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If Mrs. Bradley had been wiser, she would have felt less confident of her nephew's producing a favorable impression upon Mr. Wharton. She resolved to open the subject at the breakfast table
"I didn't know, Mr. Wharton," she commenced, "that you intended to engage a reader."
"Nor did I propose to do so until last evening."
"I think--you'll excuse me for saying so--that you will find that boy too young to suit you."
"I don't think so. He reads very clearly and distinctly."
"If I had known you thought of engaging a reader, I would have asked you to engage my nephew."
"Indeed, I was not aware that you had a nephew in the city. Is he a boy?"
"No; he is a young man. He was twenty years old last June."
"Is he unfavorably situated?"
"He has a place as salesman."
"With what firm?"
"Gilbert & Mack."
"Why, that is the same firm that employs my young friend. It is a good firm."
"Perhaps it is, but my poor nephew receives a very small salary. He finds it very hard to get along."
"Your nephew is young. He will be promoted if he serves his employers well."
"Thomas would have been glad to read to you in the evening, sir," said Mrs. Bradley, commencing the attack.
"But for my present engagement, I might have taken him," said Mr. Wharton, politely.
"Have you engaged that boy for any length of time?"
"No; but it is understood that he will stay while I need him, and he continues to suit me. I have a favorable opinion of him. Besides, he needs the pay. He receives but three dollars a week as a cash-boy, and has a sister to support as well as himself."
"I am sorry," she said in an injured tone. "I hope you'll excuse my mentioning it, but I took the liberty, having been for twenty years in your employ."
"To be sure! You were quite right," said her employer, kindly. "Perhaps I may be able to do something for your nephew, though not that. Tell him to come and see me some time."
"Thank you, sir," said the housekeeper.
There was one question she wanted to determine, and that was the amount of compensation received by Frank. She did not like to inquire directly from Mr. Wharton, but resolved to gain the information from our hero. Some evenings later she had the opportunity. Mr. Wharton had an engagement, and asked her to tell Frank, when he arrived that he was released from duty. Instead of this she received him in the library herself.
"Probably Mr. Wharton will not be at home this evening," she said. "If he does not return in half an hour, you need not wait."
She took up her work, seated in Mr. Wharton's usual place, and Frank remained ready for duty.
"Mr. Wharton tells me you have a sister," she said.
"You must find it hard work to provide for her as well as yourself."
"I do, or rather I did till I came here."
"How much does Mr. Wharton pay you?" she asked, in an indifferent tone.
"Five dollars a week," answered Frank.
"You are lucky that you have such a chance," she said.
"Yes, ma'am; it is more than I earn, I know, but it is a great help to me."
"And how much do you get as cash-boy?"
"Three dollars a week."
"So you actually receive nearly twice as much for a couple of hours in the evening as for the whole day."
"What a pity Thomas can't have this chance," she thought.
When it was nine o'clock, she said:
"You need not wait any longer. Mr. Wharton will not be home in time to hear you read."
"Good-evening, Mrs. Bradley," said Frank.
"Good-evening!" she responded, coldly.
"That boy is in the way," she said to herself, when she was left alone. "He is in my way, and Tom's way. I can see that he is artfully intriguing for Mr. Wharton's favor, but I must checkmate him. It's odd," she resumed, after a pause, "but there is something in his face and voice that seems familiar to me. What is it?"
* * * * *
The following evening the housekeeper received another visit from her nephew.
"How do, aunt?" said Thomas Bradley, carelessly, as he entered the housekeeper's room.
"Very well, thank you, Thomas. I am glad you are here. I have been wanting to see you."
"The old man isn't going to do anything for me, is he?"
"How can you expect it so soon? He doesn't know you yet. How much do you think he pays the cash-boy that reads to him in the evening?"
"I don't know."
"Five dollars a week."
"I wouldn't give up my evenings for that," he said.
"It isn't so much the pay, Thomas, though that would be a help. He might take a fancy to you."
"That might pay better. When are you going to introduce me?"
"This evening; that is, I will ask Mr. Wharton if he will see you."
Mrs. Bradley entered the library, where Frank was engaged in reading aloud.
"Excuse my interruption," she said; "but my nephew has just called, and I should like to introduce him to you, if you will kindly receive him."
"Certainly, Mrs. Bradley," said Mr. Wharton. "Bring him in."
The housekeeper left the room, but speedily reappeared, followed by her nephew, who seemed a little abashed.
"My nephew, Thomas Bradley, Mr. Wharton," said his aunt, by way of introduction. "You have often heard me speak of Mr. Wharton, Thomas."
"How do you do, sir?" said Thomas awkwardly.
"Pray take a seat, Mr. Bradley. Your aunt has been long a member of my family. I am glad to see a nephew of hers. I believe you are a salesman at Gilbert & Mack's?"
"Then you must know my young friend here?" pointing to Frank.
"How are you, Cash?" said Thomas, laughing, under the impression that he had said something smart.
"Very well, Mr. Bradley," answered Frank, quietly.
"You see, that's all the name we call 'em in the store," said Thomas.
Mr. Wharton could not help thinking:
"How poorly this young man compares with my young friend. Still, as he is Mrs. Bradley's nephew, I must be polite to him."
"Are there many cash-boys in your establishment, Mr. Bradley?"
"About a dozen. Ain't there, Fowler?"
"I believe so, Mr. Bradley."
"Gilbert & Mack do a good business, I should judge."
"Yes, they do; but that doesn't do us poor salesmen much good. We get just enough to keep soul and body together."
"I am sorry to hear it," said Mr. Wharton.
"Why, sir," said Thomas, gaining confidence, "all they pay me is twelve dollars a week. How can they expect a fellow to live on that?"
"I began my career about your age," said Mr. Wharton, "or perhaps a little younger, and had to live on but six dollars a week."
"Didn't you come near starving?" he asked.
"On the contrary, I saved a little every week."
"I can't," said Thomas, a little discomfited. "Why, it takes half that to dress decently."
Mr. Wharton glanced quietly at the rather loud and flashy dress worn by his visitor, but only said:
"A small salary, of course, makes economy necessary."
"But when a fellow knows he earns a good deal more than he gets, he doesn't feel like starving himself just that his employers may grow rich."
"Of course, if he can better himself they cannot object."
"That's just what I want to do," said Thomas; "but I expect I need influence to help me to something better. That's a good hint," thought he.
"I was telling Thomas," said the housekeeper, "that you had kindly expressed a desire to be of service to him."
"I am not now in active business," said Mr. Wharton, "and of course have not the opportunities I formerly had for helping young men, but I will bear your case in mind, Mr. Bradley."
"Thank you, sir," said Thomas. "I am sure I earn a thousand dollars a year."
"I think, Thomas," said Mrs. Bradley, "we won't intrude on Mr. Wharton longer this evening. When he finds something for you he will tell me."
"All right, aunt. Good-night, Mr. Wharton. Good- night, Cash," said Thomas, chuckling anew at the old joke.
"Well, aunt," said he, when they were once more in the housekeeper's room, "do you think the old gentleman will do anything for me?"
"I hope so; but I am not sure, Thomas, whether you were not too familiar. You spoke of money too quick."
"It's my way to come to business."
"I wish you were his reader, instead of that boy."
"Well, I don't. I wouldn't want to he mewed up in that room with the old man every night. I should get tired to death of it."
"You would have a chance to get him interested in you. That boy is artful; he is doing all he can to win Mr. Wharton's favor. He is the one you have most reason to dread."
"Do you think he will do me any harm?"
"I think he will injure your chances."
"Egad! if I thought that, I'd wring the young rascal's neck."
"There's a better way, Thomas."
"Can't you get him dismissed from Gilbert & Mack's?"
"I haven't enough influence with the firm."
"Suppose they thought him dishonest?"
"They'd give him the sack, of course."
"Can't you make them think so, Thomas?"
"I don't know."
"Then make it your business to find out."
"I suppose you know what good it's going to do, aunt, but I don't. He's got his place here with the old man."
"If Mr. Wharton hears that he is discharged, and has lost his situation, he will probably discharge him, too."
"Perhaps so; I suppose you know best."
"Do as I tell you, and I will manage the rest."
"All right. I need your help enough. To-night, for instance, I'm regularly cleaned out. Haven't got but twenty-five cents to my name."
"It seems to me, Thomas," said his aunt, with a troubled look, "you are always out of money. I'll give you five dollars, Thomas, but you must remember that I am not made of money. My wages are small."
"You ought to have a good nest-egg laid aside, aunt."
"I've got something, Thomas, and when I die, it'll be yours."
"I hope I shan't have to wait too long," thought Thomas, but he did not give utterance to the thought."
"Come again, Thomas, and don't forget what I have said," said Mrs. Bradley.
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