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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Erie Train Boy - Chapter 4. Zebulon Mack
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The Erie Train Boy - Chapter 4. Zebulon Mack Post by :Joshua_Ditty Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2796

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The Erie Train Boy - Chapter 4. Zebulon Mack


At twelve that day the landlord, Zebulon Mack, presented himself promptly at the door of Mrs. Fenton's room.

He was a small, thin, wrinkled man, whose suit would have been refused as a gift by the average tramp, yet he had an income of four thousand dollars a year from rents. He was now sixty years of age. At twenty-one he was working for eight dollars a week, and saving three-fifths of that. By slow degrees he had made himself rich, but in so doing he had denied himself all but the barest necessaries. What he expected to do with his money, as he was a bachelor with no near relatives, was a mystery, and he had probably formed no definite ideas himself. But it was his great enjoyment to see his hoards annually increasing, and he had no mercy for needy or unfortunate tenants who found themselves unable to pay their rent promptly.

Mrs. Fenton opened the door with a troubled look.

"I've come for that other three dollars, ma'am," said Zebulon Mack, standing on the threshold.

"I'm very sorry, sir----" began the widow.

"What! haven't you got the money?" snarled Mack, screwing up his features into a frown that made him look even more unprepossessing.

"My son Fred will be paid on Saturday night, and then----"

"Saturday night won't do. Didn't you promise it to-day?"

"Yes; and Fred tried to get an advance, but could not."

"Where is he working?"

"On the Erie road."

"Most likely he spends all his money for beer and cigarettes. I know him. He looks like it."

"You are very much mistaken, sir," said Mrs. Fenton, indignantly.

"Oh, you think so, of course," sneered the landlord. "Mothers don't know much about their boys, nor fathers either. I am glad I haven't a son."

"I wouldn't be your son for a million dollars," said little Albert, who resented the allusion to his big brother.

"Hey?" snarled Mack, opening his mouth and showing his tobacco-stained tusks. "What business has a whipper-snapper like you to put in your oar?"

"I ain't a whipper-snapper!" retorted Albert, who did not know the meaning of the word, but concluded that it was not complimentary.

"Well, ma'am, what are you going to do? I can't stay here all day."

"Fred thought he would have the money by to-night. He asked if you would call round after he got home."

"When is that?"

"He generally gets home at seven o'clock."

"Then I'll be here at seven, but if you haven't the money, then out you go! Do you hear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then mind you remember it. With so many swindling tenants a landlord has a hard time."

He shambled off, and Mrs. Fenton breathed a sigh of temporary relief. All the afternoon she felt troubled and anxious, and her anxiety increased as the hours wore away.

"If Fred should be late as he sometimes is," she said to Bertie about six o'clock, "I am afraid Mr. Mack will carry out his threat and turn us out on the street."

"I won't let him," said Albert manfully.

"We can't help it," said Mrs. Fenton. "Do you think you could find your way to the depot to meet Fred and hurry him home?"

"Oh, yes," answered the little boy. "I went there with Fred last week."

"You are sure you won't get lost?"

"What do you take me for, mother? I'd be ashamed to get lost anywhere round the city."

"Then go, and tell Fred to hurry up. Mr. Mack is so strict and severe that I am sure he won't wait a minute."

At seven o'clock precisely Mr. Mack returned and, looking at his watch, said, "Time's up, ma'am."

"Wait just a few minutes!" pleaded Mrs. Fenton. "I expect Fred home every minute."

"My time's valuable, ma'am. It is not likely the boy will have the money any way.

"Won't you wait, then?

"Do you take me for a fool, ma'am? Here, Finnegan."

He had brought with him a man in his employ who for starvation wages helped him move out tenants, and made himself useful in a general way.

"Here I am, Mr. Mack," said Finnegan.

"Just give me a hand with this bureau. We'll take that first."

"Oh, sir," pleaded Mrs. Fenton, "how can you be so merciless? In a few minutes Fred will be here."

"I'm not a fool, ma'am. I told you I'd move you at seven o'clock, and I'm a man of my word."

"Wait a minute and I'll see if I can borrow the money of Mrs. Sheehan."

"You ought to have thought of that before. I'll give you two minutes."

Mrs. Fenton sped down lo the rooms of Mrs. Sheehan on the next lower floor.

"Can you lend me three dollars, Mrs. Sheehan?" asked Mrs. Fenton, breathless. "Mr. Mack threatens to turn us out on the sidewalk."

"I wish I could, Mrs. Fenton," said Mrs. Sheehan heartily, "but I bought my John a suit yesterday, and it's taken all my money except seventy-five cents. I'd be glad to oblige you, indeed I would."

"I've no doubt of it," sighed the widow, for it was her last hope.

"Well, have you got the money?" asked Zebulon Mack, as she reappeared.

"No, sir."

"Just what I thought. Go ahead, Finnegan."

They took up the bureau and slowly moved to the door, and down the staircase with it.

"It's a shame!" said Mrs. Sheehan, standing at her door.

"You'd better look out, ma'am! It may be your turn next," said the landlord with a scowl. "If it is I won't wait for you a minute."

"It's a hard man, you are, Mr. Mack."

"I need to be," said Zebulon Mack grimly. "If I wasn't it's precious little rent I'd get in."

The outlook for the Fentons was dark indeed.

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