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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Erie Train Boy - Chapter 3. Fred's Rich Relation
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The Erie Train Boy - Chapter 3. Fred's Rich Relation Post by :Joshua_Ditty Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2578

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The Erie Train Boy - Chapter 3. Fred's Rich Relation

CHAPTER III. FRED'S RICH RELATION

It was seven o'clock when Fred reached home. He and his mother occupied three rooms in a tenement house, at a rental of ten dollars a month. It was a small sum for the city, but as Fred was the chief contributor to the family funds, rent day was always one of anxiety. It so happened that this very day rent was due, and Fred felt anxious, for his mother, when he left home, had but seven dollars towards it.

He opened the door of their humble home, and received a welcoming smile from Mrs. Fenton, a pleasant-looking woman of middle age.

"I am glad to see you back, Fred," she said. "The days seem long without you."

"Have you brought me a picture book, Fred?" asked his little brother.

"No, Bertie, I can't bring you picture books every day. I wish I could."

"Albert has been drawing from his last book," said Mrs. Fenton. "He really has quite a taste for it."

"We must send him to the Cooper Institute Drawing School when he gets older. Did the landlord come, mother?"

"Yes," answered Mrs. Fenton, a shade passing over her face.

"What did he say? Did he make any fuss?"

"He was rough and unpleasant. He said he mast have his money promptly or we must vacate the rooms."

"Did he take the seven dollars?"

"Yes, he took it and gave me a receipt on account. He said he must have the balance to-morrow."

"I don't see how we can pay it. The company owes me more, but I shan't get paid till Saturday night."

"Don't they advance it to you?"

"It is against the rule. Besides I couldn't get it in time."

"There is a lady in Lexington Avenue owing me four dollars for sewing, but when I went there today I heard that she was out of town."

"It is very provoking to be kept out of your money when you need it so much. If we only had a little money ahead, we could get along well. Something must be done, but I don't know what."

"You might go round to Cousin Ferguson."

"I hate to ask a favor of that man, mother."

"You remember that your poor father owned a small tract of land in Colorado. When Robert Ferguson went out three months since I asked him to look after it, and ascertain whether it was of any value. As I have heard nothing from him, I am afraid it is worthless."

"I will go and ask him, mother. That is a matter of business, and I don't mind speaking to him on that subject. I will go at once."

"Perhaps he may be willing to advance a few dollars on it."

"At any rate I will go."

Robert Ferguson lived in a plain brick house on East Thirty-Ninth Street. He was a down-town merchant, and in possession of a snug competence. Mrs. Fenton was his own cousin, but he had never offered to help her in any way, though he was quite aware of the fact that she was struggling hard to support her little family. He had a son Raymond who was by no means as plain in his tastes as his father, but had developed a tendency to extravagance which augured ill for his future. He had never cared to cultivate the acquaintance of his poor cousins, and whenever he met Fred treated him with ill-concealed contempt.

It so happened that he was just leaving the house as Fred ascended the steps.

"Good morning, Raymond," said Fred politely.

"Oh, it's you, is it?"

"Yes," answered Fred briefly, for he did not like the style in which his cousin addressed him.

"What do you want round here?"

"I want to see your father."

"I guess he's busy."

"I want to see him on business," said Fred, pulling the bell.

"If you want to borrow any money it's no use. I struck him for ten dollars just now, and he only gave me two."

"Did I say I wanted to borrow any money?"

"No, you didn't say so, but I couldn't think of any other business you could have."

Fred did not have occasion to answer, for here the door opened, and the servant stood on the threshold.

"Is Mr. Ferguson at home?" he asked.

"Yes; will you come in?"

Fred followed the girl into the back parlor where Robert Ferguson sat reading the evening paper.

He looked up as Fred entered.

"Good evening, Mr. Ferguson," he said.

"Good evening, Frederick," said his relative coldly.

"My mother asked me to call and inquire whether you heard anything of father's land in Colorado."

"Ahem!" coughed Mr. Ferguson. "I hope she built no day dreams on its possible value."

"No sir; but she hoped it might be worth something--even a small sum would be of value to us."

"The fact is, these Western lands are worth little or nothing."

"Father used to say that some time or other the land would be worth a good sum."

"Then I don't think much of your father's judgment. Why, I don't believe you could give it away. Let me see, how much was there?"

"A hundred and twenty-five acres."

"How did you father get possession of it?"

"There was a man he took care of in his sickness, who gave it to him out of gratitude."

Robert Ferguson shrugged his shoulders.

"It would have been better if he had given him the same number of dollars," he said.

"Then you don't think it worth as much as that?"

"No, I don't."

Fred looked disappointed. In their darkest days, he and his mother had always thought of this land as likely some time to bring them handsomely out of their troubles, and make a modest provision for their comfort. Now there seemed to be an end to this hope.

"I would have sent your mother word before," said Robert Ferguson, "but as the news was bad I thought it would keep. I don't see what possessed your father to go out to Colorado."

"He was doing poorly here, and some one recommended him to try his chances at the West."

"Well, he did a foolish thing. If a man improves his opportunities here he needn't wander away from home to earn a living. That's my view."

"Then," said Fred slowly, "you don't think the land of any value?"

"No, I don't. Of course I am sorry for your disappointment, and I am going to show it. Let your mother make over to me all claim to this land, and I will give her twenty-five dollars."

"That isn't much," said Fred soberly.

"No, it isn't much, but it's better than nothing, and I shall lose by my bargain."

Fred sat in silence thinking over this proposal. The land was the only property his poor father had left, and to sell it for twenty-five dollars seemed like parting with a birthright for a mess of pottage.

On the other hand twenty-five dollars would be of great service to them under present circumstances.

"I don't know what to say," he answered slowly.

"Oh, well, it is your lookout. I only made the offer as a personal favor."

Mr. Ferguson resumed the perusal of his paper, and thus implied that the interview was over.

"Cousin Ferguson," said Fred, with an effort, "our rent is due to-day, and we are a little short of the money to meet it. Could you lend me three dollars till Saturday night?"

"No," answered Robert Ferguson coldly. "I don't approve of borrowing money. As a matter of principle I decline to lend. But if your mother agrees to sell the land she shall have twenty-five dollars at once."

Fred rose with a heavy heart.

"I will tell mother what you propose," he said. "Good evening!"

"Good evening!" rejoined Mr. Ferguson without raising his eyes from the paper.

"Twenty-five dollars would be very acceptable just now," said Mrs. Fenton thoughtfully, when Fred reported the offer of his rich relative.

"But it wouldn't last long, mother."

"It would do us good while it lasted."

"You are right there, mother, but I have no doubt the land is worth a good deal more."

"What makes you think so? Cousin Ferguson----"

"Wouldn't have made the offer he did if he hadn't thought so, too."

"He might have done it to help us."

"He isn't that kind of a man. No, mother, it is for our interest to hold on to the land till we know more about it."

"How shall we manage about the rent?"

Fred looked troubled.

"Something may turn up to-morrow. When the landlord comes, ask him to come again at eight o'clock, when I shall be home."

"Very well, Fred."

Mrs. Fenton was so much in the habit of trusting to her son that she dismissed the matter with less anxiety than Fred felt. He knew very well that trusting for something to turn up is a precarious dependence, but there seemed nothing better to do.

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