It had always been one of
the luxuries of the Grimeses
to consider what they would
do if they were rich. Many
a time George and his wife,
sitting together of a summer
evening upon the porch of
their own pretty house in
Susanville, had looked at
the long unoccupied country-seat
of General Jenkins, just across
the way, and wished they had
money enough to buy the place
and give it to the village
for a park.
Mrs. Grimes often said
that if she had a million
dollars, the very first
thing she would do would
be to purchase the Jenkins
place. George's idea was
to tear down the fences,
throwing everything open,
and to dedicate the grounds
to the public. Mrs. Grimes
wanted to put a great free
library in the house and
to have a club for poor
working-women in the second-floor
rooms. George estimated
that one hundred thousand
dollars would be enough
to carry out their plans.
Say fifty thousand dollars
for purchase money, and
then fifty more invested
at six per cent. to maintain
"But if we had a million,"
said George, "I think
I should give one hundred
and fifty thousand to the
enterprise and do the thing
right. There would always
be repairs and new books
to buy and matters of that
But this was not the only
benevolent dream of these
kind-hearted people. They
liked to think of the joy
that would fill the heart
of that poor struggling
pastor, Mr. Borrow, if they
could tell him that they
would pay the whole debt
of the Presbyterian Church,
six thousand dollars.
"And I would have
his salary increased, George,"
said Mrs. Grimes. "It
is shameful to compel that
poor man to live on a thousand
said George. "I would
guarantee him another thousand,
and maybe more; but we should
have to do it quietly, for
fear of wounding him."
"That mortgage on
the Methodist Church,"
said Mrs. Grimes. "Imagine
the happiness of those poor
people in having it lifted!
And so easy to do, too,
if we had a million dollars."
"Certainly, and I
would give the Baptists
a handsome pipe-organ instead
of that wheezing melodeon.
Dreadful, isn't it?"
"You can get a fine
organ for $2,000,"
said Mrs. Grimes.
"Yes, of course, but
I wouldn't be mean about
it; not mean on a million
dollars. Let them have a
really good organ, say for
$3,000 or $3,500; and then
build them a parsonage,
"The fact is,"
said Mrs. Grimes, "that
people like us really ought
to have large wealth, for
we know how to use it rightly."
"I often think of
that," answered George.
"If I know my own soul
I long to do good. It makes
my heart bleed to see the
misery about us, misery
I am absolutely unable to
relieve. I am sure that
if I really had a million
dollars I should not want
to squander it on mere selfish
pleasure, nor would you.
The greatest happiness any
one can have is in making
others happy; and it is
a wonder to me that our
rich people don't see this.
Think of old General Jenkins
and his twenty million dollars,
and what we would do for
our neighbors with a mere
fraction of that!"
"For we really want nothing
much for ourselves," said Mrs.
Grimes. "We are entirely satisfied
with what we have in this lovely
little home and with your $2,000
salary from the bank."
said George. "There are some
few little things we might add
in-just a few; but with a million
we could easily get them and more
and have such enormous amounts
of money left."
"Almost the first thing
I would do," said Mrs. Grimes,
"would be to settle a comfortable
living for life on poor Isaac
Wickersham. That man, George,
crippled as he is, lives on next
to nothing. I don't believe he
has two hundred dollars a year."
"Well, we could give him
twelve hundred and not miss it
and then give the same sum to
Widow Clausen. She can barely
"And there's another thing
I'd do," said Mrs. Grimes.
"If we kept a carriage I
would never ride up alone from
the station or for pleasure. I
would always find some poor or
infirm person to go with me. How
people can be so mean about their
horses and carriages as some rich
people are is beyond my comprehension."
It is delightful pastime, expending
in imagination large sums of money
that you haven't got. You need
not regard considerations of prudence.
You can give free rein to your
feelings and bestow your bounty
with reckless profusion. You obtain
almost all the pleasure of large
giving without any cost. You feel
nearly as happy as if you were
actually doing the good deeds
which are the children of your
George Grimes and his wife had
considered so often the benevolences
they would like to undertake if
they had a million dollars that
they could have named them all
at a moment's notice without referring
to a memorandum. Nearly everybody
has engaged in this pastime, but
the Grimeses were to have the
singular experience of the power
to make their dream a reality
placed in their hands.
For one day George came flying
home from the bank with a letter
from the executors of General
Jenkins (who died suddenly in
Mexico a week or two before) announcing
that the General had left a million
dollars and the country-seat in
Susanville to George Grimes.
"And to think, Mary Jane,"
said George when the first delirium
of their joy had passed, "the
dear old man was kind enough to
say-here, let me read it to you
again from the quotation from
the will in the letter: 'I make
this bequest because, from repeated
conversations with the said George
Grimes, I know that he will use
it aright.' So you see, dear,
it was worth while, wasn't it,
to express our benevolent wishes
sometimes when we spoke of the
needs of those who are around
"Yes, and the General's
kind remark makes this a sacred
trust, which we are to administer
"We are only his stewards."
"Stewards for his bounty."
"So that we must try to
do exactly what we think he would
have liked us to do," said
"Why, of course we are to
have some discretion, some margin;
and besides, nobody possibly could
guess precisely what he would have
"But now, at any rate, George,
we can realize fully one of our
longing desires and give to the
people the lovely park and library?"
George seemed thoughtful. "I
think, Mary Jane," he said,
"I would not act precipitately
about that. Let us reflect upon
the matter. It might seem unkind
to the memory of the General just
to give away his gift almost before
we get it."
They looked at each other, and
Mrs. Grimes said:
"Of course there is no hurry.
And we are really a little cramped
in this house. The nursery is
much too small for the children
and there is not a decent fruit
tree in our garden."
"The thing can just stay
open until we have time to consider."
"But I am so glad for dear
old Isaac. We can take care of
him, anyhow, and of Mrs. Clausen,
"To be sure," said
George. "The obligation is
sacred. Let me see, how much was
it we thought Isaac ought to have?"
"Twelve hundred a year."
"H-m-m," murmured George,
"and he has two hundred now;
an increase of five hundred per
cent. I'm afraid it will turn
the old man's head. However, I
wouldn't exactly promise anything
for a few days yet."
"Many a man in his station
in life is happy upon a thousand."
"A thousand! Why, my dear,
there is not a man of his class
in town that makes six hundred."
"We must keep horses, and
there is no room to build a stable
on this place."
"Could we live here and
keep the horses in the General's
stables across the way, even if
the place were turned into a park?"
"It's a horrid thing to confess,
but do you know, George, I've felt
myself getting meaner and meaner,
and stingier and stingier ever since
you brought the good news."
George tried to smile, but the
effort was unsuccessful; he looked
half-vexed and half-ashamed.
"Oh, I wouldn't put it just
that way," he said. "The
news is so exciting that we hardly
know at once how to adjust ourselves
to it. We are simply prudent.
It would be folly to plunge ahead
without any caution at all. How
much did you say the debt of the
Presbyterian Church is?"
"Six thousand, I think."
"A good deal for a little
church like that to owe."
"You didn't promise anything,
Mary Jane, did you, to Mrs. Borrow?"
"No, for I had nothing to
promise, but I did tell her on
Sunday that I would help them
liberally if I could."
"They will base large expectations
on that, sure. I wish you hadn't
said it just that way. Of course,
we are bound to help them, but
I should like to have a perfectly
free hand in doing it."
There was silence for a moment,
while both looked through the
window at the General's place
over the way.
"Beautiful, isn't it?"
asked Mrs. Grimes.
"Lovely. That little annex
on the side would make a snug
den for me; and imagine the prospect
from that south bedroom window!
You would enjoy every look at
"George, dear, tell me frankly,
do you really feel in your heart
as generous as you did yesterday?"
"Now, my dear, why press
that matter? Call it meaner or
narrower or what you will; maybe
I am a little more so than I was;
but there is nothing to be ashamed
of. It is the conservative instinct
asserting itself; the very same
faculty in man that holds society
together. I will be liberal enough
when the time comes, never fear.
I am not going to disregard what
one may call the pledges of a
lifetime. We will treat everybody
right, the Presbyterian Church
and Mr. Borrow included. His salary
is a thousand, I think you said?"
"Well, I am willing to make
it fifteen hundred right now,
if you are."
"We said, you remember,
it ought to be two thousand."
"I never said so. There
isn't a preacher around here gets
that much. The Episcopalians with
their rich people only give eighteen
"And a house."
"Very well, the Presbyterians
can build a house if they want
"You consent then to pledge
five hundred more to the minister's
"I said I would if you would,
but my advice is just to let the
matter go over until to-morrow
or next day, when the whole thing
can be considered."
"Very well, but, George,
sixty thousand dollars is a great
deal of money, and we certainly
can afford to be liberal with
it, for the General's sake as
well as for our own!"
"Everything depends upon
how you look at it. In one way
the sum is large. In another way
it isn't. General Jenkins had
just twenty times sixty thousand.
Tremendous, isn't it? He might
just as well have left us another
million. He is in Heaven and wouldn't
miss it. Then we could have some
of our plans more fully carried
"I hate to be thought covetous,"
answered Mrs. Grimes, "but
I do wish he had put on that other
The next day Mr. Grimes, while
sitting with his wife after supper,
took a memorandum from his pocket
"I've been jotting down
some figures, Mary Jane, just
to see how we will come out with
our income of sixty thousand dollars."
"If we give the place across
the street for a park and a library
and a hundred thousand dollars
with which to run it, we shall
have just nine hundred thousand
"We shall want horses, say
a carriage pair, and a horse for
the station wagon. Then I must
have a saddle horse and there
must be a pony for the children.
I thought also you might as well
have a gentle pair for your own
driving. That makes six. Then
there will have to be, say, three
stable men. Now, my notion is
that we shall put up a larger
house farther up town with all
the necessary stabling. Count
the cost of the house and suitable
appointments, and add in the four
months' trip to Europe which we
decided yesterday to take next
summer, and how much of that fifty-four
thousand do you think we shall
have left at the end of the year?"
"But why build the house
from our income?"
"Mary Jane, I want to start
out with the fixed idea that we
will not cut into our principal."
"Not a dollar! The outlay
for the year will approximate fifty-six
"Large, isn't it?"
"And yet I don't see how
we can reduce it if we are to
live as people in our circumstances
might reasonably be expected to
"We must cut off something."
"That is what I think. If
we give the park and the library
building to the town why not let
the town pay the cost of caring
"Then we could save the
interest on that other hundred
"Exactly, and nobody will
suffer. The gift of the property
alone is magnificent. Who is going
to complain of us? We will decide
now to give the real estate and
Two days later Mr. Grimes came
home early from the bank with
a letter in his hand. He looked
white and for a moment after entering
his wife's room he could hardly
"I have some bad news for
you, dear-terrible news,"
he said, almost falling into a
The thought flashed through Mrs.
Grimes' mind that the General
had made a later will which had
been found and which revoked the
bequest to George. She could hardly
"What is it?"
"The executors write to
me that the million dollars left
to me by the General draws only
about four per cent. interest."
"Four per cent! Forty thousand
dollars instead of sixty thousand!
What a frightful loss! Twenty
thousand dollars a year gone at
"Are you sure, George?"
"Sure? Here is the letter.
Read it yourself. One-third of
our fortune swept away before
we have a chance to touch it!"
"I think it was very unkind
of the General to turn the four
per cents. over to us while somebody
else gets the six per cents. How
could he do such a thing? And
you such an old friend, too!"
"Mary Jane, that man always
had a mean streak in him. I've
said so to myself many a time.
But, anyhow, this frightful loss
settles one thing; we can't afford
to give that property across the
street to the town. We must move
over there to live, and even then,
with the huge expense of keeping
such a place in order, we shall
have to watch things narrowly
to make ends meet."
"But we've got to retrench.
Every superfluous expenditure must
be cut off. As for the park and
free library, that seems wild now,
doesn't it? I don't regret abandoning
the scheme. The people of this town
never did appreciate public spirit
or generosity, did they?"
"I'm very sorry you spoke
to Mrs. Borrow about helping their
church. Do you think she remembers
"She met me to-day and said
they were expecting something
Mr. Grimes laughed bitterly.
"That's always the way with
those people. They are the worst
beggars! When a lot of folks get
together and start a church it
is almost indecent for them to
come running around to ask other
folks to support it. I have half
a notion not to give them a cent."
"Not even for Mr. Borrow's
"Certainly not! Half the
clergymen in the United States
get less than a thousand dollars
a year; why can't he do as the
rest do? Am I to be called upon
to support a lot of poor preachers?
A good deal of nerve is required,
I think, to ask such a thing of
Two weeks afterward Mr. Grimes
and his wife sat together again
on the porch in the cool of the
"Now," said Grimes,
"let us together go over
these charities we were talking
about and be done with them. Let
us start with the tough fact staring
us in the face that, with only
one million dollars at four per
cent. and all our new and necessary
expenses, we shall have to look
sharp or I'll be borrowing money
to live on in less than eight
"Well," said Mrs. Grimes,
"what shall we cut out? Would
you give up the Baptist organ
that we used to talk about?"
"Mary Jane, it is really
surprising how you let such things
as that stay in your mind. I considered
that organ scheme abandoned long
"Is it worth while, do you
think, to do anything with the
Methodist Church mortgage?"
"How much is it?"
"Three thousand dollars,
"Yes, three thousand from
forty thousand leaves us only
thirty-seven thousand. Then, if
we do it for the Methodists we
shall have to do it for the Lutherans
and the Presbyterians and swarms
of churches all around the country.
We can't make flesh of one and
fowl of another. It will be safer
to treat them all alike; and more
just, too. I think we ought to
try to be just with them, don't
you, Mary Jane?"
"Ha! Yes! That is a thousand
dollars, isn't it? It does seem
but a trifle. But they have no children
and they have themselves completely
adjusted to it. And suppose we should
raise it one year and die next year?
He would feel worse than if he just
went along in the old way. When
a man is fully adjusted to a thing
it is the part of prudence, it seems
to me, just to let him alone."
"I wish we could-"
"Oh, well, if you want to;
but I propose that we don't make
them the offer until next year
or the year after. We shall have
our matters arranged better by
"And now about Isaac Wickersham?"
"Have you seen him lately?"
"Two or three days ago."
"Did he seem discontented
"You promised to help him?"
"What I said was, 'We are
going to do something for you,
"Something! That commits
us to nothing in particular. Was
it your idea, Mary Jane, to make
him an allowance?"
"There you cut into our
insufficient income again. I don't
see how we can afford it with
all these expenses heaping up
on us; really I don't."
"But we must give him something;
I promised it."
George thought a moment and then
"This is the end of September
and I sha'nt want this straw hat
that I have been wearing all summer.
Suppose you give him that. A good
straw hat is 'something.'"
"You remember Mrs. Clausen,
"Have we got to load up
with her, too?"
"Let me explain. You recall
that I told her I would try to
make her comfortable, and when
I found that our circumstances
were going to be really straitened,
I sent her my red flannel petticoat
with my love, for I know she can
be comfortable in that."
"Of course she can."
"So this afternoon when
I came up from the city she got
out of the train with me and I
felt so half-ashamed of the gift
that I pretended not to see her
and hurried out to the carriage
and drove quickly up the hill.
She is afraid of horses, anyhow."
"Always was," said
"But, George, I don't feel
quite right about it yet; the
gift of a petticoat is rather
stingy, isn't it?"
"No, I don't think so."
"And, George, to be perfectly
honest with ourselves now, don't
you think we are a little bit
meaner than we were, say, last
George cleared his throat and
hesitated, and then he said:
"I admit nothing, excepting
that the only people who are fit
to have money are the people who
know how to take care of it."