“Why singular, my good sir?” inquired the landlord, urbanely.
“You know, of course, that this is a time of general business depression; my own trade in particular has suffered greatly. For a month past I have not been able to find any work.”
Colman’s face lost something of its graciousness.
“And I fear I shall not be able to pay my quarter’s rent to-morrow.”
“Indeed!” said the landlord, coldly. “Perhaps you can make it up within two or three dollars.”
“I can’t pay a dollar toward it,” said the cooper. “It’s the first time, in the five years I’ve lived here, that this thing has happened to me. I’ve always been prompt before.”
“You should have economized as you found times growing harder,” said Colman, harshly. “It is hardly honest to live in a house when you know you can’t pay the rent.”
“You shan’t lose it, Mr. Colman,” said the cooper, earnestly. “No one ever yet lost anything by me, and I don’t mean anyone shall, if I can help it. Only give me a little time, and I will pay all.”
The landlord shook his head.
“You ought to have cut your coat according to your cloth,” he responded. “Much as it will go against my feelings I am compelled, by a prudent regard to my own interests, to warn you that, in case your rent is not ready to-morrow, I shall be obliged to trouble you to find another tenement; and furthermore, the rent of this will be raised five dollars a quarter.”
“I can’t pay it, Mr. Colman,” said Timothy Harding, gravely. “I may as well say that now; and it’s no use agreeing to pay more rent. I pay all I can afford now.”
“Very well, you know the alternative. Of course, if you can do better elsewhere, you will. That’s understood. But it’s a disagreeable subject. We won’t talk of it any more now. I shall be round to-morrow forenoon. How’s your excellent sister—as cheerful as ever?”
“Quite as much so as usual,” answered the cooper, dryly.
“There’s one favor I should like to ask,” he said, after a pause. “Will you allow us to remain here a few days till I can look about a little?”
“I would with the greatest pleasure in the world,” was the reply; “but there’s another family very anxious to take the house, and they wish to come in immediately. Therefore I shall be obliged to ask you to move out to-morrow. In fact, that is the very thing I came here this evening to speak about, as I thought you might not wish to pay the increased rent.”
“We are much obliged to you,” said the cooper, with a tinge of bitterness unusual to him. “If we are to be turned into the street, it is pleasant to have a few hours’ notice of it.”
“Turned out of doors, my good sir! What disagreeable expressions you employ! If you reflect for a moment, you will see that it is merely a matter of business. I have an article to dispose of. There are two bidders, yourself and another person. The latter is willing to pay a larger sum. Of course I give him the preference, as you would do under similar circumstances. Don’t you see how it is?”