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Mrs. Spring was an English woman, a widow, and a washerwoman. Her family consisted of herself and a son, who, growing up without much restraint, was a heavy tax upon his mother's patience and her purse ; but by dint of industry and saving small sums which she had deposited in her rector's hands, she had accumulated the sum of one hundred and twelve dollars. In the spring of the year 1872 one of the wildest excitements ever known in the mining-stock market of California swept over the whole Pacific slope. Many months before, some of the largest mines in Nevada had been found on fire. The flames had spread with terrible rapidity; there was a fearful loss of human life, and all work in the mines had been suddenly terminated by the necessity of erecting new works and strengthening the protections for the miners. The fire had occurred just at the moment when the mines in which it proved most devastating were beginning to pay good dividends, and the small holders were very anxious to retain their shares; but the assessments made necessary for repairing were enormous. The price of shares steadily fell; the assessments required a fortune to keep them up, and the stock, or enough of it at least to control the mines, gradually came into the possession of a few. It was then announced that the work was completed, and large dividends were declared then larger — then larger, until the stock rose in a few weeks from five dollars to hundreds, then more rapidly, until it sold for two thousand. The people — holders and nonholders - became perfectly wild. The shares in the stock were increased in order to decrease the price ; but it mattered not whether a share was a foot or the hundredth part of a foot, people took but little pains to inquire. That which was offered was a share in the Crown Point, or the Kentuck, or the Yellow Jacket, or Hale and Norcross a share of stock. If they could not purchase a foot, why, the hundredth part of a foot was declared a share; and so those who wished, could get a share. The influence extended from the large and rich mines to others. Some that existed only on paper rose to fabulous prices; and it is very doubtful whether, if all the mines in Nevada had been converted into the silver and gold they really contained, they would have yielded as much as was demanded for them. Into the wild speculative mania all classes plunged boldly. The merchant and the common sailor, the millionaire and the rag-picker, the mistress of the richest houses in the city and her scullion, were alike aroused and fired with the tales of sudden wealth that had flowed upon the lucky investors.
Among the rest Mrs. Spring felt the sudden dawn of a new-born desire for speedier gains than her lowly occupation allowed. Going to her rector, she drew from him the sum he held in her name. He thought it was for her son, and after a few ineffectual attempts to urge her to save her money for a rainy day, he saw her depart with a very radiant look for a woman who was about giving her all to a worthless: idle scamp of a son. A week or ten days passed by, and the rector's study was invaded by the weeping Mrs. Spring. “Oh! Doctor, Doctor!” she exclaimed as she entered, “it's all gone -- all gone! and whatever shall I do?”
“Sit down, my good woman, and tell me what is the matter," ex
claimed the astonished minister. It was a long time before he could elicit anything from his disconsolate guest, but finally he learned enough through the sobs and tears to know that she had bought six shares of “Golden Chariot,” for seventeen dollars a share — and it had fallen in price.
“But what did you do with the other ten dollars ? You saved that, did you not?” he inquired.
"Oh! Doctor," exclaimed the weeping woman, "I thought I was going to get rich right away ; and I didn't want but a few thousand dollars either. There's so many who have made piles and piles of money — poor women like myself -- just by buying stock, and now to think - boo — hoo hoo — it's all — all gone! Whatever have I done to be singled out to be treated so ?— boo hoo boo hoo! I'm sure I'm an honest, hard-workin' woman as anybody — and — and when I bought the stock, I thought how good it would be to have a nice — nice — boohoo — boo — hoo - dinner for my friends — and now to think it's all gone! all gone!
gone! all gone! Whatever shall I do?" and Mrs. Spring was the picture of desolate poverty.
The Doctor could scarcely repress a smile, though he sympathised deeply with the poor woman's distress and loss. "Well, well! What is the price of the stock now?" at length he questioned.
The widow drew the Daily Chronicle from her pocket, saying, “Why, Doctor, when I bought the the the sto — sto - sto — stock, I thought I'd take a paper a newspaper, so I could watch the prices - and when it got up — could sell — but it didn't go up — at all and me and Mrs. Sprigg — that would have bought, but hadn't a red cent to her name — always looked too."
“What has it gone down to?"
She unfolded the paper very carefully – it was that morning's paper — ran her finger down the list of stocks, and burst anew into tears as she pointed --“G. Chariot, 14 bid.”
"Well, my good woman, you have lost only eighteen dollars on the stock — twenty-eight dollars on the whole amount. Why don't you sell it now, and save your eighty-four dollars ? "
“I thought of that, but Mrs. Sprigg says that wouldn't be any speculation : I must wait for a rise."
“But it may go lower. Now you may save something: why not do it?
This seemed a new idea, and after some deliberation her tears cleared away, and she started to put it into execution.
Another ten days passed by, and on the morning of the tenth Mrs. Spring again made her appearance very early in the rector's study. Mrs. Spring was generally neat in her personal appearance and habits, but this morning a very evident change had taken place. Her dress gave evidence of having been hastily put on, her bonnet was all awry, her eyes bloated and blood-shot with weeping, as she with Chronicle in hand entered. “Oh, Doctor, if I'd only taken your advice, but the very next day it went up half a dollar, and I was sure it would go up more, and so was Mrs. Sprigg, and she ought to know, for her husband once bought some stocks — she says so —
but now see, see "- pointing to the list.
The Doctor took the paper “G. Chariot 8.” He again advised her to sell, and save the forty-eight dollars which yet remained. He pointed out to her the continued excitement she was undergoing, the bad effect it had already produced on her generally neat habits, and then added. And worse than all, Mrs. Spring, these excitements unfit you for
pour duties. Now you have had that stock about three weeks, and I will guarantee that you have allowed all your home duties to stand still. You have not attended to your boy, trying to make home pleasant to him when he can be there ; and I feel pretty certain you have not been able to do much work - an addition to your other losses. Excitements have a bad effect on the best regulated minds." "“You may well say that," she replied. “I haven't done anything for a watching of them figgers ; I don't see my boy sometimes all day or evening. I read and read them lines a dozen times a day for fear I've made a mistake and forgotten or mixed 'em up. I can't work. Whatever — whatever — oh! oh! I'd rather it was all gone at once, and then I'd have some peace of my life!”
“Go and sell then at eight dollars. You will have forty-eight dollars: consider it clear profit, and begin with that capital: it will be a good deal more than you had when you began to save before."
The thought seemed to tickle Mrs. Spring greatly. adjusted her bonnet and dress before a glass in the study, and laughing a half-hysterical laugh, sallied forth, saying: “I'll do as you say, Doctor; I won't be fooling any more. I won't, that I'm determined on," and she stamped her foot with very decided emphasis.
"Don't neglect. This will teach you a lesson and do you good," were the last words she heard as the door closed.
Mrs. Spring walked very fast, and with an air and expression of great determination, for a block or two. She then began to walk more and more slowly; at length she stopped.
“Teach me a lesson!” she exclaimed, as she did so —"teach me a lesson !- and do me good !”— and a smile of triumph broke over her broad, goodhumored face. “What does he, a minister, know about stocks ?” The smile broadened and deepened as, with a toss of her head, she took out her stock certificates, folded them up with a very fond look towards each, put them back in the book she carried for that purpose for fear they might get rumpled, and — turned her steps in another direction.
The next Sunday the minister missed Mrs. Spring from churcha very unusual thing. Her quaint-looking bonnet, big striped shawl, and quick motion during the services had never been absent before. Another Sunday, and again her place was vacant. The next day the Doctor met the son in the street. “What is the matter with your mother?” he inquired.
"Mother's sick," and the boy hurried on.
The Doctor directed his steps to the house. Mrs. Spring was sick and in bed, said the neighbor who opened the door. It was not Mrs. Sprigg. As he entered her room she turned away with a weary heartsubdued look, while a faint flush suffused her face; but summoning up her courage, she greeted him with a faint, wan smile. “Oh, Docior,"
she said, before he had time to say anything but “How are you, Mrs. Spring ?”—“Oh, Doctor! it's gone down to four dollars, and all my hard earnings gone. And they say it's a kind of gambling, anyhow. Oh, dear, that a woman of my age, that never did nothing to be ashamed of before — and a member of the church — should take up with such things at my time of life, too !- dear me! dear me! whatever shall I do?" The poor woman seemed heartbroken, and was convulsed with sobs.
“Now, my dear woman,” began the Doctor ; but she interrupted him with, “Oh, it's all of that nasty — oh, dear! oh, dear !— that woman Mrs. Sprigg. She got me to do it; and I know it was only because she envied me my hundred and twelve dollars. She said if she had it she'd know what to do with it and become rich, and I, like a fool, did it, and it's all gone! But didn't I give her a piece of
She enticed me; she didn't like to think I had a hundred and twelve dollars and she hadn't nothing, and it's all gone, all
“Now, Mrs. Spring, listen to me. Let me talk with you a moment, and you may feel beiter, if you are reasonable. No doubt this unfortunate business has made you sick as well as caused you to lose a friend ; and like all of us, you find repentance comes when the evil consequences begin to be felt. But I really do not think you committed any sin, except a waste of money, when you bought that stock."
“Don't you, Doctor ?" rousing herself up a little.
“No. The money was yours: you had a right to do with it as you pleased; you could have bought any worthless thing with it you pleased. The evil was in something else — covetousness, which the Apostle calls idolatry; it caused you to make haste to be rich.' You were not contented with God's will
, and to gain what He sent in the way of your daily avocation : the snare wiser heads than yours fall into — and it brings the same cares and troubles and vexations. Now, give me the stock ; I will have sold for you, and you will soon recover from all this foolish business. But, mind, I did not come to upbraid you, or to blame you for buying this paper. I knew it would work its own cure. I came to see you as a sick member of my congregation ; but as you have alluded to it, I now offer to get your stock sold. Lose what you must, and begin anew.”
The sick woman raised her hands to her pillow, and taking a small book from under it, turned over the leaves and took several oblong pieces of paper, on which the words “Golden Chariot " were printed in large capitals. She counted them one by one, read one of them over word by word very carefully, and handed the strips of paper towards the minister with a deep sigh.
He advanced to take it, and as he stretched out his hand to do so, the poor woman burst into tears, hurriedly drew them back, and putting them in the book again, closed it, and thrusting it in her bosom, exclaimed, “Oh, Doctor, suppose it was to go up?"