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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 19. A Modern Shylock
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The Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 19. A Modern Shylock Post by :kevinf Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :2485

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The Young Miner; Or, Tom Nelson In California - Chapter 19. A Modern Shylock

CHAPTER XIX. A MODERN SHYLOCK

"I believe your interest falls due to-day, Mr. Nelson," said the squire, when he found himself alone with his debtor.

"Yes," answered the farmer, slowly. It was not very likely to slip his mind.

"I suppose you have the money ready," continued the squire, who supposed no such thing.

"I have a part of it ready," said Mark Nelson, with an effort.

"A part," repeated his creditor, with a frown.

"Yes; I can give you thirty-six dollars to-day."

"_Only thirty-six dollars! The amount due is sixty-six."

"I know it, Squire Hudson; but this has been a bad year for the farmers, as you probably know. Owing to the drought, my crops fell off at least one quarter."

"I can't help that," said the squire, coldly.

"If you will be a little patient," said Mr. Nelson, uneasily.

"Neighbor Nelson," said his creditor, interrupting him, "I wish to ask you one question. When I lent you money on mortgage was there a stipulation that if there was a drought I was to wait for my just interest?"

"No, Squire Hudson."

"To be sure not; I would not of course lend you money on any such terms. It was understood that my interest was to be paid semi-annually,--was it not so?"

"Yes, but--"

"Wait a moment. You must certainly agree that I am entitled to prompt payment. A bargain is a bargain."

"I don't dispute it, Squire Hudson, and I have tried to be ready for you; but in spite of all my efforts I am thirty dollars short."

"Do you expect me to be content with this explanation?"

"I think you are rather hard on me, squire. It isn't as if I had the money and objected to pay. I am a poor man, but no one ever lost a dollar by me; and I don't mean that any one shall, while I have my life and strength."

"That's all very well, but it won't make up the thirty dollars in which you are delinquent."

"What would you have me do? I cannot _make money."

"I wouldn't give much for an investment when the interest is delayed. It is no longer worth its face. If any of my railroad bonds defer their usual interest they at once drop in value."

"I know very little of railroad bonds, never having any money to invest in them; but I think my farm will be full security for all the money I owe you."

"Suppose I should foreclose--you would consider it an unkind thing and a great hardship, wouldn't you?"

"It would take away my means of supporting my family. I don't think you would go to extremes, for the sake of thirty dollars."

"It isn't the amount of money, neighbor Nelson, that is to be considered. It is the principle that is involved."

This is a very common pretext with men who have made up their minds to do a mean thing. Generally speaking it is false, and the money is the first consideration.

"Will you give me two months to pay the balance of interest?" asked Mark Nelson.

"What better prospect have you of being able to pay me then?"

"As soon as Tom has any money to send, he will remit to me. I think it probable that I shall hear from him in the course of two months."

"If that is your reliance," said the squire, shrugging his shoulders, "I am afraid you are leaning upon a broken reed. I know boys pretty well, and I fancy Tom will find a use for all the money he earns."

"You don't know him, Squire Hudson. He is a very conscientious boy, and understands very well the sacrifice I made in raising money to send him to California. He is not very likely to forget that."

"It seems to me that the sacrifice was mine," said the squire, with a half sneer. "If I remember rightly, I advanced the money which he took away with him."

Mark Nelson flushed, and he answered warmly, "You did advance the money, Squire Hudson, but I gave you security for it."

"And the very first interest that has come due you are not prepared to meet. You can't blame me for feeling a little doubt as to the wisdom of my advance."

"Are you very much in need of the thirty dollars?" asked Mr. Nelson, nettled at the squire's tone.

"What do you mean, sir?"

"Is it subjecting you to any great inconvenience to wait a couple of months for it? That is what I mean."

"My circumstances are not such," returned the squire, haughtily, "as to make me feel even the loss of thirty dollars."

"I wish I could say the same, but I cannot. Since, then, it will occasion you no inconvenience, I ask you as a favor that you will let the balance rest for two months."

Squire Hudson saw that he was cornered; but none the less was he disposed to yield the point. He even felt provoked with the farmer for having forced from him an acknowledgment that he did not need the money he so persistently demanded.

"I told you before," he said, "that it was not the amount of money, but the principle, that I care for. You cannot have forgotten this."

"I don't see how any principle is involved, Squire Hudson."

"You look at the matter solely from a debtor's point of view. If you held the mortgage, instead of myself, you would change your view very quickly."

"I don't think I should," said the farmer, slowly. "I would be considerate to a poor neighbor, even if it did inconvenience me a little."

"The poor neighbor should not have borrowed money on which he was unable to pay interest," said Squire Hudson, severely.

"How could I anticipate the drought that has diminished my crops?" said Mark Nelson, with spirit.

"That is neither here nor there. You knew that the interest must be paid, drought or no drought, crop or no crop."

"I cannot argue with you further, since you refuse to consider circumstances over which I have had no control. You refuse to grant me any delay?"

"I do."

"Since I have not the money to pay you, will you tell me what you require?"

"How many cows do you keep?"

"Three."

"You can give me one of these, and I will consider it an equivalent for the thirty dollars."

"Do you require this?" asked the farmer, uneasily.

"Yes; unless you have some other satisfactory arrangement to propose."

"I am afraid I have nothing else which you would regard as satisfactory. The loss of a cow will diminish my income. Instead of three, I ought to have four or five. I shouldn't like to be reduced to two."

"Very likely not; but an honest man is willing to make a sacrifice in order to meet his just liabilities. Besides, you expect to have the money, you say, in a couple of months. When it has come, you may have your cow back, on paying two months' interest on the deferred payment. That is only fair."

"Say no more, Squire Hudson," said the farmer. "I must, of course, consent to this arrangement since you insist upon it. How soon do you wish for the cow?"

"You had better let your son Walter drive it over this afternoon."

"He is losing no time," thought Mark Nelson, bitterly. "He does not even appear to be willing that I should have the benefit of this night's milking."

"You may send me Whiteface," continued Squire Hudson, who knew that this was the most valuable of the three cows.

"That is my best cow," protested the farmer "That makes little difference, as you expect to redeem it in two months."

Mark Nelson was silent. He felt indignant with Squire Hudson for his cruel exaction; but he felt that he was in his power, and that he must submit to his exactions.

"You will attend to this matter?" asked the squire, as he rose and prepared to go.

"Yes," answered the farmer, coldly.

When his creditor was gone he went into the kitchen and acquainted the family with what had passed. Great were the grief and indignation of the children, and Walter expressed a desire that Squire Hudson might lose all his property as a fitting reward for his meanness.

"Heaven help me if I can't meet the next interest!" said Mark Nelson, later in the day, to his wife.

"Don't be too much troubled about the future, Mark," said his wife, who was of a more hopeful temperament than her husband; "I am sure that you will get some help from Tom before six months are over."

"I hope so," answered her husband; but for the rest of the day he was very grave.

Walter drove over Whiteface, at his father's request; but he came near crying, stout boy as he was, at the loss of the faithful animal which his father had reared from a calf.

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