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Chapter 20


When the two men at his table left the restaurant, Frank followed them. At the door the two parted, the clerk going toward Broadway, while the agent walked in the direction of Nassau Street.

"I beg your pardon," said Frank, overtaking him; "but may I ask you a question?"

"Half a dozen, if you like," said the other, good-naturedly.

"I overheard what you said about the Great Pekin Tea Company. Do you think I could get a chance to sell for them?"

"Oh, yes; there'll be no trouble about that!"

"I am looking for something to do," continued Frank, "and I think I should like to try that."

"You'll find it uphill work," said the agent; "hard work and poor pay. I shall leave it as soon as I can get a regular position. Can't you get a place?"

"Perhaps I can. I haven't tried very hard yet," answered Frank; "but I find boys are paid so little that I can't make enough to live on. If I were a man it would be different."

"I don't believe you can make more than a boy's wages at selling tea," said Frank's new acquaintance, "but you might try it."

"Would you mind giving me a note to the company?" asked Frank.

"I will write a line on one of my business cards," said the agent. "That will be all you will need."

He drew out a card and wrote a line commending Frank to the attention of the company.

Frank thanked him, and sought the direction given.

Entering a large shop, not far from the Astor House, he looked about his inquiringly. Around him were chests of tea, inscribed with Chinese characters. A portly man addressed him.

"Well, my boy, what can I do for you?" he asked.

"Mr. Mason, one of your agents, has given me this card," said Frank. "He thinks you might be willing to employ me."

"We are ready to employ any competent person," said the gentleman; "but you seem very young."

"I am sixteen, sir."

"That is young. Have you had any experience as an agent?"

"No, sir?"

The man questioned him further and finally accepted him.

Frank was told that it would be well to take samples of different kinds of teas with their respective prices attached, and seek orders for them at private houses and groceries, noting down in a little book orders obtained. Small quantities he could himself deliver, and large quantities, should he be fortunate enough to obtain any, could be sent out from the store by their general delivery.

"What commission am I to get, sir?" inquired Frank.

"Twenty per cent on parcels sold to private houses and ten per cent when you sell to retail dealers. To the first you can charge a full price, but it is necessary to sell at lower rates to dealers."

"I understand, sir," said Frank.

"When do you want to begin?"

"To-morrow morning, sir. Where do you advise me to go?"

"New York has been pretty well canvassed, except perhaps the upper part, Harlem. It might be well to make a start in Brooklyn."

"Very well, sir. I will call to-morrow and get samples."

As Frank left the store, he reflected, with satisfaction:

"I have only been a few hours in New York, and I have gotten employment already."

This reflection raised his spirits, and disposed him to regard the future with a degree of confidence. He resolved to spend the rest of the afternoon in walking about in the lower part of the city, and acquiring a little familiarity with the streets, as this was a kind of knowledge he was likely to need.

He strolled down Broadway, admiring the massive and stately structures that lined the streets on either side. Very soon he came to Trinity Church, and, standing in front it, looked down Wall Street. He had heard so much of this street that he felt inclined to turn from Broadway and walk down its entire length.

As he sauntered along a man whom he met scrutinized him sharply, as if considering some plan. Apparently making up his mind, he stepped up to Frank, and, touching him on the shoulder, said:

"Boy, would you like a job?"

Now Frank, though he had engaged to work for the Great Pekin Tea Company was ready to accept any other proposal, and answered promptly:

"Yes, sir."

"That is right," said the man. "It is a mere trifle, but I am willing to pay you a dollar."

"What is it, sir?"

"Do you see that window?"

He pointed to a basement window, in which were exposed rolls of gold, currency and greenbacks of different denominations, and English sovereigns and French gold coins.

"I want you to do me a little errand in there," he said.

Frank was rather surprised that the man did not do his own errand, when the broker's office was so near, but he had no objection to earning a dollar and signified his willingness.

"What I want you to do," said his new acquaintance, "is to sell some government bonds for me."

"Very well, sir."

The man produced a large yellow envelope, already open.

"In this envelope," he said, "are two five-twenty governments for a hundred dollars each. Take them in and sell them, and bring the proceeds to me."

"All right, sir."

Frank took the envelope, and entered the office of Jones & Robinson, that being the style of the firm.

He advanced to the counter, and singling out a clerk, said:

"I want to sell these bonds."

The clerk took them and drew them out of the envelope. Then he figured a little on a slip of paper, and said:

"They are worth two hundred and twenty-five dollars and twenty-five cents."

"All right, sir."

"Will you take a check or currency?"

Frank hesitated.

"Perhaps I'd better ask the man I am getting them for."

"Very well. You can bring them here to-morrow."

"Oh, I will let you know in a minute! The man is just outside."

This answer immediately excited suspicion. Frank was too little versed in business ways to understand how singular it was for his principal not to transact his own business under the circumstances, but the brokers were necessarily keen, shrewd men.

"Wait a minute," said the clerk; "I will speak to Mr. Jones."

Mr. Jones came forward and addressed Frank.

"Are you acquainted with the man who gave you these bonds to sell?" he asked.

"No, sir. I met him in the street."

"Did he offer you any pay for selling them?"

"Yes, sir. He is going to give me a dollar."

"Will you go out and ask him to come in here a moment?"

Frank obeyed.

When his employer saw him coming, he asked, eagerly:

"Have you got the money?"

"No," answered Frank. "They asked me if I wanted a check or currency."

"Either currency or gold," answered the man, hastily. "Go back at once, and don't keep me waiting."

"They want to see you, sir."

"What for?" inquired the man, looking disturbed.

"I don't know."

"There is no need of my going in," said the man, angrily. "I paid you to sell the bonds. Now go back."

"He won't come," reported Frank. "He says I can attend to the business. He will take either gold or currency."

"No doubt," said Mr. Jones, significantly. "Thomas, go out with this boy, and tell the man that employed him that we do not purchase bonds unless we have a reasonable assurance that they belong to the person offering them. We will take the liberty of retaining them, giving him a receipt for them, and if we are satisfied, he can have his money to-morrow."

Robinson, who had been examining some newspaper slips, here came forward, and said:

"That is unnecessary. I find that these bonds are among those stolen from the house of Henry Percival, Madison Avenue, a week since. We must manage to delay the man while we notify the police."

Frank was very much surprised to learn that he was acting as agent for a bond robber, and was fearful that he might himself be regarded with suspicion; but he need not have troubled himself on this score. Wall Street men are good judges of human nature, and it was at once concluded in the office that Frank was the dupe of a designing knave.

A boy was dispatched to the nearest police office, and Frank was directed to tell his principal that he would not long be delayed.

Naturally, however, the man outside had become suspicious.

"I can't wait," he said. "Meet me on the steps of the Astor House at five o'clock with the money. I am obliged to hurry away now to a business appointment."

Frank could think of no other pretext for delaying him, and was forced to see him hurry away.

He hastened back to the office and gave the alarm.

"He has taken fright," said Robinson. "I fear we have lost him. Where did he go?"

Frank, however, was too ignorant of city streets to give any accurate information.

The consequence was that when the policeman appeared on the scene, there was no occasion for his services.

"At any rate," said the broker, "we have secured a little of the plunder. What is your name and address my boy? We may wish to communicate with you."

Frank gave his name, and added the directions of his boarding house.

"Shall I meet the man at the Astor House?" he inquired, as he was leaving the office.

"To be sure!" said Mr. Jones. "I came near forgetting that. Officer, will you be on hand at the time?"

"Better employ a detective, sir, as my uniform would keep the thief at a distance. I don't think he'll appear, at any rate."

"I do," said the broker. "He won't give up the money while he thinks there is a chance of securing it."

Horatio Alger