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

Chapter 38. An Important Discovery

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"Mr. Carter, can you spare me a couple of days?" asked Philip.

"Certainly, Phil," answered the old gentleman. "May I ask how you wish to dispose of the time?"

"I would like to go to Planktown to see my friends there. It is now some months since I left the village, and I would like to see my old friends."

"The desire is a natural one. Your home is broken up, is it not?"

"Yes, but I can stay at the house of Tommy Kavanagh. I know he will be glad to have me."

"It is strange that your step-mother and her son have left no trace behind them," said Mr. Carter thoughtfully. "It looks suspicious, as if they had some good reason for their disappearance."

"I can't understand why they should have left Planktown," said Philip, appearing puzzled.

"Is the house occupied?"

"Yes. I hear that a cousin of Mrs. Brent occupies it. I shall call and inquire after her."

"Very well, Philip. Go when you please. You may be sure of a welcome when you return."

In Planktown, though his home relations latterly had not been pleasant, Philip had many friends, and when he appeared on the street, he met everywhere glances of friendly welcome. One of the first to meet him was Tommy Kavanagh.

"Where did you come from, Phil?" he asked.

"I am glad enough to see you. Where are you staying?"

"Nowhere, Tommy, at present. If your mother can take me in, I will stay at your house."

"Take you? Yes, and will be glad enough to have you stay with us. You know we live in a small house, but if you don't mind----"

"What do you take me for, Tommy? Whatever is good enough for you and your mother will be good enough for me."

"What are you doing, Phil? You don't look as if you had hard work making a living."

"I am well fixed now, but I have had some anxious days. But all's well that ends well. I am private secretary to a rich man, and live in a fine brown-stone house on Madison Avenue."

"Good for you, Phil! I knew you'd succeed."

"Where is Mrs. Brent? Has anything been heard from her?"

"I don't think anybody in the village knows where she is--that is, except her cousin, who lives in your old house."

"What is his name?"

"Hugh Raynor."

"What sort of a man is he?"

"The people in the village don't like him. He lives alone, and I hear that he cooks for himself. He is not at all social, and no one feels very much acquainted with him."

"I shall call upon him and inquire after Mrs. Brent."

"Then, Phil, you had better go alone, for he doesn't like callers, and he will be more ready to receive one than two."

Philip enjoyed his visit, and was busied making calls on his old acquaintances. He was much pleased with the cordiality with which he had been received.

It was not till the afternoon of the second day that he turned his steps toward the house which had been his home for so long a time.

We will precede him, and explain matters which made his visit very seasonable.

In the sitting-room sat Hugh Raynor, the present occupant of the house. He was a small, dark-complexioned man, with a large Roman nose, and his face was at this moment expressive of discontent. This seemed to be connected with a letter which he had just been reading. Not to keep the reader in suspense, it was mailed at Chicago, and was written by Mrs. Brent. We will quote a paragraph:

"You seem to me very unreasonable in expecting me not only to give you the house rent-free, but also to give you a salary. I would like to know what you do to merit a salary. You merely take care of the house. As for that, there are plenty who would be glad to take charge of so good a house, and pay me a fair rent. Indeed, I am thinking that it will be best for me to make some such arrangement, especially as you do not seem satisfied with your sinecure position. You represent me as rolling in wealth. Jonas and I are living very comfortably, and we have nothing to complain of, but that is no reason for my squandering the small fortune left me by my husband. I advise you to be a little more reasonable in your demands, or I shall request you to leave my house."

"Selfish as ever," muttered Mr. Raynor, after reading this letter over again. "Cousin Jane never was willing that any one else should prosper. But she has made a mistake in thinking she can treat me meanly. I AM IN A POSITION TO TURN THE TABLES UPON HER! This paper--if she dreamed I had found it, she would yield to all my demands."

He laid his hand upon a paper, folded lengthwise, and presenting the appearance of a legal document.

He opened the paper and read aloud:

"To the boy generally known as Philip Brent and supposed, though incorrectly, to be my son, I bequeath the sum of five thousand dollars, and direct the same to be paid over to any one whom he may select as guardian, to hold in trust for him until he attains the age of twenty-one."

"This will Mrs. Brent carefully concealed," continued Mr. Raynor, "in order to save the money for herself and Jonas. I wonder she was not prudent enough to burn it, or, at any rate, to take it with her when she left Planktown. It is a damaging secret, but I hold it, and I mean to use it, too. Let me see, what is it best to do?"

Mr. Raynor spent some time in quiet thought. It seemed to him that it might be well to hint his discovery in a letter to Mrs. Brent, and to make it the basis of a demand for a generous sum of hush-money--one thousand dollars, at least. He might have decided to do this but for an incident which suggested another course.

The door-bell rang, and when he opened the door with some surprise, for callers were few, he saw standing before him a tall, handsome boy, whom he did not recognize.

"Do you wish to see me?" he asked. "What is your name?"

"My name is Philip Brent."

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Raynor, in visible excitement, "are you the son of the late Mr. Brent?"

"I was always regarded as such," answered Philip.

"Come in, then. I am glad to see you," said Mr. Raynor; and Phil entered the house, surprised at a reception much more cordial than he had expected.

In that brief moment Mr. Raynor had decided to reveal the secret to Phil, and trust to his gratitude for a suitable acknowledgment. In this way he would revenge himself upon Mrs. Brent, who had treated him so meanly.

"I have been wishing to see you, for I have a secret of importance to communicate," said Mr. Raynor.

"If it relates to my parents, I know it already," said Phil.

"No; it is something to your advantage. In revealing it I make Mrs. Brent my enemy, and shall forfeit the help she is giving me."

"If it is really of advantage to me, and I am able to make up your loss to you, I will do it," said Phil.

"That is sufficient. I will trust to your honor. You look like a boy who will keep a promise though not legally bound."

"You only do me justice, Mr. Raynor."

"Then cast your eye upon this paper and you will know the secret."

"Is it a will?" exclaimed Phil, in surprise.

"Yes, it is the will of the late Gerald Brent. By it he bequeaths to you five thousand dollars."

"Then he did not forget me," said Phil, more pleased with the assurance that he had been remembered than by the sum of money bequeathed to him. "But why have I not known this before?" he asked, looking up from the will.

"You must ask that of Mrs. Brent!" said Mr. Raynor significantly.

"Do you think she suppressed it purposely?"

"I do," answered Raynor laconically.

"I must see her. Where can I find her?"

"I can only say that her letters to me are mailed in Chicago, but she scrupulously keeps her address a secret."

"Then I must go to Chicago. May I take this paper with me?"

"Yes. I advise you to put it into the hands of a lawyer for safe keeping. You will not forget that you are indebted to me for it?"

"No, Mr. Raynor. I will take care you lose nothing by your revelation."

The next morning Phil returned to New York. _

Read next: Chapter 39. At The Palmer House

Read previous: Chapter 37. Mrs. Brent's Panic

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