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Chapter 111: I have great faith in you

Wednesday, January 3, 1906
Sterling, Illinois

Sydney and I both turned at the sudden sound of footsteps coming down the hall and the outer office door opening — it was Nick.

“Well, good morning!” Nick called jovially, as Sydney and I came out to greet him.

Nick came over right away and clasped my hand with both of his in fond greeting. “It’s good to see you, Emmett. Welcome to Sterling and to the law firm.” I introduced Sydney to Nick, who Nick also greeted fondly. “It is good to see you as well, Sydney. Please give your mother my regards.”

“I will, sir,” Sydney said.

“You fellows just get here?” Nick said, nodding at us, still in coats.

“No — we’ve been so busy admiring the office we’d forgotten to take off our coats,” I said.

Nick just chuckled and removed his overcoat, hanging it in the closet in the outer office.

Sydney then said he had to catch the next trolley across the river or he’d be late for work. He shook hands again with Nick; then told me he’d see me at home for dinner.

“Well?” Nick said, turning to me after Sydney closed the outer office door. “What do you think?”

I shook my head, and laughed a little. “I didn’t expect this,” I gestured at our rooms. “It’s wonderful, Nick. More than I could’ve imagined.”

“It is our business to attract the very best clients,” Nick said. “The best way to do that is to present yourself as the very best. Let’s sit down, catch up on a few things, shall we?”

“First things first,” Nick said, as we went into his office. He gestured that I should sit in his chair. I resisted, but Nick said, “No, you’re going to be the face of Van Sant & Wilson for the majority of our practice together. As we discussed back in the fall, I only want to play a minor role here — this is an investment for me, you see, more than anything. My main projects are the new bank and the YMCA.”

I nodded.

Nick continued briskly: “I’ve taken the liberty of dictating correspondence necessary to our clients — feel free to use the graphophone, just in the outer office — you know how to use that machine, correct?”

I shook my head. “We didn’t have one in Ceph’s office.” They were the latest thing, and expensive, a bit beyond what Ceph was willing to spend, although he wasted no time in purchasing the latest Cadillac automobile the first chance he got, I thought to myself…

A 1905 Graphophone, which was considered top-of-the-line recording equipment at the time. Source: British Library.

“No matter,” Nick went on briskly. “I’m sure you’ll figure out how to use it. The manual is in the secretary’s desk. Regardless, I hope you don’t mind that I went ahead with the correspondence — but there were necessary documents to get out related to our new clients.”

“Of course,” I said.

“There’s plenty for the secretary to do tomorrow just with the correspondence, should you like a day to settle in here, go over some of the background on our first clients — there’s a set of folders in the top drawer of the desk.”


“Oh, yes. I’m sorry, Emmett. I’ve gone ahead and hired a secretary who will start tomorrow. She’s extremely capable and efficient — I’m sure you’ll be pleased. She met all of Ella’s standards, so I know that she’s, minimally, above average competency,” Nick chuckled. “I hope you don’t mind — with your being new to Sterling, and Ella and I knowing everyone so well in the Sterling and Rock Falls communities — we have to hit the ground running.”

“Of course,” I said again. “I trust you completely, Nick. You and Ella would know best.”

“Thank you. Now, where was I? Oh yes. You and I will visit the newspaper offices tomorrow and meet the editors. We have to get the word out about you, and that the law firm is up and running, open for business. If you have anything that was printed about yourself before you left Florida, be sure to bring that along, so that we can get as much information about you in the paper over the next few days. You’ll have some of the more important businessmen wanting to meet you; they’ll come to see you here, of course, and then, we’ll be sure to have a dinner or gathering at home to introduce you properly in a few days.”

I felt overwhelmed already — Nick was full of energy. But then, that was Nick. My expression made him chuckle.

“I apologize, Emmett. I know I’m covering a lot of ground in a short time here, but we have such an opportunity with the law firm. And you have such an opportunity right here in Sterling.”

“I understand, and I do appreciate it, Nick. You have no idea how much I appreciate it.”

“Well,” he said, a pleased expression on his face. He sat back in his chair. “I anticipate that you will exceed all expectations.” He opened his coat pocket and took out his pipe and tobacco. I watched him as he struck a lucifer, lit his pipe, and puffed it contentedly.

“So tell me, Emmett. Have you made much progress in your preparation for the Illinois bar examination?”

“Yes. I’ve been going over the materials you sent.”

Nick nodded. “You’ll be busy here, but you’ll have time to study if necessary. The books you’ll need are all right here — he said, gesturing to the shelves. But you’ve brought your own law books from Florida of course?”

“Yes. The examination will take place the last week of January; I’m to take the exam in Morrison. Harold Anning said he’d bring my books over later this afternoon.”

“Good,” Nick said. “Speaking of Morrison, in a few days, I’ll accompany you there to introduce you to our judges and to several of the more important lawyers in our county. I’m sure they’ll be impressed — I’ve told them all about you — and they can’t wait to meet you.”

I felt a mixture of pride and embarrassment — I shifted about in my chair. I don’t think he noticed it, because he plowed right ahead into the next topic.

Ad in the January 1905 Sterling Daily Standard announcing Nick’s bank. Screenshot from microfilm by author.

“The new bank will open officially on January 24 —and I’ll be there every day. But I am, of course, at your disposal and available to you for anything you might need while getting the practice off the ground. I know that you’ll feel hampered having not passed the Illinois bar just yet, but there’s plenty for you to do with our client’s files, research, and writing briefs up until then.”

I nodded. “I’ll do what I can, and will be up to speed as soon as possible, you can rely on me.”

Nick sat back again in his seat, and gave me a kindly gaze.

“I’m sure you will, son. I have great faith in you. We’ll work well together.

Categories: Book In Emmett's Words

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
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