Chapter 37




COUSIN FERGUSON.

In a fortnight Fred received from Colorado an order on a New York banker for six thousand five hundred dollars, being the purchase money on the Colorado lands.

He at once carried it to Mr. Wainwright, and invested it in securities recommended by that gentleman.

"I congratulate you heartily, Fred," said the banker. "I didn't know that I was taking into my employ a young man of fortune."

"It has come upon me so suddenly that I can't realize it myself."

"I consider you worthy of your good luck, my boy. You ought to save up money out of your wages."

"I intend to sir, but I am going to give my mother a better home now that I can afford it, and will see that my little brother has a better education than I have had."

"It is not too late to supply the deficiency in your own case. You cannot do better than join the evening classes of the Young Men's Christian Association, and do what you can to improve yourself."

"I will follow your advice, Mr. Wainwright. Now that I am no longer anxious about money matters, I want to qualify myself for a better social position."

Only two days after the receipt of the money from Colorado, another letter, as unexpected as Mr. Sloan's, reached Mrs. Fenton. The substance of it was comprised in the closing paragraph "Send your son round to my house this evening I am prepared to make you a better offer for the Colorado laud. It's of little value, but some day may be worth more than at present. As you are straitened in means I can better afford to wait than you, and I shall feel satisfaction in relieving your necessities."

Fred read this letter attentively. "I hate a hypocrite," he said. "Mr. Ferguson pretends that he wants to help us, while he is scheming to cheat us out of a large sum, relying upon our ignorance of the increased value of the land."

"Shall I write and tell him that we have sold the land?" asked Mrs. Fenton.

"No, I will call and see him this evening, as he requests."

"But it will do no good."

"I want to find out how much he is willing to give. I shan't let him know that the land is sold till he has made an offer."

"Don't say anything to provoke Cousin Ferguson, Fred."

"Don't worry, mother. I will be perfectly respectful."

About half-past seven Fred rang the bell at the door of the house on East Thirty-Ninth Street. Evidently he was expected, for, on his inquiring for Mr. Ferguson, he was shown at once into the presence of his rich relation.

"Good evening, Frederick," said Mr. Ferguson, With unusual graciousness. "How is your mother?"

"Very well, thank you, sir."

"I hope you are getting along comfortably."

"Yes, sir; we have no right to complain."

"That is well," said Mr. Ferguson condescendingly. "I presume the boy is making five dollars a week or some such matter," he soliloquized. "That is very well for a boy like him."

"I made you an offer for your father's land in Colorado a few months ago," he went on carelessly.

"Yes, sir."

"You thought my offer too small."

"Yes, sir. Twenty-five dollars would be of very little value to us."

"There I disagree with you. Twenty-five dollars to a family situated as yours is, is no trifle."

A faint smile flickered over Fred's face. He wondered what Mr. Ferguson would say if he knew precisely how they were situated.

"Still," resumed the merchant, "you did right to refuse. I am inclined to think the land is a little more valuable than I supposed."

Fred was rather surprised. Was Cousin Ferguson going to act a liberal part, and offer anything like a fair price for the land? He waited curiously to hear what he would say next.

"Yes," continued Mr. Ferguson magnanimously, "I admit that I offered you too little for your land."

"So I thought at the time, sir," Fred said quietly.

"And I am now prepared to rectify my mistake. You may tell your mother that I will give her a hundred dollars for it."

"A hundred dollars?"

"Yes; that is probably more than it is worth at present, but I can afford to wait until it increases in value."

Mr. Ferguson sat back in his armchair and fixed his eyes on Fred with the air of one who has made a most generous offer.

"Did your mother authorize you to make a bargain?" he inquired.

"No, sir."

"She wished you to report to her, I suppose. This offer will hold good for twenty-four hours. You can come around to-morrow evening, and the matter can be settled at once. It may be well for your mother to come round also, as her signature will be required to the bill of sale."

"I am sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Ferguson, but I don't think we will sell."

"Young man," said Ferguson severely, "if you advise your mother to reject this offer, you will take upon yourself a great responsibility."

"Mr. Ferguson," rejoined Fred, fixing his eyes on the merchant, "do you advise my mother, as a friend, to accept this offer?"

"Of course, of course. It is the best thing she can do."

"I have no right to doubt your sincerity, but I think the land is worth more than you offer."

"What can you know about it?" demanded Ferguson impatiently.

"A gentleman who had traveled in Colorado called on us a while ago. He seems to think the land is quite valuable."

"Stuff and nonsense! The man was humbugging you."

"He was a miner," continued Fred placidly. "He promised to look up the matter for us."

"You were very rash to trust a stranger. The best thing you can do is to disregard any advice he may have given you, and accept my offer."

"There is one difficulty in the way," said Fred.

"What is that?"

"We have sold the land!"



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