“I was telling my cousin,” he said, addressing Martha, “that I came down here to attend to a little matter of business. The business wasn’t my own exactly, but it was a commission from a friend and client of mine and he left it in my charge. He and I supposed we had an agent here in your town, Miss Phipps, who was attending to it for us, but of late he hasn’t been very successful. I received a letter from Williams—from my friend; he is in the South—asking me to see if I couldn’t hurry matters up a bit. So I motored down. But this agent of ours was not in. Probably you know him. His name is Pulcifer.”
Martha and Galusha started simultaneously.
“Pulcifer?” queried Martha. “Raish Pulcifer, do you mean?”
“It doesn’t seem to me that his Christian name is— What did you say, Miss Phipps?”
“I said ‘Raish’; that’s what every one down here calls the man I mean. His real name, of course, is Horatio.”
“Horatio? That sounds more like it. I didn’t hire him—Williams did that—and I have never met him, although he and Thomas, my secretary, have had some correspondence. Wait a moment, I have his name here.”
He took from his pocket a memorandum book and turned over the leaves.
“Yes,” he said, “that’s it. Horatio Pulcifer. Here is his card. ’Horatio Pulcifer, Dealer in Real Estate of All Kinds; Cranberry Bog Property Bought and Sold; Mortgages Arranged For; Fire, Life and Accident Insurance; Money Loaned; Claims Adjusted; Real or Household Goods Auctioned Off or Sold Private; etc., etc.’ Humph! Comprehensive person, isn’t he? Is this the fellow you know, Miss Phipps?”
Martha nodded. “Yes,” she said, “I know him.”
Cabot glanced at her. “I see,” he observed. “Well, what sort of a character is he? Would you trust him?”
She hesitated. “Why—why,” she replied, “I suppose I should, if— if—”
“If he was not too far away, or around the corner, or anything like that? I understand.”
Martha was a bit disturbed. “You mustn’t put words in my mouth, Mr. Cabot,” she said. “I didn’t say Raish Pulcifer was dishonest.”
“No, that is true. And I beg your pardon for asking embarrassing questions. I have seen some of the fellow’s letters and usually a letter is a fairly good indication of character—or lack of it. I have had my surmises concerning the ubiquitous Horatio for some time.”
Martha seemed to be thinking.
“I understood you to say he was your agent for somethin’ down here, Mr. Cabot,” she said. “Sellin’ somethin’, was he? That kind of an agent?”
“No. As a matter of fact, he was supposed to be buying something, but he hasn’t made much progress. He started out well, but of late he seems to have found trouble. I am rather surprised because we— that is, Williams—pay him a liberal commission. I judge he doesn’t hate a dollar and that kind of man usually goes after it hammer and tongs. You see— But there, I presume I should not go into particulars, not yet.”