Short Stories · The Magazine Rack

The Little Miser Part 3

The Little Miser, Part 3, concludes this World War I story of home sacrifice and family bonds. Does Hippity-hop’s work on her brother’s behalf go to naught? Does she save him? If you missed the start of this series, you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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Closeup of Hippity-hop, the main character in The Little Miser short story.
Hippity-hop hoards her wealth.

Our Story, Continued….

Hippity no longer talked to the flowers, the bees, the butterflies, and the chipmunk. Rags was her only confidant. Once or twice, when she knew they were alone, she permitted herself the luxury of tears. Rags understood how she was suffering, and licked her hands and face. He begged her, in dog talk, to unburden her mind, and tell. He wanted her to be happy again. Then they would romp and play with Daddy and big brother Dick and Hippity would laugh aloud when he chased butterflies. 

Hippity-hop struggled through the succeeding days, her definite purpose marooning her from the mainland of sympathy. Muvver and Daddy thought she was a miser. It was best so. What Dick thought she had no way of discovering, but her mind grasped at a straw. Perhaps he would understand that what she was doing was for him.

At the thought a roseate glow of righteousness enveloped her. In a few days the two months would be up, and she would be able to give him the money he needed. He would be free –– free from the persecution of Jerry Stewart, from the danger that Jerry represented! Then he would tell Muvver and Daddy that she wasn’t a miser, that she was a good little girl, and that she did love her country.

But a few days was a long way off. Supposing––and self-sympathy plunged deep into her mind, crowding out less thoughts––supposing she should die before! She had never seen death, but her imagination luxuriated in the picture of her flower-covered lifeless body wept over by a sorrowful family. When she lay dead they would understand how they had wronged her. She worked herself up into an ecstasy of anticipation until she actually believed her days were numbered. The seraphic exaltation inspired by her impending fate was tempered by a very human satisfaction over the grief and remorse her maligners would justly endure. They would learn too late that she had loved them.

But how would they know? There was only one way. Rags would tell, but they wouldn’t understand him. She must leave a letter. They would read the letter. It would make them weep, and then they would wish they had been kinder. 

Her curriculum at school did not include spelling. She almost decided not to die when she thought of the stupendous task the composition of a letter would entail. Yet she had the heroic persistence which overcomes difficulties. She shut herself in her room. The epistle took her the better part of the afternoon. The sheet was wet with tears of self-pity as she wrote:

deer Mother      Ime not a myzer––I luv you and dad and dick and i luv my Kuntree     I sayvd the muny for dick
Your  ded  chile
Elizabeth Browne

She must not incriminate Dick in any way. He would understand, and in his joy at the deliverance he would tell of her noble sacrifice.

She folded the note and put it into her bank.

Two evenings later, the date marked on the calendar with Daddy’s cross, found her still alive and the possessor of nine dollars and thirty-five cents. She was almost sorry that her last will and her dramatic exit from this vale of tears would have to be sacrificed. But Dick would be saved! That was all she wanted.

It was the hour before dinner. Jerry was dining there that evening. With the money tied in a handkerchief she knocked at Dick’s door, and entered. The glory of her accomplishment bathed her cherubic face. Without a word she untied the handkerchief, emptied its contents on Dick’s bed and with shining eyes looked at her brother. 

She expected an explosion of gratitude, but received only a look of mystification and heard a surprised throaty exclamation.

She gasped in a painful effort to enunciate words. Her face became tragic with her purpose. 

“The money––you know––the money––you––for Jerry!”

She broke down.

His face went red and then very white. His throat swelled. His hands trembled as he asked in a strained whisper:

“How did you know?”

“I heard you an’ Jerry in the study. Jerry said you’d have to go to prison, if you didn’t pay him in two months.” Her voice became tense with the horror of her next disclosure. “I heard him ask you to steal the money from Daddy. I knew you wouldn’t do that.”

“And that’s why you saved the money?”

A sad little affirmative nod was all she could manage. Then, with the thought that she had hurt her brother, she ran to him, threw her arms round his neck, and sobbed her heart out on his shoulder. 

“Dick, Dick, give the money to Jerry! I don’t want ‘em to put you in jail!”

Tears gathered in big brother Dick’s eyes as he realized what the poor little thing had gone through for his sake.

He couldn’t talk, but his shoulders squared with a firm resolve as he picked her up and carried her into the dining room, where Muvver and Daddy and Jerry Stewart awaited them.

Tears were still in Dick’s eyes as he held Hippity close, but in his carriage was a manliness which commanded attention.

“Mother––Dad––I’ve come to tell you the truth.”

There was a warning gesture from Jerry, who suddenly paled, but Dick ignored it.

“This blessed baby,” he kissed Hippity’s hand reverently as he spoke, “has been suffering martyrdom for two months on my account. If I had only known that it was my conduct which was causing her sorrow!” Jerry had started nervously on his feet. Dick went on. “I gambled––played poker––with him.” Scornfully Dick made Jerry the target of his gesture. “I lost. I paid him all I had and still owed him eighteen dollars, for which I gave him my IOU. From time to time I paid him what I could. He threatened me with arrest if I didn’t pay all in two months. Tonight the two months are up. I still owe him seven dollars and a half.”

Without a word Daddy took the money from his pocket, handed it to Jerry, who was standing cringingly and sullenly, and pointed to the door. As the door closed on Jerry Stewart the silence was broken by a long, gasping sob of relief from Hippity.

Muvver took the little girl from Dick’s arms. Daddy and she kissed her in reparation for the wrong they had done her.

Dick stood at a distance. He was not fit to join the family circle. Hippity-hop saw him standing shamed, grieved, remorseful. Turning from her mother to her daddy, she spoke imploringly.

“I want you to love Dicky, too.”

Her word had become law.