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- TRENT'S TRUST & OTHER STORIES - 3/45 -
He presently found himself in the main thoroughfare of last night, which he now knew to be Montgomery Street. It was more thronged than then, but he failed to be impressed, as then, with the selfish activity of the crowd. Yet he was half conscious that his own brighter fortune, more decent attire, and satisfied hunger had something to do with this change, and he glanced hurriedly at the druggist's broad plate-glass windows, with a faint hope that the young girl whose amused pity he had awakened might be there again. He found California Street quickly, and in a few moments he stood before No. 85. He was a little disturbed to find it a rather large building, and that it bore the inscription "Bank." Then came the usual shock to his mercurial temperament, and for the first time he began to consider the absurd hopelessness of his clue.
He, however, entered desperately, and approaching the window of the receiving teller, put the question he had formulated in his mind: Could they give him any information concerning a customer or correspondent who had just arrived in San Francisco and was putting up at the Niantic Hotel, room 74? He felt his face flushing, but, to his astonishment, the clerk manifested no surprise. "And you don't know his name?" said the clerk quietly. "Wait a moment." He moved away, and Randolph saw him speaking to one of the other clerks, who consulted a large register. In a few minutes he returned. "We don't have many customers," he began politely, "who leave only their hotel-room addresses," when he was interrupted by a mumbling protest from one of the other clerks. "That's very different," he replied to his fellow clerk, and then turned to Randolph. "I'm afraid we cannot help you; but I'll make other inquiries if you'll come back in ten minutes." Satisfied to be relieved from the present perils of his questioning, and doubtful of returning, Randolph turned away. But as he left the building he saw a written notice on the swinging door, "Wanted: a Night Porter;" and this one chance of employment determined his return.
When he again presented himself at the window the clerk motioned him to step inside through a lifted rail. Here he found himself confronted by the clerk and another man, distinguished by a certain air of authority, a keen gray eye, and singularly compressed lips set in a closely clipped beard. The clerk indicated him deferentially but briefly--everybody was astonishingly brief and businesslike there--as the president. The president absorbed and possessed Randolph with eyes that never seemed to leave him. Then leaning back against the counter, which he lightly grasped with both hands, he said: "We've sent to the Niantic Hotel to inquire about your man. He ordered his room by letter, giving no name. He arrived there on time last night, slept there, and has occupied the room No. 74 ever since. WE don't know him from Adam, but"--his eyes never left Randolph's--"from the description the landlord gave our clerk, you're the man himself."
For an instant Randolph flushed crimson. The natural mistake of the landlord flashed upon him, his own stupidity in seeking this information, the suspicious predicament in which he was now placed, and the necessity of telling the whole truth. But the president's eye was at once a threat and an invitation. He felt himself becoming suddenly cool, and, with a business brevity equal to their own, said:--
"I was looking for work last night on the wharf. He employed me to carry his bag to the hotel, saying I was to wait for him. I have waited since nine o'clock last night in his room, and he has not come."
"What are you in such a d----d hurry for? He's trusted you; can't you trust him? You've got his bag?" returned the president.
Randolph was silent for a moment. "I want to know what to do with it," he said.
"Hang on to it. What's in it?"
"Some clothes and a purse containing about seventy dollars."
"That ought to pay you for carrying it and storage afterward," said the president decisively. "What made you come here?"
"I found this address in the purse," said Randolph, producing it.
"Is that all?"
"And that's the only reason you came here, to find an owner for that bag?"
The president disengaged himself from the counter.
"I'm sorry to have given you so much trouble," said Randolph concludingly. "Thank you and good-morning."
As Randolph turned away he remembered the advertisement for the night watchman. He hesitated and turned back. He was a little surprised to find that the president had not gone away, but was looking after him.
"I beg your pardon, but I see you want a night watchman. Could I do?" said Randolph resolutely.
"No. You're a stranger here, and we want some one who knows the city,-- Dewslake," he returned to the receiving teller, "who's taken Larkin's place?"
"No one yet," returned the teller, "but," he added parenthetically, "Judge Boompointer, you know, was speaking to you about his son."
"Yes, I know that." To Randolph: "Go round to my private room and wait for me. I won't be as long as your friend last night." Then he added to a negro porter, "Show him round there."
He moved away, stopping at one or two desks to give an order to the clerks, and once before the railing to speak to a depositor. Randolph followed the negro into the hall, through a "board room," and into a handsomely furnished office. He had not to wait long. In a few moments the president appeared with an older man whose gray side whiskers, cut with a certain precision, and whose black and white checked neckerchief, tied in a formal bow, proclaimed the English respectability of the period. At the president's dictation he took down Randolph's name, nativity, length of residence, and occupation in California. This concluded, the president, glancing at his companion, said briefly,--
"He had better come to-morrow morning at nine," was the answer.
"And ask for Mr. Dingwall, the deputy manager," added the president, with a gesture that was at once an introduction and a dismissal to both.
Randolph had heard before of this startling brevity of San Francisco business detail, yet he lingered until the door closed on Mr. Dingwall. His heart was honestly full.
"You have been very kind, sir," he stammered.
"I haven't run half the risks of that chap last night," said the president grimly, the least tremor of a smile on his set mouth.
"If you would only let me know what I can do to thank you," persisted Randolph.
"Trust the man that trusts you, and hang on to your trust," returned the president curtly, with a parting nod.
Elated and filled with high hopes as Randolph was, he felt some trepidation in returning to his hotel. He had to face his landlord with some explanation of the bank's inquiry. The landlord might consider him an impostor, and request him to leave, or, more dreadful still, insist upon keeping the bag. He thought of the parting words of the president, and resolved upon "hanging on to his trust," whatever happened. But he was agreeably surprised to find that he was received at the office with a certain respect not usually shown to the casual visitor. "Your caller turned up to- day"--Randolph started--"from the Eureka bank," continued the clerk. "Sorry we could not give your name, but you know you only left a deposit in your letter and sent a messenger for your key yesterday afternoon. When you came you went straight to your room. Perhaps you would like to register now." Randolph no longer hesitated, reflecting that he could explain it all later to his unknown benefactor, and wrote his name boldly. But he was still more astonished when the clerk continued: "I reckon it was a case of identifying you for a draft--it often happens here--and we'd have been glad to do it for you. But the bank clerk seemed satisfied with out description of you--you're easily described, you know (this in a parenthesis, complimentarily intended)--"so it's all right. We can give you a better room lower down, if you're going to stay longer." Not knowing whether to laugh or to be embarrassed at this extraordinary conclusion of the blunder, Randolph answered that he had just come from the bank, adding, with a pardonable touch of youthful pride, that he was entering the bankís employment the next day.
Another equally agreeable surprise met him on his arrival there the next morning. Without any previous examination or trial he was installed at once as a corresponding clerk in the place of one just promoted to a sub-agency in the interior. His handwriting, his facility of composition, had all been taken for granted, or perhaps predicated upon something the president had discerned in that one quick, absorbing glance. He ventured to express the thought to his neighbor.
"The boss," said that gentleman, "can size a man in and out, and all through, in about the time it would take you and me to tell the color of his hair. HE donít make mistakes, you bet; but old Dingy-- the dep--you settled with your clothes."
"My clothes!" echoed Randolph, with a faint flush.
"Yes, English cut--that fetched him."
And so his work began. His liberal salary, which seemed to him munificent in comparison with his previous earnings in the mines, enabled him to keep the contents of the buckskin purse intact, and presently to return the borrowed suit of clothes to the portmanteau. The mysterious owner should find everything as when
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