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John Wainwright, the wealthy banker, sat in his office looking over the letters that had come by the morning mail. Some of them he turned over to his confidential clerk to answer. Others, more important, he reserved to reply to with his own hand.
"Busy, Wainwright?" asked a gentleman, Arthur Henderson, entering without ceremony.
"I always have something in hand, but I have time enough for an old friend."
"By the way, have you heard anything of the bonds you lost some time since?"
"I know where they are."
"Yes, they are in Canada."
"That means that you will never get them back."
"I don't know. I have sent a messenger to recover them."
"Who is it?"
"My office boy."
"I suppose that is a joke."
"By no means."
"What is the age of your office boy?"
"I should judge from his appearance that he is sixteen."
"Do you mean to say that you have intrusted a boy of sixteen with so important a commission?"
"Really, Wainwright, I don't like to criticise, but it appears to me that you have taken leave of your senses."
The banker laughed good-humoredly.
"Perhaps I ought not to be surprised at that."
"Then you acknowledge your lack of wisdom?"
"By no means. What I have done I would do again."
"Couldn't you find a more suitable messenger?"
"It would have been worth while to go yourself, as the amount is considerable."
"That would never have answered. I should be recognized, and excite suspicion."
"Do you really expect that boy to recover the bonds?"
"I think it possible, at any rate."
"Suppose he does, what is to hinder his keeping them himself?"
"Pardon me, Wainwright, but I have had a pretty extensive experience, and I would be willing to wager ten to one that you will never see your bonds again."
"I never bet, and hold that betting is no argument. But I too have had some experience of men and consider my chance of recovering the stolen property fairly good."
"How long since your messenger started on his expedition?"
"About two weeks."
"Have you heard from him?"
"Yes, once. There are reasons why it is imprudent for him to write too often."
Henderson smiled significantly.
"I dare say he is having a good time at your expense. What was the amount of your loss?"
"About fifteen thousand dollars."
"Since you won't bet, I will make you a proposal. If the boy recovers your bonds and restores them to you I will offer him a place in my own counting-room at twenty dollars a week."
"I don't think in that case I should be willing to lose his services. I would pay him as much as he could get elsewhere."
"There is very little chance of my being called upon to redeem my promise."
At that moment an express messenger entered the office.
"Here is a parcel for you, sir," he said.
It was a small package wrapped in brown paper, carefully tied and sealed.
John Wainwright paid the express charges, receipted for the package, and then eagerly opened it.
It was the same package which Fred had expressed from Hyacinth.
The banker's eyes were full of triumph.
"What do you say to that, my friend?" he asked.
"What is it?"
"The missing bonds. Nothing could have happened more apropos."
"You don't mean to say—"
"Listen. Let me read you this letter from the messenger you thought me foolish in sending to Canada."
Here is a copy of Fred's letter.
MY DEAR SIR: I have at length recovered the bonds which were stolen from you, and send them by express herewith. I have not time to go into details, but will only say that I found them in a hollow tree. I secured them in the nick of time, for I have reason to think that to-morrow they would have been removed by Bowman, who has got tired of St. Victor, and will probably leave the neighborhood to-morrow. I do not dare to keep the bonds in my possession, as I may be followed, but consider it safer to express them to you at once. I shall go back to New York by a roundabout way, but shall probably arrive very nearly as soon as the package.
P. S. The money and U. S. bonds have been used, but you will find $13,500 in other securities in this package. They would have been spent too, but the holder found it impossible to negotiate them.
"There, Henderson, what do you think of that?" asked Mr. Wainwright, in a quiet tone of triumph. "I was a fool, was I, to trust this boy?"
"I don't know what to say, but my offer holds good. If you will release the boy I will take him into my employment at twenty dollars a week."
"I will give him as much as he can get elsewhere," repeated the banker.
There was a quick step heard outside, and Fred Fenton entered the office.
"Good morning, Mr. Wainwright," he said. "Did you receive the package?"
"It just reached me, Fred. Shake hands, my boy. You have justified my confidence in you."
"I did my best, sir."
"Tell me all about it. My curiosity is excited."
Fred gave a rapid account of his adventures in search of the missing bonds. It was listened to with equal interest by the banker and his friend.
"Wainwright, introduce me," said Henderson abruptly.
"Fred," said the banker smiling, "let me make you acquainted with my friend, Arthur Henderson. He is a commission merchant. He may have a proposal to make to you."
"Young man, if you will enter my employment I will pay you twenty dollars a week," said merchant.
Fred looked amazed.
"That is a great deal more than I am worth," said.
"Then you accept?"
Fred looked wistfully at Mr. Wainwright.
"I should not like to leave Mr. Wainwright," he said.
"Especially as he has raised your pay to twenty-five dollars a week," said the banker smiling.
"You can't be in earnest, sir?"
"When you get your first week's salary on Saturday, you will see that I am in earnest."
"I see, then, that I must do without you," said the merchant. "Wainwright, I take back all I said. I advise you to keep Fred by all means as long as he will stay with you."
The banker had opened his check book and was writing out a check. He tore it from the book and handed it to Fred. It ran thus:
PARK NATIONAL BANK. Pay to the order of FRED FENTON ONE THOUSAND DOLLARS.
"Is this for me?" asked Fred in amazement.
"Yes. I ought perhaps to make it more, for it is less than ten per cent. of the value of the bonds."
"How can I thank you, sir?" ejaculated Fred, feeling uncertain whether he was awake or dreaming. "I feel like a millionaire."
"Have you been home yet, Fred?"
"No, sir; I came here at once."
"Go home, then, and spend the rest of the day with your mother. Do you want to cash the check this morning?"
"Indorse it, then, and I will hand you the money in bills to-morrow."
Fred, his face radiant with joy, left the office, and going to the nearest station on the Sixth Avenue Elevated Road bought a ticket and rode up town.
There a surprise awaited him.
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