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    Chapter 5

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    Chapter 6
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    A TRAP FOR JOB HASKERS

    "What do you think of it, Dave?"

    "I think Job Haskers is up to some game, Roger."

    "Selling worthless stocks?"

    "Yes, or else stocks that are next door to worthless."

    "I wonder who the old gentleman can be? He looks as if he might have money. That diamond ring he wears must be worth several hundred dollars."

    "Supposing we ask Mr. Passmore about him?" suggested Dave.

    "That's the idea."

    The youths found Mr. Passmore in a protected corner of a side porch, smoking. Most of the storm was now over, but it still rained.

    "Tired of bowling, eh?" said Bert's father, who was a wholesale dealer in rugs.

    "Mr. Passmore, we want to ask you some questions," said Roger. "Do you know an elderly gentleman here by the name of Fordham?"

    "Fordham? Yes, I've met him. Nice man, too, but rather feeble."

    "Is he alone here?" asked Dave.

    "Practically. He has a son that comes to see him once in a while. Did you want to see him?"

    "We have seen him, and we were wondering if we hadn't better have a talk with him," explained Dave.

    "We'll tell you how it is," put in Roger, who knew Mr. Passmore well. And then he and Dave related the particulars of what they had seen, and told something of what Job Haskers was.

    "Hum! This might be worth looking into," mused the rug dealer. "Of course, these stocks may be all right. But it looks rather fishy to me. Years ago I bought some stocks like that and they proved to be utterly worthless. It certainly won't do any harm to tell old Mr. Fordham what you know about this man Haskers."

    "I'd hate to get into a row----" commenced Roger.

    "I wouldn't--not if I was going to save that old gentleman's money for him," interrupted Dave. "Job Haskers sha'n't pull the wool over anybody's eyes if I can prevent it!"

    "Oh, I am with you there, Dave!" cried the senator's son, quickly. "I was thinking that perhaps we would warn this Mr. Fordham without Haskers knowing anything about it."

    "Better not try to do anything to-night," said Mr. Passmore. "You can see Mr. Fordham in the morning, and I'll be present, if you wish it."

    A little later the two boys found Phil and Bert coming from the dance, and told their old school chum of what they had witnessed.

    "Of course, we ought to expose Haskers!" declared the shipowner's son, who was not likely to forget how he had suffered at the hands of the former teacher of Oak Hall. "We'll go to this Mr. Fordham and tell him just what a rascal Haskers is!"

    The doings of the day had made all the boys tired, and they slept soundly. Dave was the first astir in the morning, but the others, including Bert, soon followed. The storm had passed and the sun was shining brightly.

    "I'd like you fellows to stay here over the Fourth," said Bert, when they went below for breakfast. "Maybe we could have a dandy time."

    "Can't do it," declared Roger. "I am expecting company at the house--some more Oak Hall fellows. But you might come there, if you care to, Bert," he added.

    "All right, I'll see about it."

    Dave and the others had already made up their minds what to do about Mr. Fordham. About nine o'clock they sent a message to the elderly gentleman's room, stating they wished to see him on a matter of importance to himself, and adding that Mr. Passmore would be with them.

    "He says for you to come right up," said the bell-boy, who had delivered the message.

    "Is he up yet?" questioned Dave.

    "Yes, sir."

    The bell-boy led the way to the room, which was in a wing on the second floor. All the boys but Bert went up, and Mr. Passmore accompanied them. They found Mr. Fordham seated in an easy chair. He looked quite bewildered at the entrance of so many visitors.

    "Good-morning, Mr. Fordham," said Mr. Passmore. "I suppose you are quite surprised to see me at this time in the morning, and with so many young gentlemen with me," and the rug dealer smiled broadly.

    "A bit surprised, yes," was the somewhat feeble answer. "But I--I suppose it is all right."

    "Let me introduce my young friends," went on Mr. Passmore, and did so. "They have got something they would like to tell you."

    "To tell me?" questioned the aged man, curiously. "Sit down, won't you," he added, politely, and motioned to chairs and to a couch.

    "We came to see you about a man who called to see you last night, a Mr. Job Haskers," said Dave, after a pause, during which the visitors seated themselves. "Perhaps it is none of our business, Mr. Fordham, but my chums and I here felt it our duty to tell you about that man."

    "We don't want to do him any harm, if he is trying to earn an honest living," put in Roger, "but we want you to be on your guard in any dealings you may have with him."

    "Why, what do you young men know of Mr. Haskers?" demanded the old gentleman, in increasing wonder.

    "We know a great deal about him, and very little to his credit," burst out Phil. "If you have any dealings with him, be careful, or, my word for it, you may get the worst of it!"

    "Why this is--er--very extraordinary!" murmured Mr. Fordham. "I--I don't know what to make of it," and he looked rather helplessly at Mr. Passmore.

    "Porter, you had better tell what you know about Haskers," said Bert's father. "But cut it short, for that man may get here soon."

    In a plain, straightforward manner our hero told of several things that had happened at Oak Hall, which were not at all to Job Haskers' credit. Then he told of the attempt to blow up the hotel, and how the unworthy teacher had tried to throw the blame on the students, and how the truth of the matter had at last come out, and how the dictatorial old teacher had been dismissed by Doctor Clay.

    "And do you mean to tell me that this is the man who is trying to sell me this stock in the Sunset Milling Company?" asked Mr. Fordham, when Dave had finished.

    "This is the same man," answered Roger.

    "Yes, and Dave didn't tell you the half of what can be chalked up against him," added Phil. "I wouldn't trust him with a pint of peanuts."

    "Hum! Strange, and I thought he came highly recommended!"

    "If he showed you any recommendations I'll wager they were many years old," said Dave.

    "This is really none of my business, Mr. Fordham," broke in Mr. Passmore. "But as this man is so well known to these young gentlemen, and he has proved himself to be so unworthy, I would go slow about investing in stocks that he may offer."

    "Yes! yes! Certainly!" cried the elderly gentleman. "But--er--why should these young men take such an interest in me, a stranger?"

    "We don't want to see Job Haskers get the best of any one!" answered Phil, bluntly. "My opinion of it is, that he ought to be in jail."

    "I see, I see! Well, if he did what you say he did, I don't blame you."

    "I wouldn't sign for any stock until I had some outside advice about it," cautioned Mr. Passmore.

    "Why not wait until your son gets back?" he suggested.

    "I'll do it. Mr. Haskers wanted the deal closed at once. But now I won't sign for the stock. I'll wait. My son will be here day after to-morrow at the latest, and he can look into the matter for me. And I am very much obliged to you all for this warning. I think----"

    At that moment came a knock on the door, which had been closed. A bell-boy was there with a card, which he handed to Mr. Fordham.

    "Bless me! He is certainly on time!" murmured the old gentleman. "It is Mr. Haskers." He looked helplessly at the others. "I--I don't exactly know what to do."

    "We'll get out, if you say so," answered Roger, quickly.

    "Oh, say, can't we stay and face him?" asked Phil, eagerly. "We'll give him the surprise of his life!"

    "Certainly, you can stay!" exclaimed Mr. Fordham, with sudden energy. "I want you to stay. You should not be afraid to say to his face what you have said behind his back."

    Dave looked around the apartment. A bathroom was handy, the door standing ajar.

    "Supposing we step in there for a few minutes, while you and Mr. Passmore meet Mr. Haskers," he cried. "We'll come out when you say so."

    "A clever idea!" cried the rug dealer. "Maybe we'll be able to catch him in a trap!"

    "Mr. Passmore, I'll leave this matter to you," answered the elderly gentleman. "You know those young men better than I do."

    "So I do, and I'll vouch for Roger Morr and his friends," was the answer. "Show the gentleman up," he added, to the bell-boy. "Don't tell him who is here--we want to surprise him."

    As the bell-boy left, the three chums crowded into the bathroom, leaving the door on a crack. Soon there came another knock, and Job Haskers presented himself, silk hat and cane in hand. He was well dressed and evidently groomed for the occasion. He had expected to find Mr. Fordham alone, and was somewhat annoyed on beholding a visitor ahead of him.

    "Good-morning, Mr. Haskers," said the elderly gentleman, politely. "This is my friend, Mr. Passmore."

    "Happy to know you, sir," responded the former teacher, with pretended warmth. "A lovely morning after the storm," he went on, as he drew off the gloves he was wearing.

    "We were just discussing this stock you have been offering to Mr. Fordham," remarked Mr. Passmore, a bit dryly. "The Sunset Company is a new one to me. Did you help to organize it?"

    "Well, I--er--I had a little to do with the organization," stammered the former teacher.

    "You are a regular stock-broker, I presume, Mr. Haskers."

    "Yes, that is my business. But I don't deal in ordinary stocks--I handle only those which are gilt-edged and big money makers," added Job Haskers, with a flourish.

    "Been following the business for some years, I presume."

    "About fifteen, all told. I used to have an office in Wall Street, New York, but I gave that up, as I found the confinement bad for my health."

    "It must be a pretty exacting business," went on Mr. Passmore.

    "It is, sir. When a fellow is in stocks he can't follow much of anything else."

    "I'd hate to follow stocks for fifteen years."

    "Do you mean to say you have been handling stocks for the past fifteen years?" questioned Mr. Fordham, slowly.

    "Exactly, sir--ever since I gave up my position as cashier of a Boston bank," returned Job Haskers, smoothly. "And now, to get down to business, as my time is somewhat limited. I suppose you are ready to subscribe for that stock?" And the former teacher brought forth a paper and his fountain pen.

    "We'll see," mused Mr. Fordham. "Dealing in stocks for the past fifteen years, eh? How long since you gave up your office in Wall Street?"

    "About--er--two years," stammered Job Haskers. He looked keenly at Mr. Fordham and then at Mr. Passmore. "What--er--why do you ask me that question?"

    "Mr. Fordham probably thought it strange that you could be dealing in stocks and teaching school at the same time," answered Bert's father, dryly.

    At this announcement Job Haskers' jaw dropped.

    "I--I don't understand you," he stammered.

    "Well, you will understand in a minute," returned the rug dealer, blandly. He raised his voice. "Boys, I guess you had better come in now!"
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