Transcriber's Note: The advertisement that was located at the beginning of the book has been moved to the end of this e-text.
THE UPWARD AND ONWARD SERIES.
DESK AND DEBIT; OR, THE CATASTROPHES OF A CLERK.
AUTHOR OF "YOUNG AMERICA ABROAD," "THE ARMY AND NAVY STORIES," "THE WOODVILLE STORIES," "THE BOAT-CLUB STORIES," "THE STARRY FLAG SERIES," "THE LAKE-SHORE SERIES," ETC.
WITH FOURTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS.
BOSTON: LEE AND SHEPARD, PUBLISHERS. NEW YORK: LEE, SHEPARD AND DILLINGHAM. 1871.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871, By WILLIAM T. ADAMS, In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
ELECTROTYPED AT THE BOSTON STEREOTYPE FOUNDRY, 10 Spring Lane.
TO THE MEMORY OF
MY GOOD-NATURED AND VERSATILE YOUNG FRIEND
EDWIN A. FARWELL,
WHO, SINCE THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN, HAS PASSED AWAY FROM THE SCENES OF EARTH, LOVED AND RESPECTED BY ALL WHO KNEW HIM,
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED.
THE UPWARD AND ONWARD SERIES.
1. Field and Forest; OR, THE FORTUNES OF A FARMER.
2. Plane and Plank; OR, THE MISHAPS OF A MECHANIC.
3. Desk and Debit; OR, THE CATASTROPHES OF A CLERK.
4. Cringle and Cross-Tree; OR, THE SEA SWASHES OF A SAILOR.
5. Bivouac and Battle; OR, THE STRUGGLES OF A SOLDIER.
6. Sea and Shore; OR, THE TRAMPS OF A TRAVELLER.
"DESK AND DEBIT" is the third of "THE UPWARD AND ONWARD SERIES," in which Phil Farringford appears as a clerk. The principal events of the story are located in Chicago and on Lake Michigan—the latter, perhaps, because the author finds it quite impossible to write a story without a boat, which also involves the necessity of a broad sheet of water, or a long river. In this, as in its predecessors, evil-minded characters are introduced, to show the contrast between vice and virtue; but the hero, in whom the sympathies of the reader are supposed to be centred, is still faithful to his Christian duties, still reads his Bible, and "prays without ceasing."
Young and old are injured only by the precept and example of those whom they love, respect, or admire; and the writer has no fear that his readers will love, respect, or admire Charles Whippleton or Ben Waterford, or that they will fail to condemn their errors and their vices. The author hopes and expects that his young friends, while they follow Phil in his exciting experience in the counting-room, and in the "Marian" on Lake Michigan, will love and respect his virtues as well as his courage and resolution.
HARRISON SQUARE, BOSTON,
June 7, 1870.
CHAPTER I. IN WHICH PHIL HAS A TALK WITH HIS FATHER, AND REVIEWS HIS PAST HISTORY. 11
CHAPTER II. IN WHICH PHIL STARTS FOR CHICAGO, AND HEARS A FAMILIAR NAME. 22
CHAPTER III. IN WHICH PHIL MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OF MRS. WHIPPLETON. 33
CHAPTER IV. IN WHICH PHIL IS CHIVALROUS, BUT HAS HIS EYES OPENED. 44
CHAPTER V. IN WHICH PHIL TAKES A ROOM AT MRS. WHIPPLETON'S BOARDING-HOUSE. 56
CHAPTER VI. IN WHICH PHIL IS ENGAGED AS ENTRY CLERK FOR COLLINGSBY AND WHIPPLETON. 67
CHAPTER VII. IN WHICH PHIL TAKES HIS PLACE AT THE DESK, AND IS ENGAGED FOR A YEAR. 79
CHAPTER VIII. IN WHICH PHIL TAKES A SAIL ON THE LAKE WITH MR. WHIPPLETON. 90
CHAPTER IX. IN WHICH PHIL ATTEMPTS TO MAKE OUT A TRIAL BALANCE. 102
CHAPTER X. IN WHICH PHIL IS PERPLEXED ABOUT CERTAIN INVOICES. 113
CHAPTER XI. IN WHICH PHIL TAKES CHARGE OF MRS. WHIPPLETON'S EARTHLY TREASURE. 124
CHAPTER XII. IN WHICH PHIL VISITS THE HOUSE OF MR. COLLINGSBY, AND SEES MISS MARIAN. 135
CHAPTER XIII. IN WHICH PHIL LOOKS INTO THE OPERATIONS OF THE JUNIOR PARTNER. 146
CHAPTER XIV. IN WHICH PHIL MEETS WITH A SERIOUS CATASTROPHE. 158
CHAPTER XV. IN WHICH PHIL GOES TO WORK IN THE COOK-ROOM OF THE MARIAN. 170
CHAPTER XVI. IN WHICH PHIL PROMISES NOT TO DESERT MISS COLLINGSBY. 182
CHAPTER XVII. IN WHICH PHIL PUTS A CHECK ON THE OPERATIONS OF MR. BEN WATERFORD. 194
CHAPTER XVIII. IN WHICH PHIL PROTESTS WITH THE BOAT-HOOK, BUT IS PROTESTED. 205
CHAPTER XIX. IN WHICH PHIL PROFITS BY CIRCUMSTANCES, AND WEIGHS ANCHOR IN THE MARIAN. 218
CHAPTER XX. IN WHICH PHIL SAILS THE MARIAN ACROSS LAKE MICHIGAN. 229
CHAPTER XXI. IN WHICH PHIL ANSWERS SOME INQUIRIES ABOUT THE FAWN, AND OTHER MATTERS. 241
CHAPTER XXII. IN WHICH PHIL IS BEWILDERED, AND THE MARIAN SAILS FOR CHICAGO. 252
CHAPTER XXIII. IN WHICH PHIL, IN THE MARIAN, GETS THE WEATHER-GAGE OF THE FLORINA. 264
CHAPTER XXIV. IN WHICH PHIL GOES TO SLEEP, AND HIS SEVEREST CATASTROPHE COMES. 275
CHAPTER XXV. IN WHICH PHIL SUFFERS MUCH PAIN, AND MARIAN IS VERY RESOLUTE. 287
CHAPTER XXVI. IN WHICH PHIL FINDS THE TABLES TURNED, AND THE MARIAN RUNS INTO CHICAGO RIVER. 298
CHAPTER XXVII. IN WHICH PHIL VISITS MR. COLLINGSBY AGAIN, AND IS A HERO IN SPITE OF HIMSELF. 309
CHAPTER XXVIII. IN WHICH PHIL MORALIZES UPON WORLDLY WISDOM, AND BIDS FAREWELL TO DESK AND DEBIT. 321
DESK AND DEBIT; OR, THE CATASTROPHES OF A CLERK.
IN WHICH PHIL HAS A TALK WITH HIS FATHER, AND REVIEWS HIS PAST HISTORY.
"I must go to Chicago, father," said I, one evening, after we had been discussing our domestic relations with more than usual earnestness.
"Why go to Chicago, Philip? What put that idea into your head?" replied my father, with a kind of deprecatory smile.
"I don't feel as though I could live any longer in this state of doubt and uncertainty."
"Really, Philip, I don't think you need worry yourself to that extent."
"I can't help it. I want to know whether my mother is alive or dead. She may have been in her grave for a year for aught we know."
"Not so bad as that, Philip. I am sure if anything had happened to her, we should have heard of it," added my father, mildly; but I saw that he had more feeling on the subject than he chose to manifest.
"It seems to me inhuman and unnatural to live in this way," I persisted, perhaps a little more impatiently than I ought to have spoken.
"It is all my fault, my son," said my father, meekly.
"I don't think so."
"Don't compel me to review the bitter experience of the past. You know it all."
"I don't mean to blame you, father."
"Certainly it is not your mother's fault that an ocean rolls between her and me."
"I am willing to allow that it is your fault, and mine too, in a sense different from what you meant, that our family is still separated."
I perceived that my father was considerably affected by what I had said; and as he relapsed into silence, apparently to give vent to the emotions which disturbed him, I did not press the subject any further at that moment. But I felt all that I had said, and I thought something ought to be done. I was thoroughly in earnest, and I felt that it would be my fault if our little family continued to be separated for a much longer period.
I was nearly sixteen years old; and into that brief space had been crowded a strange and varied experience. In order that my readers may know precisely my relations to the rest of the world, and understand why I was so deeply moved, I must briefly review the events of my life. I was born in the city of St. Louis, though this was a fact which had been patent to me only a couple of years. I had attained unto that worldly wisdom which enabled me to know who my father was; but I was less fortunate in regard to my mother, whom I could not remember that I had ever seen, though it was a comfort for me to know that my baby eyes had gazed into her loving face.
In the burning of the steamer Farringford, on the upper Missouri, in which my father and mother and myself—then a child two years old—were passengers, I had been committed to a raft formed of a state-room door, and bolstered with pillows to keep me from rolling off. By an accident this frail craft was carried away from the burning steamer, then aground, and I was separated from my father, who, I grieve to say, was intoxicated at the time, and unable to do all that he would have accomplished in his sober senses. At this moment the steamer broke from the shore, and was carried swiftly down the mighty river. Parents were thus separated from the helpless child.
But it was not ordered that this little one should perish in the cold waters of the great river in the night and the gloom. An old pioneer, trapper, and hunter, Matt Rockwood, had picked me up, and for years had nursed me and cared for me in his rude log cabin, loving me devotedly, and watching over me with a woman's tenderness. For eleven years I remained in the field and forest, hardened by the rude life of the pioneer, working hard, and winning a large experience in dealing with the elements around me. A well-educated and refined gentleman, driven from the haunts of civilization by a fancied wrong, became our neighbor, and was my instructor, so that I obtained more than a common school education from him. By the seeming guidings of Providence, his wife and daughter were sent to him in the wilderness, and remained there through the season.
My foster-father was killed in an affray with the Indians. Boy as I was, I went through a brief campaign with the savages, and my own rifle had more than once brought down the treacherous foe. I had faced danger and death, and I had rescued the daughter of my excellent friend and instructor, Mr. Gracewood, from the Indians. Ella was then, and is now, one of my best friends. In the autumn, leaving the farm and stock to Kit Cruncher, an old hunter who had been our friend and neighbor for years, I started for the realms of civilization with Mr. Gracewood and his family, taking with me the articles found upon me by the old pioneer when I was rescued from the river.
I had fifteen hundred dollars in cash, after I had paid my fare to St. Louis—the worldly wealth of my deceased foster-father. On the way down I was separated from my friends by an accident, and did not see them again for several weeks. But I found a place in the city to learn the carpenter's trade, in which I had already made considerable proficiency. I received six dollars a week for my work when it was found that I was both able and willing to do nearly as much as an ordinary journeyman.
By a succession of rather singular incidents, I discovered that a dissolute, drunken man about town was my father—which I regarded at the time as the greatest mishap that could possibly befall me. But I took him to my boarding-house, where good—I might even say blessed—Mrs. Greenough took care of him, giving to his body the nursing he needed, and to his spiritual wants the gospel of Jesus Christ. What my poor father, who had become the moral and physical wreck of what he had been before, could not do of his own strength, he did with the grace and by the help of God—he abandoned his cups, and became a sober, moral, and religious man. He attended every service at the Methodist church, into whose fold Mrs. Greenough had led him, and where, for two years, he had been a faithful, consistent, and useful member.
He was employed as the agent of a very wealthy southern planter, who had large possessions in St. Louis. He had the care of property worth hundreds of thousands, and received and disbursed large sums in rents, repairs, and building. He had a salary of twenty-four hundred dollars a year, more than half of which he saved, for we continued to live at the humble abode of Mrs. Greenough after the dawn of our prosperity. I had saved nearly all my wages, and at the opening of my story I was worth, in my own right, about two thousand dollars, with which, however, I did not purpose to meddle.
Through all my mishaps I had reached the flood tide of prosperity. There was only one thing in the wide world that disturbed me; and that, at last, almost became a burden to me. I had a mother whom I had never seen within my remembrance. She was a beautiful woman, as her miniature in my possession fully testified, as well as those who had known her. Mr. Collingsby, her father, had three children, of whom my mother was the youngest. He was a wealthy man, and formerly a resident of St. Louis, from which he had removed, partly on account of his business, and partly it was said, to avoid the importunities of my father, who made himself very disagreeable in his inebriation. He was largely engaged in railroad and other business enterprises. My mother was travelling in Europe, with her brother, and was not expected to return for several years.
That which had become a burden to me was the desire to see my mother, with the added longing to have our little family reunited. There was no good reason why we should longer be separated. My father was a steady, industrious, Christian man, who had repented in sackcloth and ashes the errors of his lifetime. He had written to Mr. Collingsby several times, but no notice had ever been taken of his appeals. In vain he assured the father of his injured wife that he was an altered man; that he drank no liquor or anything that could intoxicate; that he was a member in good standing of the Methodist church, and that he was receiving a handsome salary. Equally vain was the appeal for his son, whose existence seemed to be doubted, and was practically denied.
My mother, being beyond the ocean, could not be a party to this cold and inhuman silence, as it seemed to me. We were assured by those who had seen my grandfather that he was aware of the facts that were known to our friends in St. Louis. Mr. Lamar, whose acquaintance I had made in the midst of my mishaps, had seen Mr. Collingsby, and told him the whole story. The rich man laughed at it, and declared that it was a trick; that, if he was a poor man, Farringford would not trouble him. After this revelation my father refused to write again. He was sorely grieved and troubled, but he still had a sense of self-respect which would not permit him to grovel in the dust before any man.
I had worked at my trade two years in St. Louis, and considered myself competent to do all ordinary work in that line. But I worked very hard, for I was ambitious to do as much as a man. I was growing, and while I increased in height, I lost flesh, and was lighter in weight than when I had left the field and forest. My father thought I was working too hard, and Mrs. Greenough seconded the argument with all the force of a woman's influence. Still I think I should not have given up my trade then if my employer had not changed his business, thus compelling me to seek a new situation. I had been studying book-keeping for two years, using all my evenings in this and other studies. I practised it with my father, who was an accomplished accountant, until he declared that I was competent to keep any set of books, either of a merchant or a corporation.
Mr. Clinch, my late employer, closed up his affairs at the opening of a new year. I could find nothing to do in the winter; but when I fretted over my inactivity, my father told me to improve my handwriting, which, as a carpenter, had been rather stiff. I took lessons of him, and as he was a practical business man, I escaped the vicious habit of flourishing in my writing. He insisted that I should write a plain, simple, round hand, which I did. As my fingers became limber, I made excellent progress, and I was really proud of my penmanship.
These comparatively idle days were full of thought, almost all of which related to my mother. I had made up my mind that something ought to be done to find her, and inform her of the altered circumstances of her husband. I was sure, after reading so often the gentle expression of her countenance in the picture I had, that she would make us glad as soon as she was assured of the reformation of the wanderer. I meant to do something now, even if I had to spend my two thousand dollars in making a voyage to Europe to search for her. Her father refused to do anything, and it was necessary for us to act in our own behalf. It was not the rich man's money, as he averred, that we sought, but only the calm bliss of domestic happiness, which I knew would come from our reunited family.
IN WHICH PHIL STARTS FOR CHICAGO, AND HEARS A FAMILIAR NAME.
My father was gloomy and sad, and I disliked to say anything more on the painful topic; but I was so thoroughly in earnest that I could not postpone some decided action. It seemed criminal to permit such a matter to rest any longer, and I wondered how I had been able to keep quiet two years with the consciousness that I had a mother whom I had seen only with my baby eyes. Something seemed to reproach me for my coldness and neglect, though in fact I had done all I could to solve the difficulty. My grandfather appeared to be suspicious, and even heartless; but I knew that my mother was not so.
Far away she was wandering in foreign lands, and though surrounded by the gayest of friends, and surfeited in luxury, I could not help thinking that now and then, in the still watches of the night; her motherly heart recurred to the little one she had lost. What a joy it would be to her to know that her son, her lost one, was still alive! If in her maternal heart she had ever pictured that babe as becoming a stalwart young man, I felt that I could already realize her hope. If she had ever anticipated the time when her first-born, as his beard began to grow, would lavish upon her all the tenderness which a mother has a right to claim, I felt that I could amply reward her desire, and realize her ambition.
My father was silent. I knew he was considering what more he could do to gratify the longings of my soul. Perhaps he was weighing my proposition to go to Chicago, and speak for myself and for him. I could not say that my plan was the best, or that any good would come of it; and I mentioned it because I could think of nothing else that looked like decided action. I glanced at him, and he saw that I was desirous of resuming the topic.
"Philip, it is my fault that I am separated from your mother, and your words sound like so many reproaches to me," said he, with emotion. "But I deserve it all, for though I feel that God has forgiven me, he will not spare me from all the consequences of my folly and sin."
"Do not say that, father. Far be it from me to utter a reproach for anything you have done," I replied, disturbed by his words and his manner. "Let the past go—'let the dead bury their dead.'"
"But the dead will not bury their dead, Philip. Your mother left me when she could no longer live with me. I do not blame her. It was my fault alone."
"I only wish to let my mother know what has happened; that you are now a good and true man. I am sure, if she knew this, she would hasten to us without a single day's delay."
"Of course she is under the influence of her father and her brothers. I do not even know where she is. If I did I would write to her. She will return one of these days, and then I will try to see her."
"It may be years before she returns, father. They say it will be three years at least."
"What can we do?"
"I will go to Chicago."
"What good can that possibly do? Will you force yourself into the presence of your grandfather, and then tell him that you are the son of his daughter? He would not believe you; he would kick you out of his house."
"I shall not be rash or indiscreet."
"But what will you do? What can you do?" demanded my father, earnestly.
"I don't know; that will depend upon circumstances. In spite of my mishaps, fortune has favored me in the long run," I replied; but I had no plan whatever for my future action.
"You do not know your grandfather."
"I never even saw him."
"He is not a bad man, by any means; on the contrary, he is upright and liberal. But he is eminently solid and practical. He is old-fashioned, full of dignity and self-respect. He believes that the world and all the affairs of mankind move in deep-worn ruts. He follows only legitimate and recognized channels. He rejects anything that is strange and out of the common course, and for that reason your story would find no favor with him. I doubt whether he ever read a novel in his life. If you should take all the public officers in St. Louis to Chicago with you, and let them swear in court that you were the long-lost son of Edward and Louise Farringford, he would not believe them. He may be convinced, but not by anything you can say or do."
"Nevertheless, father, I wish to go to Chicago. I have seen but little of the world, and I have heard a great deal about that city."
"I have no objection to your going to Chicago—not the least; but I hope you will not flatter yourself that you can produce an impression upon the mind of Mr. Collingsby, or his son Richard, who is as near like his father as one pea is like another pea. I should even like to have you travel for two or three months. It would do you good. You might go east—to New York and Philadelphia."
"I don't care about going farther than Chicago."
"Go, by all means; but don't get into a quarrel with your grandfather."
"I'm not quarrelsome, father."
"But Mr. Collingsby would be if you went to him with your story, though every word of it is true."
And so it was settled that I should go to Chicago. I intended at least to find out who and what my grandfather was. I wanted to see him with my own eyes, though he was evidently what is regarded as "a hard customer." The fact that he was so afforded me a new sensation, and I began to glow with an unwonted excitement. It was my mission to see and convince Mr. Collingsby that I was his grandson, unless he should be able to prove that I was not so; and one cannot reasonably be required to prove a negative. It was a problem, a difficulty; and I felt, as I had in the field and forest, a new life and vigor when there was a real obstacle to be overcome.
My father was certainly very considerate towards me, and was willing to trust me anywhere that I pleased to go. I had not many preparations to make; a small valise held my wardrobe, and on Monday morning I crossed the river and took the train for Chicago. A journey of two hundred and eighty miles, accomplished in about twelve hours, was not a very great event, even a dozen years ago; but somehow, I do not know why, I felt as though I was setting out in a new career of existence. I expected to return in a week, or in two weeks, at the most; yet, in spite of my exertion to make myself believe that the trip was quite a commonplace affair, it continued to thrust itself upon me as one of great importance.
I had taken a few short trips with my father on holidays by railroad, so that a train of cars was not quite a new thing to me. However, I was no traveller then, and being of an inquiring mind, I was disposed to examine minutely everything I saw, and to understand the use of every new object. I bought my ticket, and stepping back, I amused myself in watching the ticket-seller, anxious to solve the mystery of a stamping machine he continually used. Before I had solved the problem to my satisfaction, I heard the bell ring.
"All aboard for Chicago and way stations!" shouted the conductor.
That meant me, and I hastened to obey the summons, but rather vexed that I had not penetrated the working of the stamping machine. I was rather late, and I found the car I entered quite full; indeed, there was only a single vacant seat, and that was by the side of an old woman whose company did not appear to be particularly desirable. However, I had made up my mind that it is not best to be too particular in this world, and I walked up the aisle with the intention of taking the seat. I found it was already appropriated to the old lady's numerous bundles.
"Is this seat taken, madam?" I ventured to ask.
"Well, yes; don't you see it's taken?" said she, rather sourly.
"I don't see any other vacant seat in the car," I added.
"I can't move all them things," snapped the matron.
"I will place them in the rack above your head," I suggested.
"I've fixed 'em all once, and I don't want to move 'em agin. You are a young feller, and you can find a seat in some other car," added the old lady, very decidedly.
Some of the passengers laughed at the answers of the old lady. I did not care to get up a quarrel with her, and I decided to stand up, in deference to the old lady's bundles, until the train stopped at the first station, when I could safely look for a seat in some other car. After this exhibition of rudeness, I did not think my seat at her side would be comfortable; I was afraid her bristles would annoy me, and it was more comfortable to stand. The train moved off; but it had gone only a very short distance before the conductor appeared, followed by a very dignified-looking gentleman, for whom he was evidently seeking a seat; and this assured me that the cars were all full forward.
"Here is just one seat," said the gentlemanly conductor, as he stopped beside the vacant place, and began to pick up the old lady's bundles.
"Don't you tech them things," interposed their legal owner.
"This gentleman wants a seat," added the polite official.
"He can find one somewhere else. I don't want my bundles tipped round, as though they didn't cost nothing."
"But we must have the seat, madam," insisted the conductor. "I believe you pay for only one seat."
"Sakes alive! Can't a body have a place to put her things?"
"I will put them in the rack for you."
"I don't want them put in the rack."
"Well, madam, you can put them where you please, but this gentleman must have the seat."
"I don't think much of them gentlemen that want to go a pestering a poor lone woman like me. You let them things alone, sir!" snapped the old lady.
"I will wait a reasonable time for you to dispose of them; but if you don't take care of them, I shall put them in the baggage-car."
"I should like to see you do it! Hain't you got nothin' better to do than tormenting an unprotected woman?"
Finding that he had a hard subject to deal with, the gentlemanly conductor packed up the bundles, and tossed them into the rack, heedless of the protest of the indignant owner. I confess that I rather enjoyed the discomfiture of the old lady, who had compelled me to stand for the accommodation of her bundles. She was unreasonable, and utterly selfish, and I thought she deserved the defeat to which she was compelled to submit.
"Here is a seat for you, Mr. Collingsby," continued the conductor, with a great deal of deference in his tone and manner.
Mr. Collingsby! I straightway forgot all about the old lady in the interest awakened by this name. The snaps, snarls, and growls with which the woman saluted her new seat-mate were lost upon me, whether they were or not upon the unfortunate subject of them. The name was not a very common one, and I jumped to the conclusion that the dignified gentleman was my uncle.
"Thank you," replied the traveller, rather coldly, after the hard battle the official had fought for his sake.
"There will be plenty of seats when we reach the next station," added the conductor, as he passed me.
For my own part, I was glad I had no seat, for I could now choose my own position to study the features of Mr. Collingsby.
IN WHICH PHIL MAKES THE ACQUAINTANCE OF MRS. WHIPPLETON.
Mr. Collingsby, though not more than forty-two or three years old, was quite stout; indeed, I should say that he was already qualified by his proportions to be an alderman. I was disposed to regard him with great respect, as he was my uncle—at least I had made up my mind that he was. I certainly had no objection to acknowledging such a relation. He corresponded with the description given by my father.
The dignified gentleman took up a fair half of the seat which was to be divided between him and the old lady, and the latter wriggled, and twisted, and squirmed for some time before she had adjusted her frame and her dress to her own satisfaction. Mr. Collingsby took no notice whatever of her, as it was evidently beneath his dignity to do so, or even to be annoyed by her uneasy motions. Opening the newspaper he carried in his hand, he began to read the leader, totally oblivious of her presence. I rather liked his way of treating a disagreeable subject; and just then, if I had been permitted to vote, I would cheerfully have cast my ballot in his favor for an alderman of Chicago or St. Louis.
The more I studied the face of my presumed uncle, the better I liked him, though perhaps I was biassed by the relationship. He looked like a very substantial man, though I should have regarded it as dangerous to perpetrate a joke upon him. On the whole, therefore, I was entirely satisfied to have him turn out to be the brother of my mother. In about an hour the train stopped; and by this time I was ready to sit down. But only one gentleman left the car in which I was riding; and he sat directly opposite the dignified gentleman. I started for the vacant seat; but, before I could secure it, Mr. Collingsby sprang quite nimbly, for a person of his weight, into the place. Doubtless the rudeness of the old lady had annoyed him, for he made haste to beat a retreat.
However, I had the alternative of taking the seat just vacated, or standing up still longer. I chose the former; and before the old lady could transfer her bundles from the rack to the chair, I dropped into it. I made myself as comfortable as possible, though my porcupine companion hitched violently towards the middle of the seat, so as to make sure that she had her full share of the space. She cast a savage glance at me, as though she thought I had invaded her privileges; but I endeavored to follow the example of my predecessor in the seat, and be too dignified to be annoyed.
"Goodness knows! I am glad that hog has gone!" ejaculated the old lady, with no little venom in her tones, and loud enough to have been heard by Mr. Collingsby, if his dignity had not closed his ears to such an unfeminine expression.
I did not deem it prudent to take any notice of her; and, across the aisle, I read the headings in large type in Mr. Collingsby's newspaper, for I had none of my own to help me in preserving my dignity, or rather in cultivating it.
"Some folks don't know much," added the old lady, spitefully.
I was perfectly willing to grant the truth of this proposition, even without knowing whether it was intended to apply to Mr. Collingsby or to me; though I was compelled to believe it was all in the family, and made no difference. It was undeniable that "some folks didn't know much;" but I was forced to deduce the corollary that the old lady was one of the unfortunates included in the proposition.
"I say, some folks don't know much," repeated the old lady, forcibly. "That Mr. Collingsby needn't put on airs, and pretend he don't know me. I know'd him the moment that conductor-man spoke his name. He ain't no better'n I am. My son's his pardner in business."
I couldn't help looking at her then. Her lips wore pursed up, and she was the very impersonation of offended dignity. Her remark rather startled me, and if it was true, I wished to make her acquaintance.
"Perhaps he didn't recognize you," I ventured to suggest.
"Perhaps he didn't; but none are so blind as them that won't see. Yes, that man is my son's pardner in business; and my son is every bit and grain as good as he is, though I say it, who ought not to say it. My name's Whippleton, and my son's name is Charles Whippleton. I s'pose you've heard of the firm of Collingsby and Whippleton—hain't you?"
"I never did," I replied.
Mr. Collingsby read his newspaper, and did not appear to hear a word that was said; but I fancied his dignity was subjected to a severe trial.
"Where have you been all your life, if you never heard of Collingsby and Whippleton, the biggest lumber firm in Chicago?" added the old lady.
"I never was in Chicago," I replied.
"O, you never was! Well, it's a sight to see! You hain't seen much of the world if you never was in Chicago. Well, you are like a chicken that ain't hatched; all your troubles are to come. There's a great many mean folks in the world; you'll find that out soon enough. For my part, if there's anything in this world that I hate, it's mean folks," continued Mrs. Whippleton, glancing maliciously across the aisle at Mr. Collingsby. "That man's meaner'n gravel-stone chowder."
The old lady dropped her voice a little, as though she meant to be confidential on this point. I was rather sorry to have the character of my presumed uncle damaged in this manner, but I was not sufficiently acquainted with him to attempt a defence.
"It was meaner'n dirt for him to set down side of me, and not even say how d'ye do! I hate mean folks. I ain't mean myself. There ain't a mean bone in my body—no, there ain't, if I do say it, that oughtn't to say it."
"Probably the gentleman did not recognize you," I suggested again.
"He didn't want to re-cog-nize me," she persisted, throwing a bitter emphasis on the middle of the word. "He didn't even look at me."
I wanted to ask her some questions about the Collingsby family; but I did not like to do so while one of its members was so near me, for I fancied that, deeply as he was absorbed in the newspaper, he heard every word that was said by the garrulous old lady, who appeared to have been talking more for his benefit than mine in some of her remarks. But the appearance of the conductor at the forward end of the car, taking up the tickets, changed the current of her thoughts, and she commenced a violent demonstration upon her bag, her pocket, and her bundles, in search of her ticket.
Most of the passengers produced their tickets, conscious, perhaps, how nervous it makes the "gentlemanly conductor" when compelled to wait for excited men or women to search through all their pockets, and all their portable effects, for the evidence that they had paid their fare. I noticed that Mr. Collingsby continued to gaze unmoved at the columns of his newspaper, and when the conductor reached him, he slowly drew off his kid glove, and deliberately took from his pocket-book the ticket, which his dignity did not permit him to have ready before.
"Tickets, if you please," said the conductor, as he politely bowed to Mr. Collingsby, and turned to the less important people in the car.
I gave up mine, and received a check; but Mrs. Whippleton was still ransacking her bags and parcels.
"As I live and breathe, I've lost my ticket, or else somebody's stole it!" exclaimed the old lady, glancing again towards Mr. Collingsby, who must have been, in her estimation, the root of all evil and all mischief.
"Did you buy one?" asked the conductor.
"Sartin I did," protested Mrs. Whippleton; "and it took nigh on to every cent of money I had. I hain't got enough left to buy my dinner."
"Look round and find it," added the official.
"Look round! I've looked into everything I have. You hustled all my things over, and I reckon it's your fault, more'n 'tis mine."
"Look again, and I will come back," added the conductor, as he passed on his way.
"You hain't seen nothin' of my ticket—have you?" said Mrs. Whippleton, as she commenced another onslaught upon her pockets and bundles.
"I have not."
But I did the best I could to assist her in the search. I got out of my seat, and looked upon the floor in the vicinity. Neither of us was successful in finding the lost pasteboard, for which the handsome sum of twelve dollars had been expended. I really pitied the old lady, for she did not appear to be in good circumstances herself, judging by the quality of her clothing and her baggage. What seemed to make it worse to me was the fact that she had spent all her money.
"I don't see what's become on't!" said she, in despair.
"Are you sure you bought one?" I asked, rather for the want of anything else to say than because this was the most pertinent question.
"Why, do you think I'd lie about it?"
"Certainly not," I protested, alarmed at this violent deduction from my remark.
"If I didn't buy a ticket, where's my money gone to?"
"You may have lost it before you got into the car."
"No, I didn't. I had it, I know, after I sot down here. You don't think I'd try to cheat—do you?"
"Why, no! I didn't think of such a thing."
"Well, madam, have you found your ticket?" asked the conductor, returning from the rear of the car.
"Hain't seen hide nor hair on't."
"Just get out of the seat and shake yourself. If you had a ticket at all, it is here somewhere," added the gentlemanly official.
"Do you think I didn't have no ticket?" demanded Mrs. Whippleton, pursing up her lips to express her wounded feelings.
"I don't know; jump up, and we will see."
I left my seat, and with a labored effort the old lady followed my example. The conductor searched on the floor, and in the chair, overhauled the bundles, and turned up the back of the seat, but with no better success than had attended our previous efforts.
"Sartin 'tain't there," said the old lady, as she worked herself into her seat again.
"No, it is not. Are you sure you had a ticket?"
"Do you think I'd lie about it?"
"Perhaps you lost it before you got into the car."
"No, I didn't. I had it while I sot here. I reckon you lost it when you stirred up my things. If you hadn't teched 'em, it would have been all right."
"Well, madam, I want your ticket or your fare."
"But I hain't got no ticket."
"Then give me twelve dollars."
"Twelve dollars!" ejaculated the old lady. "Do you think I'm made of money?"
"I don't know that I care what you are made of, if you pay your fare."
"But I've spent all my money. I hain't got twelve dollars. Besides, I don't want to pay twice."
"If you find your ticket, I will give you back your money."
"I tell you I hain't got twelve dollars. You can't hatch wooden eggs."
"Then you must leave the car, madam."
"Leave the car! And not go back to Chicago?"
"I must have your ticket or your fare before we stop next time," said the conductor, passing on.
IN WHICH PHIL IS CHIVALROUS, BUT HAS HIS EYES OPENED.
I thought that the conductor was rather hard on the old lady, though I was willing to allow that his duty admitted of no compromise.
"Did you ever hear the like on't?" exclaimed the old lady. "Put me out of the car! He's a mean man, and I hate mean folks wus'n pizen."
"I suppose he has his duty to perform," I mildly suggested.
"'Tain't his duty to put a lone and onprotected woman out of the car; and he wouldn't do it if my son Charles was here."
I concluded that if her son Charles were there, he would pay her fare, like a dutiful son as he was. Presently the whistle on the locomotive sounded, and we heard the scraping of the brakes, as the train prepared to stop. The conductor promptly appeared, and again demanded her fare or a ticket. The old lady seemed to be greatly troubled, and I expected to have the whole seat to myself from this station.
"Suthin must be done!" said the old lady.
"That's so; give me your ticket or the twelve dollars," replied the official.
"I can't do one nor t'other. I hain't got the money, and my ticket's gone."
"Very well, madam. Then you must leave the train."
"But I don't know a soul here. Won't you trust me till we get to Chicago?"
"I don't know you, and we do not give credit for fares."
"Mr. Collingsby, over there, knows me. My son's his pardner in business."
"Very well, madam; if that is the case, there will be no trouble about it," added the polite official, as he turned to the dignified gentleman, and stated the case.
Mr. Collingsby glanced at the old lady, and shook his head, with a deprecatory smile.
"I have not the pleasure of the lady's acquaintance," said he, after a hasty glance at her face, as he turned his attention to his newspaper again.
"She says her son is your partner in business," suggested the conductor.
"That may be; but I don't know the lady. I am not aware that I ever saw her," answered the head of the firm, without raising his eyes from his paper.
"What is your name, madam?" demanded the conductor.
"Don't he know my name? Don't he know the name of his own pardner?"
"I asked your name, madam."
"My name's Whippleton—Mrs. Whippleton; and my son's his pardner."
"She says her name is Whippleton, and that her son is your partner," said the conductor, again appealing to the dignified head of the firm.
"I don't dispute it, sir," replied Mr. Collingsby, coldly. "My partner's name is Whippleton, but I don't know that lady. As I said, I am not aware that I ever saw her before."
"Shall I trust her for her fare?"
"Do as you please. As I don't know her, I cannot vouch for her," replied Mr. Collingsby, in a tone which implied that, if the conductor knew what he was about, he would not disturb him any further on the disagreeable subject.
"Mr. Collingsby does not know you, madam."
"That's what I call mean!" ejaculated Mrs. Whippleton, bitterly. "I don't believe he'd know his own father if the old man didn't wear a fashionable hat."
"He doesn't dispute what you say; but he doesn't know you. I must have your fare, madam."
"I keep telling you, I hain't got no money."
"Then you must get out here."
"You don't mean so!"
"Yes, I do. Shall I help you out with your baggage?"
"But I'll pay you when I get to Chicago."
"That won't do. In a word, madam, I don't believe you lost your ticket."
"Goodness! Do you think I'd lie about it?"
"I'm sorry to say I do think so. If I mistake not, you have tried this game on before."
"Come, madam, be in a hurry!" persisted the conductor, reaching forward and taking the old lady's largest bundle from the rack.
"I should like to speak to you a moment, Mr. Conductor," I interposed, unable any longer to contain my indignation.
"What do you want?"
I rose, and requested him to go with me to the rear of the car.
"Speak quick, young man. Do you know this woman?" demanded the bustling official.
"No; but I will be responsible for her fare," I replied, with as much dignity as Mr. Collingsby could have assumed. "If she don't pay you when we get to Chicago, I will."
"Will you, indeed! That is very kind of you; but we don't do business in that way," laughed the conductor, with a glance which indicated how much he pitied my greenness. "She has money enough, and she didn't buy any ticket. It is only a trick to get rid of paying her fare."
"I will be responsible for the fare."
"Pay it now, then," added the conductor, shrugging his shoulders.
I do not know what it was that prompted me to this chivalrous action in favor of a very disagreeable old lady; but I felt like a Christian who was fighting the battle of his enemy. I took out my porte-monnaie, and from the fifty-three dollars I had left of the sum I had taken to pay my expenses, I gave the conductor twelve. He handed me a check for the old lady, jumped out, and started the train. He treated me as though he thought I was a fool; and I was myself inclined to believe he was more than half right.
Several passengers had left the car at this station, and when I returned to my seat, I found that Mr. Collingsby had changed his place for one where he had a whole chair to himself, at some distance from the old lady. I had no doubt he was glad to escape from the vicinity of the troublesome passenger; but he still read his newspaper, as though nothing had for a moment ruffled the current of his thoughts.
"I knew he wouldn't dare to put me out of the car!" said Mrs. Whippleton, as I resumed my seat at her side. "Don't talk to me! He didn't dare to perpetuate such an outrage."
"We are all right now," I replied.
"Yes, we are. Put me out! I should like to seen him done it! I should! I reckon my son Charles would have taught him what it was to perpetuate such an outrage on his mother. As for that Mr. Collingsby, he's a mean man! Only to think that he didn't know me!"
"Have you ever met him?"
"Have I? Yes, I have. I have been in the counting-room when he was there, and he looked right at me! And now he don't know me! No matter; that conductor didn't dare to put me out of the car! He would have lost his place if he had."
I handed her the check which the gentlemanly official had given me.
"He's gettin' very perlite. How came he to give you this?"
"Because I paid your fare," I replied, in a low tone; for I did not care to expose my innocence to the people around me.
"Yes; he would certainly have put you out of the car if I had not."
"I don't believe a word on't."
"I do, Mrs. Whippleton. He says you have done the same thing before."
"He's a fearful liar. I'll tell my son Charles all about it, and, if he has any influence, that man shall smart for it."
"I don't think the conductor is to blame. He only did his duty."
"Then you think I'm to blame," said she, putting on her dignity.
"If you lost your ticket—"
"Do you think I didn't lose it?" she interposed, quick to catch even an implied imputation.
"Of course I think you did lose it. But the conductor cannot pass every one who says he has lost his ticket."
"Well, I don't care. It was a mean trick, and I'll tell Charles all about it."
"I wouldn't say anything to him about it. It will only worry him; and the conductor isn't to blame."
"Do you think it is right to put a lone woman out of the car because she lost her ticket?"
"The conductor didn't know you."
"Yes, he did know me. I rid over this road only a week ago, when I went down to St. Louis to see my nephew."
It was useless to argue the point with her. Perhaps, if she had made no fuss when she got into the car, the conductor might have entertained a different opinion of her. I wanted to obtain some information of her in regard to the Collingsby family; and I am willing to offer this as the reason for my chivalrous conduct.
"You know Mr. Collingsby, if he does not know you," I said, in order to introduce the subject.
"He's my son's pardner in business."
"Are you personally acquainted with him?"
"Well, I can't say I am much acquainted with him. His folks and ourn don't visit much, for, you see, the Collingsbys are rich and smart."
"He has a brother, I have heard."
"Yes; his brother Joseph is in Europe, with his wife and his sister."
"His sister?" I queried, deeply interested in this branch of the topic.
"Her name's Louise. She merried a good-for-nothin' feller in St. Louis, and left him; so she's a grass widder now."
"Did you ever see her?"
"I never did; but law sake, I've hearn my son Charles tell all about 'em. He knows 'em, root and branch; and they are all on 'em jest about as proud as Lucifer, and as consayted as a pullet over her fust egg. They're rich, and that's all that can be said on 'em. My son Charles does all the business of the firm, and if it wan't for him they'd all gone to ruin long ago."
"But this Mr. Collingsby has a father?"
"Yes; and he's jest like all the rest on 'em. They are all proud and consayted, and they come naterally enough by it, for the old man thinks the ground ain't good enough for him to tread on."
"But he is not in business now?"
"Ain't he, though? Yes, he is. He's the sleepin' pardner of the house of Collingsby and Whippleton. He put some money into it; but my son Charles finds all the brains."
Of course I could not help having a very high estimate of her son Charles; but I was not quite prepared to believe that my grandfather and my uncles were so deficient in everything but pride as she represented. Mrs. Whippleton continued to enlighten me in regard to the character and antecedents of the Collingsbys until the train stopped for dinner. I got out, and took a lunch, after the old lady had refused my invitation to do so. Reflecting that she had no money, I carried her a cup of tea and some sandwiches, which she did not refuse. The tea was hot and strong, and in refined and elegant phrase, she informed me that it "went to the right spot." I returned the cup and saucer as the bell rang, and resumed my place at her side.
"You are a real nice young man, and I'm only sorry I didn't take you into the seat with me when you fust got in," said she, apparently overcome by my chivalrous devotion to her comfort.
"Thank you, madam," I replied. "I remembered that you said you had not money enough even to buy a dinner, and I always like to do as I'd be done by."
"But I ain't so poor as you think for. I will pay you for my fare and for my tea," she continued; and, to my astonishment, she took from the folds of her dress a roll of bills, which had been carefully pinned in.
"I thought you had no money!" I exclaimed, amazed at the sight I saw.
"I didn't want to rob you. I hate mean folks, and I ain't afeered on 'em," she added, as she handed me the twelve dollars I had paid on her account.
"But you may find your ticket," I suggested.
"I don't expect to find it," she replied, with abundant resignation.
"If you do, I will get the money for it."
"I shall not find it. To tell the truth, I didn't have no ticket," she answered, in a low tone, and with a vile chuckling, which indicated that she was not to blame, even if her clever trick had failed.
I took the twelve dollars, and considered myself the luckiest person in the world. I did not blame Mr. Collingsby for not recognizing her, even if he did know her, and I begrudged the quarter I had expended upon her in tea and sandwiches.
IN WHICH PHIL TAKES A ROOM AT MRS. WHIPPLETON'S BOARDING-HOUSE.
It was quite a shock to me to find that one whom I had supposed to be honest was guilty of a deliberate attempt to defraud the railroad company out of the sum of twelve dollars; who had resorted to gross lies and mean deception to carry her point. Upon my honor and conscience, I would rather have lost the twelve dollars I had advanced than had the old woman turn out to be a swindler. She might be fussy, she might be disagreeable, she might be a dozen things that are uncomfortable and unpleasant, if she had only meant to be true and honest, and I could have respected her.
I was amazed; first, that she could be guilty of such a vile trick; and second, that she had had the hardihood to acknowledge it, even to a boy like me. My respect for the knowledge and penetration of the gentlemanly conductor rose about ten degrees, and I was tempted to say to myself that I would never again interfere in behalf of another "lone woman," especially if she was the mother of one as smart as her son Charles.
"You needn't tell that nasty conductor what I say," said Mrs. Whippleton, as if conscious that she had been imprudent in revealing so much to me.
"I don't think he needs to be told. It appears now that he understood the case perfectly," I replied, disgusted with my seat-mate. "He said you did not have any ticket, and that it was all a trick to evade paying your fare."
"He didn't know that. He may say just the same thing six times, and be mistaken five on 'em."
"Didn't you intend to pay your fare?"
"Perhaps I should, if they hadn't pussicuted me so in the beginning."
"But you didn't buy a ticket."
"No, I didn't. You are a green boy. What difference does it make to this railroad company whether I paid my fare or not? They've got money enough."
"But they wouldn't make much if people didn't pay."
"It don't make no difference if one don't pay now and then. You hain't seen much of the world yet, my boy. When you have lived to be as old as I am, you'll know more."
"I hope I shall not live so long as to be proud of being dishonest," I replied, with considerable spirit.
"Dishonest? What do you mean by that? Do you pretend to say I'm dishonest?"
"Well, madam, we needn't quarrel about words; but, if I had tried to cheat the railroad company out of twelve dollars, or twelve cents, I should call it being dishonest."
"You are a silly boy."
"I hope I always shall be silly, then. I should think God had forsaken me, if I could deliberately try to wrong any one."
"You haven't seen the world. I have worked hard in my time. It took me a good while to earn twelve dollars; and when I see a chance to save twelve dollars, I generally always does so."
"You don't steal twelve dollars—do you—when you get a chance?"
"Steal! I hope not. I never did such a thing in my life. No, I'm an honest woman; everybody that knows me will say that. If that nasty conductor had used me well, I should have paid my fare; but it won't make no difference to the company whether I did or not. Why shouldn't Mr. Collingsby pay his fare as well as me?"
"He did; I saw him give up his ticket."
"You are a green boy. His ticket! It was a free pass. His father is a great railroad man, and the whole family ride for nothing whenever they please. It is just as right that I should go free as he; and I can tell you, if I can get over the road for nothing, it is my duty to do so—a duty I owe to myself and to my son Charles. You must live and learn, young man; and when you can go over the road for nothing, don't waste twelve dollars."
I did not like the old lady's philosophy, though I have since learned that there are a great many people in the world who think it is no sin to cheat a railroad corporation out of a few dollars, more or less. I once heard a man, who pretended to be a gentleman, boasting that he evaded paying his fare in the train because the conductor did not call for it. I hold him to be a swindler, just as much as though he had been called upon for his ticket. When he got into the car, he virtually bargained with the railroad company to convey him a certain distance for a certain price. No matter if the conductor did not formally demand payment; it was his duty to pay, and he was just as much a swindler and a thief, as though he had stolen or cheated some individual out of the money.
I feel better now, after venting my righteous indignation on this subject. I have a good deal more respect for the thief who steals your money, or the gentlemanly swindler who plunders you of it by the polite tricks of his art, than for these pretentious knaves who lie without uttering a word, and steal without lifting a finger.
Mrs. Whippleton continued, for an hour, to assure me that I was extraordinarily green, imparting a lesson on worldly wisdom, which, I am happy to say, at the age of twenty-eight, has been utterly wasted upon me.
"You haven't seen much of the world, and you don't know what's what yet; but I like you, young man. You have behaved very well to a lone woman, and you shan't lose nothing by it," she continued.
"I am entirely satisfied," I replied.
"I didn't mean you should lose anything by me. I might have cheated you out of twelve dollars just as easy as nothing."
I was certainly very much obliged to her for her kind consideration in this respect; and I was forced to acknowledge the truth of her proposition. Though I despised her, I could not help seeing that she had been just towards me.
"I am very much obliged to you for not doing it," I replied.
"No; I never cheat nobody; and I hate mean folks. It would have been mean in me to let you lose twelve dollars after what you did for me. If it hadn't been for you I should have been put out of the car."
"But you had money to pay your fare."
"I wouldn't pay that nasty conductor after I had told him I had no money. One has to be persistent."
"I think you have been consistent all the way through."
"Thank'ee. After what you did, and the tea you fetched, I felt an interest in you; and it ain't many folks I do feel an interest in."
Of course not! Not many people would have done anything for her to induce her to feel an interest in them.
"I reckon you don't belong in Chicago," she continued.
"I do not. I never was there."
"Well, it's a wicked place."
Any place must be wicked from her stand-point.
"I suppose it is no worse than any city of its size."
"I don't know's it is. I suppose you have friends there."
"Well, where you goin' to stop, then?"
"I don't know yet. I shall go to some hotel, I suppose."
"Hotels are awful dear."
"I think I can stand it for a week or so at a cheap hotel. I don't mean to go to the Tremont House."
"Don't waste your money in that way, you silly boy. It will cost you a dollar and a half a day to live at any hotel."
"What shall I do?" I asked, willing to profit by the old lady's knowledge, while I abhorred her principles.
"I keep boarders myself; and I only charge 'em four dollars a week. I don't take none for a week or two; but I'll take you, after what's happened, at the same price. You can save six or seven dollars in this way."
"I thank you, Mrs. Whippleton. I'm very much obliged to you, and will go to your house."
I was really relieved by this friendly offer, for I did not like to go to a hotel among total strangers. Whatever Mrs. Whippleton was morally could not affect me as a boarder for a brief period, while the saving of expense was a great item to me. When the train arrived at Chicago, the old lady gathered up her bundles, with my assistance, and we walked to her house, which was at a considerable distance from the station. The dwelling was a large, plain house. I found that it was furnished in a very cheap style. The landlady called a servant girl, who conducted me to a small room over the entry, in which there was a narrow bed. It did not compare favorably with my quarters at Mrs. Greenough's, but I thought I could stand it for a week. When I went down stairs, I was invited to tea with the old lady. I came to the conclusion that the boarders in the house paid full price for all they had, for the butter was very strong, and the dishes were not particularly clean.
Before we had finished our supper, Mr. Charles Whippleton was announced. He came into the room where the old lady was sipping her tea, and after casting a sharp look at me, he threw himself into a large rocking-chair, which was evidently kept for the especial use of his mother. He was well dressed, and after I had heard so much about the man, I scrutinized his features quite closely. I was not favorably impressed, for there was an expression of sharpness and cunning in his face which did not suit me. Mrs. Whippleton did not take the trouble to introduce me.
"Got home, mother?" said he, without wasting any of his breath in affectionate terms.
"I have, thank fortin; but I didn't expect to get home."
"Why, what's the matter now?" demanded the dutiful son, whose question implied that something was always the matter.
Mrs. Whippleton informed him what was the matter now, including a detailed account of her grievances. To my surprise, the affectionate son informed her that she was an old fool, glancing at me, as though, after a day's experience with his maternal parent, I ought to be able to confirm his rash statement in the fullest manner.
I prudently held my peace.
"I may be an old fool, but I know when I am insulted."
"I would rather given fifty dollars than had you appeal to Mr. Collingsby."
"He's a mean man."
"Perhaps he is; but I must keep on the right side of him."
"You can keep on the right side of him, Charles; but don't ask me to do so, for I hate mean folks. If I should meet that man in the street to-night, I wouldn't speak to him."
"He wouldn't cry if you didn't," sneered Mr. Charles.
"I don't know as I should ever have got home, if this young man had not took care on me."
Mr. Whippleton glanced at me again, as though he thought I was as big a fool as his maternal parent.
"Well, let all that go," continued the dutiful son. "Did you see Rufus in St. Louis?"
"I did see him; and only to think on't, after I had taken all that trouble and spent all that money, he wouldn't come," replied the old lady, indignantly.
"I hope you are satisfied now," added Mr. Charles, with much disgust.
"Well, I had my visit, any how."
"What's the reason Rufus won't come?"
"His folks don't want him to leave home. They say he isn't very well—just as though I couldn't take care on him!"
"Very well; you've kept me out of a clerk for three weeks for his sake, and that is all it amounts to."
Mr. Charles departed in disgust; and Mrs. Whippleton explained that she had been to St. Louis to induce her nephew's son, a young man of eighteen, to take the place of entry clerk in the counting-room of the firm. That was just such a place as I wanted; and, while the garrulous landlady was detailing the particulars, I considered whether I should apply for it.
IN WHICH PHIL IS ENGAGED AS ENTRY CLERK FOR COLLINGSBY AND WHIPPLETON.
I intended to be a clerk, but I had not thought of such a thing as applying for a situation in Chicago. I did not like the idea of being separated from my father; but, when I learned that there was a vacancy in the counting-room of Messrs. Collingsby and Whippleton, I was tempted to obtain it if I could. I did not expect or desire to make a violent assault upon my grandfather, but to reach him by easy and gradual approaches. A situation in the house of which he was the silent partner I thought would help me amazingly. It seemed to me that I could not plan anything better to accomplish my purpose.
I could get acquainted with my uncle and my grandfather. I hoped that I might even be able to do something to win their regard and favor. Certainly the first step towards such a result was to place myself in a position where I could see them occasionally. I did not like the looks of Mr. Whippleton, and I was afraid he had imbibed the worldly wisdom of his mother. But this feeling was not to weigh against the immense advantages I might derive from meeting the Collingsbys. The more I thought of the matter, the more I was inclined to apply for the place. I believed that I was fully competent to keep a set of books by double entry, and certainly I was fit for an entry clerk.
"What kind of a place is it that you wished your nephew to fill, Mrs. Whippleton?" I asked, after Mr. Charles had gone.
"Well, I don't know much about it, but Charles called it an entry clerk. I suppose he has to do his work out in the entry because the counting-room isn't big enough, or because he ain't smart enough to come into the presence of such mighty men as that Mr. Collingsby."
"How much do they pay him?"
"I don't know exactly; but not more'n four or five dollars a week—just enough for him to starve on. You see, I heard that my nephew's son wanted a place, and couldn't get one in St. Louis. I thought, this would be a good chance for him. I wanted to make 'em a visit, for they owed me some money I lent 'em. I told Charles he must take Rufus, and I put him off till I was able to go to St. Louis. The spring business was comin' on, and he couldn't wait; so I hurried off. I got the money my nephew owed me; but they wouldn't let the boy come to Chicago, though I told 'em I went down purpose arter him. Charles fretted a good deal because I made him wait; but Charles minds his mother, if he is sassy sometimes. He knows I've got some money that I can't take with me when I leave this world for a better one."
I thought it was rather impudent for her to talk about a better world, when she was doing all she could to make this a mean one; and I doubted whether, unless she mended her ways, the other would be a better one to her.
"I have two merried daughters that need what little I've got more than Charles does; and he owes me now for what I let him have to set up in business. He owes all he has in this world to me," continued the old lady, complacently.
"He wants an entry clerk immediately?" I suggested.
"Yes; Charles has had to do all the work himself, for, you see, he keeps the books of the firm. Well, he does all the business, for that matter. He's all there is of the firm, except the money the Collingsbys put in. Howsomever, I suppose it's just as well that Rufus didn't come, for ef he had, I should had to board him for three dollars a week; and he's a growin' boy, and eats more'n a man."
"Do you think I could get this place?"
"You! My stars! I don't know!" exclaimed the old lady. "Can you write?"
"Good at figgers?"
"Pretty good, I think."
"They want somebody that's smart. Charles was afraid Rufus wouldn't do, but I desisted on having on him; and Charles knows I'm smart enough to make a will now if I take a notion."
"I didn't think of looking for a place in Chicago," I added; "but this looks like a good chance."
"Why didn't you say so before Charles went off? If you want the place, you shall have it. I say so, and I know what I'm saying; and Charles has been afraid all along that I might make a will."
"I should like to go on trial; but I don't know that I can stay in Chicago a great while."
"They want somebody right off, and somebody that's smart."
"I think I could suit them. I can keep books; and besides, I have worked at carpentering for two years, and I know something about lumber. Where is your son now? Is he in the house?"
"Sakes, no!" exclaimed the old lady, beginning to be excited. "He don't board here; 'tain't smart enough for him; but I'll go with you and see him."
"Thank you, Mrs. Whippleton."
"I'm pretty tired; but I'm allus willin' to do what I can for a feller-cretur. I went clear down to St. Louis to help my nephew's son; and I'll do as much for you as I would for him."
"I won't trouble you to go with me. If you will tell me where he is, I will go alone."
"That won't do. I must lay down the law to Charles; and if he dares to do any different from what I tell him, he won't touch any more of my money—that's all."
I did not exactly like the idea of having Mr. Charles placed under compulsion to take me, whether he liked me or not; and I decided, if he objected to the arrangement, to take myself out of his way. We walked to the residence of Mr. Charles, which was a genteel house in a good section of the city. He had a parlor and bed-room, and seemed to live in good style. Before she said anything about me, Mrs. Whippleton took her son into the entry, where, I suppose, she "laid down the law" to him."
"My mother says you want a place as entry clerk," said Mr. Charles, when they returned to the parlor, where I was seated.
"Yes, sir," I replied, with becoming deference.
"When can you go to work?"
"At once, sir."
He then questioned me in regard to my knowledge of book-keeping and arithmetic, and wanted to know if I understood board measure, and could read lumber marks. I told him I had been a carpenter, and knew all about lumber. I could keep a set of books by double entry, and thought I was competent to perform all sorts of mercantile calculations. But he was too shrewd and suspicious to take me on my own recommendation. He gave me a sheet of paper, pen, and ink, and told me to write my name.
"Farringford!" exclaimed he, as he read what I wrote.
"Yes, sir; that is my name."
"Do you belong to the Farringfords of St. Louis?"
"Yes; but I was brought up on the upper Missouri."
"Well, your name is nothing in your favor; however, that isn't your fault," he added, magnanimously; but fortunately he said no more on that subject. "Now, what is the interest on two thousand dollars for six months at eight per cent?"
"Eighty dollars," I replied, as soon as he had the question out of his mouth, for my father had practised me thoroughly in all the short methods of computing interest.
He gave me half a dozen other problems; but, as he selected only those which he could solve in his own mind, I was very prompt in my replies. He then wrote out an example in averaging accounts, and as it was not a difficult one, and involved only round numbers, I did it very readily.
"But the most important thing with us," added Mr. Whippleton, "is simple addition. I don't like to wait half an hour for a clerk to run up a column of figures."
He then wrote about twenty sums of money, each having five or six figures, and told me to add them. My father had always assured me that simple addition tried the young accountant more than anything else, and he had insisted that I should practise it until I could run up a column as rapidly as my eye could take in the figures. I had used this exercise for months, until I flattered myself I could give the sum of a column as quick as any practised book-keeper. At the same time, he had taught me his own method, that of taking two figures at once, and adding their sum to the result already obtained. It was just as easy for one quick at figures to add thirteen, sixteen, eighteen, or nineteen, as it was to add three, six, eight, or nine. Thus, if the figures in the column were 6, 5, 4, 7, 9, 3, 8, 2, 9, 1, my father added them in couples, for it required no effort of the mind to add six and five, four and seven, nine and three, eight and two, or nine and one; and the mental process was eleven, twenty-two, thirty-four, forty-four, fifty-four.
I had practised this system until I could carry it along as rapidly as I could by adding a single figure at a time. Mr. Whippleton made his figures in duplicate when he wrote them, and added one himself to prove that I was right or wrong. Before he was half done, I had my result.
"You are wrong," said he, decidedly, when he had finished. "I would rather have you use twice as much time, and have the result right, than do it quick, and have it wrong. Accuracy first, and speed next."
That was just what my father had always told me, and I was rather mortified at the failure. I went over the columns again, with the same result.
"I get it so again, sir," I replied, when I had added the columns in an opposite direction from that taken the first time.
Mr. Whippleton added his figures a second time; but there was still two hundred dollars' difference in the two amounts.
"You add mine and I will add yours," said he, as we exchanged papers.
This time I made his figures come out right; but I was also astonished to find that he too made mine come out correctly.
"I see it, sir," I added. "In the fourth item the five on your paper is a three on mine, and we are both right."
"Exactly so! You'll do, young man, though I should like to see you make out a bill. We sell Tobey Tinkum forty-two thousand Michigan pine boards, clear, at thirty dollars;" and he proceeded to give me several items, which I could not have written down if I had not been a carpenter, for the technical terms would have bothered and defeated me.
When my late employer, Mr. Clinch, found that I had some knowledge of arithmetic and accounts, he used to set me at work on his bills, to see if they were cast up correctly. This experience had prepared me for precisely the ordeal I was at present undergoing. I wrote the bill as handsomely as I could, though without straining over it, and figured up the prices, extending them and adding them. The examiner seemed to be very much pleased, and wanted to know where I had learned so much about the lumber business. I explained, and told him I had used about all my evenings for two years in studying.
"You'll do," said he. "Now, what wages do you expect?"
"I don't know; what do you pay?"
"Well, we pay three or four dollars a week. As you are pretty good at figures, we will give you four."
"I made more than that at my trade. I can't afford to work for four dollars a week, sir. It would only pay my board."
"What do you ask?"
"I will work eight weeks, say, at six dollars a week."
Mr. Whippleton objected; but I was firm. He evidently thought I was just the person he wanted, and he finally consented to my terms, but insisted upon making the time a year. I told him I could not agree for a longer time than I had named without consulting my father. He yielded this point also, and I promised to be at the counting-room of Collingsby and Whippleton the next morning.
I walked home with Mrs. Whippleton, who again assured me that she was always willing to do what she could for a "feller-cretur."
IN WHICH PHIL TAKES HIS PLACE AT THE DESK, AND IS ENGAGED FOR A YEAR.
When I reached the house of Mrs. Whippleton, I took my writing materials from my bag, and wrote a long letter to my father, detailing the incidents of my journey, and explaining the motives which had induced me to take the situation in the counting-room of Collingsby and Whippleton. I was satisfied that he would not object, though he might not fully approve the course I had taken. I was up very early the next morning, and made a hurried survey of the city before breakfast. I walked from Washington Street, where my boarding-house was located, through Halstead Street, to the north branch of the Chicago River, where I found the lumber-yard of the firm. I read the sign and examined the locality with interest.
I ate my breakfast at half past six; and though the beefsteak was very tough, and the butter very strong, I sustained my reputation as a good eater. I had lived too long in the wilderness, where we did not often have any butter, to be thrown off my balance by the accident of a rancid article, and I had certainly eaten buffalo meat that was as much tougher than any beef as sole leather is tougher than brown paper. Strong butter and tough beef are not good, I allow; but they are by no means the sum total of human misery. I had a clean conscience, and I ate a hearty breakfast.
I had been told to be at the counting-room at half past seven; but I was on hand at seven. I saw several salesmen and laborers in the lumberyard, but there was no one in the counting-room. I seated myself, and picked up the morning paper. I did not find any paragraph announcing my arrival at the great city of the west; and I suppose it was of no great consequence. However, I found enough to interest me, till I was disturbed by the entrance of a young man about my own age.
"Good morning, sir," said he, briskly, as he glanced curiously at me. "What can I do for you?"
"Nothing," I replied.
"Didn't know but you had an order."
"No, I have no order."
He looked at me as though he thought I ought to tell him what I wanted.
"Can I sell you any lumber to-day?" he continued.
"I don't think you can. I'm waiting to see Mr. Whippleton," I answered, in order to save him the trouble of any unnecessary questioning.
"If you are in a hurry you had better not wait, for he hardly ever gets here till eight o'clock," said the young man, as he went to the desk and opened an account book.
"I'm in no hurry. I'm going to work here."
"Is that so?"
"Who engaged you?"
"Mr. Whippleton—last evening."
"What are you going to do?"
"I am engaged as entry clerk."
"Good! I'm glad to hear it. I'm yours truly. Who are you?"
"I'm yours truly," I replied, laughing.
"You're a brick! My name is Land Limpedon. What's yours?"
"Capital! Philip Farringford, I'm deuced glad to see you if you are to be the entry clerk. I've had to do some of that work, and I don't like it. I don't think writing is my forte. I suppose you can write."
"I can make my mark."
"That's about all I can do. You have come at just the right time. We are driven with business. By the way, you needn't wait for Mr. Whippleton. I'll set you at work. I've just sold a bill, and want it entered. Take your pen, old boy, and show us whether you can spatter the ink or not. By the way, are you a hard brick or a soft brick?"
"I think you will find me a hard brick," I replied, at a venture, for I had no idea of the technical significance of the terms he used.
"Capital! That's a Chicago brick. Did you come from the country?"
"I came from St. Louis."
"Capital, still! You don't smell of mullein and cornstalks. Here's a good pen. Just enter these items, and give me a bill of them," he rattled on, taking a memorandum book from his side pocket. "A Chicago brick! That's the brick for me."
I took the pen, and stood at the desk.
"I can break you in before Whippleton gets here. Now, charge, F. P. Moleuschott—got that down?"
"Capital! The point of your pen is greasy. But I'll bet a quarter you didn't spell the man's name right," he added, looking at the page of the sales book where I had entered it. "'Pon my word you did, though! These Dutchmen's names bothered me so that I used to get almost choked to death before I could speak one of them."
I had always been a diligent student of the literature of the sign-boards, and I was tolerably familiar even with German proper names. It is a good plan for a young man who is going into business to read the signs in the streets as he passes along.
Mr. Land Limpedon rattled off a long bill of small items, and jumbled in the technical terms of the trade, with the evident intention of bothering me; but I was posted, and did not have to ask him to repeat a single item. I entered the charge, and made out the bill.
"Capital!" exclaimed the young salesman, as he glanced at the bill. "I couldn't have done it any better myself."
I was willing to believe him as I glanced at the page of the sales book where he had made entries, and saw what a villanous hand he wrote, and what blots and blunders he had inflicted upon the innocent white paper. However, he was good-natured, and did not pretend to be a book-keeper; so I was willing to forgive him.
"What time does Mr. Collingsby come to the counting-room?" I asked, as he was looking over the bill.
"The young man comes about nine or ten; but he don't stay here much of the time. Some days the old gentleman looks in about eleven, and some days he don't," replied Land, as he left the office.
I was at the desk, and had made my first debit. The situation was novel, but it was pleasing. It was DESK AND DEBIT, for which I had been seeking for weeks.
The counting-room was divided into two apartments. In the first, which occupied the front of the building, were the desk, the safe, the books, and the papers. All the general business of the firm was transacted here; and my position was behind the desk in this room. Separated from it by a partition composed mostly of ground glass windows was the other apartment, whose interior I had not yet seen. As Mr. Whippleton was the bookkeeper, and had the general charge of the finances of the firm, I concluded that the interior room was appropriated to the use of the dignified senior partner and his father, the special partner, when the latter chose to honor the establishment with his presence.
While I was taking a deliberate survey of the premises where I was to pass at least several weeks, two salesmen, with their memoranda in their hands, bustled into the counting-room, each attended by a customer, to whom he had sold a bill of lumber. They had been informed by Land of the debut of the new entry clerk, and they read off their sales to me, which I entered upon the book, giving them bills for the purchasers. One of them paid his bill, and I was looking for the cash book when Mr. Whippleton made his appearance.
"So you are really at work, Philip," said he, as he glanced at the sales book.
"Yes, sir; I have made a beginning. I was looking for the cash book, sir."
"I keep the cash book myself," added he, in a manner which indicated that I was not to meddle with it.
But I found enough to do in making bills and charges. It was early in the spring, and there was a great deal of building in the city. Business was very driving, and I had all I could do. It was the same thing over and over again all day long; but I enjoyed my occupation in spite of its monotony.
About nine o'clock Mr. Richard Collingsby entered the counting-room. He passed my desk, glanced at me, and entered the sacred precincts of his sanctorum. Mr. Whippleton immediately made him a visit, and doubtless informed his senior that he had engaged an entry clerk. I did not see the dignified partner again till he left the counting-room at two o'clock. He did not even glance at me this time, and probably had no suspicion that he had ever seen me before. I was too insignificant a mortal to engage his attention even for a single instant. Yet he was my own uncle, though I might be in the same office with him for years without his knowing the fact.
At twelve o'clock I went to dinner. As I passed through the yard, I saw lying on the bank of the river a beautiful sail-boat, which attracted my attention. It was about thirty feet long, and had quite a large cabin in the forward part. I had hardly ever seen a sail-boat, and I was much interested in her.
"Whose is this?" I asked, as Land Limpedon joined me on his way to dinner.
"Mr. Whippleton's; he's a regular water bird, and in the summer he spends all his spare time in that boat."
"Does he sail on this river?" I asked, glancing at the muddy lagoon.
"No; he takes her out on the lake, and goes off for a fortnight in her, when he can spare the time."
I had had some experience with boats on the upper Missouri, and had some taste for them, though I had never even been in a sail-boat. I hoped Mr. Whippleton would take it into his head to invite me some time to sail with him. I went to dinner with the image of the boat's sharp bow and graceful lines lingering in my mind. The beef was no tougher at noon than it was in the morning, and I think Mrs. Whippleton was convinced that I was not a profitable boarder at four dollars a week.
But I do not intend to weary my reader by giving the monotonous details of my daily experience at the desk. I discharged my duties faithfully, and to the entire satisfaction of Mr. Whippleton. On the second day, I saw Mr. Collingsby, senior. Like his dignified son, he took no notice of me. Possibly he asked my name in the private office; but I never knew whether it gave them any uneasiness or not, though I am very confident neither of them suspected that I was the son of Louise Collingsby. The name was not so uncommon as to indicate that I belonged to the hated Farringfords of St. Louis.
Whatever may have been said in the private office, nothing came to me from either of the men in whom I was so deeply interested; and it often occurred to me, as the weeks passed by, that I was doing nothing to accomplish my great mission in Chicago. My father answered my letter, and advised me, if I had a good place, to keep it. I wrote to him every week, and received a letter from him as often.
The eight weeks for which I had been engaged passed off, and I hinted to the junior partner that my time was out.
"Very well; you can go on just as you have," said he.
"I don't care about going on any farther at six dollars a week," I replied.
"What do you want?"
"I will speak to Mr. Collingsby."
He did speak to him, and my salary was advanced to eight dollars a week for a year. I was satisfied I was earning that amount, and Mr. Whippleton intimated that he should require me to do more of the general book-keeping.
IN WHICH PHIL TAKES A SAIL ON THE LAKE WITH MR. WHIPPLETON.
"Phil, do you know anything about a boat?" asked Mr. Whippleton, one Saturday afternoon, at the close of the month of May.
I was standing on the bank of the river, looking at his boat, which had been thoroughly repaired, painted, and rigged, and lay off the lumber-yard. She was a beautiful craft, and after we had shut up the counting-room, I paused to look at her.
"I don't know anything about a sail-boat," I replied; "but I used to handle a row-boat on the upper Missouri."
"You are used to boats, then?"
"Yes, to row-boats."
"If you are not in a hurry, you may go down the river with me; and I intend to take a little turn out in the lake," he continued, as he hauled the sail-boat up to the shore.
"Thank you, sir; I should like to go very much," I replied.
The craft was called the Florina, though why she had what seemed to me such an odd name, I did not know at that time. I afterwards ascertained that he was engaged to a young lady who bore that interesting name, though, for reasons which will appear in the sequel, he never married her. I was delighted with the boat when I went on board of her, and glanced into her comfortable cabin, which was furnished like a parlor. He had evidently spent a good deal of money upon her, and I soon found that Miss Florina was an occasional guest on board.
She was sloop-rigged, and carried a large jib and mainsail. Everything about her was fitted up in good style; indeed, the carpenters, riggers, and painters had been at work upon her for a month. I was rather sorry, as I looked at her, that I was not a rich man, able to own just such a craft, for I could conceive of nothing more pleasant than coasting up and down the lake, exploring the rivers, bays, and islands. I thought I could live six months in the year on board of the Florina very comfortably. But, then, I was not a rich man; and I had a great work before me, with no time to waste in mere amusements.
"Now take off those stops, Phil."
"Those canvas straps with which the mainsail is tied up," he explained.
I concluded that the mainsail was the big sail nearest to me, and I untied the "stops," making a note of the name for future use.
"That's it; now stand by the jib halyards," added Mr. Whippleton.
"I'll stand by 'em till doomsday, if you will only tell me what they are."
"I call things by their names in order that you may learn them," laughed the junior partner, as he went forward and cast off the ropes indicated, which were fastened to a couple of cleats on the mast. "One is the throat, and the other is the peak-halyard."
We hoisted the sail, and I observed the use of the halyards, and how to manage and make them fast. I was confident that I should not have to be shown a second time how to do anything. Fortunately there are so few ropes on an ordinary sloop that my weak head could carry the names and uses of all without confusion. There was not much wind up there in the lagoon, or the river, as it is more politely called; but what there was came from the westward, and the skipper said it was fair to take us down to the lake.
"Cast off the painter," continued Mr. Whippleton.
"He's not here; and if he was, I shouldn't like to cast him off here, where the water is so dirty; I would rather wait till we come to a cleaner place," I replied.
"That rope by which the boat is fastened to the wharf is called a painter," added the skipper.
"O, is it?" I replied, unfastening the rope at the shore end, and pulling it on board.
"That's it. You will be as salt as a boiled lobster one of these days, Phil."
I thanked him for the compliment, as I supposed it to be, though I had not the least idea what a lobster was. The skipper took the helm, and the boat began to move.
"Haul in that sheet, Phil," said he, quietly.
I rushed for the cabin, where I had seen two beds very neatly made up in the berths.
"Where are you going?"
"After the sheet. There's some on the beds in the cabin."
"The rope fastened to the boom," he continued, laughing at my blunder, and handing me the end of the line upon which I was to haul.
I pulled in, and the effect was to bring the boom over the deck. Putting the helm hard down, he brought the Florina up into the wind, so as to clear a lumber schooner which lay just below. I wish to say that I describe the movements of the boat from the knowledge I have since obtained, for I am an "old salt" now. I watched the operations of the skipper with keen attention, for I was taking my first lesson in handling a boat, and I was deeply interested. Skilfully he navigated the crowded river, and I hauled in and let out the sheet twenty times before we reached the broad lake. The drawbridges were whisked open in the twinkling of an eye, and in about half an hour we passed out of the river.
I saw why Mr. Whippleton was anxious to have an assistant in the Florina with him, for I found it was no joke to haul the sheet, and my hands, grown tender in my clerkly occupation, exhibited two or three blisters when we reached the mouth of the river. It was a nice thing for a gentleman like him to sit at the helm, and handle the tiller; but I fancied he did not enjoy hoisting the mainsail, and hauling the sheet, alone.
"There, Phil, the worst of it is over now," said Mr. Whippleton, as he headed the boat down the lake. "We are out of the river, and we have plenty of sea room here. You may clear away the jib."
I had already learned what the jib was, and I went out on the bowsprit, as I had seen the men do on other vessels. I loosed the sail, and hoisted it. The jib-sheets led aft to the standing-room; and, as soon as I had made fast the halyard, the skipper luffed up and fastened down the jib. The boat heeled over, and began to cut through the water at a very exciting rate. It was a very pleasing and delightful sensation to me, and from that moment I became a sailor in my aspirations. I had never seen the salt water, and had a very indefinite idea of the expanse of ocean.
"How do you like it, Phil?" asked Mr. Whippleton.
"Very much, sir."
"I'm glad you do, for I want some one to sail with me. This boat is rather large to be handled comfortably by one man, and two make it a pleasant thing for both of them. Sit down here, and make yourself happy," he added, pointing to the cushioned seat at his side.
I accepted his polite invitation, and thought he was very considerate to me, his humble clerk. He then explained my duty in tacking or coming about, which was to let go the jib-sheet on the lee side, when the sail shook, and haul in on the weather side. To illustrate the point, he made a tack and ran in towards the shore. I readily understood the whole matter, and by this time I felt that I could sail the Florina myself.
"Phil, you break in as a book-keeper a great deal better than I expected you would," said Mr. Whippleton, when he had tacked again, and was standing along the shore with the wind on the beam.
"I have taken an interest in the subject, and studied it very attentively. My father, who served his time at the desk, gave me a great deal of instruction."
"Who is your father?"
"He was formerly a merchant, but now he is the agent of a wealthy real-estate owner."
"He instructed you very well. Has Mr. Collingsby said anything to you lately about your duties?"
"No, sir; he has hardly spoken to me since I have been in the counting-room; never, except to ask me a question," I replied.
"He does not say much to any one; but he is well pleased with your work, and spoke of the neat appearance of your books to-day."
"I am certainly very much obliged to him," I added, delighted with this testimony; for I felt that it was the first point I had gained towards the discharge of my great mission.
"He says you write very handsomely and very plainly; that your footings and extensions are uniformly correct."
"I try to have everything right and neat," I answered, delighted beyond measure at this kind opinion of me.
"I took occasion, while the subject was warm, to mention a matter of which I have been thinking lately," continued Mr. Whippleton. "I have a great deal of out-door business to do, and the entire charge of the books is too much for me. We are going to have another entry clerk, and you will hereafter be the assistant book-keeper."
I was very much obliged to him for this new mark of confidence. He explained that he did not intend to give me the entire charge of the books yet, but that I should do the posting and keep the cash book; or rather, that I should assist him in doing these things. He wished me to look into the system of book-keeping the firm had adopted, and prepare myself to keep the books in the course of a year. I promised to be diligent and attentive, but I assured him that I already understood the method.
"Between us both, when we have another entry clerk, we shall have a little more time for sailing," he added. "If we can get away at three or four in the afternoon, we shall have some jolly cruises, for we can make an easy thing of it in the boat as well as at the desk."
"How far can you go in this boat?" I asked, as I glanced at the broad expanse of waters to the north and east of us.
"How far? As far as you please. A thousand miles. You can go to the head of Lake Superior, or through Lake Huron to the foot of Lake Erie."
"Not in this boat."
"Because she isn't large enough."
"Yes, she is. Her cabin is large enough for two to sleep in; and there is a cook-stove forward, where you can get up as good a dinner as they have at the Tremont House."
"But there are violent storms on the lakes, I have read."
"So there are; but the Florina will stand almost anything in the shape of a blow. All you have to do is to reef, and let her go it. But you can always tell when it is going to be bad weather, and you can make a harbor. With a boat of this size you can run into any creek or river, anchor, and eat and sleep till it is fair weather again. I always keep within a few miles of the shore, on a long cruise. If I can get away for two or three weeks this summer, I intend to make a voyage up to the strait, and down on the other side of the lake."
"I should like to go with you first rate."
"My friend Waterford, who has made his fortune by speculating in lands, keeps a boat just like the Florina; and last summer he went to Detroit and back in her."
The picture he drew of life on the lake pleased me exceedingly, and I could not but sigh when I thought that such amusements were only for rich men. A poor boy, like me, had no right to think of them. Mr. Whippleton had come about, and at dark we were at the mouth of Chicago River again. I took in the jib, and he moored the boat near the lake. When we had put everything in order, he invited me to sail with him the next day.
"To-morrow will be Sunday," I suggested.
"What of it? The Florina sails just as well on Sunday as on any other day."
"I would rather not sail on Sunday. I want to go to church and to Sunday school."
"I didn't think that of you," replied the skipper, contemptuously. "I always sail Sundays, and I expect to race with Waterford to-morrow."
"I hope you will excuse me, sir; I would rather not go."
I saw that he was disgusted with me, but I could not yield this point. I went home, feeling that I had offended my employer, who evidently wished me to assist him in handling the boat.
IN WHICH PHIL ATTEMPTS TO MAKE OUT A TRIAL BALANCE.
I went to church and to Sunday school as usual the next day; and I knew that I felt better than I should have done on board of the Florina. The next day, however, when I met Mr. Whippleton in the counting-room, he seemed to have laid up no grudge against me: on the contrary, I thought he was rather more pleasant and considerate than usual; but perhaps his conduct was only in contrast with what I had expected.
On Thursday morning, Bob Murray, the new entry clerk, appeared, and I spent the forenoon in initiating him into the mysteries of his duty. In the afternoon I commenced posting, for Mr. Whippleton had been so busy with his boat, and with his other out-door occupations, that the books were somewhat behindhand. While I was thus engaged, I obeyed the instructions of the junior partner, and examined carefully into the system by which the accounts were kept. I began early in the morning and worked till late at night, until I had posted everything down to the Saturday of the preceding week. Then I had no difficulty in keeping the work up.
Mr. Whippleton was away now a large portion of the time. I knew that he was engaged to some extent in real estate speculations, and he hinted to me that these operations occupied a considerable portion of his time. He had simply directed me to post the books, but having mastered the system, I was disposed to show him that I was competent to keep the books alone. I footed up the columns of the invoice and sales books, and I intended to surprise him, at the end of the month, by showing him a trial balance and a statement of results. I thought I could do this, and it would be a feather in my cap if I succeeded. It would not only be good practice for me, but it would show the exact condition of the business.
While I was at work on the invoice book, I found what appeared to me to be an error. The invoices, or bills of lumber purchased by the firm, were all carefully filed away. On referring to the original document, I found it footed up five instead of fifteen thousand dollars. I turned to the cash book, and found that fifteen thousand dollars had been paid on account of this transaction, and I concluded that there must be another bill. I could find no other. The purchase had been made while I was in the office, and I remembered the bill.
I decided to examine all the invoices from the first day of the year, and compare them with the entries in the book, which had been transferred to the ledger. I discovered four other entries for which there were no invoices at all. In other words, there was merchandise to the amount of about thirty-five thousand dollars of which I could obtain no knowledge whatever. However, I went on with my trial balance, and the result, when I had completed it, was startling to me. My statement showed that the firm had lost over ten thousand dollars in five months, taking the stock on hand at cost and considering all debts good.