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Haven’t The Change
by [?]

IT was house-cleaning time, and I had an old coloured woman at work scrubbing and cleaning paint.

“Polly is going, ma’am,” said one of my domestics, as the twilight began to fall.

“Very well. Tell her that I shall want her tomorrow.”

“I think she would like to have her money for to-day’s work,” said the girl.

I took out my purse, and found that I had nothing in it less than a three-dollar bill.

“How much does she have a day?”

“Six shillings, ma’am.”

“I haven’t the change this evening. Tell her that I’ll pay for both days to-morrow.”

The girl left the room, and I thought no more of Polly for an hour. Tea-time had come and passed, when one of my domestics, who was rather communicative in her habits, said to me:

“I don’t think old Polly liked your not paying her this evening.”

“She must be very unreasonable, then,” said I, without reflection. “I sent her word that I had no change. How did she expect I could pay her?”

“Some people are queer, you know, Mrs. Graham,” remarked the girl who had made the communication, more for the pleasure of telling it than any thing else.

I kept thinking over what the girl had said, until other suggestions came into my mind.

“I wish I had sent and got a bill changed,” said I, as the idea that Polly might be really in want of money intruded itself. “It would have been very little trouble.”

This was the beginning of a new train of reflections, which did not make me very happy. To avoid a little trouble, I had sent the poor old woman away, after a hard day’s work, without her money. That she stood in need of it was evident from the fact that she had asked for it.

“How very thoughtless in me,” said I, as I dwelt longer and longer on the subject.

“What’s the matter?” inquired my husband, seeing me look serious.

“Nothing to be very much troubled at,” I replied.

“Yet you are troubled.”

“I am; and cannot help it. You will, perhaps, smile at me, but small causes sometimes produce much pain. Old Polly has been at work all day, scrubbing and cleaning. When night came, she asked for her wages, and I, instead of taking the trouble to get the money for her, sent her word that I hadn’t the change. There was nothing less than a three-dollar bill in my purse. I didn’t reflect that a poor old woman who has to go out to daily work must need her money as soon as it is earned. I am very sorry.”

My husband did not reply for some time. My words appeared to have made considerable impression on his mind.

“Do you know where Polly lives?” he inquired at length.

“No; but I will ask the girl.” And immediately ringing the bell, I made inquiries as to where Polly lived; but no one in the house knew.

“It cannot be helped now,” said my husband, in a tone of regret. “But I would be more thoughtful in future. The poor always have need of their money. Their daily labour rarely does more than supply their daily wants. I can never forget a circumstance that occurred when I was a boy. My mother was left a widow when I was but nine years old–and she was poor. It was by the labour of her hands that she obtained shelter and food for herself and three little ones.

“Once, I remember the occurrence as if it had taken place yesterday, we were out of money and food. At breakfast-time our last morsel was eaten, and we went through the long day without a mouthful of bread. We all grew very hungry by night; but our mother encouraged us to be patient a little and a little while longer, until she finished the garment she was making, when she would take that and some other work home to a lady who would pay her for the work. Then, she said, we should have a nice supper. At last the work was finished, and I went with my mother to help carry it home, for she was weak and sickly, and even a light burden fatigued her. The lady for whom she had made the garment was in good circumstances, and had no want unmet that money could supply. When we came into her presence, she took the work, and, after glancing at it carelessly, said,