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

Chapter 22. Phil Is "Bounced"

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Saturday, as is usual in such establishments, was pay-day at the store of Phil's employers. The week's wages were put up in small envelopes and handed to the various clerks.

When Phil went up to the cashier to get his money he put it quietly into his vest-pocket.

Daniel Dickson, the cashier, observing this, said:

"Brent, you had better open your envelope."

Rather surprised, Phil nevertheless did as requested.

In the envelope, besides the five-dollar bill representing his week's salary, he found a small slip of paper, on which was written these ominous words:

"Your services will not be required after this week." Appended to this notice was the name of the firm.

Phil turned pale, for to him, embarrassed as he was, the loss of his place was a very serious matter.

"What does this mean, Mr. Dickson?" he asked quickly.

"I can't inform you," answered the cashier, smiling unpleasantly, for he was a selfish man who sympathized with no one, and cared for no one as long as he himself remained prosperous.

"Who handed you this paper?" asked Phil.

"The boss."

"Mr. Pitkin?"

"Of course."

Mr. Pitkin was still in his little office, and Phil made his way directly to him.

"May I speak to you, sir?" asked our hero.

"Be quick about it then, for I am in a hurry," answered Pitkin, in a very forbidding tone.

"Why am I discharged, sir?"

"I can't go into details. We don't need you any longer."

"Are you not satisfied with me?"

"No!" said Pitkin brusquely.

"In what respect have I failed to satisfy you, sir?"

"Don't put on any airs, boy!" returned Pitkin. "We don't want you, that's all."

"You might have given me a little notice," said Phil indignantly.

"We made no stipulation of that kind, I believe."

"It would only be fair, sir."

"No impertinence, young man! I won't stand it! I don't need any instructions as to the manner of conducting my business."

Phil by this time perceived that his discharge was decided upon without any reference to the way in which he had performed his duties, and that any discussion or remonstrance would be unavailing.

"I see, sir, that you have no regard for justice, and will leave you," he said.

"You'd better, and without delay!" said Pitkin irascibly.

Phil emerged upon the street with a sinking heart. His available funds consisted only of the money he had just received and seventy-five cents in change, and what he was to do he did not know. He walked home with slow steps, looking sad in spite of his usually hopeful temperament.

When he entered the house he met Mrs. Forbush in the hall. She at once noticed his gravity.

"Have you had any bad luck, Philip?" she asked.

"Yes," answered Phil. "I have lost my situation."

"Indeed!" returned the landlady, with quick sympathy. "Have you had any difficulty with your employer?"

"Not that I am aware of."

"Did he assign any reason for your discharge?"

"No; I asked him for an explanation, but he merely said I was not wanted any longer."

"Isn't there any chance of his taking you back?"

"I am sure there is not."

"Don't be discouraged, Philip. A smart boy like you won't be long out of a place. Meanwhile you are welcome to stay here as long as I have a roof to cover me."

"Thank you, Mrs. Forbush," said Phil warmly, "you are a true friend. You are in trouble yourself, yet you stand by me!"

"I have had a stroke of good luck to-day," said Mrs. Forbush cheerfully. "A former boarder, whom I allowed to remain here for five or six weeks when he was out of employment, has sent me thirty dollars in payment of his bill, from Boston, where he found a position. So I shall be able to pay my rent and have something over. I have been lucky, and so may you."

Phil was cheered by the ready sympathy of his landlady, and began to take a more cheerful view of matters.

"I will go out bright and early on Monday and see if I can't find another place," he said. "Perhaps it may be all for the best."

Yet on the day succeeding he had some sober hours. How differently he had been situated only three months before. Then he had a home and relatives. Now he was practically alone in the world, with no home in which he could claim a share, and he did not even know where his step-mother and Jonas were. Sunday forenoon he attended church, and while he sat within its sacred precincts his mind was tranquilized, and his faith and cheerfulness increased.

On Monday he bought the Herald, and made a tour of inquiry wherever he saw that a boy was wanted. But in each place he was asked if he could produce a recommendation from his last employer. He decided to go back to his old place and ask for one, though he was very reluctant to ask a favor of any kind from a man who had treated him so shabbily as Mr. Pitkin. It seemed necessary, however, and he crushed down his pride and made his way to Mr. Pitkin's private office.

"Mr. Pitkin!" he said.

"You here!" exclaimed Pitkin, scowling. "You needn't ask to be taken back. It's no use."

"I don't ask it," answered Phil.

"Then what are you here for?"

"I would like a letter of recommendation, that I may obtain another place."

"Well, well!" said Pitkin, wagging his head. "If that isn't impudence."

"What is impudence?" asked Phil. "I did as well as I could, and that I am ready to do for another employer. But all ask me for a letter from you."

"You won't get any!" said Pitkin abruptly.

"Where is your home?"

"I have none except in this city."

"Where did you come from?"

"From the country."

"Then I advise you to go back there. You may do for the country. You are out of place in the city."

Poor Phil! Things did indeed look dark for him. Without a letter of recommendation from Mr. Pitkin it would be almost impossible for him to secure another place, and how could he maintain himself in the city? He didn't wish to sell papers or black boots, and those were about the only paths now open to him.

"I am having a rough time!" he thought, "but I will try not to get discouraged."

He turned upon his heel and walked out of the store.

As he passed the counter where Wilbur was standing, the young man said:

"I am awfully sorry, Philip. It's a shame! If I wasn't broke I'd offer to lend you a fiver."

"Thank you all the same for your kind offer, Wilbur," said Phil.

"Come round and see me."

"So I will--soon."

He left the store and wandered aimlessly about the streets.

Four days later, sick with hope deferred, he made his way down to the wharf of the Charleston and Savannah boats, with a vague idea that he might get a job of carrying baggage, for he felt that he must not let his pride interfere with doing anything by which he could earn an honest penny.

It so happened that the Charleston boat was just in, and the passengers were just landing.

Phil stood on the pier and gazed listlessly at them as they disembarked.

All at once he started in surprise, and his heart beat joyfully.

There, just descending the gang-plank, was his tried friend, Mr. Oliver Carter, whom he supposed over a thousand miles away in Florida.

"Mr. Carter!" exclaimed Phil, dashing forward.

"Philip!" exclaimed the old gentleman, much surprised. "How came you here? Did Mr. Pitkin send you?" _

Read next: Chapter 23. An Explanation

Read previous: Chapter 21. "They Met By Chance"

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