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Where He Found His Neighbor
by [?]

“Go quickly, please, to No. — East Eleventh Street, near the river,” was the burden of a message received one day in the Charities Building; “a Hungarian family is in trouble.” The little word that covers the widest range in the language gives marching orders daily to many busy feet thereabouts, and, before the October sun had set, a visitor from the Association for the Improvement of the Condition of the Poor had climbed to the fourth floor of the tenement and found the Josefy family. This was what she discovered there: a man in the last stages of consumption, a woman within two weeks of her confinement, five hungry children, a landlord clamoring for his rent. The man had long ceased to earn the family living. His wife, taking up that burden with the rest, had worked on cloaks for a sweater until she also had to give up. In fact, the work gave out just as their need was greatest. Now, with the new baby coming, no preparation had been made to receive it. For those already there, there was no food in the house.

They had once been well off. Josefy was a tailor, and had employed nearly a score of hands in the busy season. He paid forty-four dollars a month rent then. That day the landlord had threatened to dispossess them for one month’s arrears of seven dollars, and only because of the rain had given them a day’s grace. All the money saved up in better days had gone to pay doctor and druggist, without making Josefy any better. His wife listened dismally to the recital of their troubles and asked for work–any light work that she could do.

The rent was paid, and the baby came. They were eight then, subsisting, as the society’s records show, in January on the earnings of Mrs. Josefy making ladies’ blouse sleeves at twenty-five cents a dozen pairs, in February on the receipts of embroidering initials on napkins at fifteen cents apiece, in March on her labors in a downtown house on sample cloaks. Three dollars a week was her wage there. To save car-fare she walked to her work and back, a good two miles each way, getting up at 3 A.M. to do her home washing and cleaning first. In bad weather they were poorer by ten cents a day, because then she had to ride. The neighbors were kind; the baker left them bread twice a week and the butcher gave them a little meat now and then. The father’s hemorrhages were more frequent. When, on a slippery day, one of the children, going for milk, fell in the street and spilled it, he went without his only food, as they had but eight cents in the house. In May came the end. The tailor died, and in the house of mourning there was one care less, one less to feed and clothe. The widow gathered her flock close and faced the future dry-eyed. The luxury of grief is not for those at close grips with stern poverty.

When word reached far-off Hungary, Mrs. Josefy’s sister wrote to her to come back; she would send the money. The widow’s friends rejoiced, but she shook her head. To face poverty as bitter there? This was her children’s country; it should be hers too. At the Consulate they reasoned with her; the chance was too good to let pass. When she persisted, they told her to put the children in a home, then; she could never make her way with so many. No doubt they considered her an ungrateful person when she flatly refused to do either. It is not in the record that she ever darkened the door of the Consulate again.

The charitable committee had no better success. They offered her passage money, and she refused it. “She is always looking for work,” writes the visitor in the register, for once in her life a little resentfully, it would almost seem. When finally tickets came at the end of a year, Victor, the oldest boy, must finish his schooling first. Exasperated, the committee issues its ultimatum: she must go, or put the children away. Dry bread was the family fare when Mrs. Josefy was confronted with it, but she met it as firmly: Never! she would stay and do the best she could.