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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 33


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I was about to fix upon a Junior Clerkship, that was wanted by an eminent firm, when Archimago stopped me.

"Has the tuition you received under your late Friend," said ho, "given you so little wis—knowledge. Who wins aught worth receiving, but those who play for high stakes?"

"But when I place no stakes."

"So much the better, and superlative—best if you have none to lose; then, play higher still. Thereby you take fortune by the girdle. Winnings are all gain. And if you have a bad hand, or throw the lowest dice, your genius will develop itself in getting out of the difficulty. Wit against numbers, day or night. Look here! try for this appointment."

"Oh, but see the qualifications required," said I, blushing and astonished at the advertisement he pointed out. "The greatest scholar of the day, would tremble before submitting himself for it."

"So much the easier for you to get it, who have not the qualifications."

"Nay, have them, or have them not," I answered, "it would require a great amount of what is called influence to get it."

page 29

"Don't deceive yourself. You are at this moment at that point from which all men rise. You are without friends or money, and you will beat them all."

I resisted his entreaties; but so far changed my mind, that I resolved to apply for the following:—

"Senior Clerk.—Wanted, a Senior Clerk in a merchant's office, to attend to the warehouse and stock books. Also, a Posting and Collecting Clerk, and a smart Youth. Apply by letter only, to———"

"Let me write a letter at once."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed my Companion. "Don't lay yourself a voluntary victim on the altar of———well, say, mine. There is no time to lose. Your letter would answer your poor thoughts only too well. Truth is ascertained by personal enquiry. Let us enquire."

We were shortly at the address given in the advertisement. Archimago led the way into an office, where there were several youths, from twelve to seventeen years of ago; and at a high stool sat a sad, shabbily-clad man of forty years of age.

"Governor in?" asked Archimago of the man.

"No. Will be—in half an hour," answered he, with a sigh and a wheezle.

We waited a while, and the two were intimate in thirty words. Their conversation was often interrupted by the boys bullying, and laughing at the man. They failed not, also, to interrupt my attention and silence. Believing me to be an applicant for a situation, they were assiduous in pleasant mimickry and mockery of my dress, my looks, and my attitude. It all came out in five minutes. The man had entered the situation, with a good character and constitution, a year before, page 30 as senior clerk. He commenced with three pounds a week, and now had nothing—neither wages, character, nor constitution.

How was it? Oh, shortly after entering on his engagement, his master had given him five pounds for expenses, with a memorandum-book in which to enter them in. He spent the money and returned the book. His master laid it aside, without looking at it. "A few days after, he asks me what I had done with fifty pounds. He hands me the book. There, surely enough, was a nought added to the five. My words were of no avail. I must make up the money. I worked for nothing, till it was made up. He then told me, that if I troubled him for more wages than he chose to give me, which was ten shillings a week, or sought to leave, he would expose the fraud, which my repayment had committed me to. It's gone too far now. I am ruined so thoroughly—go look at my home—but no. He sees that he can do no worse with me, that I am desperate, so I have struck. I leave in a week. He advertises for letters—yes, he knows I'll tell any one coming here, of the hell he prepares for talents and honesty, to render them his cheap slaves. Ha!—'Posting and Collecting Clerk, and smart Youth'—Faith! no more are needed here. Look round, and you will see their numbers; you will see their prime duties too. When a head man is out of favour, there's no humiliation like that wrought by the insults of the petty vagabonds beneath him. That vile taskmaster of mine knows it, and makes it part of his policy."

As we left, Archimago laughed low and mockingly.