Mr. Lake, who had several letters in his hand, started nervously, and turned at the touch. He recognized Phil, but appeared not to do so.
”What do you wish, boy?“ he asked, loftily.“
”I want to speak a word with you, Mr. Lake.“
The young man shrugged his shoulders.
”You are mistaken in the person,“ he said. ”My name is not Lake.“
”Very likely not,“ said Phil significantly, ”but that’s what you called yourself when we met on the train.“
”I repeat, boy, that you are strangely mistaken. My name is“–he paused slightly–”John Montgomery.“
”Just as you please. Whatever your name is, I have a little business with you.“
”I can’t stop. My business is urgent,“ said Lake.
”Then I will be brief. I lent you five dollars on a ring which I afterward discovered to be stolen. I want you to return that money.“
Mr. Lake looked about him apprehensively, for he did not wish any one to hear what Phil was saying.
”You must be crazy!“ he said. ”I never saw you before in the whole course of my life.“
He shook off Phil’s detaining hand, and was about to hurry away, but Phil said resolutely:
”You can’t deceive me, Mr. Lake. Give me that money, or I will call a policeman.“
Now, it happened that a policeman was passing just outside, and Lake could see him.
”This is an infamous outrage!“ he said, ”but I have an important appointment, and can’t be detained. Take the money. I give it to you in charity.“
Phil gladly received and pocketed the bank-note, and relinquishing his hold of Mr. Lake, rejoined Dick, who had been an interested eye-witness of the interview.
”I see you’ve got pluck,“ said Dick. ”What’s it all about?“
Phil told him.
”I ain’t a bit s’prised,“ said Dick. ”I could tell by his looks that the man was a skin.“
”Well, I’m even with him, at any rate,“ said Phil.
”Now I’ll be getting back to the office. Thank you for your guidance. Here’s a quarter.“
”You only promised me ten cents.“
”It’s worth a quarter. I hope to meet you again.“
”We’ll meet at Astor’s next party,“ said Dick, with a grin. ”My invite came yesterday.“
”Mine hasn’t come yet,“ said Phil, smiling.
”Maybe it’ll come to-morrow.“
”He’s a queer chap,“ thought Phil. ”He’s fit for something better than blacking boots. I hope he’ll have the luck to get it.“
Phil had been detained by his interview with Mr. Lake, but he made up for it by extra speed, and reached the warehouse in fair time. After delivering the letters he was sent out on another errand, and during the entire day he was kept busy.
Leaving him for the moment we go back to the Pitkin mansion, and listen to & conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Pitkin.
”Uncle Oliver is getting more and more eccentric every day,“ said the lady. ”He brought home a boy to lunch to-day–some one whom he had picked up in the street.“
”Was the boy’s name Philip Brent?“ asked her husband.
”Yes, I believe so. What do you know about him?“ asked the lady in surprise.
”I have engaged him as errand boy.“
”You have! What for?“ exclaimed Mrs. Pitkin.
”I couldn’t help it. He brought a letter from your uncle, requesting me to do so, and offering to pay his wages out of his own pocket.“
”This is really getting very serious,“ said Mrs. Pitkin, annoyed. ”Suppose he should take a fancy to this boy?“
”He appears to have done so already,“ said her husband dryly.
”I mean, suppose he should adopt him?“
”You are getting on pretty fast, Lavinia, are you not?“
”Such things happen sometimes,“ said the lady, nodding. ”If it should happen it would be bad for poor Lonny.“
”Even in that case Lonny won’t have to go to the poor-house.“
”Mr. Pitkin, you don’t realize the danger. Here’s Uncle Oliver worth a quarter of a million dollars, and it ought to be left to us.“
”Probably it will be.“
”He may leave it all to this boy. This must be prevented.“
”You must say the boy doesn’t suit you, and discharge him.“
”Well, well, give me time. I have no objection; but I suspect it will be hard to find any fault with him. He looks like a reliable boy.“