‘Poor Mrs D.!’ said Mrs Town. ’This must be very unpleasant business. I can’t see what could induce a lady of her respectability to engage in it.’
‘I know of no one who could perform the task better,’ said Mrs Maurice.
‘Certainly not, but—’ Mrs Town paused, and then added, hesitatingly, ‘it seems a little too much like begging.’
‘It surely is begging,’ said Mrs Maurice, with much animation, ’begging for the poor, the weak, the desolate, the unfriended—these have claims upon those who to-morrow may be in their places—and more, Mrs Town, it is begging for our brethren, our sisters—these have claims upon us that cannot be waived—but above all, it is begging for the King of kings, Him who hesitated not to give His own Son for us, and His claims cover all others. Not only our gold and silver are His, but ourselves.’
’Oh, my dear Mrs Maurice, I would not have you to suppose that I object to giving—by no means—it is only from an ostentatious display of charity that I shrink—this is a duty that should be exercised in private, a—’ Mrs Town was interrupted in the midst of her vindication by a servant who entered and placed a note in her hand, which she folded closer and was about putting in her pocket—’Please, ma’am,’ said the servant, ‘she wishes you to read it now, and say if you can see her.’
Mrs Town glanced at the note and coloured slightly, but she had been too long accustomed to concealing her feelings for a stronger manifestation. ‘Tell her to come to-morrow,’ said she.
The servant was gone a moment and again returned, ‘Please, ma’am,’ said he, ’the woman won’t go away, she says she will see you, for her husband is sick, and her children starving, and she must have her pay.’ Mrs Town started from her seat: this was a strange comment upon her beautiful theory of individual charity. Mrs Maurice retired as soon as possible, and as she passed through the hall she saw a miserably-clad woman with a face extremely haggard and care-worn, whom she supposed to be the person claiming—not charity, but justice, of Mrs Town. Effie saw that her mother’s face was unusually clouded, and she did not venture to comment upon the past scene, but she said to her brother as soon as they were alone, ’I am glad we are not rich like Mrs Town, Harry, lest we should make a god of our money.’
Mrs Maurice did not, however, neglect at a suitable time to fix upon Effie’s mind the impression she had received from the scene at Mrs Town’s. ‘Remember, my child,’ she said, ’if you should ever live to become a woman, that justice should be preferred to generosity, and never talk of giving while some poor person may be suffering for that which is her just due.’
‘Mother,’ said Harry, ’Elisha Otis told me to-day that his father thinks people who talk so much of giving, are all hypocrites.’
’People who make a great noise about any good act which they perform appear somewhat pharisaical, but we have no right to condemn them upon that score alone, for it often proceeds from a great desire to do good. You know we are very apt to talk of that which most occupies our thoughts, Harry. But where did Elisha Otis’s father get such notions of charitable people?’