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Smith and Jones; or, the Town Lot
by [?]

ONCE upon a time, it happened that the men who governed in the municipal affairs of a certain growing town in the West, resolved, in grave deliberation assembled, to purchase a five-acre lot at the north end of the city–recently incorporated–and have it improved for a park or public square. Now, it also happened, that all the saleable ground lying north of the city was owned by a man named Smith–a shrewd, wide-awake individual, whose motto was,

“Every man for himself,” with an occasional addition about a certain gentleman in black taking “the hindmost.”

Smith, it may be mentioned, was secretly at the bottom of this scheme for a public square, and had himself suggested the matter to an influential member of the council; not that he was moved by what is denominated public spirit–no; the spring of action in the case was merely “private spirit,” or a regard for his own good. If the council decided upon a public square, he was the man from whom the ground would have to be bought; and he was the man who could get his own price therefor.

As we have said, the park was decided upon, and a committee of two appointed, whose business it was to see Smith and arrange with him for the purchase of a suitable lot of ground. In due form the committee called upon the landholder, who was fully prepared for the interview.

“You are the owner of those lots at the north end?” said the spokesman of the committee.

“I am,” replied Smith, with becoming gravity.

“Will you sell a portion of ground, say five acres, to the city?”

“For what purpose?” Smith knew very well for what purpose the land was wanted.

“We have decided to set apart about five acres of ground, and improve it as a kind of park, or public promenade.”

“Have you, indeed? Well, I like that,” said Smith, with animation. “It shows the right kind of public spirit.”

“We have, moreover, decided that the best location will be at the north end of the town.”

“Decidedly my own opinion,” returned Smith.

“Will you sell us the required acres?” asked one of the councilmen.

“That will depend somewhat upon where you wish to locate the park.”

The particular location was named.

“The very spot,” replied Smith, promptly, “upon which I have decided to erect four rows of dwellings.”

“But it is too far out for that,” was naturally objected.

“Oh, no. Not a rod. The city is rapidly growing in that direction. I have only to put up the dwellings referred to, and dozens will be anxious to purchase lots, and build all around them. Won’t the ground to the left of that you speak of answer as well?”

But the committee replied in the negative. The lot they had mentioned was the one decided upon as most suited for the purpose, and they were not prepared to think of any other location.

All this Smith understood very well. He was not only willing, but anxious for the city to purchase the lot they were negotiating for. All he wanted was to get a good round price for the same–say four or five times the real value. So he feigned indifference, and threw difficulties in the way.

A few years previous to this time, Smith had purchased a considerable tract of land at the north of the then flourishing village, at fifty dollars an acre. Its present value was about three hundred dollars an acre.

After a good deal of talk on both sides, Smith finally agreed to sell the particular lot pitched upon. The next thing was to arrange as to price.

“At what do you hold this ground per acre?”

It was some time before Smith answered this question. His eyes were cast upon the floor, and earnestly did he enter into debate with himself as to the value he should place upon the lot. At first, he thought of five hundred dollars per acre. But his cupidity soon tempted him to advance on that sum, although, a month before, he would have caught at such an offer. Then he advanced to six, to seven, and to eight hundred. And still he felt undecided.