Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Dollar On The Conscience
by [?]

“FIFTY-FIVE cents a yard, I believe you said?” The customer was opening her purse.

Now fifty cents a yard was the price of the goods, and so Mr. Levering had informed the lady. She misunderstood him, however.

In the community, Mr. Levering had the reputation of being a conscientious, high-minded man. He knew that he was thus estimated, and self-complacently appropriated the good opinion as clearly his due.

It came instantly to the lip of Mr. Levering to say, “Yes, fifty-five.” The love of gain was strong in his mind, and ever ready to accede to new plans for adding dollar to dollar. But, ere the words were uttered, a disturbing perception of something wrong restrained him.

“I wish twenty yards,” said the customer taking it for granted that fifty-five cents was the price of the goods.

Mr. Levering was still silent; though he commenced promptly to measure off the goods.

“Not dear at that price,” remarked the lady.

“I think not,” said the storekeeper. “I bought the case of goods from which this piece was taken very low.”

“Twenty yards at fifty-five cents! Just eleven dollars.” The customer opened her purse as she thus spoke, and counted out the sum in glittering gold dollars. “That is right, I believe,” and she pushed the money towards Mr. Levering, who, with a kind of automatic movement of his hand, drew forward the coin and swept it into his till.

“Send the bundle to No. 300 Argyle Street,” said the lady, with a bland smile, as she turned from the counter, and the half-bewildered store-keeper.

“Stay, madam! there is a slight mistake!” The words were in Mr. Levering’s thoughts, and on the point of gaining utterance, but he had not the courage to speak. He had gained a dollar in the transaction beyond his due, and already it was lying heavily on his conscience. Willingly would he have thrown it off; but when about to do so, the quick suggestion came, that, in acknowledging to the lady the fact of her having paid five cents a yard too much, he might falter in his explanation, and thus betray his attempt to do her wrong. And so he kept silence, and let her depart beyond recall.

Any thing gained at the price of virtuous self-respect is acquired at too large a cost. A single dollar on the conscience may press so heavily as to bear down a man’s spirits, and rob him of all the delights of life. It was so in the present case. Vain was it that Mr. Levering sought self-justification. Argue the matter as he would, he found it impossible to escape the smarting conviction that he had unjustly exacted a dollar from one of his customers. Many times through the day he found himself in a musing, abstracted state, and on rousing himself therefrom, became conscious, in his external thought, that it was the dollar by which he was troubled.

“I’m very foolish,” said he, mentally, as he walked homeward, after closing his store for the evening. “Very foolish to worry myself about a trifle like this. The goods were cheap enough at fifty-five, and she is quite as well contented with her bargain as if she had paid only fifty.”

But it would not do. The dollar was on his conscience, and he sought in vain to remove it by efforts of this kind.

Mr. Levering had a wife and three pleasant children. They were the sunlight of his home. When the business of the day was over, he usually returned to his own fireside with buoyant feeling. It was not so on this occasion. There was a pressure on his bosom–a sense of discomfort–a want of self-satisfaction. The kiss of his wife, and the clinging arms of his children, as they were twined around his neck, did not bring the old delight.

“What is the matter with you this evening, dear? Are you not well?” inquired Mrs. Levering, breaking in upon the thoughtful mood of her husband, as he sat in unwonted silence.