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room, because a portrait of his mother hung upon the wall; and she feared above all, to be alone with him an instant, lest, in his fondness he should beg her to speak of those days of trial, that he might commend her for her filial virtue. As we before said, Mary was ashamed of all this! She dreaded lest the fashionable world might know that she had been proved and found worthy among women—a kind daughter—a heroine in humble life — humble life! There was the stumbling block. To receive her due, to be known in her true excellence, she must acknowledge former poverty—own that she had actually toiled for a maintenance! With what jealousy did she guard that secret—from what a motive did she take care that her good was not known—with what almost undutiful abruptness did she change the theme when her father by the slightest allusion, indicated that the conduct for which he felt most proud of her, was in his thoughts. Silly, silly pride! It would seem that Heaven, to show how unfit is the sentiment for human hearts, caused its manifestations to be upon such very tritles—its wounds to come from such pitiful absurdities—and its ranklings to create such extreme discomfort -- only that reflection should make us the more ashamed of ourselves. A sewing-girl disturbed Mary's cogitations upon her friend's plea in the court of Cupid, in the matter of Frank Meredith's attachment. She had brought home a new frock. Silly, silly pride! Dressmakers and dressmakers' apprentices are necessary evils, as husbands and fathers know, and as their pockets feel; but women, and young women particularly, do not usually regard them with extreme aversion. Mary Richardson did. She could not see a band-box, that it did not send a foolish shudder through her fraine—she could hardly endure to speak to a sewing-girl, because she had once earned an honest living with her needle. And in this particular case there certainly was nothing in the crafty and envious look of malice with which the girl accompanied her glances, which could remove or diminish Mary Richardson's dislike. “Don’t you think, ma'am, that these plaids are more apt to ravel, when they're sewed bias?” Mary blushed, (what a fool,) staminered, (how very silly,) and said—“Well—really, how should I know?” The other bit her lip, and laughed maliciously with her eyes. “Why--no offence I hope, ma'am! Ladies do sometimes know too much for us— should you like me to try the frock on, ma'am?” “ No!” “Oh well,” said the girl—“I dare say you can tell just what it needs, if it wants any alteration.” As she closed the door, poor weak Mary Richardson stamped with vexation, and then found relief from her passion of rage in a passion of tears.
If Mary Richardson's fortune had changed since we first met her in the omnibus, chance had not stood still with the other female passenger in that vehicle. While the sun had been shining upon Mary, it had become clouded for the other —and the wealthy Mrs. Meredith, was now one of those who are tersely enough, but with little feeling, styled “the have-beens.” Reverse had overtaken her; and she, who at the close of the story, to which this is a sequel, had the means of gratifying every reasonable wish, and many of her unreasonable whims, now lived in confined and unfashionable apartments. Her daughters had been taken from her, and she received a plain and respectable, but straitened support, from an only son, whose early professional struggles scarce sufficed to provide himself and his parent with necessaries; and to enable him to maintain appearances, and enter that society, to which young bachelors are admitted, at the cost of defrauding comfort to keep up show. Frank Meredith—of whom the reader has already had a glimpse in the first chapter, always wore faultless boots—but blacked them himself. His shirt frills were unexceptionable — for his mother was his laundress. His garments were always in good order, for no valet can take that care of a wardrobe that a poor and proud man will himself. He was never in debt and seldom in difficulty, for he had too much pride (and here pride was useful) to expose himself to the danger of either.
It is of no use to quarrel with, or to rail against the conventional forms which have established themselves in this republican country. It answers no earthly purpose to complain that the wealthy Inix with the wealthy, and that to a certain extent the purse does fix certain divisions of classes. She who can purchase bills of five hundred or a thousand dollars, in a morning's round, will very naturally seek a shopping companion, whose purse will travel the same length as hers. No other could be really a fit companion. And as all comforts and luxuries find their way into our habitations only over a silver railroad — and as the site of the house — its garniture and adornment — its larder, kitchen, parlours and chambers—its library and its music portfolio, all depend upon the purse, it is not surprising that, to return to our simile, families of the same means travel in the same cars. So it is—and so it must be—not only here, but everywhere. Where other distinctions of social rank are recognised, poor nobility is very glad to share coronets with crowns—and to sacrifice noble blood, for pounds, shillings and pence.
We are writing for sensible people, and while we describe things as they are, shall not be understood to say, that wealth confers superiority, or that poverty implies its opposite. Nor, on the other hand, do we impute the possession of riches
as a crime, and laud indigence, of necessity, as virtue. These matters are but accidents — the true man is independent of them; and that country is the happiest, and that system of society the nearest equality, where the best opportunity is given to merit and worth to set aside these artificial barriers. That country we believe is ours. At any rate, if wealth be nobility, the “rotation in office” principle is carried into the social classification—for the family rich in one generation is almost sure to be poor in the next, and vice versa. Often, too, in one life-time extremes are experienced, and if our story have any moral, it is to exhibit the folly of pride or of shame founded upon mere accidental circumstances. Let us return to Frank Meredith. After what we have written, Mr. Fraak Meredith's exact position will be easily understood—for probably you, reader, have his like in your eye, at this moment. A young bachelor, he can safely accept all civilities tendered him in the houses of the rich — honour all invitations, and be ever at hand to offer his services and assistance in cases where young ladies find young men absolutely necessary. As most young women are apt, in this sordid day and generation, to reason precisely as did Mary in the first chapter, mothers and aunts find comparatively little danger in his presence. They know, and the daughters know, that she who marries him must either look to love in a cottage, or bring the means to furnish her own palace. Marriage with the Frank Merediths of society, is to fashionable young women, equivalent to going from fashionable life to a nunnery. The poor bachelor can mix in fashionable life, because, he is not expected to reciprocate costly attentions. If his mother could she would —but when a man no more mentions mother or home than if he had neither, no lady is uncivil enough to ask him about them. They do, however, canvass the matter when he is not present—— don't you, ladies? But there goes our malicious sewing-girl, who so sadly disturbed Mary's philosophy. What— on a visit to Mrs. Meredith' What can she want of fashionable artistes now? We will follow the girl and see. “I tried her, ma'am,” said the girl, before she took the seat to which Mrs. M. beckoned her, with the distant dignity of other days. “I tried her, and she blushed like scarlet silk. I know 'tis the same one, now, and more than that, Miss Green told me that just as her time was up with Mrs. Modiste, there used to come a sewing-girl there with just such eyes, and just such a figure as this Miss Richardson has got, and that she was dreadful poor, and used to dun Mrs. Modiste terribly, and that her name was Mary, and that Miss Green herself used to help and show her, and that all at once she disappeared, and that her mother died. Miss Green says she should know her in a minute, and she's going to take home her new white satin to-morrow herself, to see. 12*
Such a quantity of new things as she does get made up!” “Oh, I'm quite sure,” said Mrs. Meredith. “When I lived in Waverley Place, her father gave a party to bring her out, and I thought then that I must have seen her somewhere. It's very likely that I might have seen her at Mrs. Modiste's, for I was very often there,” she added with a half suppressed sigh, as if she felt that she would never tyrannize over milliners again. In the same breath she remembered that Miss Richardson had now the privilege she had lost, and she could not help saying, “ and I do think there was something evil in the child's looks when I met her at her father's; and when she called on me one day, she did say something about my dress, like a milliner, or some other low-bred person.” The visitor's eyes flashed as she answered, “If she did earn her living, ma'am, that does not signify that she was low-bred.” Mrs. Meredith had made a mistake. All her rhetoric could not explain it away—for the shrewd girl knew that what had escaped in the carelessness of conversations was a natural exhibit of the speaker's true thoughts and actual prejudices. The consequence was, that the sewing-girl carried back to Miss Green, at the shop, a much better report of Mary Richardson than she left Mary prepared to make. Here comes home our friend Frank. He is thoughtful and sad, but dare not tell his mother what annoys him. Some young fashionable friends of his have arranged an equestrian jaunt for the morrow—he has been voted cavalier for a passé belle, whom somebody must beau, on account of her younger sister. Any other man could plead business—Frank dare not! They well know—so
one of his companions said, “What a nasty court!” and another asked, “Which of the twenty-five families in this house does Frank belong to?” “Is it a dangerous fracture?” asked Mary Richardson of the young lady who told her the sudden news—and, to do Mary justice, she did look pale, and did exhibit real interest—while she felt more than she acknowledged to herself. “Yes, and I believe you was right the other day,” said her friend, “when you doubted his
standing. His mother lives up such a horrid alley,
Mr. Smith says.” Mary made no answer. If she could but follow her first best impulse! But no. Not only was her own selfish pride in the way, but she justly reasoned, Frank's vanity would be. He could not desire to see his fashionable acquaintances in such a place. Had he so neglected those nearer him in actual pecuniary condition, as to be shut out from all sympathy? Could he summon competent advice? Was he indeed so wretchedly poor? Was he an impostor? Mary thought. Her father, who had heard the conversation, inquired the name of the court, and acted. In a short time he was ascending the same dark staircase over which he had gone a few years before to find a daughter. He stood a moment in the very room! The son lay upon the bed, delirious—the mother wrung her hands over him, little better. Frank's companions had left him, having fulfilled their whole duty, as they thought, in directing a surgeon to go to his assistance, which surgeon, gathering from their manner, that he was some indigent sufferer, only wondered that they had not taken him to the hospital. They were careful not to say that one who lived in such lodgings had met the accident while accompanying them in a ride. Richardson stood over his bedside. In the ravings of the wounded man, he started to hear his daughter's name frequently mentioned. He recognized the mother, and she, in that hour of trial, while she remembered him, affected no foolish pride or distance—what mother could? she made no objection, while he proceeded, in his own straightforward way to summon such assistance as the case required, and to make such arrangements as were essential to the patient's recovery and comfort. In a short time, all that skilful attendance could do was accomplished, and a competent nurse was installed at his bedside. Richardson, upon his return, found Mary assuming gaiety with a heartless caller. The suf. ferer was spoken of by the latter as a pretender, whom accident had exposed, and she did not hesitate even to congratulate Mary on the escape which this accident had brought about—though, she added, as Richardson's stern eye met her's —“it was rather a misfortune that the man had broken his arm—particularly,” she added, “in his very destitute situation.” “Not destitute, Miss,” interrupted Richardson. “He has a mother, who loves him, and no child
is destitute in such a case—and he loves his mother, and has supported her in her old age, and such conduct is better than money at interest. Isn't it Mary?” Glad of an advocate for him whom she had longed to defend, but dared not, Mary bowed assent; and she felt that she did not care now if all her feverishly guarded secret did come out. The visitor soon took her leave. I&ichardson placed his chair beside his child, and, as he proceeded to tell her where he found Meredith, and what he had done for him; and to describe with feeling minuteness the present appearance of the apartment which they both so well remembered, her head sunk upon his shoulder, and her tears sell fast. He told her of the name upon which Frank called in his wanderings, and Mary wished in her heart that tyrant form would perinit her to answer the summons. “You love him?” Mary made no answer but to press her father's hand. The old gentleman's mind was made up from that moment. Neither was sorry that this interview was interrupted by a call for Miss Richardson. It was our young sewing-girl's friend, the Miss Green, spinster by fate's decree, and not her own good will, who had come up according to her threat, with that satin. Mary looked so earnestly at the girl, that she was out-generaled with her own weapon—in plain English, Mary certainly stared the other out of countenance. At last she said, “If I am not very much mistaken, you are an old friend. Your name is —” “Green, ma'am,” said the other, dropping a ridiculously quick and low “courtesy,” delighted at the recognition. “And you formerly worked for Mrs. Modiste.” “Yes, ma'am; you were a customer, I presume, ma'am,” said Miss Green, willing in her gratitude at the attention she had received to help Mary to a falsehood, if she wished. “No, I was once employed by her, and you, I recollect, showed me many little kindnesses, which were to me at that time great benefits. You may always depend upon me as a friend as long as either of us lives.” Old Richardson had a thousand minds in a minute. He knew that Mary would not have behaved thus the day before, nay, not that morning. His first thought was to throw Miss Green out of the window, and press his daughter to his heart, his second to kiss her before the milliner—his third, to kiss them both. But he deferred all these impulses, passed hastily from the room to his own, closed and fastened the door, and in the next moment was pouring out his soul in gratitude to that Providence who had softened the heart and removed its pride, whilst he had feared that the one was seared and the other incurable. But would not Mary return to her foolish vanity? Would she not count herself the benefactor and superior of him whom she was now willing to promise to love, honour, and obey? The father devised a remedy.
When Frank had become so far convalescent that he could endure good news, Richardson took care to introduce the subject nearest his own heart, as well as that of the invalid. He proved a better than any other physician, and soon adventured upon his secret plan, determined to manage the matter in his own way. He took his daughter on his arm to the lodgings of the Merediths, and, after her natural emotion had become sufficiently quieted, he proceeded to relate some of the events of his own life, and long fruitless search for his kindred. He then drew from his pocket the mourning ring, and stated where he had first met it, in the Intelligence Office. Mrs. Meredith took it from his hand— “Well, I declare,” she said, “I know that I have seen this before—” “I lost it—in an omnibus, I believe”—said Mary. “Yes—yes—it was found in an omnibus, and brought to my house. I gave it to a servant—” “And that gift of yours led to my finding my daughter,” said Richardson, resuming his narrative. “In this room, through her advertisement of the loss of that ring, I found her attending upon my dying mother, whose bedside I reached barely
in time to close her eyes. The rest you know.” The old gentleman paused, and all sat many moments in silence, Meredith and his mother revolving in their minds the circumstances of this strange narrative, the mother connecting her former surmises into a now perfect whole. Then she thought of the contrast between her present situation and her condition when these events took place, and sobbed aloud. “Come, Mrs. Meredith,” said Richardson, rising, “we will take leave of these apartments, and of further grief for the past, together. I do hope, however, that none of us will lose the memory of our salutary experience; and to the end that an approaching solemnization may carry a monition against foolish pride with it, I shall insist myself upon furnishing the WEDDING RING. Inappropriate though it seem for such an occasion, you must begin at the beginning of your wedded life, while you pay all proper respect to custom, to slight all mere FASHIoN, which would make you ashamed of what is not disreputable, or proud of that which implies no merit on your own part.” And he placed in the hand of the future bridegroom the bauble which we hope has kept the reader's attention through these two sketches.
Playing on their golden harps Music of our home.
And they scatter brightest gifts,
Such as little Mabel found
Just run down, now, to the grove,
You will hear their voices sweet,
You will see their diamond crowns In the sparkling brook:
You will find their brilliant robes In each flowery nook.
You will meet their light canoes
In the water-lilies' cup,
You may roam through fairy land Freely when you will ;
And each time you wander there Find new wonders still.