Page:Homes of the London Poor.djvu/11

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9
COTTAGE PROPERTY IN LONDON.

to collect the rents on a Sunday morning, in discussing the value of the property with me, said very straightforwardly, "Yes, miss; of course there are plenty of bad debts. It's not the rents I look to, but the deaths I get out of the houses." The man didn't mean for a moment that he knew that the state of the houses brought him a plentiful harvest of deaths, though I knew it, and heard the truth ringing with awful irony through his words; but he did mean that his entire thought was of his profits—that those dependent souls and bodies were to him as nothing. Consider under such a rule what deadly quarrels spring up and deepen and widen between families compelled to live very near one another, to use many things in common, whose uneducated minds brood over and over the same slight offenses, when there is no one either compulsorily to separate them, or to say some soothing word of reconciliation before the quarrel grows too serious. I have received a letter from an Irish tenant actually boasting that he "would have taken a more manly way of settling a dispute," but that his neighbor "showed the white feather and retired." I have seen that man's whole face light up and break into a smile when I suggested that a little willing kindness would be a more manly way still. And I have known him and his aunt, though boiling over with rage all the time, use steady self-control in not quarreling for a whole month, because they knew it would spoil my holiday! Finally, they shook hands and made peace, and lived in peace many months, and, indeed, are living so now.

I could have formed no idea of the docility of the people, nor of their gratitude for small things. They are easily governed by firmness, which they respect much. I have always made a point of carefully recognizing their own rights; but if a strong conviction is clearly expressed they readily adopt it, and they often accept a different idea from any they have previously desired, if it is set before them. One tenant—a silent, strong, uncringing woman, living with her seven children and her husband in one room—was cer-