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

Chapter 12. Mr. Lionel Lake Again

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Phil continued his conversation with Ragged Dick, and was much amused by his quaint way of expressing himself.

When they reached Murray Street, Dick said:

"Follow me. We'll cut across the City Hall Park. It is the shortest way."

Soon they reached the shabby old building with which New Yorkers were then obliged to be content with as a post-office.

Phil secured the mail matter for Pitkin & Co., and was just about leaving the office, when he noticed just ahead of him a figure which looked very familiar.

It flashed upon him of a sudden that it was his old train acquaintance, Lionel Lake. He immediately hurried forward and touched his arm.

Mr. Lake, who had several letters in his hand, started nervously, and turned at the touch. He recognized Phil, but appeared not to do so.

"What do you wish, boy?" he asked, loftily.

"I want to speak a word with you, Mr. Lake."

The young man shrugged his shoulders.

"You are mistaken in the person," he said. "My name is not Lake."

"Very likely not," said Phil significantly, "but that's what you called yourself when we met on the train."

"I repeat, boy, that you are strangely mistaken. My name is"--he paused slightly--"John Montgomery."

"Just as you please. Whatever your name is, I have a little business with you."

"I can't stop. My business is urgent," said Lake.

"Then I will be brief. I lent you five dollars on a ring which I afterward discovered to be stolen. I want you to return that money."

Mr. Lake looked about him apprehensively, for he did not wish any one to hear what Phil was saying.

"You must be crazy!" he said. "I never saw you before in the whole course of my life."

He shook off Phil's detaining hand, and was about to hurry away, but Phil said resolutely:

"You can't deceive me, Mr. Lake. Give me that money, or I will call a policeman."

Now, it happened that a policeman was passing just outside, and Lake could see him.

"This is an infamous outrage!" he said, "but I have an important appointment, and can't be detained. Take the money. I give it to you in charity."

Phil gladly received and pocketed the bank-note, and relinquishing his hold of Mr. Lake, rejoined Dick, who had been an interested eye-witness of the interview.

"I see you've got pluck," said Dick. "What's it all about?"

Phil told him.

"I ain't a bit s'prised," said Dick. "I could tell by his looks that the man was a skin."

"Well, I'm even with him, at any rate," said Phil.

"Now I'll be getting back to the office. Thank you for your guidance. Here's a quarter."

"You only promised me ten cents."

"It's worth a quarter. I hope to meet you again."

"We'll meet at Astor's next party," said Dick, with a grin. "My invite came yesterday."

"Mine hasn't come yet," said Phil, smiling.

"Maybe it'll come to-morrow."

"He's a queer chap," thought Phil. "He's fit for something better than blacking boots. I hope he'll have the luck to get it."

Phil had been detained by his interview with Mr. Lake, but he made up for it by extra speed, and reached the warehouse in fair time. After delivering the letters he was sent out on another errand, and during the entire day he was kept busy.

Leaving him for the moment we go back to the Pitkin mansion, and listen to & conversation between Mr. and Mrs. Pitkin.

"Uncle Oliver is getting more and more eccentric every day," said the lady. "He brought home a boy to lunch to-day--some one whom he had picked up in the street."

"Was the boy's name Philip Brent?" asked her husband.

"Yes, I believe so. What do you know about him?" asked the lady in surprise.

"I have engaged him as errand boy."

"You have! What for?" exclaimed Mrs. Pitkin.

"I couldn't help it. He brought a letter from your uncle, requesting me to do so, and offering to pay his wages out of his own pocket."

"This is really getting very serious," said Mrs. Pitkin, annoyed. "Suppose he should take a fancy to this boy?"

"He appears to have done so already," said her husband dryly.

"I mean, suppose he should adopt him?"

"You are getting on pretty fast, Lavinia, are you not?"

"Such things happen sometimes," said the lady, nodding. "If it should happen it would be bad for poor Lonny."

"Even in that case Lonny won't have to go to the poor-house."

"Mr. Pitkin, you don't realize the danger. Here's Uncle Oliver worth a quarter of a million dollars, and it ought to be left to us."

"Probably it will be."

"He may leave it all to this boy. This must be prevented."


"You must say the boy doesn't suit you, and discharge him."

"Well, well, give me time. I have no objection; but I suspect it will be hard to find any fault with him. He looks like a reliable boy."

"To me he looks like an artful young adventurer," said Mrs. Pitkin vehemently. "Depend upon it, Mr. Pitkin, he will spare no pains to ingratiate himself into Uncle Oliver's favor."

It will be seen that Mrs. Pitkin was gifted--if it can be called a gift--with a very suspicious temperament. She was mean and grasping, and could not bear the idea of even a small part of her uncle's money going to any one except her own family. There was, indeed, another whose relationship to Uncle Oliver was as close--a cousin, who had estranged her relatives by marrying a poor bookkeeper, with whom she had gone to Milwaukee. Her name was never mentioned in the Pitkin household, and Mrs. Pitkin, trusting to the distance between them, did not apprehend any danger from this source. Had she known Rebecca Forbush was even now in New York, a widow with one child, struggling to make a living by sewing and taking lodgers, she would have felt less tranquil. But she knew nothing of all this, nor did she dream that the boy whom she dreaded was the very next day to make the acquaintance of this despised relation.

This was the way that it happened:

Phil soon tired of the room he had taken in Fifth Street. It was not neatly kept, and was far from comfortable. Then again, he found that the restaurants, cheap as they were, were likely to absorb about all his salary, though the bill-of-fare was far from attractive.

Chance took him through a side-street, between Second and Third Avenues, in the neighborhood of Thirteenth Street.

Among the three and four-story buildings that lined the block was one frame-house, two-story-and-basement, on which he saw a sign, "Board for Gentlemen." He had seen other similar signs, but his attention was specially drawn to this by seeing a pleasant-looking woman enter the house with the air of proprietor. This woman recalled to Philip his own mother, to whom she bore a striking resemblance.

"I would like to board with one whose face recalled that of my dear dead mother," thought Phil, and on the impulse of the moment, just after the woman had entered, he rang the door-bell.

The door was opened almost immediately by the woman he had just seen enter.

It seemed to Phil almost as if he were looking into his mother's face, and he inquired in an unsteady voice:

"Do you take boarders?"

"Yes," was the answer. "Won't you step in?" _

Read next: Chapter 13. Phil's New Home

Read previous: Chapter 11. Phil Enters Upon His Duties

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