Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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them five years, and old Coxon gave me a ripping good
testimonial when the smash came, but of course we
clerks were all turned adrift, the twenty-seven of us.
I tried here and tried there, but there were lots of
other chaps on the same lay as myself, and it was a
perfect frost for a long time. I had been taking
three pounds a week at Coxon's, and I had saved about
seventy of them, but I soon worked my way through that
and out at the other end. I was fairly at the end of
my tether at last, and could hardly find the stamps to
answer the advertisements or the envelopes to stick
them to. I had worn out my boots paddling up office
stairs, and I seemed just as far from getting a billet
At last I saw a vacancy at Mawson & Williams's, the
great stock-broking firm in Lombard Street. I dare
say E. C. Is not much in your line, but I can tell you
that this is about the richest house in London. The
advertisement was to be answered by letter only. I
sent in my testimonial and application, but without
the least hope of getting it. Back came an answer by
return, saying that if I would appear next Monday I
might take over my new duties at once, provided that
my appearance was satisfactory. No one knows how
these things are worked. Some people say that the
manager just plunges his hand into the heap and takes
the first that comes. Anyhow it was my innings that
time, and I don't ever wish to feel better pleased.
The screw was a pound a week rise, and the duties just
about the same as at Coxon's.
And now I come to the queer part of the business. I
was in diggings out Hampstead way, 17 Potter's
Terrace. Well, I was sitting doing a smoke that very
evening after I had been promised the appointment,
when up came my landlady with a card which had "Arthur
Pinner, Financial Agent," printed upon it. I had
never heard the name before and could not imagine what
he wanted with me; but, of course, I asked her to show
him up. In he walked, a middle-sized, dark- haired,
dark-eyed, black-bearded man, with a touch of the
Sheeny about his nose. He had a brisk kind of way
with him and spoke sharply, like a man who knew the
value of time.
"Mr. Hall Pycroft, I believe?" said he.
"Yes, sir," I answered, pushing a chair towards him.
"Lately engaged at Coxon & Woodhouse's?"
"And now on the staff of Mawson's."
"Well," said he, "the fact is that I have heard some
really extraordinary stories about your financial
ability. You remember Parker, who used to be Coxon's
manager? He can never say enough about it."
Of course I was pleased to hear this. I had always
been pretty sharp in the office, but I had never
dreamed that I was talked about in the City in this
"You have a good memory?" said he.
"Pretty fair," I answered, modestly.
"Have you kept in touch with the market while you have
been out of work?" he asked.
"Yes. I read the stock exchange list every morning."
"Now that shows real application!" he cried. "That is
the way to prosper! You won't mind my testing you,
will you? Let me see. How are Ayrshires?"
"A hundred and six and a quarter to a hundred and five
"And New Zealand consolidated?"
"A hundred and four."
"And British Broken Hills?"
"Seven to seven-and-six."
"Wonderful!" he cried, with his hands up. "This quite
fits in with all that I had heard. My boy, my boy,
you are very much too good to be a clerk at Mawson's!"
This outburst rather astonished me, as you can think.
"Well," said I, "other people don't think quite so
much of me as you seem to do, Mr. Pinner. I had a
hard enough fight to get this berth, and I am very
glad to have it."
"Pooh, man; you should soar above it. You are not in
your true sphere. Now, I'll tell you how it stands
with me. What I have to offer is little enough when
measured by your ability, but when compared with
Mawson's, it's light to dark. Let me see. When do
you go to Mawson's?"
"Ha, ha! I think I would risk a little sporting
flutter that you don't go there at all."
"Not go to Mawson's?"
"No, sir. By that day you will be the business
manager of the Franco-Midland Hardware Company,
Limited, with a hundred and thirty-four branches in
the towns and villages of France, not counting one in
Brussels and one in San Remo."
This took my breath away. "I never heard of it," said
"Very likely not. It has been kept very quiet, for
the capital was all privately subscribed, and it's too
good a thing to let the public into. My brother,
Harry Pinner, is promoter, and joins the board after
allotment as managing director. He knew I was in the
swim down here, and asked me to pick up a good man
cheap. A young, pushing man with plenty of snap about
him. Parker spoke of you, and that brought me here
tonight. We can only offer you a beggarly five
hundred to start with."
"Five hundred a year!" I shouted.
"Only that at the beginning; but you are to have an
overriding commission of one per cent on all business
done by your agents, and you may take my word for it
that this will come to more than your salary."
"But I know nothing about hardware."
"Tut, my boy; you know about figures."
My head buzzed, and I could hardly sit still in my
chair. But suddenly a little chill of doubt came upon
"I must be frank with you," said I. "Mawson only
gives me two hundred, but Mawson is safe. Now,
really, I know so little about your company that--"
"Ah, smart, smart!" he cried, in a kind of ecstasy of
delight. "You are the very man for us. You are not
to be talked over, and quite right, too. Now, here's
a note for a hundred pounds, and if you think that we
can do business you may just slip it into your pocket
as an advance upon your salary."
"That is very handsome," said I. "When should I take
over my new duties?"
"Be in Birmingham to-morrow at one," said he. "I have
a note in my pocket here which you will take to my
brother. You will find him at 126b Corporation
Street, where the temporary offices of the company are
situated. Of course he must confirm your engagement,
but between ourselves it will be all right."
"Really, I hardly know how to express my gratitude,
Mr. Pinner," said I.
"Not at all, my boy. You have only got your desserts.
There are one or two small things--mere
formalities--which I must arrange with you. You have
a bit of paper beside you there. Kindly write upon it
'I am perfectly willing to act as business manager to
the Franco-Midland Hardware Company, Limited, at a
minimum salary of L500."
I did as he asked, and he put the paper in his pocket.
"There is one other detail," said he. "What do you
intend to do about Mawson's?"
I had forgotten all about Mawson's in my joy. "I'll
write and resign," said I.
"Precisely what I don't want you to do. I had a row
over you with Mawson's manager. I had gone up to ask
him about you, and he was very offensive; accused me
of coaxing you away from the service of the firm, and
that sort of thing. At last I fairly lost my temper.
'If you want good men you should pay them a good
price,' said I.
"'He would rather have our small price than your big