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Chapter 30

FRANK AS PRIVATE SECRETARY


The next day Frank transferred his residence to Madison Avenue. He was assigned to a pleasant room, decidedly superior, it need hardly be said, to his room at Clinton Place. It seemed agreeable to him once more to enjoy the comforts of a liberal home.

Frank had had some doubts as to how he would satisfy Mr. Percival in his capacity of private secretary.

He was determined to do his best, but thought it possible that the old gentleman might require more than he could do well. He looked forward, therefore, with some apprehension to his first morning's work.

Mr. Percival, though not engaged in active business, was a wealthy man, and his capital was invested in a great variety of enterprises. Naturally, therefore, he received a large number of business letters, which required to be answered.

The first day he dictated several replies, which Frank put upon paper. He wished, however, to put Frank's ability to a severe test.

"Here are two letters," he said, "which you may answer. I have noted on each instructions which you will follow. The wording of the letters I leave to you."

"I will try to satisfy you sir," said Frank.

Our hero was a good writer for his age. Moreover, he had been well trained at school and did not shrink from the task assigned him.

He read carefully the instruction of his employer, and composed the letters in strict accordance with them.

Mr. Percival awaited with some interest the result of his experiment. If Frank proved competent to the task assigned him, his own daily labor would be considerably abridged.

"Here are the letters, sir," said our hero, passing the drafts to Mr. Percival.

The old gentleman examined them carefully. As he did so, his face expressed his satisfaction.

"Upon my word, Frank," he said, familiarly, "you have done your work exceedingly well. They are brief, concise and yet comprehensive. I feared that you would use too many words."

"I am glad you are pleased, sir. Dr. Brush trained us to write letters, and he cut down our essays when they were too diffuse."

"Then I feel indebted to Dr. Brush for providing me with so competent a young secretary. You will be able to assist me even more than I anticipated. I shall, of course, read over your letters before they are sent, to make sure that you have fully comprehended and carried out my instructions, but I don't expect they will need much correction."

Frank was much gratified by these words. This was the only point on which he had felt at all doubtful as to his ability to please his employer.

Sometimes, when his eyes pained him more than usual, Mr. Percival also employed him to read to him from the daily papers, or from some book in which he was interested, but this did not occur regularly.

Every day, however, Frank was occupied with Freddie. The little boy knew his alphabet, but nothing more, so that his young teacher had to begin with him at the beginning of the primer.

He succeeded in interesting his little pupil, and did not protract his term of study so as to weary him.

Finding that the little fellow was fond of hearing stories, he read to him every day a story or two from Hans Christian Andersen, or from a collection of German fairy stories, and sometimes went out to walk with him.

Freddie was delighted with his teacher, and freely expressed his approval to his mother and grandfather.

"Really, Frank," said Mrs. Gordon, "I shall begin to be jealous of your hold upon Freddie. I am not sure but he likes your company better than mine."

"I don't think Freddie will prefer anyone to his mother," said Frank; "but I am glad he likes to be with me."

"You have certainly proved very successful as a private tutor, Frank," said Mrs. Gordon, "and my father tells me you succeeded equally well as a secretary."

"It is partly because you both treat me so indulgently," answered Frank, gracefully.

This answer pleased Mr. Percival and Mrs. Gordon, who more than ever congratulated themselves upon the lucky chance that had thrown Frank in their way.

Assuredly he made himself very useful in the small household, contributing to the comfort and pleasure of Freddie, his mother and grandfather in nearly equal measure.

While Frank's monthly salary was of great value and importance to him, it was nothing to Mr. Percival in comparison with the pleasure and relief afforded by his presence in the house.

It must not be supposed, however, that Frank's time was wholly occupied by the duties of his two positions. Usually he had several hours daily at his disposal, and these he was allowed to spend as he pleased.

Part of this he occupied in visiting different localities of the city and points of interest in the neighborhood, and part in reading and study.

Mr. Percival had a large and well-selected library, which, to a boy of Frank's studious tastes, was a great attraction.

He entered upon a course of solid reading, embracing some of the standard histories, and devoted some hours every week to keeping up his acquaintance with the Greek and Latin authors which he had read at school.

In this way his time was well and usefully employed, and the weeks slipped by till almost before he was aware six months had passed.

One afternoon Frank walked down Broadway enjoying the bright sunshine. Just in front of the St. Nicholas Hotel he heard his name called and looking up he recognized with some surprise, Pliny Tarbox, his cousin from Newark.

Pliny asked many questions as to what Frank was doing and how much money he was making. Frank told him of his good fortune in obtaining the position he held with Mr. Percival and the two parted—Frank the much happier of the two.

Pliny urgently invited Frank to visit them but Frank would rather remain in New York.

"I hope I shall never think so much of money as Pliny and his father," thought Frank. "Money is a good thing to have but there are some things that are better."

Horatio Alger