“Let them come to us,” said the Consul.
“No, my dear father,” answered Morten. “Don’t you see that the times are leaving you behind? It’s of no use in these days to sit still; you must keep your eyes open, or else run the risk of losing the best of the business, and get nothing but just the residue.”
Morten so far prevailed that the Consul was at length obliged to let him set up an office in the town, but under his own name; for Garman and Worse were still to be found only at Sandsgaard, and there those who wished to do business with the firm had to betake themselves.
Meanwhile a considerable amount of business passed through Morten’s office in the town. This did not altogether please the Consul, but he felt bound to uphold his son, which was what his father had always done, and the firm thus became mixed up in many transactions which the father would never have cared to enter upon.
To the clerks the young Consul was a being of quite another sphere. Every head was bowed to him whenever he passed through the office, and each one seemed to feel that the cold blue eyes penetrated everything and everywhere—books, accounts, and letters, even into their own private secrets. It was believed that he knew every page in the ledger, and that he could quote intricate accounts, column by column, and if there was even the slightest irregularity to be found anywhere, they would wager that it could not escape the young Consul’s eye. The general conviction was, that if every creditor of the firm, or even the devil himself, should some day take it into his head to come into the office, there would not be found even the slightest error in one of the ponderous and well-bound account books.
There was, however, one account which was a sealed book to them all, and that was the one of Richard Garman. No mortal eye had ever seen it. Some thought it might possibly be in the Consul’s own red book; others thought that no such thing existed. True it was undoubtedly, that the chief carried on personally all the correspondence with his brother; and, wonderful to relate, these letters were never copied. This was food for much speculation among the clerks, and at last they came to the conclusion that the young Consul did not wish any one to know in what relation Richard Garman stood to the firm.
One thing was plain, and confirmed by long experience, and that was, that the Consul attached great importance to the letters that came from his brother. He read them before the rest of the post, and if any one happened to come in when he was thus engaged, he always covered the correspondence with a sheet of paper. One of the younger clerks once asserted that he had seen a bill of exchange in one of the aforesaid letters, but the statement found but little credence in the office; for it was a recognized fact that not one single paper existed which bore Richard Garman’s signature. Another story, which was even less