MoboReader> Literature > Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic

   Chapter 8 IN WHICH PHIL GOES TO WORK, AND MEETS AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE.

Plane and Plank; or, The Mishaps of a Mechanic By Oliver Optic Characters: 11052

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Everything depends upon yourself now, Phil," said Captain Davis, as we walked back to the steamer. "When Clinch finds that you are worth more than three dollars a week, he will give you more."

"I didn't expect any more than that," I replied. "If it will pay my board for a time, I shall be satisfied. I will do the best I can, and I hope my wages will be increased very soon."

"Now you want a boarding-house," continued the captain. "I don't know where to look for one, but I suppose you will not think of living at the Planters' Hotel?"

"Not exactly, sir."

We entered a grocery store, near the house of Mr. Clinch, where the captain was acquainted, and he inquired for a suitable boarding-place for a boy like me.

"If he's a good boy, I know just the place for him," replied the grocer.

"He is as good a boy as there is in the world," answered the captain, with a zeal that caused me to blush.

"Mrs. Greenough, who lives over my store, spoke to me, a few days ago, about a boy. She is an elderly woman, whose husband died about a year ago, leaving her this house. She has no other property except her furniture, and the rent of this store about pays her expenses. She is a little timid, and does not like to be alone in the house at night. She is a nice woman, and perhaps she will take your young man to board. She wanted one of my young men to occupy a room up stairs, but both of them live at home."

"We will go up and see her. This boy is going to work for Clinch to-morrow, and this will be a good locality for him."

"Just the place," added the grocer, as he conducted us up stairs to the rooms of Mrs. Greenough.

The house was a small one, and the store occupied the whole of the ground floor, except a small entry. It was three stories high, with a flat roof, and I judged that the tenement could not contain more than four rooms. We were taken up stairs, and found the lady in her little parlor. She was about fifty years old, and did not appear to be in good health. The grocer explained our business, and having vouched for the good character of Captain Davis, he left us.

"I didn't think of taking a boy to board," said Mrs. Greenough. "I thought if I could get one of the young men in the store to sleep in the house, I should feel safer. But I don't know but I might take him, if he is a very steady boy."

"Steady as a judge, Mrs. Greenough," replied Captain Davis. "He's going to be a carpenter."

"Is he? My poor husband was a carpenter," added the lady, wiping a tear from her eye. "I am a lone woman now."

"Phil will be good company for you. He knows more than most boys of his age. He has fought through one campaign against the Indians, and is a dead shot with his rifle."

"Not always, captain," I remonstrated.

"He has brought down his man, at any rate. He speaks French, and-"

"O, no, I don't, captain. I have studied it, and can read it a little."

"I don't talk any French," added the old lady, with a smile; so that won't make any difference. I thought, at one time, I would take a boy who would help me, and work a little for his board, but I concluded I couldn't afford to do that; for I don't have anything but the rent of the store to live on."

"Well, Mrs. Greenough, you can split the difference. Phil can't afford to pay much for his board. He can help you a little in the morning and at night."

"I haven't much to do, except to bring up the wood and water from the cellar, which is down two flights, and it's rather hard work for me, for I'm not very strong."

"I shall be very glad to help you, Mrs. Greenough," I added.

"How much can you take him for, madam?" said the captain, beginning to be a little impatient.

The old lady had not made up her mind on this important subject, and the captain suggested two dollars a week as a fair price, if I helped about the house when I had time. She was satisfied with this amount, and I am sure I was; so the bargain was closed. Mrs. Greenough wanted to know more about me, and the captain spoke so handsomely of me, that my modesty will not permit me to quote his testimony. I walked back to the steamer with Captain Davis, and after thanking him, from the depths of my heart, for all his kindness and care, I took my leave of him. He told me he should send all the effects of Mr. Gracewood to the storehouse of his owners, where they could be obtained on his arrival. He advised me to write to my friends at once, and I promised to do so that night. Taking the box, which contained the few articles of value I possessed, under my arm, and the rifle I had brought from my forest home, I hastened to my new boarding-house.

Before I did anything else, I wrote the letter to Mr. Gracewood, and carried it to the post-office. On my return, Mrs. Greenough showed me my room. It was on the third floor, in the rear of her own apartment. I must say that it looked like a boudoir in a palace to me. It was plainly but very neatly furnished. She told me I could put my clothes in the drawers of the bureau; but I answered that I had none to put there, except a single woollen shirt, and a pair of socks, which I had washed myself on board of the steamer. I wore a suit of "civilized clothes," as we called them at the settlement; and I had a pair of woollen shirts, and two pairs of socks. My landlady thought my wardrobe was rather scanty, but I considered it all-sufficient, and did not worry because I could not follow the fashion.

I opened my box, and took from it the little dress

and other garments which I had worn when old Matt Rockwood picked me up, on the Missouri River. Mrs. Greenough's curiosity was excited, and I told her all I knew about my past history. She was deeply interested in the narrative, and asked me a great many questions about the Gracewoods, which I answered to the best of my ability. I was well pleased with my new home. My landlady was very kind and motherly, and when I retired that night, I thanked God for his kindness in directing my steps to such a pleasant abode.

When I awoke the next morning, I heard a church clock striking five. I rose and made my simple toilet in less time than I could have done it even a year later. I went down into the kitchen, which was the room Mrs. Greenough occupied most of the time, and made a fire in the stove. I had done everything I could find to do when the landlady came down.

"You are quite handy about house, Phil," said she, with a cheerful smile.

"I ought to be. I used to keep house at the clearing. I can cook and wash."

"What can you cook?"

"I can boil potatoes, bake or roast them; I can fry and boil bacon, and I can bake bread. We didn't have so many things to work with as you do here."

"Can you make pies and cake?"

"No; we never had those things at the clearing until Mrs. Gracewood came there."

"They were rich folks, you said."

"Yes; they have plenty of money; but it did not do them much good out in the woods. I should like to hear how Mrs. Gracewood is."

"I hope she is better. When they come you will have some strong friends."

"Yes; but I intend to take care of myself. They will go among big folks, where I cannot go; but I hope I shall see Miss Ella sometimes."

"Of course you will."

"She is a beautiful young lady," I added, warmly.

"But you may find your father and mother one of these days."

"I hardly expect to do that; I doubt whether they are living."

"From what you say, I should think you might find out who they are. Of course they had some relations somewhere, and perhaps they will be willing to take care of you."

"I don't want any one to take care of me; I mean to take care of myself. Mr. Gracewood has fifteen hundred dollars belonging to me."

"Well, that's comfortable. If you should be sick, you will not want for anything."

We talked over the past and the present till breakfast was ready. The fried bacon and potatoes looked like old friends, and I did ample justice to the fare. I am not sure that my landlady was not alarmed when she realized my eating capacity, as compared with the price I was to pay for my board. At half past six I started for the building which Mr. Clinch was putting up. It was a large storehouse, near the levee.

"Good, Phil! I'm glad to see you on hand in season," said my employer.

"I mean to be on time always, sir."

"I'm paying my best men two dollars a day now," added Mr. Clinch.

"Does that young man get two dollars a day?" I asked, pointing to a boy of eighteen or nineteen, who was putting on his overalls in front of the building.

"No; that's Morgan Blair. He came down from Illinois last spring. I give him a dollar a day. He doesn't know the business, and that is more than he is worth. You will work with Conant."

Calling one of the workmen who answered to this name, he directed him to take me under his charge. The frame of the building was up, and we were to be engaged in boarding it.

"Come along, my boy; we will take the stiffening out of you in about two hours," said Conant, as he led the way to the stage.

"All right; when I break down I will give you leave to bury me."

"Do you think you can lift your end of a board?"

"I can; and lift both ends, if need be."

"You have got the pluck, but it's hard work for a boy."

"I will keep my side up."

Mr. Clinch had given me a hammer and a bag of nails, which I tied around my body, as I saw the other men do. I was strong and tough, and could easily handle any lumber used on the work. I carried my end of each board up to the frame, and I am sure I drove as many nails as Conant. But I will not describe the process by which the building was erected. I did my full share of the work until noon.

"Don't you want to go to bed now?" asked Conant, when we knocked off.

"Go to bed! No. Why should I?"

"Ain't you tuckered out?"

"No, not at all; I don't feel quite so fresh as I did this morning, but I shall be all right again when I get my dinner."

"You are a tough 'un, then."

"Well, Conant, how does Phil get along?" asked Mr. Clinch, as we came down from the stage.

"Tip-top; he has done a man's work-twice as much as Morgan," replied Conant, with more magnanimity than I had given him credit for.

"All right. Phil, I am glad you are getting along well. It will be easier work when we get the building covered."

In going home to dinner, I went pretty near the steamboat levee. A boat had just come in, and I wanted to know if it had come from the Missouri, for I was very anxious to hear from the Gracewoods. I hastened towards the landing. I met the passengers as they came up, and on inquiry of one of them learned that the steamer was from St. Joe, but she had not stopped at Delaware City; so of course the Gracewoods could not have come in her.

I was about to leave, when I perceived Mr. Leonidas Lynchpinne coming across the levee. I thought that I had business with him, and I hastened to resume the relations with him which had been interrupted at Leavenworth.

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