Robert Coverdale's Struggle - LightNovelOnl.com
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"I mean this, that I hold a mortgage on this house for two hundred dollars, and that's as much as it will fetch at auction. What do you say to that?"
Robert looked and felt as much troubled as his aunt. On his young shoulders fell this new burden, and he was at an utter loss what could be done.
"I thought I'd shut you up, you young cub!" said the landlord, glancing maliciously at Robert.
"You haven't shut me up!" retorted Robert with spirit.
"What have you got to say, hey?"
"That you ought to be ashamed to take all my uncle's earnings and then steal his home. That's what I've got to say!"
"I've a great mind to give you a caning," said Mr. Jones in a rage.
"You'd better not!" said Robert.
He was as tall as the landlord, and though not as strong, considerably more active, and he did not feel in the least frightened.
Nahum Jones was of a choleric disposition, and his face was purple with rage, but he hadn't yet said all he intended.
"I give you warning, Mrs. Trafton," he said, shaking his cane at our hero, "that I'm going to foreclose this mortgage and turn you into the street. You've got yourself to thank, you and this young rascal. I came here thinking I'd be easy with you, but I don't mean to stand your insulting talk. I'll give you four weeks to raise the money, and if you don't do it, out you go, bag and baggage. Perhaps when you're in the poorhouse you may be sorry you didn't treat me better."
"Oh, Robert, what shall we do?" asked the poor woman, her courage failing as she reflected on the possibility that the landlord's prediction might be fulfilled.
"Don't be alarmed, Aunt Jane; I'll take care of you," said Robert more cheerfully than he felt.
"Oh, you will, will you?" sneered Mr. Jones. "Anybody'd think to hear you that you were worth a pile of money. If your aunt depends on you to keep her out of the poorhouse, I would not give much for her chance."
"You won't have the satisfaction of seeing either of us there," said Robert defiantly.
"You needn't expect my wife to give you any more sewing," said Mr.
Jones, scowling at the widow.
"I don't think my aunt wants any, considering she hasn't been paid for the last work she did," said Robert.
"What do you mean by that? I credited your uncle with twenty-five cents on his score."
"Without my aunt's consent."
Mr. Jones was so incensed at the defiant mien of the boy that he rocked violently to and fro--so violently that the chair, whose rockers were short, tipped over backward and the wrathful landlord rolled ignominiously on the floor.
"Here's you hat, Mr. Jones," said Robert, smiling in spite of himself as he picked it up and restored it to the mortified visitor.
"You'll hear from me!" roared the landlord furiously, aiming a blow at Robert and leaving the room precipitately. "You'll repent this day, see if you don't!"
After he had left the room Robert and his aunt looked at each other gravely. They had made an enemy out of a man who could turn them out of doors.
The future looked far from bright.
THE HERMIT'S SECRET
Mr. Jones, in his anger at Robert, regretted that he must wait four weeks before he could turn him and his aunt out of the house. It would be a great satisfaction to him to see the boy without a roof to shelter him, reduced to becoming a tramp or to take refuge in the poorhouse.
"By George, I'll humble the young beggar's pride!" exclaimed Mr. Jones as he hastened homeward from his unsatisfactory interview.
It must be admitted that Robert had not been exactly respectful, but, on the other hand, it is quite certain that the landlord had been rude and rough in manner and speech.
Why, then, did not Mr. Jones foreclose the mortgage instantly and gratify his resentment? Because in the instrument there was a proviso requiring a notice of four weeks.
However, he felt that it would make little difference.
"They can't raise the money in four weeks," he reflected. "There's nobody round here who will lend them the money, and they don't know anybody anywhere else."
So, on the whole, he was satisfied. Four weeks would soon pass, and then his thirst for revenge would be sated.
"What makes you so sober, my boy?" asked the hermit when Robert made his regular call upon him the next day.
"I feel anxious," answered the boy.
"But why need you? You told me your uncle did very little for the family. I think you will be able to take care of your aunt. If not, I will help you more."
"Thank you, sir; you are very kind. But we thought when you called the other day that we owned the house and would have no rent to pay."
"Were you mistaken about this?" asked the hermit quickly.
"It seems so. Mr. Jones, the tavern keeper, has a mortgage on the property and threatens to foreclose in four weeks unless the money is paid. Of course, we can't pay him, and I suppose we shall be turned out."
"How large is this mortgage?"
"Two hundred dollars."
"That is not a very great sum."
"It is very large to us. You know how poor we are."
"But have you no friend who will lend you the money?"
"Are you sure of that?" asked the hermit with a peculiar smile, which inspired new hope in Robert. Then, without waiting for a reply, the man continued:
"If you are willing, I will pay this mortgage when the time comes, and I will be your creditor instead of Mr. Jones."
"How can I thank you?" exclaimed Robert joyfully. "My aunt will be delighted."