August 23 , 2009

The Debtor


Six months after Arthur's attempt to purchase back his ancestral acres, a man came to him with a proposal for him to furnish on contract a large quantity of coal for the railroad. Arthur jumped at the chance.

The contract was drawn up by a lawyer in the nearest town and signed. Arthur, trusting blindly to the honesty and good-will of everybody, had hurried for his train without seeing more than that the stipulated rates had been properly mentioned in the contract. His wife was ill; in fact, their daughter was only a few days old, and he was anxious and eager to be home. There had been no strikes at that period in that vicinity, and indeed comparatively few in the whole country. Arthur would almost as soon have thought of guarding in his contract against an earthquake; but the strike clause was left out, and there was a strike. In consequence he was unable to fill the contract without ruin, and he was therefore ruined.

In the end the old friend of his father, who had purchased his patrimony, remained in undisputed possession of it, with an additional value of several thousands from the passage of the railroad through one end of the plantation, and had, besides, the mine. Arthur had sold the mine at a nominal price to pay his debts, to a third party who represented this man. He had been left actually penniless with a wife and two babies to support, but as his pocket became empty his very soul had seemed to become full to overflowing with the rage and bitterness of his worldly experience.

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