Page:Ragged Trousered Philanthropists.djvu/293

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The Brigand's Cave

little party came out the crowd worshipped them also, going into ecstacies of admiration of their benevolence and their beautiful clothes.

For several weeks everybody in the town was in raptures over this tea, or rather everybody except a miserable little minority of socialists, who said it was bribery, an electioneering dodge, and did no real good, and who continued to clamour for a half-penny rate.

Another method of dealing with the Problem of Poverty was the 'Distress Committee.' This body, or corpse, for there was not much vitality in it, was supposed to exist for the purpose of providing employment for 'deserving cases.' One might be excused for thinking that any man, no matter what his past may have been, who is willing to work for his living, is a 'deserving case', but this was evidently not the opinion of the persons who devised the regulations for the working of this committee. Every applicant for work was immediately given a long job, the filling up of a 'Record Paper' three pages of which were covered with insulting, inquisitive, irrelevant questions concerning the private affairs and past life of the 'case' who wished to be permitted to work for his living, and which had to be answered to the satisfaction of Sir Graball D'Encloseland, Messrs Sweater, Rushton, Didlum, Grinder and the other members of the committee, before the case stood any chance of getting employment.

However notwithstanding the offensive nature of the questions on the application form, during the five months that this committee was in session, no fewer than 1237 broken spirited and humbled 'lion's whelps' filled up the forms and answered the questions as meekly as if they had been sheep. The funds of the committee consisted of £500 obtained from the Imperial Exchequer, and about £250 in charitable donations. This money was used to pay wages for certain work—some of which would have had to be done even if the committee had never existed—and if each of the 1237 applicants had had an equal share of the work their grand total of earnings would have come to about twelve shillings each. This was what the 'practical' persons, the 'business men,' called 'dealing with the problem of unemployment'—twelve shillings to keep a wife and family for five months!

It is true that some of the members of the committee would