A Cool Million

A Cool Million

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by Nathanael West
     
 

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The home of Mrs. Sarah Pitkin, a widow well on in years, was situated on
an eminence overlooking the Rat River, near the town of Ottsville in the
state of Vermont. It was a humble dwelling much the worse for wear, yet
exceedingly dear to her and her only child, Lemuel.

While the house had not been painted for some time, owing to the
straitened… See more details below

Overview

The home of Mrs. Sarah Pitkin, a widow well on in years, was situated on
an eminence overlooking the Rat River, near the town of Ottsville in the
state of Vermont. It was a humble dwelling much the worse for wear, yet
exceedingly dear to her and her only child, Lemuel.

While the house had not been painted for some time, owing to the
straitened circumstances of the little family, it still had a great deal
of charm. An antique collector, had one chanced to pass it by, would have
been greatly interested in its architecture. Having been built about the
time of General Stark's campaign against the British, its lines reflected
the character of his army, in whose ranks several Pitkins had marched.

One late fall evening, Mrs. Pitkin was sitting quietly in her parlor,
when a knock was heard on her humble door.

She kept no servant, and, as usual, answered the knock in person.

"Mr. Slemp!" she said, as she recognized in her caller the wealthy
village lawyer.

"Yes, Mrs. Pitkin, I come upon a little matter of business."

"Won't you come in?" said the widow, not forgetting her politeness in her
surprise.

"I believe I will trespass on your hospitality for a brief space," said
the lawyer blandly. "Are you quite well?"

"Thank you, sir--quite so," said Mrs. Pitkin as she led the way into the
sitting room. "Take the rocking chair, Mr. Slemp," she said, pointing to
the best chair which the simple room contained.

"You are very kind," said the lawyer, seating himself gingerly in the
chair referred to.

"Where is your son, Lemuel?" continued the lawyer.

"He is in school. But it is nearly time for him to be home; he never
loiters." And the mother's voice showed something of the pride she felt
in her boy.

"Still in school!" exclaimed Mr. Slemp. "Shouldn't he be helping to
support you?"

"No," said the widow proudly. "I set great store by learning, as does my
son. But you came on business?"

"Ah, yes, Mrs. Pitkin. I fear that the business may be unpleasant for
you, but you will remember, I am sure, that I act in this matter as agent
for another."

"Unpleasant!" repeated Mrs. Pitkin apprehensively. "Yes. Mr. Joshua Bird,
Squire Bird, has placed in my hands for foreclosure the mortgage on your
house. That is, he will foreclose," he added hastily, "if you fail to
raise the necessary monies in three months from now, when the obligation
matures."

"How can I hope to pay?" said the widow brokenly. "I thought that Squire
Bird would be glad to renew, as we pay him twelve per cent interest."

"I am sorry, Mrs. Pitkin, sincerely sorry, but he has decided not to
renew. He wants either his money or the property."

The lawyer took his hat and bowed politely, leaving the widow alone with
her tears.

(It might interest the reader to know that I was right in my surmise. An
interior decorator, on passing the house, had been greatly struck by its
appearance. He had seen Squire Bird about purchasing it, and that is why
that worthy had decided to foreclose on Mrs. Pitkin. The name of the
cause of this tragedy was Asa Goldstein, his business, "Colonial
Exteriors and Interiors." Mr. Goldstein planned to take the house apart
and set it up again in the window of his Fifth Avenue shop.)

As Lawyer Slemp was leaving the humble dwelling, he met the widow's son,
Lemuel, on the threshold. Through the open door, the boy caught a glimpse
of his mother in tears, and said to Mr. Slemp:

"What have you been saying to my mother to make her cry?"

"Stand aside, boy!" exclaimed the lawyer. He pushed Lem with such great
force that the poor lad fell off the porch steps into the cellar, the
door of which was unfortunately open. By the time Lem had extricated
himself, Mr. Slemp was well on his way down the road.

Our hero, although only seventeen years old, was a strong, spirited lad
and would have followed after the lawyer but for his mother. On hearing
her voice, he dropped the ax which he had snatched up and ran into the
house to comfort her.

The poor widow told her son all we have recounted and the two of them sat
plunged in gloom. No matter how they racked their brains, they could not
discover a way to keep the roof over their heads.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
2940013740587
Publisher:
WDS Publishing
Publication date:
01/06/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
354,597
File size:
0 MB

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