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- The Young Explorer - 6/35 -

"Good for you, country! Have you come to stay long?"

Ben laughed. He concluded not to take offense, but to answer seriously.

"That depends on whether I get the place I am after."

"What is that?" asked the bootblack, in a friendly tone.

Now, on the way to the city, Ben had overheard a conversation between two gentlemen, relative to certain swindlers in New York, which, for the first time, had aroused in him a suspicion that possibly there might be something wrong about the firm whose advertisement he had answered. He felt the need of an adviser, and though his choice may be considered rather a strange one, he decided to consult his new acquaintance, the bootblack. He briefly told him of the advertisement, and what it offered.

The bootblack surveyed him with pitying curiosity.

"You don't mean to say you swallow all that?" he said.

"Don't you think it's all right?" asked Ben anxiously.

"Look here," said the street boy, "do you think anybody's going to pay a boy ten dollars a week, when there's hundreds ready to work for three or four? Why, a man in Pearl Street advertised last week for a boy at three dollars, and there was a whole shoal of boys went for it. I was one of 'em."

"Don't you earn more than that by your business?"

"Sometimes I do, but it ain't stiddy, and I'd rather have a place."

"Why do they advertise to give ten dollars, then?" asked our hero.

"They want to get hold of your fifty dollars," said the bootblack. "Them fellers is beats, that's what they are."

"What had I better do?" asked Ben, in perplexity.

"Go and see 'em, and have a talk. If they're not after your fifty dollars, you'll know what it means."

"It may be all right, after all," said Ben, who did not like to give up hope.

"I may be General Grant," retorted the bootblack, "but if I know myself I ain't."

"Well, I'll go round and talk with them. Where can I meet you afterwards?"

"I'll be standin' here, if you ain't gone too long."

"What's your name?"

"Tom Cooper."

"I am Ben Stanton. Thank you for your advice."

"You're a good feller if you do come from the country. Just look out for them fellers. Don't let 'em hook you in."

"All right, Tom."

Ben moved on, watching the numbers as he walked slowly along, till he came to the one mentioned in the advertisement. There was a hallway and a staircase, with a directory of persons occupying offices on the floors above. From this Ben ascertained that Fitch & Ferguson occupied Room 17, on the fourth floor.

"I wonder what business they are in," thought our hero as he mounted the stairs. "They must have considerable or they wouldn't need so many boys-that is, if they are on the square."

Presently he stood in front of a door bearing the number 17.

He knocked for admittance.



"Come in," said a loud voice.

Ben opened the door and entered.

He found himself in a square room, almost bare of furniture. In an office chair at a table sat a dark-complexioned man of near forty. He appeared to be reading the morning paper.

"Is this the office of Fitch & Ferguson?" inquired Ben.

A glance at Ben's carpetbag indicated that he had come in answer to the advertisement, and he was received very graciously.

"Come in," said the man in the chair, smiling affably. "This is the office of Fitch & Ferguson. I am Mr. Fitch."

"My name is Stanton-Ben Stanton," said our hero. "I wrote you from Hampton about your advertisement."

"For a boy at ten dollars a week?" suggested the dark man, with a pleasant smile.

"Yes, sir."

"We agreed to take you, did we not?" asked Mr. Fitch.

"Yes, sir."

"Have you had any business experience?" inquired Pitch.

"No, sir."

"I am sorry for that," said Mr. Fitch gravely. "Experience is important. I am not sure whether we ought to pay you ten dollars a week."

Ben did not reply. He was not so much concerned about the amount of his compensation as about the reliable character of Fitch & Ferguson.

"Still," mused Mr. Fitch, "you look like a boy who would learn fast. What do you think about it yourself?"

"I think I could," answered Ben. "I should try to serve you faithfully."

"That is well. We want to be served faithfully," said Mr. Fitch.

"What kind of a business is it?" Ben ventured to ask, surveying the empty office with a puzzled look, which Mr. Fitch observed and interpreted aright.

"We do a commission business," he said. "Of course, we keep no stock of goods here. Business is not done in the city, my young friend, as it is in the country."

"No, I suppose not," returned our hero.

"Without entering into details as to the character of our business," said Mr. Fitch, "I may say that you would be chiefly employed in making collections. It is because considerable sums of money would pass through your hands that we require a deposit in order to protect ourselves. By the way, have you the fifty dollars with you?"

Ben admitted that he had.

Mr. Fitch's face brightened up, for he had not felt quite sure of that.

"I am glad to hear of it," he said. "It shows that you mean business. You may hand it to me, and I will give you a receipt for it."

"I would like to ask you one or two questions first," said Ben, making no movement toward his pocket.

Mr. Fitch frowned.

"Really, I fail to catch your meaning," he said, in a changed tone. "Do you wish to enter my employ, or do you not?"

"I should like to earn ten dollars a week."

"Precisely. Then all you have to do is to hand me the fifty dollars and go to work."

"You might keep me only a week," suggested Ben.

"We shall keep you if you suit us, and you can if you try. If you are discharged, we give you back your money, and pay you for the time you work for us. That is fair, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then we may as well settle the matter at once," and he waited for Ben to draw forth his money. Our hero would, undoubtedly, have done so, if he had not been cautioned by Tom Cooper. As it was, he could not help feeling suspicious.

"I should like to propose something to you, sir," he said.

"What is it?" asked Fitch impatiently.

"Suppose you keep five dollars a week out of my wages for ten weeks-that'll make fifty dollars-and only pay it to me when I leave you."

The Young Explorer - 6/35

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