Read CHAPTER VIII - A HELPING HAND of Uncle Terry A Story of the Maine Coast , free online book, by Charles Clark Munn, on

“I should like to be excused to-morrow forenoon, Mr. Frye,” said Albert a few days later. “Frank has promised to introduce me to his father.”

“Certainly,” replied Frye, cheerfully, “take the entire day, if you wish, and if you have a good chance try to make the acquaintance of Miss Maud Vernon, a cashier in Mr. Nason’s store, or at least take a good look at her. She is the key that will unlock the information I need, and I shall depend upon you to obtain it.”

“I will keep my eyes open,” replied Albert aloud, mentally resolving that it would not be in the interest of Frye and his sinister plot. The next day he met Frank by appointment, and the two called upon John Nason at his office. Albert was greeted cordially, and, after an exchange of commonplaces, soon found himself being interrogated by a series of questions pertaining to his home and college life, his knowledge of law, and how he liked his present employer, all of which with their answers, not being pertinent to the thread of this narrative, need not be quoted. They were for a purpose, however, as all of John Nason’s business questions were, and at their conclusion he said:

“I am glad to have met you, Mr. Page. My son has spoken in the highest terms of you, and what has interested me more, Mr. Frye has also. He does not usually bestow much praise on any one, but is more apt to sneer. After you are a little better acquainted with legal proceedings here, come and see me. I may be able to do something for you. You might,” addressing Frank, as if to end the interview, “show Mr. Page over the store now; it may interest him.”

After an hour spent walking through the vast human hive, where over one thousand clerks and salesgirls were employed, the two friends returned to their club for lunch.

“Well, what do you think of the old gent?” asked Frank, as he sat down.

“I like him,” was the answer; “he talks to the purpose, though, and I fancy his rapid-fire questions were for an object.”

“You may be sure they were,” replied Frank, “and, what is more, I saw by his expression that you had made a good impression. Do you know what I did the other day? I told him all about our escapade with the two fairies, and repeated all I could recall of the sermon you preached about it.”

Albert looked astonished.

“I am sorry you did that,” he said; “he must have thought me very weak not to have refused in the first place. What did he say?”

“Oh, not much,” replied Frank; “he laughed, and said he guessed the closer I stuck to you, the better I would behave myself.”

“Do you make a practice of confessing all your larks to your father?” observed Albert.

“Oh, I don’t conceal much,” answered Frank laughingly; “he and I are the best of friends, and he is so good to me I haven’t the heart to deceive him. I had an object in telling him of our racket, however;” and then after a pause, “I wish you were to be at liberty this afternoon, Bert; I am going to take the ‘Gypsy’ round to Beverly to her winter quarters and I’d like your company.”

“Well, I can go if I’ve a mind to,” answered Albert; “Frye said I might take a day off if I wished.”

Frank looked astonished. “Isn’t he in danger of heart-failure?” he said; “the old buzzard must be getting stuck on you, I should say.”

When the two had boarded the yacht, and while the engineer was getting up steam, Frank showed his guest all over that craft.

“I am surprised at the size of your boat,” said Albert; “why, she is large enough for an ocean voyage.”

“We may take one in her some day,” replied Frank; “stranger things have happened. I believe she cost over eighty thousand dollars, but dad bought her for less than half that at an assignee’s sale.”

When steam was up they took a run out around Minot’s Light and across to Cape Ann, and as the day was a delightful one, Albert enjoyed it immensely.

“I can’t imagine a more charming way of spending a summer than to have such a craft as this and a well-chosen party of friends for company, and go where you like. Why, it would seem like a dream of life in an enchanted world to me.”

It was late in the afternoon when they ran in past Baker’s Island, and at Beverly they went ashore, and leaving the crew to moor the yacht in the stream between the two bridges, returned to Boston.

It was almost Thanksgiving time ere Albert saw Mr. Nason again, and then one day Frank said to him: “I want you to call on dad to-morrow. He wants to see you.”

It came as a most agreeable surprise to Albert, and yet, as he entered that magnate’s palatial store the next day, he did not dare to allow himself to hope that it would mean anything to him. He took the elevator to the fourth floor, where Mr. Nason’s private office was, and with beating heart entered. His greeting was more cordial than before, and Mr. Nason, who, it may be observed, was a man that went about business as a woodcutter chops a tree, said:

“Are you under contract or obligation to remain with Mr. Frye any specified time, Mr. Page?”

“Nothing more than to give him a reasonable notice that I wish to quit,” replied Albert; “I am paid so much a month ‘for the present,’ as he put it when I went there, and I certainly shall leave him as soon as I see any chance of bettering myself.”

“That being the case, I see no reason why you cannot entertain the proposition I have decided to make you,” said the merchant, “which is that you sever your relations with Mr. Frye between now and the first of the year, and then take hold and see what you can do in looking after my legal matters. The fact is, Mr. Page, as I intimated to you a short time ago, I am not entirely satisfied with Mr. Frye. Just why need not be considered now. The only point is, do you feel yourself capable of acting as my attorney and assuming charge of any law business that may arise?”

“Well, so far as my knowledge of the law goes,” replied Albert, “I passed a good examination when I was admitted to the bar, I had some practice in Sandgate, and since I’ve been with Frye I’ve learned a good deal of the usual procedure here. I think I can do all that is necessary.”

“My needs in a legal line are not complicated,” continued Mr. Nason; “it is mostly looking up deeds and making transfers, seeing that titles are clear, etc. You will have to watch the custom officers, and there are more or less collections to be made. Occasionally I have to resort to the courts, but try to avoid them as much as possible.”

“I think I could attend to all such matters to your satisfaction,” said Albert confidently; “they are not hard tasks.”

“Very well,” replied Mr. Nason. “I have decided, partly at the request of my son and partly from my own estimate of your ability, to give you the trial. I will pay you twenty-five hundred dollars per annum to look after my needs, and you are also at liberty to take such other business as comes to you so long as you do not neglect mine.”

“I thank you, Mr. Nason, for this offer,” replied Albert, rising and proffering his hand, “and I accept gladly and will devote all my time, if need be, to your service.”

“Very good,” responded Mr. Nason; “separate yourself from Frye at once, or between now and the new year, and in the meantime I would suggest that you rent a suitable office. There are one or two vacant in a building I own on Water street that will serve very well, and when you are through with Mr. Frye, come and see me. I shall consider you in my employ from now on, and as you may need funds in fitting up your office, I will advance you a little on your salary,” and without further comment he turned to his desk and wrote and handed Albert a check for five hundred dollars. “I should prefer,” he added hastily, as if to prevent any word of thanks, “that you make no mention whatever of our agreement to Mr. Frye, or in fact to any one, until after January first.” Then rising and offering his hand to Albert as if to dismiss him, he added:

“Come out to my house any evening, Mr. Page; we shall be glad to see you, and I am usually at home.”

There are moments when our emotions nullify all attempts at speech, and to Albert Page, who before had felt himself alone and almost friendless in a great city, this was such a one.

“Never mind the thanks now,” said Mr. Nason, as he saw Albert’s agitation; “put your thanks into your work, and in a year we will talk it over.”

“And this is the man I had almost hired myself out to spy upon!” said Albert to himself as he left the store.