Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XI

James Redwood was summoned one morning to the counting room of his employer.

"Mr. Redwood," said the merchant "I have reason to think that one of my clerks is dishonest."

"Who, sir?"

"That is what I want you to find out."

"What reason have you for suspecting any one?"

"Some ladies' cloaks and some dress patterns are missing."

"Are you sure they were not sold?"

"Yes: the record of sales has been examined, and they are not included."

"That is strange, Mr. Goodnow" said Redwood thoughtfully. "I hope I am not under suspicion."

"Oh, not at all."

"The losses seem to have taken place in my department."

"True, but that doesn't involve you."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Watch those under you. Let nothing in your manner, however, suggest that you are suspicious. I don't want you to put any one on his guard."

"All right, sir. I will be guided by your instructions. Have you any idea how long this has been going on?"

"Only a few weeks."

Mr. Redwood turned to go back to his room, but Mr. Goodnow called him back.

"I needn't suggest to you," he said, "that you keep this to yourself. Don't let any clerk into the secret."

"Very well, sir."

James Redwood, however, did not keep his promise. After supper he called back Jasper as he was about putting on his hat to go out, and said, "Jasper, I wish to speak with you for five minutes."

"Won't it do tomorrow morning? I have an engagement."

"Put it off, then. This is a matter of importance."

"Very well, sir," and Jasper, albeit reluctantly, laid down his hat and sat down.

"Jasper," said his uncle, "there's a thief in our establishment."

Jasper started, and his sallow complexion turned yellower than usual.

"What do you mean, uncle?" he asked nervously.

"What I say. Some articles are missing that have not been sold."

"Such as what?"

"Ladies' cloaks and dress patterns."

"Who told you?" asked Jasper in a low tone.

"Mr. Goodnow."

"What the boss?"

"Certainly."

"How should he know?"

"I didn't inquire, and if I had he probably wouldn't have told me. The main thing is that he does know."

"He may not be sure."

"He is not a man to speak unless he feels pretty sure."

"I don't see how any one could steal the articles without being detected."

"It seems they are detected."

"Did--did Mr. Goodnow mention any names?"

"No. He wants to watch and find out the thief. I wish you to help me, though I am acting against instructions. Mr. Goodnow asked me to take no one into my confidence. You will see, therefore, that it will be necessary for you to say nothing."

"I won't breathe a word," said Jasper, who seemed to feel more at ease.

"Now that I have told you so much, can you suggest any person who would be likely to commit the theft?"

Jasper remained silent for a moment, then with a smile of malicious satisfaction said, "Yes, I can suggest a person."

"Who is it?"

"The new boy, Rodney Ropes."

James Redwood shook his head.

"I can't believe that it is he. I am not in love with the young fellow, who seems to stand in the way of your advancement but he seems straight enough, and I don't think it at all likely that he should be the guilty person."

"Yes, Uncle James, he SEEMS straight but you know that still waters run deep."

"Have you seen anything that would indicate guilt on his part?"

"I have noticed this, that, he is very well dressed for a boy of his small salary, and seems always to have money to spend."

"That will count for something. Still he might have some outide means. Have you noticed anything else?"

Jasper hesitated.

"I noticed one evening when he left the store that he had a sizable parcel under his arm."

"And you think it might have contained some article stolen from the stock?"

"That's just what I think now. Nothing of the kind occurred to me at that time, for I didn't know any articles were missing."

"That seems important. When was it that you noticed this?"

"One day last week," answered Jasper hesitatingly.

"Can you remember the day?"

"No."

"Couldn't you fix it some way?"

"No. You see, I didn't attach any particular importance to it at the time, and probably it would not have occurred to me again, but for your mentioning that articles were missing."

"There may be something in what you say," said his uncle thoughtfully. "I will take special notice of young Ropes after this."

"So will I."

"Don't let him observe that he is watched. It would defeat our chances of detecting the thief."

"I'll be careful. Do you want to say anything more, uncle?"

"No. By the way, where were you going this evening?"

"I was going to meet a friend, and perhaps go to the theater. You couldn't lend me a dollar, could you, Uncle James?"

"Yes, I could, but you are not quite able to pay for your own pleasures. It costs all my salary to live, and its going to be worse next year, for I shall have to pay a higher rent."

"When I have my pay raised, I can get along better."

"If Ropes loses his place, you will probably step into it."

"Then I hope he'll go, and that soon."

When Jasper passed through the front door and stood on the sidewalk, he breathed a sigh of relief.

"So, they are on to us," he said to himself. "But how was it found out? That's what I'd like to know. I have been very careful. I must see Carton at once."

A short walk took him to a billiard room not far from Broadway. A young man of twenty five, with a slight mustache, and a thin, dark face, was selecting a cue.

"Ah, Jasper!" he said. "Come at last. Let us have a game of pool."

"Not just yet. Come outide. I want to speak to you."

Jasper looked serious, and Philip Carton, observing it, made no remonstrance, but taking his hat, followed him out.

"Well, what is it?" he asked.

"Something serious. It is discovered at the store that goods are missing."

"You don't mean it? Are we suspected?"

"No one is suspected--yet."

"But how do you know?"

"My uncle spoke to me about it this evening--just after supper."

"He doesn't think you are in it."

"No."

"How did he find out?"

"Through the boss. Goodnow spoke to him about it today."

"But how should Goodnow know anything about it?"

"That no one can tell but himself. He asked Uncle James to watch the clerks, and see if he could fasten the theft on any of them."

"That is pleasant for us. It is well we are informed so that we can be on our guard. I am afraid our game is up."

"For the present at any rate we must suspend operations. Now, have you some money for me?"

"Well, a little."

"A little? Why there are two cloaks and a silk dress pattern to be accounted for."

"True, but I have to be very careful. I have to submit to a big discount for the parties I sell to undoubtedly suspect that the articles are stolen."

"Wouldn't it be better to pawn them?"

"It would be more dangerous. Besides you know how liberal pawnbrokers are. I'll tell you what would be better. If I had a sufficient number of articles to warrant it, I could take them on to Boston or Philadelphia, and there would be less risk selling them there."

"That is true. I wish we had thought of that before. Now we shall have to give up the business for a time. How much money have you got for me?"

"Seven dollars."

"Seven dollars!" exclaimed Jasper in disgust. "Why, that is ridiculous. The articles must have been worth at retail a hundred dollars."

"Perhaps so, but I only got fourteen for them. If you think you can do any better you may sell them yourself next time."

"I thought I should assuredly get fifteen dollars out of it," said Jasper, looking deeply disappointed. "I had a use for the money too."

"Very likely. So had I."

"Well, I suppose I must make it do. Listen and I will tell you how I think I can turn this thing to my advantage."

"Go ahead!"