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

Chapter 23. An Explanation

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It would be hard to tell which of the two was the more surprised at the meeting, Philip or Mr. Carter.

"I don't understand how Mr. Pitkin came to hear of my return. I didn't telegraph," said the old gentleman.

"I don't think he knows anything about it," said Phil.

"Didn't he send you to the pier?"

"No, sir."

"Then how is it that you are not in the store at this time?" asked Mr. Carter, puzzled.

"Because I am no longer in Mr. Pitkin's employ. I was discharged last Saturday."

"Discharged! What for?"

"Mr. Pitkin gave no reason. He said my services were no longer required. He spoke roughly to me, and has since declined to give me a recommendation, though I told him that without it I should be unable to secure employment elsewhere."

Mr. Carter frowned. He was evidently annoyed and indignant.

"This must be inquired into," he said. "Philip, call a carriage, and I will at once go to the Astor House and take a room. I had intended to go at once to Mr. Pitkin's, but I shall not do so until I have had an explanation of this outrageous piece of business."

Phil was rejoiced to hear this, for he was at the end of his resources, and the outlook for him was decidedly gloomy. He had about made up his mind to sink his pride and go into business as a newsboy the next day, but the very unexpected arrival of Mr. Carter put quite a new face on matters.

He called a carriage, and both he and Mr. Carter entered it.

"How do you happen to be back so soon, sir?" asked Phil, when they were seated. "I thought you were going to Florida for a couple of months."

"I started with that intention, but on reaching Charleston I changed my mind. I expected to find some friends at St. Augustine, but I learned that they were already returning to the North, and I felt that I should be lonely and decided to return. I am very glad I did, now. Did you receive my letter?"

"Your letter?" queried Philip, looking at Mr. Carter in surprise.

"Certainly. I gave Alonzo a letter for you, which I had directed to your boarding-house, and requested him to mail it. It contained a ten-dollar bill."

"I never received any such letter, sir. It would have been of great service to me--the money, I mean; for I have found it hard to live on five dollars a week. Now I have not even that."

"Is it possible that Alonzo could have suppressed the letter?" said Mr. Carter to himself.

"At any rate I never received it."

"Here is something else to inquire into," said Mr. Carter. "If Alonzo has tampered with my letter, perhaps appropriated the money, it will be the worse for him."

"I hardly think he would do that, sir; though I don't like him."

"You are generous; but I know the boy better than you do. He is fond of money, not for the sake of spending it, but for the sake of hoarding it. Tell me, then, how did you learn that I had gone to Florida?"

"I learned it at the house in Twelfth Street."

"Then you called there?"

"Yes, sir; I called to see you. I found it hard to get along on my salary, and I did not want Mrs. Forbush to lose by me, so I----"

"Mrs. Forbush?" repeated the old gentleman quickly. "That name sounds familiar to me."

"Mrs. Forbush is your niece," said Phil, a hope rising in his heart that he might be able to do his kind landlady a good turn.

"Did she tell you that?"

"No, sir; that is, I was ignorant of it until I met her just as I was going away from Mrs. Pitkin's."

"Did she call there, too--to see me?" asked the old gentleman.

"Yes, sir; but she got a very cold reception. Mrs. Pitkin was very rude to her, and said that you were so much prejudiced against her that she had better not call again."

"That's like her cold selfishness. I understand her motives very well. I had no idea that Mrs. Forbush was in the city. Is she--poor?"

"Yes, sir; she is having a hard struggle to maintain herself and her daughter."

"And you board at her house?"

"Yes, sir."

"How strangely things come about! She is as nearly related to me as Lavinia--Mrs. Pitkin."

"She told me so."

"She married against the wishes of her family, but I can see now that we were all unreasonably prejudiced against her. Lavinia, however, trumped up stories against her husband, which I am now led to believe were quite destitute of foundation, and did all she could to keep alive the feud. I feel now that I was very foolish to lend myself to her selfish ends. Of course her object was to get my whole fortune for herself and her boy."

Phil had no doubt of this, but he did not like to say so, for it would seem that he, too, was influenced by selfish motives.

"Then you are not so much prejudiced against Mrs. Forbush as she was told?" he allowed himself to say.

"No, no!" said Mr. Carter earnestly. "Poor Rebecca! She has a much better nature and disposition than Mrs. Pitkin. And you say she is poor?"

"She had great difficulty in paying her last month's rent," said Philip.

"Where does she live?"

Phil told him.

"What sort of a house is it?"

"It isn't a brown-stone front," answered Phil, smiling. "It is a poor, cheap house; but it is as good as she can afford to hire."

"And you like her?"

"Very much, Mr. Carter. She has been very kind to me, and though she finds it so hard to get along, she has told me she will keep me as long as she has a roof over her head, though just now I cannot pay my board, because my income is gone."

"It will come back again, Philip," said the old gentleman.

Phil understood by this that he would be restored to his place in Mr. Pitkin's establishment. This did not yield him unalloyed satisfaction, for he was sure that it would be made unpleasant for him by Mr. Pitkin. Still he would accept it, and meet disagreeable things as well as he could.

By this time they had reached the Astor House.

Phil jumped out first, and assisted Mr. Carter to descend.

He took Mr. Carter's hand-bag, and followed him into the hotel.

Mr. Carter entered his name in the register.

"What is your name?" he asked--"Philip Brent?"

"Yes, sir."

"I will enter your name, too."

"Am I to stay here?" asked Phil, in surprise.

"Yes; I shall need a confidential clerk, and for the present you will fill that position. I will take two adjoining rooms--one for you."

Phil listened in surprise.

"Thank you, sir," he said.

Mr. Carter gave orders to have his trunk sent for from the steamer, and took possession of the room. Philip's room was smaller, but considerably more luxurious than the one he occupied at the house of Mrs. Forbush.

"Have you any money, Philip?" asked the old gentleman.

"I have twenty-five cents," answered Philip.

"That isn't a very large sum," said Mr. Carter, smiling. "Here, let me replenish your pocketbook."

He drew four five-dollar bills from his wallet and handed them to Phil.

"How can I thank you, sir?" asked Phil gratefully.

"Wait till you have more to thank me for. Let me tell you this, that in trying to harm you, Mr. and Mrs. Pitkin have done you a great service."

"I should like to see Mrs. Forbush this evening, if you can spare me, to let her know that she needn't be anxious about me."

"By all means. You can go."

"Am I at liberty to mention that I have seen you, sir?"

"Yes. Tell her that I will call to-morrow. And you may take her this."

Mr. Carter drew a hundred-dollar bill from his wallet and passed it to Phil.

"Get it changed at the office as you go out," he said. "Come back as soon as you can."

With a joyful heart Phil jumped on a Fourth Avenue car in front of the hotel, and started on his way up town. _

Read next: Chapter 24. Raising The Rent

Read previous: Chapter 22. Phil Is "Bounced"

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