as much
in an hour as I can sell you in a week. We jobbers would starve if
there were no more active men in the trade than you are, friend
Watson smiled in a quiet, self-satisfied way as he replied—
"The number of wholesale dealers might be diminished; but failures
among them would be of less frequent occurrence. Slow and sure, is my
"Slow and sure don't make much headway in these times. Enterprise
is the word. A man has to be swift-footed to keep up with the general
"I don't expect to get rich in a day," said Watson.
"You'll hardly be disappointed in your expectation," remarked
Johnson, a little sarcastically. His customer did not notice the
feeling his tones expressed, but went on to select a piece or two of
goods, here and there, from various packages, as the styles happened
to suit him.
"Five per cent. off for cash, I suppose," said Watson, after
completing his purchase.
"Oh, certainly," replied the dealer. "Do you wish to cash the
"Yes; I wish to do a cash business as far as I can. It is rather
slow work at first; but it is safest, and sure to come out right in
"You're behind the times, Watson," said Johnson, shaking his head.
"Tell me—who can do the most profitable business, a man with a
capital of five thousand dollars, or a man with twenty thousand?"
"The latter, of course."
"Very well. Don't you understand that credit is capital?"
"It isn't cash capital."
"What is the difference, pray, between the profit on ten thousand
dollars' worth of goods purchased on time or purchased for cash?"
"Just five hundred dollars," said Watson.
"How do you make that out?" The jobber did not see the meaning of
"You discount five per cent. for cash, don't you?" replied Watson,
"True. But, if you don't happen to have the ten thousand dollars
cash, at the time you wish to make a purchase, don't you see what an
advantage credit gives you? Estimate the profit at twenty per cent.
on a cash purchase, and your credit enables you to make fifteen per
cent. where you would have made nothing."
"All very good theory," said Watson. "It looks beautiful on paper.
Thousands have figured themselves out rich in this way, but, alas!
discovered themselves poor in the end. If all would work just
right—if the thousands of dollars of goods bought on credit would
invariably sell at good profit and in time to meet the purchase
notes, then your credit business would be first rate. But, my little
observation tells me that this isn't always the case—that your large
credit men are forever on the street, money hunting, instead of in
their stores looking after their business. Instead of getting
discounts that add to their profits, they are constantly suffering
discounts of the other kind; and, too often, these, and the
accumulating stock of unsaleable goods—the consequence of credit
temptations in purchasing—reduce the fifteen per cent. you speak of
down to ten, and even five per cent. A large business makes large
store-expenses; and these eat away a serious amount of small profits
on large sales. Better sell twenty thousand dollars' worth of goods
at twenty per cent. profit, than eighty thousand at five per cent.
You can do it with less labor, less anxiety, and at less cost for
rent and clerk hire. At least, Mr. Johnson, this is my mode of
"Well, plod along," replied Johnson. "Little boats keep near the
shore. But, let me tell you, my young friend, your mind is rather too
limited for a merchant of this day. There is Mortimer, who began
business about the time you did. How much do you think he has made by
a good credit?"
"I'm sure I don't know."
"Fifty thousand dollars."
"And by the next turn of fortune's wheel, may lose it all."
"Not he. Mortimer, though young, is too shrewd a merchant for that.
Do you know that he made ten thousand by the late rise in cotton; and
all without touching a dollar in his business?"
"I heard something of it. But, suppose prices had receded instead
of advancing? What of this good credit, then?"
"You're too timid—too prudent, Watson," said the merchant, "and
will be left behind in the race for prosperity by men of half your
"No matter; I will be content," was the reply of Watson.
It happened, a short time after this little interchange of views on
business matters, that Watson met the daughter of Mr. Johnson in a
company where he chanced to be. She was an accomplished and
interesting young woman, and pleased Watson particularly; and it is
but truth to say, that she was equally well pleased with him.
The father, who was present, saw, with a slight feeling of
disapprobation, the lively conversation that passed between the young
man and his daughter; and when an occasion offered, a day or two
afterwards, made it a point to refer to him in a way to give the
impression that he held him in light estimation. Flora, that was the
daughter's name, did not appear to notice his remark. One evening,
not long after this, as the family of Mr. Johnson were about leaving
the tea-table, where they had remained later than usual, a domestic
announced that there was a gentleman in the parlor.
"Who is it?" inquired Flora.
"Mr. Mortimer," was answered.
An expression of dislike came into the face of Flora, as she said—
"He didn't ask for me?"
"Yes," was the servant's reply.
"Tell him that I'm engaged, Nancy."
"No, no!" said Mr. Johnson, quickly. "This would not be right.
_Are_ you engaged?"
"That means, father, that I don't wish to see him; and he will so
"Don't wish to see him? Why not?"
"Because I don't like him."
"Don't like him?" Mr. Johnson's manner was slightly impatient.
"Perhaps you don't know him."
The way in which her father spoke, rather embarrassed Flora. She
cast down her eye and stood for a few moments.
"Tell Mr. Mortimer that I will see him in a little while," she then
said, and, as the domestic retired to give the answer, she ascended
to her chamber to make some slight additions to her toilet.
To meet the young man by constraint, as it were, was only to
increase in Flora's mind the dislike she had expressed. So coldly and
formally was Mortimer received, that he found his visit rather
unpleasant than agreeable, and retired, after sitting an hour,
somewhat puzzled as to the real estimation in which he was held by
the lady, for whom he felt more than a slight preference.
Mr. Johnson was very much inclined to estimate others by a
money-standard of valuation. A man was a man, in his eyes, when he
possessed those qualities of mind that would enable him to make his
way in the world—in other words, to get rich. It was this ability in
Mortimer that elevated him in his regard, and produced a feeling of
pleasure when he saw him inclined to pay attention to his daughter.
And it was the apparent want of this ability in Watson, that caused
him to be lightly esteemed.
Men like Mr. Johnson are never very wise in their estimates of
character; nor do they usually adopt the best means of attaining
their ends when they meet with opposition. This was illustrated in
the present case. Mortimer was frequently referred to in the presence
of Flora, and praised in the highest terms; while the bare mention of
Watson's name was sure to occasion a series of disparaging remarks.
The effect was just the opposite of what was intended. The more her
father said in favor of the thrifty young merchant, the stronger was
the repugnance felt towards him by Flora; and the more he had to say
against Watson, the better she liked him. This went on until there
came a formal application from Mortimer for the hand of Flora. It was
made to Mr. Johnson first, who replied to the young man that if he
could win the maiden's favor, he had his full approval. But to win the
maiden's favor was not so easy a task, as the young man soon found.
His offered hand was firmly declined.
"Am I to consider your present decision as final?" said the young
man, in surprise and disappointment.
"I wish you to do so, Mr. Mortimer," said Flora.
"Your father approves my suit," said he. "I have his full consent
to make you this offer of my hand."
"I cannot but feel flattered at your preference," returned Flora;
"but, to accept your offer, would not be just either to you or
myself. I, therefore, wish you to understand me as being entirely in
This closed the interview and definitely settled the question. When
Mr. Johnson learned that the offer of Mortimer had been declined, he
was very angry with his daughter, and, in the passionate excitement
of his feelings, committed a piece of folly for which he felt an
immediate sense of shame and regret.
The interview between Mr. Mortimer and Flora took place during the
afternoon, and Mr. Johnson learned the result from a note received
from the disappointed young man, just as he was about leaving his
store to return home. Flora did not join the family at the tea-table,
on that evening, for her mind was a good deal disturbed, and she
wished to regain her calmness and self-possession before meeting her
Mr. Johnson was sitting in a moody and angry state of mind about an
hour after supper, when a domestic came into the room and said that
Mr. Watson was in the parlor.
"What does he want here?" asked Mr. Johnson, in a rough, excited
"He asked for Miss Flora," returned the servant.
"Where is she?"
"In her room."
"Well, let her stay there. I'll see him myself."
And without taking time for reflection, Mr. Johnson descended to
"Mr. Watson," said he, coldly, as the young man arose and advanced
His manner caused the visitor to pause, and let the hand he had
extended fall to his side.
"Well, what is your wish?" asked Mr. Johnson. He looked with knit
brows into Watson's face.
"I have called to see your daughter Flora," returned the young man,
"Then, I wish you to understand that your call is not agreeable,"
said the father of the young lady, with great rudeness of manner.
"Not agreeable to whom?" asked Watson, manifesting no excitement.
"Not agreeable to me," replied Mr. Johnson. "Nor agreeable to any
one in this house."
"Do you speak for your daughter?" inquired the young man.
"I have a right to speak for her, if any one has," was the evasive
Watson bowed respectfully, and, without a word more, retired from
The calm dignity with which he had received the rough treatment of
Mr. Johnson, rebuked the latter, and added a feeling of shame to his
other causes of mental disquietude.
On the next day Flora received a letter from Watson, in part in
"I called, last evening, but was not so fortunate as to see you.
Your father met me in the parlor, and on learning that my visit was
to you, desired me not to come again. This circumstance makes it
imperative on me to declare what might have been sometime longer
delayed—my sincere regard for you. If you feel towards me as your
father does, then I have not a word more to say; but I do not believe
this, and, therefore, I cannot let his disapproval, in a matter so
intimately concerning my happiness, and it may be yours, influence me
to the formation of a hasty decision. I deeply regret your father's
state of feeling. His full approval of my suit, next to yours, I feel
to be in every way desirable.
"But, why need I multiply words? Again, I declare that I feel for
you a sincere affection. If you can return this, say so with as
little delay as possible; and if you cannot, be equally frank with
Watson did not err in his belief that Flora reciprocated his tender
sentiments; nor was he kept long in suspense. She made an early
reply, avowing her own attachment, but urging him; for her sake, to
do all in his power to overcome her father's prejudices. But this was
no easy task. In the end, however, Mr. Johnson, who saw, too plainly,
that opposition on his part would be of no avail, yielded a kind of
forced consent that the plodding, behind-the-age young merchant,
should lead Flora to the altar. That his daughter should be content
with such a man, was to him a source of deep mortification. His own
expectations in regard to her had been of a far higher character.
"He'll never set the world on fire;" "A man of no enterprise;" "A
dull plodder;" with similar allusions to his son-in-law, were
overheard by Mr. Johnson on the night of the wedding party, and added
no little to the ill-concealed chagrin from which he suffered. They
were made by individuals who belonged to the new school of business
men, of whom Mortimer was a representative. He, too, was present. His
disappointment in not obtaining the hand of Flora, had been solaced in
the favor of one whose social standing and money-value was regarded as
considerably above that of the maiden who had declined the offer of
his hand. He saw Flora given to another without a feeling of regret. A
few months afterwards, he married the daughter of a gentleman who
considered himself fortunate in obtaining a son-in-law that promised
to be one of the richest men in the city.
It was with a very poor grace that Mr. Johnson bore his
disappointment; so poor, that he scarcely treated the husband of his
daughter with becoming respect. To add to his uncomfortable feelings
by contrast, Mortimer built himself a splendid dwelling almost beside
the modest residence of Mr. Watson, and after furnishing it in the
most costly and elegant style, gave a grand entertainment. Invitations
to this were not extended to either Mr. Johnson's family or to that of
his son-in-law—an omission that was particularly galling to the
A few weeks subsequent to this, Mr. Johnson stood beside Mr. Watson
in an auction room. To the latter a sample of new goods, just
introduced, was knocked down, and when asked by the auctioneer how
many cases he would take, he replied "Two."
"Say ten," whispered Mr. Johnson in his ear.
"Two cases are enough for my sales," quietly returned the young
"But they're a great bargain. You can sell them at an advance,"
urged Mr. Johnson.
"Perhaps so. But I'd rather not go out of my regular line of
By this time, the auctioneer's repeated question of "Who'll take
another case?" had been responded to by half a dozen voices, and the
lot of goods was gone.
"You're too prudent," said Mr. Johnson, with some impatience in his
"No," replied the young man, with his usual calm tone and quiet
smile. "Slow and sure—that is my motto. I only buy the quantity of
an article that I am pretty sure will sell. Then I get a certain
profit, and am not troubled with paying for goods that are lying on
my shelves and depreciating in value daily."
"But these wouldn't have lain on your shelves. You could have sold
them at a quarter of a cent advance to-morrow, and thus cleared sixty
or seventy dollars."
"That is mere speculation."
"Call it what you will; it makes no difference. The chance of
making a good operation was before you, and you did not improve it.
You will never get along at your snail's pace."
There was, in the voice of Mr. Johnson, a tone of contempt that
stung Watson more than any previous remark or, action of his
father-in-law. Thrown, for a moment, off his guard, he replied with
"You may be sure of one thing, at least."
"That I shall never embarrass you with any of my fine operations."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Mr. Johnson.
"Time will explain the remark," replied Watson, turning away, and
retiring from the auction room.
A coolness of some months was the consequence of this little
Time proves all things. At the end of fifteen years, Mortimer, who
had gone on in the way he had begun, was reputed to be worth two
hundred thousand dollars. Every thing he touched turned to money; at
least, so it appeared. His whole conversation was touching handsome
operations in trade; and not a day passed in which he had not some
story of gains to tell. Yet, with all his heavy accumulations, he was
always engaged in money raising, and his line of discounts was
enormous. Such a thing as proper attention to business was almost out
of the question, for nearly his whole time was taken up in
financiering—and some of his financial schemes were on a pretty
grand scale. Watson, on the other hand, had kept plodding along in
the old way, making his regular business purchases, and gradually
extending his operations, as his profits, changing into capital,
enabled him to do so. He was not anxious to get rich fast; at least,
not so anxious as to suffer himself to be tempted from a safe and
prudent course; and was, therefore, content to do well. By this time,
his father-in-law began to understand him a little better than at
first, and to appreciate him more highly. On more than one occasion,
he had been in want of a few thousand dollars in an emergency, when
the check of Watson promptly supplied the pressing need.
As to the real ability of Watson, few were apprised, for he never
made a display for the sake of establishing a credit. But it was
known to some, that he generally had a comfortable balance in the
bank, and to others that he never exchanged notes, nor asked an
endorser on his business paper. He always purchased for cash, and
thus obtained his goods from five to seven per cent cheaper than his
neighbors; and rarely put his business paper in bank for discount at
a longer date than sixty days. Under this system, his profits were,
usually, ten per cent. more than the profits of many who were engaged
in the same branch of trade. His credit was so good, that the bank
where he kept his account readily gave him all the money he asked on
his regular paper, without requiring other endorsements; while many of
his more dashing neighbors, who were doing half as much business
again, were often obliged to go upon the street to raise money at from
one to two per cent. a month. Moreover, as he was always to be found
at his store, and ready to give his personal attention to customers,
he was able to make his own discriminations and to form his own
estimates of men—and these were generally correct. The result of this
was, that he gradually attracted a class of dealers who were
substantial men; and, in consequence, was little troubled with bad
Up to this time, there had been but few changes in the external
domestic arrangements of Mr. Watson. He had moved twice, and, each
time, into a larger house. His increasing family made this necessary.
But, while all was comfortable and even elegant in his dwelling, there
was no display whatever.
One day, about this period, as Watson was walking with his
father-in-law, they both paused to look at a handsome house that was
going up in a fashionable part of Walnut street. By the side of it
was a large building lot.
"I have about made up my mind to buy this lot," remarked Watson.
"You?" Mr. Johnson spoke in a tone of surprise.
"Yes. The price is ten thousand dollars. Rather high; but I like
"What will you do with it?" inquired Mr. Johnson.
"Build upon it."
"As an investment?"
"No. I want a dwelling for myself."
"Indeed! I was not aware that you had any such intentions."
"Oh, yes. I have always intended to build a house so soon as I felt
able to do it according to my own fancy."
Mr. Johnson felt a good deal surprised at this. No more was said,
and the two men walked on.
"How's this? For sale!" said Mr. Johnson. They were opposite the
elegant dwelling of Mr. Mortimer, upon which was posted a hand-bill
setting forth that the property was for sale.
"So it seems," was Watson's quiet answer.
"Why should he sell out?" added Mr. Johnson. "Perhaps he is going
to Europe to make a tour with his family," he suggested.
"It is more probable," said Watson, "that he has got to the end of
"What do you mean by that remark?"
"Is obliged to sell in order to save himself."
"Oh, no! Mortimer is rich."
"So it is said. But I never call a man rich whose paper is floating
about by thousands on the street seeking purchasers at two per cent.
Just then the carriage of Mortimer drove up to his door, and Mrs.
Mortimer descended to the pavement and passed into the house. Her
face was pale, and had a look of deep distress. It was several years
since Mr. Johnson remembered to have seen her, and he was almost
startled at the painful change which had taken place.
A little while afterwards he looked upon the cheerful, smiling face
of his daughter Flora, and there arose in his heart, almost
involuntarily, an emotion of thankfulness that she was not the wife
of Mortimer. Could he have seen what passed a few hours afterwards,
in the dwelling of the latter, he would have been more thankful than
It was after eleven o'clock when Mortimer returned home that night.
He had been away since morning. It was rarely that he dined with his
family, but usually came home early in the evening. Since seven
o'clock, the tea-table had been standing in the floor, awaiting his
return. At eight o'clock, as he was still absent, supper was served
to the children, who, soon after, retired for the night. It was after
eleven o'clock as we have said, before Mortimer returned. His face was
pale and haggard. He entered quietly, by means of his night-key, and
went noiselessly up to his chamber. He found his wife lying across the
bed, where, wearied with watching, she had thrown herself and fallen
asleep. For a few moments he stood looking at her, with a face in
which agony and affection were blended. Then he clasped his hands
suddenly against his temples, and groaned aloud. That groan penetrated
the ears of his sleeping wife, who started up with an exclamation of
alarm, as her eyes saw the gesture and expression of her husband.
"Oh, Henry! what is the matter? Where have you been? Why do you
look so?" she eagerly inquired.
Mortimer did not reply; but continued standing like a statue of
"Henry! Henry!" cried his wife, springing towards him, and laying
her hands upon his arm. "Dear husband! what is the matter?"
"Ruined! Ruined!" now came hoarsely from the lips of Mortimer, and,
with another deep groan, he threw himself on a sofa, and wrung his
hands in uncontrollable anguish.
"Oh, Henry! speak! What does this mean?" said his wife, the tears
now gushing from her eyes. "Tell me what has happened."
But, "Ruined! Ruined!" was all the wretched man would say for a
long time. At last, however, he made a few vague explanations, to the
effect that he would be compelled to stop payment on the next day.
"I thought," said Mrs. Mortimer, "that the sale of this house was
to afford you all the money you needed."
"It is not sold yet," was all his reply to this. He did not explain
that it was under a heavy mortgage, and that, even if sold, the
amount realized would be a trifle compared with his need on the
following day. During the greater part of the night, Mortimer walked
the floor of his chamber; and, for a portion of the time, his wife
moved like a shadow by his side. But few words passed between them.
When the day broke, Mrs. Mortimer was lying on the bed, asleep.
Tears were on her cheeks. In a crib, beside her, was a fair-haired
child, two years old, breathing sweetly in his innocent slumber; and
over this crib bent the husband and father. His face was now calm,
but very pale, and its expression of sadness, as he gazed upon his
sleeping child, was heart-touching. For many minutes he stood over
the unconscious slumberer; then stooping down, he touched its
forehead lightly with his lips, while a low sigh struggled up from
his bosom. Turning, then, his eyes upon his wife, he gazed at her for
some moments, with a sad, pitying look. He was bending to kiss her,
when a movement, as if she were about to awaken, caused him to step
back, and stand holding his breath, as if he feared the very sound
would disturb her. She did not open her eyes, however, but turned
over, with a low moan of suffering, and an indistinct murmur of his
Mortimer did not again approach the bed-side, but stepped
noiselessly to the chamber door, and passed into the next room, where
three children, who made up the full number of his household
treasures, were buried in tranquil sleep. Long he did not linger
here. A hurried glance was taken of each beloved face, and a kiss
laid lightly upon the lips of each. Then he left the room, moving
down the stairs with a step of fear. A moment or two more, and he was
beyond the threshold of his dwelling.
When Mrs. Mortimer started up from unquiet slumber, as the first
beams of the morning sun fell upon her face, she looked around,
eagerly, for her husband. Not seeing him, she called his name. No
answer was received, and she sprung from the bed. As she did so, a
letter placed conspicuously on the bureau met her eyes. Eagerly
breaking the seal, she read this brief sentence:
"Circumstances make it necessary for me to leave the city by the
earliest conveyance. Say not a word of this to any one—not even to
your father. My safety depends on your silence. I will write to you
in a little while. May Heaven give you strength to bear the trials
through which you are about to pass!"
But for the instant fear for her husband, which this communication
brought into the mind of Mrs. Mortimer, the shock would have rendered
her insensible. He was in danger, and upon her discretion depended his
safety. This gave her strength for the moment. Her first act was to
destroy the note. Next she strove to repress the wild throbbings of
her heart, and to assume a calm exterior. Vain efforts! She was too
weak for the trial; and who can wonder that she was?
Mr. Johnson was sitting in his store about half past three o'clock
that afternoon, when a man came in and asked him for the payment of a
note of five thousand dollars. He was a Notary.
"A protest!" exclaimed Mr. Johnson, in astonishment. "What does
"I don't understand this," said he, after a moment or two. "I have
no paper out for that amount falling due to-day. Let me see it?"
The note was handed to him.
"It's a forgery!" said he, promptly. "To whom is it payable?" he
added. "To Mortimer, as I live!"
And he handed it back to the Notary, who departed.
Soon after he saw the father-in-law of Mortimer go hurriedly past
his store. A glimpse of his countenance showed that he was strongly
"Have you heard the news?" asked his son-in-law, coming in, half an
"Mortimer has been detected in a forgery!"
"He has forged my name also."
"Yes. A note for five thousand dollars was presented to me by the
Notary a little while ago."
"Is it possible? But this is no loss to you."
"If he has resorted to forgery to sustain himself," replied Mr.
Johnson, looking serious, "his affairs are, of course, in a desperate
"I am on his paper to at least twenty thousand dollars."
"Such, I am sorry to say, is the case. And to meet that paper will
try me severely. Oh, dear! How little I dreamed of this! I thought
him one of the soundest men in the city."
"I am pained to hear that you are so deeply involved," said Mr.
Watson. "But, do not let it trouble you too much. I will defer my
building intentions to another time, and let you have whatever money
you may need."
Mr. Johnson made no answer. His eyes were upon the floor and his
thoughts away back to the time when he had suffered the great
disappointment of seeing his daughter marry the slow, plodding
Watson, instead of becoming the wife of the enterprising Mortimer.
"I will try, my son," said he, at length, in a subdued voice, "to
get through without drawing upon you too largely. Ah, me! How blind I
"You may depend on me for at least twenty thousand dollars,"
replied Watson, cheerfully; "and for even more, if it is needed."
It was soon known that Mortimer had committed extensive forgeries
upon various persons, and that he had left the city. Officers were
immediately despatched for his arrest, and in a few days he was
brought back as a criminal. In his ruin, many others were involved.
Among these was his father-in-law, who was stripped of every dollar
in his old age.
"Slow and sure—slow and sure. Yes, Watson was right." Thus mused
Mr. Johnson, a few months afterwards, on hearing that Mortimer was
arraigned before the criminal court, to stand his trial for forgery.
"It is the safest and the best way, and certainly leads to
prosperity. Ah, me! How are we drawn aside into false ways through
our eagerness to obtain wealth by a nearer road than that of patient
industry in legitimate trade. Where one is successful, a dozen are
ruined by this error. Slow and sure! Yes, that is the true doctrine.
Watson was right, as the result has proved. Happy for me that his was
a better experiment than that of the envied Mortimer!"