Upton Sinclair, ed. (18781968). The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.
By Ernest Howard Crosby
(American writer and social reformer, 18561907)
I PASSED the plate in church.
There was little silver, but the crisp bank-notes heaped themselves up high before me;
And ever as the pile grew, the plate became warmer and warmer until it burned my fingers, and a smell of scorching flesh rose from it, and I perceived that some of the notes were beginning to smoulder and curl, half-browned, at the edges.
And then I saw thru the smoke into the very substance of the money, and I beheld what it really was;
I saw the stolen earnings of the poor, the wide margins of wages pared down to starvation;
I saw the underpaid factory girl eking out her living on the street, and the overworked child, and the suicide of the discharged miner;
I saw poisonous gases from great manufactories spreading disease and death;
I saw hideousness extending itself from coal mine and foundry over forest and river and field;
I saw money grabbed from fellow grabbers and swindlers, and underneath them the workman forever spinning it out of his vitals.
I saw all this, and the plate burned my fingers so that I had to hold it first in one hand and then in the other; and I was glad when the parson in his white robes took the smoking pile from me on the chancel steps and, turning about, lifted it up and laid it on the altar.