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The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success, a fiction by Horatio Alger

Chapter 8. The House In Twelfth Street

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With some difficulty the gentleman righted himself, and then Phil picked up his cane.

"I hope you are not hurt, sir?" he said.

"I should have been but for you, my good boy," said the gentleman. "I am a little shaken by the suddenness of my slipping."

"Would you wish me to go with you, sir?"

"Yes, if you please. I do not perhaps require you, but I shall be glad of your company."

"Thank you, sir."

"Do you live in the city?"

"Yes, sir; that is, I propose to do so. I have come here in search of employment."

Phil said this, thinking it possible that the old gentleman might exert his influence in his favor.

"Are you dependent on what you may earn?" asked the gentleman, regarding him attentively.

"I have a little money, sir, but when that is gone I shall need to earn something."

"That is no misfortune. It is a good thing for a boy to be employed. Otherwise he is liable to get into mischief."

"At any rate, I shall be glad to find work, sir."

"Have you applied anywhere yet?"

Phil gave a little account of his unsuccessful applications, and the objections that had been made to him.

"Yes, yes," said the old gentleman thoughtfully, "more confidence is placed in a boy who lives with his parents."

The two walked on together until they reached Twelfth Street. It was a considerable walk, and Phil was surprised that his companion should walk, when he could easily have taken a Broadway stage, but the old gentleman explained this himself.

"I find it does me good," he said, "to spend some time in the open air, and even if walking tires me it does me good."

At Twelfth Street they turned off.

"I am living with a married niece," he said, "just on the other side of Fifth Avenue."

At the door of a handsome four-story house, with a brown-stone front, the old gentleman paused, and told Phil that this was his residence.

"Then, sir, I will bid you good-morning," said Phil.

"No, no; come in and lunch with me," said Mr. Carter hospitably.

He had, by the way, mentioned that his name was Oliver Carter, and that he was no longer actively engaged in business, but was a silent partner in the firm of which his nephew by marriage was the nominal head.

"Thank you, sir," answered Phil.

He was sure that the invitation was intended to be accepted, and he saw no reason why he should not accept it.

"Hannah," said the old gentleman to the servant who opened the door, "tell your mistress that I have brought a boy home to dinner with me."

"Yes, sir," answered Hannah, surveying Phil in some surprise.

"Come up to my room, my young friend," said Mr. Carter. "You may want to prepare for lunch."

Mr. Carter had two connecting rooms on the second floor, one of which he used as a bed-chamber. The furniture was handsome and costly, and Phil, who was not used to city houses, thought it luxurious.

Phil washed his face and hands, and brushed his hair. Then a bell rang, and following his new friend, he went down to lunch.

Lunch was set out in the front basement. When Phil and Mr. Carter entered the room a lady was standing by the fire, and beside her was a boy of about Phil's age. The lady was tall and slender, with light-brown hair and cold gray eyes.

"Lavinia," said Mr. Carter, "I have brought a young friend with me to lunch."

"So I see," answered the lady. "Has he been here before?"

"No; he is a new acquaintance."

"I would speak to him if I knew his name."

"His name is----"

Here the old gentleman hesitated, for in truth he had forgotten.

"Philip Brent."

"You may sit down here, Mr. Brent," said Mrs. Pitkin, for this was the lady's name.

"Thank you, ma'am."

"And so you made my uncle's acquaintance this morning?" she continued, herself taking a seat at the head of the table.

"Yes; he was of service to me," answered Mr. Carter for him. "I had lost my balance, and should have had a heavy fall if Philip had not come to my assistance."

"He was very kind, I am sure," said Mrs. Pitkin, but her tone was very cold.

"Philip," said Mr. Carter, "this is my grand-nephew, Alonzo Pitkin."

He indicated the boy already referred to.

"How do you do?" said Alonzo, staring at Philip not very cordially.

"Very well, thank you," answered Philip politely.

"Where do you live?" asked Alonzo, after a moment's hesitation.

"In Fifth Street."

"That's near the Bowery, isn't it?"


The boy shrugged his shoulders and exchanged a significant look with his mother.

Fifth Street was not a fashionable street--indeed quite the reverse, and Phil's answer showed that he was a nobody. Phil himself had begun to suspect that he was unfashionably located, but he felt that until his circumstances improved he might as well remain where he was.

But, though he lived in an unfashionable street, it could not be said that Phil, in his table manners, showed any lack of good breeding. He seemed quite at home at Mrs. Pitkin's table, and in fact acted with greater propriety than Alonzo, who was addicted to fast eating and greediness.

"Couldn't you walk home alone, Uncle Oliver?" asked Mrs. Pitkin presently.


"Then it was a pity to trouble Mr. Brent to come with you."

"It was no trouble," responded Philip promptly, though he suspected that it was not consideration for him that prompted the remark.

"Yes, I admit that I was a little selfish in taking up my young friend's time," said the old gentleman cheerfully; "but I infer, from what he tells me, that it is not particularly valuable just now."

"Are you in a business position, Mr. Brent?" asked Mrs. Pitkin.

"No, madam. I was looking for a place this morning."

"Have you lived for some time in the city?"

"No; I came here only yesterday from the country."

"I think country boys are very foolish to leave good homes in the country to seek places in the city," said Mrs. Pitkin sharply.

"There may be circumstances, Lavinia, that make it advisable," suggested Mr. Carter, who, however, did not know Phil's reason for coming.

"No doubt; I understand that," answered Mrs. Pitkin, in a tone so significant that Phil wondered whether she thought he had got into any trouble at home.

"And besides, we can't judge for every one. So I hope Master Philip may find some good and satisfactory opening, now that he has reached the city."

After a short time, lunch, which in New York is generally a plain meal, was over, and Mr. Carter invited Philip to come up-stairs again.

"I want to talk over your prospects, Philip," he said.

There was silence till after the two had left the room. Then Mrs. Pitkin said:

"Alonzo, I don't like this."

"What don't you like, ma?"

"Uncle bringing this boy home. It is very extraordinary, this sudden interest in a perfect stranger."

"Do you think he'll leave him any money?" asked Alonzo, betraying interest.

"I don't know what it may lead to, Lonny, but it don't look right. Such things have been known."

"I'd like to punch the boy's head," remarked Alonzo, with sudden hostility. "All uncle's money ought to come to us."

"So it ought, by rights," observed his mother.

"We must see that this boy doesn't get any ascendency over him."

Phil would have been very much amazed if he had overheard this conversation. _

Read next: Chapter 9. The Old Gentleman Proves A Friend

Read previous: Chapter 7. Bowerman's Varieties

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