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Wages, Five Dollars

From the Rock Island Argus, October 22, 1913. By Herbert Kauffman.

Thus it is down in Beelzebub’s books:
“August the seventeenth—Isabel Brooks;
Home in the country; folks decent but poor;
Character excellent; morals still pure;
Came to the city today and found work;
Wages five dollars; department store clerk.”

Wages five dollars! To last seven days!
Three for a miserable hall room she pays;
Two nickels daily the street car receives;
One dollar forty for eating;—that leaves?
One forty has quite a long way to reach:
Twenty-one banquets at seven cents each!

There! Every penny of wages has been spent,
Squandered for feasting and riding and rent.
Spendthrift! She does not remember Life’s ills.
How in the world will she pay doctor bills?
What if she’s furloughed? (There’s always a chance);
Isabel ought to save up in advance.

Hold! We’ve not mentioned her clothes; she must wear
Dresses, hats, shoes, stockings, ribbons for hair—
How will she get them? Suppose that we stop;
Perhaps it’s as well if we let the thing drop.
You good math’matician may figure it out;
It’s a matter of figures or figure, no doubt.

Carry this picture, it’s better, I’m sure;
“Character excellent; morals still pure.”
What else is written, we won’t try to see;
Beelzebub thinks much the same as we.
Why, as I live! There’s a tear in his eye!
What can make Beelzebub cry?

Surely the devil is feeling his age.
Look what he’s writing on Isabel’s page:
“Virtue’s a luxury hard to afford
When a girl hasn’t money enough for her board.”

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