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

Chapter 21. "They Met By Chance"

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"Who was asking after Uncle Oliver?" demanded Alonzo superciliously.

"I was," answered Philip.

"Oh! it's you, is it?" said Alonzo, rather disdainfully.

"Yes," answered Phil calmly, though he felt provoked at Alonzo's tone, which was meant to be offensive. "You remember me, don't you?"

"You are the boy that got round Uncle Oliver, and got him to give you a place in pa's store."

"I deny that I got round him," returned Phil warmly. "I had the good luck to do him a favor."

"I suppose you have come after money?" said Alonzo coarsely.

"I sha'n't ask you for any, at any rate," said Phil angrily.

"No; it wouldn't do any good," said Alonzo; "and it's no use asking ma, either. She says you are an adventurer, and have designs on Uncle Oliver because he is rich."

"I shall not ask your mother for any favor," said Phil, provoked. "I am sorry not to meet your uncle."

"I dare say!" sneered Alonzo.

Just then a woman, poorly but neatly dressed, came down stairs. Her face was troubled. Just behind her came Mrs. Pitkin, whose face wore a chilly and proud look.

"Mr. Carter has left the city, and I really don't know when he will return," Phil heard her say. "If he had been at home, it would not have benefited you. He is violently prejudiced against you, and would not have listened to a word you had to say."

"I did not think he would have harbored resentment so long," murmured the poor woman. "He never seemed to me to be a hard man."

Phil gazed at the poorly dressed woman with a surprise which he did not attempt to conceal, for in her he recognized the familiar figure of his landlady. What could she have to do in this house? he asked himself.

"Mrs. Forbush!" he exclaimed.

"Philip!" exclaimed Mrs. Forbush, in a surprise as great as his own, for she had never asked where her young lodger worked, and was not aware that he was in the employ of her cousin's husband and well acquainted with the rich uncle whom she had not seen for years.

"Do you know each other?" demanded Mrs. Pitkin, whose turn it was to be surprised.

"This young gentleman lodges in my house," answered Mrs. Forbush.

"Young gentleman!" repeated Alonzo, with a mocking laugh.

Philip looked at him sternly. He had his share of human nature, and it would have given him satisfaction to thrash the insolent young patrician, as Alonzo chose to consider himself.

"And what do you want here, young man?" asked Mrs. Pitkin in a frosty tone, addressing Phil of course.

"I wished to see Mr. Carter," answered Phil.

"Really, Mr. Carter seems to be very much in request!" sneered Mrs. Pitkin. "No doubt he will be very much disappointed when he hears what he has lost. You will have to go to Florida to see him, I think, however." She added, after a pause: "It will not be well for either of you to call again. Mr. Carter will understand the motive of your calls."

"How cruel you are, Lavinia!" said Mrs. Forbush sadly.

"My name is Mrs. Pitkin!" said that lady frigidly.

"You have not forgotten that we are cousins, surely?"

"I do not care to remember it, Mrs. Forbush. Good-day."

There was no alternative but for Mrs. Forbush to say "good-day" also, and to descend the steps.

Philip joined her in the street.

"Are you really the cousin of Mrs. Pitkin?" he asked.

"Yes," answered Mrs. Forbush. "I bear the same relationship to Mr. Carter that she does. We were much together as girls, and were both educated at the same expensive schools. I offended my relatives by marrying Mr. Forbush, whose fault was that he was poor, and chiefly, I think, through the efforts of Lavinia Pitkin I was cast out by the family. But where did you meet Uncle Oliver?"

Philip explained the circumstances already known to the reader.

"Mr. Carter seems to me to be a kind-hearted man," he said. "I don't believe he would have cast you off if he had not been influenced by other parties."

"So I think," said Mrs. Forbush. "I will tell you," she continued, after a pause, "what drew me here this afternoon. I am struggling hard to keep my head above water, Mr. Brent, but I find it hard to meet my expenses. I cannot meet my rent due to-morrow within fifteen dollars, and I dared to hope that if I could meet Uncle Oliver face to face and explain matters to him, he would let me have the money."

"I am sure he would," said Phil warmly.

"But he is in Florida, and will probably remain there for a month or two at least," said Mrs. Forbush, sighing. "But even if he were in the city I suppose Lavinia would do all in her power to keep us apart."

"I have no doubt she would, Mrs. Forbush. Though she is your cousin, I dislike her very much."

"I suppose the boy with whom you were talking was her son Alonzo?"

"Yes; he is about the most disagreeable boy I ever met. Both he and his mother seem very much opposed to my having an interview with your uncle."

"Lavinia was always of a jealous and suspicious disposition," said Mrs. Forbush. "I have not seen Alonzo since he was a baby. He is two years older than my Julia. He was born before I estranged my relatives by marrying a poor man."

"What are you going to do, Mrs. Forbush, about the rent?" asked Phil, in a tone of sympathy.

"I don't know. I shall try to get the landlord to wait, but I don't know how he will feel about it."

"I wish I had plenty of money. I would gladly lend you all you need."

"I am sure you would, Philip," said Mrs. Forbush. "The offer does me good, though it is not accompanied by the ability to do what your good heart dictates. I feel that I am not without friends."

"I am a very poor one," said Phil. "The fact is, I am in trouble myself. My income is only five dollars a week, and my expenses are beyond that. I don't know how I am going to keep up."

"You may stay with me for three dollars a week, if you cannot pay four," said Mrs. Forbush, forgetting her own troubles in her sympathy with our hero.

"No, Mrs. Forbush, you can't afford it. You need money as much as I do, and perhaps more; for you have more than yourself to support."

"Yes, poor Julia!" sighed the mother. "She is born to a heritage of poverty. Heaven only knows how we are going to get along."

"God will provide for us, Mrs. Forbush," said Philip. "I don't know how it is, but in spite of my troubles I feel cheerful. I have a confidence that things will come out well, though I cannot possibly imagine how."

"You are young, and youth is more inclined to be hopeful than maturer years. However, I do not wish to dampen your cheerfulness. Keep it, and let it comfort you."

If Phil could have heard the conversation that took place between Mrs. Pitkin and Alonzo after their departure, he might have felt less hopeful.

"It is dreadfully annoying that that woman should turn up after all these years!" said Mrs. Pitkin, in a tone of disgust.

"Is she really your cousin, ma?" asked Alonzo.

"Yes, but she disgraced herself by a low marriage, and was cast off."

"That disposes of her, then?"

"I don't know. If she could meet Uncle Oliver, I am afraid she would worm herself into his confidence and get him to do something for her. Then it is unfortunate that she and that boy have fallen in with each other. She may get him to speak to Uncle Oliver in her behalf."

"Isn't he working for pa?"


"Why don't you get pa to discharge him while Uncle Oliver is away?"

"Well thought of, Alonzo! I will speak to your father this very evening." _

Read next: Chapter 22. Phil Is "Bounced"

Read previous: Chapter 20. Left Out In The Cold

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