Paul Prescott's Charge/Chapter XXV
Paul slept late the next morning. He did not hear the breakfast-bell, and when the sexton came up to awaken him he rubbed his eyes with such an expression of bewilderment that Mr. Cameron could not forbear laughing.
"You must have had queer dreams, Paul," said he.
"Yes, Uncle Hugh," said Paul, laughing, "I believe I have."
"When you have collected your wits, which at present seem absent on a wool-gathering expedition, perhaps you will tell what you have been dreaming about."
"So I will," said Paul, "and perhaps you can interpret it for me. I dreamed that I was back again at Mr. Mudge's, and that he sent me out into the field to dig potatoes. I worked away at the first hill, but found no potatoes. In place of them were several gold pieces. I picked them up in great surprise, and instead of putting them into the basket, concluded to put them in my pocket. But as all the hills turned out in the same way I got my pockets full, and had to put the rest in the basket. I was just wondering what they would do for potatoes, when all at once a great dog came up and seized me by the arm----"
"And you opened your eyes and saw me," said the sexton, finishing out his narrative.
"Upon my word, that's very complimentary to me. However, some of our potatoes have escaped transformation into gold pieces, but I am afraid you will find them rather cold if you don't get down to breakfast pretty quick."
"All right, Uncle Hugh. I'll be down in a jiffy."
About half-past ten Paul started on his way to Mr. Danforth's counting-room. It was located on Wall Street, as he learned from the card which had been given him by Mrs. Danforth. He felt a little awkward in making this call. It seemed as if he were going to receive thanks for the service which he had rendered, and he felt that he had already been abundantly repaid. However, he was bound in courtesy to call, since he did so at the request of Mrs. Danforth.
It was a large stone building, divided up into offices, to which Paul had been directed. Mr. Danforth's office he found after a little search, upon the second floor.
He opened the door with a little embarrassment, and looked about him.
In one corner was a small room, used as a more private office, the door of which was closed. In the larger room the only one whom he saw, was a boy, apparently about his own age, who was standing at a desk and writing.
This boy looked around as Paul entered, and he at once recognized in him an old acquaintance.
"George Dawkins!" he exclaimed in surprise.
The latter answered in a careless indifferent tone, not exhibiting any very decided pleasure at meeting his old schoolmate.
"Oh, it's you, Prescott, is it?"
"Yes," said Paul, "I haven't met you since you left our school."
"No, I believe we have not met," said Dawkins, in the same tone as before.
"How long have you been in this office?" asked our hero.
"I really can't say," said Dawkins, not looking up.
"You can't say!"
"No, I'm rather forgetful."
Paul could not help feeling chilled at the indifferent manner in which his advances were met. He had been really glad to see Dawkins, and had addressed him with cordiality. He could not conceal from himself that Dawkins did not seem inclined to respond to it.
"Still," thought Paul, extenuatingly, "perhaps that is his way."
As the conversation began to flag, Paul was reminded of his errand by Dawkins saying, in a tone which was half a sneer, "Have you any business with Mr. Danforth this morning, or did you merely come in out of curiosity?"
"I have called to see Mr. Danforth," said Paul.
"He is usually pretty busy in the morning," said Dawkins.
"He directed me to call in the morning," said Paul, sturdily.
"Oh, indeed!" said Dawkins, a little surprised. "I wonder," he thought, "what business this fellow can have with Mr. Danforth. Can he be fishing for a place?"
"Mr. Danforth is engaged with a visitor just now," he at length condescended to say; "if your time is not too valuable to wait, you can see him by-and-by."
"Thank you," said Paul, rather nettled, "you are very polite."
To this Dawkins made no reply, but resumed his pen, and for the next ten minutes seemed entirely oblivious of Paul's presence.
Our hero took up the morning paper, and began, as he had so often done before, to look over the list of wants, thinking it possible he might find some opening for himself.
About ten minutes later the door of the inner office opened, and two gentlemen came out. One was a gentleman of fifty, a business friend of Mr. Danforth's, the other was Mr. Danforth himself.
The former remarked, on seeing Paul, "Is this your son, Danforth?"
"No," said the merchant, nodding in a friendly manner to Paul.
"That's a good joke," thought Dawkins, chuckling to himself; "Mr. Danforth must be immensely flattered at having a sexton's adopted son taken for his."
After a final word or two on business matters, and arrangements for another interview, the visitor departed, and Mr. Danforth, now at leisure, turned to Paul.
"Now my lad," he said kindly, "if you will follow me, we shall have a chance to talk a little."
Paul followed the merchant into his office, the door of which was closed, much to the regret of Dawkins, who had a tolerably large share of curiosity, and was very anxious to find out what business Paul could possibly have with his employer.
"Take that seat, if you please;" said Mr. Danforth, motioning Paul to an arm-chair, and sitting down himself, "Mrs. Danforth told me from how great a peril you rescued her. You are a brave boy."
"I don't know," said Paul, modestly, "I didn't think of the danger. If I had, perhaps I should have hesitated."
"If you had not been brave you would have thought of your own risk. My wife and myself are under very great obligations to you."
"That more than repays me for all I did," said Paul, in a tone of mingled modesty and manliness.
"I like the boy," thought Mr. Danforth; "he is certainly quite superior to the common run."
"Have you left school?" he inquired, after a pause.
"Yes, sir. Last term closed my school life."
"Then you have never been in a situation."
"Indeed! Before you left school?"
"No, sir, since."
"You did not like it, then?"
"No, sir," said Paul.
"And was that the reason of your leaving?"
"No, sir; my employer was not satisfied with me," said Paul, frankly.
"Indeed! I am surprised to hear this! If you have no objection, will you tell me the circumstances?"
Paul related in a straightforward manner the difficulty he had had with Smith & Thompson.
"I hope you don't think I did wrong," he concluded.
"By no means," said Mr. Danforth, warmly. "Your conduct was entirely creditable. As for Smith, I know of him. He is a sharper. It would have done you no good to remain in his employ."
Paul was pleased with this commendation. He had thought it possible that his dismissal from his former situation might operate against him with the merchant.
"What are your present plans and wishes?" asked Mr. Danforth, after a slight pause.
"I should like to enter a merchant's counting-room," said Paul, "but as such places are hard to get, I think I shall try to get into a store."
Mr. Danforth reflected a moment, then placing a piece of paper before our hero, he said, "Will you write your name and address on this piece of paper, that I may know where to find you, in case I hear of a place?"
Paul did as directed. He had an excellent handwriting, a point on which the merchant set a high value.
The latter surveyed the address with approval, and said, "I am glad you write so excellent a hand. It will be of material assistance to you in securing a place in a counting- room. Indeed, it has been already, for I have just thought of a place which I can obtain for you."
"Can you, sir?" said Paul, eagerly.
"Where is it?"
"In my own counting-room," said Mr. Danforth, smiling.
"I am very much obliged to you," said Paul, hardly believing his ears.
"I was prepared to give it to you when you came in, in case I found you qualified. The superiority of your handwriting decides me. When can you come?"
"To-morrow, if you like, sir."
"I like your promptness. As it is the middle of the week, however, you may take a vacation till Monday. Your salary will begin to-morrow."
"Thank you, sir."
"I will give you five dollars per week at first, and more as your services become more valuable. Will that be satisfactory?"
"I shall feel rich, sir. Mr. Smith only gave me a dollar and a quarter."
"I hope you will find other differences between me and Mr. Smith," said the merchant, smiling.
These preliminaries over, Mr. Danforth opened the door, and glancing at Dawkins, said, "Dawkins, I wish you to become acquainted with your fellow clerk, Paul Prescott."
Dawkins looked surprised, and anything but gratified as he responded stiffly, "I have the honor of being already acquainted with Mr. Prescott."
"He is a little jealous of an interloper," thought Mr. Danforth, noticing the repellent manner of young Dawkins. "Never mind, they will get acquainted after awhile."
When George Dawkins went home to dinner, his father observed the dissatisfied look he wore.
"Is anything amiss, my son?" he inquired.
"I should think there was," grumbled his son.
"What is it?"
"We've got a new clerk, and who do you think it is?"
"Who is it?"
"The adopted son of old Cameron, the sexton."
"Indeed," said Mrs. Dawkins. "I really wonder at Mr. Danforth's bad taste. There are many boys of genteel family, who would have been glad of the chance. This boy is a low fellow of course."
"Certainly," said her son, though he was quite aware that this was not true.
"What could have brought the boy to Danforth's notice?" asked Dawkins, senior.
"I don't know, I'm sure. The boy has managed to get round him in some way. He is very artful."
"I really think, husband, that you ought to remonstrate with Mr. Danforth about taking such a low fellow into his counting-room with our George."
"Pooh!" said Mr. Dawkins, who was a shade more sensible than his wife, "he'd think me a meddler."
"At any rate, George," pursued his mother, "there's one thing that is due to your family and bringing up,--not to associate with this low fellow any more than business requires."
"I certainly shall not," said George, promptly.
He was the worthy son of such a mother.