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The Fiery Trial
by [?]

“THE amount of that bill, if you please, sir.”

The man thus unceremoniously addressed, lifted his eyes from the ledger, over which he had been bending for the last six hours, with scarcely the relaxation of a moment, and exhibited a pale, care-worn countenance–and, though still young, a head over which were thickly scattered the silver tokens of age. A sad smile played over his intelligent features, a smile meant to shake the sternness of the man who was troubling his peace, as he replied in a low, calm voice–

“To-day, it will be impossible, sir.”

“And how many times have you given me the same answer. I cannot waste my time by calling day after day, for so paltry a sum.”

A flush passed over the fine countenance of the man thus rudely addressed. But he replied in the same low tone, which now slightly trembled:

“I would not ask you to call, sir, if I had the money But what I have not, I cannot give.”

“And pray when will you have the money?” The man paused for some time, evidently calculating the future, and after a long-drawn sigh, as if disappointed with the result, said:–

“It will be two or three months, before I can pay it and even then, it will depend on a contingency.”

“Two or three months?–a contingency? It must come quicker and surer than that, sir.”

“That is the best I can say.”

“But not the best I can do, I hope.–Good-morning.” After the collector had gone, the man bent his head down, until his face rested even upon the ponderous volume over which he had been poring for hours. He thought, and thought, but thought brought no relief. The most he could earn was ten dollars a week, and for his children, two sweet babes, and for the comfort of a sick wife, he had to expend the full sum of his wages. The debt for which he was now troubled, was a rent-bill of forty dollars, held against him by a man whose annual income was twenty thousand dollars. Finally, he concluded to go and see Mr. Moneylove, and try to prevail upon him to stop any proceedings that the collector might institute against him. In the evening, he sought the dwelling of his rich creditor, and after being ushered into his splendid parlour, waited with a troubled heart for his appearance. Mr. Moneylove entered.

“How do you do, sir?”

“How do you do?” replied the debtor, in a low, troubled voice. The manner of Mr. Moneylove changed, the moment he heard the peculiar tone of his voice, although he did not know him. There was an appealing language in its cadence that whispered a warning to his ear, and he closed his heart on the instant.

“Well, sir,” were his next words, “what is your will?”

“You hold a bill against me for rent.”

“Well, sir, go to my agent.”

“I have seen Mr.–.”

“That will do, sir. He knows all about my business, and will arrange to my entire satisfaction.”

“But, sir, I cannot pay it now, and he threatens harsh measures.”

“I have entire confidence in his judgment, sir, and am willing to leave all such matters to his discretion.”

“I am in trouble, sir, and in poverty beside, for the demands on me are greater than I can meet.”

“Your own fault, I suppose,” retorted the landlord, with a sneer. “That, any one might know, who took half a glance at you.”

This remark caused the blood to mount suddenly to the face of the man.

“Let me be judged by what I am, not by what I have been,” was the meek reply, after the troubled pause of a few moments. Then in a more decided tone of voice, he said:–

“Will you not interfere?”

“Will I? No! I never interfere with my agent. He gives me entire satisfaction, and while he does so, I shall not interfere.” And Mr. Moneylove smiled with self-satisfaction at the idea of his careful and thrifty agent, and his own worldly policy.