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The Errand Boy; Or, How Phil Brent Won Success

The Errand Boy; Or, How Phil Brent Won Success

Author:Jr. Horatio Alger


Phil Brent was plodding through the snow in the direction of the house where he lived with his step-mother and her son, when a snow-ball, moist and hard, struck him just below his ear with stinging emphasis. The pain was considerable, and Phil's anger rose...
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  Phil Brent was plodding through the snow in the direction of the housewhere he lived with his step-mother and her son, when a snow-ball, moistand hard, struck him just below his ear with stinging emphasis. The painwas considerable, and Phil's anger rose.

  He turned suddenly, his eyes flashing fiercely, intent upon discoveringwho had committed this outrage, for he had no doubt that it wasintentional.

  He looked in all directions, but saw no one except a mild old gentlemanin spectacles, who appeared to have some difficulty in making his waythrough the obstructed street.

  Phil did not need to be told that it was not the old gentleman who hadtaken such an unwarrantable liberty with him. So he looked farther, buthis ears gave him the first clew.

  He heard a chuckling laugh, which seemed to proceed from behind thestone wall that ran along the roadside.

  “I will see who it is,” he decided, and plunging through the snow hesurmounted the wall, in time to see a boy of about his own age runningaway across the fields as fast as the deep snow would allow.

  “So it's you, Jonas!” he shouted wrathfully. “I thought it was somesneaking fellow like you.”

  Jonas Webb, his step-brother, his freckled face showing a degree ofdismay, for he had not calculated on discovery, ran the faster, butwhile fear winged his steps, anger proved the more effectual spur, andPhil overtook him after a brief run, from the effects of which both boyspanted.

  “What made you throw that snow-ball?” demanded Phil angrily, as heseized Jonas by the collar and shook him.

  “You let me alone!” said Jonas, struggling ineffectually in his grasp.

  “Answer me! What made you throw that snowball?” demanded Phil, in a tonethat showed he did not intend to be trifled with.

  “Because I chose to,” answered Jonas, his spite getting the better ofhis prudence. “Did it hurt you?” he continued, his eyes gleaming withmalice.

  “I should think it might. It was about as hard as a cannon-ball,”returned Phil grimly. “Is that all you've got to say about it?”

  “I did it in fun,” said Jonas, beginning to see that he had need to beprudent.

  “Very well! I don't like your idea of fun. Perhaps you won't like mine,”said Phil, as he forcibly drew Jonas back till he lay upon the snow, andthen kneeling by his side, rubbed his face briskly with snow.

  “What are you doin'? Goin' to murder me?” shrieked Jonas, in anger anddismay.

  “I am going to wash your face,” said Phil, continuing the operationvigorously.

  “I say, you quit that! I'll tell my mother,” ejaculated Jonas,struggling furiously.

  “If you do, tell her why I did it,” said Phil.

  Jonas shrieked and struggled, but in vain. Phil gave his face aneffectual scrubbing, and did not desist until he thought he had avengedthe bad treatment he had suffered.

  “There, get up!” said he at length.

  Jonas scrambled to his feet, his mean features working convulsively withanger.

  “You'll suffer for this!” he shouted.

  “You won't make me!” said Phil contemptuously.

  “You're the meanest boy in the village.”

  “I am willing to leave that to the opinion of all who know me.”

  “I'll tell my mother!”

  “Go home and tell her!”

  Jonas started for home, and Phil did not attempt to stop him.

  As he saw Jonas reach the street and plod angrily homeward, he said tohimself:

  “I suppose I shall be in hot water for this; but I can't help it. Mrs.Brent always stands up for her precious son, who is as like her as canbe. Well, it won't make matters much worse than they have been.”

  Phil concluded not to go home at once, but to allow a little time forthe storm to spend its force after Jonas had told his story. So hedelayed half an hour and then walked slowly up to the side door. Heopened the door, brushed off the snow from his boots with the broomthat stood behind the door, and opening the inner door, stepped into thekitchen.

  No one was there, as Phil's first glance satisfied him, and he wasdisposed to hope that Mrs. Brent--he never called her mother--was out,but a thin, acid, measured voice from the sitting-room adjoining soonsatisfied him that there was to be no reprieve.

  “Philip Brent, come here!”

  Phil entered the sitting-room.

  In a rocking-chair by the fire sat a thin woman, with a sharp visage,cold eyes and firmly compressed lips, to whom no child would voluntarilydraw near.

  On a sofa lay outstretched the hulking form of Jonas, with whom he hadhad his little difficulty.

  “I am here, Mrs. Brent,” said Philip manfully.

  “Philip Brent,” said Mrs. Brent acidly, “are you not ashamed to look mein the face?”

  “I don't know why I should be,” said Philip, bracing himself up for theattack.

  “You see on the sofa the victim of your brutality,” continued Mrs.Brent, pointing to the recumbent figure of her son Jonas.

  Jonas, as if to emphasize these words, uttered a half groan.

  Philip could not help smiling, for to him it seemed ridiculous.

  “You laugh,” said his step-mother sharply. “I am not surprised at it.You delight in your brutality.”

  “I suppose you mean that I have treated Jonas brutally.”

  “I see you confess it.”

  “No, Mrs. Brent, I do not confess it. The brutality you speak of was allon the side of Jonas.”

  “No doubt,” retorted Mrs. Brent, with sarcasm.

  “It's the case of the wolf and the lamb over again.”

  “I don't think Jonas has represented the matter to you as it happened,”said Phil. “Did he tell you that he flung a snow-ball at my head as hardas a lump of ice?”

  “He said he threw a little snow at you playfully and you sprang upon himlike a tiger.”

  “There's a little mistake in that,” said Phil. “The snow-ball was hardenough to stun me if it had hit me a little higher. I wouldn't be hitlike that again for ten dollars.”

  “That ain't so! Don't believe him, mother!” said Jonas from the sofa.

  “And what did you do?” demanded Mrs. Brent with a frown.

  “I laid him down on the snow and washed his face with soft snow.”

  “You might have given him his death of cold,” said Mrs. Brent, withevident hostility. “I am not sure but the poor boy will have pneumonianow, in consequence of your brutal treatment.”

  “And you have nothing to say as to his attack upon me?” said Philindignantly.

  “I have no doubt you have very much exaggerated it.”

  “Yes, he has,” chimed in Jonas from the sofa.

  Phil regarded his step-brother with scorn.

  “Can't you tell the truth now and then, Jonas?” he asked contemptuously.

  “You shall not insult my boy in my presence!” said Mrs. Brent, with alittle spot of color mantling her high cheek-bones. “Philip Brent, Ihave too long endured your insolence. You think because I am a woman youcan be insolent with impunity, but you will find yourself mistaken. Itis time that you understood something that may lead you to lower yourtone. Learn, then, that you have not a cent of your own. You are whollydependent upon my bounty.”

  “What! Did my father leave you all his money?” asked Philip.

  “He was NOT your father!” answered Mrs. Brent coldly.