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The next morning, at the time appointed, Tom called at the establishment of Mr. Ferguson. The first he met was Maurice Walton. Maurice, in fact, was the youngest clerk, having received the appointment six weeks before, through the influence of his uncle.
"Did you come round to see me? I'm busy," said Maurice.
"Haven't you swept out yet?" asked Tom, mischievously.
"Do you think I would demean myself by sweeping out?" returned Maurice, disgusted.
"I thought that might be your business."
"That would be good business for you. Perhaps Mr. Ferguson will engage you."
"All right; I'll accept, if he'll pay me enough. Is he in?"
"I don't understand such low terms," said Maurice, loftily.
"Then it's time you did. Is Mr. Ferguson in?—if you can understand that better."
"Yes, he is, but he won't see you."
"Because his time is too valuable."
"Then I wonder why he asked me to come round this morning?"
"Of course he did; and, if you've got through sweeping out, you'd better let him know I'm on hand."
"Thank you for your polite invitation. They didn't examine you in good manners when they took you in here, did they?"
"You're an impertinent fellow."
"Thank you. You ought to be a good judge of impudence. I'll see you again soon—hope you won't miss me much."
Our hero, who, it must be confessed, was not troubled by bashfulness, made a low bow to his opponent, and, advancing to the counting-room, opened the door. Mr. Ferguson looked up from his letters.
"Take a seat, Grey," he said, "and I'll speak to you in a moment."
"Thank you," said Tom, who knew how to be polite when it was proper to be so.
At the end of fifteen minutes Mr. Ferguson looked up.
"Well," said he, "have you formed any plans, Gilbert?—I think that is your name."
"No, sir, except that I'm goin' to try to get a place."
"Have you tried yet?"
"I called to see a man who offered a light, genteel employment to a young man with a small capital. I thought mine was small enough, so I applied."
"Well, what came of it?"
"The man wasn't willin' to sell out for fifteen dollars, so I left."
"You seem to be a smart boy. Suppose I take you into my employment?"
"I'd try to do my duty."
"I really don't need an extra clerk; but you are the son of my old employer, and to him I feel under considerable obligations. I'll take you on trial."
"Thank you, sir. When shall I come?"
"All right, sir; I'll be on hand."
"Where are you boarding?"
"At the Ohio Hotel."
"How much board do you pay?"
"Ten dollars a week."
"That is too much. You ought to get board in a private house for four. Between now and Monday, I advise you to look up some decent house that will answer your purpose. You can't expect to live luxuriously at first."
"I ain't used to first-class accommodations," said Tom.
"I see you are a sensible boy. Cut your coat according to your cloth. That is a good maxim. When you get older, you can live better. Now, about your salary. I can't give much at first, or my other clerks might complain. I will give you five dollars, the same that I pay to my youngest clerk."
"Do you know him?" questioned Mr. Ferguson, in surprise.
"Yes, sir. I took supper at his uncle's Wednesday evening."
"Indeed! I did not know you were acquainted with Mr. Benton."
"Bessie Benton came on from Buffalo in my charge."
"Really, Gilbert, you seem to be getting on fast. You seem quite able to push your own way."
"I've always done it, sir."
"You are not bashful."
"New York street-boys ain't troubled that way."
"That's well, if not carried too far. Now, tell me how much you know."
"If it's about learning, I can do that in five minutes."
"Your education, I take it, has been neglected."
"I don't know much—I didn't have a chance to learn."
"Can you read?"
"When the words ain't too long."
"Then I advise you to take what leisure time you have to remedy the defects in your education."
"I'd like to, sir. I was ashamed of knowing so little when I was at Mr. Benton's."
"A good feeling, my boy. The more you know the better chance you stand to get on in the world. I am giving you a low place in my employment. If you want to be promoted, you must qualify yourself for it."
"I'll do it, sir," said our hero, manfully. "That's good advice, and I'll foller it."
"Success to you, my boy. You can now go, and come back Monday morning."
"Thank you, sir."
Tom left the counting-room in excellent spirits. He had found a place, and one just such as he liked. Five dollars a week, he foresaw, would not pay his expenses, but he was sure he could earn more in some way. As he was about to leave the store, Maurice, whose curiosity was aroused, came to meet him.
"Did you get through your important business?" he said, sneeringly.
"Not quite. I'm coming here again next Monday."
"Mr. Ferguson must be glad to see you."
"I'm comin' Tuesday, also."
"What, every day?"
"Yes; your boss has concluded to take me into the business."
"You ain't coming here to work?" said Maurice, hastily.
"You've hit the nail on the head."
"We've got enough clerks now."
"I'm comin' to help you sweep out in the mornin'."
Maurice was by no means pleased to hear this. Regarding Tom as his social inferior, he did not like to be placed on a level with him.
"How much pay are you to get?" he asked.
"Five dollars a week."
"The same as I get?"
Maurice was disgusted.
"Then I shall ask for higher pay."
"Go ahead. I don't care."
"Do you expect to live on your salary?"
"No, of course not. I've got private property."
"Go and ask the man that calls for the taxes."
"I don't believe it."
"Why, I'm payin' ten dollars a week for my board."
Finally our hero went out, leaving Maurice dissatisfied and annoyed—first that his rival, as he regarded him, had obtained a place in the same establishment with himself, and next that the new-comer was to receive the same salary. He sent in an application, the next day, for increase of pay, but it was dismissed, with the curt response that when he earned more he would get it.
Meanwhile Tom bent his steps toward the Ohio river. Of course, my readers know that Cincinnati is on the north bank of the Ohio, and that just across is a town in Kentucky.
"I'd like to see Kentucky," said Tom to himself. "I guess I'll go across."
Small river steamers convey passengers across the river for a very small sum. Our hero paid the required fee and went on board.
"It's some like goin' across to Jersey," he thought.
There was the usual variety of passengers—men, women, and children. Tom sat down beside a young man well dressed, but a little strange in his manners. It was evident that he had been drinking too much, and was under the influence of liquor at present. He was perfectly quiet, however, till they were in the middle of the stream, when, all at once, he climbed the railing and threw himself into the turbid waters of the river.
The passengers seemed paralyzed by the suddenness of the action. Our hero was the first to recover, and, being an expert swimmer, jumped in after him without hesitation.
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