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

Chapter 11. Phil Enters Upon His Duties

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Phil presented himself in good season the next morning at the store in Franklin Street. As he came up in one direction the youth whom he had seen in the store the previous day came up in the opposite direction. The latter was evidently surprised.

"Halloo, Johnny!" said he. "What's brought you here again?"

"Business," answered Phil.

"Going to buy out the firm?" inquired the youth jocosely.

"Not to-day."

"Some other day, then," said the young man, laughing as if he had said a very witty thing.

As Phil didn't know that this form of expression, slightly varied, had become a popular phrase of the day, he did not laugh.

"Do you belong to the church?" asked the youth, stopping short in his own mirth.

"What makes you ask?"

"Because you don't laugh."

"I would if I saw anything to laugh at."

"Come, that's hard on me. Honor bright, have you come to do any business with us?"

It is rather amusing to see how soon the cheapest clerk talks of "us," quietly identifying himself with the firm that employs him. Not that I object to it. Often it implies a personal interest in the success and prosperity of the firm, which makes a clerk more valuable. This was not, however, the case with G. Washington Wilbur, the young man who was now conversing with Phil, as will presently appear.

"I am going to work here," answered Phil simply.

"Going to work here!" repeated Mr. Wilbur in surprise. "Has old Pitkin engaged you?"

"Mr. Pitkin engaged me yesterday," Phil replied.

"I didn't know he wanted a boy. What are you to do?"

"Go to the post-office, bank, and so on."

"You're to be errand boy, then?"


"That's the way I started," said Mr. Wilbur patronizingly.

"What are you now?"

"A salesman. I wouldn't like to be back in my old position. What wages are you going to get?"

"Five dollars."

"Five dollars a week!" ejaculated Mr. G. Washington Wilbur, in amazement. "Come, you're chaffing."

"Why should I do that? Is that anything remarkable?"

"I should say it was," answered Mr. Wilbur slowly.

"Didn't you get as much when you were errand boy?"

"I only got two dollars and a half. Did Pitkin tell you he would pay you five dollars a week."

"No; Mr Carter told me so."

"The old gentleman--Mr. Pitkin's uncle?"

"Yes. It was at his request that Mr. Pitkin took me on."

Mr. Wilbur looked grave.

"It's a shame!" he commenced.

"What is a shame; that I should get five dollars a week?"

"No, but that I should only get a dollar a week more than an errand boy. I'm worth every cent of ten dollars a week, but the old man only gives me six. It hardly keeps me in gloves and cigars."

"Won't he give you any more?"

"No; only last month I asked him for a raise, and he told me if I wasn't satisfied I might go elsewhere."

"You didn't?"

"No, but I mean to soon. I will show old Pitkin that he can't keep a man of my experience for such a paltry salary. I dare say that Denning or Claflin would be glad to have me, and pay me what I am worth."

Phil did not want to laugh, but when Mr. Wilbur, who looked scarcely older than himself, and was in appearance but a callow youth, referred to himself as a man of experience he found it hard to resist.

"Hadn't we better be going up stairs?" asked Phil.

"All right. Follow me," said Mr. Wilbur, "and I'll take you to the superintendent of the room."

"I am to report to Mr. Pitkin himself, I believe."

"He won't be here yet awhile," said Wilbur.

But just then up came Mr. Wilbur himself, fully half an hour earlier than usual.

Phil touched his hat politely, and said:


"Good-morning!" returned his employer, regarding him sharply. "Are you the boy I hired yesterday?"

"Yes, sir."

"Come up-stairs, then."

Phil followed Mr. Pitkin up-stairs, and they walked together through the sales-room.

"I hope you understand," said Mr. Pitkin brusquely, "that I have engaged you at the request of Mr. Carter and to oblige him."

"I feel grateful to Mr. Carter," said Phil, not quite knowing what was coming next.

"I shouldn't myself have engaged a boy of whom I knew nothing, and who could give me no city references."

"I hope you won't be disappointed in me," said Phil.

"I hope not," answered Mr. Pitkin, in a tone which seemed to imply that he rather expected to be.

Phil began to feel uncomfortable. It seemed evident that whatever he did would be closely scrutinized, and that in an unfavorable spirit.

Mr. Pitkin paused before a desk at which was standing a stout man with grayish hair.

"Mr. Sanderson," he said, "this is the new errand boy. His name is--what is it, boy?"

"Philip Brent."

"You will give him something to do. Has the mail come in?"

"No; we haven't sent to the post-office yet."

"You may send this boy at once."

Mr. Sanderson took from the desk a key and handed it to Philip.

"That is the key to our box," he said. "Notice the number--534. Open it and bring the mail. Don't loiter on the way."

"Yes, sir."

Philip took the key and left the warehouse. When he reached the street he said to himself:

"I wonder where the post-office is?"

He did not like to confess to Mr. Sanderson that he did not know, for it would probably have been considered a disqualification for the post which he was filling.

"I had better walk to Broadway," he said to himself. "I suppose the post-office must be on the principal street."

In this Phil was mistaken. At that time the post-office was on Nassau Street, in an old church which had been utilized for a purpose very different from the one to which it had originally been devoted.

Reaching Broadway, Phil was saluted by a bootblack, with a grimy but honest-looking face.

"Shine your boots, mister?" said the boy, with a grin.

"Not this morning."

"Some other morning, then?"

"Yes," answered Phil.

"Sorry you won't give me a job," said the bootblack. "My taxes comes due to-day, and I ain't got enough to pay 'em."

Phil was amused, for his new acquaintance scarcely looked like a heavy taxpayer.

"Do you pay a big tax?" he asked.

"A thousand dollars or less," answered the knight of the brush.

"I guess it's less," said Phil.

"That's where your head's level, young chap."

"Is the post-office far from here?"

"Over half a mile, I reckon."

"Is it on this street?"

"No, it's on Nassau Street."

"If you will show me the way there I'll give you ten cents."

"All right! The walk'll do me good. Come on!"

"What's your name?" asked Phil, who had become interested in his new acquaintance.

"The boys call me Ragged Dick."

It was indeed the lively young bootblack whose history was afterward given in a volume which is probably familiar to many of my readers. At this time he was only a bootblack, and had not yet begun to feel the spur of that ambition which led to his subsequent prosperity.

"That's a queer name," said Phil.

"I try to live up to it," said Dick, with a comical glance at his ragged coat, which had originally been worn by a man six feet in height.

He swung his box over his shoulder, and led the way to the old post-office. _

Read next: Chapter 12. Mr. Lionel Lake Again

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

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