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

Chapter 19. A Narrow Escape From Detection

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The conspiracy into which Mrs. Brent had entered was a daring one, and required great coolness and audacity. But the inducements were great, and for her son's sake she decided to carry it through. Of course it was necessary that she should not be identified with any one who could disclose to Mr. Granville the deceit that was being practiced upon him. Circumstances lessened the risk of detection, since Mr. Granville was confined to his room in the hotel, and for a week she and Jonas went about the city alone.

One day she had a scare.

She was occupying a seat in a Chestnut Street car, while Jonas stood in front with the driver, when a gentleman whom she had not observed, sitting at the other end of the car, espied her.

"Why, Mrs. Brent, how came you here?" he asked, in surprise, crossing over and taking a seat beside her.

Her color went and came as, in a subdued tone, she answered.

"I am in Philadelphia on a little visit, Mr. Pearson."

"Are you not rather out of your latitude?" asked the gentleman.

"Yes, perhaps so."

"How is Mr. Brent?"

"Did you not hear that he was dead?"

"No, indeed! I sympathize with you in your sad loss."

"Yes," sighed the widow. "It is a great loss to us."

"I suppose Jonas is a large boy now," said the other. "I haven't seen him for two or three years."

"Yes, he has grown," said the widow briefly. She hoped that Mr. Pearson would not discover that Jonas was with her, as she feared that the boy might betray them unconsciously.

"Is he with you?"


"Do you stay long in Philadelphia?"

"No, I think not," answered Mrs. Brent.

"I go back to New York this afternoon, or I would ask permission to call on you."

Mrs. Brent breathed more freely. A call at the hotel was by all means to be avoided.

"Of course I should have been glad to see you," she answered, feeling quite safe in saying so. "Are you going far?"

"I get out at Thirteenth Street."

"Thank Heaven!" said Mrs. Brent to herself. "Then he won't discover where we are."

The Continental Hotel is situated at the corner of Chestnut and Ninth Streets, and Mrs. Brent feared that Jonas would stop the car at that point. As it was, the boy did not observe that his mother had met an acquaintance, so intent was he on watching the street sights.

When they reached Ninth Street mother and son got out and entered the hotel.

"I guess I'll stay down stairs awhile," said Jonas.

"No, Philip, I have something to say to you. Come up with me."

"I want to go into the billiard-room," said Jonas, grumbling.

"It is very important," said Mrs. Brent emphatically.

Now the curiosity of Jonas was excited, and he followed his mother into the elevator, for their rooms were on the third floor.

"Well, mother, what is it?" asked Jonas, when the door of his mother's room was closed behind them.

"I met a gentleman who knew me in the horse-car," said Mrs. Brent abruptly.

"Did you? Who was it?"

"Mr. Pearson."

"He used to give me candy. Why didn't you call me?"

"It is important that we should not be recognized," said his mother. "While we stay here we must be exceedingly prudent. Suppose he had called upon us at the hotel and fallen in with Mr. Granville. He might have told him that you are my son, and that your name is Jonas, not Philip."

"Then the fat would be in the fire!" said Jonas.

"Exactly so; I am glad you see the danger. Now I want you to stay here, or in your own room, for the next two or three hours."

"It'll be awfully tiresome," grumbled Jonas.

"It is necessary," said his mother firmly. "Mr. Pearson leaves for New York by an afternoon train. It is now only two o'clock. He left the car at Thirteenth Street, and might easily call at this hotel. It is a general rendezvous for visitors to the city. If he should meet you down stairs, he would probably know you, and his curiosity would be aroused. He asked me where I was staying, but I didn't appear to hear the question."

"That's pretty hard on me, ma."

"I am out of all patience with you," said Mrs. Brent. "Am I not working for your interest, and you are doing all you can to thwart my plans. If you don't care anything about inheriting a large fortune, let it go! We can go back to Gresham and give it all up."

"I'll do as you say, ma," said Jonas, subdued.

The very next day Mr. Granville sent for Mrs. Brent. She lost no time in waiting upon him.

"Mrs. Brent," he said, "I have decided to leave Philadelphia to-morrow."

"Are you quite able, sir?" she asked, with a good assumption of sympathy.

"My doctor tells me I may venture. We shall travel in Pullman cars, you know. I shall secure a whole compartment, and avail myself of every comfort and luxury which money can command."

"Ah, sir! money is a good friend in such a case."

"True, Mrs. Brent. I have seen the time when I was poorly supplied with it. Now I am happily at ease. Can you and Philip be ready?"

"Yes, Mr. Granville," answered Mrs. Brent promptly. "We are ready to-day, for that matter. We shall both be glad to get started."

"I am glad to hear it. I think Philip will like his Western home. I bought a fine country estate of a Chicago merchant, whose failure compelled him to part with it. Philip shall have his own horse and his own servants."

"He will be delighted," said Mrs. Brent warmly. "He has been used to none of these things, for Mr. Brent and I, much as we loved him, had not the means to provide him with such luxuries."

"Yes, Mrs. Brent, I understand that fully. You were far from rich. Yet you cared for my boy as if he were your own."

"I loved him as much as if he had been my own son, Mr. Granville."

"I am sure you did. I thank Providence that I am able to repay to some extent the great debt I have incurred. I cannot repay it wholly, but I will take care that you, too, shall enjoy ease and luxury. You shall have one of the best rooms in my house, and a special servant to wait upon you."

"Thank you, Mr. Granville," said Mrs. Brent, her heart filled with proud anticipations of the state in which she should hereafter live. "I do not care where you put me, so long as you do not separate me from Philip."

"She certainly loves my son!" said Mr. Granville to himself. "Yet her ordinary manner is cold and constrained, and she does not seem like a woman whose affections would easily be taken captive. Yet Philip seems to have found the way to her heart. It must be because she has had so much care of him. We are apt to love those whom we benefit."

But though Mr. Granville credited Mrs. Brent with an affection for Philip, he was uneasily conscious that the boy's return had not brought him the satisfaction and happiness he had fondly anticipated.

To begin with, Philip did not look at all as he had supposed his son would look. He did not look like the Granvilles at all. Indeed, he had an unusually countrified aspect, and his conversation was mingled with rustic phrases which shocked his father's taste.

"I suppose it comes of the way in which he has been brought up and the country boys he has associated with," thought Mr. Granville. "Fortunately he is young, and there is time to polish him. As soon as I reach Chicago I will engage a private tutor for him, who shall not only remedy his defects of education, but do what he can to improve my son's manners. I want him to grow up a gentleman."

The next day the three started for Chicago, while Mr. Granville's real son and heir continued to live at a cheap lodging-house in New York.

The star of Jonas was in the ascendant, while poor Philip seemed destined to years of poverty and hard work. Even now, he was threatened by serious misfortune. _

Read next: Chapter 20. Left Out In The Cold

Read previous: Chapter 18. The Conspiracy Succeeds

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