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

Chapter 14. Consulting The Oracle

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Phil did not like to hurt the feelings of his companion, and refrained from laughing, though with difficulty.

"She doesn't appear to know you," he said.

"No," said Wilbur; "I haven't had a chance to make myself known to her."

"Do you think you can make a favorable impression upon--the daisy?" asked Phil, outwardly sober, but inwardly amused.

"I always had a taking way with girls," replied Mr. Wilbur complacently.

Phil coughed. It was all that saved him from laughing.

While he was struggling with the inclination, the lady inadvertently dropped a small parcel which she had been carrying in her hand. The two boys were close behind. Like an arrow from the bow Mr. Wilbur sprang forward, picked up the parcel, and while his heart beat wildly, said, as he tendered it to the owner, with a graceful bow and captivating smile:

"Miss, I believe you dropped this."

"Thank you, my good boy," answered the daisy pleasantly.

Mr. Wilbur staggered back as if he had been struck. He fell back in discomfiture, and his face showed the mortification and anguish he felt.

"Did you hear what she said?" he asked, in a hollow voice.

"She called you a boy, didn't she?"

"Yes," answered Mr. Wilbur sadly.

"Perhaps she may be near-sighted," said Phil consolingly.

"Do you think so?" asked Mr. Wilbur hopefully.

"It is quite possible. Then you are short, you know."

"Yes, it must be so," said G. Washington Wilbur, his face more serene. "If she hadn't been she would have noticed my mustache."


"She spoke kindly. If--if she had seen how old I was, it would have been different, don't you think so?"

"Yes, no doubt."

"There is only one thing to do," said Mr. Wilbur, in a tone of calm resolve.

"What is that?" inquired Phil, in some curiosity.

"I must wear a stove-pipe hat! As you say, I am small, and a near-sighted person might easily suppose me to be younger than I am. Now, with a stove-pipe hat I shall look much older."

"Yes, I presume so."

"Then I can make her acquaintance again, and she will not mistake me. Phil, why don't you wear a stove-pipe?"

"Because I don't want to look any older than I am. Besides, an errand-boy wouldn't look well in a tall hat."

"No, perhaps not."

"And Mr. Pitkin would hardly like it."

"Of course. When you are a salesman like me it will be different."

Mr. Wilbur was beginning to recover his complacency, which had been so rudely disturbed.

"I suppose you wouldn't think of marrying on your present salary?" said Phil. "Six dollars a week wouldn't support a married pair very well."

"The firm would raise my salary. They always do when a man marries. Besides, I have other resources."


"Yes; I am worth two thousand dollars. It was left me by an aunt, and is kept in trust for me until I am twenty-one. I receive the interest now."

"I congratulate you," said Phil, who was really pleased to hear of his companion's good fortune.

"That money will come in handy."

"Besides, I expect SHE'S got money," continued Mr. Wilbur. "Of course, I love her for herself alone--I am not mercenary--still, it will be a help when we are married."

"So it will," said Phil, amused at the confident manner in which Mr. Wilbur spoke of marriage with a lady of whom he knew absolutely nothing.

"Philip," said Mr. Wilbur, "when I marry, I want you to stand up with me--to be my groomsman."

"If I am in the city, and can afford to buy a dress-suit, I might consent."

"Thank you. You are a true friend!" said Mr. Wilbur, squeezing his hand fervently.

The two returned to Mr. Wilbur's room and had a chat. At an early hour Phil returned to his own boarding-place.

As time passed on, Phil and Wilbur spent considerable time together out of the store. Mr. G. Washington Wilbur, apart from his amusing traits, was a youth of good principles and good disposition, and Phil was glad of his company. Sometimes they went to cheap amusements, but not often, for neither had money to spare for such purposes.

Some weeks after Phil's entrance upon his duties Mr. Wilbur made a proposal to Phil of a startling nature.

"Suppose we have our fortunes told, Phil?" he said.

"If it would help my fortune, or hurry it up, I shouldn't object," said Phil, smiling.

"I want to know what fate has in store for me," said Wilbur.

"Do you think the fortune-tellers know any better than you do?" asked Phil incredulously.

"They tell some strange things," said Wilbur.

"What, for instance?"

"An aunt of mine went to a fortune-teller and asked if she would ever be married, and when? She was told that she would be married before she was twenty-two, to a tall, light-complexioned man."

"Did it come true?"

"Yes, every word," said Mr. Wilbur solemnly. "She was married three months before her twenty-second birthday, and her husband was just the kind of man that was predicted. Wasn't that strange?"

"The fortune-teller might easily have guessed all that. Most girls are married as young as that."

"But not to tall, light-complexioned men!" said Wilbur triumphantly.

"Is there anything you wish particularly to know?" asked Phil.

"I should like to know if I am going to marry--you know who."

"The daisy?"


Phil was not much in favor of the scheme, but finally agreed to it.

There was a certain "Veiled Lady," who advertised her qualifications in the Herald, as the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, and therefore gifted with the power to read the future. Mr. Wilbur made choice of her, and together they went to call upon her one evening.

They were shown into an anteroom, and in due time Mr. Wilbur was called into the dread presence. He was somewhat nervous and agitated, but "braced up," as he afterward expressed it, and went in. He wanted Phil to go in with him, but the attendant said that madam would not allow it, and he went forward alone.

Fifteen minutes afterward he re-entered the room with a radiant face.

"Have you heard good news?" asked Phil.

Mr. Wilbur nodded emphatically and whispered, for there were two others in waiting:

"It's all right. I am to marry her."

"Did the fortune-teller say so?"


"Did she give her name?"

"No, but she described her so that I knew her at once."

"Will it be soon?" asked Phil slyly.

"Not till I am twenty-four," answered Mr. Wilbur soberly. "But perhaps she may be mistaken about that. Perhaps she thought I was older than I am."

"Do you doubt her knowledge, then?"

"No; at any rate, I can wait, since she is to be mine at last. Besides, I am to be rich. When I am thirty years old I am to be worth twenty thousand dollars."

"I congratulate you, Wilbur," said Phil, smiling. "You are all right, at least."

"The next gentleman!" said the attendant.

Phil entered the inner room, and looked about him in curiosity.

A tall woman sat upon a sort of throne, with one hand resting on a table beside her. A tall wax-taper supplied the place of the light of day, which was studiously excluded from the room by thick, dark curtains. Over the woman's face was a black veil, which gave her an air of mystery.

"Come hither, boy!" she said, in a clear, commanding voice.

Phil advanced, not wholly unimpressed, though he felt skeptical.

The woman bent forward, starting slightly and scanned his face eagerly. _

Read next: Chapter 15. Phil And The Fortune-Teller

Read previous: Chapter 13. Phil's New Home

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