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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 236 pages of information about Friends and Neighbors.

MY WASHERWOMAN.

SOME people have a singular reluctance to part with money.  If waited on for a bill, they say, almost involuntarily, “Call to-morrow,” even though their pockets are far from being empty.

I once fell into this bad habit myself; but a little incident, which I will relate, cured me.  Not many years after I had attained my majority, a poor widow, named Blake, did my washing and ironing.  She was the mother of two or three little children, whose sole dependence for food and raiment was on the labour of her hands.

Punctually, every Thursday morning, Mrs. Blake appeared with my clothes, “white as the driven snow;” but not always, as punctually, did I pay the pittance she had earned by hard labour.

“Mrs. Blake is down stairs,” said a servant, tapping at my room-door one morning, while I was in the act of dressing myself.

“Oh, very well,” I replied.  “Tell her to leave my clothes.  I will get them when I come down.”

The thought of paying the seventy-five cents, her due, crossed my mind.  But I said to myself,—­“It’s but a small matter, and will do as well when she comes again.”

There was in this a certain reluctance to part with money.  My funds were low, and I might need what change I had during the day.  And so it proved.  As I went to the office in which I was engaged, some small article of ornament caught my eye in a shop window.

“Beautiful!” said I, as I stood looking at it.  Admiration quickly changed into the desire for possession; and so I stepped in to ask the price.  It was just two dollars.

“Cheap enough,” thought I. And this very cheapness was a further temptation.

So I turned out the contents of my pockets, counted them over, and found the amount to be two dollars and a quarter.

“I guess I’ll take it,” said I, laying the money on the shopkeeper’s counter.

“I’d better have paid Mrs. Blake.”  This thought crossed my mind, an hour afterwards, by which time the little ornament had lost its power of pleasing.  “So much would at least have been saved.”

I was leaving the table, after tea, on the evening that followed, when the waiter said to me,

“Mrs. Blake is at the door, and wishes to see you.”

I felt a little worried at hearing this; for I had no change in my pockets, and the poor washerwoman had, of course, come for her money.

“She’s in a great hurry,” I muttered to myself, as I descended to the door.

“You’ll have to wait until you bring home my clothes next week, Mrs. Blake.  I haven’t any change, this evening.”

The expression of the poor woman’s face, as she turned slowly away, without speaking, rather softened my feelings.

“I’m sorry,” said I, “but it can’t be helped now.  I wish you had said, this morning, that you wanted money.  I could have paid you then.”

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