“I hear that he’s a swindler,” said Cameron. “I was a fool to fall into his snare. Keep your money and you’ll be better off.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Fifteen minutes afterward Mr. Fitch left his office, and when Mr. Cameron came back, the door was locked. He found his son waiting in the entry.
“Did you collect any money in Brooklyn?” asked his father.
“No; I guess Mr. Fitch gave me the wrong number. There was no such man living at the house he sent me to.”
“We’ve been fooled!” said the father bitterly. “Come home, James. I doubt we’ve seen the last of our money. If I ever set eyes on that man Pitch again I’ll give him in charge for swindling.”
The senior partner of Pitch & Ferguson was at that moment on his way to Philadelphia with the remains of the fifty dollars in his pocket. But for Ben’s caution he would have had another fifty dollars in his possession.
Ben slowly retraced his steps to where he had left his friend, Tom Cooper.
“Well,” said the bootblack, “did you see Fitch and Ferguson?”
“Yes,” answered Ben soberly; “that is, I saw one of them.”
“Did you take the place?”
“No; I found he was too anxious for my fifty dollars, though he offered after a while to take me for thirty.”
Tom Cooper laughed derisively.
“I’ll do better nor that,” he said. “If you’ll give me twenty dollars, I’ll make you my private secretary, payin’ you ten dollars a week.”
“How long will you keep me?” asked Ben, smiling.
“Six days,” answered Tom. “Then I’ll have to sack you without pay, ’cause you don’t understand your business.”
“Is that the way they manage?” asked Ben.
The bootblack nodded.
Ben looked grave. The disappointment was a serious one, and he felt now how much he had relied upon the promises of Fitch & Ferguson. He had formed no other plans, and it seemed likely that he must return to the country to resume his old life. Yet that seemed impracticable. There was no opening there unless he accepted one of the two offers already made him. But he was neither inclined to enter the employ of Deacon Pitkin, nor to become the valet and servant of Sam Sturgis. He was not quite sure whether he would not prefer to become a bootblack, like his new acquaintance.
“What are you goin’ to do?” asked Tom.
“I wish I knew,” said Ben earnestly. “What can I do?”
“You might go into my business,” suggested Tom.
Ben shook his head.
“I don’t think I should like that.”
“No more would I if I’d got fifty dollars in my pocket. If I was you I’d go into business.”
“What kind of business?”
“Well,” said Tom reflectively, “you might buy out an apple or a peanut-stand, and have lots of money left.”