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moment's ease. But if you think I am dying,
Ramin, you are quite mistaken."

"No doubt, my dear friend, no doubt; but
in the meanwhile, suppose we talk of this
annuity. Shall we say one thousand francs a

"What?" asked Bonelle, looking at him
very fixedly.

"My dear friend, I mistook; I meant two
thousand francs per annum," hurriedly
rejoined Rarnin.

Monsieur Bonelle closed his eyes, and
appeared to fall into a gentle slumber. The
mercer coughed; the sick man never moved.

"Monsieur Bonelle."

No reply.

"My excellent friend."

Utter silence.

"Are you asleep?"

A long pause.

"Well, then, what do you say to three

Monsieur Bonelle opened his eyes.

"Ramin," said he, sententiously, "you are
a fool; the house brings me in four thousand
as it is."

This was quite false, and the mercer knew
it; but he had his own reasons for wishing
to seem to believe it true.

"Good Heavens!" said he, with an air of
great innocence, "who could have thought it,
and the lodgers constantly running away.
Four thousand? Well, then, you shall have
four thousand."

Monsieur Bonelle shut his eyes once more,
and murmured "The mere rentalnonsense!"
He then folded his hands on his breast, and
appeared to compose himself to sleep.

"Oh, what a sharp man of business he is!"
Ramn said, admiringly: but for once
omnipotent flattery failed in its effect: "So acute!"
continued he, with a stealthy glance at the
old man, who remained perfectly unmoved.
"I see you will insist upon making it the other
five hundred francs."

Monsieur Ramin said this as if five thousand
five hundred francs had already been
mentioned, and was the very summit of Monsieur
Bonelle's ambition. But the ruse failed in
its effect; the sick man. never so much as

"But, my dear friend," urged Monsieur
Ramin in a tone of feeling remonstrance,
"there is such a thing as being too sharp, too
acute. How can you expect that I shall give
you more when your constitution is so good,
and you are to be such a long liver?"

"Yes, but I may be carried off one of those
days," quietly observed the old man, evidently
wishing to turn the chance of his own death
to account.

"Indeed, and I hope so," muttered the
mercer, who was getting very ill-tempered.

"You see," soothingly continued Bonelle,
"you are so good a man of business, Ramin,
that you will double the actual value of the
house in no time. I am a quiet, easy person,
indifferent to money; otherwise this house
would now bring me in eight thousand at the
very least."

"Eight thousand!" indignantly exclaimed
the mercer. "Monsieur Bonelle, you have
no conscience. Come now, my clear friend, do
be reasonable. Six thousand francs a year (I
don't mind saying six) is really a very handsome
income for a man of your quiet habits.
Come, be reasonable." But Monsieur Bonelle
turned a deaf ear to reason, and closed his
eyes once more. What between opening
and shutting them for the next quarter of an
hour, he at length induced Monsieur Ramin
to offer him seven thousand francs.

"Very well, Ramin, agreed," he quietly
said; "you have made an unconscionable
bargain." To this succeeded a violent fit of

As Ramin unlocked the door to leave, he
found old Marguerite, who had been listening
all the time, ready to assail him with a torrent
of whispered abuse for duping her "poor
dear innocent old master into such a bargain."
The mercer bore it all very patiently; he
could make allowances for her excited feelings,
and only rubbed his hands and bade her a
jovial good evening.

The agreement was signed on the following
day, to the indignation of old Marguerite, and
the mutual satisfaction of the parties

Every one admired the luck and shrewdness
of Ramin, for the old man every day
was reported worse; and it was clear to all
that the first quarter of the annuity would
never be paid. Marguerite, in her wrath,
told the story as a grievance to every one:
people listened, shook their heads, and
pronounced Monsieur Ramin to be a deuced
clever fellow.

A month elapsed. As Ramin was coming
down one morning from the attics, where he
had been giving notice to a poor widow who
had failed in paying her rent, he heard a light
step on the stairs. Presently a sprightly
gentleman, in buoyant health and spirits, wearing
the form of Monsieur Bonelle, appeared.
Ramin stood aghast.

"Well, Ramin," gaily said the old man,
"how are you getting on? Have you been
tormenting the poor widow up-stairs? Why,
man, we must live and let live!"

"Monsieur Bonelle," said the mercer, in a
hollow tone; "may I ask where are your

"Gone, my dear friend,—gone."

"And the gout that was creeping higher
and higher every day," exclaimed Monsieur
Ramin, in a voice of anguish.

"It went lower and lower, till it
disppeared altogether," composedly replied

"And your asthma——"

"The asthma remains, but asthmatic people
are proverbially long-lived. It is, I have been
told, the only complaint that Methuselah was