The Errand Boy/Chapter XIII
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Chapter XIII: Phil's New Home
|Chapter XIV: Consulting the Oracle→|
The house was poorly furnished with cheap furniture, but there was an unexpected air of neatness about it. There is a great difference between respectable and squalid poverty. It was the first of these that was apparent in the small house in which our hero found himself.
"I am looking for a boarding-place," said Philip. "I cannot afford to pay a high price."
"And I should not think of asking a high price for such plain accommodations as I can offer," said Mrs. Forbush. "What sort of a room do you desire?"
"A small room will answer."
"I have a hall-bedroom at the head of the stairs. Will you go up and look at it?"
"I should like to do so."
Mrs. Forbush led the way up a narrow staircase, and Philip followed her.
Opening the door of the small room referred to, she showed a neat bed, a chair, a wash-stand, and a few hooks from which clothing might be hung. It was plain enough, but there was an air of neatness which did not characterize his present room.
"I like the room," he said, brightening up. "How much do you charge for this room and board?"
"Four dollars. That includes breakfast and supper," answered Mrs. Forbush. "Lunch you provide for yourself."
"That will be satisfactory," said Phil. "I am in a place down town, and I could not come to lunch, at any rate."
"When would you like to come, Mr.----?" said the widow interrogatively."
"My name is Philip Brent."
"I will come some time to-morrow."
"Generally I ask a small payment in advance, as a guarantee that an applicant will really come, but I am sure I can trust you."
"Thank you, but I am quite willing to conform to your usual rule," said Phil, as he drew a two-dollar bill from his pocket and handed it to the widow.
So they parted, mutually pleased. Phil's week at his present lodging would not be up for several days, but he was tired of it, and felt that he would be much more comfortable with Mrs. Forbush. So he was ready to make the small pecuniary sacrifice needful.
The conversation which has been recorded took but five minutes, and did not materially delay Phil, who, as I have already said, was absent from the store on an errand.
The next day Phil became installed at his new boarding-place, and presented himself at supper.
There were three other boarders, two being a young salesman at a Third Avenue store and his wife. They occupied a square room on the same floor with Phil. The other was a female teacher, employed in one of the city public schools. The only remaining room was occupied by a drummer, who was often called away for several days together. This comprised the list of boarders, but Phil's attention was called to a young girl of fourteen, of sweet and attractive appearance, whom he ascertained to be a daughter of Mrs. Forbush. The young lady herself, Julia Forbush, cast frequent glances at Phil, who, being an unusually good-looking boy, would naturally excite the notice of a young girl.
On the whole, it seemed a pleasant and social circle, and Phil felt that he had found a home.
The next day, as he was occupied in the store, next to G. Washington Wilbur, he heard that young man say:
"Why, there's Mr. Carter coming into the store!"
Mr. Oliver Carter, instead of making his way directly to the office where Mr. Pitkin was sitting, came up to where Phil was at work.
"How are you getting along, my young friend?" he asked familiarly.
"Very well, thank you, sir."
"Do you find your duties very fatiguing?"
"Oh, no, sir. I have a comfortable time."
"That's right. Work cheerfully and you will win the good opinion of your employer. Don't forget to come up and see me soon."
"Thank you, sir."
"You seem to be pretty solid with the old man," remarked Mr. Wilbur.
"We are on very good terms," answered Phil, smiling.
"I wish you had introduced him to me," said Wilbur.
"Don't you know him?" asked Phil, in surprise.
"He doesn't often come to the store, and when he does he generally goes at once to the office, and the clerks don't have a chance to get acquainted."
"I should hardly like to take the liberty, then," said Phil.
"Oh, keep him to yourself, then, if you want to," said Mr. Wilbur, evidently annoyed.
"I don't care to do that. I shall be entirely willing to introduce you when there is a good chance."
This seemed to appease Mr. Wilbur, who became once more gracious.
"Philip," he said, as the hour of closing approached, "why can't you come around and call upon me this evening?"
"So I will," answered Phil readily.
Indeed, he found it rather hard to fill up his evenings, and was glad to have a way suggested.
"Do. I want to tell you a secret."
"Where do you live?" asked Phil.
"No.---- East Twenty-second Street."
"All right. I will come round about half-past seven."
Though Wilbur lived in a larger house than he, Phil did not like his room as well. There being only one chair in the room, Mr. Wilbur put his visitor in it, and himself sat on the bed.
There was something of a mystery in the young man's manner as, after clearing his throat, he said to Phil:
"I am going to tell you a secret."
Phil's curiosity was somewhat stirred, and he signified that he would like to hear it.
"I have for some time wanted a confidant," said Mr. Wilbur. "I did not wish to trust a mere acquaintance, for--ahem!--the matter is quite a delicate one.
Phil regarded him with increased interest.
"I am flattered by your selecting me," said he. "I will keep your secret."
"Phil," said Mr. Wilbur, in a tragic tone, "you may be surprised to hear that I am in LOVE!"
Phil started and wanted to laugh, but Mr. Wilbur's serious, earnest look restrained him.
"Ain't you rather young?" he ventured to say.
"No; I am nineteen," answered Mr. Wilbur.
"The heart makes no account of years."
Whether this was original or borrowed, Phil could not tell.
"Have you been in love long?" asked Phil.
"Does the lady know it?"
"Not yet," returned Mr. Wilbur. "I have worshiped her from afar. I have never even spoken to her."
"Then the matter hasn't gone very far?"
"No, not yet."
"Where did you meet her first?"
"In a Broadway stage."
"What is her name?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know much about her, then?"
"Yes; I know where she lives."
"On Lexington Avenue."
"Between Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth Streets. Would you like to see her house?"
"Yes," answered Phil, who saw that Mr. Wilbur wished him so to answer.
"Then come out. We might see her."
The two boys--for Mr. Wilbur, though he considered himself a young man of large experience, was really scarcely more than a boy--bent their steps to Lexington Avenue, and walked in a northerly direction.
They had reached Twenty-eighth Street, when the door of house farther up on the avenue was opened and a lady came out.
"That's she!" ejaculated Mr. Wilbur, clutching Phil by the arm.
Phil looked, and saw a tall young lady, three or four inches taller than his friend and as many years older. He looked at his companion with surprise.
"Is that the young lady you are in love with?" he asked.
"Yes; isn't she a daisy?" asked the lover fervently.
"I am not much of a judge of daisies,' answered Phil, a little embarrassed, for the young lady had large features, and was, in his eyes, very far from pretty.