The Errand Boy/Chapter XXVII

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The Errand Boy by Horatio Alger
Chapter XXVII: An Unpleasant Surprise

While these important changes were occurring in the lives of Philip Brent and the poor cousin, Mrs. Pitkin remained in blissful ignorance of what was going on. Alonzo had told her of his encounter with Phil on Broadway and the intelligence our hero gave him of his securing a place.

"You may rest assured the boy was lying, Lonny," said Mrs. Pitkin. "Boys don't get places so easily, especially when they can't give a recommendation from their last employer.

"That's just what I thought, ma," said Alonzo.

"Still Phil looked in good spirits, and he was as saucy as ever."

"I can believe the last very well, Lonny. The boy is naturally impertinent. They were probably put on to deceive you."

"But how does he get money to pay his way?" said Alonzo puzzled.

"As to that, he is probably selling papers or blacking boots in the lower part of the city. He could make enough to live on, and of course he wouldn't let you know what he was doing."

"I hope you're right, ma. I'd give ever so much to catch him blacking boots in City Hall Park, or anywhere else; I'd give him a job. Wouldn't he feel mortified to be caught?"

"No doubt he would."

"I've a great mind to go down town to-morrow and look about for him."

"Very well, Lonny. You may to if you want to."

Alonzo did go; but he looked in vain for Phil. The latter was employed in doing some writing and attending to some accounts for Mr. Carter, who had by this time found that his protege was thoroughly well qualified for such work.

So nearly a week passed. It so chanced that though Uncle Oliver had now been in New York a considerable time, not one of the Pitkins had met him or had reason to suspect that he was nearer than Florida.

One day, however, among Mrs. Pitkin's callers was Mrs. Vangriff, a fashionable acquaintance.

"Mr. Oliver Carter is your uncle, I believe?" said the visitor.

"Yes."

"I met him on Broadway the other day. He was looking very well."

"It must have been a fortnight since, then. Uncle Oliver is in Florida."

"In Florida!" repeated Mrs. Vangriff, in surprise.

"When did he go?"

"When was it, Lonny?" asked Mrs. Pitkin, appealing to her son.

"It will be two weeks next Thursday."

"There must be some mistake," said the visitor.

"I saw Mr. Carter on Broadway, near Twentieth Street, day before yesterday."

"Quite a mistake, I assure you, Mrs. Vangriff," said Mrs. Pitkin, smiling. "It was some other person. You were deceived by a fancied resemblance."

"It is you who are wrong, Mrs. Pitkin," said Mrs. Vangriff, positively. "I am somewhat acquainted with Mr. Carter, and I stopped to speak with him."

"Are you sure of this?" asked Mrs. Pitkin, looking startled.

"Certainly, I am sure of it."

"Did you call him by name?"

"Certainly; and even inquired after you. He answered that he believed you were well. I thought he was living with you?"

"So he was," answered Mrs. Pitkin coolly as possible, considering the startling nature of the information she had received. "Probably Uncle Oliver returned sooner than he anticipated, and was merely passing through the city. He has important business interests at the West."

"I don't think he was merely passing through the city, for a friend of mine saw him at the Fifth Avenue Theater last evening."

Mrs. Pitkin actually turned as pale as her sallow complexion would admit.

"I am rather surprised to hear this, I admit," she said. "Was he alone, do you know?"

"No; he had a lady and a boy with him."

"Is it possible that Uncle Oliver has been married to some designing widow?" Mrs. Pitkin asked herself. "It is positively terrible!"

She did not dare to betray her agitation before Mrs. Vangriff, and sat on thorns till that lady saw fit to take leave. Then she turned to Alonzo and said, in a hollow voice:

"Lonny, you heard what that woman said?"

"You bet!"

"Do you think Uncle Oliver has gone and got married again?" she asked, in a hollow voice.

"I shouldn't wonder a mite, ma," was the not consolitary reply.

"If so, what will become of us? My poor boy, I looked upon you and myself as likely to receive all of Uncle Oliver's handsome property. As it is----" and she almost broke down.

"Perhaps he's only engaged?" suggested Alonzo.

"To be sure!" said his mother, brightening up.

"If so, the affair may yet be broken off. Oh, Lonny, I never thought your uncle was so artful. His trip to Florida was only a trick to put us off the scent."

"What are you going to do about it, ma?"

"I must find out as soon as possible where Uncle Oliver is staying. Then I will see him, and try to cure him of his infatuation. He is evidently trying to keep us in the dark, or he would have come back to his rooms."

"How are you going to find out, ma?"

"I don't know. That's what puzzles me."

"S'pose you hire a detective?"

"I wouldn't dare to. Your uncle would be angry when he found it out."

"Do you s'pose Phil knows anything about it?" suggested Alonzo.

"I don't know; it is hardly probable. Do you know where he lives?"

"With the woman who called here and said she was your cousin."

"Yes, I remember, Lonny. I will order the carriage, and we will go there. But you must be very careful not to let them know Uncle Oliver is in New York. I don't wish them to meet him."

"All right! I ain't a fool. You can trust me, ma."

Soon the Pitkin carriage was as the door, and Mrs. Pitkin and Alonzo entered it, and were driven to the shabby house so recently occupied by Mrs. Forbush.

"It's a low place!" said Alonzo contemptuously, as he regarded disdainfully the small dwelling.

"Yes; but I suppose it is as good as she can afford to live in. Lonny, will you get out and ring the bell? Ask if Mrs. Forbush lives there."

Alonzo did as requested.

The door was opened by a small girl, whose shabby dress was in harmony with the place.

"Rebecca's child, I suppose!" said Mrs. Pitkin, who was looking out of the carriage window.

"Does Mrs. Forbush live here?" asked Alonzo.

"No, she doesn't. Mrs. Kavanagh lives here."

"Didn't Mrs. Forbush used to live here?" further asked Alonzo, at the suggestion of his mother.

"I believe she did. She moved out a week ago."

"Do you know where she moved to?"

"No, I don't."

"Does a boy named Philip Brent live here?"

"No, he doesn't."

"Do you know why Mrs. Forbush moved away?" asked Alonzo again, at the suggestion of his mother.

"Guess she couldn't pay her rent."

"Very likely," said Alonzo, who at last had received an answer with which he was pleased.

"Well, ma, there isn't any more to find out here," he said.

"Tell the driver--home!" said his mother.

When they reached the house in Twelfth Street, there was a surprise in store for them.

"Who do you think's up-stairs, mum?" said Hannah, looking important.

"Who? Tell me quick!"

"It's your Uncle Oliver, mum, just got home from Florida; but I guess he's going somewhere else mum, for he's packing up his things."

"Alonzo, we will go up and see him," said Mrs. Pitkin, excited. "I must know what all this means."