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TOM GAINS A LITTLE INFORMATION.
Though our hero was occupied considerably with thoughts of Bessie Benton, he did not lose sight of the two principal objects he had in visiting Cincinnati. One was, to ascertain the whereabouts of his uncle, the other, to obtain something to do. His cash was low, and he must find some employment.
He consulted a copy of the city directory, which he found in the office of the hotel; but, though he found plenty of Greys, he found but one bearing the name of James Grey. This one was a carpenter, and, of course, could not be his uncle.
"He must have left the city," thought Tom. "I wonder where his place of business was? I might find out something there."
"Have you any old directories?" he asked, at the office.
"How far back?"
"Five or six years."
"We have one of six years back."
"Will you let me look at that?"
The volume was found, after some difficulty, and put in Tom's hands. He turned at once to the g's, and, to his great joy, found the name of James Grey, merchant. His place of business was also given.
"That's something," thought our hero. "I'll go there at once."
There was no difficulty in finding the street and number, but there was a new name on the sign:
Tom entered, and asked the first clerk he met if he could see Mr. Ferguson.
"What's your business?" inquired the subordinate.
"With Mr. Ferguson," answered Tom, promptly.
"Wouldn't I do as well?"
"How long have you been here?"
"What do you want to know that for?"
"If you've been here five years, I'll tell you."
"Then I want to see Mr. Ferguson."
"It strikes me you are a young man of some importance."
"I am glad you have found it out," said our hero, coolly. "If you're not too much pressed by important business," (the clerk was leaning back, picking his teeth), "perhaps you wouldn't mind asking Mr. Ferguson if he will see a merchant from New York."
The clerk laughed.
"You're a hard nut to crack, young man," he said.
"Don't try to crack me, then."
The clerk went into the counting-room, and, returning quickly, told Tom he might go in.
Entering, Tom found himself in the presence of a man of about forty.
"Do you wish to see me?" he asked.
"Yes, sir. I should like to ask if you know anything of Mr. Grey, who used to be in business in this place?"
"I know a good deal of them—there were two."
"I know that, sir, but one died."
"Yes—it was John Grey."
"Your father!" exclaimed the merchant, in astonishment.
"But I thought John Grey's son died?"
"No, sir; that was a mistake. Can you tell me where my Uncle James lives? I don't find his name in the directory."
"No; he moved away, after selling out the business to me. I was head salesman in the establishment under the brothers Grey. Now the business is mine."
"And you don't know where my uncle went?"
"He went to Minnesota, I think; but where, I cannot tell. I don't think it was to St. Paul, or to any large place."
"How long ago was that, sir?"
"About five years since. But I always supposed John Grey's son was lost. You have a strong family look, however."
"Do I?" asked Tom. "I don't remember my father."
"Where have you been all these years?"
"I will tell you, sir," said Tom, "if you have time to hear the story. I didn't know who I was myself till a little while ago."
"Proceed. I am busy, but I have time to listen. Take a seat."
Tom told the story with which we are already familiar. Mr. Ferguson listened with strong intent. When it was finished, he said:
"Young man, have you the confession of this Jacob with you?"
Tom drew it from his inner pocket, and submitted it to inspection. He awaited the merchant's verdict.
"I recognize Jacob's handwriting," he said, at length. "He was a fellow-clerk of mine. I remember, also, that he disappeared at the same time with you. The story is a strange one, but I am inclined to think it is true. What do you intend to do?"
"I want to find my uncle."
"I am afraid you will find that difficult. He has left no clew in this city where he once lived. He sold out all his property, and has no interest here."
"You think he went to Minnesota?"
"Yes; but I cannot tell where."
"I will go to Minnesota, then," said our hero. "Is it far off?"
"It is several hundred miles away, and a large place when you get there. It costs money to travel. Are you well supplied?"
"I've got about fifteen dollars."
"Fifteen dollars!" repeated the merchant. "And you expect to undertake such a task on that sum?"
"I'd like to have more money; but what's the use of waitin'? I ain't gettin' richer."
"Have you any situation? Are you earning any money?"
"Then I advise you to find something to do in the city, and postpone your plans of finding your uncle. You are just as likely to hear from him here, while at work, as if you were traveling in search of him," said Mr. Ferguson.
"I'd just as lief go to work," said Tom, "if I could find anything to do."
Mr. Ferguson reflected a moment. Then he turned to our hero, and said:
"I will think about your case. Come round to-morrow morning, about this time."
"All right, sir."
Tom left the counting-room, and was rather surprised to meet Maurice Walton on the main floor of the store.
"What brings you here?" asked Maurice.
"Business," said Tom.
"Important?" sneered Maurice.
"Very important," answered Tom, coolly.
"I wish I knew more about him," thought Maurice. "There's some mystery about him. He's impudent enough for half a dozen."
Some might have thought the impudence on the other side, but Maurice did not see it in that light.
It occurred to Tom that he would call and see the man who advertised for a person "with a small capital to enter a light, genteel business." He found the place after awhile—a small back room, scantily furnished, with a few packages lying on a solitary counter. There was a man of about thirty-five in attendance, who seemed to have nothing particular to do.
"Are you the one that advertised for a man with a small capital?" asked Tom.
"To enter a light, genteel business?" continued the other, briskly. "Yes, I am the one."
"Well, I've got a small capital, and that's just the kind of business I want."
"You're rather young. Have you ever been in business?"
"I should think I had. I've been in business for six or seven years."
"You must have begun young. What kind of business?"
"The boot and shoe business, mostly," answered our hero; "but I was in the periodical business for awhile."
"Well, if you've got experience, you can succeed in our business. How much capital have you?"
"Tell me about the business first."
"Well, it's the perfumery business. We've got up a new and superior kind of perfumery, which we sell by agents. I want to find some one to take charge of the office while I travel and solicit orders. You can take care of the office, can't you?"
"What's the wages?"
"Twenty dollars a week."
"That'll about suit me," said Tom.
"You will receive the money from the agents and take care of it."
"That suits me again."
"But, of course, we expect you to deposit money with us as security."
"How much do you want?"
"Five hundred dollars."
Our hero whistled.
"That's ahead of my pile," he said.
"How much have you got?"
"Fifteen dollars; but I owe part of it for board."
"Then get out of this office! Do you think I can afford to waste my time in talking to you?" said the young man, angrily.
"You'd rather waste my money. You'll have to hook in some other chap, mister. I've been round."
Of course it was only a trap to fleece the unsuspecting out of their money. Tom was posted, and only went in to have a little fun. He meant to wait and hear what Mr. Ferguson had to propose before forming any decisive plans for the future.
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