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"Wanted—at once-a capable stenographer; good salary. James F. Harris and Co., 10 Exchange Pl.” This suggested a train of thought which occupied her until the train entered the Boston terminal.
At noon that day the junior partner of the firm of J. F. Harris & Co. was sitting at his desk, thinking disgustedly of the throng of untidy or "smart" looking young women who had applied for the position of stenographer that morning when the door opened, and a girl clad in a plain traveling suit of dark blue entered. “Good morning,” he said, rising; "what can I do for you?" "I saw in the paper," said Katharine, for it was she, "that you wanted a stenographer.” She spoke with some hesitation, but looked directly at him. “And you would like the place ?” he asked in some surprise, noticing with a certain satisfaction that she did not wear a hat covered with bedraggled ostrich plumes, that her gloves fitted well, and that there was no train to her dress. “Yes," was the reply; "I am a little out of practice, but I used to report a great many lectures in short hand, and did all my father's typewriting for him.” “Will you please take down a letter at my dictation to show me what you can do?” He found himself instinctively speaking more deferentially than he had done to the other applicants. Katharine removed her gloves and sat down to the machine, and the result was so satisfactory that without further ado she was engaged as stenographer to the firm.
It was with a certain guilty feeling that Katharine took up her work the next morning. The ever-recurring thought that, in any event, she was doing no harm, scarcely reassured her. She wondered where Mr. Harris was, and wished that she knew the name of this rather distinguishing looking man, who would have seemed very young if it hadn't been for the deep lines in his forehead, and an anxious, troubled expression.
Towards the middle of the forenoon a stout man with a coarse, dissipated face entered, and was introduced to her as Mr. Harris. She felt her old forebodings return as she looked at him and saw his eyes turned in bold admiration upon her. She could believe anything of such a man, she thought, as she went on with her work. "I say, Gordon," he said presently, "what about that old party out in Dorchester ?" Katharine started. Gordon! that was the name of the man to whom her mother had written. Could that be a part of the scheme? Was he the man who was so sure that the firm was "thoroughly responsible and honorable?" She glanced again at the younger man, and hated to believe it. She felt much relieved when one of the many men who crowded the office during the day addressed him as “Will”; that man's initials had been G. H.
Several days passed, and yet Katharine had not discovered anything of importance. The firm seemed to be prosperous: many people came in to make inquiries every day, and not a few to leave money for investment. Mr. Gordon was gone much of the time to the Stock-Exchange, and she was left alone with Mr. Harris, who annoyed her exceedingly, at first, by his familiar manner, but whom she succeeded at last in chilling into silence. One morning a middle-aged, rather shabbily dressed woman came in, who reminded Katharine of her mother by a sort of helpless air and deprecating manner. "Well, what do you want?" asked Harris, in a surly tone. "I-I'd like to withdraw my money, please,” the woman faltered; “I put it in three weeks ago, but it's every cent I've saved up for a long time, and—and my folks think 'twould be safer, and so I'd like to take it out." "Well you can't, if you would like to," snapped Harris ; "don't you know you signed a contract not to withdraw that money for two months?" "Oh no!" cried the little woman in alarm. "Well, you did, and I'll prove it to you.” He went to a file of papers and drew one out:-“There it is, as plain as the nose on your face," he said, pointing to a certain line. "But that doesn't mean that!" stammered the woman. “It doesn't! well I guess it does! Here, Gordon !” he cried, turning to his partner, who had just entered, "tell this woman what that clause means.” Gordon looked annoyed, but came over and examined the paper. “It means that you can't withdraw your money inside of two months,” he said, and turned away hastily. "But I don't know what I'm going to do,” cried the woman in a terrified tone; "it was all I had!” Katharine felt as if it might be her mother, standing there pleading for their money, and waited breathlessly for the final reply. "You act as if the money was being stolen from you,” said Harris, coarsely; "you'll get your dividend at the end of the month.” The woman went out reluctantly, and Harris swore a deep oath under his breath.
He spent the rest of the morning in clearing his desk and arranging his papers in little packages, several of which he took with him when he went out to dinner, as well as some similar ones from the safe. Gordon seemed more depressed than ever, and scarcely spoke. At about three o'clock he came and stood beside Katharine's desk and said, “I am going out, Miss Gray, and don't expect to be back until late. You needn't wait, but go at five; the janitor will look out for the office." "Very well." He was looking at her steadily, and with an odd expression, which she could not understand. She looked down, and did not glance up again until the door closed behind him. There were many people in the office that afternoon and her work was much interrupted so that she stayed until after five, and finished just as it became too dark to work longer. She went into the small room in the rear of the office to get her wraps, but instead of turning on the light, leaned her head against the window-pane, and stood looking down into the street. She felt very tired and discouraged; the time of her vacation was almost up; she must go back to Derby and take up her work again. And what had she accomplished ? She had merely verified her suspicions and become convinced that it was all a scheme for obtaining money under false pretences. And, now, what was she going to do about it? As she imagined asking either Harris or Gordon to return the money, her heart sank within her. She hated to ask Harris, because he would be more than likely to refuse ;-and Gordon,-she was so disappointed in Gordon, he must be a rascal at heart, after all! Every instinct urged her to go home and leave this two weeks' nightmare behind her. But how could she? Her own small salary scarcely sufficed to pay her way. Her mother would have to sell their house at a loss, and then what was to become of her? It could not be helped; she would give Mr. Gordon an explanation, and ask for the money the very next morning. She felt sure that he wouldn't refuse her.
The room had become darker and Katharine could just see her coat which she took down from the nail. She felt a repugnance at the thought of the glare of an electric light; perhaps she did not wish to reveal, even to herself, the tears that clung to her lashes. Just at that moment there was the sound of foot-steps in the hall, and Gordon entered. He turned on the lights at once, showing behind him an older man, whose hair was white, and whose face wore a worried expression which made the resemblance between the two the more striking. “I tell you what, Will," he was saying in a deprecating but excited tone, “I won't keep it up any longer. I wanted to do all that I could to help you out, and at first I didn't know but what things were going all fair and square. But I can't do it any more; I can't write and advise these people, poor, most of them, to invest their savings in such an enterprise. I had a letter just this morning from a young farmer out in the Berkshire Hills. He said that he had been saving up money for some time to get married on, but he had only been able to put by a hundred dollars, and was tired of waiting. So he asked if I thought that he could make money much faster this way. I'm sorry to go against your interests, my boy, but I am not sure of the state of your affairs, and I can't advise that poor fellow to send on his money, and then have him lose it all, may be.” The old man's voice was pleading, and the son broke in with a strained liveliness ; "Don't worry, Dad, you won't have to write any more of them. Harris skipped this morning with a large part of the available cash, and I am going to follow this very evening; I meant all right, and think we could have held out if he hadn't been such a rascally coward as to go off and leave me. As it is, the whole brunt would come upon me if I stayed; I might be arrested, tomorrow even."
Katharine, who had been taken by surprise at their entrance, and who was just collecting herself in order to make her presence known, wavered as if she had been struck, upon hearing this speech. She did not even hear the cry of alarm uttered by the old man.
Like lightning, the whole scheme flashed through her mind: the innocent old father had been wiled into what he had considered a harmless artifice, but it had not been harmless, and now Gordon was going to escape, to flee from justice! With a powerful effort she steadied herself and entered the brightlylighted doorway. Her glance fell pityingly upon the old man, who stood motionless, with clasped hands and bent head, and then most contemptuously upon the son, who was trying to force out a few reassuring words.
"I beg your pardon !" Katharine's voice rang clearly across the room. The father scarcely seemed to hear, but a transformation came across the face of the son as he turned and looked at her. He grew pale and the muscles of his face twitched. It was several seconds before he succeeded in saying, in a half-stified tone: "Father, I'd like to speak with Miss Gray alone a few minutes. You'd better go up to the house, hadn't you, and I'll see you later?” And then, as the old man glanced up at him in a startled way, he put his hand on his shoulder and said kindly, “I won't be but a few minutes, Dad, and I'll explain everything when I come." Still without a word, the elder Gordon turned and left the office, and they heard his step, so firm when he had entered, shuffling slowly down the empty corridor.
There was a moment's pause, and then Gordon said, rather nervously: "Well, Miss Gray, you have me in your power; what are you going to do about it?" As she did not answer im