Mrs. Merdle At Home.

A poem by Horatio Alger, Jr.

She Discourseth of Nothing to Eat and the Cost thereof.

Why Merdle--why did you bring Dinewell to-day?
So very, though welcome, so quite unexpected!

For dinner, if any, I'm sure I can't say,
Our servants with washing are all so infected.

If any's provided, 't is nothing but scraps
Of pot-luck or pick up of some common fare;
Or something left over from last week perhaps,
Which you've brought a friend, and an old one, to share.

I never, I'm sure now, so much was ashamed,
To think he'll discover--what's true to the letter--
We've nothing, or next to't that's fit to be named,
For one who is used every day to what's better.

But what can you expect if you come on a Monday?
Our French cook's away too, I vow and declare--
But if you would see us with something to spare,
Let's know when you're coming, or come on a Sunday;
For that of all others, for churchmen or sinners,
A day is for gorging with extra good dinners.

If Merdle had told me a friend would be here,
A dinner I'd get up in spite of the bills--
I often tell butcher he's wonderful dear--
He says every calf that a butcher now kills,
Will cost near as much as the price of a steer,
Before all the banks in their discount expanded
And flooded the country with 'lamp-black and rags,'
Which poor men has ruined and shipwrecked and stranded
On Poverty's billows and quick-sands and crags.

And that is just what, as our butcher explains,
The dickens has played with our beef and our mutton;
But something is gained, for, with all of his pains,
The poor man won't make of himself such a glutton.

I'm sure if they knew what a sin 't is to eat,
When things are all selling at extravagant prices,
That poor folks more saving would be of their meat,
And learn by example how little suffices.

I wish they could see for themselves what a table--
What examples we set to the laboring poor,
In prudence, and saving, in those who are able
To live like a king and his court on a tour.

I feel, I acknowledge, sometimes quite dejected
To think, as it happens with you here today,
To drop in so sudden and quite unexpected,
How poor we are living some people will say.

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