The two boys found Mr. Fairfield already seated in the most comfortable chair in the sitting room.
He looked inquiringly at Frank when he entered with Dick.
"Who is that boy, Hamlin?" inquired the agent. "Nephew of yours?"
"No, sir. It is a young man who has come to Jackson on business."
"What kind of business?'
"I sell stationery," Frank answered for himself.
"Oh, a peddler!" said the agent, contemptuously.
"Many of our most successful men began in that way," said Mr. Hamlin, fearing lest Frank's feelings might be hurt.
"I never encourage peddlers myself," said Mr. Fairfield, pompously.
"Then I suppose it will be of no use for me to call at your door," said Frank, who, in place of being mortified, was amused by the agent's arrogance.
"I should say not, unless your back is proof against a broomstick," answered Fairfield, coarsely. "I tell my servant to treat all who call in that way."
"I won't put her to the trouble of using it," said Frank, disgusted at the man's ill manners.
"That's where you are wise—yes, wise and prudent—young man."
"And now, Hamlin," said the agent, "I may as well come to business."
"To business!" repeated the farmer, rather surprised, for there was no rent due for a month.
"Yes, to business," said Fairfield. "I came to give you notice that after the next payment I shall feel obliged to raise your rent."
"Raise my rent!" exclaimed the farmer, in genuine dismay. "I am already paying a considerably higher rent than I paid to your predecessor."
"Can't help it. Old Sampson was a slow-going old fogy. He didn't do his duty by his employer. When I came in, I turned over a new leaf."
"I certainly got along better in his time."
"No doubt. He was a great deal too easy with you. Didn't do his duty, sir. Wasn't sharp enough. That's all."
"You certainly cannot be in earnest in raising my rent, Mr. Fairfield," said the farmer, uneasily.
"I certainly am."
"I can't live at all if you increase my rent, which is already larger than I can afford to pay, Mr. Fairfield."
"Then I must find a tenant who can and will," said the agent, emphatically.
"I am sure Mr. Percival can't understand the true state of the case, or the circumstances of his tenants. Will you give me his address, and I will take the liberty of writing to him and respectfully remonstrate against any increase?"
Mr. Fairfield looked uneasy.
This appeal would not at all suit him. Yet how could he object without leading to the suspicion that he was acting in this matter wholly on his own responsibility, and not by the express orders of his principal? How could he refuse to furnish Mr. Percival's address?
A middle course occurred to him.
"You may write your appeal, if you like, Hamlin," he said, "and hand it to me. I will forward it; though I don't believe it will do any good. The fact is that Mr. Percival has made up his mind to have more income from his property in Jackson."
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