The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success. Chapter 1, 2, 3, 4
PHIL HAS A LITTLE DIFFICULTY.
PHIL BRENT was plodding through the snow in the direction of the house where he lived with his step-mother and her son, when a snow-ball, moist and hard, struck him just below his ear with stinging emphasis. The pain was considerable, and Phil’s anger rose.
He turned suddenly, his eyes flashing fiercely, intent upon discovering who had committed this outrage, for he had no doubt that it was intentional.
He looked in all directions, but saw no one except a mild old gentleman in spectacles, who appeared to have some difficulty in making his way through the obstructed street.
Phil did not need to be told that it was not the old gentleman who had taken such an unwarrantable liberty with him. So he looked farther, but his ears gave him the first clew.
He heard a chuckling laugh, which seemed to proceed from behind the stone wall that ran along the roadside.
”I will see who it is,“ he decided, and plunging through the snow he surmounted the wall, in time to see a boy of about his own age running away across the fields as fast as the deep snow would allow.
”So it’s you, Jonas!“ he shouted wrathfully. ”I thought it was some sneaking fellow like you.“
Jonas Webb, his step-brother, his freckled face showing a degree of dismay, for he had not calculated on discovery, ran the faster, but while fear winged his steps, anger proved the more effectual spur, and Phil overtook him after a brief run, from the effects of which both boys panted.
”What made you throw that snow-ball?“ demanded Phil angrily, as he seized Jonas by the collar and shook him.
”You let me alone!“ said Jonas, struggling ineffectually in his grasp.
”Answer me! What made you throw that snow- ball?“ demanded Phil, in a tone that showed he did not intend to be trifled with.
”Because I chose to,“ answered Jonas, his spite getting the better of his prudence. ”Did it hurt you?“ he continued, his eyes gleaming with malice.
”I should think it might. It was about as hard as a cannon-ball,“ returned Phil grimly. ”Is that all you’ve got to say about it?“
”I did it in fun,“ said Jonas, beginning to see that he had need to be prudent.
”Very well! I don’t like your idea of fun. Perhaps you won’t like mine,“ said Phil, as he forcibly drew Jonas back till he lay upon the snow, and then kneeling by his side, rubbed his face briskly with snow.
”What are you doin’? Goin’ to murder me?“ shrieked Jonas, in anger and dismay.
”I am going to wash your face,“ said Phil, continuing the operation vigorously.
”I say, you quit that! I’ll tell my mother,“ ejaculated Jonas, struggling furiously.
”If you do, tell her why I did it,“ said Phil.
Jonas shrieked and struggled, but in vain. Phil gave his face an effectual scrubbing, and did not desist until he thought he had avenged the bad treatment he had suffered.
”There, get up!“ said he at length.
Jonas scrambled to his feet, his mean features working convulsively with anger.
”You’ll suffer for this!“ he shouted.
”You won’t make me!“ said Phil contemptuously.
”You’re the meanest boy in the village.“
”I am willing to leave that to the opinion of all who know me.“
”I’ll tell my mother!“
”Go home and tell her!“
Jonas started for home, and Phil did not attempt to stop him.
As he saw Jonas reach the street and plod angrily homeward, he said to himself:
”I suppose I shall be in hot water for this; but I can’t help it. Mrs. Brent always stands up for her precious son, who is as like her as can be. Well, it won’t make matters much worse than they have been.“
Phil concluded not to go home at once, but to allow a little time for the storm to spend its force after Jonas had told his story. So he delayed half an hour and then walked slowly up to the side door. He opened the door, brushed off the snow from his boots with the broom that stood behind the door, and opening the inner door, stepped into the kitchen.
No one was there, as Phil’s first glance satisfied him, and he was disposed to hope that Mrs. Brent– he never called her mother–was out, but a thin, acid, measured voice from the sitting-room adjoining soon satisfied him that there was to be no reprieve.
”Philip Brent, come here!“
Phil entered the sitting-room.
In a rocking-chair by the fire sat a thin woman, with a sharp visage, cold eyes and firmly compressed lips, to whom no child would voluntarily draw near.
On a sofa lay outstretched the hulking form of Jonas, with whom he had had his little difficulty.
”I am here, Mrs. Brent,“ said Philip manfully.
”Philip Brent,“ said Mrs. Brent acidly, ”are you not ashamed to look me in the face?“
”I don’t know why I should be,“ said Philip, bracing himself up for the attack.
”You see on the sofa the victim of your brutality,“ continued Mrs. Brent, pointing to the recumbent figure of her son Jonas.
Jonas, as if to emphasize these words, uttered a half groan.
Philip could not help smiling, for to him it seemed ridiculous.
”You laugh,“ said his step-mother sharply. ”I am not surprised at it. You delight in your brutality.“
”I suppose you mean that I have treated Jonas brutally.“
”I see you confess it.“
”No, Mrs. Brent, I do not confess it. The brutality you speak of was all on the side of Jonas.“
”No doubt,“ retorted Mrs. Brent, with sarcasm.
”It’s the case of the wolf and the lamb over again.“
”I don’t think Jonas has represented the matter to you as it happened,“ said Phil. ”Did he tell you that he flung a snow-ball at my head as hard as a lump of ice?“
”He said he threw a little snow at you playfully and you sprang upon him like a tiger.“
”There’s a little mistake in that,“ said Phil. ”The snow-ball was hard enough to stun me if it had hit me a little higher. I wouldn’t be hit like that again for ten dollars.“
”That ain’t so! Don’t believe him, mother!“ said Jonas from the sofa.
”And what did you do?“ demanded Mrs. Brent with a frown.
”I laid him down on the snow and washed his face with soft snow.“
”You might have given him his death of cold,“ said Mrs. Brent, with evident hostility. ”I am not sure but the poor boy will have pneumonia now, in consequence of your brutal treatment.“
”And you have nothing to say as to his attack upon me?“ said Phil indignantly.
”I have no doubt you have very much exaggerated it.“
”Yes, he has,“ chimed in Jonas from the sofa.
Phil regarded his step-brother with scorn.
”Can’t you tell the truth now and then, Jonas?“ he asked contemptuously.
”You shall not insult my boy in my presence!“ said Mrs. Brent, with a little spot of color mantling her high cheek-bones. ”Philip Brent, I have too long endured your insolence. You think because I am a woman you can be insolent with impunity, but you will find yourself mistaken. It is time that you understood something that may lead you to lower your tone. Learn, then, that you have not a cent of your own. You are wholly dependent upon my bounty.“
”What! Did my father leave you all his money?“ asked Philip.
”He was not your father!“ answered Mrs. Brent coldly.
A STRANGE REVELATION.
PHILIP started in irrepressible astonishment as these words fell from the lips of his step-mother. It seemed to him as if the earth were crumbling beneath his feet, for he had felt no more certain of the existence of the universe than of his being the son of Gerald Brent.
He was not the only person amazed at this declaration. Jonas, forgetting for the moment the part he was playing, sat bolt upright on the sofa, with his large mouth wide open, staring by turns at Philip and his mother.
”Gosh!“ he exclaimed in a tone indicating utter surprise and bewilderment.
”Will you repeat that, Mrs. Brent?“ asked Philip, after a brief pause, not certain that he had heard aright.
”I spoke plain English, I believe,“ said Mrs. Brent coldly, enjoying the effect of her communication.
”I said that Mr. Brent, my late husband, was not your father.“
”I don’t believe you!“ burst forth Philip impetuously.
”You don’t wish to believe me, you mean,“ answered his step-mother, unmoved.
”No, I don’t wish to believe you,“ said the boy, looking her in the eye.
”You are very polite to doubt a lady’s word,“ said Mrs. Brent with sarcasm.
”In such a matter as that I believe no one’s word,“ said Phil. ”I ask for proof.“
”Well, I am prepared to satisfy you. Sit down and I will tell you the story.“
Philip sat down on the nearest chair and regarded his step-mother fixedly.
”Whose son am I,“ he demanded, ”if not Mr. Brent’s?“
”You are getting on too fast. Jonas,“ continued his mother, suddenly turning to her hulking son, on whose not very intelligent countenance there was an expression of greedy curiosity, ”do you understand that what I am going to say is to be a secret, not to be spoken of to any one?“
”Yes’m,“ answered Jonas readily.
”Very well. Now to proceed. Philip, you have heard probably that when you were very small your father–I mean Mr. Brent–lived in a small town in Ohio, called Fultonville?“
”Yes, I have heard him say so.“
”Do you remember in what business he was then engaged?“
”He kept a hotel.“
”Yes; a small hotel, but as large as the place required. He was not troubled by many guests. The few who stopped at his house were business men from towns near by, or drummers from the great cities, who had occasion to stay over a night. One evening, however, a gentleman arrived with an unusual companion–in other words, a boy of about three years of age. The boy had a bad cold, and seemed to need womanly care. Mr. Brent’s wife—-“
”The woman you were taught to call mother,“ corrected the second Mrs. Brent, ”felt compassion for the child, and volunteered to take care of it for the night. The offer was gladly accepted, and you– for, of course, you were the child–were taken into Mrs. Brent’s own room, treated with simple remedies, and in the morning seemed much better. Your father–your real father–seemed quite gratified, and preferred a request. It was that your new friend would take care of you for a week while he traveled to Cincinnati on business. After dispatching this, he promised to return and resume the care of you, paying well for the favor done him. Mrs. Brent, my predecessor, being naturally fond of children, readily agreed to this proposal, and the child was left behind, while the father started for Cincinnati.“
Here Mrs. Brent paused, and Philip regarded her with doubt and suspense
”Well?“ he said.
”Oh, you want to know the rest?“ said Mrs. Brent with an ironical smile. ”You are interested in the story?“
”Yes, madam, whether it is true or not.“
”There isn’t much more to tell,“ said Mrs. Brent.
”A week passed. You recovered from your cold, and became as lively as ever. In fact, you seemed to feel quite at home among your new surroundings, which was rather unfortunate, for your father never came back!“
”Never came back!“ repeated Philip.
”No; nor was anything heard from him. Mr. and Mrs. Brent came to the conclusion that the whole thing was prearranged to get rid of you. Luckily for you, they had become attached to you, and, having no children of their own, decided to retain you. Of course, some story had to be told to satisfy the villagers. You were represented to be the son of a friend, and this was readily believed. When, however, my late husband left Ohio, and traveled some hundreds of miles eastward to this place, he dropped this explanation and represented you as his own son. Romantic, wasn’t it?“
Philip looked searchingly at the face of his step- mother, or the woman whom he had regarded as such, but he could read nothing to contradict the story in her calm, impassive countenance. A great fear fell upon him that she might be telling the truth. His features showed his contending emotions. But he had a profound distrust as well as dislike of his step-mother, and he could not bring himself to put confidence in what she told him.
”What proof is there of this?“ he asked, after a while.
”Your father’s word. I mean, of course, Mr. Brent’s word. He told me this story before I married him, feeling that I had a right to know.“
”Why didn’t he tell me?“ asked Philip incredulously.
”He thought it would make you unhappy.“
”You didn’t mind that,“ said Philip, his lips curling.
”No,“ answered Mrs. Brent, with a curious smile. ”Why should I? I never pretended to like you, and now I have less cause than ever, after your brutal treatment of my boy.“
Jonas endeavored to look injured, but could not at once change the expression of his countenance.
”Your explanation is quite satisfactory, Mrs. Brent,“ returned Philip. ”I don’t think I stood much higher in your estimation yesterday than today, so that I haven’t lost much. But you haven’t given me any proof yet.“
”Wait a minute.“
Mrs. Brent left the room, went up-stairs, and speedily returned, bringing with her a small daguerreotype, representing a boy of three years.
”Did you ever see this before?“ she asked.
”No,“ answered Philip, taking it from her hand and eying it curiously.
”When Mr. and Mrs. Brent decided that you were to be left on their hands,“ she proceeded, ”they had this picture of you taken in the same dress in which you came to them, with a view to establish your identity if at any time afterward inquiry should be made for you.“
The daguerreotype represented a bright, handsome child, dressed tastefully, and more as would be expected of a city child than of one born in the country. There was enough resemblance to Philip as he looked now to convince him that it was really his picture.
”I have something more to show you,“ said Mrs. Brent.
She produced a piece of white paper in which the daguerreotype had been folded. Upon it was some writing, and Philip readily recognized the hand of the man whom he had regarded as his father.
He read these lines:
”This is the picture of the boy who was mysteriously left in the charge of Mr. Brent, April, 1863, and never reclaimed. l have reared him as my own son, but think it best to enter this record of the way in which he came into my hands, and to preserve by the help of art his appearance at the time he first came to us. GERALD BRENT.“
”Do you recognize this handwriting?“ asked Mrs. Brent.
”Yes,“ answered Philip in a dazed tone.
”Perhaps,“ she said triumphantly, ”you will doubt my word now.“
”May I have this picture?“ asked Philip, without answering her.
”Yes; you have as good a claim to it as any one.“
”And the paper?“
”The paper I prefer to keep myself,“ said Mrs. Brent, nodding her head suspiciously. ”I don’t care to have my only proof destroyed.“
Philip did not seem to take her meaning, but with the daguerreotype in his hand, he left the room.
”I say, mother,“ chuckled Jonas, his freckled face showing his enjoyment, ”it’s a good joke on Phil, isn’t it?“ I guess he won’t be quite so uppish after this.“
PHIL’S SUDDEN RESOLUTION.
WHEN Phil left the presence of Mrs. Brent, he felt as if he had been suddenly transported to a new world. He was no longer Philip Brent, and the worst of it was that he did not know who he was. In his tumultuous state of feeling, however, one thing seemed clear–his prospects were wholly changed, and his plans for the future also. Mrs. Brent had told him that he was wholly dependent upon her. Well, he did not intend to remain so. His home had not been pleasant at the best. As a dependent upon the bounty of such a woman it would be worse. He resolved to leave home and strike out for himself, not from any such foolish idea of independence as sometimes leads boys to desert a good home for an uncertain skirmish with the world, but simply be cause he felt now that he had no real home.
To begin with he would need money, and on opening his pocket-book he ascertained that his available funds consisted of only a dollar and thirty-seven cents. That wasn’t quite enough to begin the world with. But he had other resources. He owned a gun, which a friend of his would be ready to take off his hands. He had a boat, also, which he could probably sell.
On the village street he met Reuben Gordon, a young journeyman carpenter, who was earning good wages, and had money to spare.
”How are you, Phil,“ said Reuben in a friendly way.
”You are just the one I want to meet,“ said Phil earnestly. ”Didn’t you tell me once you would like to buy my gun?“
”Yes. Want to sell it?“
”No, I don’t; but I want the money it will bring. So I’ll sell it if you’ll buy.“
”What d’ye want for it?“ asked Reuben cautiously.
”Too much. I’ll give five.“
”You can have it,“ said Phil after a pause. ”How soon can you let me have the money?“
”Bring the gun round to-night, and I’ll pay you for it.“
”All right. Do you know of any one who wants to buy a boat?“
”What? Going to sell that, too?“
”Seems to me you’re closin’ up business?“ said Reuben shrewdly.
”So I am. I’m going to leave Planktown.“
”You don’t say? Well, I declare! Where are you goin’?“
”To New York, I guess.“
”Got any prospect there?“
This was not, perhaps, strictly true–that is, Phil had no definite prospect, but he felt that there must be a chance in a large city like New York for any one who was willing to work, and so felt measurably justified in saying what he did.
”I hadn’t thought of buyin’ a boat,“ said Reuben thoughtfully.
Phil pricked up his ears at the hint of a possible customer.
”You’d better buy mine,“ he said quickly; ”I’ll sell it cheap.“
”That’s too much.“
”It cost me fifteen.“
”But it’s second-hand now, you know,“ said Reuben.
”It’s just as good as new. I’m taking off five dollars, though, you see.“
”I don’t think I want it enough to pay ten dollars.“
”What will you give?“
Reuben finally agreed to pay seven dollars and seventy-five cents, after more or less bargaining, and to pay the money that evening upon delivery of the goods.
”I don’t think I’ve got anything more to sell,“ said Phil thoughtfully. ”There’s my skates, but they are not very good. I’ll give them to Tommy Kavanagh. He can’t afford to buy a pair.“
Tommy was the son of a poor widow, and was very much pleased with the gift, which Phil conveyed to him just before supper.
Just after supper he took his gun and the key of his boat over to Reuben Gordon, who thereupon gave him the money agreed upon.
”Shall I tell Mrs. Brent I am going away?“ Phil said to himself, ”or shall I leave a note for her?“
He decided to announce his resolve in person. To do otherwise would seem too much like running away, and that he had too much self-respect to do.
So in the evening, after his return from Reuben Gordon’s, he said to Mrs. Brent:
”I think I ought to tell you that I’m going away to-morrow.“
Mrs. Brent looked up from her work, and her cold gray eyes surveyed Phil with curious scrutiny.
”You are going away!“ she replied. ”Where are you going?“
”I think I shall go to New York.“
”Seek my fortune, as so many have done before me.“
”They didn’t always find it!“ said Mrs. Brent with a cold sneer. ”Is there any other reason?“
”Yes; it’s chiefly on account of what you told me yesterday. You said that I was dependent upon you.“
”So you are.“
”And that I wasn’t even entitled to the name of Brent.“
”Yes, I said it, and it’s true.“
”Well,“ said Phil, ”I don’t want to be dependent upon you. I prefer to earn my own living.“
”I am not prepared to say but that you are right. But do you know what the neighbors will say?“
”What will they say?“
”That I drove you from home.“
”It won’t be true. I don’t pretend to enjoy my home, but I suppose I can stay on here if I like?“
”Yes, you can stay.“
”You don’t object to my going?“
”No, if it is understood that you go of your own accord.“
”I am willing enough to take the blame of it, if there is any blame.“
”Very well; get a sheet of note-paper, and write at my direction.“
Phil took a sheet of note-paper from his father’s desk, and sat down to comply with Mrs. Brent’s request.
She dictated as follows:
”I leave home at my own wish, but with the consent of Mrs. Brent, to seek my fortune. It is wholly my own idea, and I hold no one else responsible. ”PHILIP BRENT.“
”You may as well keep the name of Brent,“ said his step-mother, as you have no other that you know of.“
Phil winced at those cold words. It was not pleasant to reflect that this was so, and that he was wholly ignorant of his parentage.
”One thing more,“ said Mrs. Brent. ”It is only eight o’clock. I should like to have you go out and call upon some of those with whom you are most intimate, and tell them that you are leaving home voluntarily.“
”I will,“ answered Phil.
”Perhaps you would prefer to do so to-morrow.“
”No; I am going away to-morrow morning.“
”Going away to-morrow morning?“ repeated Jonas, who entered the room at that moment.
Phil’s plan was briefly disclosed.
”Then give me your skates,“ said Jonas.
”I can’t. I’ve given them to Tommy Kavanagh.“
”That’s mean. You might have thought of me first,“ grumbled Jonas.
”I don’t know why. Tommy Kavanagh is my friend and you are not.“
”Anyway, you can let me have your boat and gun.“
”I have sold them.“
”That’s too bad.“
”I don’t know why you should expect them. I needed the money they brought me to pay my expenses till I get work.“
”I will pay your expenses to New York if you wish,“ said Mrs. Brent.
”Thank you; but I shall have money enough,“ answered Phil, who shrank from receiving any favor at the hands of Mrs. Brent.
”As you please, but you will do me the justice to remember that I offered it.“
”Thank you. I shall not forget it.“
”That evening, just before going to bed, Mrs. Brent opened a trunk and drew from it a folded paper.
She read as follows–for it was her husband’s will:
”To the boy generally known as Philip Brent, and supposed, though incorrectly, to be my son, I bequeath the sum of five thousand dollars, and direct the same to be paid over to any one whom he may select as guardian, to hold in trust for him till he attains the age of twenty-one.“
”He need never know of this,“ said Mrs. Brent to herself in a low tone. ”I will save it for Jonas.“
She held the paper a moment, as if undecided whether to destroy it, but finally put it carefully back in the secret hiding-place from which she had taken it.
”He is leaving home of his own accord,“ she whispered. ”Henceforth he will probably keep away. That suits me well. but no one can say I drove him to it.“
MR. LIONEL LAKE.
SIX MONTHS before it might have cost Philip a pang to leave home. Then his father was living, and from him the boy had never received aught but kindness. Even his step-mother, though she secretly disliked him, did not venture to show it, and secure in the affections of his supposed father, he did not trouble himself as to whether Mrs. Brent liked him or not. As for Jonas, he was cautioned by his mother not to get himself into trouble by treating Phil badly, and the boy, who knew on which side his interests lay, faithfully obeyed. It was only after the death of Mr. Brent that both Jonas and his mother changed their course, and thought it safe to snub Philip.
Planktown was seventy-five miles distant from New York, and the fare was two dollars and a quarter.
This was rather a large sum to pay, considering Phil’s scanty fund, but he wished to get to the great city as soon as possible, and he decided that it would be actually cheaper to ride than to walk, considering that he would have to buy his meals on the way.
He took his seat in the cars, placing a valise full of underclothes on the seat next him. The train was not very full, and the seat beside him did not appear to be required.
Mile after mile they sped on the way, and Phil looked from the window with interest at the towns through which they passed. There are very few boys of his age–sixteen–who do not like to travel in the cars. Limited as were his means, and uncertain as were his prospects, Phil felt not only cheerful, but actually buoyant, as every minute took him farther away from Planktown, and so nearer the city where he hoped to make a living at the outset, and perhaps his fortune in the end.
Presently–perhaps half way on–a young man, rather stylishly dressed, came into the car. It was not at a station, and therefore it seemed clear that he came from another car.
He halted when he reached the seat which Phil occupied.
Our hero, observing that his glance rested on his valise, politely removed it, saying:
”Would you like to sit down here, sir?“
”Yes, thank you,“ answered the young man, and sank into the seat beside Phil.
”Sorry to inconvenience you,“ he said, with a glance at the bag.
”Oh, not at all,“ returned Phil. ”I only put the valise on the seat till it was wanted by some passenger.“
”You are more considerate than some passengers,“ observed the young man. ”In the next car is a woman, an elderly party, who is taking up three extra seats to accommodate her bags and boxes.“
”That seems rather selfish,“ remarked Phil.
”Selfish! I should say so. I paused a minute at her seat as I passed along, and she was terribly afraid I wanted to sit down. She didn’t offer to move anything, though, as you have. I stopped long enough to make her feel uncomfortable, and then passed on. I don’t think I have fared any the worse for doing so. I would rather sit beside you than her.“
”Am I to consider that a compliment?“ asked Phil, smiling.
”Well, yes, if you choose. Not that it is saying much to call you more agreeable company than the old party alluded to. Are you going to New York?“
”I expect to live there.“
”Brought up in the country, perhaps?“
”Yes, in Planktown.“
”Oh, Planktown! I’ve heard it’s a nice place, but never visited it. Got any folks?“
Phil hesitated. In the light of the revelation that had been made to him by Mrs. Brent, he did not know how to answer. However, there was no call to answer definitely.
”Not many,“ he said.
”Goin’ to school in New York?“
”To college, perhaps. I’ve got a cousin in Columbia College.“
”I wish I knew enough to go to college,“ said Phil; ”but I only know a little Latin, and no Greek at all.“
”Well, I never cared much about Latin or Greek, myself. I presume you are thinking about a business position?“
”Yes, I shall try to get a place.“
”You may find a little time necessary to find one. However, you are, no doubt, able to pay your board for awhile.“
”For a short time,“ said Phil.
”Well, I may be able to help you to a place. I know a good many prominent business men.“
”I should be grateful to you for any help of that kind,“ said Phil, deciding that he was in luck to meet with such a friend.
”Don’t mention it. I have had to struggle myself–in earlier days–though at present I am well fixed. What is your name?“
”Good! My name is Lionel Lake. Sorry I haven’t got any cards. Perhaps I may have one in my pocket-book. Let me see!“
Mr. Lake opened his porte-monnaie and uttered a exclamation of surprise.
”By Jove!“ he said, ”I am in a fix.“
Phil looked at him inquiringly.
”I took out a roll of bills at the house of my aunt, where I stayed last night,“ explained Mr. Lake, ”and must have neglected to replace them.“
”I hope you have not lost them,“ said Phil politely.
”Oh, no; my aunt will find them and take care of them for me, so that I shall get them back. The trouble is that I am left temporarily without funds.“
”But you can get money in the city,“ suggested Phil.
”No doubt; only it is necessary for me to stay over a train ten miles short of the city.“
Mr. Lionel Lake seemed very much perplexed.
”If I knew some one in the cars,“ he said reflectively.
It did occur to Phil to offer to loan him something, but the scantiness of his own resources warned him that it would not be prudent, so he remained silent.
Finally Mr. Lake appeared to have an idea.
”Have you got five dollars, Philip?“ he said familiarly.
”Yes, sir,“ answered Philip slowly.
”Then I’ll make a proposal. Lend it to me and I will give you this ring as security. It is worth twenty-five dollars easily.
He drew from his vest-pocket a neat gold ring, with some sort of a stone in the setting.
”There!“ said Mr. Lake, ”I’ll give you this ring and my address, and you can bring it to my office to-morrow morning. I’ll give you back the five dollars and one dollar for the accommodation. That’s good interest, isn’t it?“
”But I might keep the ring and sell it,“ suggested Phil.
”Oh, I am not afraid. You look honest. I will trust you,“ said the young man, in a careless, off- hand manner. ”Say, is it a bargain?“
”Yes,“ answered Phil.
It occurred to him that he could not earn a dollar more easily. Besides, he would be doing a favor to this very polite young man.
”All right, then!“
”Five dollars of Phil’s scanty hoard was handed to Mr. Lake, who, in return, gave Phil the ring, which he put on his finger.
He also handed Phil a scrap of paper, on which he penciled:
”LIONEL LAKE, No. 237 Broadway.“
”I’m ever so much obliged,“ he said. ”Good-by. I get out at the next station.“
Phil was congratulating himself on his good stroke of business, when the conductor entered the car, followed by a young lady. When they came to where Phil was seated, the young lady said:
”That is my ring on that boy’s finger?“
”Aha! we’ve found the thief, then!“ said the conductor. ”Boy, give up the ring you stole from this young lady!“
As he spoke he placed his hand on Phil’s shoulder.
”Stole!“ repeated Phil, gasping. ”I don’t understand you.“
”Oh, yes, you do!“ said the conductor roughly.