The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success. Chapter 16, 17, 18, 19, 20
MRS. BRENT’S STRANGE TEMPTATION.
NOW THAT Phil is fairly established in the city, circumstances require us to go back to the country town which he had once called home.
Mrs. Brent is sitting, engaged with her needle, in the same room where she had made the important revelation to Phil.
Jonas entered the house, stamping the snow from his boots.
”Is supper most ready, mother?“ he asked.
”No, Jonas; it is only four o’clock,“ replied Mrs. Brent.
”I’m as hungry as a bear. I guess it’s the skating.“
”I wish you would go to the post-office before supper, Jonas. There might be a letter.“
”Do you expect to hear from Phil?“
”He said nothing about writing,“ said Mrs. Brent indifferently. ”He will do as he pleases about it.“
”I did’t know but he would be writing for money,“ chuckled Jonas.
”If he did, I would send him some,“ said Mrs. Brent.
”You would!“ repeated Jonas, looking at his mother in surprise.
”Yes, I would send him a dollar or two, so that people needn’t talk. It is always best to avoid gossip.“
”Are you expecting a letter from anybody, mother?“ asked Jonas, after a pause.
”I dreamed last night I should receive an important letter,“ said Mrs. Brent.
”With money in it?“ asked Jonas eagerly.
”I don’t know.“
”If any such letter comes, will you give me some of the money?“
”If you bring me a letter containing money,“ said Mrs. Brent, ”I will give you a dollar.“
”Enough said!“ exclaimed Jonas, who was fond of money; ”I’m off to the post-office at once.“
Mrs. Brent let the work fall into her lap and looked intently before her. A flush appeared on her pale face, and she showed signs of restlessness.
”It is strange,“ she said to herself, ”how I have allowed myself to be affected by that dream. I am not superstitious, but I cannot get over the idea that a letter will reach me to-night, and that it will have an important bearing upon my life. I have a feeling, too, that it will relate to the boy Philip.“
She rose from her seat and began to move about the room. It was a, relief to her in the restless state of her mind. She went to the window to look for Jonas, and her excitement rose as she saw him approaching. When he saw his mother looking from the window, he held aloft a letter.
”The letter has come,“ she said, her heart beating faster than its wont. ”It is an important letter. How slow Jonas is.“
And she was inclined to be vexed at the deliberation with which her son was advancing toward the house.
But he came at last.
”Well, mother, I’ve got a letter–a letter from Philadelphia,“ he said. ”It isn’t from Phil, for I know his writing.“
”Give it to me, Jonas,“ said his mother, outwardly calm, but inwardly excited.
”Do you know any one in Philadelphia, mother?“
She cut open the envelope and withdrew the inclosed sheet.
”Is there any money in it?“ asked Jonas eagerly.
”Just my luck!“ said Jonas sullenly.
”Wait a minute,“ said his mother. ”If the letter is really important, I’ll give you twenty-five cents.“
She read the letter, and her manner soon showed that she was deeply interested.
We will look over her shoulders and read it with her: ”CONTINENTAL HOTEL, PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 5. ”DEAR MADAM:–I write to you on a matter of the greatest importance to my happiness, and shall most anxiously await your reply. I would come to you in person, but am laid up with an attack of rheumatism, and my physician forbids me to travel.
”You are, as I have been informed, the widow of Gerald Brent, who thirteen years since kept a small hotel in the small village of Fultonville, in Ohio. At that date I one day registered myself as his guest. I was not alone. My only son, then a boy of three, accompanied me. My wife was dead, and my affections centered upon this child. Yet the next morning I left him under the charge of yourself and your husband, and pursued my journey. From that day to this I have not seen the boy, nor have I written to you or Mr. Brent. This seems strange, does it not? It requires an explanation, and that explanation I am ready to give.