Owe No Man Anything
Thus says the Apostle Paul — and if those who are able to "owe no man anything" would fully observe this divine obligation, many, very many, whom their lack of punctuality now compels to live in violation of this precept, would then faithfully and promptly render to everyone their just dues.
"What is the matter with you, George?" said Mrs. Allison to her husband, as he paced the floor of their little sitting-room, with an anxious, troubled expression of countenance.
"Oh! nothing of much consequence: only a little worry of business," replied Mr. Allison.
"But I know better than that, George. I know it is of consequence; you are not apt to have such a long face for nothing. Come, tell me what it is that troubles you. Have I not a right to share your griefs as well as your joys?"
"Indeed, Ellen, it is nothing but business, I assure you; and as I am not blessed with the most even temper in the world, it does not take much you know to upset me: but you heard me speak of that job I was building for Hillman?"
"Yes. I think you said it was to be five hundred dollars, did you not?"
"I did; and it was to have been cash as soon as done. Well, he took it out two weeks ago; one week sooner than I promised it. I sent the bill with it, expecting, of course, he would send me a check for the amount; but I was disappointed. Having heard nothing from him since, I thought I would call on him this morning, when, to my surprise, I was told he had gone traveling with his wife and daughter, and would not be back for six weeks or two months. I can't tell you how I felt when I was told this."
"He is safe enough for it I suppose, isn't he, George?"
"Oh, yes; he is supposed to be worth about three hundred thousand. But what good is that to me? I was looking over my books this afternoon, and, including this five hundred, there is fifteen hundred dollars due me now, that I ought to have, but can't get it. To a man doing a large business it would not be much; but to one with my limited means, it is a good deal. And this is all in the hands of five individuals, any one of whom could pay immediately, and feel not the least inconvenience from it."
"Are you much pressed for money just now, George?"
"I have a note in bank of three hundred, which falls due tomorrow, and one of two hundred and fifty on Saturday. Twenty-five dollars at least will be required to pay off my workers; and besides this, our quarter's rent is due on Monday, and my shop rent next Wednesday. Then there are other little bills I needed to settle, our own wants to be supplied, etc."
"Why don't you call on those people you spoke of; perhaps they would pay you?"
"I have sent their bills in, but if I call on them so soon, as I might perhaps affront them, and cause them to take their work away; and that I don't want to do. However, I think I shall have to do it, let the consequence be what it may."
"Perhaps you could borrow what you need, George, for a few days."
"I suppose I could; but see the inconvenience and trouble it puts me to. I was so certain of getting Hillman's money to meet these two notes, that I failed to make any other provision."
"That would not have been enough of itself."
"No, but I have a hundred on hand; the two together would have paid them, and left enough for my workmen too."
As early as practicable the next morning Mr. Allison started forth to raise the amount necessary to carry him safely through the week. He thought it better to try to collect some of the amounts owing to him, than to borrow. He first called on a wealthy merchant, whose annual income was something near five thousand.
"Good morning, Mr. Allison," said he, as that individual entered his counting-room. "I suppose you want some money."
"I would like a little, Mr. Chapin, if you please."
"Well, I intended coming down to see you, but I have been so busy that I have not been able. That carriage of mine which you did up a few weeks ago does not suit me altogether."
"What is the matter with it?"
"I don't like the style of trimming, for one thing; it has a common look to me."
"It is precisely what Mrs. Chapin ordered. You told me to suit her."
"Yes, but did she not tell you to trim it like General Spangler's?"
"I am very much mistaken, Mr. Chapin, if it is not precisely like his."
"Oh! no; his has a much richer look than mine."
"The style of trimming is just the same, Mr. Chapin; but you certainly did not suppose that a carriage trimmed with worsted lace, would look as well as one trimmed with silk lace?"
"No, of course not; but there are some other little things about it that don't suit me. I will send my man down with it today, and he will show you what they are. I would like to have it tomorrow afternoon, to take my family out in. Call up on Monday, and we will have a settlement."
Mr. Allison next called at the office of a young lawyer, who had lately come into possession of an estate valued at one hundred thousand dollars. Mr. Allison's bill was three hundred dollars, which his young friend assured him he would settle immediately, only that there was a slight error in the way it was made out, and not having the bill with him, he could not now correct it.
He would call on Mr. Allison with it, sometime during the next week, and settle it.
A Custom-House gentleman was next sought, but his time had been so much taken up with his official duties, that he had not yet been able to examine the bill. He had no doubt but it was all correct; still, as he was not accustomed to doing business in a loose way, he must claim Mr. Allison's indulgence a few days longer.
Almost disheartened, Mr. Allison entered the store of the last individual who was indebted to him for any considerable amount, not daring to hope that he would be any more successful with him than with the others he had called on. But he was successful; the bill, which amounted to near one hundred and fifty dollars, was promptly paid. Mr. Allison's pocket, in consequence, that much heavier, and his heart that much lighter. Fifty dollars was yet lacking of the sum requisite for that day. After calling on two or three individuals, this amount was obtained, with the promise of being returned by the middle of the next week.
"I shall have hard work to get through today, I know," said he to himself, as he sat at his desk on the following morning.
"Two hundred and fifty dollars to be raised by borrowing. I don't know where I can get it."
To many this would be a small sum, but Mr. Allison was peculiarly situated. He was an honest, upright mechanic, but he was poor. It was with difficulty he had raised the fifty dollars on the day previous. Although he had never once failed in returning money at the time promised, still, for some reason or other, everybody appeared unwilling to lend him. It was nearly two O'clock, and he was still a hundred dollars short.
"Well," said he to himself, "I have done all I could, and if Hall won't renew the note for the balance, it will have to be protested. I'll go and ask him, though I have not much hope that he will do it."
As he was about leaving his shop for that purpose, a gentleman entered who wished to buy a second-hand carriage. Mr. Allison had but one, and that almost new, for which he asked a hundred and forty dollars.
"It is higher than I wished to go," remarked the gentleman. "I ought to get a new one for that price."
"So you can, but not like this. I can sell you a new one for a hundred and twenty-five dollars. But what did you expect to pay for one?"
"I was offered one at Holton's for seventy-five; but I did not like it. I will give you a hundred for yours."
"It is too little, indeed, sir: that carriage cost three hundred dollars when it was new. It was in use a very short time. I allowed a hundred and forty dollars for it myself."
"Well, sir, I would not wish you to sell at a disadvantage, but if you like to, accept of my offer I'll take it. I'm prepared to pay the cash down."
Mr. Allison did not reply for some minutes. He was undecided as to what was best.
"Forty dollars," said he to himself, "is a pretty heavy discount. I am almost tempted to refuse his offer and trust to Hall's renewing the note. But suppose he won't—then I'm done for. I think, upon the whole, I had better accept it. I'll put it at one hundred and twenty-five, my good friend," said he, addressing the customer.
"No, sir; one hundred is all I shall give."
"Well, I suppose you must have it, then; but indeed you have got a bargain."
"It is too bad," muttered Allison to himself, as he left the bank after having paid his note. "There is just forty dollars thrown away. And why? Simply because those who are blessed with the means of discharging their debts promptly, neglect to do so."
"How did you make out today, George?" asked his wife, as they sat at the tea-table that same evening.
"I met my note, and that was all."
"Did you give your men anything?"
"Not a cent. I had but one dollar left after paying that. I was sorry for them, but I could not help them. I am afraid Robinson's family will suffer, for there has been sickness in his house almost constantly for the last twelve months. His wife, he told me the other day, had not been out of her bed for six weeks. Poor fellow! He looked quite dejected when I told him I had nothing for him."
At this moment; the door-bell rang and a minute or two afterwards, a young girl entered the room in which Mr. and Mrs. Allison were sitting. Before introducing her to our readers, we will conduct them to the interior of an obscure dwelling, situated near the outskirts of the city. The room is small, and scantily furnished, and answers at once for parlor, dining-room, and kitchen. Its occupants, Mrs. Perry and her daughter, have been, since the earliest dawn of day, rigorously occupied with their needles, barely allowing themselves time to partake of their frugal meal.
"Half-past three o'clock!" ejaculated the daughter, her eyes glancing, as she spoke, at the clock on the mantelpiece. "I am afraid we shall not get this work done in time for me to take it home before dark, mother."
"We must try hard, Laura, for you know we have not a cent in the house, and I told Mrs. Carr to come over tonight, and I would pay her what I owe her for washing. Poor thing! I would not like to disappoint her, for I know she needs it."
Nothing more was said for near twenty minutes, when Laura again broke the silence.
"Oh, dear!" she exclaimed, "what a pain I have in my side!" And for a moment she rested from her work, and straightened herself in her chair, to afford a slight relief from the uneasiness she experienced. "I wonder, mother, if I shall always be obliged to sit so steady?"
"I hope not, my child; but as bad as our situation is, there are hundreds worse off than we. Take Annie Carr, for instance—how would you like to exchange places with her?"
"Poor Annie! I was thinking of her awhile go, mother. How hard it must be for one so young to be so afflicted as she is!"
"And yet, Laura, she never complains; although for five years she has never left her bed, and has often suffered, I know, for lack of proper nourishment."
"I don't think she will suffer much longer, mother. I stopped in to see her the other day, and I was astonished at the change which had taken place in a short time. Her conversation, too, seems so heavenly, her faith in the Lord so strong, that I could not avoid coming to the conclusion that a few days more, at the most, would terminate her wearisome life."
"It will be a happy release for her, indeed, my daughter. Still, it will be a sore trial for her mother."
It was near six when Mrs. Perry and her daughter finished the work upon which they were engaged.
"Now Laura, dear," said the mother, "get back as soon as you can, for I don't like you to be out after night, and more than that, if Mrs. Carr comes, she won't want to wait."
About twenty minutes after the young girl had gone, Mrs. Carr called. "Please be seated, my dear friend," said Mrs. Perry, "my daughter has just gone to Mrs. Allison's with some work, and as soon as she returns I can pay you."
"I think I had better call over again, Mrs. Perry," answered the poor woman; "Mary begged me not to stay long."
"Is Annie any worse, then?"
"Oh, yes, a great deal; the doctor thinks she will hardly last till morning."
"Well, Mrs. Carr, death can be only gain to her."
"Very true; still, the idea of losing her seems dreadful to me."
"How does Mary get on at Mrs. Owring's?"
"Not very well; she has been at work for her just one month today; and although she gave her to understand that her wages would be at least a dollar and a quarter a week, yet tonight, when she settled with her, she wouldn't give her but three dollars, and at the same time told her that if she didn't choose to work for that, she could leave."
"What do you suppose was the reason for her acting so?"
"I don't know, indeed, unless it is because she does not get there quite as early as the rest of her hands; for you see I am obliged to keep her a little while in the morning to help me to move Annie while I make her bed. Even that little sum, small it was, would have been some help to us, but it had all to go for rent. My landlord would take no denial. But I must go; you think I can depend on receiving your money tonight?"
"I do. Mrs. Allison is always prompt in paying for her work as soon as it is done. I will not trouble you to come again for it, Mrs. Carr. Laura shall bring it over to you."
Let us now turn to the young girl we left at Mr. Allison's, whom our readers, no doubt, recognize as Laura Perry.
"Good evening, Laura," said Mrs. Allison, as she entered the room; "not brought my work home already! I did not look for it till next week. You and your mother, I am afraid, confine yourselves too closely to your needles for your own good. But you have not had your tea? Sit, and take some."
"No, thank you, Mrs. Allison; mother will be uneasy if I stay long."
"Well, Laura, I am sorry, but I cannot settle with you tonight. Tell your mother that Mr. Allison was disappointed in collecting today, or she certainly should have had it. Did she say how much it was?"
"Two dollars, ma'am."
"Very well: I will try and let her have it next week."
The expression of Laura's countenance told too plainly the disappointment she felt. "I am afraid Mrs. Perry is in need of that money," remarked the husband after she had gone.
"Not the least doubt of it," replied his wife. "She would not have sent home work at this hour if she had not been. Poor things! who can tell the amount of suffering and wretchedness that is caused by the rich neglecting to pay promptly."
"You come without money, Laura," said her mother, as she entered the house.
"How do you know that, mother?" she replied, forcing a smile.
"I read it in your countenance. Is it not so?"
"It is: Mr. Allison was disappointed in collecting—what will we do, mother?"
"The best we can, my child. We will have to do without our beef for dinner tomorrow; but then we have plenty of bread; so we shall not starve."
"And I shall have to do without my new shoes. My old ones are too shabby to go to church in; so I shall have to stay at home."
"I am sorry for your disappointment, my child, but I care more for Mrs. Carr than I do for ourselves. She has been here, and is in a great deal of trouble. The doctor don't think Annie will live till morning, and Mrs. Owrings has refused to give Mary more than three dollars for her month's work, every cent of which old Grimes took for rent. I told her she might depend on getting what I owed her, and that I would send you over with it when you returned. You had better go at once and tell her, Laura; perhaps she may be able to get some elsewhere."
"How much is it, mother?"
"Half a dollar."
"It seems hard that she can't get that small sum."
With a heavy heart Laura entered Mrs. Carr's humble abode.
"Oh how glad I am that you have come, my dear!" exclaimed the poor woman. "Annie has been craving some ice cream all day; it's the only thing she seems to eat. I told her she should have it as soon as you came."
Mrs. Carr's eyes filled with tears as Laura told of her ill success. "I care not for myself," she said "but for that poor suffering child."
"Never mind me, mother," replied Annie. "It was selfish in me to want it, when I know how hard you and Mary are obliged to work for every cent you get. But I feel that I shall not bother you much longer; I have a strange feeling here now." And she placed her hand upon her left side.
"Stop!" cried Laura; "I'll try and get some ice cream for you Annie." And off she ran to her mother's dwelling. "Mother," said she, as she entered the house, "do you recollect that half dollar father gave me the last time he went to sea?"
"Well, I think I had better take it and pay Mrs. Carr. Annie is very bad, and her mother says she has been wanting some ice cream all day."
"It is yours, Laura, do as you like about it."
"It goes hard with me to part with it, mother, for I had determined to keep it in remembrance of my father. It is just twelve years today since he went away. But poor Annie—yes, mother, I will take it."
So saying, Laura went to unlock the box which contained her treasure, but unfortunately her key was not where she had supposed it was. After a half hour's search she succeeded in finding it. Tears coursed down her cheeks like rain as she removed from the corner of the little box, where it had lain for so many years, this precious relic of a dear father, who in all probability, was buried beneath the ocean.
Dashing them hastily away, she started again for Mrs. Carr's. The ice cream was procured on the way, and, just as the clock struck eight, she arrived at the door. One hour has elapsed since she left. But why does she linger on the threshold? Why, but because the sounds of weeping and mourning have reached her ears, and she fears that all is over with her poor friend, Her fears are indeed true, for the pure spirit of the young sufferer has taken its flight to that blessed land where hunger and thirst are known no more.
Poor Annie! your last earthly wish, a simple glass of ice-cream, was denied thee—and why? We need not pause to answer: you who have an abundance of this world's goods, think, when you are about to turn from your doors the poor seamstress or washerwoman, or even those less destitute than they, without a just recompense for their labor, whether the sufferings and privations of some poor creatures will not be increased thereby.