Chapter XVII. Walter's Visitors
 

Walter sat down at the desk complacently. He had parted with thirty dollars, but it was on deposit with his new employer, and would be returned to him whenever his engagement terminated. He only hoped that his services would prove satisfactory. He meant to do his best. On fifteen dollars a week he could live very comfortably, and even save money. He felt that it would be prudent to do this, as he did not wish to call upon his guardian for any remittances during the year.

"I sha'n't have to work very hard," thought Walter.

In default of any other employment he looked over the large ledger committed to his charge. It appeared to contain certain accounts with different agents, all of whom seemed to be meeting with very good success, judging from the amount of remittances credited to them.

In about half-an-hour there was a knock at the door.

"Come in!" called out Walter.

A man of about thirty-five entered briskly. He was rather shabbily dressed, and his red face indicated possible indulgence in intoxicating liquor. "Is Mr. Locke in?" he asked.

"No, sir."

"I wanted to see him."

"I am his confidential clerk," said Walter proudly. "Are you an agent?"

"Yes, I am an agent. I suppose I ought to see him."

"He will be back at one o'clock."

"I can't stop, as I have been away for some weeks and want to go out and see my family at Barrington."

"If you wish to leave any message I will give it to Mr. Locke as soon as he returns."

"Perhaps that will do. My name is Jerome Grigson. Tell Mr. Locke I have met with excellent success in Ohio. In the last four weeks I have sold goods to the amount of four hundred and seventeen dollars."

"I should think it was doing remarkably well," observed Walter.

"It is; but any one could sell for Locke business chiefly in Mr. Locke's hands. How long have you been in the office?"

"Not long," answered Walter, who did not care to admit that his term of service covered less than an hour.

"You've a good place with a rising firm. Mind you keep it!"

"I will try to," said Walter earnestly.

"They're square men, Locke & Green. I never worked for squarer men."

This was pleasant to hear. Walter felt that he Had made no mistake in parting with his thirty Dollars.

"Well, I must be going. Have you taken down my name?"

"Yes, sir; Jerome Grigson."

"Right. Say, I will look in some time to-morrow and bring in a check for four hundred and seventeen dollars.

"Very well, sir."

Mr. Grigson left the office. Twenty minutes Later a boy of about his own age opened the door. He glanced at Walter diffidently.

"You advertised for a confidential clerk," he said. "Is--is the place filled?"

"Yes," answered Walter, in a tone of satisfaction.

"You don't want anybody else, do you?" asked the youth, looking disappointed. "Not at present, but we might be able to employ you as an agent." "Is it hard work?

"Well, of course you will have to exert yourself," said Walter condescendingly, toying with a pen as he spoke, "but successful men can earn good wages with us."

He was talking as if he was one of the partners, but it is a way young clerks have.

"Are yon one of the firm?" asked the young man doubtfully.

"No," answered Walter, "not exactly. Mr. Locke will be in about one o'clock, and if you will come round a little after that you can talk with him about an agency. I will put in a good word for you," he added, in a patronizing tone.

"Thank you, sir. I'd like to get a place."

The youth departed and Walter was left alone. But not for long. A middle-aged man entered and looked inquiringly at Walter.

"Are you Mr. Green?" he asked.

"No, sir."

"I have seen Mr. Locke, but I thought you might be Mr. Green."

Walter felt flattered to be taken for one of the firm.

"I am the confidential clerk," he said. "Can I do anything for you?"

"I wanted to see Mr. Locke and pay him some money."

"I will take it and receipt for it," said Walter briskly.

"Well, I suppose that will do, as you are the clerk."

"What name?" asked Walter, opening the book.

"Jonas Damon. Here is a check on the Corndish National Bank of Illinois for two hundred and twenty-seven dollars. I have made it payable to Locke & Green."

"All right," said Walter, in a businesslike tone.

"If you wish to see Mr. Locke he will be in at one o'clock," he added, as he put the check in his vest pocket.

"No, I am obliged to go out of town in half-an-hour. It isn't necessary to see him. He would rather see the check."

Mr. Damon laughed, and so did Walter. It Made him feel quite like a business man to be installed in an office, receiving and crediting checks.

"Have you been long in our employment?" he asked.

"About six months."

"I hope you have found it satisfactory?"

"Yes, I have made an excellent living. How much salary do you get?"

"Fifteen dollars a week," answered Walter rather complacently.

"You look like a smart young fellow. You'd easily make double the money as an agent."

"Thank you for the suggestion. I may undertake that some time. I have been a life-insurance agent."

"Did it pay?"

"Not as well as I hoped. I think I shall like my present place better."

"I must be going. Tell Mr. Locke I will be in to-morrow."

"All right."

"It is evident," thought Walter, "that I am in the employ of a substantial and prosperous firm. The duties are certainly very light and pleasant. I am in luck to get a clerkship here. It is rather surprising Mr. Locke didn't ask for references."

Then it occurred to him that the deposit was taken as a substitute for references. Then again Walter flattered himself that his personal appearance might have produced a favorable impression upon his employer and had some influence in leading to an engagement.

His next caller was a young man, dark and sallow, with a slight mustache.

"Is this the office of Locke & Green?" he asked.

"Yes, sir."

"Will you describe Mr. Locke to me?" asked the young man, who appeared to be laboring under some excitement.

Walter was rather surprised at such a request, but complied with it.

"Yes, he's the man," said his visitor, slapping his hands together impetuously. "He's the man that cheated me out of fifty dollars!"

"You must be mistaken," said Walter. "How did he cheat you out of it?"

"One moment--are you his confidential clerk?"

"Yes."

"I thought so," returned the young man, laughing wildly. "So was I."

"You were his clerk?"

"Yes, for two weeks. I paid him fifty dollars good money as security."

"You did?" repeated Walter, with some anxiety.

"Yes; at the end of two weeks he told me I would not suit."

"But he paid you your wages and returned you your money?"

"No, he didn't!" exploded the young man. "He told me to come round on Monday morning and he would pay me."

"Well?"

"I called Monday, and he was gone! He had moved, the scoundrel! I should like to choke him!"

"Was it this office?"

"No. Let me see that book! Ah, it is the same that I kept. Have you, too, given him money?"

"I deposited thirty dollars."

"Ah, it is the same old game! You will never see a cent of it again."

"But," said Walter, "I don't understand. He is doing a good business. I have had calls from two of his agents. One of them handed me this check," and he drew out the check Mr. Damon had given him.

The young man took it and laughed bitterly.

"I don't believe there is any such bank," he said. "I never heard of it."

"Then why should the agent hand me the check?"

"To pull wool over your eyes. These agents are in league with this man Locke. That wasn't his name when he engaged me."

"What was it then?"

"He called himself Libby. Libby & Richmond, that was the name of the firm."

"What made you think he might have changed his name?"

"Because the advertisement reads the same."

"And you really think it is the same man?"

"Yes, I feel sure of it."

"He will be back at one o'clock. If you will wait till then you can see for yourself."

"I'll wait!" said the young man, grinding his teeth. "I will confront the swindler face to face. I will demand my money."

The door opened and some one put in his head, but before Walter or his visitor could see who it was it closed again.

Fifteen minutes later a telegraph boy entered the office.