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- Oh, Money! Money! - 30/52 -


Mr. Smith, at his table, was conscious of a sudden lively interest. So often, in his earlier acquaintance with Mrs. Jane, while he boarded there, had he heard her say to mission-workers, church-solicitors, and doorway beggars, alike, something similar to this; "No, I can give you nothing. I have nothing to give. I'd love to, if I could--really I would. It makes me quite unhappy to hear of all this need and suffering. I'd so love to do something! And if I were rich I would; but as it is, I can only give you my sympathy and my prayers."

Mr. Smith was thinking of this now. He had wondered several times, since the money came, as to Mrs. Jane's giving. Hence his interest now in what she was about to say.

"Why, Jane, what's the matter?" Miss Maggie was querying.

"Everything's the matter," snapped Jane. "And positively a more ungrateful set of people all around I never saw. To begin with, take the church. You know I've never been able to do anything. We couldn't afford it. And now I was so happy that I COULD do something, and I told them so; and they seemed real pleased at first. I gave two dollars apiece to the Ladies' Aid, the Home Missionary Society, and the Foreign Missionary Society--and, do you know? they hardly even thanked me! They acted for all the world as if they expected more--the grasping things! And, listen! On the way home, just as I passed the Gale girls' I heard Sue say: 'What's two dollars to her? She'll never miss it.' They meant me, of course. So you see it wasn't appreciated. Now, was it?"

"Perhaps not."

"What's the good of giving, if you aren't going to get any credit, or thanks, just because you're rich, I should like to know? And they aren't the only ones. Nothing has been appreciated," went on Mrs. Jane discontentedly." Look at Cousin Mary Davis--YOU know how poor they've always been, and how hard it's been for them to get along. Her Carrie- -Mellicent's age, you know--has had to go to work in Hooper's store. Well, I sent Mellicent's old white lace party dress to Mary. 'Twas some soiled, of course, and a little torn; but I thought she could clean it and make it over beautifully for Carrie. But, what do you think?--back it came the next day with a note from Mary saying very crisply that Carrie had no place to wear white lace dresses, and they had no time to make it over if she did. No place to wear it, indeed! Didn't I invite her to my housewarming? And didn't Hattie, too? But how are you going to help a person like that?"

"But, Jane, there must be ways--some ways." Miss Maggie's forehead was wrinkled into a troubled frown. "They need help, I know. Mr. Davis has been sick a long time, you remember."

"Yes, I know he has; and that's all the more reason, to my way of thinking, why they should be grateful for anything--ANYTHING! The trouble is, she wants to be helped in ways of her own choosing. They wanted Frank to take Sam, the boy,--he's eighteen now--into the store, and they wanted me to get embroidery for Nellie to do at home--she's lame, you know, but she does do beautiful work. But I couldn't do either. Frank hates relatives in the store; he says they cause all sorts of trouble with the other help; and I certainly wasn't going to ask him to take any relatives of MINE. As for Nellie--I DID ask Hattie if she couldn't give her some napkins to do, or something, and she gave me a dozen for her--she said Nellie'd probably do them as cheap as anybody, and maybe cheaper. But she told me not to go to the Gaylords or the Pennocks, or any of that crowd, for she wouldn't have them know for the world that we had a relative right here in town that had to take in sewing. I told her they weren't her relations nor the Blaisdells'; they were mine, and they were just as good as her folks any day, and that it was no disgrace to be poor. But, dear me! You know Hattie. What could I do? Besides, she got mad then, and took back the dozen napkins she'd given me. So I didn't have anything for poor Nellie. Wasn't it a shame?"

"I think it was." Miss Maggie's lips shut in a thin straight line.

"Well, what could I do?" bridled Jane defiantly. "Besides, if I'd taken them to her, they wouldn't have appreciated it, I know. They never appreciate anything. Why, last November, when the money came, I sent them nearly all of Mellicent's and my old summer things--and if little Tottie didn't go and say afterwards that her mamma did wish Cousin Jane wouldn't send muslins in December when they hadn't room enough to store a safety pin. Oh, of course, Mary didn't say that to ME, but she must have said it somewhere, else Tottie wouldn't have got hold of it. 'Children and fools,' you know," she finished meaningly, as she rose to go.

Mr. Smith noticed that Miss Maggie seemed troubled that evening, and he knew that she started off early the next morning and was gone nearly all day, coming home only for a hurried luncheon. It being Saturday, the Martin girls were both there to care for Father Duff and the house. Not until some days later did Mr. Smith suspect that he had learned the reason for all this. Then a thin-faced young girl with tired eyes came to tea one evening and was introduced to him as Miss Carrie Davis. Later, when Miss Maggie had gone upstairs to put Father Duff to bed, Mr. Smith heard Carrie Davis telling Annabelle Martin all about how kind Miss Maggie had been to Nellie, finding her all that embroidery to do for that rich Mrs. Gaylord, and how wonderful it was that she had been able to get such a splendid job for Sam right in Hooper's store where she was.

Mr. Smith thought he understood then Miss Maggie's long absence on Saturday.

Mr. Smith was often running across little kindnesses that Miss Maggie had done. He began to think that Miss Maggie must be a very charitable person--until he ran across several cases that she had not helped. Then he did not know exactly what to think.

His first experience of this kind was when he met an unmistakably "down-and-out" on the street one day, begging clothing, food, anything, and telling a sorry tale of his unjust discharge from a local factory. Mr. Smith gave the man a dollar, and sent him to Miss Maggie. He happened to know that Father Duff had discarded an old suit that morning--and Father Duff and the beggar might have been taken for twins as to size. On the way home a little later he met the beggar returning, just as forlorn, and even more hungry-looking.

"Well, my good fellow, couldn't she fix you up?" questioned Mr. Smith in some surprise.

"Fix me up!" glowered the man disdainfully. "Not much she did! She didn't fix me up ter nothin'--but chin music!"

And Mr. Smith had thought Miss Maggie was so charitable!

A few days later he heard an eager-eyed young woman begging Miss Maggie for a contribution to the Pension Fund Fair in behalf of the underpaid shopgirls in Daly's. Daly's was a Hillerton department Store, notorious for its unfair treatment of its employees.

Miss Maggie seemed interested, and asked many questions. The eager- eyed young woman became even more eager-eyed, and told Miss Maggie all about the long hours, the nerve-wearing labor, the low wages--wages upon which it was impossible for any girl to live decently--wages whose meagerness sent many a girl to her ruin.

Miss Maggie listened attentively, and said, "Yes, yes, I see," several times. But in the end the eager-eyed young woman went away empty- handed and sad-eyed. And Mr. Smith frowned again.

He had thought Miss Maggie was so kind-hearted! She gave to some fairs--why not to this one? As soon as possible Mr. Smith hunted up the eager-eyed young woman and gave her ten dollars. He would have given her more, but he had learned from unpleasant experience that large gifts from unpretentious Mr. John Smith brought comments and curiosity not always agreeable.

It was not until many weeks later that Mr. Smith chanced to hear of the complete change of policy of Daly's department store. Hours were shortened, labor lightened, and wages raised. Incidentally he learned that it had all started from a crusade of women's clubs and church committees who had "got after old Daly" and threatened all sorts of publicity and unpleasantness if the wrongs were not righted at once. He learned also that the leader in the forefront of this movement had been--Maggie Duff.

As it chanced, it was on that same day that a strange man accosted him on the street.

"Say, she was all right, she was, old man. I been hopin' I'd see ye some day ter tell ye."

"To tell me?" echoed Mr. Smith stupidly.

The man grinned.

"Ye don't know me, do ye? Well, I do look diff'rent, I'll own. Ye give me a dollar once, an' sent me to a lady down the street thar. Now do ye remember?"

"Oh! OH! Are YOU that man?"

"Sure I am! Well, she was all right. 'Member? I thought 'twas only chin-music she was givin' me. But let me tell ye. She hunted up the wife an' kids, an' what's more, she went an' faced my boss, an' she got me my job back, too. What do ye think of that, now?"

"Why, I'm--I'm glad, of course!" Mr. Smith spoke as one in deep thought.

And all the way home Mr. Smith walked--as one in deep thought.

CHAPTER XV

IN SEARCH OF REST

June brought all the young people home again. It brought, also, a great deal of talk concerning plans for vacation. Bessie--Elizabeth-- said they must all go away.

From James Blaisdell this brought a sudden and vigorous remonstrance.

"Nonsense, you've just got home!" he exclaimed. "Hillerton'll be a vacation to you all right. Besides, I want my family together again. I haven't seen a thing of my children for six months."

Elizabeth gave a silvery laugh. (Elizabeth had learned to give very silvery laughs.) She shrugged her shoulders daintily and looked at her rings.


Oh, Money! Money! - 30/52

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