Some years ago, there lived, dragged and toiled, in one of our
Middle States, or Southern cities, and old lady, named Landon, the
widow of a lost sea captain; and as a dernier resort, occurring in many
such cases, with a family of children to provide for,the father and
husband cut off from life and usefulness, leaving his family but a
stone's cast from indigence,the mother, to keep grim poverty from
famishing her hearth and desolating her home, took in gentlemen's
washing. Her eldest child, a boy of some twelve years old, was in the
habit of visiting the largest hotels in the city, where he received the
finer pieces of the gentlemen's apparel, and carried them to his
mother. They were done up, and returned by the lad again.
It was in mid-winter, cold and dreary season for the poortravel
was slack, and few and far between were the poor widow's receipts from
To-morrow, said the widow, as she sat musing by her small fire,
to-morrow is Saturday; I have not a stick of wood, pound of meal, nor
dollar in the world, to provide food or warmth for my children over
But, mother, responded her 'main prop,' George, the eldest boy,
that gentleman who gave me the half dollar for going to the bank for
him, last week,you know him we washed for at the United States
Hotel,said he was to be here again to-morrow. I was to call for his
clothes; so I will go, mother, to-morrow; maybe he will have another
errand for me, or some moneyhe's got so much money in his trunk!
So, indeed, you said, good child; it's well you thought of it,
said the poor woman.
Next day the lad called at the hotel, and sure enough, the strange
gentleman had arrived again. He appeared somewhat bothered, but quickly
gathering up some of his soiled clothes, gave them to the lad, and bade
him tell his mother to wash and return them that evening by all means.
Alas! that I cannot do, said the widow, as her son delivered the
message. My dear child, I have neither fire to dry them, nor money to
procure the necessary fuel.
Shall I take the clothes back again, mother, and tell the gentleman
you can't dry them in time for him?
No, son. I must wash and dry themwe must have money to-day, or
we'll freeze and starveI must wash and dry these clothes, said the
disconsolate widow, as she immediately went about the performance,
while her son started to a neighboring coopering establishment, to get
a basket of chips and shavings to make fire sufficient to dry and iron
The clothes were duly tumbled into a great tub of water, and the
poor woman began her manipulations. After a time, in handling a vest,
the widow felt a knot of something in the breast pocket. She turned the
pocket, and out fell a little mass of almost pulpy paper. She carefully
unrolled the saturated bunchshe startedstared; the color from her
wan cheeks went and came! Her two little children, observing the wild
looks and strange actions of the mother, ran to her, screaming:
Deardear mother! Mother, what's the matter?
Hush-h-h! said she; run, dear childrenlock the doorlock the
door! no, no, never mind. I aI afeeldizzy!
The alarmed children clung about the mother's knees in great
affright, but the widow, regaining her composure, told them to sit down
and play with their little toys, and not mind her. The cause of this
sudden emotion was the unrolling of five five hundred dollar bills.
They were very wetnearly used up, in factbut still significant of
vast, astounding import to the poor and friendless woman. She was
amazedhonor and poverty were struggling in her breast. Her poverty
cried out, You are made uprichwash no morefly! But then the
poor woman's honor, more powerful than the tempting wealth in her
handstriumphed! She laid the wet notes in a book, and again set about
About this time, quite a different scene was being enacted at the
hotel. The gentleman so anxious that his clothes should be returned
that evening, was no other than a famous counterfeiter and forger; and
it happened, that the day previous, in a neighboring city, he had
committed a forgery, drawn some four or five thousand dollars, had the
greater part of the notes exchangedand, with the exception of the
five large bills hurriedly thrust into the vest pocket, and which he
had sent to the poor laundress, there was little available evidence of
the forgery in his possession. The widow's son had scarcely left the
traveller's room with the clothes, when in came two policemen. The
forger was not arrested as a principal, but certain barely suspicious
circumstances had led to an investigation of him and his effects.
You are our prisoner, sir! said one of the policemen, as a servant
opened the door to let them in.
Me! What for? was the quick response of the forger.
That you will learn in due season; at present we wish to examine
your person and effects.
The forger startedhis heart beat with the rapidity of galvanic
pulsationthe evidence of part of his villany was, as he supposed,
among his effects. It was a moment of terror to him, but it passed like
a flash, and in a gay and careless tone, he quickly replied:
O, very well, gentlemengo ahead. There are my keys and
baggagesearch, and look around. I have no idea what you are
afterprobably you'll find. In a low tone, he continued, to himself,
By heavens, how lucky! that boy has saved me!
A considerable amount of money was found upon the forger, but none
that could be identified, and after a long and wearisome private
examination at the police court, he was discharged. He returned to the
hotel, and shortly afterwards the lad made his appearance with the
clothes, presenting him with a small roll of damp paper, saying:
Here, sir, is something mother found in one of your pockets. She
thinks it may be valuable to you, sir, and she is sorry it was wet.
The forger started, as though the little roll of wet money had been
a serpent the lad was holding towards him.
No, no, my little man; return it to your mother; tell her to dry it
carefully, and that I will call and see her to-night, when she can
return the little parcel.
George stood, his cap in one hand, and the other upon the door-knob;
the man was much agitated, and perceiving the lad lingered, he thrust
his hand into a carpet-bag, and hauling forth an old-fashioned wallet,
he opened it, and taking thence a coin, put it in the hands of the lad
and requested him to run home to his mother and deliver the message
immediately. The lad did as he was ordered; and the poor washerwoman,
the while, sat in her humble and ill-provided home, patiently awaiting
the return of her boy, and fearing the anger of the gentleman at the
hotel, when he should find his bank notes nearly, if not quite
destroyed, would probably so indispose him towards the child that he
would return empty-handed. But no; as the quick tread of the blithesome
lad smote upon the widow's ear, she rushed to the door to receive him.
Dear son, was the gentleman very angry?
Angry, dear mother? No! he was far from angry. He said you must dry
these papers, and he would call to-night for them. And here, dear
mother, he gave me a large piece of beautiful yellow money! And the
dutiful boy placed a golden doubloon in the trembling hand of the
overjoyed mother. They were savedthe golden coin soon made the
widow's domicil cheerful and happy.
It is almost needless to say, the five notes were not called for.
They laid in the widow's bureau drawer two entire years, when a friend
to the poor woman negotiated for their exchange into a dwelling-house
and small store. And to this little incident does a certain elderly
lady and her family owe their present prosperous and perfectly
honorable position in the respectable society of the city of .