CHAPTER LXXIII. SITUATION AGENCIES.

Those employment agencies whose advertisements may be daily seen in our city papers, are well exposed in the following experience of a young man in want of a situation.

I have no trade or profession. My parents were well off in the world, and; without thinking that their riches might take to themselves wings and fly away, they considered it of no importance that I should become master of anything but the graces of society. But misfortune did come and left them without a dollar in the world, although neither of them lived long to contend with poverty. I found myself illy adapted to anything, and was, as you may well suppose, at a loss which way to turn.

I applied to one or two acquaintances; but they could make no use of a man who knew nothing at all of the ways of trade, or of the arts and sciences; and so I was treated to not a few very gloomy forebodings. While glancing over the columns of a daily newspaper, my eye rested on the following advertisement.

'WANTED, clerks, copyists, collectors, timekeepers, watchmen, potters, bartenders, coachmen, grooms, two valets to travel. Immediate employment.'

It was such a spontaneous affair; so general and so pliable that I resolved to avail myself of some of its many chances. So I entered the 'office' with great expectations.

I am a good penman and at once resolved to take up the situation as copyist, and using that as a foundation for future superstructure, to do my best, early and late. I entered the room. There didn't seem to be such a rush of applicants there as I had anticipated; in fact, the room was entirely unoccupied, save by a flashy youth who seemed to be doing his best to smoke himself out with a very bad segar. I mentioned my errand to him and he instantly became very polite.

The proprietor was not in just then but would probably be in sometime during the day. The first thing, however, for me to do, was to register my name and pay a fee of two dollars, which would entitle me to the situation I coveted. What was two dollars with a prospect of business before me? I paid it and was told that I had better call in the afternoon and see the proprietor.

I called again as he requested. The proprietor had been in, but a man whose name was down ahead of mine had taken the place of copyist that had kept my heart up so eagerly, and I should be obliged to wait until a similar situation presented itself, when, of course, I should stand first of all, or take up with something else. I asked about clerkships, but a hasty glance at his book convinced him that everything had been taken up, and that I had better call to-morrow.

Unwilling to lose my money without some attempt at securing a place, I called again the next day. The flashy fellow of the day before was not there, but in his place a black-whiskered man, with keen black eyes, so small and retiring that you would scarcely be aware of his possessing such assistants until he turned them fully upon you. This proved to be the proprietor. To him I made known my wants. He nodded, placed the book before me, and handed me a pen.

I explained my transactions of the day before, but he said that the fee for each day encompassed only the chances for that day; that if I desired to take my chances for this day I must again favor him with my name and two dollars. This I refused to do, unless he would guarantee me a situation similar to the ones he had advertised openings for, at the same time expressing my disgust in warm, if not eloquent language.

But his assurances were so strong that, with his promise to give me a note to a man who was then desirous of a copyist, I again enriched him from my scanty stock of money. Taking the letter, I followed the directions upon it until I was led into the fourth story of a building on Nassau street. I found a man seated at a desk, whose voice and general manner was strongly like the flashy individual whom I had met at the 'agency' the day before. But his whole exterior was changed, and as he seemed to be very busy over some writing, I did not have a good chance to verify my suspicions.

He did not wish a copyist, but his friend Brown did, and was willing to pay handsomely for such services. Unfortunately, however, Brown had been called out of town on some important business, and would not be in until the next day; but if I would have the kindness to leave my address, there was no doubt but he would send for me there at once. I wrote my address, but told him that I would call myself.

While I was allowing him to bow me out, I made some inquiries relative to the responsibility of the 'agency,' and he gave it an unqualified recommendation, speaking in such high terms of Mr. Bucker, the proprietor, that I almost repented the few hard feelings I had indulged in toward him. If Mr. Bucker enjoyed the confidence of the leading merchants, he certainly was a man for me to trust.

I called the next day, and Mr. Brown was poising his feet upon his desk, smoking, and soothing his heart in the columns of a newspaper. I mentioned my name and business. He looked up, and in reply to my question as to whether or not he was Mr. Brown who desired a copyist, he said that he had the honor of being a Mr. Brown, but I must be laboring under some misapprehension, if I supposed that he was in want of a copyist. The Brown to whom I alluded, in all probability, had gone to New Jersey, and owing to sundry unsettled accounts he would not be likely to return so suddenly as he had departed. I explained my position, but he disclaimed all knowledge of the affair, and would give me no satisfaction whatever. I went back to the 'agency,' but on inquiry I found that Mr. Bucker had sold out, and another swindler had taken up the business of robbing the unwary poor.

I made my case known to the police, but a shrug of the shoulders was all the consolation I received. Such swindlers do exist, they say, but owing to the artful manner in which they conduct their business, it is next to impossible to convict them.

"My object in sending you this for publication is to warn others. I have since learned that the majority of these 'agencies' are established on the same principle, and that not one in a hundred who apply and pay their money ever receive a situation; that the merchants and those whom they profess to represent have no faith and no connection with them whatever."