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Chapter 23

FRANK MEETS MR. MANNING AND MARK


The next morning Frank resumed his tea agency. As on the day previous, he went to Brooklyn; but, though I should be glad to say that he was more successful than on the first day, truth compels me to state that the day was a comparative failure.

It might be that he was unfortunate in the persons whom he visited, but at all events, at the close of his labors he found that his commissions amounted to less than fifty cents. He contented himself, therefore, with a ten-cent lunch, and crossed Fulton Ferry between three and four o'clock.

"This will never do," thought Frank, seriously. "I shall have to be economical to make my earnings cover my incidental expenses, while my board and lodging must be defrayed out of the money I have with me."

Frank was disappointed. It is easy to think of earning one's living, but not quite so easy to accomplish it. A boy, besides being ignorant of the world, is inexperienced, and so disqualified for many avenues of employment which are open to men. It is generally foolish for a boy to leave a good home and start out for himself, unless the chances are unusually favorable for him. If he does it, however, he should not allow himself to be easily discouraged.

If Frank had given up the business in which he was engaged simply because he had met with one unsuccessful day, I should not have been willing to make him the hero of my story.

"This will never do," thought Frank. "I must make a greater effort to-morrow."

The next day his commission amounted to a dollar, and the fourth day to a dollar and twelve cents.

"You are doing well," said his employer. "You are doing better than the majority of our agents."

In one way this compliment was satisfactory. In another way it was not encouraging, for it limited his prospects. Frank began to think that he would never be able to make his entire expenses as a tea agent.

I don't propose to speak in detail of Frank's daily experiences, but only to make mention of any incidents that play an important part in his history.

He was returning from Jersey City on the tenth day of his agency, when in the gentleman's cabin he saw, directly opposite, two persons whom he had reason to remember.

They were Mark Manning and his father.

Little reason as he had to like either, they reminded him of home, and he felt pleased to meet them.

He instantly crossed the cabin, and offered his hand to his stepfather, who had not yet seen him.

"When did you arrive, Mr. Manning?" he asked.

"Why, it is Frank!" exclaimed Mr. Manning, with an appearance of cordiality. "Mark, do you see Frank?"

"Yes, I see him," replied Mark, coldly.

"Haven't you anything to say to him?" asked his father, who was much more of a gentleman than his son.

"How are you?" said Mark, indifferently.

"Thank you for your kind inquiry," said Frank, more amused than vexed, for he cared very little for his stepbrother's friendship. "I am in very good health."

"And how are you getting along?" asked his stepfather, with an appearance of interest. "Are you in any business?"

"Yes," answered Frank.

"What are you doing?' asked Mark, inspired a little by curiosity.

"I am agent for a wholesale tea house in New York," Frank answered, briefly.

"You don't say so!" exclaimed Mark, rather impressed. "What is the name of the firm?"

"The Great Pekin Tea Company."

"Does it pay well?" asked his stepbrother.

"I have met with very fair success," replied Frank.

"I congratulate you, Frank," said Mr. Manning. "Your energy and enterprise are creditable—extremely creditable. I always predicted that you would succeed—didn't I, Mark?'

"I don't remember hearing you say so," said Mark.

Mr. Manning shrugged his shoulders.

"Nevertheless," he said, "I have often made the remark."

"Where do you live?" asked Mark.

"I board in Clinton Place."

"A very respectable street," said Mr. Manning.

Frank now thought it was his turn to become questioner.

"How long do you remain in the city, Mr. Manning?" he asked.

"Not long—only a day or two," said his stepfather.

"We sail for Europe on Saturday," interposed Mark, "on the Cunard steamer."

"Indeed! I wish you a pleasant voyage."

"I am sorry you won't go with us, Frank," said his stepfather, cautiously. "You remember I gave you the chance to do so, and you desired to devote yourself immediately to business."

"Yes, sir. I would rather remain in New York."

"It might possibly be arranged now, if you desire to go," said Mr. Manning, hesitatingly.

"No, thank you, sir."

"Well, perhaps you are right," said his stepfather, considerably relieved.

"What parts of Europe do you expect to visit?" asked Frank.

"We shall visit England, France, the Rhine, Switzerland, and perhaps Italy."

"I hope you will enjoy it."

"Thank you; I think we shall."

Frank checked a sigh. It was certainly tantalizing. If he could travel with congenial friends, he felt that he would very much enjoy such a trip; but with Mark in the party there would be little pleasure for him.

"We are staying at the St. Nicholas Hotel," said Mr. Manning. "I would invite you to come and dine with us, but I have an engagement first, and don't know when we shall dine."

"Thank you, all the same," said Frank.

They had reached the New York side, and were walking toward Broadway. It was necessary for Frank to go to the tea store, and he took leave of his stepfather and Mark, again wishing them a pleasant voyage.

"I hate that boy!" said Mark, as they walked away.

"You should not indulge in any such disagreeable feelings, Mark," said his father.

"Don't you hate him?"

"Certainly not."

"One would think by your soft manner that you loved him," said Mark, who was not noted for the respect with which he treated his father.

"Really, Mark, I am shocked by your strange words."

"What made you invite him to go to Europe with us?"

"I knew he would not go."

"He might have accepted, and then we should have been in a pretty pickle."

"Mark," said his father, rather irritated, "will you be kind enough to leave me to manage my own affairs? I believe I have succeeded pretty well so far."

"Yes, you have," Mark admitted. "All the same, we'd better keep clear of Frank till we get safely off on the steamer."

Horatio Alger