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

Chapter 25. Alonzo Is Puzzled

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Alonzo, who had his share of curiosity, as soon as he saw Phil's approach, determined to speak to him, and ascertain what were his plans and what he was doing. With the petty malice which he inherited from his mother, he hoped that Phil had been unable to find a place and was in distress.

"It would serve him right," said Alonzo to himself, "for trying to get into Uncle Oliver's good graces. I s'pose he would like to cut me out, but he'll find that he can't fight against ma and me."

"Oh, it's you, is it?" was Alonzo's salutation when they met.

"Yes," answered Phil.

"Pa bounced you, didn't he?" continued Alonzo complacently.

"Yes," answered Phil. "That is, he discharged me. I suppose that is what you meant."

"You've got it right the first time," said Alonzo.

"Have you got another place?"

"Do you ask because you feel interested in me?" asked Phil.

"Well, not particularly," answered Alonzo appearing quite amused by the suggestion.

"Then you ask out of curiosity?"

"S'pose I do?"

"I don't mind telling you that I have found a place, then."

"What sort of a place?" asked Alonzo, disappointed.

"There is no need of going into particulars."

"No. I s'pose not," sneered Alonzo. "You're probably selling papers or blacking boots."

"You are mistaken. I have a much better situation than I had with your father."

Alonzo's lower jaw fell. He was very sorry to hear it.

"Didn't your employer ask for a recommendation?"

"He didn't seem to think one necessary!" replied Phil.

"If he'd known pa had sacked you, he wouldn't have wanted you, I guess."

"He knows it. Have you got through asking questions, Alonzo?"

"You are too familiar. You can call me Mr. Pitkin."

Phil laughed at Alonzo's assumption of dignity, but made no comment upon it.

"I want to ask you what you did with that letter Mr. Carter gave you to post for me?" asked Phil.

Alonzo was indeed surprised, not to say dismayed. The truth was that, judging from the "feel" of the letter, it contained money, and he had opened it and appropriated the money to his own use. Moreover he had the bank-note in his pocket at that very moment, not having any wish to spend, but rather to hoard it.

"That's a queer question," he stammered. "What letter do you refer to?"

"A letter Mr. Carter gave you to mail to me."

"If he gave me any such letter I mailed it," answered Alonzo, scarcely knowing what to say.

"I didn't receive it."

"How do you know he gave me any letter?" demanded Alonzo, puzzled.

"I don't care to tell. I only know that there was such a letter handed to you. Do you know what was in it?"

"Writing, I s'pose," said Alonzo flippantly.

"Yes, there was, but there was also a ten-dollar bill. I didn't receive the letter," and Phil fixed his eyes searchingly upon the face of Alonzo.

"That's a pretty story!" said Alonzo. "I don't believe Uncle Oliver would be such a fool as to send you ten dollars. If he did, you got it, and now want to get as much more, pretending you haven't received it."

"You are mistaken," said Phil quietly.

"If you didn't get the letter, how do you know any was written, and that there was anything in it?" asked Alonzo triumphantly, feeling that the question was a crusher.

"I don't care to tell you how I know it. Do you deny it?"

"I don't remember whether Uncle Oliver gave me any letter or not."

"Will you be kind enough to give me his address in Florida, so that I may write to him and find out?"

"No, I won't," said Alonzo angrily, "and I think you are very cheeky to ask such a thing. Ma was right when she said that you were the most impudent boy she ever came across."

"That's enough, Alonzo," said Phil quietly. "I've found out all I wanted to."

"What have you found out?" asked Alonzo, his tone betraying some apprehension.

"Never mind. I think I know what became of that letter."

"Do you mean to say I opened it and took out the money?" demanded Alonzo, reddening.

"I wouldn't charge anybody with such a mean act, unless I felt satisfied of it."

"You'd better not!" said Alonzo, in a bullying tone. "If I find out who you're working for, I'll let him know that pa bounced you."

"Just as you please! I don't think that any words of yours will injure me with the gentleman I have the good fortune to work for."

"Don't you be too sure! If you think he wouldn't mind a boy, I'll refer him to pa and ma. They'll give you a good setting out."

"I don't doubt it," said Phil indifferently, and turned to go away.

He was called back by Alonzo, who had not quite satisfied his curiosity.

"Say, are you boarding with that woman who came to see ma the same day you were at the house?" he asked.

"No; I have left her."

Alonzo looked well pleased. He knew that his mother felt rather uneasy at the two being together, dreading lest they should make a concerted attempt to ingratiate themselves with her rich uncle.

"Ma says she behaved very badly," Alonzo could not help adding.

"Mrs. Forbush is an excellent Lady," said Phil warmly, for he could not hear one of his friends spoken against.

"Lady! She's as poor as poverty," sneered Alonzo.

"She is none the worse for that."

"Uncle Oliver can't bear her!"

"Indeed!" said Phil; pausing to see what else Alonzo would say.

"Ma says she disgraced herself, and all her relations gave her up. When you see her tell her she had better not come sneaking round the house again."

"If you will write a letter to that effect, I will see that she gets it," said Phil. "That letter won't miscarry."

"I don't care to take any notice of her," said Alonzo loftily.

"You are very kind to have wasted so much notice upon me," said Phil, amused.

Alonzo did not see fit to answer this, but walked away with his head in the air. He was, however, not quite easy in mind.

"How in the world," he asked himself, "could that boy have found out that Uncle Oliver gave me a letter to post? If he should learn that I opened it and took the money, there'd be a big fuss. I guess I'd better not meet him again. If I see him any day I'll go in a different direction. He's so artful he may get me into trouble."

It is needless to say that neither Mr. or Mrs. Pitkin knew of Alonzo's tampering with the letter. Much as they would have been opposed to Phil's receiving such a letter, they would have been too wise to sanction such a bold step.

"Well," said Mr. Carter, when Phil returned, "did you see Rebecca--Mrs. Forbush?"

"Yes, sir, and handed her the money. She was overjoyed; not so much at receiving so generous a sum as at learning that you were reconciled to her."

"Poor girl!" said the old man, forgetting that she was now a worn woman. "I am afraid that she must have suffered much."

"She has met with many hardships, sir, but she won't mind them now."

"If I live her future shall be brighter than her past. I will call to-morrow. You, Philip, shall go with me."

"I should like to do so, sir. By the way, I met Alonzo on Broadway."

He detailed the conversation that had taken place between them.

"I am afraid he took the money," said Mr. Carter. "I am sorry any relative of mine should have acted in that way. Let him keep it. Any benefit he may derive from it will prove to have been dearly purchased." _

Read next: Chapter 26. A Wonderful Change

Read previous: Chapter 24. Raising The Rent

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