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

Chapter 15. Phil And The Fortune-Teller

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"Do you wish to hear of the past or the future?" asked the fortune-teller.

"Tell me something of the past," said Phil, with a view of testing the knowledge of the seeress.

"You have left an uncongenial home to seek your fortune in New York. You left without regret, and those whom you have left behind do not miss you."

Phil started in amazement. This was certainly true.

"Shall I find the fortune I seek?" asked our hero earnestly.

"Yes, but not in the way you expect. You think yourself alone in the world!"

The fortune-teller paused, and looked searchingly at the boy.

"So I am," returned Phil.

"No boy who has a father living can consider himself alone."

"My father is dead!" returned Phil, growing skeptical.

"You are mistaken."

"I am not likely to be mistaken in such a matter. My father died a few months since."

"Your father still lives!" said the fortune-teller sharply. "Do not contradict me!"

"I don't see how you can say that. I attended his funeral."

"You attended the funeral of the man whose name you bear. He was not your father."

Phil was much excited by this confirmation of his step-mother's story. He had entertained serious doubts of its being true, thinking it might have been trumped up by Mrs. Brent to drive him from home, and interfere with his succession to any part of Mr. Brent's property.

"Is my step-mother's story true, then?" he asked breathlessly. "She told me I was not the son of Mr. Brent."

"Her story was true," said the veiled lady.

"Who is my real father, then?"

The lady did not immediately reply. She seemed to be peering into distant space, as she said slowly:

"I see a man of middle size, dark-complexioned, leading a small child by the hand. He pauses before a house--it looks like an inn. A lady comes out from the inn. She is kindly of aspect. She takes the child by the hand and leads him into the inn. Now I see the man go away--alone. The little child remains behind. I see him growing up. He has become a large boy, but the scene has changed. The inn has disappeared. I see a pleasant village and a comfortable house. The boy stands at the door. He is well-grown now. A lady stands on the threshold as his steps turn away. She is thin and sharp-faced. She is not like the lady who welcomed the little child. Can you tell me who this boy is?" asked the fortune-teller, fixing her eyes upon Phil.

"It is myself!" he answers, his flushed face showing the excitement he felt.

"You have said!"

"I don't know how you have learned all this," said Phil, "but it is wonderfully exact. Will you answer a question?"


"You say my father--my real father--is living?"

The veiled lady bowed her head.

"Where is he?"

"That I cannot say, but he is looking for you."

"He is in search of me?"


"Why has he delayed it so long?"

"There are circumstances which I cannot explain which have prevented his seeking and claiming you."

"Will he do so?"

"I have told you that he is now seeking for you. I think he will find you at last."

"What can I do to bring this about?"

"Do nothing! Stay where you are. Circumstances are working favorably, but you must wait. There are some drawbacks."

"What are they?"

"You have two enemies, or rather one, for the other does not count."

"Is that enemy a man?"

"No, it is a woman."

"My step-mother!" ejaculated Phil, with immediate conviction.

"You have guessed aright."

"And who is the other?"

"A boy."


"It is the son of the woman whom you call your step-mother."

"What harm can they do me? I am not afraid of them," said Phil, raising his head proudly.

"Do not be too confident! The meanest are capable of harm. Mrs. Brent does not like you because she is a mother."

"She fears that I will interfere with her son."

"You are all right."

"Is there anything more you can tell me?" asked Phil. "Have I any other enemies?"

"Yes; there are two more--also a woman and her son."

"That puzzles me. I can think of no one."

"They live in the city."

"I know. It is Mrs. Pitkin, my employer's wife. Why should she dislike me?"

"There is an old man who likes you. That is the cause."

"I see. She doesn't want him to be kind to any one out of the family."

"That is all I have to tell you," said the fortune-teller abruptly. "You can go."

"You have told me strange things," said Phil. "Will you tell me how it is you know so much about a stranger?"

"I have nothing more to tell you. You can go!" said the veiled lady impatiently.

"At least tell me how much I am to pay you."


"But I thought you received fees."

"Not from you."

"Did you not take something from my friend who was in here before me?"


"You told him a good fortune."

"He is a fool!" said the fortune-teller contemptuously. "I saw what he wanted and predicted it."

She waved her hand, and Phil felt that he had no excuse for remaining longer.

He left the room slowly, and found Mr. Wilbur anxiously awaiting him.

"What did she tell you, Phil?" he asked eagerly. "Did she tell you what sort of a wife you would have?"

"No. I didn't ask her," answered Phil, smiling.

"I should think you'd want to know. What did she tell you, then?"

"She told me quite a number of things about my past life and the events of my childhood."

"I shouldn't have cared about that," said Wilbur, shrugging his shoulders. "Why, I know all about that myself. What I want to know about is, whether I am to marry the girl I adore."

"But you see, Wilbur, I don't adore anybody. I am not in love as you are."

"Of course that makes a difference," said Wilbur. "I'm glad I came, Phil. Ain't you?"

"Yes," answered Phil slowly.

"You see, it's such a satisfaction to know that all is coming right at last. I am to marry HER, you know, and although it isn't till I am twenty-four----"

"She will be nearly thirty by that time," said Phil slyly.

"She won't look it!" said Mr. Wilbur, wincing a little. "When I am thirty I shall be worth twenty thousand dollars."

"You can't save it very soon out of six dollars a week."

"That is true. I feel sure I shall be raised soon. Did the fortune-teller say anything about your getting rich?"

"No. I can't remember that she did. Oh, yes! she said I would make my fortune, but not in the way I expected."

"That is queer!" said Mr. Wilbur, interested. "What could she mean?"

"I suppose she meant that I would not save a competence out of five dollars a week."

"Maybe so."

"I have been thinking, Wilbur, you have an advantage over the young lady you are to marry. You know that you are to marry her, but she doesn't know who is to be her husband."

"That is true," said Wilbur seriously. "If I can find out her name, I will write her an anonymous letter, asking her to call on the veiled Lady." _

Read next: Chapter 16. Mrs. Brent's Strange Temptation

Read previous: Chapter 14. Consulting The Oracle

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