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

Chapter 17. Jonas Joins The Conspiracy

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Later in the evening Mrs. Brent took Jonas into her confidence. She was a silent, secretive woman by nature, and could her plan have been carried out without imparting it to any one, she would gladly have had it so. But Jonas must be her active accomplice, and it was as well to let him know at once what he must do.

In the evening, when Jonas, tired with his day's skating, was lying on the lounge, Mrs. Brent rose deliberately from her seat, peeped into the adjoining room, then went to each window to make sure there was no eavesdropper, then resumed her seat and said:

"Jonas, get up. I want to speak to you."

"I am awfully tired, mother. I can hear you while I lie here."

"Jonas, do you hear me? I am about to speak to you of something no other person must hear. Get a chair and draw it close to mine."

Jonas rose, his curiosity stimulated by his mother's words and manner.

"Is it about the letter, mother?" he asked.

"Yes, it relates to the letter and our journey to-morrow."

Jonas had wondered what the letter was about and who had sent his mother the hundred-dollar check, and he made no further objection. He drew a chair in front of his mother and said:

"Go ahead, mother, I'm listening."

"Would you like to be rich, Jonas?" asked Mrs. Brent.

"Wouldn't I?"

"Would you like to be adopted by a very rich man, have a pony to ride, plenty of pocket-money, fine clothes and in the end a large fortune?"

"That would just suit me, mother," answered the boy eagerly. "Is there any chance of it?"

"Yes, if you follow my directions implicitly."

"I will, mother," said Jonas, his eyes shining with desire. "Only tell me what to do and I'll do it."

"Do you remember what I told Philip the evening before he went away?"

"About his being left at Mr. Brent's hotel? Yes, I remember it."

"And about his true father having disappeared?"

"Yes, yes."

"Jonas, the letter I received this afternoon was from Philip's real father."

"By gosh!" ejaculated Jonas, altering his usual expression of surprise.

"He is in Philadelphia. He is a very rich man."

"Then Phil will be rich," said Jonas, disappointed. "I thought you said it would be me."

"Philip's father has never seen him since he was three years old," continued Mrs. Brent, taking no notice of her son's tone.

"What difference does that make, mother?"

"Jonas," said Mrs. Brent, bending toward her son, "if I choose to tell him that you are Philip, he won't know the difference. Do you understand?"

Jonas did understand.

"That's a bully idea, mother! Can we pull the wool over the old man's eyes, do you think?"

"I wish you would not use such expressions, Jonas. They are not gentlemanly, and you are to be a young gentleman."

"All right, mother."

"We can manage it if you are very careful. It is worth the trouble, Jonas. I think Mr. Granville--that is his name--must be worth a quarter of a million dollars, and if he takes you for Philip the whole will probably go to you."

"What a head you've got, mother!" exclaimed Jonas admiringly. "It is a tip-top chance."

"Yes, it is one chance in ten thousand. But you must do just as I tell you."

"Oh, I'll do that, mother. What must I do?"

"To begin with, you must take Philip's name. You must remember that you are no longer Jonas Webb, but Philip Brent."

"That'll be a bully joke!" said Jonas, very much amused. "What would Phil say if he knew I had taken his name?"

"He must not know. Henceforth we must endeavor to keep out of his way. Again, you must consider me your step-mother, not your own mother."

"Yes, I understand. What are you going to do first, mother?"

"We start for Philadelphia to-morrow. Your father is lying sick at the Continental Hotel."

Jonas roared with delight at the manner in which his mother spoke of the sick stranger.

"Oh, it'll be fun, mother! Shall we live in Philadelphia?"

"I don't know. That will be as Mr. Granville thinks best."

"Where are you going, mother? Are you going to live here?"

"Of course I shall be with you. I will make that a condition. I cannot be parted from my only boy."

"But I shall be Mr. Granville's boy."

"To the public you will be. But when we are together in private, we shall be once more mother and son."

"I am afraid you will spoil all," said Jonas. "Old Granville will suspect something if you seem to care too much for me."

The selfish nature of Jonas was cropping out, and his mother felt, with a pang, that he would be reconciled to part with her forever for the sake of the brilliant prospects and the large fortune which Mr. Granville could offer him.

She was outwardly cold, but such affection as she was capable of she expended on this graceless and ungrateful boy.

"You seem to forget that I may have some feeling in the matter," said Mrs. Brent coldly, but with inward pain. "If the result of this plan were to be that we should be permanently separated, I would never consent to it."

"Just as you like, mother," said Jonas, with an ill grace. "I don't look much like Phil."

"No, there will be a difficulty. Still Mr. Granville has never seen Philip since he was three years old, and that is in our favor. He thinks I am Mr. Brent's first wife."

"Shall you tell him?"

"I don't know. I will be guided by circumstances. Perhaps it may be best. I wouldn't like to have it discovered that I had deceived him in that."

"How are you going to manage about this place, mother?"

"I am going to write to your Uncle Jonas to take charge of it. I will let him have it at a nominal rent. Then, if our plan miscarries we shall have a place to come back to."

"Were you ever in Philadelphia, mother?"

"No; but there will be no trouble in journeying there. I shall pack your clothes and my own to-night. Of course, Jonas, when you meet Mr. Granville you must seem to be fond of him. Then you must tell him how kind I have been to you. In fact, you must act precisely as Philip might be expected to do."

"Yes, mother; and you must be careful not to call me Jonas. That will spoil all, you know."

"Rest assured that I shall be on my guard. If you are as careful as I am, Philip----"

Jonas burst into a guffaw at the new name.

"It's just like play-acting, mother," he said.

"But it will pay better," said Mrs. Brent quietly. "I think it will be best for me to begin calling you Philip at once--that is, as soon as we have left town--so that we may both get accustomed to it."

"All right, mother. You've got a good headpiece."

"I will manage things properly. If you consent to be guided by me, all will be right."

"Oh, I'll do it mother. I wish we were on our way."

"You can go to bed if you like. I must stay up late to-night. I have to pack our trunks."

The next day the pair of adventurers left Gresham. From the earliest available point Mrs. Brent telegraphed to Mr. Granville that she was on her way, with the son from whom he had so long been separated. _

Read next: Chapter 18. The Conspiracy Succeeds

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

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