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Theft from Necessity.

One day, when the family were in the midst of washing, a man called at Isaac T. Hopper's house to buy soap fat, and was informed they had none to sell. A minute after he had passed out, the domestic came running in to say that he had stolen some of the children's clothes from the line. Friend Hopper followed him quickly, and called out, ‘Dost thou want to buy some soap-fat? Come back if thou dost.’

When the man had returned to the kitchen, he said, ‘Now give up the clothes thou hast stolen.’

The culprit was extremely confused, but denied that he had stolen anything.

‘Give them up at once, without any more words. It will be much better for thee,’ said Friend Hopper, in his firm way.

Thus urged, the stranger drew from his bosom some small shirts and flannel petticoats. ‘My wife is very sick,’ said he. ‘She has a babe two weeks old, wrapped up in an old rag; and when I saw this [225] comfortable clothing on the line, I was tempted to take it for the poor little creature. We have no fuel except a little tan. A herring is the last mouthful of food we have in the house; and when I came away, It was broiling on the hot tan.’

His story excited pity; but fearing it might be made up for the occasion, Friend Hopper took him to a magistrate and said, ‘Please give me a commitment for this man. If he tells a true story, I will tear it up. I will go and see for myself.’

When he arrived at the wretched abode, he found a scene of misery that pained him to the heart. The room was cold, and the wife was in bed, pale and suffering. Her babe had no clothing, except a coarse rag torn from the skirt of an old coat. Of course he destroyed the commitment immediately. His next step was to call upon the rich Quakers of his acquaintance, and obtain from them contributions of wood, flour, rice, bread, and warm garments. Employment was soon after procured for the man, and he was enabled to support his family comfortably. He never passed Friend Hopper in the street without making a low bow, and often took occasion to express his grateful acknowledgments.

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