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The Woman in the Alcove Anna Katharine Green

XIII The Missing Recommendation

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"This, under ordinary circumstances, would have ended the business, but there being some great function in prospect, Jones did not feel like losing so good a man without making an effort to recover him, so he looked up his references in the hope of obtaining some clue to his present whereabouts.

"He kept all such matters in a special book and expected to have no trouble in finding the man's name, James Wellgood, or that of his former employer But when he came to consult this book, he was astonished to find that nothing was recorded against this man's name but the date of his first employment--March 15.

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"Had he hired him without a recommendation? He would not be likely to, yet the page was clear of all reference; only the name and the date. But the date! You have already noted its significance, and later he did, too. The day of the Ramsdell ball! The day of the great murder! As he recalled the incidents of that day he understood why the record of Wellgood's name was unaccompanied by the usual reference. It had been a difficult day all round. The function was an important one, and the weather bad. There was, besides, an unusual shortage in his number of assistants. Two men had that very morning been laid up with sickness, and when this able-looking, self-confident Wellgood presented himself for immediate employment, he took him out of hand with the merest glance at what looked like a very satisfactory reference. Later, he had intended to look up this reference, which he had been careful to preserve by sticking it, along with other papers, on his spike-file. But in the distractions following the untoward events of the evening, he had neglected to do so, feeling perfectly satisfied with the man's work and general behavior. Now it was a different thing. The man had left him summarily, and he felt impelled to hunt up the person who had recommended him and see whether this was the first time that Wellgood had repaid good treatment with bad. Running through the papers with which his file was now full, he found that the one he sought was not there. This roused him in good earnest, for he was certain that he had not removed it himself and there was no one else who had the right to do so. He suspected the culprit,--a young lad who occasionally had access to his desk. But this boy was no longer in the office. He had dismissed him for some petty fault the previous week, and it took him several days to find him again. Meantime his anger grew and when he finally came face to face with the lad, he accused him of the suspected trick with so much vehemence that the inevitable happened, and the boy confessed. This is what he acknowledged. He had taken the reference off the file, but only to give it to Wellgood himself, who had offered him money for it. When asked how much money, the boy admitted that the sum was ten dollars,-- an extraordinary amount from a poor man for so simple a service, if the man merely wished to secure his reference for future use; so extraordinary that Mr. Jones grew more and more pertinent in his inquiries, eliciting finally what he surely could not have hoped for in the beginning,--the exact address of the party referred to in the paper he had stolen, and which, for some reason, the boy remembered. It was an uptown address, and, as soon as the caterer could leave his business, he took the elevated and proceeded to the specified street and number.

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The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green

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