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- The Rise of David Levinsky - 40/102 -


fine-looking elderly American dictating something to a stenographer. When the man had heard my plea be looked me over from head to foot.

I felt like a prisoner facing the jury which is about to announce its verdict

At last he said: "Well, you look pretty reliable. I guess I'll trust you the goods for thirty days."

It was all I could do to restrain myself from invoking benedictions on his head and kissing his hands as my mother would have done under similar circumstances

"So I do have a 'credit face'!" I exclaimed to myself, gleefully

When I found myself in the street again I looked at my reflection in store windows, scanning my "credit face."

The Chaikins took it for granted that I had paid for the goods on the spot

Things brightened up at our "factory." I ordered an additional sewing-machine of the instalment agent and hired two operators--poor fellows who were willing to work fourteen or fifteen hours a day for twelve dollars a week. (The union had again been revived, but it was weak, and my employees did not belong to it.) As for myself, I toiled at my machine literally day and night, snatching two or three hours' sleep at dawn, with some bundles of cut goods or half-finished cloaks for a bed. Chaikin spent every night, from 7 to 2, with me, cutting the goods and doing the better part of the other work. Mrs. Chaikin, too, lent a hand. Leaving Maxie in the care of her mother, she would spend several hours a day in the factory, finishing the cloaks

The five hundred cloaks were shipped on time. I was bursting with consciousness of the fact that I was a manufacturer--that a big firm out West (a firm of Gentiles, mind you!) was recognizing my claim to the title.

I was American enough to be alive to the special glamour of the words, "out West."

Goods in our line of business usually sold "for cash," which meant ten days.

Ten days more, then, and I should receive a big check from that firm. That would enable me to start new operations. Accordingly, I went out to look for more orders

Whether my first success had put new confidence in me, or whether my past experiences had somewhat rounded off my rough edges and enabled me to speak to business people in a more effective manner than I could have done before, the proprietor of a small department store on upper Third Avenue let me show him my samples. My prices made an impression on him. My cloaks were five dollars apiece lower than he was in the habit of paying. He looked askance at me, as though my figures seemed too good to be true, until I found it the best policy to tell him the unembellished truth.

"The big manufacturers of whom you buy have big office expenses," I explained. "They make a lot of fuss, and you've got to pay for it. My principle is not to make fuss at the retailer's expense. Our office costs us very, very little. We are plain people. But that isn't all. Your big manufacturer pays for union labor, so he takes it out of you. Now, we don't bother about these things. We get the best work done for the lowest wages.

The big men in the business wouldn't even know where hands of this kind could be got. We do."

I took my departure with an order for three hundred cloaks, expecting to begin work on them as soon as I received that check "from out West." Things seemed to be coming my way.

As I sat in an Elevated train going down-town I figured the profits on the two orders and pictured other orders coming in. I beheld our little factory crowded with machines, I heard their bewitching whir-r, whir-r. Chaikin would have to leave the Manheimers, of course

In the afternoon of the sixth day, when I called at one of the purchasing offices I have mentioned, I received the information that the firm whose check I was awaiting so impatiently had failed! CHAPTER VI THE failure of the Western firm seemed to nave nipped my commercial career in the bud. The large order I had received from its representative was apparently to be the death as well as the birth of my glory. In my despair, I tried to make a virtue of necessity. I was telling myself that it served me right; that I had had no business to abandon my intellectual pursuits. I was inclined to behold something like the hand of Providence in the bankruptcy of that firm. At the same time I was casting about in my mind for some way of raising new money with which to pay the kindly commission merchant, get a new bill of goods from him, and fill my new order.

When I explained the matter to Mrs. Chaikin she was on the brink of a fainting spell

"You're a liar and a thief!" she shrieked. "There never was a Western firm in the world. It's all a lie. You sold the goods for cash."

Her husband knew something about firms and credit, so I had no difficulty in substantiating my assertion to him

"It's only a matter of days when I shall get the big check that is coming to me," I assured them. I went on to spin a long yarn, to which she listened with jeers and outbursts of uncomplimentary Yiddish

One day I mustered courage and called on Mrs. Chaikin. I did so on an afternoon when her husband was sure to be at work, because I had a lurking feeling that, being alone with me, she would be easier to deal with

When she saw me she gasped. "What, you?" she said. "You have the nerve to come up here?"

"Come, come, Mrs. Chaikin," I said, earnestly. "Please be seated and let us talk it all over in a business-like manner. With your sense, and especially with your sense for business. you will understand me."

"Please don't flatter me," she demurred, sternly

But I knew that nothing appealed to her vanity so much as being thought a clever business woman, and I protested: "Flatter you! In the first place, it is a well-known fact that women have more sense than men. In the second place, it is the talk of every cloak-shop that Mr. Chaikin owes his high position to you as much as to his own ability. Everybody, everybody says so."

I talked of "unforeseen difficulties," of a "well-known landlord" whose big check I was expecting every day; I composed a story about that landlord's father-in-law agreed with Mrs. Chaikin that it had been a mistake on my part to trust the buyer of that Western firm the goods without first consulting her; and the upshot was that she made me stay to supper and that pending the arrival of Chaikin I took Maxie to the Park

The father-in-law of my story was Mr. Even, of course. I had portrayed him vividly as coming to my rescue in my present predicament, so vividly, indeed, that my own fib haunted me the next day. The result was that in the evening I made myself as presentable as I could, and repaired to the synagogue where he spent much of his time reading Talmud

I had not visited the place since that memorable day, my first day in America. I recognized it at once. I was thrilled. The four-odd years seemed twenty-four

Mr. Even was not there, but he soon came in. He had aged considerably. He was beginning to look somewhat decrepit. His dignity was tinged with the sadness of old age

"Good evening, Mr. Even. Do you know me?" I began

He scanned me closely, but failed to recognize me

"I am David Levinsky, the 'green one' you befriended four and a half years ago. Don't you remember me, Mr. Even? It was in this very place where I had the good fortune to make your acquaintance. I'm the son of the woman who was killed by Gentiles, in Antomir," I added, mournfully

"Oh yes, indeed!" he said, with a wistful smile, somewhat abashed. He took snuff, looked me over once more, and, as if his memory had been brightened by the snuff, he burst out: "Lord of the World! You are that young man! Why, I confess I scarcely recognize you. Of course I remember it all. Why, of course I remember you. Well, well! How have you been getting along in America?"

"Can't complain. Not at all. You remember that evening? After you provided me with a complete outfit, like a father fixing up his son for his wedding-day, and you gave me five dollars into the bargain, you told me not to call on you again until I was well established in life. Do you remember that?"

"Of course I do," he answered, with a beaming glance at two old Talmudists who sat at their books close by

"Well, here I am. I am running a cloak-factory."

He began to question me about my affairs with sad curiosity. I said that business was "good, too good, in fact," so that it required somewhat more capital than I possessed.

I soon realized, however, that he did not care for me now. My Americanized self did not make the favorable impression that I had made four and a half years before, when he gave me my first American hair-cut

I inquired after his daughter and his son-in-law, but my hint that the latter might perhaps be willing to indorse a note for me evoked an impatient grunt

"My son-in-law! Why, you don't even know him!" he retorted, with


The Rise of David Levinsky - 40/102

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