Paul Prescott's Charge/Chapter XXVI

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Paul Prescott's Charge by Horatio Alger
Chapter XXVI: A Vulgar Relation

At the end of the first week, Paul received five dollars, the sum which the merchant had agreed to pay him for his services. With this he felt very rich. He hurried home, and displayed to the sexton the crisp bank note which had been given him.

"You will soon be a rich man, Paul," said Mr. Cameron, with a benevolent smile, returning the bill.

"But I want you to keep it, Uncle Hugh."

"Shall I put it in the Savings Bank, for you, Paul?"

"I didn't mean that. You have been supporting me--giving me board and clothes--for three years. It is only right that you should have what I earn."

"The offer is an honorable one on your part, Paul," said the sexton; "but I don't need it. If it will please you, I will take two dollars a week for your board, now, and out of the balance you may clothe yourself, and save what you can."

This arrangement seemed to be a fair one. Mr. Cameron deposited the five dollar note in his pocket-book, and passed one of three dollars to Paul. This sum our hero deposited the next Monday morning, in a savings bank. He estimated that he could clothe himself comfortably for fifty dollars a year. This would leave him one hundred towards the payment of the debt due to Squire Conant.

"By-and-by my salary will be raised," thought Paul. "Then I can save more."

He looked forward with eager anticipation to the time when he should be able to redeem his father's name, and no one would be entitled to cast reproach upon his memory.

He endeavored to perform his duties faithfully in the office, and to learn as rapidly as he could the business upon which he had entered. He soon found that he must depend mainly upon himself. George Dawkins seemed disposed to afford him no assistance, but repelled scornfully the advances which Paul made towards cordiality. He was by no means as faithful as Paul, but whenever Mr. Danforth was absent from the office, spent his time in lounging at the window, or reading a cheap novel, with one of which he was usually provided.

When Paul became satisfied that Dawkins was not inclined to accept his overtures, he ceased to court his acquaintance, and confined himself to his own desk.

One day as he was returning from dinner, he was startled by an unceremonious slap upon the shoulder.

Looking up in some surprise, he found that this greeting had come from a man just behind him, whose good-humored face and small, twinkling eyes, he at once recognized.

"How do you do, Mr. Stubbs?" inquired Paul, his face lighting up with pleasure.

"I'm so's to be round. How be you?" returned the worthy pedler, seizing our hero's hand and shaking it heartily.

Mr. Stubbs was attired in all the glory of a blue coat with brass buttons and swallow tails.

"When did you come to New York?" asked Paul.

"Just arrived; that is, I got in this mornin'. But I say, how you've grown. I shouldn't hardly have known you."

"Shouldn't you, though?" said Paul, gratified as most boys are, on being told that he had grown. "Have you come to the city on business?"

"Well, kinder on business, and kinder not. I thought I'd like to have a vacation. Besides, the old lady wanted a silk dress, and she was sot on havin' it bought in York. So I come to the city."

"Where are you stopping, Mr. Stubbs?"

"Over to the Astor House. Pretty big hotel, ain't it?"

"Yes, I see you are traveling in style."

"Yes, I suppose they charge considerable, but I guess I can stand it. I hain't been drivin' a tin-cart for nothin' the last ten years.

"How have you been enjoying yourself since you arrived?"

"Oh, pretty well. I've been round seeing the lions, and came pretty near seeing the elephant at one of them Peter Funk places."

"You did! Tell me about it."

"You see I was walkin' along when a fellow came out of one of them places, and asked me if I wouldn't go in. I didn't want to refuse such a polite invitation, and besides I had a curiosity to see what there was to be seen, so I went in. They put up a silver watch, I could see that it was a good one, and so I bid on it. It ran up to eight dollars and a quarter. I thought it was a pity it should go off so cheap, so I bid eight and a half."

"`Eight and a half and sold,' said the man; `shall I put it up for you?"

"`No, I thank you,' said I, `I'll take it as it is.'

"`But I'll put it up in a nice box for you,' said he.

"I told him I didn't care for the box. He seemed very unwilling to let it go, but I took it out of his hand and he couldn't help himself. Well, when they made out the bill, what do you suppose they charged?"

"I don't know."

"Why, eighteen and a half."

"`Look here,' said I, `I guess here's something of a mistake. You've got ten dollars too much.'

"`I think you must be mistaken,' said he, smiling a foxy smile.

"`You know I am not,' said I, rather cross.

"We can't let that watch go for any thing shorter,' said he, coolly.

"Just then a man that was present stepped up and said, `the man is right; don't attempt to impose upon him.'

"With that he calmed right down. It seems it was a policeman who was sent to watch them, that spoke. So I paid the money, but as I went out I heard the auctioneer say that the sale was closed for the day. I afterwards learned that if I had allowed them to put the watch in a box, they would have exchanged it for another that was only plated."

"Do you know anybody in the city?" asked Paul.

"I've got some relations, but I don't know where they live."

"What is the name?" asked Paul, "we can look into the directory."

"The name is Dawkins," answered the pedler.

"Dawkins!" repeated Paul, in surprise.

"Yes, do you happen to know anybody of the name?"

"Yes, but I believe it is a rich family."

"Well, so are my relations," said Jehoshaphat. "You didn't think Jehoshaphat Stubbs had any rich relations, did you? These, as I've heard tell, hold their heads as high as anybody."

"Perhaps I may be mistaken," said Paul.

"What is the name--the Christian name, I mean--of your relation?"

"George."

"It must be he, then. There is a boy of about my own age of that name. He works in the same office."

"You don't say so! Well, that is curious, I declare. To think that I should have happened to hit upon you so by accident too."

"How are you related to them?" inquired Paul.

"Why, you see, I'm own cousin to Mr. Dawkins. His father and my mother were brother and sister."

"What was his father's business?" asked Paul.

"I don't know what his regular business was, but he was a sexton in some church."

This tallied with the account Paul had received from Mr. Cameron, and he could no longer doubt that, strange as it seemed, the wealthy Mr. Dawkins was own cousin to the pedler.

"Didn't you say the boy was in the same office with you, Paul?"

"Yes."

"Well, I've a great mind to go and see him, and find out where his father lives. Perhaps I may get an invite to his house."

"How shocked Dawkins will be!" thought Paul, not, it must be confessed, without a feeling of amusement. He felt no compunction in being the instrument of mortifying the false pride of his fellow clerk, and he accordingly signified to Mr. Stubbs that he was on his way to the counting-room.

"Are you, though? Well, I guess I'll go along with you. Is it far off?"

"Only in the next street."

The pedler, it must be acknowledged, had a thoroughly countrified appearance. He was a genuine specimen of the Yankee,--a long, gaunt figure, somewhat stooping, and with a long aquiline nose. His dress has already been described.

As Dawkins beheld him entering with Paul, he turned up his nose in disgust at what he considered Paul's friend.

What was his consternation when the visitor, approaching him with a benignant smile, extended his brown hand, and said, "How d'ye do, George? How are ye all to hum?"

Dawkins drew back haughtily.

"What do you mean?" he said, pale with passion.

"Mr. Dawkins," said Paul, with suppressed merriment, "allow me to introduce your cousin, Mr. Stubbs."

"Jehoshaphat Stubbs," explained that individual. "Didn't your father never mention my name to you?"

"Sir," said Dawkins, darting a furious glance at Paul, "you are entirely mistaken if you suppose that any relationship exists between me and that--person."

"No, it's you that are mistaken," said Mr. Stubbs, persevering, "My mother was Roxana Jane Dawkins. She was own sister to your grandfather. That makes me and your father cousins Don't you see?"

"I see that you are intending to insult me," said Dawkins, the more furiously, because he began to fear there might be some truth in the man's claims. "Mr. Prescott, I leave you to entertain your company yourself."

And he threw on his hat and dashed out of the counting-room.

"Well," said the pedler, drawing a long breath, "that's cool,--denyin' his own flesh and blood. Rather stuck up, ain't he?"

"He is, somewhat," said Paul; "if I were you, I shouldn't be disposed to own him as a relation."

"Darned ef I will!" said Jehoshaphat sturdily; "I have some pride, ef I am a pedler. Guess I'm as good as he, any day."