THE COMMERCIAL TRAVELER

“WELL, GUY, which way shall we go to-night? Do you feel inclined for a
game of billiards before supper?”

The speaker adjusted his hat in front of a looking-glass, drew a stray
lock of hair over one of his ears, turned his head from side to side to
assure himself that his toilet had been completed, and looked over his
shoulder toward Guy Harris, who, having just rendered to the book-keeper
an account of the cash that had passed through his hands during the day,
was buttoning his coat preparatory to leaving the store. The question
was asked in a low tone and was accompanied by a sidelong glance toward
Mr. Walker, who was standing at the book-keeper’s desk.

“I don’t know,” replied Guy hesitatingly. “I’ve been out a good deal of
late, and I think I had better begin to stop at home once in a while of
an evening.”

“Oh, nonsense!” exclaimed the first speaker, whom we will call Jones,
and who was one of the drummers or commercial travelers employed to sell
goods for the firm of Harris & Walker. “What is the use of moping in the
house all the while? When one has been hard at work all day he wants
some recreation in the evening, I take it.”

“I know that,” said Guy, “but to tell the truth, Jones, I don’t get as
much money for my services as you do, and I can’t stand this ‘bumming
round’ as you call it.”

“Funds giving out? Then run your face.”

“I have been doing just that very thing. I am deeply in debt, too.”

“Oh, that’s nothing when you get used to it? Show me a clerk in this
city who is not in debt, and I will show you five that are.”

“But my creditors want me to pay up; at least I judge so from the way
they are beginning to look at me every time I see them.”

“Well, if they become impatient, just say to them that if they get the
money before you do, you would be pleased to know it. Are you all ready?
If you are, come on. I have only this evening and one more that I can
spend with you, for I must start off on my travels again early on
Wednesday morning.”

This conversation took place one Monday evening in the store in which
Guy was employed, and about two months subsequent to the events recorded
in the last chapter. In accordance with his promise Mr. Harris consulted
with his new partner, Mr. Walker, and the result of the conference was
that Guy was employed to do the outdoor business of the firm—to act as
city collector and shipping clerk, at a salary of four hundred dollars a
year. His working hours were from eight o’clock in the morning until six
at night, with an hour’s intermission at noon for dinner. His evenings
were at his own disposal.

This last was an arrangement with which Mr. Harris was not altogether
pleased. He knew by experience the manifold temptations which beset
those who live in large cities, and believed there was something in the
night air morally injurious to young people; but he thought that perhaps
Guy had learned the value of time and money during his wanderings, and
hoped that his evenings would be devoted, as he said he intended to
devote them, to the acquirement of the rudiments of a business
education. To further this end Mr. Harris purchased for Guy a
scholarship at the Commercial College, and he also found lodgings for
him at a small boarding-house kept by a widow lady in a retired part of
the city.

For a month no fault could be found with Guy. He was as steady as an old
coach-horse. He had learned to appreciate the privileges and comforts of
civilized life, and knew how to enjoy them. Having been made aware of
his deficiencies, he applied himself manfully to the task of overcoming
them. He was always on hand during business hours, and performed his
duty faithfully. Mr. Walker began to take a deep interest in him, and
sent encouraging reports to Norwall concerning him.

“Guy is a splendid fellow!” so Mr. Walker, who was the only one in the
city acquainted with his clerk’s past history, wrote to his partner. “He
is very industrious and painstaking, and a word of encouragement or
approval stimulates him to extra exertions. You know I always thought he
was a good boy.”

Guy’s landlady, Mrs. Willis, also took a wonderful interest in him; he
looked and acted, she said, so much like her own son, who had gone to
California to better his fortune. Guy appreciated every little kindness
she showed him, and learned to love her as devotedly as he had once
loved his father’s wife.

But Guy’s goodness was rather of the negative sort. He did nothing very
wrong, simply because he was never tempted. Everything was going
smoothly with him. He was aiming high now, had formed resolutions which
he had not yet had time to forget; his whole mind was occupied with the
duties of his new vocation, and it is easy to work and be good under
such circumstances. But time makes changes, and soon Guy begun to learn
that even a shipping clerk has troubles and perplexities, which, in
their way, are just as vexatious and hard to bear as those that fall to
the lot of other people. The routine of the store, the performing of the
same duties over and over again, became tiresome to him; it was too much
like a tread-mill. When night came, his mind as well as his body was
weary, and he was in no condition to dip into the mysteries of
double-entry book-keeping, or wrestle with the hard problems in Bryant &
Stratton’s Mercantile Arithmetic. This led him to become irregular in
his attendance at the college, and he begun to spend his leisure hours
at home. Reading and conversation with Mrs. Willis interested him for a
few evenings, but became a bore at last, and Guy fell into the habit of
strolling out after supper for a breath of fresh air; and to enable him
to enjoy it fully, he almost always smoked a cigar.

The place at which he purchased his cigars was a beer saloon, and after
a few visits Guy found that it was the headquarters of half a dozen
dashing young fellows, clerks like himself, who spent all their evenings
there. They would come in after supper, singly and in couples, take a
glass of beer or cigar at the bar, and then pass out of sight through a
door that led into a back room.

Acquaintances are easily made in places like this—more is the pity—and
Guy very soon got into the habit of nodding to these young fellows every
time he met them; then one of them treated him to a cigar, and asked him
if he wouldn’t “step back and take a hand.” Guy, who had often wondered
what there was in the back room that brought those clerks there so
regularly, replied in the affirmative, and following them through the
door just spoken of, found that it led into an apartment devoted to
pigeon-hole, dominoes and cards.

The acquaintances Guy formed that night ripened rapidly into a sort of
friendship. He became a regular visitor at the saloon, and although he
was a remarkably lucky card player, and was seldom “put in” for a game,
the money he had carefully saved during the time he had been employed in
the store—and it amounted to a respectable sum—slipped through his
fingers almost before he knew it, and at last he had not a single dollar
remaining. One night he surprised his new friends by seating himself
near the card-table, but declined to take part in the game.

“What’s the matter?” they all asked at once.

“Why, I might be beaten, and if I do I have no money to pay the bill. I
forgot my pocket-book,” said Guy, ashamed to acknowledge that he did not
own a cent in the world.

“Is that all?” cried one of the players. “That’s easily enough got over.
Say, Jake,” he added, calling to the proprietor of the saloon, “if
Harris gets stuck for this game, you’ll chalk it, won’t you?”

“Oh, sure,” replied the Dutchman readily. “I drusts him all de peer he
vants.”

The boy had been a good customer, and he could afford to accommodate him
to a limited extent.

This was a new chapter in Guy’s experience. He had never thought of
going in debt before, and ere many weeks had passed away he had reason
to wish that no one had ever thought of it for him.

About the time Guy first met these new friends he made the acquaintance
of Mr. Jones, the commercial traveler, who was presented to him by his
brother, Will Jones, the junior clerk. These two young gentlemen, Mr.
Jones and his brother, had private reasons for hating Guy most
cordially. Will had been an applicant for the position of shipping
clerk, and indeed Mr. Walker had partly promised it to him; but yielding
to the wishes of his partner, he gave Guy the situation instead, and
made Jones junior clerk, with the promise of something better as soon as
there was an opening.

Will, of course, was highly enraged. Being rather a fast young man, he
had got deeply in debt, and needed the extra hundred and fifty
dollars—in his subordinate position he received but two hundred and
fifty—to satisfy his creditors, who were becoming impatient. His
brother, the commercial traveler, was absent selling goods for the firm,
and not knowing what else to do, Will wrote him a full account of his
troubles, and ended by begging the loan of a few dollars. The commercial
traveler replied as follows:

“You have been shamefully treated. That place was promised to you, and
you shall have it if I die for it; but I can’t lend you any money. You
ought to have better sense than to ask me, for I have often told you
that my commission does not begin to support me. If it were not for my
other business, I should be in a hard row of stumps directly. Smoke
fewer cigars and drink less beer till I come, and I’ll see what can be
done. In the meantime watch Harris—watch him so closely that you can
tell me every one of his habits. If I can get a hold on him I’ll have
him out of that store, no matter if he is the son of the senior
partner.”

In accordance with these instructions, the object of which Will fully
comprehended, he set himself to act as a spy upon the shipping clerk,
and every movement that young gentleman made during business hours and
afterward, was carefully noted.

At first Will saw nothing encouraging in Guy’s behavior, for his habits
bore the strictest investigation; but from the time he got into the way
of going to Dutch Jake’s saloon for cigars and beer, the spy collected
abundant evidence against him. When the commercial traveler returned he
listened with interest to the story his brother had to tell, and when it
was finished said:

“Then Harris drinks beer, does he? That’s all right. I am certain of
success.”

“But you mustn’t put faith in that,” said Will. “He never takes too
much.”

“No matter,” said the commercial traveler, “he takes a little, and when
alcohol is in, wit is out, always. I will bet you a suit of new clothes
that you are shipping clerk in less than a month—provided, of course,
that you have been guarded in your own conduct, and given old Walker no
reason to distrust you.”

At the very first opportunity the commercial traveler was introduced to
Guy, and the latter was highly flattered to see that he had made a very
favorable impression upon the gentlemanly Mr. Jones. He could not help
seeing it, for Mr. Jones did not attempt to conceal his admiration for
Guy. He accompanied him on his business tours about the city, dropped in
to see him every night, and never appeared to be easy while he was away
from him. And Guy was glad to be in his company. He was proud to be seen
on the streets with such a well-dressed, elegant young fellow.

“Harris,” said Mr. Jones one day, “Mr. Walker tells me that he will not
start me out again under two or three weeks, and I must have a home
somewhere. If you and your worthy landlady have no objections, I should
like to board and room with you. You are a fellow after my own heart,
and I like your society.”

“I have no objections, certainly,” said Guy. “I should be delighted with
the arrangement. Go home and take supper with me to-night, and I will
propose it to Mrs. Willis.”

Of course Mr. Jones jumped at the invitation. He made a favorable
impression upon the unsuspecting landlady, as Guy knew he would—he did
not see how anybody could help liking Mr. Jones—and the consequence was
that he paid a week’s board in advance, and was that same evening duly
installed in Guy’s room.

The intimacy thus formed begun to result disastrously to Guy before two
days had passed away. The shipping clerk in his simplicity imagined that
his new friend looked up to him as a superior being, while the truth was
that Mr. Jones, by skillful handling, was molding him to suit his own
purposes. He led Guy into all sorts of extravagance. In the first place
he made such a display of his abundant wardrobe that the plain, durable
clothing with which the shipping clerk had provided himself, and which
he believed to be quite good enough for any young man in his
circumstances, begun to look, in the eyes of its owner, rather shabby
when compared with the elegant broadcloth suits that Mr. Jones wore
every day. He had not money sufficient to buy better, but Mr. Jones had
both cheek and credit, and through him Guy was made acquainted with a
fashionable tailor on Fourth Street, who, in three day’s time, furnished
him with an outfit that made his eyes dance with delight, and charged
the price of it against Guy on his books. Then, of course, other things
had to be purchased to correspond with these new clothes, for coarse
pegged boots, cotton gloves, and a felt hat would not look well with a
suit of German broadcloth. Guy must have patent leathers, fine linen, a
stove-pipe hat, and imported French kids, all of which were procured
from merchants recommended by Mr. Jones, and each of whom expressed
himself willing to wait, not only for the amount of that bill, but for
any other that Guy might be pleased to run at his store.

In fine, the advent of Mr. Jones produced a wonderful change in Guy’s
circumstances and feelings in two short weeks. The commercial traveler
had a large circle of acquaintances in the city, and Guy was everywhere
introduced as the son of the senior member of the well-known and wealthy
firm of Harris & Walker, wholesale dry goods merchants, and from being
an obscure clerk whom nobody noticed, found himself riding on a high
wave of popularity. Elegant young gentlemen touched their hats to him in
the streets, and now and then invited him to take a cigar or a glass of
wine with them; perfumed and obsequious bar-tenders in gorgeous saloons
leaned respectfully over the counter while he gave his orders, and
executed them with alacrity; the clerks in a certain “billiard parlor”
took particular pains to keep his private cue locked up so that nobody
else could get at it, and to see that his favorite four-pocket table was
unoccupied when he dropped in at six o’clock to play his regular game;
and livery stable keepers trotted out their best stock, and furnished
him with their finest carriages when he wished to go out riding of a
Sunday afternoon.

For the first time in the whole course of his existence Guy was “seeing
life,” and that, too, without a cent in his pocket. He was bewildered,
intoxicated with pleasure, and there was but one thing to throw a cloud
over his enjoyments. That was the way his landlady looked at him when he
came down to breakfast in the morning with trembling hands, and red and
swollen eyes, and declined to take anything more than a cup of coffee.
On such occasions there was an expression on the good lady’s face that
cut Guy to the heart, and somehow always led to the mortifying
reflection that for the last six weeks he had not paid her a cent for
his board. Then he would seem for the moment to come to his senses; but
the observant Mr. Jones was always ready to step in and nip in the bud
any resolutions of amendment he might make. As they walked toward the
store he would draw a glowing contrast between Guy’s present
circumstances and his former old-fogy manner of living, and wind up by
humming over a verse of doggerel something like the following:

“As we journey through life, let us live by the way,
And our pilgrimage gladden with feasting, not fasting;
Let us banish dull care, and keep sorrow at bay,
For our days are all numbered, and life is not lasting.”

His plans were not yet fully matured, and consequently he was not ready
for Guy’s awakening.

THE shipping clerk and commercial traveler walked out of the store
arm-in-arm, and bent their steps toward a billiard saloon. Mr. Jones
talked incessantly. The sober face Guy wore, and the words he had let
fall a while ago, were small things in themselves, but much too
important to be disregarded, for they were signs of the awakening which
was sure to come, but which Mr. Jones, for reasons of his own, wished to
postpone for a day or two longer. So he tried to keep up Guy’s spirits,
and believing that a little assistance might not come amiss, led him
into Dutch Jake’s saloon, where they had a glass of beer and a cigar
apiece, Jones paying for one and Guy treating to the other.

“Chalk it, Jake,” said Guy, as he walked around the end of the counter
for a match to light his cigar.

“Vell,” said the Dutchman with some hesitation, “I shalks dis, but I
don’t likes dis shalking pisness pooty vell, nohow. You peen shpending
monish like plazes, Meester Harris—you know it? Your pill peen running
dwo months.”

Guy reddened to the roots of his hair. This was a gentle hint that Jake
wanted him to pay up, and he had never been dunned before.

“How much do I owe you?” he asked.

“Eight tollars und vorty zents; you know it now.”

“Eight dollars and—Great Scott! how can that be?” exclaimed Guy, almost
overwhelmed with astonishment. “I haven’t been stuck for a game of cards
for the last two weeks.”

“Vell, it’s all fair, every zent!” almost shouted the Dutchman, bringing
his fist down on the counter with a sounding whack. “You dinks I sheats
you, py dunder?”

“Oh, now, Jake, you needn’t get on the rampage,” said Jones, interposing
to calm the rising storm. “Guy is not disputing your bill—he is a
gentleman. He will pay every cent of it in a few days.”

“Vell, dot’s all right, put it’s petter he bays it pooty gwick. Ven a
man gomes here mit vine glose und a vine vatch und shain, und runs me a
pill here in mine house von eight tollars und vorty zents, I don’t likes
dis pisness.”

While the Dutchman was talking himself hoarse Guy and his companion beat
a hasty retreat. Jones seemed to look upon the matter in the light of an
excellent joke, and laughed heartily over it, but Guy said nothing. He
was in a very serious frame of mind. He did not in the least enjoy the
game of billiards that followed, for his thoughts were full of the
unpleasant incident that had just happened. He was learning now what all
people who go in debt must learn sooner or later—that a bill, like the
snow-ball a boy rolls up to build his mimic fort, accumulates rapidly.
He was glad when the game was finished. He and Jones took a cigar at the
counter, and were about to move away when the bar-tender beckoned to
Guy.

“I don’t want you to think hard of me, Harris,” said he, leading Guy out
of earshot of his companion, “but I just thought that I would suggest to
you that perhaps your bill here is rather larger than you think. It has
been running five weeks, and we like to have our customers settle up at
least once a month.”

“How much is it?” asked Guy with as much indifference as he could throw
into his tones.

“Only twenty-four dollars. Don’t misunderstand me now. I am not dunning
you, for I know that you are a thoroughbred, and that you are able to
pay it at any moment. I merely wish to call your attention to it.”

“I am glad you did,” said Guy. “I’ll see to it. Good-evening.”

Had Guy suddenly been knocked over by some invisible hand he could not
have been more amazed. Thirty-two dollars in debt, and several creditors
yet to hear from! Had he been asked an hour before to name the sum he
owed these two men, he would have said not more than five dollars. He
had kept no account of the bills he had run at other places, and if they
exceeded his estimate of them in the same proportion that these two did,
what would become of him? Where could he raise the money to pay them? He
could not bear to think about it. He overtook his companion at the door,
and the latter saw very plainly that the awakening had come.

“Well, perhaps it is as well that it should come now as at a later day,”
soliloquized the commercial traveler. “I’ve got him just where I want
him, and I’ll make him a proposition to-night. I have another whole day
to operate in before I start out on my travels, and a great deal can be
accomplished in that time. How much is it, Guy? Twenty-four dollars!
That is less than I thought it would be. Billiards at twenty-five cents
a game, and fancy drinks at fifteen cents each count up, you know. When
are you going to pay it?”

“I don’t know. I can’t pay Jake’s bill, much less this one.”

“Well, now, I say! Look here, my dear fellow, this won’t do, you know!”
exclaimed Mr. Jones, suddenly stopping in the street and turning a most
astonished face toward Guy. “Remember, if you please, that these people
to whom I have introduced you are my personal friends, and that I
brought you to their notice supposing you to be a gentleman. You _must_
pay these bills. My honor is at stake as well as your own, because I
introduced you. If you don’t do it, your creditors will call upon Mr.
Walker.”

“Great Scott!” ejaculated Guy, who had never thought of this before.

“Certainly they will,” continued Mr. Jones. “And just consider how I
should feel under such circumstances! I should never dare to look a
white man in the face again. I didn’t think you were dishonest.”

“And I am not, either,” returned Guy with spirit. “I should be glad to
settle these bills, but how can I do it without money?”

“Oh, that’s the trouble, is it? It isn’t want of inclination, but a lack
of means. Is that it?”

“That’s just the way the matter stands,” answered Guy.

“Then I ask your pardon,” said Mr. Jones, grasping Guy’s hand and
shaking it cordially. “I misunderstood you. But are you really out of
money?” he added, with a look of surprise, although he knew very well
that Guy was penniless, and had been for weeks.

“I haven’t a red,” was the despairing reply.

“Don’t let it trouble you. I can remedy that.”

“You can!” exclaimed Guy, astonished and delighted.

“Of course. I earn three or four thousand every year, outside of my
commission, and in an hour I can explain the mode of operating, so that
you can do the same.”

“And will you?” asked Guy.

“I will, I assure you. Harris, when I am a friend to a man I am a friend
all over. And what is the use of my professing to think so much of you
if I am not willing to prove it?”

“You are a friend, indeed,” returned Guy with enthusiasm, “and if you
will help me out of this scrape I will never go in debt again as long as
I live.”

“Oh, as to that,” said Mr. Jones indifferently, “it doesn’t signify. The
best of us get short sometimes, and then it is very convenient to have a
friend or two who is willing to credit us. All one has to do is to get
up a reputation for honesty, and then he can run his face as long as he
chooses.”

“What is this plan you were speaking of?” asked Guy.

“I will tell you this evening. After supper we will go up to our room,
and while we are smoking a cigar we’ll have a long, friendly talk.”

Guy did not want any supper. He could think of nothing but his debts and
his companion’s friendly offer to help him out of them, and he was
impatient to learn how his relief was to be accomplished, he urged Jones
to reveal the secret at once, but the latter could not be prevailed upon
to say more on the subject just then, and Guy was obliged to await his
pleasure.

Supper over, the cigars lighted, and the door of their room closed to
keep the smoke from going out into the hall where the landlady would be
sure to detect it, Guy and the commercial traveler seated themselves,
one in the easy chair and the other on the bed, and proceeded to discuss
matters.

“In the first place,” said Mr. Jones, “in order that I may know just
what to do, you must tell me how much you owe, and give me the names of
those to whom you are indebted—that is, if you are perfectly willing to
do so.”

“Of course I am,” returned Guy readily. “I will meet your friendly
advances half-way. To begin with, there are my bills at Dutch Jake’s and
the billiard saloon, amounting to thirty-two dollars and forty cents.
Then I am indebted thirty dollars to Mrs. Willis, and if I may judge by
the way she looks at me now and then, she would be wonderfully pleased
if I would pay up.”

“Oh, she doesn’t need the money,” said Jones. “She has a little fortune
of her own, and only keeps boarders for company. If she says anything to
you, there are plenty of ways to put her off. Tell her that you will
settle up as soon as you draw your next quarter’s salary.”

“That would be a good joke on her, wouldn’t it?” said Guy with a forced
laugh. “To tell the truth,” he added, with some hesitation, “I—that
is—you know Mr. Walker allows me to be my own paymaster, and I have
already drawn and spent my last quarter’s salary. I shall not get a cent
of money from the firm for five weeks.”

“I am overjoyed to hear it,” said Mr. Jones to himself. “Things are
working better than I thought. I’ve got you in a tight corner, my lad,
and all that is required is a little careful handling to get you in the
way of embezzling.” Then aloud he said: “That is a very bad state of
affairs, Guy. These people must be paid at once.”

“I know they ought to be paid, and you said you would put me in the way
of doing it.”

“So I will. I’ll come to that directly. But who else do you owe?”

Guy went on with the list of those to whom he was indebted, checking
each one off on the fingers of his left hand as he pronounced his name.
Jones listened in genuine amazement, for Guy had been carrying things
with a much higher hand than he had supposed. His debts, according to
his own showing, footed up one hundred and twenty-five dollars, and if
the amounts charged against him on the books of his creditors exceeded
his expectations as greatly as Jones hoped they would, he owed at least
two hundred dollars. The commercial traveler took down the names and
amounts as Guy called them off—a proceeding that Guy could not see the
necessity of.

“You mustn’t show that to anybody,” said he.

“Certainly not,” replied Jones with an injured air. “I wish to ascertain
just how much you owe, so that I may know how large a sum of money it
will take to put you on your feet again. One hundred and twenty-five
dollars,” he continued, after he had added up the column of figures.
“That is a bad showing, Guy—a very bad showing indeed. It is a large sum
to one whose salary amounts to only four hundred dollars a year, but it
must be paid. Are you ready to listen to my plans now?”

“I am,” said Guy. “I am all ears.”

“I do not suppose that you will like them at first,” said Mr. Jones,
“but if you will take my advice you will consider well before you reject
them. I can only say that I am about to describe to you a business to
which, as I happen to know, a great many people resort to enable them to
eke out a respectable livelihood.”

With this, Mr. Jones took a long pull at his cigar by way of
inspiration, settled back on his elbow on the bed, and proceeded with a
minute and careful explanation of the business to which he had referred.
He had not said many words before Guy’s eyes begun to open with
surprise, and the longer he listened the more amazed he became. When Mr.
Jones drew from his pocket the implements of his trade and exhibited
them to Guy, the latter jumped from his chair in high indignation.

“I’ll never do it!” said he with emphasis. “I haven’t amounted to much
during the time I have knocked about the world, but I have never yet
been mean enough to play confidence man.”

“This is the way you repay the interest I take in you, is it?” demanded
Mr. Jones angrily. “I offer you a friend’s advice and services, and you
abuse me for it.”

“You are no friend when you try to get me into danger,” said Guy.

“There’s no need of getting excited over it,” said Mr. Jones, as the
shipping clerk begun pacing nervously up and down the room. “I am not
trying to get you into danger. I have followed this business for years,
and know that there is no trouble in carrying it out successfully; but
mark you—there will be trouble if you don’t pay your debts, and serious
trouble, too. What will Mr. Walker say? He thinks everything of you
now—says you’re one of the finest young fellows in St. Louis.”

“Does he say that?” asked Guy, who could not remember that any one had
ever spoken a word in his praise before.

“Yes, he does; and if I were you I would work hard to retain his good
opinion.”

“I don’t see that I can retain it by becoming a swindler,” said Guy.

“He will never know it; but he will know there’s something wrong when
your creditors carry their bills to him, as they certainly will, if you
don’t settle up soon.”

“Great Cæsar!” gasped Guy, who trembled at the bare mention of the
merchant’s name in connection with his debts. “Is there no other way
out? Can’t you lend me some money?”

“Not a red, my dear fellow. I manage to spend all I make as soon as it
gets into my hands. There is no other way out that I can think of now.
As I told you before, I did not expect that you would like the business
at first—I know I objected when it was proposed to me—but you will find
that it will grow less distasteful the longer you think about it. It is
a sure road to ease and fortune, and you had better take time to
consider before you refuse to try it. But you are getting down-hearted,
Guy. Let’s go out for a breath of fresh air. It will liven you up a
bit.”

“No, I don’t care to go out,” said Guy. “I am in no mood to enjoy
anything.”

“Then you will excuse me, won’t you? I have an engagement at this hour.
I will be back at eleven, and in the meantime you had better smoke
another cigar, and think the matter over.”

“There’s no need that I should think it over. I’ll never consent to
it—never. My creditors will not drive me to such extremities.”

“Oh, they won’t, eh?” said Mr. Jones to himself as he closed the door
and paused a moment on the landing outside. “We’ll see about that, my
fine lad. I’ll have them following you like so many sleuth-hounds before
twenty-four hours have passed over your head. You’ll find that they
won’t care what becomes of you so long as they get their money. There
_is_ another way out of the difficulty, but I don’t think it quite safe
to propose it to Guy to-night. I will tell him of it to-morrow. By that
time he will be cornered so tightly that he will be glad to do anything
to get out.”

So saying the commercial traveler laughed softly to himself, and slowly
descended the stairs.

IN THE hall Mr. Jones met his landlady. The sight of her seemed to
recall something to his mind, for he quickly thrust his hand into his
pocket, and said as he approached:

“I am ashamed of myself, Mrs. Willis, but I never thought of it before,
I assure you.”

“Why, what do you mean, Mr. Jones?” asked the lady in surprise.

“I mean that, contrary to my usual custom, I have neglected to pay my
week’s board.”

“Pray don’t mention it,” said Mrs. Willis, accepting the bill her lodger
tendered her. “If I had needed the money I should not have hesitated to
ask for it. But, Mr. Jones, I am really afraid that I shall have to
speak to your friend, Guy.”

The commercial traveler spread out his feet, placed his hands behind his
back, and gazed fixedly at the oil-cloth on the floor, but had nothing
to say.

“It isn’t the money I care for,” said the landlady, “but I can see very
plainly that Guy is getting into bad habits. He is going to ruin as fast
as he can, and I think it is your duty to advise him to do better.”

“I do, Mrs. Willis; indeed I do, very frequently,” replied Jones, in a
sorrowful voice; “but I find that it is of no use. I have no more
influence with him than I have with the wind. I am surprised to hear
that he owes you,” he added, with some indignation in his tones, “but I
know the reason for it. It isn’t because Guy isn’t able, or doesn’t want
to pay, but simply because he is so careless. If you will take my advice
you can get your money to-morrow.”

“What must I do?”

“Do as the rest of his creditors do—call upon him at the store. Suppose
you come about six o’clock in the evening? You will be sure to find him
in then.”

“Oh, I can’t do that,” said Mrs. Willis quickly. “I don’t want to dun
Mr. Harris.”

“Of course not; you merely wish to remind him that he is in your debt,
that’s all.”

“Why couldn’t I speak to him here and now?”

“You could, certainly, but it would do no good. He would promise
faithfully to pay up at once, and never think of the matter again. He is
just so forgetful. I really wish you could make it convenient to call on
him to-morrow evening at six o’clock,” added Mr. Jones, “for by so doing
you will benefit Guy as well as yourself. He will draw his quarter’s
salary then, and if you can get your money out of him it will keep him
from spending it for beer and billiards—a practice to which he has of
late, I am sorry to say, become very much addicted.”

The argument was a clincher, and put all the good lady’s scruples to
rout. She did not need the money, and neither did she want to dun Guy;
but if by that means she could keep him from spending his hard earnings
foolishly, it was her duty to do it. So she promised to follow Mr.
Jones’ advice, and the latter, after begging her not to say a word to
Guy concerning what had just passed between them, leisurely pulled on
his gloves and left the house.

“There’s one hound I have put on your track, Mr. Harris,” muttered the
commercial traveler when he had gained the street. “If I could only
raise a suspicion in her mind that her money is in danger, wouldn’t she
make things lively though? For good, fine, ornamental dunning, commend
me to a mad landlady, who can do more of it in five minutes than any ten
men can do in half an hour. I know, for I have had experience with
them.”

With this reflection Mr. Jones pulled his coat collar up around his
ears, for the evening air was chilly, and hurrying down Fourth Street
turned into the door of a fashionable tailoring establishment. Meeting
the proprietor as he entered he exclaimed:

“Now, Mr. Warren, I am quite sure that you were on the point of starting
for my boarding-house to dun me for that bill I owe you. I am really
ashamed of myself—but here’s the——”

“Halloo! what’s the matter with you, Jones?” interrupted the tailor.
“Your bill is a mere trifle, not more than ten or fifteen dollars, and
if I had wanted the money I should not have failed to let you know it.
But, Jones, I intend to make you a present of that and more, too. You
have recommended our house extensively during your travels, and in that
way have helped us many a dollar. If you will step into the back part of
the store we’ll take your measure and put you up a fine business suit.”

“You are very kind,” said Mr. Jones gratefully. “I accept your offer
with thanks. I should like a new business suit, one something like that
you made for Harris a few weeks ago. By the way, if it is a fair
question, what did he pay you for it?”

“Not one dime,” said the merchant with a laugh.

“How? I don’t understand you.”

“I mean that we have never seen a cent of his money since he began
trading with us.”

“Is it possible?” exclaimed Mr. Jones. “I declare I never saw that
fellow’s equal for putting off things. Send your bill down to the store
to-morrow evening at six o’clock, and give him a first-class
overhauling.”

“Oh, I guess I won’t do that. He may be a little short just at present,
and if he is I don’t want to press him. We are not in need of money.”

“But Guy isn’t short; he’s got plenty of funds.”

“Then perhaps I should make him angry, and that wouldn’t pay, for he’s a
good customer.”

“No, you’ll not make him mad,” said Mr. Jones, “for he has got so in the
habit of being dunned that he expects it, and never thinks of paying a
bill without it. You’ll have to talk right up to him, for he is as full
of excuses as an egg is of meat. He’s perfectly honest, but so peculiar.
You needn’t tell him that I suggested this plan of operations to you.”

“Of course not,” said Mr. Warren.

The conversation ran on in this channel while the tailor was taking Mr.
Jones’ measure, and the result was that the merchant announced his
determination to send his bill to his debtor at the store on the
following evening at six o’clock.

When Mr. Jones went out he bent his steps toward a livery stable, where
a conversation of a like character with the above took place between him
and the proprietor, and with the same result. Then he called at a
billiard saloon, dropped into Dutch Jake’s for a moment, and wound up
his walk by visiting a hat store and one or two furnishing
establishments. Having then called upon all of Guy’s creditors, he
lighted a cigar and strolled slowly homeward, well satisfied with his
evening’s work. Guy’s debts amounted to two hundred and seventy-five
dollars.

“He’ll never be able to pay them out of the salary he draws now,”
thought Mr. Jones. “There are only two courses of action open to him,
and no matter which one he chooses, he is doomed as surely as his name
is Guy Harris. I ought to manage some way to bring this business to old
Walker’s ears,” added Mr. Jones, stopping suddenly and looking down at
the sidewalk in a brown study. “I have it. Hyslom is just the man. He is
mean enough for anything.”

Mr. Jones turned, and hastily retracing his steps to a billiard saloon
he had visited a few minutes before, beckoned to a seedy-looking man he
found there, who followed him to the farthest corner of the room. A
whispered conversation was carried on between them for a few moments,
and was brought to a close by Mr. Jones, who slipped a five-dollar bill
into the hand of his seedy companion and went out.

His plans against Guy were now all perfected, and making his way
homeward with a light heart, he tumbled into bed and slept soundly
beside his victim, who all the night long tossed uneasily about, never
once closing his eyes in slumber.

Mr. Jones and the shipping clerk ate breakfast together the next morning
as usual, and set out in company for the store. Neither of them referred
to the matters that had been discussed the night before. They were so
disagreeable that Guy did not want to talk about them if he could help
it, and Mr. Jones was much too cunning to speak of them himself. He knew
that the leaven was working, and he wanted to give it plenty of time.

When they reached the block in which the store was located, Mr. Jones
begun casting anxious glances about, as if he were looking for some one.
Presently he discovered a man, dressed in a shabby genteel suit of
black, standing in a door-way on the opposite side of the street. This
individual, seeing that Mr. Jones’ eyes were fastened upon him, nodded
his head, slapped the breast-pocket of his coat, and made other signs
which must have been perfectly intelligible to Mr. Jones, for he replied
to them by various gestures of approval and delight.

Guy remained at the store but a few minutes—just long enough to receive
some instructions from Mr. Walker—and then went out and hurried toward
the levee.

As soon as he had disappeared, Mr. Jones walked to the door and
flourished his handkerchief once or twice in the air; whereupon the
shabby individual in the opposite door-way hurried down the sidewalk to
the nearest crossing, came over to Mr. Jones’ side of the street, and
with an air of bustle and business entered the store and inquired for
Mr. Walker.

On being shown into the private office he placed his hat on the floor,
and pulling out a memorandum-book, which was filled with papers, folded
and endorsed like bills, said:

“You may have heard of me, Mr. Walker. My name is Hyslom, and my
business is collecting bad debts. I am a professional dun, at your
service. If it will not conflict with the rules of your establishment, I
should like a few minutes’ interview with Mr. Harris.”

At this the merchant begun to prick up his ears.

“The shipping clerk is absent just now,” said he. “May I be allowed to
inquire into the nature of your business with him?”

“Certainly, sir,” replied the pretended collector. “It is no more than
right that you should be made acquainted with the habits of your
employees. Mr. Harris, it seems, has been rather fast during the last
few months, spending money with a lavish hand, and running in debt to
livery stables, billiard saloons, tailoring establishments and beer
gardens. I have bills against him to the amount of two hundred dollars
and over. I am well aware of the fact that he is perfectly good, for as
he is a very wealthy young man and a nephew of yours, I really——”

“Sir,” said the merchant, “Mr. Harris is no relation to me.”

“Indeed!” exclaimed the collector, starting up in his chair. “Then he is
sailing under false colors. He says you are his uncle, and has
repeatedly told his creditors to send their bills to you, and they would
be settled.”

“I know nothing about his debts,” said Mr. Walker, greatly astonished.
“You must see Mr. Harris himself. Good-day, sir.”

The bogus collector returned his memorandum-book to his pocket, picked
up his hat, and bowing himself out of the private office, hurried
through the store, and down the street, like a man driven to death with
business.

Mr. Walker watched him as long as he was in sight, and then arose slowly
to his feet.

“I expected better things of Guy than this,” said he to himself. “If I
have been deceived in him I shall be tempted to distrust everybody.
Where did he get the money he has been spending so foolishly? He must
have used some belonging to the firm.”

So saying, Mr. Walker left his private office to begin a thorough
investigation of Guy’s accounts.

Business went on as smoothly as usual in the store that day with
everybody except Guy. He was kept so busy, both in doors and out, that
he had but little time to devote to his troubles; but his work dragged
heavily, and every thing he undertook seemed to go wrong end foremost.
Six o’clock came at last, and while Guy, wearied in body and mind, was
standing at the book-keeper’s desk, rendering an account of his day’s
work, a clerk hurried up with the information that a lady had called to
see him on private business.

“A lady—on private business?” repeated Guy. “I am not acquainted with
any ladies in St. Louis.”

There was one lady, however, with whom he was pretty well acquainted,
and that was Mrs. Willis; and she it was who had called to see him.

“Mr. Harris,” said she, as if she hardly knew how to make known her
errand, “I have come to ask you if you could make it convenient to
settle your board bill this evening?”

“No, ma’am, I cannot,” said Guy, reddening. “I have no money.”

“But you draw your quarter’s salary to-day, do you not?”

“No, ma’am. I haven’t a cent due me from the firm. I know this ought to
have been paid long ago, Mrs. Willis, and I am sorry indeed that I have
kept you waiting. I will hand you the very first dollar I get.”

It was plain that the landlady’s heart was not in the business. She had
undertaken it merely from a sense of duty, and having, as she believed,
fulfilled that duty, she was ready to drop the board bill and talk about
something else.

After a few commonplace remarks about the weather, and the lively
appearance of the streets, she bowed pleasantly to Guy and went out.

The clerk, feeling like a criminal, walked slowly back to the
book-keeper’s desk, but scarcely had he reached it when he was informed
that there was another visitor waiting to see him in the front part of
the store.

This time it proved to be a gentleman—one of the clerks in the employ of
the tailor he patronized so extensively. He shook Guy cordially by the
hand, asked him how business was prospering, and produced a bill from
his pocket-book.

“That’s the way you stand on our books,” said he, “and I thought I would
drop in and see how you were fixed,” a slang expression for “see if you
had any money.”

The clerk beat a tattoo with his fingers on the counter, whistled
“Dixie,” and run his eyes about the store as if he were taking a mental
inventory of the stock. He had been told by his employer that he might
find it necessary to give Guy a good talking to, and he was screwing up
his courage.

“Eighty-seven dollars!” exclaimed Guy, as he run his eye over the bill.
“Impossible! The last time I spoke to Mr. Warren about my account he
told me it was only fifty dollars.”

“But that suit of clothes you have on your back now came from our house
since then,” said the clerk.

“That’s so,” returned Guy. “I forgot that. But it beats me how these
bills do run up.”

“Yes; one can’t get dry goods for nothing in these times. Are you going
to ante?”

“Not now. I can’t.”

“Oh, that’s played out. Come down!” said the clerk, extending his hand
toward Guy and rapping his knuckles on the counter. “Short settlements
make long friends. Pay me now.”

“But I tell you I can’t. I haven’t a cent of money.”

“Now, Harris,” said the clerk, raising his voice, “permit me to say that
this thing is getting monotonous. If you don’t pay, and that too in
short order, we’ll snatch you bald-headed.”

“Don’t talk so loud,” whispered Guy, in great excitement. “I’ll pay you
as soon as I can. Tell Mr. Warren that I’ll call and see him about this
bill.”

“All right. If you know which side of your bread is buttered you won’t
waste time in doing it. The old man talks of sending your bill to Mr.
Walker.”

The clerk departed, and his place was almost immediately filled by Dutch
Jake, who entered with an air which said very plainly that he wasn’t
going to stand any nonsense. Guy’s heart sunk within him.