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- Oh, Money! Money! - 2/52 -
"You know them?"
"Never saw 'em."
"Why not pick out a bunch of colleges and endow them?"
The millionaire shook his head.
"Doesn't appeal to me, somehow. Oh, of course it ought to, but--it just doesn't. That's all. Maybe if I was a college man myself; but-- well, I had to dig for what education I got."
"Very well--charities, then. There are numberless organizations that-- "He stopped abruptly at the other's uplifted hand.
"Organizations! Good Heavens, I should think there were! I tried 'em once. I got that philanthropic bee in my bonnet, and I gave thousands, tens of thousands to 'em. Then I got to wondering where the money went."
Unexpectedly the lawyer chuckled.
"You never did like to invest without investigating, Fulton," he observed.
With only a shrug for an answer the other plunged on.
"Now, understand. I'm not saying that organized charity isn't all right, and doesn't do good, of course. Neither am I prepared to propose anything to take its place. And maybe the two or three I dealt with were particularly addicted to the sort of thing I objected to. But, honestly, Ned, if you'd lost heart and friends and money, and were just ready to chuck the whole shooting-match, how would you like to become a 'Case,' say, number twenty-three thousand seven hundred and forty-one, ticketed and docketed, and duly apportioned off to a six-by-nine rule of 'do this' and 'do that,' while a dozen spectacled eyes watched you being cleaned up and regulated and wound up with a key made of just so much and no more pats and preachments carefully weighed and labeled? How WOULD you like it?"
The lawyer laughed.
"I know; but, my dear fellow, what would you have? Surely, UNorganized charity and promiscuous giving is worse--"
"Oh, yes, I've tried that way, too," shrugged the other. "There was a time when every Tom, Dick, and Harry, with a run-down shoe and a ragged coat, could count on me for a ten-spot by just holding out his hand, no questions asked. Then a serious-eyed little woman sternly told me one day that the indiscriminate charity of a millionaire was not only a curse to any community, but a corruption to the whole state. I believe she kindly included the nation, as well, bless her! And I thought I was doing good!" "What a blow--to you!" There was a whimsical smile in the lawyer's eyes.
"It was." The millionaire was not smiling. "But she was right. It set me to thinking, and I began to follow up those ten-spots--the ones that I could trace. Jove! what a mess I'd made of it! Oh, some of them were all right, of course, and I made THOSE fifties on the spot. But the others--! I tell you, Ned, money that isn't earned is the most risky thing in the world. If I'd left half those wretches alone, they'd have braced up and helped themselves and made men of themselves, maybe. As it was--Well, you never can tell as to the results of a so-called 'good' action. From my experience I should say they are every whit as dangerous as the bad ones."
The lawyer laughed outright.
"But, my dear fellow, that's just where the organized charity comes in. Don't you see?"
"Oh, yes, I know--Case number twenty-three thousand seven hundred and forty-one! And that's all right, of course. Relief of some sort is absolutely necessary. But I'd like to see a little warm sympathy injected into it, some way. Give the machine a heart, say, as well as hands and a head."
"Then why don't you try it yourself?"
"Not I!" His gesture of dissent was emphatic. "I have tried it, in a way, and failed. That's why I'd like some one else to tackle the job. And that brings me right back to my original question. I'm wondering what my money will do, when I'm done with it. I'd like to have one of my own kin have it--if I was sure of him. Money is a queer proposition, Ned, and it's capable of--'most anything."
"It is. You're right."
"What I can do with it, and what some one else can do with it, are two quite different matters. I don't consider my efforts to circulate it wisely, or even harmlessly, exactly what you'd call a howling success. Whatever I've done, I've always been criticized for not doing something else. If I gave a costly entertainment, I was accused of showy ostentation. If I didn't give it, I was accused of not putting money into honest circulation. If I donated to a church, it was called conscience money; and if I didn't donate to it, they said I was mean and miserly. So much for what I've done. I was just wondering--what the other fellow'd do with it."
"Why worry? 'T won't be your fault."
"But it will--if I give it to him. Great Scott, Ned! what money does for folks, sometimes--folks that aren't used to it! Look at Bixby; and look at that poor little Marston girl, throwing herself away on that worthless scamp of a Gowing who's only after her money, as everybody (but herself) knows! And if it doesn't make knaves and martyrs of them, ten to one it does make fools of 'em. They're worse than a kid with a dollar on circus day; and they use just about as much sense spending their pile, too. You should have heard dad tell about his pals in the eighties that struck it rich in the gold mines. One bought up every grocery store in town and instituted a huge free grab-bag for the populace; and another dropped his hundred thousand in the dice box before it was a week old. I wonder what those cousins of mine back East are like!"
"If you're fearful, better take Case number twenty-three thousand seven hundred and forty-one," smiled the lawyer.
"Hm-m; I suppose so," ejaculated the other grimly, getting to his feet. "Well, I must be off. It's biscuit time, I see."
A moment later the door of the lawyer's sumptuously appointed office closed behind him. Not twenty-four hours afterward, however, it opened to admit him again. He was alert, eager-eyed, and smiling. He looked ten years younger. Even the office boy who ushered him in cocked a curious eye at him.
The man at the great flat-topped desk gave a surprised ejaculation.
"Hullo, Fulton! Those biscuits must be agreeing with you," he laughed. "Mind telling me their name?"
"Ned, I've got a scheme. I think I can carry it out." Mr. Stanley G. Fulton strode across the room and dropped himself into the waiting chair. "Remember those cousins back East? Well, I'm going to find out which of 'em I want for my heir."
"Another case of investigating before investing, eh?"
"Well, that's like you. What is it, a little detective work? Going to get acquainted with them, I suppose, and see how they treat you. Then you can size them up as to hearts and habits, and drop the golden plum into the lap of the worthy man, eh?"
"Yes, and no. But not the way you say. I'm going to give 'em say fifty or a hundred thousand apiece, and--"
"GIVE it to them--NOW?"
"Sure! How'm I going to know how they'll spend money till they have it to spend?"
"I know; but--"
"Oh, I've planned all that. Don't worry. Of course you'll have to fix it up for me. I shall leave instructions with you, and when the time comes all you have to do is to carry them out."
The lawyer came erect in his chair.
"LEAVE instructions! But you, yourself--?"
"Oh, I'm going to be there, in Hillerton."
"Yes, where the cousins live, you know. Of course I want to see how it works."
"Humph! I suppose you think you'll find out--with you watching their every move!" The lawyer had settled back in his chair, an ironical smile on his lips.
"Oh, they won't know me, of course, except as John Smith."
"John Smith!" The lawyer was sitting erect again.
"Yes. I'm going to take that name--for a time."
"Nonsense, Fulton! Have you lost your senses?"
"No." The millionaire still smiled imperturbably. "Really, my dear Ned, I'm disappointed in you. You don't seem to realize the possibilities of this thing."
"Oh, yes, I do--perhaps better than you, old man," retorted the other with an expressive glance.
"Oh, come, Ned, listen! I've got three cousins in Hillerton. I never saw them, and they never saw me. I'm going to give them a tidy little sum of money apiece, and then have the fun of watching them spend it. Any harm in that, especially as it's no one's business what I do with my money?"
"N--no, I suppose not--if you can carry such a wild scheme through."
"I can, I think. I'm going to be John Smith."
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