“I suppose,” said Jack, “you are afraid I will denounce you to the police?”
“Well, there is a possibility of that. That class of people has a prejudice against us, though we are only doing what everybody likes to do—making money.”
“Will you let me go if I keep your secret?”
“What assurance have we that you would keep your promise?”
“I would pledge my word.”
“Your word!” Foley—for this was the old man’s real name—snapped his fingers. “I wouldn’t give that for it. That is not sufficient.”
“What will be?”
“You must become one of us.”
“One of you!”
“Yes. You must make yourself liable to the same penalties, so that it will be for your own interest to remain silent. Otherwise we can’t trust you.”
“Suppose I decline these terms?”
“Then I shall be under the painful necessity of retaining you as my guest,” said Foley, smiling disagreeably.
“What made you pretend to be a mad-doctor?”
“To put you off the track,” said Foley. “You believed it, didn’t you?”
“Well, what do you say?” asked Foley.
“I should like to take time to reflect upon your proposal,” said Jack. “It is of so important a character that I don’t like to decide at once.”
“How long do you require?”
“Two days. Suppose I join you, shall I get good pay?”
“Excellent,” answered Foley. “In fact, you’ll be better paid than a boy of your age would be anywhere else.”
“That’s worth thinking about,” said Jack, gravely. “My father is poor, and I’ve got my own way to make.”
“You couldn’t have a better opening. You’re a smart lad, and will be sure to succeed.”
“Well, I’ll think of it. If I should make up my mind before the end of two days, I will let you know.”
“Very well. You can’t do better.”
“But there’s one thing I want to ask about,” said Jack, with pretended anxiety. “It’s pretty risky business, isn’t it?”
“I’ve been in the business ten years, and they haven’t got hold of me yet,” answered Foley. “All you’ve got to do is to be careful.”
“He’ll join,” said Foley to himself. “He’s a smart fellow, and we can make him useful. It’ll be the best way to dispose of one who might get us into trouble.”
The next day Jack had another visit from Foley. “Well,” said the old man, nodding, “have you thought over my proposal?”
“What should I have to do?” asked Jack.
“Sometimes one thing, and sometimes another. At first we might employ you to put off some of the bills.”
“That would be easy work, anyway,” said Jack.
“Yes, there is nothing hard about that, except to look innocent.”
“I can do that,” said Jack, laughing.