The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success. Chapter 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
AN OVERBEARING CONDUCTOR
NO MATTER how honest a boy may be, a sudden charge of theft is likely to make him look confused and guilty.
Such was the case with Phil.
”I assure you,“ he said earnestly, ”that I did not steal this ring.“
”Where did you get it, then?“ demanded the conductor roughly.
He was one of those men who, in any position, will make themselves disagreeable. Moreover, he was a man who always thought ill of others, when there was any chance of doing so. In fact, he preferred to credit his fellows with bad qualities rather than with good.
”It was handed me by a young man who just left the car,“ said Phil.
”That’s a likely story,“ sneered the conductor.
”Young men are not in the habit of giving valuable rings to strangers.“
”He did not give it to me, I advanced him five dollars on it.“
”What was the young man’s name?“ asked the conductor incredulously.
”There’s his name and address,“ answered Phil, drawing from his pocket the paper handed him by Mr. Lake.
”Lionel Lake, 237 Broadway,“ repeated the conductor. ”If there is any such person, which I very much doubt, you are probably a confederate of his.“
”You have no right to say this,“ returned Phil indignantly.
”I haven’t, haven’t I?“ snapped the conductor.
”Do you know what I am going to do with you?“
”If you wish me to return the ring to this young lady, I will do so, if she is positive it is hers.“
”Yes, you must do that, but it won’t get you out of trouble. I shall hand you over to a policeman as soon as we reach New York.“
Phil was certainly dismayed, for he felt that it might be difficult for him to prove that he came honestly in possession of the ring.
”The fact is,“ added the conductor, ”your story is too thin.“
”Conductor,“ said a new voice, ”you are doing the boy an injustice.“
The speaker was an old man with gray hair, but of form still robust, though he was at least sixty five. He sat in the seat just behind Phil.
”Thank you, sir,“ said Phil gratefully.
”I understand my business,“ said the conductor impertinently, ”and don’t need any instructions from you.“
”Young man,“ said the old gentleman, in a very dignified tone, ”I have usually found officials of your class polite and gentlemanly, but you are an exception.“
”Who are you?“ asked the conductor rudely. ”What right have you to put in your oar?“
”As to who I am, I will answer you by and by. In reference to the boy, I have to say that his story is correct. I heard the whole conversation between him and the young man from whom he received the ring, and I can testify that he has told the truth.“
”At any rate he has received stolen property.“
”Not knowing it to be stolen. The young man was an entire stranger to him, and though I suspected that he was an unscrupulous adventurer, the boy has not had experience enough to judge men.“
”Very well. If he’s innocent he can prove it when he’s brought to trial,“ said the conductor.
”As for you, sir, it’s none of your business.“
”Young man, you asked me a short time since who I am. Do you want to know?“
”I am not very particular.“
”Then, sir, I have to inform you that I am Richard Grant, the president of this road.“
The conductor’s face was a curious and interesting study when he heard this announcement. He knew that the old man whom he had insulted had a right to discharge him from his position, and bully as he had shown himself, he was now inclined to humble himself to save his place.
”I beg your pardon, sir,“ he said in a composed tone. ”If I had known who you were I wouldn’t have spoken as I did.“
”I had a claim to be treated like a gentleman, even if I had no connection with the road,“ he said.