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

Chapter 40. A Scene Not On The Bills

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Phil was in Chicago, but that was only the first step toward finding those of whom he was in search. Had he been sure that they were in the city, it would have simplified matters, but the fact that Mrs. Brent directed her letters to be sent to that city proved nothing. It did not make it certain that she lived in the town.

"We are only at the beginning of our perplexities, Philip," said Mr. Carter. "Your friends may be near us, or they may be a hundred miles away."

"That is true, sir."

"One method of finding them is barred, that of advertising, since they undoubtedly do not care to be found, and an advertisement would only place them on their guard."

"What would you advise, sir?"

"We might employ a detective to watch the post-office, but here again there might be disappointment. Mrs. Brent might employ a third person to call for her letters. However, I have faith to believe that sooner or later we shall find her. Time and patience accomplishes much."

"Were you ever a detective, sir?" asked Phil, smiling.

"No, Philip, but I have had occasion to employ them. Now how would you like to go to the theater this evening?"

"Very much, sir."

"There is a good play running at McVicker's Theatre. We will go there."

"Anywhere will suit me, Mr. Carter."

"Young people are easily satisfied," he said. "When they get older they get more fastidious. However, there is generally something attractive at McVicker's."

It so happened that Philip and his employer took a late dinner, and did not reach the theater till ten minutes after the hour. They had seats in the seventh row of orchestra chairs, a very eligible portion of the house.

The curtain had risen, and Philip's attention was given to the stage till the end of the first act. Then he began to look around him.

Suddenly he started and half rose from his seat.

"What is the matter, Philip?" asked Mr. Carter.

"There, sir! look there!" said the boy, in excitement, pointing to two persons in the fourth row in front.

"Do you recognize acquaintances, Philip?"

"It is my step-mother and Jonas," answered Philip eagerly.

"It is, indeed, wonderful!" said Mr. Carter, sharing the boy's excitement. "You are confident, are you?"

"Oh, sir, I couldn't be mistaken about that."

Just then Mrs. Brent turned to a gentleman at her side and spoke. It was Mr. Granville.

"Who is that gentleman?" said Mr. Carter reflectively. "Do you think Mrs. Brent is married again?"

"I don't know what to think!" said Philip, bewildered.

"I will tell you what to do. You cannot allow these people to elude you. Go to the hotel, ask a direction to the nearest detective office, have a man detailed to come here directly, and let him find, if necessary, where your step-mother and her son are living."

Philip did so, and it was the close of the second act before he returned. With him was a small, quiet gentleman, of unpretending appearance, but skilled as a detective.

"Now," continued Mr. Carter, "you may venture at any time to go forward and speak to your friends--if they can be called such."

"I don't think they can, sir. I won't go till the last intermission."

Phil was forestalled, however. At the close of the fourth act Jonas happened to look back, and his glance fell upon Philip.

A scared, dismayed look was on his face as he clutched his mother's arm and whispered:

"Ma, Philip is sitting just back of us."

Mrs. Brent's heart almost ceased to beat. She saw that the moment of exposure was probably at hand.

With pale face she whispered:

"Has he seen us?"

"He is looking right at us."

She had time to say no more. Philip left his seat, and coming forward, approached the seat of his step-mother.

"How do you do, Mrs. Brent?" he said.

She stared at him, but did not speak.

"How are you, Jonas?" continued our hero.

"My name isn't Jonas," muttered the boy addressed.

Mr. Granville meanwhile had been eagerly looking at Philip. There appeared to be something in his appearance which riveted the attention of the beholder. Was it the voice of nature which spoke from the striking face of the boy?

"You have made a mistake, boy," said Mrs. Brent, summoning all her nerve. "I am not the lady you mention, and this boy does not bear the name of Jonas."

"What is his name, then?" demanded Philip.

"My name is Philip Granville," answered Jonas quickly.

"Is it? Then it has changed suddenly," answered Phil, in a sarcastic voice. "Six months ago, when we were all living at Planktown, your name was Jonas Webb."

"You must be a lunatic!" said Mrs. Brent, with audacious falsehood.

"My own name is Philip, as you very well know."

"Your name Philip?" exclaimed Mr. Granville, with an excitement which he found it hard to control.

"Yes, sir; the lady is my step-mother, and this boy is her son Jonas."

"And you--whose son are you?" gasped Mr. Granville.

"I don't know, sir. I was left at an early age at a hotel kept by this lady's husband, by my father, who never returned."

"Then YOU must be my son!" said Mr. Granville. "You and not this boy!"

"You, sir? Did you leave me?"

"I left my son with Mr. Brent. This lady led me to believe that the boy at my side was my son."

Here, then, was a sudden and startling occurrence. Mrs. Brent fainted. The strain had been too much for her nerves, strong as they were. Of course she must be attended to.

"Come with me; I cannot lose sight of you now, MY SON!" said Mr. Granville. "Where are you staying?"

"At the Palmer House."

"So am I. Will you be kind enough to order a carriage."

Mrs. Brent was conveyed to the hotel, and Jonas followed sullenly.

Of course Philip, Mr. Granville and Mr. Carter left the theater.

Later the last three held a conference in the parlor.

It took little to convince Mr. Granville that Philip was his son.

"I am overjoyed!" he said. "I have never been able to feel toward the boy whom you call Jonas as a father should. He was very distasteful to me."

"It was an extraordinary deception on the part of Mrs. Brent," said Mr. Carter thoughtfully.

"She is a very unprincipled woman," said Mr. Granville. "Even now that matters have come right, I find it hard to forgive her."

"You do not know all the harm she has sought to do your son. The sum of five thousand dollars was left him by Mr. Brent, and she suppressed the will."

"Good heavens! is this true?"

"We have the evidence of it."


The next day an important interview was held at the Palmer House. Mrs. Brent was forced to acknowledge the imposition she had practiced upon Mr. Granville.

"What could induce you to enter into such a wicked conspiracy?" asked Mr. Granville, shocked.

"The temptation was strong--I wished to make my son rich. Besides, I hated Philip."

"It is well your wicked plan has been defeated; it might have marred my happiness forever."

"What are you going to do with me?" she asked coolly, but not without anxiety.

It was finally settled that the matter should be hushed up. Philip wished to give up the sum bequeathed him by Mr. Brent; but to this Mr. Granville objected, feeling that it would constitute a premium on fraud. Besides, Mrs. Brent would have the residue of the estate, amounting to nearly ten thousand dollars. Being allowed to do what he chose with this money, he gave it in equal portions to Tommy Kavanagh and Mr. Raynor, who had informed him of the existence of Mr. Brent's will.

Mrs. Brent decided not to go back to Planktown. She judged that the story of her wickedness would reach that village and make it disagreeable for her. She opened a small millinery store in Chicago, and is doing fairly well. But Jonas is her chief trouble, as he is lazy and addicted to intemperate habits. His chances of success and an honorable career are small.

"How can I spare you, Philip?" said Mr. Carter regretfully. "I know your father has the best right to you, but I don't like to give you up."

"You need not," said Mr. Granville. "I propose to remove to New York; but in the summer I shall come to my estate near Chicago, and hope, since the house is large enough, that I may persuade you and your niece, Mrs. Forbush, to be my guests."

This arrangement was carried out. Mrs. Forbush and her daughter are the recognized heirs of Mr. Carter, who is wholly estranged from the Pitkins. He ascertained, through a detective, that the attack upon Philip by the man who stole from him the roll of bills was privately instigated by Mr. Pitkin himself, in the hope of getting Philip into trouble. Mr. Carter, thereupon, withdrew his capital from the firm, and Mr. Pitkin is generally supposed to be on the verge of bankruptcy. At any rate, his credit is very poor, and there is a chance that the Pitkins may be reduced to comparative poverty.

"I won't let Lavinia suffer," said Uncle Oliver; "if the worst comes to the worst, I will settle a small income, say twelve hundred dollars, on her, but we can never be friends."

As Phil grew older--he is now twenty-one--it seems probable that he and Mr. Carter may be more closely connected, judging from his gallant attentions to Julia Forbush, who has developed into a charming young lady. Nothing would suit Mr. Carter better, for there is no one who stands higher in his regard than Philip Granville, the Errand Boy. _

Read next: Fred Sargent's Revenge

Read previous: Chapter 39. At The Palmer House

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