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Paul the Peddler; Or, The Fortunes of a Young Street Merchant

Paul the Peddler; Or, The Fortunes of a Young Street Merchant

Author:Jr. Horatio Alger


“Here's your prize packages! Only five cents! Money prize in every package! Walk up, gentlemen, and try your luck!” The speaker, a boy of fourteen, stood in front of the shabby brick building, on Nassau street, which has served f...
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  “Here's your prize packages! Only five cents! Money prize in everypackage! Walk up, gentlemen, and try your luck!”

  The speaker, a boy of fourteen, stood in front of the shabby brickbuilding, on Nassau street, which has served for many years as the NewYork post office. In front of him, as he stood with his back to thebuilding, was a small basket, filled with ordinary letter envelopes,each labeled “Prize Package.”

  His attractive announcement, which, at that time, had also the merit ofnovelty--for Paul had himself hit upon the idea, and manufactured thepackages, as we shall hereafter explain--drew around him a miscellaneouscrowd, composed chiefly of boys.

  “What's in the packages, Johnny?” asked a bootblack, with his boxstrapped to his back.

  “Candy,” answered Paul. “Buy one. Only five cents.”

  “There ain't much candy,” answered the bootblack, with a disparagingglance.

  “What if there isn't? There's a prize.”

  “How big a prize?”

  “There's a ten-cent stamp in some of 'em. All have got something in'em.”

  Influenced by this representation, the bootblack drew out a five-centpiece, and said:

  “Pitch one over then. I guess I can stand it.” An envelope was at oncehanded him.

  “Open it, Johnny,” said a newsboy at his side. Twenty curious eyes werefixed upon him as he opened the package. He drew out rather a scantysupply of candy, and then turning to Paul, with a look of indignation,said:

  “Where's the prize? I don't see no prize. Give me back my five cents.”

  “Give it to me. I'll show you,” said the young merchant.

  He thrust in his finger, and drew out a square bit of paper, on whichwas written--One Cent.

  “There's your prize,” he added, drawing a penny from his pocket.

  “It ain't much of a prize,” said the buyer. “Where's your ten cents?”

  “I didn't say I put ten cents into every package,” answered Paul.

  “I'd burst up pretty quick if I did that. Who'll have another package?Only five cents!”

  Curiosity and taste for speculation are as prevalent among children aswith men, so this appeal produced its effect.

  “Give me a package,” said Teddy O'Brien, a newsboy, stretching out adirty hand, containing the stipulated sum. He also was watched curiouslyas he opened the package. He drew out a paper bearing the words--TwoCents.

  “Bully for you, Teddy! You've had better luck than I,” said thebootblack.

  The check was duly honored, and Teddy seemed satisfied, thoughthe amount of candy he received probably could not have cost overhalf-a-cent. Still, he had drawn twice as large a prize as the firstbuyer, and that was satisfactory.

  “Who'll take the next?” asked Paul, in a businesslike manner. “Maybethere's ten cents in this package. That's where you double your money.Walk up, gentlemen. Only five cents!”

  Three more responded to this invitation, one drawing a prize of twocents, the other two of one cent each. Just then, as it seemed doubtfulwhether any more would be purchased by those present, a young man,employed in a Wall street house, came out of the post office.

  “What have you got here?” he asked, pausing.

  “Prize packages of candy! Money prize in every package! Only fivecents!”

  “Give me one, then. I never drew a prize in my life.”

  The exchange was speedily made.

  “I don't see any prize,” he said, opening it.

  “It's on a bit of paper, mister,” said Teddy, nearly as much interestedas if it had been his own purchase.

  “Oh, yes, I see. Well, I'm in luck. Ten cents!”

  “Ten cents!” exclaimed several of the less fortunate buyers, with ashade of envy.

  “Here's your prize, mister,” said Paul, drawing out a ten-cent stampfrom his vest pocket.

  “Well, Johnny, you do things on the square, that's a fact. Just keep theten cents, and give me two more packages.”

  This Paul did with alacrity; but the Wall street clerk's luck was at anend. He got two prizes of a penny each.

  “Well,” he said, “I'm not much out of pocket. I've bought threepackages, and it's only cost me three cents.”

  The ten-cent prize produced a favorable effect on the business of theyoung peddler. Five more packages were bought, and the contents eagerlyinspected; but no other large prize appeared. Two cents was the maximumprize drawn. Their curiosity being satisfied, the crowd dispersed;but it was not long before another gathered. In fact, Paul had shownexcellent judgment in selecting the front of the post office as hisplace of business. Hundreds passed in and out every hour, besides thosewho passed by on a different destination. Thus many ears caught theyoung peddler's cry--“Prize packages! Only five cents apiece!”--andmade a purchase; most from curiosity, but some few attracted by thebusinesslike bearing of the young merchant, and willing to encouragehim in his efforts to make a living. These last, as well as some of theformer class, declined to accept the prizes, so that these were so muchgain to Paul.

  At length but one package remained, and this Paul was some time gettingrid of. At last a gentleman came up, holding a little boy of seven bythe hand.

  “Oh, buy me the package, papa?” he said, drawing his father's attention.

  “What is there in it, boy?” asked the gentleman.

  “Candy,” was the answer.

  Alfred, for this was the little boy's name, renewed his entreaties,having, like most boys, a taste for candy.

  “There it is, Alfred,” said his father, handing the package to hislittle son.

  “There's a prize inside,” said Paul, seeing that they were about topass.

  “We must look for the prize by all means,” said the gentleman. “What isthis? One cent?”

  “Yes sir”; and Paul held out a cent to his customer.

  “Never mind about that! You may keep the prize.”

  “I want it, pa,” interposed Alfred, with his mouth full of candy.

  “I'll give you another,” said his father, still declining to accept theproffered prize.

  Paul now found himself in the enviable position of one who, at eleveno'clock, had succeeded in disposing of his entire stock in trade, andthat at an excellent profit, as we soon shall see. Business had beenmore brisk with him than with many merchants on a larger scale, whosometimes keep open their shops all day without taking in enough to payexpenses. But, then, it is to be considered that in Paul's case expenseswere not a formidable item. He had no rent to pay, for one thing,nor clerk hire, being competent to attend to his entire businesssingle-handed. All his expense, in fact, was the first cost of his stockin trade, and he had so fixed his prices as to insure a good profit onthat. So, on the whole, Paul felt very well satisfied at the resultof his experiment, for this was his first day in the prize-packagebusiness.

  “I guess I'll go home,” he said to himself. “Mother'll want to know howI made out.” He turned up Nassau street, and had reached the corner ofMaiden lane, when Teddy O'Brien met him.

  “Did you sell out, Johnny?” he asked.

  “Yes,” answered Paul.

  “How many packages did you have?”


  “That's bully. How much you made?”

  “I can't tell yet. I haven't counted up,” said Paul.

  “It's better'n sellin' papers, I'll bet. I've only made thirty cents theday. Don't you want to take a partner, Johnny?”

  “No, I don't think I do,” said Paul, who had good reason to doubtwhether such a step would be to his advantage.

  “Then I'll go in for myself,” said Teddy, somewhat displeased at therefusal.

  “Go ahead! There's nobody to stop you,” said Paul.

  “I'd rather go in with you,” said Teddy, feeling that there would besome trouble in making the prize packages, but influenced still more bythe knowledge that he had not capital enough to start in the businessalone.

  “No,” said Paul, positively; “I don't want any partner. I can do wellenough alone.”

  He was not surprised at Teddy's application. Street boys are asenterprising, and have as sharp eyes for business as their elders, andno one among them can monopolize a profitable business long. This isespecially the case with the young street merchant. When one has hadthe good luck to find some attractive article which promises to sellbriskly, he takes every care to hide the source of his supply from hisrivals in trade. But this is almost impossible. Cases are frequent wheresuch boys are subjected to the closest espionage, their steps beingdogged for hours by boys who think they have found a good thing and aredetermined to share it. In the present case Paul had hit upon an ideawhich seemed to promise well, and he was determined to keep it tohimself as long as possible. As soon as he was subjected to competitionand rivalry his gains would probably diminish.