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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesChester Rand; Or, The New Path To Fortune - Chapter 13. Mr. Mullins, The Bookkeeper
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Chester Rand; Or, The New Path To Fortune - Chapter 13. Mr. Mullins, The Bookkeeper Post by :tuamigo Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :462

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Chester Rand; Or, The New Path To Fortune - Chapter 13. Mr. Mullins, The Bookkeeper

CHAPTER XIII. MR. MULLINS, THE BOOKKEEPER

Chester felt that it was necessary to be on his guard. The bookkeeper was already his enemy. There were two causes for this. First, Mr. Mullins was naturally of an ugly disposition, and, secondly, he was disappointed in not securing the situation for his cousin.

At noon the latter made his appearance. He was a thin, dark-complexioned boy, with curious-looking eyes that somehow inspired distrust.

He walked up to the desk where the book keeper was writing.

"Good-morning, Cousin David," he said.

"Good-morning, Felix. Sit down for a few minutes, and I will take you out to lunch."

"All right!" answered Felix. "Who's that boy?" he inquired, in a low voice.

"The new office boy. Wait till we go out, and I will tell you about it."

In five minutes David Mullins put on his hat and coat and went out with his cousin.

"Stay here and mind the office," he said to Chester, "and if anybody comes in, keep them, if possible. If any tenant comes to pay money, take it and give a receipt."

"All right, sir."

When they were in the street, Felix asked:

"Where did you pick up the boy? Why didn't I get the place?"

"You must ask Mr. Fairchild that. He engaged him without consulting me."

"What sort of a boy is he?"

"A country gawky. He knows nothing of the city."

"Is he a friend of Mr. Fairchild?"

"Fairchild never met him before. Some beggarly artist interceded for him."

"It is too bad I can't be in the office. It would be so nice to be in the same place with you."

"I did my best, but Fairchild didn't seem to fancy you. I think he took a prejudice against you on account of your smoking cigarettes. He must have seen you with one."

"Does the new boy smoke cigarettes?"

"I don't know. That gives me an idea. You had better get intimate with him and offer him cigarettes. He doesn't know Mr. Fairchild's prejudice, and may fall into the trap."

"How can I get acquainted with him?"

"I'll see to that. I shall be sending him out on an errand presently, and you can offer to go with him."

"That'll do. But you must buy me a package of cigarettes."

"Very well. My plan is to have the boy offend Mr. Fairchild's prejudices, and that may make a vacancy for you. By the way, never let him see you smoking."

"I won't, but as he is not about, I'll smoke a cigarette now."

"Better wait till after lunch."

About ten minutes after Mr. Mullins left the office, a man of forty--evidently a mechanic--entered.

"Is the bookkeeper in?" he asked.

"He's gone to lunch."

"He sent me a bill for this month's rent, which I have already paid."

"Please give me your name."

"James Long."

"And where do you live?"

The address was given--a house on East Twentieth Street.

"Haven't you the receipt?" asked Chester.

"No."

"Didn't Mr. Mullins give you one?"

"Yes; but I carelessly left it on the table. I suppose he found it and kept the money," he added, bitterly.

"But that would be a mean thing to do," said Chester, startled.

"Nothing is too mean for Mullins," said Long. "He's a hard man and a tricky one."

"He will come in soon if you can wait."

"I can't. I am at work, and this is my noon hour."

"I will tell him what you say----"

"Perhaps I may have a chance to call in this afternoon. I feel worried about this matter, for, although it is only ten dollars, that is a good deal to a man with a family, and earning only twelve dollars a week."

Presently Mr. Mullins returned.

"Has anybody been in?" he asked.

"Yes," answered Chester. "A man named James Long."

A curious expression came into the bookkeeper's eye.

"Well, did he pay his rent?"

"No; he said he had paid it already."

"Oh, he did, did he?" sneered the bookkeeper. "In that case, of course he has the receipt."

"No; he said he had left it here on the table, and did not think of it till some time afterwards."

"A likely story. He must think I am a fool. Even a boy like you can see through that."

"He seemed to me like an honest man."

"Oh, well, you are from the country, and could not be expected to know. We have some sharp swindlers in New York."

Chester was quite of that opinion, but he was beginning to think that the description would apply better to David Mullins than to James Long.

"By the way, Chester," said Mr. Mullins, with unusual blandness, "this is my cousin, Felix Gordon."

"Glad to meet you," said Felix, with an artificial smile.

Chester took the extended hand. He was not especially drawn to Felix, but felt that it behooved him to be polite.

"You boys must be somewhere near the same age," said the bookkeeper. "I will give you a chance to become acquainted. Chester, I want you to go to number four seventy-one Bleecker Street. I suppose you don't know where it is?"

"No, sir."

"Felix, go with him and show him the way."

Chester was quite amazed at this unusual and unexpected kindness on the part of a man whom he had regarded as an enemy. Was it possible that he had misjudged him?

The two boys went out together.

When they were fairly in the street, Felix produced his package of cigarettes.

"Have one?" he asked.

"No, thank you; I don't smoke."

"Don't smoke!" repeated Felix, in apparent amusement. "You don't mean that?"

"I never smoked a cigarette in my life."

"Then it's high time you learned. All boys smoke in the city."

"I don't think I should like it."

"Oh, nonsense! Just try one for my sake."

"Thank you, Felix. You are very kind, but I promised mother I wouldn't smoke."

"Your mother lives in the country, doesn't she?"

"Yes."

"Then she won't know it."

"That will make no difference. I made the promise, and I mean to keep it," said Chester, firmly.

"Oh, well, suit yourself. What a muff he is!" thought Felix. "However, he'll soon break over his virtuous resolutions. Do you know," he continued, changing the subject, "that you have got the situation I was after?"

"I think I heard Mr. Mullins say something about it. I am sorry if I have stood in your way."

"Oh, if it hadn't been you it would have been some other boy. How do you think you shall like the city?"

"Very much, I think."

"What pay do you get?"

"Five dollars a week."

"You can't live on that."

"I will try to."

"Of course, it is different with me. I should have lived at home. You'll have to run into debt."

"I will try not to."

"Where do you live?"

"I am staying with a friend--Mr. Conrad, an artist--just now, but I shall soon get a boarding place."

"I live on Eighty-sixth Street--in a flat. My father is in the custom house."

"How long has your cousin--Mr. Mullins--been in this office?"

"About five years. He's awfully smart, cousin David is. It's he that runs the business. Mr. Fairchild is no sort of a business man."

Chester wondered how, under the circumstances, Mr. Mullins should not have influence enough to secure the situation of office boy for Felix.

They soon reached Bleecker Street. Chester took notice of the way in order that he might know it again. He was sharp and observing, and meant to qualify himself for his position as soon as possible.

At five o'clock the office was vacated. Chester remained to sweep up. A piece of paper on the floor attracted his attention. He picked it up and found, to his surprise, that it was James Long's missing receipt. It was on the floor of the clothes closet, and he judged that it had dropped from the bookkeeper's pocket.

What should he do with it?

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