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

Chapter 24. Raising The Rent

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Leaving Phil, we will precede him to the house of Mrs. Forbush.

She had managed to pay the rent due, but she was not out of trouble. The time had come when it was necessary to decide whether she would retain the house for the following year. In New York, as many of my young readers may know, the first of May is moving-day, and leases generally begin at that date. Engagements are made generally by or before March 1st.

Mr. Stone, the landlord, called upon the widow to ascertain whether she proposed to remain in the house.

"I suppose I may as well do so," said Mrs. Forbush.

She had had difficulty in making her monthly payments, but to move would involve expense, and it might be some time before she could secure boarders in a new location.

"You can't do better," said the landlord. "At fifty dollars a month this is a very cheap house."

"You mean forty-five? Mr. Stone?" said Mrs. Forbush.

"No, I don't," said the landlord.

"But that is what I have been paying this last year."

"That is true, but I ought to get fifty dollars, and if you won't pay it somebody else will."

"Mr. Stone," said the widow, in a troubled voice, "I hope you will be considerate. It has been as much as I could do to get together forty-five dollars each month to pay you. Indeed, I can pay no more."

"Pardon me for saying that that is no affair of mine," said the landlord brusquely. "If you can't pay the rent, by all means move into a smaller house. If you stay here you must be prepared to pay fifty dollars a month."

"I don't see how I can," answered the widow in dejection.

"I'll give you three days to consider it," said the landlord indifferently. "You'll make a mistake if you give the house up. However, that is your affair."

The landlord left the house, and Mrs. Forbush sat down depressed.

"Julia," she said to her daughter, "I wish you were old enough to advise me. I dislike to move, but I don't dare to engage to pay such a rent. Fifty dollars a month will amount to----"

"Six hundred dollars a year!" said Julia, who was good at figures.

"And that seems a great sum to us."

"It would be little enough to Mrs. Pitkin," said Julia, who felt that lady's prosperity unjust, while her poor, patient mother had to struggle so hard for a scanty livelihood.

"Oh, yes; Lavinia is rolling in wealth," sighed Mrs. Forbush. "I can't understand how Uncle Oliver can bestow his favors on so selfish a woman."

"Why don't you ask Philip's advice about keeping the house?" said Julia.

It must be explained that Philip and Julia were already excellent friends, and it may be said that each was mutually attracted by the other.

"Poor Philip has his own troubles," said Mrs. Forbush. "He has lost his place through the malice and jealousy of Mr. and Mrs. Pitkin, for I am sure that Lavinia is the cause of his dismissal, and I don't know when he will be able to get another."

"You won't send him away, mother, if he can't pay his board?"

"No," answered her mother warmly. "Philip is welcome to stay with us as long as we have a roof over our heads, whether he can pay his board or not."

This answer seemed very satisfactory to Julia, who rose impulsively and kissed her mother.

"That's a good mother," she said. "It would be a pity to send poor Philip into the street."

"You seem to like Philip," said Mrs. Forbush, smiling faintly.

"Yes, mother. You know I haven't any brother, and Phil seems just like a brother to me."

Just then the door opened, and Philip himself entered the room.

Generally he came home looking depressed, after a long and ineffectual search for employment. Now he was fairly radiant with joy.

"Phil, you've got a place; I know you have!" exclaimed Julia, noticing his glad expression. "Where is it? Is it a good one?"

"Have you really got a place, Philip?" asked Mrs. Forbush.

"Yes, for the present."

"Do you think you shall like your employer?"

"He is certainly treating me very well," said Phil, smiling. "He has paid me twenty dollars in advance."

"Then the age of wonders has not passed," said the widow. "Of course I believe you, Philip, but it seems extraordinary."

"There is something more extraordinary to come," said Phil. "He has sent you some money, too."

"Me!" exclaimed Mrs. Forbush, in great surprise.

"What can he know about me?"

"I told him about you."

"But we are strangers."

"He used to know you, and still feels an interest in you, Mrs. Forbush."

"Who can it be?" said the widow, looking bewildered.

"I don't want to keep you in suspense any longer, so I may as well say that it is your Uncle Oliver."

"Uncle Oliver! Why, he is in Florida."

"No; he came home from Charleston. I happened to be at the pier--I went down to see if I could get a job at smashing baggage--when I saw him walking down the gang-plank."

"Has he gone to his old quarters at Mr. Pitkin's?"

"No; what I told about the way they treated you and me made him angry, and he drove to the Astor House. I have a room there, too, and am to act as his private secretary."

"So that is your new situation, Phil?" said Julia.

"Yes, and it is a good one."

"And he really feels kindly to me?" said Mrs. Forbush hopefully.

"He sends you this and will call to-morrow," said Phil. "Actions speak louder than words. There are a hundred dollars in this roll of bills."

"He sent all this to me?" she said.

"Yes, and of his own accord. It was no suggestion of mine.

"Julia," said Mrs. Forbush, turning to her daughter, "I believe God has heard my prayer, and that better days are in store for all of us."

"Philip included," added Phil, smiling.

"Yes. I want you to share in our good fortune."

"Mother, you had better consult Phil about keeping the house."

"Oh, yes."

Mrs. Forbush thereupon told Philip of the landlord's visit and his proposal to ask a higher rent.

"I hesitated about taking the house," she said; "but with this handsome gift from Uncle Oliver, I don't know but I may venture. What do you think?"

"I think, Mrs. Forbush, you had better not decide till you have seen your uncle. He may have some plan of his own for you. At any rate, you had better consult him. He will call to-morrow. And now, let me pay you for my week's board."

"No, Philip. I shall not want it with all this money, which I should not have received but for you."

"A debt is a debt, Mrs. Forbush, and I prefer to pay it. I shall not be here to supper, as Mr. Carter is expecting me back to the Astor House. I shall probably come with him when he calls upon you to-morrow."

On his return to the hotel, as he was walking on Broadway, Phil came face to face with Alonzo Pitkin.

"I think I'll ask him about that letter his uncle gave him to post to me," thought Phil, and he waited until Alonzo was close at hand. _

Read next: Chapter 25. Alonzo Is Puzzled

Read previous: Chapter 23. An Explanation

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