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

Chapter 9. The Old Gentleman Proves A Friend

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The old gentleman sat down in an arm-chair and waved his hand toward a small rocking-chair, in which Phil seated himself.

"I conclude that you had a good reason for leaving home, Philip," said Mr. Carter, eying our hero with a keen, but friendly look.

"Yes, sir; since my father's death it has not been a home to me."

"Is there a step-mother in the case?" asked the old gentleman shrewdly.

"Yes, sir."

"Any one else?"

"She has a son."

"And you two don't agree?"

"You seem to know all about it, sir," said Phil, surprised.

"I know something of the world--that is all."

Phil began to think that Mr. Carter's knowledge of the world was very remarkable. He began to wonder whether he could know anything more--could suspect the secret which Mrs. Brent had communicated to him. Should he speak of it? He decided at any rate to wait, for Mr. Carter, though kind, was a comparative stranger.

"Well," continued the old gentleman, "I won't inquire too minutely into the circumstances. You don't look like a boy that would take such an important step as leaving home without a satisfactory reason. The next thing is to help you."

Phil's courage rose as he heard these words. Mr. Carter was evidently a rich man, and he could help him if he was willing. So he kept silence, and let his new friend do the talking.

"You want a place," continued Mr. Carter. "Now, what are you fit for?"

"That is a hard question for me to answer, sir. I don't know."

"Have you a good education?"

"Yes, sir; and I know something of Latin and French besides."

"You can write a good hand?"

"Shall I show you, sir?"

"Yes; write a few lines at my private desk."

Phil did so, and handed the paper to Mr. Carter.

"Very good," said the old gentleman approvingly.

"That is in your favor. Are you good at accounts?"

"Yes, sir."

"Better still."

"Sit down there again," he continued. "I will give you a sum in interest."

Phil resumed his seat.

"What is the interest of eight hundred and forty-five dollars and sixty cents for four years, three months and twelve days, at eight and one-half per cent?"

Phil's pen moved fast in perfect silence for five minutes. Then he announced the result.

"Let me look at the paper. I will soon tell you whether it is correct."

After a brief examination, for the old gentleman was himself an adept at figures, he said, with a beaming smile:

"It is entirely correct. You are a smart boy."

"Thank you, sir," said Phil, gratified.

"And you deserve a good place--better than you will probably get."

Phil listened attentively. The last clause was not quite so satisfactory.

"Yes," said Mr. Carter, evidently talking to himself, "I must get Pitkin to take him."

Phil knew that the lady whom he had already met was named Pitkin, and he rightly concluded that it was her husband who was meant.

"I hope he is more agreeable than his wife," thought Philip.

"Yes, Philip," said Mr. Carter, who had evidently made up his mind, "I will try to find you a place this afternoon.

"I shall be very much obliged, sir," said Philip gladly.

"I have already told you that my nephew and I are in business together, he being the active and I the silent partner. We do a general shipping business. Our store is on Franklin Street. I will give you a letter to my nephew and he will give you a place."

"Thank you, sir."

"Wait a minute and I will write the note."

Five minutes later Phil was on his way down town with his credentials in his pocket. _

Read next: Chapter 10. Phil Calls On Mr. Pitkin

Read previous: Chapter 8. The House In Twelfth Street

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