‘Something worse than that I should think,’ added her brother, ’perhaps he was a gamester.’
‘Or a drunkard,’ suggested Effie.
‘Or both,’ responded the mother, or perhaps he commenced by being merely a time-waster, and money-waster, and finally was reduced to what persons of that stamp are very apt to consider the necessity of committing crime, by way of support.
Mr Maurice shook his head. ’It was neither poverty, nor play, nor drunkenness, nor indolence, nor extravagance, that made that old man wretched, and yet he was the most wretched being I ever saw.’
‘He was poor, though, wasn’t he, father?’
’Poverty is but a small thing, Effie, and in our land of equal laws and charitable institutions, very few suffer from absolute want, but that old man was richer (in gold and silver I mean) than I am.’
‘What! and lived in that dreadful place, father?’
‘Oh! I see it,’ exclaimed Harry; ‘he is a miser.’
‘Yes, Harry,’ returned Mr Maurice, ’you are right, the love of money is the cause of all his misery. He came to this city a great many years ago, (he could not himself tell how many, for his memory evidently wavered,) and commenced business as a linen draper. He had one only daughter then, and he lavished all his earnings on her at first, but finally she married, and from that time he became wholly engrossed with self. He was never very fond of show, and so did not become a spendthrift, but he adopted the equally dangerous course of hoarding up all his savings, until it became a passion with him. After a while he retired from business, but the passion clung to him with all the tenacity of a long established habit, and he became a usurer. He was known to all the young profligates, the bad young men who throng our city, and became as necessary to them as the poor avaricious Jew was in former days to the spendthrifts and gamesters in London. He told me frightful stories, my children, of tyranny and fraud, of ruined young men led on by him till they committed self-murder, of old men shorn of their fortunes through his ingenious villainy—’
‘O father!’ exclaimed little Effie, covering her eyes with her hands.
‘All this,’ said Mr Maurice, solemnly, ’was the result of the indulgence of a single bad passion.’
‘But the little boy?’ inquired Mrs Maurice.
’The husband of the daughter proved to be a miserable, worthless fellow, and for some time the old man sent them remittances of money, but after a while his new passion triumphed over paternal love, and the prayers of the poor woman were unheeded. Two or three years ago she came to the city on foot—a weary distance, the old man said, but he could not tell how far, bringing with her the little boy that first attracted my attention to-night. Her husband was dead, and her elder children had one by one followed him to the grave, till there was only this, the youngest