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!

Unredeemed Pledges
by [?]

TWO men were walking along a public thoroughfare in New York. One of them was a young merchant–the other a man past the prime of life, and belonging to the community of Friends. They were in conversation, and the manner of the former, earnest and emphatic, was in marked contrast with the quiet and thoughtful air of the other.

“There is so much idleness and imposture among the poor,” said the merchant, “that you never know when your alms are going to do harm or good. The beggar we just passed is able to work; and that woman sitting at the corner with a sick child in her arms, would be far better off in the almshouse. No man is more willing to give than I am, if I only knew where and when to give.”

“If we look around us carefully, Mr. Edwards,” returned the Quaker, we need be at no loss on this subject. Objects enough will present themselves. Virtuous want is, in most cases, unobtrusive, and will suffer rather than extend a hand for relief. We must seek for objects of benevolence in by-places. We must turn aside into untrodden walks.”

“But even then,” objected Mr. Edwards, “we cannot be certain that idleness and vice are not at the basis of the destitution we find. I have had my doubts whether any who exercise the abilities which God has given them, need want for the ordinary comforts of life in this country. In all cases of destitution, there is something wrong, you may depend upon it.”

“Perhaps there is,” said the Quaker. “Evil of some kind is ever the cause of destitution and wretchedness. Such bitter waters as these cannot flow from a sweet fountain. Still, many are brought to suffering through the evil ways of others; and many whose own wrong doings have reacted upon them in unhappy consequences, deeply repent of the past, and earnestly desire to live better lives in future. Both need kindness, encouragement, and, it may be, assistance; and it is the duty of those who have enough and to spare, to stretch forth their hands to aid, comfort and sustain them.”

“Yes. That is true. But, how are we to know who are the real objects of our benevolence?”

“We have but to open our eyes and see, Mr. Edwards,” said the Quaker. “The objects of benevolence are all around us.”

“Show me a worthy object, and you will find me ready to relieve it,” returned the merchant. “I am not so selfish as to be indifferent to human suffering. But I think it wrong to encourage idleness and vice; and for this reason, I never give unless I am certain that the object who presents himself is worthy.”

“True benevolence does not always require us to give alms,” said the Friend. “We may do much to aid, comfort and help on with their burdens our fellow travellers, and yet not bestow upon them what is called charity. Mere alms-giving, as thee has intimated, but too often encourages vice and idleness. But thee desires to find a worthy object of benevolence. Let us see if we cannot find one, What have we here?” And as the Quaker said this he paused before a building, from the door of which protruded a red flag, containing the words, “Auction this day.” On a large card just beneath the flag was the announcement, “Positive sale of unredeemed pledges.”

“Let us turn in here,” said the Quaker. “No doubt we shall find enough to excite our sympathies.”

Mr. Edwards thought this a strange proposal; but he felt a little curious, and followed his companion without hesitation.

The sale had already begun, and there was a small company assembled. Among them, the merchant noticed a young woman whose face was partially veiled. She was sitting a little apart from the rest, and did not appear to take any interest in the bidding. But he noticed that, after an article was knocked off, she was all attention until the next was put up, and then, the moment it was named, relapsed into a sort of listlessness or abstraction.