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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 2 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v2].
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CHAPTER IX. Contains the particulars of a commercial operation.

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I entered upon the duties of my new employment
the next morning, with a light heart, but, I
must acknowledge, I found them wearisome
enough at first. Copying mercantile letters is a
dull business, and I was put to nothing more
stirring the first fortnight. Mr. Marisett did not
appear to overlook my writing, bu he contrived
to point out to me all the mistakes I made. As
may be supposed, I was very anxious to please
him, and so I applied myself very closely to my
duties. I sat up half the night, and wrote in my
chamber, that I might handle a pen with ease; I
read the price current every morning that I might
become familiar with the names and prices of merchandize;
I studied McCulloch's Dictionary, and
read all the old letter books in the counting-room,
through. When Mr. Garvey or Mr. Bargin
gave me any thing to do, I strove hard to do
it well, and to do it quick, and although I sometimes
made strange blunders, yet I found I grew
in favor every day. It was not long before the
routine of counting-room transactions became
perfectly familiar to me, and I wondered at my

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ignorance in not having known how to do what
appeared so perfectly simple and easy.

Mr. Marisett's desk was under my particular
charge, and one part of my duty was to file away
all his private letters in it. One day he requested
me to look for a particular letter among some of
the old files, and while I was searching for it, I
came across one, headed in his own hand, “From
Georgiana;” the sight of the name startled me, and
the blood rushed into my face. Why should it?—
There were many Georgianas in the world.
But it was a name most dear to me, and I could
neither see it written nor hear it spoken without

Mr. Marisett had not only left his letters for
me to read, but he had even told me to look
over his old files, that I might become familiar
with the names of his correspondents, and
their places of residence. Why then should I
not read this letter “from Georgiana,” and
satisfy myself as to who Georgiana was? I
had a burning desire to know, and I longed for
an opportunity to do so. One day when Mr.
Marisett was on change, and Mr. Garvey and Mr.
Bargin were out on some business, being alone
in the office, I took down the file which contained
the letter “from Georgiana,” and having searched

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it out, I was just in the act of taking it from the
bundle, when a slight noise in the outer office
caused me to turn my head, and in so doing I
caught sight of my face in a little glass which
hung opposite to me; I was startled at the guilty
expression it bore, and hurriedly replaced the file
in its pigeon-hole without looking at the letter.
“No,” I said, “I will not betray the confidence
that has been placed in me.” The act itself was
innocent, but the motive was evil. My face
burned with shame at the thought that I had been
guilty of the meanness of wanting to pry into the
private concerns of my benefactor. Even though
the letter had been written by Georgiana De
Lancey herself, what right had I to read it?
Clearly, none. I knew it was not a business letter
from the manner in which it was headed.

Some may think I was over nice, and perhaps
I was; but I felt the guilt, and by a strong effort
overcame the temptation: it was the first, and I
cannot but fear that had I yielded then, I should
at some other time have erred more seriously.

As it was, the letter “from Georgiana” was
sacred in my eyes, and I felt a reverence for the
bundle in which it was filed. But it caused me
many heart-burnings, and sometimes I even regarded
my employer as my rival.

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At the expiration of my month's probation, Mr.
Marisett offered me a small salary, but told me
he would increase it at the end of the year. I
was too happy to be retained in his service upon
any conditions, to make objections to the smallness
of the salary. The kindness with which
he treated me bound my heart to him. Perhaps
it was a delusion, but I fancied he spoke to me in
a kindlier tone than he did to the other clerks, or
even to his partners. Whether he did or not, I
thought he did, and that caused me to redouble
my exertions to please him, and render myself
useful to him.

Had I known the character of Mr. Marisett,
the reputation which he had gained as a merchant,
and the importance of the situation which I filled,
I should never have had the boldness to apply
for it. Doubtless many were withheld from
making applications for it, out of sheer modesty;
while I, the unfittest person in the world almost,
boldly applied, and was accepted.

The house of Marisett & Co. had been established
more than thirty years, and during that period,
it had stood unmoved through all the revolutions
which had taken place in the mercantile
world. Mr. Marisett was supposed to be immensely
rich, and such was his reputation for

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shrewdness and honorable dealing, his credit,
both at home and abroad, was without limits. He
had had many partners, all of whom had retired
from the concern with fortunes. His present partners,
Mr. Garvey and Mr. Bargin, had both been
clerks in his employ, and although their characters
were as unlike as their persons, their services were
alike valuable. Mr. Garvey was the senior of
the two; his forte was making a bargain. If he
sold an article, he got more for it than any
one else could, and in his purchases, he always
bought a little under the market. He was noted
as being the best buyer on 'Change. Perhaps
the secret of his success was the peculiar sanctity
of his coat, and his mild and oily thees and thous,
which completely barred all suspicion of sinister
designs out of the minds of those with whom he
bargained What man could suspect another of
mercenary or knavish feelings, who wore horn
buttons on his drab coat, and called every body
by their first names. Mr. Garvey was a Philadelphian
by birth, and he had a becoming contempt
for the vain things of this world; there was
no affectation in his plain coat, nor hypocrisy in
his sentiments. The achievements of art, the revolutions
of fashion, and even the gay trappings of
nature herself, had no allurements for him. Mr.

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Garvey cared nothing for worldly trifles; his
sole aim was to make money. Mr. Bargin came
from `down-east,' for it somehow or other happens
that you rarely meet with a New Yorker
born; what becomes of all those who are born
here, I know not. He had served a year or two
with a ship broker, when he first came to the
city, and afterwards entered the employ of Mr.
Marisett in about the same capacity, and under
similar circumstances, that I had. In course of
time he was sent to Cuba to attend to some business
for the house, and while there, he gained a
knowledge of Spanish, and on his return to New
York, Mr. Marisett took him into the firm to
supply the place of a partner who had just withdrawn.

His particular duty was to attend to the correspondence,
and to attend to correspondents who
might visit the city in person.

What the exact extent of Mr. Bargin's acquirements
in Spanish were, I had no means of
knowing; but if his conversation in that language
was as limited as it was in his own, his
studies ought not to have engrossed much of his
time; unless a question or an observation called
for a very special answer, he rarely ventured upon
any other reply than, “quite so,” or “very

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much so,” but then he had a manner of delivering
these wordss, it must be confessed, which impressed
you with an idea that he had said something.
There was one other expression which he
made use of on all occasions, in season and out
of season, whenever he spoke of any person or
thing; it was always, au fait.

The cup of Mr. Bargin's ambition was filled
to the brim; he lived in Broadway, and visited
in Lafayette Place; he wore the genteelest clothes,
and read the most fashionable books; he would
as soon have gone into Chatham street for a coat,
as to have read a book which was not in the fashion;
he had a pew in a fashionable church, and
he eat no longer soup, but potage. Notwithstanding,
Mr. Bargin was a kind hearted gentleman,
and the more I saw of him the better I liked

Although Mr. Garvey had never shown any
decided marks of strong affection for me, yet he
had always treated me with kindly civility; but a
circumstance occurred after I had been in the office
a few months, which drew down upon my head all
the spite which that exemplary friend was blessed
with; and it was no fault of his, that Mr. Marisett
did not kick me out of doors.

A letter was received from a correspondent in

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a neighboring city, ordering a thousand barrels of
flour to be purchased, at a certain price, and Mr.
Garvey took the letter, and went on change,
where he succeeded in making the purchase, within
the limits.

Punctuality, promptness, and decision, were as
much a part of Mr. Garvey's existence, as were
his love of money, or his red hair; and were
merchants only machines, and men not accountable
creatures, he had been the best merchant in the
world. But as merchants are men, and as men
have consciences, he was perhaps the worst.

Now Mr. Garvey, as soon as he had purchased
the flour, came immediately back to the counting
room, and not finding Mr. Bargin at his desk, he
sat down at it and wrote a letter to the correspondent,
advising him that the flour had been purchased
according to his directions, and then went
out again to make some other purchases, leaving
the letter lying on Mr. Bargin's desk; and I seeing
it there, and thinking it was intended for the
mail, as it was, took a copy of it, sealed it, and
took it to the post office, together with some private
letters of Mr. Marisett's.

But it so happened, that when Mr. Garvey
went out, he found a packet had just arrived from
Liverpool, bringing some important news

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respecting the grain market in England, which had
caused flour to advance in price a dollar a barrel.
Here was an opportunity to make an operation,
which would leave a fair margin, too good to be
lost; and Mr. Garvey did not hesitate long, but
immediately determined to keep the thousand barrels
of flour, and write word to the correspondent
that it could not be bought at his limits. When
he returned to the counting room, he found Mr.
Bargin sitting at his desk, writing letters. So he
reached him the letter which contained the order
for the flour, and told him to reply to it, that the
flour could not be purchased at the price named.

Mr. Garvey's thoughts were so much occupied
with the probable profits of the operation he had
just made, that he entirely forgot the letter he had
written. It was the first time his memory had
ever played him false; but the devil loves a laugh
sometimes at the expense of his own, before the
final winding up of their affairs, like an old woman,
who cannot wait for her chickens to be
hatched, before she begins to count them.

A very few days elapsed before the receipt of
these contradictory letters was acknowledged.
The confusion which was caused thereby, may be
imagined by those who are familiar with mercantile
usages. Mr. Garvey made the best apology

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he could, but Mr. Marisett was deeply mortified;
it was the first transaction that had ever taken
place in connexion with his name, to which the
charge of double dealing, or unfairness, could be

Mr. Garvey knew who it was that had put the
unfortunate letters into the post office, and hence-forward,
I had to contend against the active exercise
of his ingenuity to get me out of the office;
but Mr. Marisett understood perfectly well the
cause of his partner's animosity to me, and all his
efforts against me were unavailing.

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Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 2 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v2].
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