Christmas Gifts for the Destitute: 1904

CHRISTMAS GIFTS FOR POOR CHILDREN

Six children were left destitute in one of the few poor families in a wealthy and fashionable suburb. It was near Christmas. A benevolent lady, Miss Scripp, had the children on her mind, but was not able personally to do much to gladden them at the joyful Christmastide for she herself was not rich. Her neighbors were, however, and Miss Scripp determined to make a canvass among them and secure gifts of food, clothing, and money—anything that could be spared from a wealthy household to make Christmas merry for the Hobb children.

Miss Scripp gave notice to her neighbors of her charitable intention. All the ladies replied that they would rejoice to contribute. Two days before Christmas Miss Scripp sent a boy around with a pushcart to make collections. He returned with an assortment of bundles as large as that of a laundryman on Monday morning and not unlike it in outward appearance.

With pleased anticipation, Miss Scripp had the boys carry the parcels into her pretty little dining room. Then she began to overhaul their contents. She began with the largest parcel. She uttered an exclamation of disappointment, vexation, even, as there unfolded before her the remains of that ivory white chiffon gown which had done duty at parties two winters for Mrs. J. Van Blinker De Whytte. Its multitudinous flouncings hung in festoons; its accordion plaiting was battered and bulging like an antique umbrella; its front was stained with particles of feasts ranging from heavy dinners of state to after theatre “snacks.”

“How can that be cut down into warm coats and stockings of the poor little Hobbs?” murmured Miss Scrip as she laid it aside with a deep sigh.

Few of the parcels were marked with the name of the donor. Evidently the fair and generous givers wished to do their alms in secret. It may have been that, but Miss Scripp concluded as she proceeded to go through a pile that they were ashamed to be known and for this reason had refrained from attaching their names to their respective donations. Unfortunately for this amiable precaution, however, Miss Scripp recognized most of the articles. Mrs. Thrifty had sent her old rain coat. It was out of fashion; it was also bedraggled; it also let the rain through in spots. Again Miss Scripp shoved the unpleasant article aside, with a sigh, and murmured:

“How can I make that available for keeping the poor little Hobbs warm?”

Miss Florence De Whytte sent a pair of pink satin slippers run over at the heel. She tucked into the tiny toe of one of them a necktie of her brother’s that had been worn so long it could never by any possibly be used again. Mrs. Pynchem sent, indeed, a woollen rug. It had lain at the threshold of her husband’s bedroom almost time out of mind. It had become worn into holes just where each of Pynchem’s substantial feet had pressed it, so that more than once he had tripped upon it and come near falling. Opportunely the very night before the boy called with the collecting pushcart Mr. Pynchem had said, with divers unconventional expressions, that if he ever found that old rag there again he would “histe” it out the front window. Thus perforce Mrs. Pynchem removed it, skilfully working it off on charity. But the gem of the collection for the destitute little Hobbs was Mrs. Sparing’s last winter’s calling hat. It had been a perfect dream when the milliner first turned it out, all silken, spangled gauze, and radiant rainbow tinted panne, with a sparkling buckle that had become so tarnished that Mrs. Sparing could never use it again. In this pristine perfectness there had been likewise real ostrich plumes upon that calling hat, but these Mrs. Sparing had prudently ripped off that she might have them renovated for another winter.

Such were some of the items in Miss Scripp’s charity collection for the destitute Hobb children’s Christmas.

Tabitha Sourgrapes.

The Rockford [IL] Daily Register-Gazette 24 December 1904: p. 11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: One is rather reminded of Dicken’s Mrs Jellyby and her despised tracts. And of the many useless items made and urged upon visitors to charity bazaars.  One hopes that Miss Scripps sold the hand-cart of useless items to the rag-and-bone man for a goodly sum and was able to purchase the desired goods herself. 

Mrs Daffodil will charitably assume that the donors wished to remain anonymous because of the Biblical injunction: “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them.”  

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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