A Chapter On Misers
We all love, worship and adore that everlasting deity--money. The poor
feel its want, the rich know its power. Virtue falls before its
corrupting and seductive influence. Honor is tainted by it. Pride, pomp
and power, are but the creatures of money, and which corrupt hearts and
enslaved souls wield to the great annoyance--yea, curse of mankind in
It is well, that, though we are all fond of money,
not over one in a
thousand, prove miserable misers, and go on to amass dollar upon dollar,
until the shining heaps of garnered gold and silver become a god, and a
faith, that the rich wretch worships with the tenacious devotion of the
most frenzied fanatic. In the accumulation of a competency, against the
odds and chances of advanced life, a man may be pardoned for a degree of
economical prudence; but for parsimonious meanness, there is certainly
no excuse. I have heard my father speak of an old miserly fellow, who
owned a great many blocks of buildings in Philadelphia, as well as many
excellent farms around there, and who, though rich as a Jew (worth
$200,000), was so despicably and scandalously mean, as to go through the
markets and beg bones of the butchers, to make himself and family soup
for their dinners! He resorted to a score of similar humiliating
"dodges," whereby to prolong his miserable existence, and add dime and
dollar to his already bursting coffers.
At length, Death knocked at his door. The debt was one the poor wretch
would fain have gotten a little more time on, but the Court of Death
brooks no delay--there is no cunning devise of learned counsel, no writs
of error, by which even a miserable miser, or voluptuous millionaire,
can gain a moment's delay when death issues his summons. The miser was
called for, and he knew his time had come. He sent for the undertaker,
he bargained for his burial--
"They say I'm rich! it's a lie, sir--I'm poor, miserably poor. I want
but three carriages. My children may want a dozen--I say but three;
put that down. A very plain coffin; pine, stained will do, and no
ornaments, hark ye. A cheap grave. I would be buried on one of my farms,
but then the coach-drivers would charge so much to carry me out! Now,
what will you ask for the job?"
"About thirty dollars, sir," said the almost horrified undertaker.
"Thirty dollars! why, do you want to rob me? Say fifteen dollars--give
me a receipt--and I'll pay you the cash down!"
Poor wretch! by the time he had uttered this, his soul had flown to its
resting-place in another world.
In the upper part of Boston, on what is called "the Neck," there lived,
some years ago, a wealthy old man, who resorted to sundry curious
methods to live without cost to himself. His house--one of the
handsomest mansions in the "South End," in its day--stood near the road
over which the gardeners, in times past, used to go to market, with
their loads of vegetables, two days of each week. Old Gripes would be up
before day, and on the lookout for these wagons.
"Halloo! what have you got there?" says the miser to the countryman.
"Well, daddy, a little of all sorts; potatoes, cabbages, turnips,
parsnips, and so on. Won't you look at 'em?"
At this, the old miser would begin to fumble over the vegetables, pocket
a potato, an onion, turnip, or--
"Ah, yes, they are good enough, but we poor creatures can't afford to
pay such prices as you ask; no, no--we must wait until they come down."
The old miser would sneak into the house with his stolen vegetables, and
the farmer would drive on. Then back would come the miser, and lay in
ambush for another load, and thus, in course of a few hours, he would
raise enough vegetables to give his household a dinner. Another "dodge"
of this artful old dodger, was to take all the coppers he got (and, of
course, a poor creature like him handled a great many), and then go
abroad among the stores and trade off six for a fourpence, and when he
had four fourpences, get a quarter of a dollar for them, and thus in
getting a dollar, he made four per cent., by several hours' disgusting
meanness and labor.
But one day the old miser ran foul of a snag. A market-man had watched
him for some time purloining his vegetables, and on the first of the
year, sent in a bill of several dollars, for turnips, potatoes,
parsnips, &c. The old miser, of course, refused to pay the bill, denying
ever having had "the goods." But the countryman called, in propria
persona, refreshed his memory, and added, that, if the bill was not
footed on sight, he should prosecute him for stealing! This made the
old miser shake in his boots. He blustered for awhile; then reasoned the
case; then plead poverty. But the purveyor in vegetables was not the man
to be cabbaged in that way, and the old miser called him into his
sitting-room, and ordered his son, a wild young scamp, to go up stairs
and see if he could find five dollars in any of the drawers or boxes up
there. The young man finally called out--
"Dad, which bag shall I take it out of, the gold or silver?"
"Odd zounds!" bawled the old man--"the boy wants to let on I've got bags
of gold and silver!"
And so he had, many thousands of dollars in good gold and silver; he
hobbled up stairs, got nine half dollars, and tried to get off fifty
cents less than the countryman's bill; but the countryman was stubborn
as a mule, and would not abate a farthing--so the old miser had to
hobble up stairs and fetch down his fifty cents more, and the whole
operation was like squeezing bear's grease from a pig's tail, or jerking
The miser never waylaid the market-men again; and not long after this,
he got a spurious dollar put upon him in one of his "exchanging"
operations, and that wound up his penny shaving.
Time passed--Death called upon the wretched man of ingots and money
bags,--but while power remained to forbid it, the old miser refused to
have a physician. When, to all appearance, his senses were gone, his
friends drew the miser's pantaloons from under his pillow, where he had
always insisted on their remaining during his sleeping hours, and his
last illness--but as one of the attendants slowly removed the garment,
the poor old man, with a convulsive effort--a galvanic-like grab--threw
out his bony, cold hand, and seized his old pantaloons!
The miser clutched them with a dying grasp; words struggled in his
throat; he could not utter them; his jaw fell--he was dead!
Much curiosity was manifested by the friends and relatives to know what
could have caused the poor old man to cling to his time-worn pantaloons;
but the mystery was soon revealed--for upon examination of the linings
of the waistbands and watch-fob, over $30,000 in bank notes were there
The Lord's pardon and human sympathy be with all such misguided and
wretched slaves of--money, say we.