The Benevolent Lady would go into a House numbered 1135A with a Marking Brush, and after she had sized up the front room through the Lorgnette, she would say: “My Good Woman, does your Husband drink?”
“Oh, yes, sir,” the grateful Woman would reply. “That is, when he’s working. He gets a Dollar Ten.”
“And what does he do with all his Money?” the Benevolent Lady would ask.
“I think he plays the Stock Market,” would be the Reply.
Then the Benevolent Lady would say: “When the Unfortunate Man comes Home this Evening you tell him that a Kind and Beautiful Lady called and asked him please to stop Drinking, except a Glass of Claret at Dinner, and to be sure and read Eight or Ten Pages from the Encyclopaedia Britannica each Night before retiring; also tell him to be sure and save his Money. Is that your Child under the Bed?”
“That’s little William J.”
“How Many have you?”
“Eight or Nine–I forget Which.”
“Be sure and dress them in Sanitary Underwear; you can get it for Four Dollars a Suit. Will you be good enough to have the Little Boy come from under the Bed, and spell ‘Ibex’ for the Sweet Lady?”
“He’s afraid of you.”
“Kindly explain to him that I take an Interest in him, even though he is the Offspring of an Obscure and Ignorant Workingman, while I am probably the Grandest Thing that ever Swept up the Boulevard. I must go now, but I will Return. Next time I come I hope to hear that your Husband has stopped Drinking and is very Happy. Tell the Small Person under the Bed that if he learns to spell ‘Ibex’ by the time I call again I will let him look at my Rings. As for you, bear in mind that it is no Disgrace to be Poor; it is simply Inconvenient; that’s all.”
Having delivered herself of these Helpful Remarks she would Duck, and the Uplifted Mother would put a Nickel in the Can and send Lizzie over to the Dutchman’s.
In this manner the Benevolent Lady carried forward the Good Work, and Dazzled the whole Region between O’Hara’s Box Factory and the City Dump. It didn’t Cost anything, and she derived much Joy from the Knowledge that Hundreds of People were Rubbering at her, and remarking in Choked Whispers: “Say, ain’t she the Smooth Article?”
But one day a Scrappy Kid, whose Mother didn’t have any Lorgnette or Diamond Ear-Bobs, spotted the Benevolent Lady. The Benevolent Lady had been in the House telling his Mother that it was a Glorious Privilege to wash for a Living.
After the Benevolent Lady went away the Kid’s Mother sat down and had a Good Cry, and the Scrappy Kid thought it was up to him. He went out to the Alley and found a Tomato Can that was not working, and he waited.
In a little while the Benevolent Lady came out of a Basement, in which she had been telling a Polish Family to look at her and be Happy. The Scrappy Kid let drive, and the Tomato Can struck the Benevolent Lady between the Shoulder Blades. She squawked and started to run, fell over a Garbage Box, and had to be picked up by a Policeman.
She went Home in a Cab, and told her Husband that the Liquor League had tried to Assassinate her, because she was Reforming so many Drunkards. That settled it with her–she said she wouldn’t try to be Benevolent any more–so she joined an Ibsen Club.
The Scrappy Kid grew up to be a Corrupt Alderman, and gave his Mother plenty of Good Clothes, which she was always afraid to wear.
MORAL: In uplifting, get underneath.