"Good morning, Sir."
I glanced from my desk at a tall, cadaverous-looking individual, clad in a faded brown ulster.
"I hope I don't disturb you?"
"You have n't yet," I observed.
"Thank you, very much. If it is n't troubling you, would you be kind enough to permit me to show you the advance sheets of our new work on "Art in the Middle Ages?"
"I don't want it."
"Thank you; but I don't ask you to buy it, but merely to look at it."
I am of a very obliging disposition. I turned over a few pages hastily, without giving him an opportunity to recite his usual lecture.
"Yes," I said, as I handed the book back to him, "it seems to be a pretty good book; but I'm not able to buy it."
"I'm very much obliged to you for the opportunity of showing it to you."
"Not at all," I replied, turning to my balance-sheet.
"Could n't I offer you some inducement in the way of easy terms?"
"I can't afford it on any terms at present."
"I am sorry," he said, as he started reluctantly toward the door; "but, as it is, I owe you a debt of gratitude for permitting me to talk to you about it. The life of a book agent, sir, is hard; and it is like an oasis in a desert to meet a man who will permit an agent to describe his book. Good morning, sir."
I was half-way down a column of figures, when he came back and remarked, over my shoulder, insinuatingly:
"Would fifty cents a month bring it within your means?"
"No," I said, with a touch of impatience; "I can't buy it at any price. I'm too busy to talk about it now, any how."
"Well, good morning, sir. I'm sorry to have disturbed you; but I'm more than obliged to you for the opportunity of showing you the work and letting you know what it is."
I started down the column of figures again, and had reached a total of two hundred and fifty -seven, when a voice remarked, apologetically, close to my ear:
"Excuse me, sir; but would you object to my inquiring when you think it is possible that you will be likely to have leisure to examine the work a little more thoroughly?"
I could bear no more. I arose from my desk, and calmly but firmly took my visitor by the collar, and led him out into the hall and to the head of the stairs. Then, with a skill derived from long practice, I kicked him downstairs.
I stood and watched his abrupt and somewhat undignified descent. The sound of breaking bones came up the hallway. A moment later the book-agent picked himself up, slowly and painfully, and called back to me in a broken but grateful voice, as he limped away:
"Thank you, sir; I am ever so much obliged to you for letting me off alive."