Cast Upon the Breakers/Chapter XXVII
On the morning of the same day Squire Sheldon sat in his study when the servant came in and brought a card.
"It's a gentleman thats come to see you, sir," she said.
Lemuel Sheldon's eye brightened when he saw the name, for it was that of a railroad man who was interested in the proposed road from Sherborn.
"I am glad to see you, Mr. Caldwell," he said cordially, rising to receive his guest. "What is the prospect as regards the railroad?"
"I look upon it as a certainty," answered Enoch Caldwell, a grave, portly man of fifty.
"And it is sure to pass through our town?"
"Yes, I look upon that as definitely decided."
"The next question is as to the route it will take," went on the squire. "Upon that point I should like to offer a few suggestions."
"I shall be glad to receive them. In fact, I may say that my report will probably be accepted, and I shall be glad to consult you."
"Thank you. I appreciate the compliment you pay me, and, though I say it, I don't think you could find any one more thoroughly conversant with the lay of the land and the most advisable route to follow. If you will put on your hat we will go out together and I will give you my views."
"I shall be glad to do so."
The two gentlemen took a leisurely walk through the village, going by Cyrus Hooper's house on the way.
"In my view," said the squire, "the road should go directly through this farm a little to the north of the house."
The squire proceeded to explain his reasons for the route he recommended.
"To whom does the farm belong?" asked Caldwell, with a shrewd glance at the squire.
"To an old man named Cyrus Hooper."
"Ahem! Perhaps he would be opposed to the road passing so near his house."
"I apprehend that he will not have to be consulted," said the squire with a crafty smile.
"Because I hold a mortgage on the farm which I propose to foreclose this afternoon."
"I see. So that you will be considerably benefited by the road."
"Yes, to a moderate extent."
"But if a different course should be selected, how then?"
"If the road goes through the farm I would be willing to give a quarter of the damages awarded to me to--you understand?"
"I think I do. After all it seems the most natural route."
"I think there can be no doubt on that point. Of course the corporation will be willing to pay a reasonable sum for land taken."
"I think I can promise that, as I shall have an important voice in the matter."
"I see you are a thorough business man," said the squire. "I hold that it is always best to pursue a liberal policy."
"Quite so. You have no doubt of obtaining the farm?"
"Not the slightest."
"But suppose the present owner meets the mortgage?"
"He can't. He is a poor man, and he has no moneyed friends. I confess I was a little afraid that a nephew of his just returned from Montana might be able to help him, but I learn that he has only brought home five hundred dollars while the mortgage, including interest, calls for thirteen hundred."
"Then you appear to be safe. When did you say the matter would be settled?"
"This afternoon at two o'clock. You had better stay over and take supper with me. I shall be prepared to talk with you at that time."
From a window of the farmhouse Cyrus Hooper saw Squire Sheldon and his guest walking by the farm, and noticed the interest which they seemed to feel in it. But for the assurance which he had received of help to pay the mortgage he would have felt despondent, for he guessed the subject of their conversation. As it was, he felt an excusable satisfaction in the certain defeat of the squire's hopes of gain.
"It seems that the more a man has the more he wants, Jefferson," he said to his nephew. "The squire is a rich man--the richest man in Burton--but he wants to take from me the little property that I have."
"It's the way of the world, Uncle Cyrus. In this case the squire is safe to be disappointed, thanks to my young friend, Rodney."
"Its lucky for me, Jefferson, that you came home just the time you did. If you had come a week later it would have been too late."
"Then you don't think the squire would have relented?"
"I know he wouldn't. I went over a short time since and had a talk with him on the subject. I found he was sot on gettin' the farm into his own hands."
"If he were willing to pay a fair value it wouldn't be so bad."
"He wasn't. He wanted to get it as cheap as he could."
"I wonder," said Jefferson Pettigrew reflectively, "whether I shall be as hard and selfish if ever I get rich."
"I don't believe you will, Jefferson. I don't believe you will. It doesn't run in the blood."
"I hope not Uncle Cyrus. How long have you known the squire?"
"Forty years, Jefferson. He is about ten years younger than I am. I was a young man when he was a boy."
"And you attend the same church?"
"And still he is willing to take advantage of you and reduce you to poverty. I don't see much religion in that."
"When a man's interest is concerned religion has to stand to one side with some people."
It was in a pleasant frame of mind that Squire Sheldon left his house and walked over to the farmhouse which he hoped to own. He had decided to offer eighteen hundred dollars for the farm, which would be five hundred over and above the face of the mortgage with the interest added.
This of itelf would give him an excellent profit, but he expected also, as we know, to drive a stiff bargain with the new railroad company, for such land as they would require to use.
"Stay here till I come back, Mr. Caldwell," he said. "I apprehend it won't take me long to get through my business."
Squire Sheldon knocked at the door of the farmhouse, which was opened to him by Nancy Hooper.
"Walk in, squire," she said.
"Is your husband at home, Mrs. Hooper?"
"Yes; he is waiting for you."
Mrs. Hooper led the way into the sitting room, where her husband was sitting in a rocking chair.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Hooper," said the squire. "I hope I see you well."
"As well as I expect to be. I'm gettin' to be an old man."
"We must all grow old," said the squire vaguely.
"And sometimes a man's latter years are his most sorrowful years."
"That means that he can't pay the mortgage," thought Squire Sheldon.
"Well, ahem! Yes, it does sometimes happen so," he said aloud.
"Still if a man's friends stand by him, that brings him some comfort."
"I suppose you know what I've come about, Mr. Hooper," said the squire, anxious to bring his business to a conclusion.
"I suppose it's about the mortgage."
"Yes, its about the mortgage."
"Will you be willing to extend it another year?"
"I thought," said the squire, frowning, "I had given you to understand that I cannot do this. You owe me a large sum in accrued interest."
"But if I make shift to pay this?"
"I should say the same. It may as well come first as last. You can't hold the place, and there is no chance of your being better off by waiting."
"I understand that the new railroad might go through my farm. That would put me on my feet."
"There is no certainty that the road will ever be built. Even if it were, it would not be likely to cross your farm."
"I see, Squire Sheldon, you are bound to have the place."
"There is no need to put it that way, Mr. Hooper. I lent you money on mortgage. You can't pay the mortgage, and of course I foreclose. However, I will buy the farm and allow you eighteen hundred dollars for it. That will give you five hundred dollars over and above the money you owe me."
"The farm is worth three thousand dollars."
"Nonsense, Mr. Hooper. Still if you get an offer of that sum TODAY I will advise you to sell."
"I certainly won't take eighteen hundred."
"You won't? Then I shall foreclose, and you may have to take less."
"Then there is only one thing to do."
"As you say, there is only one thing to do."
"And that is, to pay off the mortgage and clear the farm."
"You can't do it!" exclaimed the squire uneasily.
Cyrus Hooper's only answer was to call "Jefferson."
Jefferson Pettigrew entered the room, followed by Rodney.
"What does this mean?" asked the squire.
"It means, Squire Sheldon," said Mr. Pettigrew, "that you won't turn my uncle out of his farm this time. My young friend, Rodney Ropes, has advanced Uncle Cyrus money enough to pay off the mortgage."
"I won't take a check," said the squire hastily.
"You would have to if we insisted upon it, but I have the money here in bills. Give me a release and surrender the mortgage, and you shall have your money."
It was with a crestfallen look that Squire Sheldon left the farmhouse, though his pockets were full of money.
"It's all up," he said to his friend Caldwell in a hollow voice. "They have paid the mortgage."
After all the railway did cross the farm, and Uncle Cyrus was paid two thousand dollars for the right of way, much to the disappointment of his disinterested friend Lemuel Sheldon, who felt that this sum ought to have gone into his own pocket.