Read CHAPTER II. of The Birthday Party A Story for Little Folks , free online book, by Oliver Optic, on

Flora could not help thinking how much good the forty dollars, which her father would have to pay for the birthday party, would do if given to the poor.

It seemed to her just like spending the money for a few hours’ pleasure; and even if they had a fine time, which she was quite sure they would have, it would be soon over, and not do any real good.

Forty dollars was a great deal of money.  It would pay Mrs. White’s rent for a whole year; it would clothe her family, and feed them nearly all the next winter.  It appeared to her like a shameful waste; and these thoughts promised to take away a great deal from the pleasure of the occasion.

“I think, mother, I had just as lief not have the band, and only have a supper of bread and butter and seed cakes.”

“Why, Flora, what has got into you?” said her father.

Mrs. Lee laughed at the troubled looks of Flora, and explained to her father the nature of her scruples in regard to the party.

“Where did the child get this foolish idea?” asked her father, who thought her notions were too old and too severe for a little girl.

“Didn’t I see last winter how much good only a little money would do?” replied Flora.

“Don’t you think it is wicked for me to live in this great house, keep five or six horses, and nine or ten servants, when I could live in a little house, like Mrs. White?” laughed Mr. Lee.

“All the money you spend would take care of a dozen families of poor folks,” said Flora.

“That is very true.  Suppose I should turn away all the men and women that work for me,-those, I mean, who work about the house and garden,-and give the money I spend in luxuries to the poor.”

“But what would John and Peter, Hannah and Bridget do then?  They would lose their places, and not be able to earn any thing.  Why, no, father; Peter has a family; he has got three children, and he must take care of them.”

“Ah, you begin to see it-do you?” said Mr. Lee, with a smile.  “All that I spend upon luxury goes into the pockets of the farmer, mechanic, and laborer.”

“I see that, father,” replied Flora, looking as bright as sunshine again; “but all the money spent on my party will be wasted-won’t it?”

“Not a cent of it; my child.  If I were a miser, and kept my money in an iron safe, and lived like a poor man, I should waste it then.”

“But twenty dollars for the Riverdale Band is a great deal to give for a few hours’ service.  It don’t do any good, I think.”

“Yes, it does; music improves our minds and hearts.  It makes us happy.  I have engaged six men to play.  They are musicians only at such times as they can get a job.  They are shoemakers, also, and poor men; and the money which I shall pay them will help support their families and educate them.”

“What a fool I was, father!” exclaimed Flora.

“O, no; not so bad as that; for a great many older and wiser persons than yourself have thought just what you think.”

“But the supper, father,-the ice cream, the cake, and the lemonade,-won’t all the money spent for these things be wasted?”

“No more than the money spent for the music.  The confectioner and those whom he employs depend upon their work for the means of supporting themselves and their families.”

“So they do, father.  And when you have a party, you are really doing good to the poor.”

“That depends upon circumstances,” replied Mr. Lee.  “I don’t think it would be an act of charity for a person who could not afford it to give a party.  I only mean to say that when we spend money for that which does not injure us or any body else, what we spend goes into the pockets of those who need it.

“A party-a proper party, I mean, such a one as you will have-is a good thing in itself.  Innocent amusement is just as necessary as food and drink.

“God has given me wealth, Flora, and he expects me to do all the good I can with it.  I hold it as his steward.  Now, when I pay one of these musicians three or four dollars for an afternoon’s work, I do him a favor as well as you and those whom you invite to your party.

“And I hope the party will make you love one another more than ever before.  I hope the music will warm your hearts, and that the supper will make you happy, and render you thankful to the Giver of all things for his constant bounty.”

“How funny that I should make such a blunder!” exclaimed Flora.  “I am sure I shall enjoy my party a great deal more now that I understand these things.”

“I hope you won’t understand too much, Flora.  Suppose you had only a dollar, and that it had been given you to purchase a story book.  Then, suppose Mrs. White and her children were suffering from want of fuel and clothing.  What would you do with your dollar?”

“I would -”

“Wait a minute, Flora,” interposed her father.  “When you buy the book, you pay the printer, the paper maker, the bookseller, the type founder, the miner who dug the lead and the iron from the earth, the machinist who made the press, and a great many other persons whose labor enters into the making of a book-you pay all these men for their labor; you give them money to help take care of their wives and children, their fathers and mothers.  You help all these men when you buy a book.  Now, what would you do with your dollar?”

“I would give it to poor Mrs. White,” promptly replied Flora.

“I think you would do right, for your money would do more good in her hands.  The self-denial on your part would do you good.  I only wanted you to understand that, when you bought a book,-even a book which was only to amuse you,-the money is not thrown away.

“Riches are given to men for a good purpose; and they ought to use their wealth for the benefit of others, as well as for their own pleasure.  If they spend money, even for things that are of no real use to them, it helps the poor, for it feeds and clothes them.”

Flora was much interested in this conversation, and perhaps some of my young friends will think she was an old head to care for such things; but I think they can all understand what was said as well as she did.