Thursday, February 9, 2012

Courage and True Chivalry

The following is a story reprinted in the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals monthly publication, Our Dumb Animals, 1887 under the title "Courage and True Chivalry." Except that I found it searching for court cases relating to the intrinsic value of pets, it has nothing to do with dogs, but I thought it was sweet.


Miss Comfort Walker went boldly ahead, opened a first-class boarding-house and made money. 
"Men go on credit," said she, "and why shouldn't women? At the year's end, if I can't any more than pay expenses, I'll try something else." 
But at the years end there was a snug little balance in Miss Comfort's favor, so she took heart, and continued. 
"Oh, its you, is it?" said Miss Comfort, as she perceived Ellen O'Brien, the washerwoman, in the basement hall. 
"Yes, it's me, worse luck, Miss Comfort," whimpered poor Ellen. 
"And what's the matter?" 
"It's me bill up stairs, Miss Comfort - the boarder in the second story front, with the gay goold shirt studs an' the green and yellow stones in his sleeve buttons. Nine dollars and sivinty cents, Miss Comfort - six weeks' washing and ironing - and now, when I makes bould to ax him would he be pleased to pay me, he tells me it isn't convanient. And when I tell him how sore I need the money, he up and gets mad and says I shan't have it at all." 
Miss Comfort stood listening, with knitted brow and troubled eyes. 
"Have you your bill with you, Ellen?" said she after a moment's hesitation. 
"Jimmy wrote it out, all nate and proper," faltered Ellen, producing a crumpled slip of blue paper from her pocket. 
"Give it to me," said Miss Comfort, "and you come here this evening at eight o'clock, and you shall have your money." 
Ellen shook her head disconsolately. 
"And thank you all the same, Miss Comfort, dear," said she, "but you can't get it no more'n we can get blood from a stone." 
"We'll see about that," said Miss Comfort. 
She went slowly up stairs, with the little piece of paper in hand.  
"It's a shame," said Miss Comfort. 
Leotard Carlyon was Miss Comfort Walker's best boarded, with the single exception that, up to the present moment, his twenty-five dollars a week had been in the future. Now, it so chanced that one reason for her reposing so much confidence in Mr. Leotard Carlyon, the new boarder, was that he was the nephew and heir apparent of Caleb Carlyon, the rich banker, from whom she rented her brown stone house, at the trifling consideration of $3,000 per annum. 
"He can't be a thorough-going imposter," said she to herself, "with such a relation as that."
So she went bravely up to Mr. Carlyon's room and tapped at the door.  
"Come in," he called out. "Oh, it's you, Miss Walker, is it?" 
Miss Comfort advanced valiantly with the bill in her hand to where Leotard Carlyon reclined languidly amid a heap of sofa pillows, with a newspaper in his hand. 
"Don't you think you could settle this little account, Mr. Carlyon?" she said. "The poor woman needs it very much." 
"She has been to you with her story, has she?" snarled he. "No, I can't settle it! And I wouldn't if I could. It's worth more than the money to me to be so badgered and beset. Have the goodness, Miss Walker, for the future to remember that I am able to attend to these little affairs for myself, without any interference." 
"That means that I am to attend to my own business," thought our little housekeeper, as she retreated, coloring and rather indignant. "Well I will." 
So Miss Comfort tied on a little brown velvet hat she had trimmed with scarlet poppies and brown autumn leaves, and set out bravely for the Mount Orient Bank. 
The clerks stared at her a little curiously as she was shown into the president's room at the back, where Mr. Carlyon sat, straight and upright, with blue eyes like a falcon's and hair slightly sprinkled with gray. 
He elevated his brows at sight of Miss Comfort Walker. 
"I believe your rent is not due for a month yet, Miss Walker," he said, with the cold courtesy, which always made her feel as if he were encased in an armor of ice. 
"No," said the little lady, courageously; "but it's about your nephew, Mr. Leotard Carlyon," and she told the story of Ellen O'Brien and her wrongs.  
"He ought to pay the money," said Miss Comfort, excitedly. "He must be made to pay the money." 
"Ma I ask, Miss Walker, why you interest yourself in this affair?" the banker asked, with a cold, measured calm that contrasted strangely with the little woman's heat and flurry. 
"Another way of telling me to mind my own business," said Miss Comfort to herself. But she kept up a bold front and answered: "Because I think no man has a right to cheat a poor woman out of her hard-earned money."
"Cheat is a strong word, Miss Walker," observed her landlord. 
"It's the only correct word in the case, Mr. Carlyon."
"Perhaps he is owing something to yourself?" questioned the banker keenly. 
"Yes, sir;" Miss Comfort answered, "But it isn't that I came about. I am able to lose a little if it should be necessary; but this poor woman is friendless and alone." 
Mr. Carlyon glanced at his watch. Miss Comfort turned toward the door. 
"I'm sorry that my time is no longer at my own disposal," said he courteously. 
And Miss Comfort went away almost crying. 
But that evening, just as Miss Comfort was beginning her account book, a ring at the door, and Mr. Carlyon, the banker, was shown in. Miss Comfort rose, confused and fluttering. 
"Miss Walker, pray don't let me disturb you," said the banker. "I have only dropped in for a little call. You showed yourself to me to-day to be a true-hearted, noble-natured woman! You need no longer distress yourself. The bill is paid. And now, if you are at leisure, I'll just take my evening cup of tea with you. 
How pleased Miss Comfort was, as she poured the fragrant Young Hyson into her great-grandmother's china cup, decorated with butterflies and oblong scrolls of gilt and violet. And how she kept wondering all the while how Mr. Carlyon, the great banker, could take such an interest in her little affairs.
But if she had only known it, Mr. Carlyon seldom came across a true, real heart in his complicated business transactions.

"It's not true," said Mr. Leotard. "My uncle would never make such a fool of himself at his age. Why, he's fifty if he's a day." 
"Only forty-four," said Mrs. Creswick. "But, of course, it must be a great mortification to you, Mr. Leotard, who have always been looked upon as his heir, to think he is going to marry that little woman who keeps the boarding-house. But it is true! I saw the wedding-ring myself." 
Leotard Carlyon gnawed silently at his moustache. If he had paid that washerwoman's bill, Miss Comfort Walker would not have gone to his uncle; and he would have been the rich banker's heir.
He wished he had paid the washerwoman. - Hartford Times. 
The above story reminds us of an incident in the life of General Andrew Jackson. When President of the United States, a poor woman at Washington, who had a large board bill against a department clerk which she could not collect, sought in her despair an interview with the President and told him of her trouble. The President told her to go to the clerk and get his promissory note, then come back. When she returned, the President took the note and wrote across the back Andrew Jackson
In due time the note was placed in a bank for collection and the clerk notified. He paid no attention, but when informed who had endorsed it, quickly got the money and paid the note. Next day he was notified that his services in the department were no longer wanted. 
We do not know how others may feel about it, but we read this little incident with as much pleasure as anything in the life of Andrew Jackson.

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