Mr. Percival engaged Frank in conversation on general topics while Mrs. Gordon was out of the room. His young visitor had been an extensive reader, and displayed a good deal of general information. Moreover, he expressed himself intelligently and modestly, and deepened the favorable impression which he had already succeeded in making.
I should like to call the attention of my young readers to the fact that Frank was now reaping the advantage of the time he had devoted to study and the cultivation of his mind.
A boy who starts in life with a fair education always stands a better chance than one who is poorly provided in that respect.
It is true that many of our prominent public men have started with a very scanty supply of book-learning, but in most cases it has only transferred the labor of study to their maturer years.
President Andrew Johnson did not learn to read and write until after he had attained his majority, but he made up his early deficiencies later.
Abraham Lincoln, when nearly thirty, devoted his leisure hours to mastering the problems in Euclid, and thus trained and strengthened his mental faculties so that he was enabled to grapple with the difficult problems of statesmanship in after years.
Henry Wilson commenced attending an academy after he had reached the age of twenty-one.
The fact is, no boy or man can be too well equipped for his life-work.
I hope my boy readers will not skip the paragraphs above, for they can learn from them a useful lesson.
When Mrs. Gordon returned, she placed in Frank's hands a small sum of money, saying:
"Allow me to repay my debt, with many thanks."
"You are quite welcome," answered our hero.
He had too much tact to refuse the money, but quietly put it into his pocket.
"Helen," said Mr. Percival, "I would like a word with you. We will leave our young friend here alone for five minutes."
The two went into an adjoining room, and Mr. Percival commenced by asking:
"How do you like this boy, Helen?"
"Very much. He seems to have been brought up as a gentleman."
"He has. Till a short time since he supposed himself the heir to a fortune."
"Indeed!" said Mrs. Gordon, with curiosity.
Briefly, Mr. Percival rehearsed the story which Frank had told him.
"What a shame!" exclaimed Mrs. Gordon, indignantly. "His stepfather ought to be punished:"
"That may come in time. Wickedness does not always prosper. But as regards our young friend, I have a plan in view."
"What is it, father?"
"I find he has an excellent education, having been nearly ready for college when the crisis in his fortunes came. I have been thinking whether we could not find a place for him in this house. My eyes, you know, are so weak that they are often strained by attention to my correspondence and reading. I have an idea of engaging Frank Courtney as a sort of private secretary, upon whom I can at any time call. Of course, he would have his home in the house."
"There will be no difficulty about that. Our family is small, and we have plenty of vacant rooms. But, father, will he be qualified to undertake the duties you have designed for him? He is very young."
"That is true, my dear; but he is remarkably well educated. I have tested his capacity by dictating a letter for him to copy."
"Did he do the work satisfactorily?" asked Mrs. Gordon.
"Without a single mistake."
"Then, father, I would not hesitate to engage him. Freddie likes him, and will be delighted to have him in the house."
"Another idea, Helen. It is time Freddie began to study. Suppose we make him Freddie's private tutor—say for an hour daily?"
"That is really an excellent idea, father," said Mrs. Gordon, in a tone of satisfaction. "It will please and benefit Freddie, and be a relief to me. Do you think Frank will have patience enough?"
"I watched him with the little fellow, and I could see that he liked children. I am sure he will succeed in this as well as in the duties which he will undertake for me."
"I suppose he will have no objection to the plan?"
"I think he will accept gladly. He has had a hard struggle thus far in maintaining himself, and I can relieve him from all anxiety on that score. I am indebted to him for helping me to recover my bonds, and this will be an excuse for offering him a larger salary than the services of so young a secretary could be expected to command."
"Very well, father. Your plan pleases me very much, and I shall be glad to have Frank commence to-morrow, if he chooses. Now let us return to the library."
While father and daughter were absent Frank had taken from the table a volume of "Macaulay's History," and had become interested in it.
He laid it down upon their return.
Mr. Percival resumed his easy-chair, and said, with a smile.
"My daughter and I have been consulting about you."
Frank bowed, and his hopes rose.
"I suppose you are open to an offer of employment?"
"I am not only open to it, Mr. Percival, but I shall be grateful for it."
He could not help wondering what sort of employment Mr. Percival was about to offer him. He concluded that it might be a place in some business house.
"The fact is," said the old gentleman, "I have a great mind to offer you the situation of my private secretary."
Frank was astonished. This was something he had not thought of.
"Do you think I am qualified to fill such a position, Mr. Percival?" he asked, hesitatingly.
"The duties would not be difficult," returned the old gentleman. "Though not in active business, the care of my property, and looking after my scattered investments, involves me in considerable correspondence. My eyes are not as strong as they once were, and I find them at times taxed by letter-writing, not to mention reading. You can relieve me very materially."
"I shall be very glad to do so, sir. The duties will be very agreeable to me."
"But that is not all. My daughter proposes to employ you as private tutor for Freddie."
"I think my scholarship will be sufficient for that," he said.
Frank was to receive $50 a month and board. This was wonderful news to him. Mr. Percival with great forethought paid him a month's salary in advance. Frank went home happy.
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