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.
”To be brief, then, I was fleeing from undeserved suspicion. Circumstances which a need not detail had connected my name with the mysterious disappearance of a near friend, and the fact that a trifling dispute between us had taken place in the presence of witnesses had strengthened their suspicions. Knowing myself to be innocent, but unable to prove it, I fled, taking my child with me. When I reached Fultonville, I became alive to the ease with which I might be traced, through the child’s companionship. There was no resource but to leave him. Your husband and yourself impressed me as kind and warm-hearted. I was specially impressed by the gentleness with which you treated my little Philip, and I felt that to you I could safely trust him. I did not, however, dare to confide my secret to any one. I simply said I would leave the boy with you till he should recover from his temporary indisposition, and then, with outward calmness but inward anguish, I left my darling, knowing not if I should ever see him again.
”Well, time passed. I went to Nevada, changed my name, invested the slender sum I had with me in mining, and, after varying fortune, made a large fortune at last. But better fortune still awaited me. In a poor mining hut, two months since, I came across a man who confessed that he was guilty of the murder of which I had been suspected. His confession was reduced in writing, sworn to before a magistrate, and now at last I feel myself a free man. No one now could charge me with a crime from which my soul revolted.
”When this matter was concluded, my first thought was of the boy whom I had not seen for thirteen long years. I could claim him now before all the world; I could endow him with the gifts of fortune; I could bring him up in luxury, and I could satisfy a father’s affectionate longing. I could not immediately ascertain where you were. I wrote to Fultonville, to the postmaster, and learned that you and Mr. Brent had moved away and settled down in Gresham, in the State of New York. I learned also that my Philip was still living, but other details I did not learn. But I cared not, so long as my boy still lived.
”And now you may guess my wish and my intention. I shall pay you handsomely for your kind care of Philip, but I must have my boy back again. We have been separated too long. I can well understand that you are attached to him, and I will find a home for you and Mr. Brent near my own, where you can see as often as you like the boy whom you have so tenderly reared. Will you do me the favor to come at once, and bring the boy with you? The expenses of your journey shall, of course, be reimbursed, and I will take care that the pecuniary part of my obligations to you shall be amply repaid. I have already explained why I cannot come in person to claim my dear child.
”Telegraph to me when you will reach Philadelphia, and I will engage a room for you. Philip will stay with me. Yours gratefully, ”OSCAR GRANVILLE.“
”Mother, here is a slip of paper that has dropped from the letter,“ said Jonas.
He picked up and handed to his mother a check on a Philadelphia bank for the sum of one hundred dollars.
”Why, that’s the same as money, isn’t it?“ asked Jonas.
”Then you’ll keep your promise, won’t you?“
Mrs. Brent silently drew from her pocket-book a two-dollar bill and handed it to Jonas.
”Jonas,“ she said, ”if you won’t breathe a word of it, I will tell you a secret.“
”All right, mother.“
”We start for Philadelphia to-morrow.“
”By gosh! that’s jolly,“ exclaimed Jonas, overjoyed. ”I’ll keep mum. What was in the letter, mother?“
”I will not tell you just now. You shall know very soon.“
Mrs. Brent did not sleep much that night. Her mind was intent upon a daring scheme of imposture. Mr. Granville was immensely wealthy, no doubt. Why should she not pass off Jonas upon him as his son Philip, and thus secure a fortune for her own child?
JONAS JOINS THE CONSPIRACY.
LATER in the evening Mrs. Brent took Jonas into her confidence. She was a silent, secretive woman by nature, and could her plan have been carried out without imparting it to any one, she would gladly have had it so. But Jonas must be her active accomplice, and it was as well to let him know at once what he must do.
In the evening, when Jonas, tired with his day’s skating, was lying on the lounge, Mrs. Brent rose deliberately from her seat, peeped into the adjoining room, then went to each window to make sure there was no eavesdropper, then resumed her seat and said:
”Jonas, get up. I want to speak to you.“
”I am awfully tired, mother. I can hear you while I lie here.“
”Jonas, do you hear me? I am about to speak to you of something no other person must hear. Get a chair and draw it close to mine.“
Jonas rose, his curiosity stimulated by his mother’s words and manner.
”Is it about the letter, mother?“ he asked.
”Yes, it relates to the letter and our journey to- morrow.“
Jonas had wondered what the letter was about and who had sent his mother the hundred-dollar check, and he made no further objection. He drew a chair in front of his mother and said:
”Go ahead, mother, I’m listening.“
”Would you like to be rich, Jonas?“ asked Mrs. Brent.
”Would you like to be adopted by a very rich man, have a pony to ride, plenty of pocket-money, fine clothes and in the end a large fortune?“
”That would just suit me, mother,“ answered the boy eagerly. ”Is there any chance of it?“
”Yes, if you follow my directions implicitly.“
”I will, mother,“ said Jonas, his eyes shining with desire. ”Only tell me what to do and I’ll do it.“
”Do you remember what I told Philip the evening before he went away?“
”About his being left at Mr. Brent’s hotel? Yes, I remember it.“
”And about his true father having disappeared?“
”Jonas, the letter I received this afternoon was from Philip’s real father.“
”By gosh!“ ejaculated Jonas, altering his usual expression of surprise.
”He is in Philadelphia. He is a very rich man.“
”Then Phil will be rich,“ said Jonas, disappointed.
”I thought you said it would be me.“
”Philip’s father has never seen him since he was three years old,“ continued Mrs. Brent, taking no notice of her son’s tone.
”What difference does that make, mother?“
”Jonas,“ said Mrs. Brent, bending toward her son, ”if I choose to tell him that you are Philip, he won’t know the difference. Do you understand?“
Jonas did understand.
”That’s a bully idea, mother! Can we pull the wool over the old man’s eyes, do you think?“
”I wish you would not use such expressions, Jonas. They are not gentlemanly, and you are to be a young gentleman.“
”All right, mother.“
”We can manage it if you are very careful. It is worth the trouble, Jonas. I think Mr. Granville– that is his name–must be worth a quarter of a million dollars, and if he takes you for Philip the whole will probably go to you.“
”What a head you’ve got, mother!“ exclaimed Jonas admiringly. ”It is a tip-top chance.“
”Yes, it is one chance in ten thousand. But you must do just as I tell you.“
”Oh, I’ll do that, mother. What must I do?“
”To begin with, you must take Philip’s name. You must remember that you are no longer Jonas Webb, but Philip Brent.“
”That’ll be a bully joke!“ said Jonas, very much amused. ”What would Phil say if he knew I had taken his name?“
”He must not know. Henceforth we must endeavor to keep out of his way. Again, you must consider me your step-mother, not your own mother.“
”Yes, I understand. What are you going to do first, mother?“
”We start for Philadelphia to-morrow. Your father is lying sick at the Continental Hotel.“
Jonas roared with delight at the manner in which his mother spoke of the sick stranger.
”Oh, it’ll be fun, mother! Shall we live in Philadelphia?“
”I don’t know. That will be as Mr. Granville thinks best.“
”Where are you going, mother? Are you going to live here?“
”Of course I shall be with you. I will make that a condition. I cannot be parted from my only boy.“
”But I shall be Mr. Granville’s boy.“
”To the public you will be. But when we are together in private, we shall be once more mother and son.“
”I am afraid you will spoil all,“ said Jonas. ”Old Granville will suspect something if you seem to care too much for me.“
The selfish nature of Jonas was cropping out, and his mother felt, with a pang, that he would be reconciled to part with her forever for the sake of the brilliant prospects and the large fortune which Mr. Granville could offer him.
She was outwardly cold, but such affection as she was capable of she expended on this graceless and ungrateful boy.
”You seem to forget that I may have some feeling in the matter,“ said Mrs. Brent coldly, but with inward pain. ”If the result of this plan were to be that we should be permanently separated, I would never consent to it.“
”Just as you like, mother,“ said Jonas, with an ill grace. ”I don’t look much like Phil.“
”No, there will be a difficulty. Still Mr. Granville has never seen Philip since he was three years old, and that is in our favor. He thinks I am Mr. Brent’s first wife.“
”Shall you tell him?“
”I don’t know. I will be guided by circumstances. Perhaps it may be best. I wouldn’t like to have it discovered that I had deceived him in that.“
”How are you going to manage about this place, mother?“
”I am going to write to your Uncle Jonas to take charge of it. I will let him have it at a nominal rent. Then, if our plan miscarries we shall have a place to come back to.“
”Were you ever in Philadelphia, mother?“
”No; but there will be no trouble in journeying there. I shall pack your clothes and my own to- night. Of course, Jonas, when you meet Mr. Granville you must seem to be fond of him. Then you must tell him how kind I have been to you. In fact, you must act precisely as Philip might be expected to do.“
”Yes, mother; and you must be careful not to call me Jonas. That will spoil all, you know.“
”Rest assured that I shall be on my guard. If you are as careful as I am, Philip—-“
Jonas burst into a guffaw at the new name.
”It’s just like play-acting, mother,“ he said.
”But it will pay better,“ said Mrs. Brent quietly. ”I think it will be best for me to begin calling you Philip at once–that is, as soon as we have left town–so that we may both get accustomed to it.“
”All right, mother. You’ve got a good headpiece.“
”I will manage things properly. If you consent to be guided by me, all will be right.“
”Oh, I’ll do it mother. I wish we were on our way.“
”You can go to bed if you like. I must stay up late to-night. I have to pack our trunks.“
The next day the pair of adventurers left Gresham. From the earliest available point Mrs. Brent telegraphed to Mr. Granville that she was on her way, with the son from whom he had so long been separated.
THE CONSPIRACY SUCCEEDS.
IN A HANDSOME private parlor at the Continental Hotel a man of about forty-five years of age sat in an easy-chair. He was of middle height, rather dark complexion, and a pleasant expression. His right foot was bandaged, and rested on a chair. The morning Daily Ledger was in his hand, but he was not reading. His mind, judging from his absorbed look, was occupied with other thoughts.
”I can hardly realize,“ he said half-aloud, ”that my boy will so soon be restored to my arms. We have been separated by a cruel fate, but we shall soon be together again. I remember how the dear child looked when I left him at Fultonville in the care of the kind inn-keeper. I am sorry he is dead, but his widow shall be suitably repaid for her kind devotion.“
He had reached this point when a knock was heard at the door.
”Come in!“ said Mr. Granville.
A servant of the hotel appeared.
”A lady and a boy are in the parlor below, sir. They wish to see you.“
Though Mr. Granville had considerable control over his feelings, his heart beat fast when he heard these words.
”Will you show them up at once?“ he said, in a tone which showed some trace of agitation.
The servant bore the message to Mrs. Brent and Jonas, who were sitting in the hotel parlor.
If Mr. Granville was agitated, the two conspirators were not wholly at their ease. There was a red spot on each of Mrs. Brent’s cheeks–her way of expressing emotion–and Jonas was fidgeting about uneasily in his chair, staring about him curiously.
”Mind what I told you,“ said his mother, in a low voice. ”Remember to act like a boy who has suddenly been restored to his long-lost father. Everything depends on first impressions.“
”I wish it was all over; I wish I was out of it,“ said Jonas, wiping the perspiration from his face. ”Suppose he suspects?“
”He won’t if you do as I tell you. Don’t look gawky, but act naturally.“
Just then the servant reappeared.
”You are to come up-stairs,“ he said. ”The gentleman will see you.“
”Thank you,“ said Mrs. Brent, rising. ”Come, Jonas rose, and with the manner of a cur that expected a whipping, followed his mother and the servant.
”It’s only one flight,“ said the servant, ”but we can take the elevator.“
”It is of no consequence,“ Mrs. Brent began, but Jonas said eagerly:
”Let’s ride on the elevator, ma!“
”Very well, Philip,“ said Mrs. Brent.
A minute later the two stood at the door of Mr. Granville’s room. Next they stood in his presence.
Mr. Granville, looking eagerly toward the door, passed over Mrs. Brent, and his glance rested on the boy who followed her. He started, and there was a quick feeling of disappointment. He had been picturing to himself how his lost boy would look, but none of his visions resembled the awkward-looking boy who stood sheepishly by the side of Mrs. Brent.
”Mr. Granville, I presume,“ said the lady.
”Yes, madam. You are—-“
”Mrs. Brent, and this,“ pointing to Jonas, ”is the boy you left at Fultonville thirteen years ago. Philip, go to your father.“
Jonas advanced awkwardly to Mr. Granville’s chair, and said in parrot-like tones:
”I’m so glad to see you, pa!“
”And you are really Philip?“ said Mr. Granville slowly.
”Yes, I’m Philip Brent; but I suppose my name is Granville now.“
”Come here, my boy!“
Mr. Granville drew the boy to him, and looked earnestly in his face, then kissed him affectionately.
”He has changed since he was a little child, Mrs. Brent,“ he said, with a half-sigh.
”That’s to be expected, sir. He was only three years old when you left him with us.“
”But it seems to me that his hair and complexion are lighter.“
”You can judge of that better than I,“ said Mrs. Brent plausibly. ”To me, who have seen him daily, the change was not perceptible.“
”I am greatly indebted to you for your devoted care–to you and your husband. I am grieved to hear that Mr. Brent is dead.“
”Yes, sir; he left me six months since. It was a grievous loss. Ah, sir, when I give up Philip also, I shall feel quite alone in the world,“ and she pressed a handkerchief to her eyes. ”You see, I have come to look upon him as my own boy!“
”My dear madam, don’t think that I shall be so cruel as to take him from you. Though I wish him now to live with me, you must accompany him. My home shall be yours if you are willing to accept a room in my house and a seat at my table.“
”Oh, Mr. Granville, how can I thank you for your great kindness? Ever since I received your letter I have been depressed with the thought that I should lose dear Philip. If I had a child of my own it would be different; but, having none, my affections are centered upon him.“
”And very naturally,“ said Mr. Granville. ”We become attached to those whom we benefit. Doubtless he feels a like affection for you. You love this good lady, Philip, who has supplied to you the place of your own mother, who died in your infancy, do you not?“
”Yes, sir,“ answered Jonas stolidly. ”But I want to live with my pa!“
”To be sure you shall. My boy, we have been separated too long already. Henceforth we will live together, and Mrs. Brent shall live with us.“
”Where do you live, pa?“ asked Jonas.
”I have a country-seat a few miles from Chicago,“ answered Mr. Granville. ”We will go there as soon as I am well enough. I ought to apologize, Mrs. Brent, for inviting you up to my room, but my rheumatism makes me a prisoner.“
”I hope your rheumatism will soon leave you, sir.“
”I think it will. I have an excellent physician, and already I am much better. I may, however, have to remain here a few days yet.“
”And where do you wish Philip and I to remain in the meantime?“
”Here, of course. Philip, will you ring the bell?“
”I don’t see any bell,“ answered Jonas, bewildered.
”Touch that knob!“
Jonas did so.
”Will that ring the bell?“ he asked curiously.
”Yes, it is an electric bell.“
”By gosh!“ ejaculated Jonas.
”Don’t use such language, Philip!“ said Mrs. Brent hastily. ”Your father will be shocked. You see, Mr. Granville, Philip has associated with country boys, and in spite of my care, he has adopted some of their language.“
Mr. Granville himself was rather disturbed by this countrified utterance, and it occurred to him that his new-found son needed considerable polishing.
”Ah, I quite understand that, Mrs. Brent,“ he said courteously. ”He is young yet, and there will be plenty of time for him to get rid of any objectionable habits and phrases.“
Here the servant appeared.
”Tell the clerk to assign this lady and the boy rooms on this floor if any are vacant. Mrs. Brent, Philip may have a room next to you for the present. When I am better I will have him with me. John, is dinner on the table?“
”Then, after taking possession of your rooms, you and Philip had better go to dinner. I will send for him later.“
”Thank you, sir.“
As Mrs. Brent was ushered into her handsome apartment her face was radiant with joy and exultation.
”All has gone well!“ she said. ”The most difficult part is over.“
A NARROW ESCAPE FROM DETECTION.
THE CONSPIRACY into which Mrs. Brent had entered was a daring one, and required great coolness and audacity. But the inducements were great, and for her son’s sake she decided to carry it through. Of course it was necessary that she should not be identified with any one who could disclose to Mr. Granville the deceit that was being practiced upon him. Circumstances lessened the risk of detection, since Mr. Granville was confined to his room in the hotel, and for a week she and Jonas went about the city alone.
One day she had a scare.
She was occupying a seat in a Chestnut Street car, while Jonas stood in front with the driver, when a gentleman whom she had not observed, sitting at the other end of the car, espied her.
”Why, Mrs. Brent, how came you here?“ he asked, in surprise, crossing over and taking a seat beside her.
Her color went and came as, in a subdued tone, she answered.
”I am in Philadelphia on a little visit, Mr. Pearson.“
”Are you not rather out of your latitude?“ asked the gentleman.
”Yes, perhaps so.“
”How is Mr. Brent?“
”Did you not hear that he was dead?“
”No, indeed! I sympathize with you in your sad loss.“
”Yes,“ sighed the widow. ”It is a great loss to us.“
”I suppose Jonas is a large boy now,“ said the other. ”I haven’t seen him for two or three years.“
”Yes, he has grown,“ said the widow briefly. She hoped that Mr. Pearson would not discover that Jonas was with her, as she feared that the boy might betray them unconsciously.
”Is he with you?“
”Do you stay long in Philadelphia?“
”No, I think not,“ answered Mrs. Brent.
”I go back to New York this afternoon, or I would ask permission to call on you.“
Mrs. Brent breathed more freely. A call at the hotel was by all means to be avoided.
”Of course I should have been glad to see you, she answered, feeling quite safe in saying so. ”Are you going far?“
”I get out at Thirteenth Street.“
”Thank Heaven!“ said Mrs. Brent to herself. ”Then he won’t discover where we are.“
The Continental Hotel is situated at the corner of Chestnut and Ninth Streets, and Mrs. Brent feared that Jonas would stop the car at that point. As it was, the boy did not observe that his mother had met an acquaintance, so intent was he on watching the street sights.
When they reached Ninth Street mother and son got out and entered the hotel.
”I guess I’ll stay down stairs awhile,“ said Jonas.
”No, Philip, I have something to say to you. Come up with me.“
”I want to go into the billiard-room,“ said Jonas, grumbling.
”It is very important,“ said Mrs. Brent emphatically.
Now the curiosity of Jonas was excited, and he followed his mother into the elevator, for their rooms were on the third floor.
”Well, mother, what is it?“ asked Jonas, when the door of his mother’s room was closed behind them.
”I met a gentleman who knew me in the horse- car,“ said Mrs. Brent abruptly.
”Did you? Who was it?“
”He used to give me candy. Why didn’t you call me?“
”It is important that we should not be recognized,“ said his mother. ”While we stay here we must be exceedingly prudent. Suppose he had called upon us at the hotel and fallen in with Mr. Granville. He might have told him that you are my son, and that your name is Jonas, not Philip.“
”Then the fat would be in the fire!“ said Jonas.
”Exactly so; I am glad you see the danger. Now I want you to stay here, or in your own room, for the next two or three hours.“
”It’ll be awfully tiresome,“ grumbled Jonas.
”It is necessary,“ said his mother firmly. ”Mr. Pearson leaves for New York by an afternoon train. It is now only two o’clock. He left the car at Thirteenth Street, and might easily call at this hotel. It is a general rendezvous for visitors to the city. If he should meet you down stairs, he would probably know you, and his curiosity would be aroused. He asked me where I was staying, but I didn’t appear to hear the question.“
”That’s pretty hard on me, ma.“
”I am out of all patience with you,“ said Mrs. Brent. ”Am I not working for your interest, and you are doing all you can to thwart my plans. If you don’t care anything about inheriting a large fortune, let it go! We can go back to Gresham and give it all up.“
”I’ll do as you say, ma,“ said Jonas, subdued.
The very next day Mr. Granville sent for Mrs. Brent. She lost no time in waiting upon him.
”Mrs. Brent,“ he said, ”I have decided to leave Philadelphia to-morrow.“
”Are you quite able, sir?“ she asked, with a good assumption of sympathy.
”My doctor tells me I may venture. We shall travel in Pullman cars, you know. I shall secure a whole compartment, and avail myself of every comfort and luxury which money can command.“
”Ah, sir! money is a good friend in such a case.“
”True, Mrs. Brent. I have seen the time when I was poorly supplied with it. Now I am happily at ease. Can you and Philip be ready?“
”Yes, Mr. Granville,“ answered Mrs. Brent promptly. ”We are ready to-day, for that matter. We shall both be glad to get started.“
”I am glad to hear it. I think Philip will like his Western home. I bought a fine country estate of a Chicago merchant, whose failure compelled him to part with it. Philip shall have his own horse and his own servants.“
”He will be delighted,“ said Mrs. Brent warmly.
”He has been used to none of these things, for Mr. Brent and I, much as we loved him, had not the means to provide him with such luxuries.“
”Yes, Mrs. Brent, I understand that fully. You were far from rich. Yet you cared for my boy as if he were your own.“
”I loved him as much as if he had been my own son, Mr. Granville.“
”I am sure you did. I thank Providence that I am able to repay to some extent the great debt I have incurred. I cannot repay it wholly, but I will take care that you, too, shall enjoy ease and luxury. You shall have one of the best rooms in my house, and a special servant to wait upon you.“
”Thank you, Mr. Granville,“ said Mrs. Brent, her heart filled with proud anticipations of the state in which she should hereafter live. ”I do not care where you put me, so long as you do not separate me from Philip.“
”She certainly loves my son!“ said Mr. Granville to himself. ”Yet her ordinary manner is cold and constrained, and she does not seem like a woman whose affections would easily be taken captive. Yet Philip seems to have found the way to her heart. It must be because she has had so much care of him. We are apt to love those whom we benefit.“
But though Mr. Granville credited Mrs. Brent with an affection for Philip, he was uneasily conscious that the boy’s return had not brought him the satisfaction and happiness he had fondly anticipated.
To begin with, Philip did not look at all as he had supposed his son would look. He did not look like the Granvilles at all. Indeed, he had an unusually countrified aspect, and his conversation was mingled with rustic phrases which shocked his father’s taste.
”I suppose it comes of the way in which he has been brought up and the country boys he has associated with,“ thought Mr. Granville. ”Fortunately he is young, and there is time to polish him. As soon as I reach Chicago I will engage a private tutor for him, who shall not only remedy his defects of education, but do what he can to improve my son’s manners. I want him to grow up a gentleman.“
The next day the three started for Chicago, while Mr. Granville’s real son and heir continued to live at a cheap lodging-house in New York.
The star of Jonas was in the ascendant, while poor Philip seemed destined to years of poverty and hard work. Even now, he was threatened by serious misfortune.
LEFT OUT IN THE COLD.
OF COURSE Phil was utterly ignorant of the audacious attempt to deprive him of his rights and keep him apart from the father who longed once more to meet him. There was nothing before him so far as he knew except to continue the up-hill struggle for a living.
He gave very little thought to the prediction of the fortune-teller whom he had consulted, and didn’t dream of any short-cut to fortune.
Do all he could, he found he could not live on his wages.
His board cost him four dollars a week, and washing and lunch two dollars more, thus compelling him to exceed his salary by a dollar each week.
He had, as we know, a reserve fund, on which he could draw, but it was small, and grew constantly smaller. Then, again, his clothes were wearing out, and he saw no way of obtaining money to buy new.
Phil became uneasy, and the question came up to his mind, ”Should he write to his step-mother and ask her for a trifling loan?“ If the money had been hers, he would not have done so on any condition; but she had had nothing of her own, and all the property in her hands came through Mr. Brent, who, as he knew, was attached to him, even though no tie of blood united them. He certainly meant that Phil should be cared for out of the estate, and at length Phil brought himself to write the following letter: ”NEW YORK, March 10, 18–.
”DEAR MRS. BRENT: I suppose I ought to have written you before, and have no good excuse to offer. I hope you and Jonas are well, and will continue so. Let me tell you how I have succeeded thus far.
”I have been fortunate enough to obtain a place in a large mercantile establishment, and for my services I am paid five dollars a week. This is more than boys generally get in the first place, and I am indebted to the partiality of an old gentleman, the senior member of the firm, whom I had the chance to oblige, for faring so well. Still I find it hard to get along on this sum, though I am as economical as possible. My board and washing cost me six dollars a week, and I have, besides, to buy clothing from time to time. I have nearly spent the extra money I had with me, and do not know how to keep myself looking respectable in the way of clothing. Under the circumstances, I shall have to apply to you for a loan, say of twenty-five dollars. In a year or two I hope to earn enough to be entirely independent. At present I cannot expect it. As my father–Mr. Brent–undoubtedly intended to provide for me, I don’t think I need to apologize for making this request. Still I do it reluctantly, for I would prefer to depend entirely upon myself.
”With regards to you and Jonas, I am yours truly, PHILIP BRENT.“
Phil put this letter in the post-office, and patiently waited for an answer.
”Mrs. Brent surely cannot refuse me,“ he said to himself, ”since I have almost wholly relieved her of the expense of taking care of me.“
Phil felt so sure that money would be sent to him that he began to look round a little among ready- made clothing stores to see at what price he could obtain a suit that would do for every-day use. He found a store in the Bowery where he could secure a suit, which looked as if it would answer, for thirteen dollars. If Mrs. Brent sent him twenty-five, that would leave him twelve for underclothing, and for a reserve fund to meet the weekly deficit which he could not avoid.
Three–four days passed, and no letter came in answer to his.
”It can’t be that Mrs. Brent won’t at least answer my letter,“ he thought uneasily. ”Even if she didn’t send me twenty-five dollars, she couldn’t help sending me something.“
Still he felt uneasy, in view of the position in which he would find himself in case no letter or remittance should come at all.
It was during this period of anxiety that his heart leaped for joy when on Broadway he saw the familiar form of Reuben Gordon, a young man already mentioned, to whom Phil had sold his gun before leaving Gresham.
”Why, Reuben, how are you?“ exclaimed Phil joyfully. ”When did you come to town?“
”Phil Brent!“ exclaimed Reuben, shaking hands heartily. ”I’m thunderin’ glad to see you. I was thinkin’ of you only five minutes ago, and wonderin’ where you hung out.“
”But you haven’t told me when you came to New York.“
”Only this morning! I’m goin’ to stay with a cousin of my father’s, that lives in Brooklyn, over night.“
”I wanted to ask you about Mrs. Brent and Jonas. I was afraid they might be sick, for I wrote four days ago and haven’t got any answer yet.“
”Where did you write to?“
”To Gresham, of course,“ answered Phil, in surprise.
”You don’t mean to say you hain’t heard of their leavin’ Gresham?“ said Reuben, in evident astonishment.
”Who has left Gresham?“
”Your mother–leastwise, Mrs. Brent–and Jonas. They cleared out three weeks ago, and nobody’s heard a word of them since–that is, nobody in the village.“
”Don’t you know where they’ve gone?“ asked Phil, in amazement.
”No. I was goin’ to ask you. I s’posed, of course, they’d write and let you know.“
”I didn’t even know they had left Gresham.“
”Well, that’s what I call cur’us. It ain’t treatin’ you right accordin’ to my ideas.“
”Is the house shut up?“
”It was till two days ago. Then a brother of Mrs. Brent came and opened it. He has brought his wife and one child with him, and it seems they’re goin’ to live there. Somebody asked him where his sister and Jonas were, but they didn’t get no satisfaction. He said he didn’t rightly know himself. He believed they was travelin’; thought they might be in Canada.“
Phil looked and felt decidedly sober at this information. He understood, of course, now, why his letter had not been answered. It looked as if he were an outcast from the home that had been his so long. When he came to New York to earn a living he felt that he was doing so voluntarily, and was not obliged to do so. Now he was absolutely thrown upon his own resources, and must either work or starve.
”They’ve treated you real mean,“ said Reuben.
”I never did like Mrs. Brent, or Jonas either, for that matter.
”Where are you working?“
Phil answered this question and several others which his honest country friend asked, but his mind was preoccupied, and he answered some of the questions at random. Finally he excused himself on the ground that he must be getting back to the store.
That evening Phil thought seriously of his position. Something must be done, that was very evident. His expenses exceeded his income, and he needed some clothing. There was no chance of getting his wages raised under a year, for he already received more pay than it was customary to give to a boy. What should he do?
Phil decided to lay his position frankly before the only friend he had in the city likely to help him– Mr. Oliver Carter. The old gentleman had been so friendly and kind that he felt that he would not at any rate repulse him. After he had come to this decision he felt better. He determined to lose no time in calling upon Mr. Carter.
After supper he brushed his hair carefully, and made himself look as well as circumstances would admit. Then he bent his steps toward Twelfth Street, where, as the reader will remember, Mr. Carter lived with his niece.
He ascended the steps and rang the bell. It was opened by Hannah, who recognized him, having admitted him on the former occasion of his calling.
”Good-evening,“ said Phil pleasantly. ”Is Mr. Carter at home?“
”No, sir,“ answered Hannah. ”Didn’t you know he had gone to Florida?“
”Gone to Florida!“ repeated Phil, his heart sinking. ”When did he start?“
”He started this afternoon.“
”Who’s asking after Uncle Oliver?“ asked a boy’s voice.
Looking behind Hannah, Phil recognized the speaker as Alonzo Pitkin.