The Beggar's Purse

The Beggar's Purse

by Samuel Hopkins Adams

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VAN TENNER was a man who pursued his way through life by fixed habits. He lived in Philadelphia. That was one of the habits. He ate regularly, slept regularly, rose regularly, worked regularly and went to the club regularly; all this within the limits of a very comfortable income. He never overstrained this income. That's what kept it so comfortable. It also kept E. Van Tenner comfortable. They were very comfortable together, which is fortunate, as there were only the two of them to look after each other. That is to say, E. Van Tenner was a bachelor. As to his age, face, form and apparel, the illustrator may, if he will, apprise you. Not I. They have no essential bearing upon this, my tale, which is no love story, for love and E. Van Tenner were strangers.
But though love had passed him by, war came home to him, touching him with intimate shock upon the income and then upon his habits; but this he endured, not without discomposure, indeed, but without resentment, for one of his best habits was to be honestly and thoroughly patriotic. In sundry phases war came to him; but the particular phase which, at the time of the beginning of this chronicle, interrupted him in the task of figuring up personal accounts, wore white whiskers and an ingratiating expression and was a professional beggar, not for pay but for patriotism.
The professional and patriotic beggar fixed E. Van Tenner with a bright and amiable eye and said—that is, he would have said if E. Van Tenner hadn't first said:
"No." And then repeated it with level and considered firmness: "No. No. No."
"But——" began the professional beggar.
"I subscribed liberally to the first Liberty Loan."
"I know. But——"
"More liberally to the second Liberty Loan."
"Exactly. Nevertheless——"
"As for War Saving Stamps—I see them in your glittering eyes—I know all the arguments——"
"Except one," interrupted the beggar. "Quite useless," said E. Van Tenner firmly. "However, proceed!"
"My argument," said the beggar, "is based upon the word 'savings'. War Savings Stamps. I propose that you shall start modestly with one of these stamps, purchased out of what you save on current expenses without giving up anything that you need or want or aren't better off without."
"That," commented E. Van Tenner, smiling, "suggests magic."
"Magic, pure, deep and white," confirmed the beggar promptly. "What are your plans for to-day?"
"A trip on business to New York."
"Good! How long?"
"Twenty-four hours," said the precise E. Van Tenner.
"Do you carry a pocketbook—or your money loose?"
"Take this purse. It calls for but one condition: That you keep all your money—bills and change—in it and spend only from it. If this is faithfully done, within twenty-four hours you will have saved enough to buy one—no, two stamps; which at the present price will come to eight dollars and twenty-eight cents."
To Van Tenner's skeptical eye the purse placed in his hand seemed an ordinary-enough affair—a cheap, flattish wallet, without distinguishing mark until he opened it and found, set into the flap, a celluloid tablet flanked by a small pencil. Across the top of the tablet ran the legend "What's the good?"
"A colloquial expression of the philosophy of indifference," observed E. Van Tenner with a smile.
"On the contrary," retorted the beggar, "it is a serious and profound inquiry into first causes. The magic inheres in it. Under-stand, now: You are not to scrimp and scrooge at all. Parsimony by people who can afford to spend does harm, not good. And this magic, being white magic, works only for good. But if you undertake to remove money from that purse for any purely wasteful purpose the magic will be loosed; and you shall see what you shall see—or, more accurately, feel what you shall feel."
"The purse will stir in my pocket, I suppose," laughed E. Van Tenner.
"Much deeper," replied the beggar gravely. "In your conscience."
"I accept your challenge," said the other. He emptied his pockets and deposited all his money under the guardianship of the inquiry "What's the good?"
"To start from the moment when I leave my office for the train."
"I shall expect to hear from you on your return," replied the beggar, and vanished by the magical process of stepping into a bewitched compartment which, at the touch of a brass-buttoned wizard's hand upon a lever, dropped harmlessly down a frightful chasm and disgorged him unharmed upon the street.
On the punctual fifteen minutes before train time E. Van Tenner picked up his small, light traveling bag and walked the two blocks to the station. There he was met by an obsequious porter to whom he mechanically surrendered the insignificant burden. Instinctively he felt in his change pocket to see whether he had any silver. None.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940148846017
Publisher: Lost Leaf Publications
Publication date: 01/02/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 156 KB

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