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OR, THE TRIALS OF A SEAMSTRESS.
BY T.S. ARTHUR
AUTHOR OF "LOVE IN A COTTAGE," "LOVE IN HIGH LIFE," ETC.
Till the brain begins to swim;
Till the eyes are heavy and dim!
Seam, and gusset, and band,
Band, and gusset, and seam,
Till over the buttons I fall asleep,
And sew them on in a dream!"
Hood's Song of the Shirt.
CHAPTER I. Lizzy Glenn--Mrs. Gaston and her sick Child,
CHAPTER II. How a Needlewoman Lives,
CHAPTER III. Death of Mrs. Gaston's Child--A Mother's anguish,
CHAPTER IV. Lizzy Glenn arouses the interest of a Stranger,
CHAPTER V. Some of the Troubles of a Needlewoman--A Friend in Need,
CHAPTER VI. Perkins' Narrative,
CHAPTER VII. Henry Gaston leaves Home with Sharp,
CHAPTER VIII. Henry Gaston's Treatment by Sharp,
CHAPTER IX. Lizzy Glenn finds in Mrs. Gaston an old Friend,
CHAPTER X. Lizzy Glenn's Narrative to Mrs. Gaston,
CHAPTER XI. Perkins anxiously seeks Lizzy Glenn,
CHAPTER XII. Perkins finds in Lizzy Glenn his long lost Eugenia,
THE FATHER'S DREAM,
I'LL SEE ABOUT IT,
THE SUM OF TRIFLES; OR, "A PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY GAINED,"
OR, THE TRIALS OF A SEAMSTRESS.
LIZZY GLENN--MRS. GASTON AND HER SICK CHILD.
NEEDLE-WORK, at best, yields but a small return. Yet how many
thousands have no other resource in life, no other barrier thrown up
between them and starvation! The manly stay upon which a woman has
leaned suddenly fails, and she finds self-support an imperative
necessity; yet she has no skill, no strength, no developed
resources. In all probability she is a mother. In this case she must
not only stand alone, but sustain her helpless children. Since her
earliest recollection, others have ministered to her wants and
pleasures. From a father's hand, childhood and youth received their
countless natural blessings; and brother or husband, in later years,
has stood between her and the rough winds of a stormy world. All at
once, like a bird reared, from a fledgling, in its cage, and then
turned (sic) lose in dreary winter time, she finds herself in the
world, unskilled in its ways, yet required to earn her bread or
What can she do? In what art or profession has she been educated?
The world demands service, and proffers its money for labor. But
what has she learned? What work can she perform? She can sew. And is
that all? Every woman we meet can ply the needle. Ah! as a
seamstress, how poor the promise for her future. The labor-market is
crowded with serving women; and, as a consequence, the price of
needle-work--more particularly that called plain needle-work--is
depressed to mere starvation rates. In the more skilled branches,
better returns are met; but even here few can endure prolonged
application--few can bend ten, twelve, or fifteen hours daily over
their tasks, without fearful inroads upon health.
In the present time, a strong interest has been awakened on this
subject. The cry of the poor seamstress has been heard; and the
questions "How shall we help her?" "How shall we widen the circle of
remunerative employments for women?" passes anxiously from lip to
lip. To answer this question is not our present purpose. Others are
earnestly seeking to work out the problem, and we must leave the
solution with them. What we now design is to quicken their generous
impulses. How more effectively can this be done than by a
life-picture of the poor needlewoman's trials and sufferings? And
this we shall now proceed to give.
It was a cold, dark, drizzly day in the fall of 18--, that a young
female entered a well-arranged clothing store in Boston, and passed
with hesitating steps up to where a man was standing behind one of
"Have you any work, sir?" she asked, in a low, timid voice.
The individual to whom this was addressed, a short, rough-looking
man, with a pair of large, black whiskers, eyed her for a moment
with a bold stare, and then indicated, by half turning his head and
nodding sideways toward the owner of the shop, who stood at a desk
some distance back, that her application was to be made there.
Turning quickly from the rude and too familiar gaze of the
attendant, the young woman went on to the desk and stood, half
frightened and trembling, beside the man from whom she had come to
ask the privilege of toiling for little more than a crust of bread
and a cup of cold water.
"Have you any work, sir?" was repeated in a still lower and more
timid voice than that in which her request had at first been made.
"Yes, we have," was the gruff reply.
"Can I get some?"
"I don't know. I'm not sure that you'll ever bring it back again."
The applicant endeavored to make some reply to this, but the words
choked her; she could not utter them.
"I've been tricked in my time out of more than a little by
new-comers. But I don't know; you seem to have a simple, honest
look. Are you particularly in want of work?"
"Oh yes, sir!" replied the applicant, in an earnest, half-imploring
voice. "I desire work very much."
"What kind do you want?"
"Almost any thing you have to give out, sir?"
"Well, we have pants, coarse and fine roundabouts, shirts, drawers,
and almost any article of men's wear you can mention."
"What do you give for shirts, sir?"
"Various prices; from six cents up to twenty-five, according to the
quality of the article."
"_Only_ twenty-five cents for fine shirts!" returned the young
woman, in a surprised, disappointed, desponding tone.
"_Only_ twenty-five cents? _Only_? Yes, _only_ twenty-five cents!
Pray how much did you expect to get, Miss?" retorted the clothier,
in a half-sneering, half-offended voice.
"I don't know. But twenty-five cents is very little for a hard day's
"Is it, indeed? I know enough who are thankful even for that. Enough
who are at it early and late, and do not even earn as much. Your
ideas will have to come down a little, Miss, if you expect to work
for this branch of business."
"What do you give for vests and pantaloons?" asked the young woman,
without seeming to notice the man's rudeness.
"For common trowsers with pockets, twelve cents; and for finer ones,
fifteen and twenty cents. Vests about the same rates."
"Have you any shirts ready?"
"Yes, a plenty. Will you have em coarse or fine?"
"Fine, if you please."
"How many will you take?"
"Let me have three to begin with."
"Here, Michael," cried the man to the attendant who had been first
addressed by the stranger, "give this girl three fine shirts to
make." Then turning to her, he said: "They are cotton shirts, with
linen collars, bosoms, and wristbands. There must be two rows of
stitches down the bosoms, and one row upon the wristband. Collars
plain. And remember, they must be made very nice."
"Yes, sir," was the reply, made in a sad voice, as the young
creature turned from her employer and went up to the shop-attendant
to receive the three shirts.
"You've never worked for the clothing stores, I should think?"
remarked this individual, looking her in the face with a steady
"Never," replied the applicant, in a low tone, half shrinking away,
with an instinctive aversion for the man.
"Well, it's pretty good when one can't do any better. An industrious
sewer can get along pretty well upon a pinch."
No reply was made to this. The shirts were now ready; but, before
they were handed to her, the man bent over the counter, and, putting
his face close to hers, said--
"What might your name be, Miss?"
A quick flush suffused the neck and face of the girl, as she stepped
back a pace or two, and answered--
"That is of no consequence, sir."
"Yes, Miss, but it is of consequence. We never give out work to
people who don't tell their names. We would be a set of
unconscionable fools to do that, I should think."
The young woman stood, thoughtful for a little while, and then said,
while her cheek still burned--
"Very well. And now, Miss Lizzy, be kind enough to inform me where
"That is altogether unnecessary. I will bring the work home as soon
as I have finished it."
"But suppose you should happen to forget our street and number? What
"Oh no, I shall not do that. I know the place very well," was the
"No, but that won't do, Lizzy. We must have the name and place of
residence of every man, woman, and child who work for us. It is our
rule, and we never depart from it."
There was another brief period of irresolution, and then the place
of abode was given. This was first entered, with her name, in a
book, and then the three shirts were handed over. The seamstress
turned away on receiving them, and walked quickly from the shop.
The appearance of this young applicant for work would have appealed
instantly to the sympathies of any one but a regular slop-shop man,
who looked only to his own profits, and cared not a fig whose
heart-drops cemented the stones of his building. She was tall and
slender, with light brown hair, clear soft complexion, and eyes of a
mild hazel. But her cheeks were sunken, though slightly flushed, and
her eyes lay far back in their sockets. Her forehead was high and
very white. The tones of her voice, which was low, were soft and
musical, and her words were spoken, few though they were, with a
taste and appropriateness that showed her to be one who had moved in
a circle of refinement and intelligence. As to her garments, they
were old, and far too thin for the season. A light, faded shawl, of
costly material, was drawn closely around her shoulders, but had not
the power to keep from her attenuated frame the chill air, or to
turn off the fine penetrating rain that came with the wind,
searchingly from-the bleak north-east. Her dress, of summer calico,
much worn, clung closely to her body. Above all was a close bonnet,
and a thick vail, which she drew around her face as she stepped into
the street and glided hurriedly away.
"She's a touch above the vulgar, Michael," broke in Berlaps, the
owner of the shop, coming forward as he spoke.
"Yes, indeed! That craft has been taut rigged in her time."
"Who can she be, Michael? None of your common ones, of course?"
"Oh no, of course not; she's 'seen better days,' as the slang phrase
"No doubt of that. What name did she give."
"Lizzy Glenn. But that may or may not be correct. People likely her
are sometimes apt to forget even their own names."
"Where does she live?"
"In the lower part of the town somewhere. I have it in the book
"You think she'll bring them shirts back?"
"Oh, yes. Folks that have come down in the world as she has, rarely
play grab-game after that fashion."
"She seemed all struck aback at the price."
"I suppose so. Ha! ha!"
"But she's the right kind," resumed Berlaps. "I only wish we had a
dozen like her."
"I wish we had. Her work will never rip."
Further conversation was prevented by the entrance of a customer.
Before he had been fully served, a middle-aged woman came in with a
large bundle, and went back to Berlaps's desk, where he stood
engaged over his account-books.
"Good-day, Mrs. Gaston," said he, looking up, while not a feature
relaxed on his cold, rigid countenance.
"I've brought you in six pairs of pants," said the woman, untying
the bundle she had laid upon the counter.
"You had seven pair, ma'am."
"I know that, Mr. Berlaps. But only six are finished; and, as I want
some money, I have brought them in."
"It is more than a week since we gave them out. You ought to have
had the whole seven pair done. We want them all now. They should
have been in day before yesterday."
"They would have been finished, Mr. Berlaps," said the woman, in a
deprecating tone; "but one of my children has been sick; and I have
had to be up with her so often every night, and have had to attend
to her so much through the day, that I have not been able to do more
than half work."
"Confound the children!" muttered the tailor to himself, as he began
inspecting the woman's work. "They're always getting sick, or
After carefully examining three or four pairs of the coarse trowsers
which had been brought in, he pushed the whole from him with a quick
impatient gesture and an angry scowl, saying, as he did so--
"Botched to death! I can't give you work unless it's done better,
Mrs. Gaston. You grow worse and worse!"
"I know, sir," replied the woman, in a troubled voice, "that they
are not made quite so well as they might be. But consider how much I
have had against me. A sick child--and worn out by attendance on her
night and day."
"It's always a sick child, or some other excuse, with the whole of
you. But that don't answer me. I want my work done well, and mean to
have it so. If you don't choose to turn out good work, I can find a
plenty who will."
"You sha'n't complain of me hereafter, Mr. Berlaps," replied the
"So you have said before; but we shall see."
Berlaps then turned moodily to his desk, and resumed the employment
he had broken off when the seamstress came in, whilst she stood with
her hands folded across each other, awaiting his pleasure in regard
to the payment of the meagre sum she had earned by a full week of
hard labor, prolonged often to a late hour in the night. She had
stood thus, meekly, for nearly five minutes, when Berlaps raised his
head, and looking at her sternly over the top of his desk, said--
"What are you waiting for, Mrs. Gaston?"
"I should like to have the money for the pants I have brought in. I
am out of every"--
"I never pay until the whole job is done. Bring in the other pair,
and you can have your money."
"Yes; but Mr. Berlaps"--
"You needn't talk any thing about it, madam. "You have my say," was
the tailor's angry response.
Slowly turning away, the woman moved, with hesitating steps, to the
door, paused there a moment, and then went out. She lingered along,
evidently undecided how to act, for several minutes, and then moved
on at a quicker pace, as if doubt and uncertainty had given way to
some encouraging thought. Threading her way along the narrow winding
streets in the lower part of the city, she soon emerged into the
open space used as a hay market, and, crossing over this, took her
way in the direction of one of the bridges. Before reaching this,
she turned down toward the right, and entered a small grocery. A
woman was the only attendant upon this.
"Won't you trust me for a little more, Mrs. Grubb?" she asked, in a
supplicating voice, while she looked anxiously into her face.
"No, ma'am! not one cent till that dollar's paid up!" was the sharp
retort. "And, to tell you the truth, I think you've got a heap of
impudence to come in here, bold-faced, and ask for more trust, after
having promised me over and over again for a month to pay that
dollar. No! pay the dollar first!"
"I did intend to pay you a part of it this very day," replied Mrs.
"Oh yes. It's 'but' this, and 'but' that. But 'buts' ain't my
dollar. I'm an honest woman, and want to make an honest living; and
must have my money."
"But I only want a little, Mrs. Grubb. A few potatoes and, some salt
fish; and just a gill of milk and a cup of flour. The children have
had nothing to eat since yesterday. I took home six pairs of
trowsers to-day, which came to ninety cents, at fifteen cents a
pair. But I had seven pairs, and Mr. Berlaps wont pay me until I
bring the whole number. It will take me till twelve o'clock to-night
to finish them, and so I can't get any money before to-morrow. Just
let me have two pounds of salt fish, which will be only seven cents,
and, three cents' worth of potatoes; and a little milk and flour to
make something for Ella. It won't be much, Mrs. Grubb, and it will
keep the little ones from being hungry all day and till late
Her voice failed her as she uttered the last sentence. But she
restrained herself after the first sob that heaved her overladen
bosom, and stood calmly awaiting the answer to her urgent petition.
Mrs. Grubb was a woman, and a mother into the bargain. She had, too,
the remains of a woman's heart, where lingered a few maternal
sympathies. These were quick to prompt her to duty. Turning away
without a reply, she weighed out two pounds of fish, measured a peck
of potatoes, poured out some milk in a cup, and filled a small paper
with flour. These she handed to Mrs. Gaston without uttering a word.
"To-morrow you shall be paid for these, and something on the old
account," said the recipient, as she took them and hurried from the
"Why not give up at once, instead of trying to keep soul and body
together by working for the slop-shops?" muttered Mrs. Grubb, as her
customer withdrew. "She'd a great sight better go with her children
to the poor-house than keep them half-starving under people's noses
at this rate, and compelling us who have a little feeling left, to
keep them from dying outright with hunger. It's too bad! There's
that Berlaps, who grinds the poor seamstresses who work for him to
death and makes them one-half of their time beggars at our stores
for something for their children to eat. He is building two houses
in Roxbury at this very moment: and out of what? Out of the money of
which he has robbed these poor women. Fifteen cents for a pair of
trowsers with pockets in them! Ten cents for shirts and drawers! and
every thing at that rate. Is it any wonder that they are starving,
and he growing rich? Curse him, and all like him! I could see them
And the woman set her teeth, and clenched her hand, in momentary but
In the meantime, Mrs. Gaston hurried home with the food she had
obtained. She occupied the upper room of a narrow frame house near
the river, for which she paid a rent of three dollars a month. It
was small and comfortless, but the best her slender means could
provide. Two children were playing on the floor when she entered:
the one about four, and the other a boy who looked as if he might be
nearly ten years of age. On the bed lay Ella, the sick child to whom
the mother had alluded, both to the tailor and the shopkeeper. She
turned wishfully upon her mother her young bright eyes as she
entered, but did not move or utter a word. The children, who had
been amusing themselves upon the floor, sprang to their feet, and,
catching hold of the basket she had brought in with her, ascertained
in a moment its contents.
"Fish and taters! Fish and taters!" cried the youngest, a little
girl, clapping her hands, and dancing about the floor.
"Won't we have some dinner now?" said Henry, the oldest boy, looking
up into his mother's face with eager delight, as he laid his hands
upon her arm.
"Yes, my children, you shall have a good dinner, and that right
quickly," returned the mother in a voice half choked with emotion,
as she threw off her bonnet, and proceeded to cook the coarse
provisions she had obtained at the sacrifice of so much feeling. It
did not take long to boil the fish and potatoes, which were eaten
with a keen relish by two of the children, Emma and Harry. The gruel
prepared for Ella, from the flour obtained at Mrs. Grubb's, did not
much tempt the sickly appetite of the child. She sipped a few
spoonfuls, and then turned from the bowl which her mother held for
her at the bedside.
"Eat more of it, dear," said Mrs. Gaston. "It will make you feel
"I'm not very hungry now, mother," answered Ella.
"Don't it taste good to you?"
"Not very good."
The child sighed as she turned her wan face toward the wall, and the
unhappy mother sighed responsive.
"I wish you would try to take a little more. It's so long since you
have eaten any thing; and you'll grow worse if you don't take
nourishment. Just two or three spoonfuls. Come, dear."
Ella, thus urged, raised herself in bed, and made an effort to eat
more of the gruel. At the third spoonful, her stomach heaved as the
tasteless fluid touched her lips.
"Indeed, mother, I can't swallow another mouthful," she said, again
sinking back on her pillow.
Slowly did Mrs. Gaston turn from the bed. She had not yet eaten of
the food, which her two well children were devouring with the
eagerness of hungry animals. Only a small portion did she now take
for herself, and that was eaten hurriedly, as if the time occupied
in attending to her own wants were so much wasted.
The meal over, Mrs. Gaston took the unfinished pair of trowsers,
and, though feeling weary and disheartened, bent earnestly to the
task before her. At this she toiled, unremittingly, until the
falling twilight admonished her to stop. The children's supper was
then prepared. She would have applied to Mrs. Grubb for a loaf of
bread, but was so certain of meeting a refusal, that she refrained
from doing so. For supper, therefore, they had only the salt fish
It was one o'clock that night before exhausted nature refused
another draft upon its energies. The garment was not quite finished.
But the nerveless hand and the weary head of the poor seamstress
obeyed the requirements of her will no longer. The needle had to be
laid aside, for the finger had no more strength to grasp, nor skill
to direct its motions.
HOW A NEEDLEWOMAN LIVES.
IT was about ten o'clock on the next morning, when Mrs. Gaston
appeared at the shop of Berlaps, the tailor.
"Here is the other pair," she said, as she came up to the counter,
behind which stood Michael, the salesman.
That person took the pair of trowsers, glanced at them a moment, and
then, tossing them aside, asked Mrs. Gaston if she could make some
"At what price?" was inquired.
"The usual price--thirty cents."
"Thirty cents for cloth jackets! Indeed, Michael, that is too
little. You used to give thirty-seven and a half."
"Can't afford to do it now, then. Thirty cents is enough. There are
plenty of women glad to get them even at that price."
"But it will take me a full day and a half to make a cloth jacket,
"You work slow, that's the reason; a good sewer can easily make one
in a day; and that's doing pretty well these times."
"I don't know what you mean by pretty well, Michael," answered the
seamstress. "How do you think you could manage to support yourself
and three children on less than thirty cents a day?"
"Haven't you put that oldest boy of yours out yet?" asked Michael,
instead of replying to the question of Mrs. Gaston.
"No, I have not."
"Well, you do very wrong, let me tell you, to slave yourself and
pinch your other children for him, when he might be earning his
living just as well as not. He's plenty old enough to be put out."
"You may think so, but I don't. He is still but a child."
"A pretty big child, I should say. But, if you would like to get him
a good master, I know a man over in Cambridge who would take him off
of your hands."
"Who is he?"
"He keeps a store, and wants just such a boy to do odd trifles
about, and run of errands. It would be the very dandy for your
little follow. He'll be in here to-day; and if you say so, I will
speak to him about your son."
"I would rather try and keep him with me this winter. He is too
young to go so far away. I could not know whether he were well or
"Oh, as to that, ma'am, the man I spoke of is a particular friend of
mine, and I know him to be as kind-hearted as a woman. His wife's
amiability and good temper are proverbial. Do let me speak a good
word for your son; I'm sure you will never repent it."
"I'll think about it, Michael; but don't believe I shall feel
satisfied to let Henry go anywhere out of Boston, even if I should
be forced to get him a place away from home this winter."
"Well, you can do as you please, Mrs. Gaston," said Michael in a
half offended tone. "I shall not charge any thing for my advice; But
say! do you intend trying some of these jackets?"
"Can't you give me some more pantaloons? I can do better on them, I
"We sha'n't have any more coarse trowsers ready for two or three
days. The jackets are your only chance."
"If I must, suppose I must, then," replied Mrs. Gaston to this, in a
desponding tone. "So let me have a couple of them."
The salesman took from a shelf two dark, heavy cloth jackets, cut
out, and tied up in separate bundles with a strip of the fabric from
which they had been taken. As he handed them, to the woman he said--
"Remember, now, these are to be made extra nice."
"You shall have no cause of complaint--depend upon that, Michael.
But isn't Mr. Berlaps in this morning?"
"No. He's gone out to Roxbury to see about some houses he is putting
"You can pay me for them pantys, I suppose?"
"No. I never settle any bills in his absence."
"But it's a very small matter, Michael. Only a dollar and five
cents," said Mrs. Gaston, earnestly, her heart sinking in her bosom.
"Can't help it. It's just as I tell you."
"When will Mr. Berlaps be home?"
"Some time this afternoon, I suppose."
"Not till this afternoon," murmured the mother, sadly, as she
thought of her children, and how meagerly she had been able to
provide for them during the past few days. Turning away from the
counter, she left the store and hurried homeward. Henry met her at
the door as she entered, and, seeing that she brought nothing with
her but the small bundles of work, looked disappointed. This touched
her feeling a good deal. But she felt much worse when Ella, the sick
one, half raised herself from her pillow a said--
"Did you get me that orange, as you promised, mother?"
"No, dear; I couldn't get any money this morning," the mother
replied, bending over her sick child and kissing her cheek, that was
flushed and hot with fever. "But as soon as Mr. Berlaps pays me, you
shall have an orange."
"I wish he would pay you soon then, mother; for I want one so bad. I
dreamed last night that I had one, and just as I was going to eat
it, I waked up. And, since you have been gone, I've been asleep, and
dreamed again that I had a large juicy orange. But don't cry mother.
I know you couldn't get it for me. I'll be very patient."
"I know you will, my dear child," said the mother, putting an arm
about the little sufferer, and drawing her to her bosom; "you have
been good and patient, and mother is only sorry that she has not
been able to get you the orange you want so badly."
"But I don't believe I want it so very, very bad, mother, as I seem
to. I think about it so much--that's the reason I want it, I'm sure.
I'll try and not think about it any more."
"Try, that's a dear, good girl," murmured Mrs. Gaston, as she kissed
her child again, and then turned away to resume once more her
wearying task. Unrolling one of the coarse jackets she had brought
home, she found that it was of heavy beaver cloth, and had to be
sewed with strong thread. For a moment or two, after she spread it
out upon the table, she looked at the many pieces to be wrought up
into a well-finished whole, and thought of the hours of hard labor
it would require to accomplish the task. A feeling of discouragement
stole into her heart, and she leaned her head listlessly upon the
table. But only a moment or two elapsed before a thought of her
children aroused her flagging energies.
It was after eleven o'clock before she was fairly at work. The first
thing to be done, after laying aside the different portions of the
garment in order, was to put in the pockets. This was not
accomplished before one o'clock, when she had to leave her work to
prepare a meal for herself and little ones. There remained from
their supper and breakfast, a small portion of the fish and
potatoes. Both of these had been boiled, and hashed up together,
and, of what remained, all that was required was to make it into
balls and fry it. This was not a matter to occasion much delay. In
fifteen minutes from the time she laid aside her needle and thimble,
the table had been set, with its one dish upon it, and Harry and
little Emma were eating with keen appetites their simple meal. But,
to Mrs. Gaston, the food was unpalatable; and Ella turned from it
with loathing. There was, however, nothing more, in the house; and
both Ella and her mother had to practice self-denial and patience.
After the table was cleared away, Mrs. Gaston again resumed her
labor; but Emma was unusually fretful, and hung about her mother
nearly the whole afternoon, worrying her mind, and keeping her back
a good deal, so that, when the brief afternoon had worn away, and
the deepening twilight compelled her to suspend her labors, she had
made but little perceptible progress in her work.
"Be good children now until I come back," she said, as she rose from
her chair, put on her, bonnet, and drew an old Rob Roy shawl around
her shoulders. Descending then into the street, she took her way
with a quick step toward that part of the city in which her employer
kept his store. Her heart beat anxiously as she drew near, and
trembled lest she should not find him in. If not?--but the fear made
her feel sick. She had no food in the house, no friends to whom she
could apply, and there was no one of whom she could venture to ask
to be trusted for even a single loaf of bread. At length she reached
the well-lighted store, in which were several customers, upon whom
both Berlaps and bis clerk were attending with business assiduity.
The sight of the tailor relieved the feelings of poor Mrs. Gaston
very much. Passing on to the back part of the store, she stood
patiently awaiting his leisure. But his customers were hard to
please. And, moreover, one was scarcely suited. before another came
in. Thus it continued for nearly half an hour, when, the poor woman
became so anxious about the little ones she had left at home, and
especially about Ella, who had appeared to have a good deal of fever
when she came away, that she walked slowly down the store, and
paused opposite to where Berlaps stood waiting upon a customer, in
order to attract his attention. But he took not the slightest notice
of her. She remained thus for nearly ten minutes longer. Then she
came up to the side of the counter, and, leaning over toward him,
said, in a half whisper--
"Can I speak a word with you, Mr. Berlaps?"
"I've no time to attend to you now, woman," he answered, gruffly,
and the half-frightened creature shrunk away quickly, and again
stood far back in the store.
It was full half an hour after this before the shop was cleared, and
then the tailor, instead of coming back to where Mrs. Gaston stood,
commenced folding up and replacing his goods upon the shelves.
Fearful lest other customers would enter, the seamstress came slowly
forward, and again stood near Berlaps.
"What do you want here to-night, woman?" asked the tailor, without
lifting his eyes from the employment in which he was engaged.
"I brought home the other pair of trowsers this morning, but you
were not in," Mrs. Gaston replied.
"Michael couldn't pay me, and so I've run up this evening."
"You're a very troublesome kind of a person," said Berlaps, looking
her rebukingly in the face. Then taking a dollar and five cents from
the drawer, he pushed them toward her on the counter, adding, as he
did so, "There, take your money. One would think you were actually
Mrs. Gaston picked up the coin eagerly, and hurried away. It was
more than an hour since she had left home. Her children were alone,
and the night had closed in some time before. The thought of this
made her quicken her pace to a run. As she passed on, the sight of
an orange in a window reminded her of her promise to Ella. She
stopped and bought a small one, and then hurried again on her way.
"Here's half a dollar of what I owe you, Mrs. Grubb," said she, as
she stepped into the shop of that personage, and threw the coin she
named upon the counter. "And now give me a loaf of bread, quickly;
some molasses in this cup, and a pint of milk in this," drawing two
little mugs from under her shawl as she spoke.
The articles she mentioned were soon ready for her. She had paid for
them, and was about stepping from the door, when she paused, and,
turning about, said:
"Oh, I had like to have forgotten! I want two cent candles. I shall
have to work late to-night."
The candles were cut from a large bunch hanging above the narrow
counter, wrapped in a very small bit of paper, and given to Mrs.
Gaston, who took them and went quickly away.
All was dark and still in the room that contained her children, as
she gained the house that sheltered them. She lit one of her candles
below, and went up-stairs. As she entered, Ella's bright eyes
glistened upon her from the bed; but little Emma had fallen asleep
with her head in the lap of Henry, who was seated upon the floor
with his back against the wall, himself likewise locked in the arms
of forgetfulness. The fire had nearly gone out, and the room was
"Oh, mother, why did yon stay so long?" Ella asked, looking her
earnestly in the face.
"I couldn't get back any sooner, my dear. But see! I've brought the
orange you have wished for so long. You can eat it all by yourself,
for Emma is fast asleep on the floor, and can't cry for it."
But Emma roused up, at the moment, and began to fret and cry for
something to eat.
"Don't cry, dear. You shall have your supper in a little while. I
have brought you home some nice bread and molasses," said the
mother, in tones meant to soothe and quiet her hungry and impatient
little one. But Emma continued to fret and cry on.
"It's so cold, mamma!" she said. "It's so cold, and I'm hungry!"
"Don't cry, dear," again urged the mother. "I'll make the fire up
nice and warm in a little while, and then you shall have something
good to eat."
But--"It's so cold, mamma! it's so cold, and I'm hungry!" was the
continued and incessant complaint of the poor child.
All this time, Ella had been busily engaged in peeling her orange,
and dividing it into four quarters.
"See here, Emma! Look what I've got!" she said, in a lively,
cheerful tone, as soon as her orange had been properly divided.
"Come, cover up in bed here with me, until the fire's made, and you
shall have this nice bit of orange."
Emma's complaints ceased in a moment, and she turned toward her
sister, and clambered upon the bed.
"And here's a piece for you, Henry, and a piece for mother, too,"
continued Ella, reaching out two other portions.
"No, dear, keep it for yourself. I don't want it," said the mother.
"And Emma shall have my piece," responded Henry; "she wants it worse
than I do."
"That is right. Be good children, and, love one another," said Mrs.
Gaston, encouragingly. "But Emma don't want brother Henry's piece,
"No, Emma don't want brother Henry's piece," repeated the child; and
she took up a portion of the orange as she spoke, and handed it to
Henry received it; and, getting upon the bed with his sisters,
shared with them not only the orange, but kind fraternal feelings.
The taste of the fruit revived Ella a good deal and she, with the
assistance of Henry, succeeded in amusing Emma until their mother
had made the fire, and boiled some water. Into a portion of the
water she poured about half of the milk she had brought home, and,
filling a couple of tin cups with this, set it with bread and
molasses upon a little table, and called Henry and Emma to supper.
The children, at this announcement, scrambled from the bed, and,
pushing chairs up to the table, commenced eating the supper provided
for them with keen appetites. Into what remained of the pint of
milk, Mrs. Gaston poured a small portion of hot water, and then
crumbled some bread, and put a few grains of salt into it, and took
this to the bed for Ella. The child ate two or three spoonsful; but
her stomach soon turned against the food.
"I don't feel hungry, mother," said she, as she laid herself back
upon the pillow.
"But you've eaten scarcely any thing to-day: Try and take a little
more, dear. It will do you good."
"I can't, indeed, mother." And a slight expression of loathing
passed over the child's face.
"Can't you think of something you could eat?" urged the mother.
"I don't want any thing. The orange tasted good, and that is enough
for to-night," Ella replied, in a cheerful voice.
Mrs. Gaston then sat down by the table with Henry and Emma, and ate
a small portion of bread and molasses. But this food touched not her
palate with any pleasurable sensation. She ate, only because she
knew that, unless, she took food, she would not have strength to
perform her duties to her children. For a long series of years, her
system had been accustomed to the generous excitement of tea at the
evening meal. A cup of good tea had become almost indispensable to
her. It braced her system, cleared her head, and refreshed her after
the unremitting toils of the day. But, for some time past, she had
felt called upon, for the sake of her children, to deny herself this
luxury--no, comfort--no, this, to her, one of the necessaries of
life. The consequence was that her appetite lost its tone. No food
tasted pleasantly to her; and the labors of the evening were
performed under depression of spirits and nervous relaxation of
This evening she ate, compulsorily, as usual, a small portion of dry
bread, and drank a few mouthfuls of warm water, in which a little
milk had been poured. As she did so, her eyes turned frequently upon
the face of Henry, a fair-haired, sweet-faced, delicate boy, her
eldest born--the first pledge of pure affection, and the promise of
a happy wedded life. Sadly, indeed, had time changed since then. A
young mother, smiling over her first born--how full of joy was the
sunlight of each succeeding day! Now, widowed and alone, struggling
with failing and unequal strength against the tide that was slowly
bearing her down the stream, each morning broke to her more and,
more drearily, and each evening, as it closed darkly in, brought
another shadow to rest in despondency upon her spirit.
Faithfully had she struggled on, hoping still to be able to keep her
little ones around her. The proposition of Michael to put out Henry
startled into activity the conscious fear that had for some months
been stifled in her bosom; and now she had to look the matter full
in the face, and, in spite of all her feelings of reluctance,
confess to herself that the effort to keep her children around her
must prove unavailing. But how could she part with her boy? How
could she see him put out among strangers? How could she bear to let
him go away from her side, and be henceforth treated as a servant,
and be compelled to perform labor above his years? The very thought
made her sick.
Her frugal meal was soon finished, and then the children were put to
bed. After laying away their clothes, and setting back the table
from which their supper had been eaten, Mrs. Gaston seated herself
by the already (sic) nearly nearly half burned penny candle, whose
dim light scarcely enabled her failing eyesight to discern the edges
of the dark cloth upon which she was working, and composed herself
to her task. Hour after hour she toiled on, weary and aching in
every limb. But she remitted not her labors until long after
midnight, and then not until her last candle had burned away to the
socket in which it rested. Then she put aside her work with a sigh,
as she reflected upon the slow progress she had made, and, disrobing
herself, laid her over-wearied body beside that of her sick child.
Ella was asleep; but her breathing was hard, and her mother
perceived, upon laying her hand upon her face, that her fever had
greatly increased. But she knew no means of alleviation, and
therefore did not attempt any. In a little while, nature claimed for
her a respite. Sleep locked her senses in forgetfulness.
DEATH OF MRS. GASTON'S CHILD.--A MOTHER'S ANGUISH.
ON the next morning, at the earliest dawn, Mrs. Gaston arose. She
found Ella's fever still very high. The child was restless, and
moaned a good deal in her sleep.
"Poor little thing!" murmured the mother, as she bent over her for a
moment, and then turned away, and commenced kindling a fire upon the
hearth. Fortunately, for her, she had saved enough from her earnings
during the summer to buy half a cord of wood; but this was gradually
melting away, and she was painfully conscious that, by the time the
long and severe winter had fairly set in, her stock of fuel would be
exhausted; and at the prices which she was receiving for her work,
she felt that it would be impossible to buy more. After making the
fire, she took her work, and drew near the window, through which the
cold faint rays of the morning were stealing. By holding the work
close to the light, she could see to set her needle, and in this way
she commenced her daily toil. An hour was spent in sewing, when Emma
aroused up, and she had to lay by her work to attend to her child.
Ella, too, had awakened, and complained that her head ached badly,
and that her throat was very sore. Half an hour was spent in
dressing, washing, and otherwise attending to her children, and then
Mrs. Gaston went out to get something for breakfast. On entering the
shop of Mrs. Grubb, she met with rather a more courteous reception
than had been given her on the morning previous.
"Ah! good-morning, Mrs. Gaston! Good-morning!" said that personage,
with a broad, good-natured smile. "How is Ella?"
"She seems very poorly, Mrs. Grubb. I begin to feel troubled about
her. She complains of a sore throat this morning, and you know the
scarlet fever is all about now."
"Oh, no! never fear that, Mrs. Gaston. Ella's not down with the
scarlet fever, I know."
"I trust not. But I have my fears."
"Never take trouble on interest, Mrs. Gaston. It is bad enough when
it comes in the natural way. But what can I do for you?"
"I think I must have a cent's worth of coffee this morning. My head
aches so that I am almost blind. A strong cup of coffee I am sure
will do me good. And as I have a hard day's work before me, I must
prepare for it. And then I must have a pint of milk and a three-cent
loaf of bread for the children. That must do me for the present. We
have some molasses left."
"You'll want a little dried meat, or a herring, or something to give
you a relish, Mrs. Gaston. Dry bread is poor eating. And you know
you can't touch molasses." Half in sympathy did Mrs. Grubb utter
this, and half as a dealer, desirous of selling her goods.
"Nothing more just now, I believe," the poor woman replied. "I must
be prudent, you know, and count over every cent."
"But you'll make yourself sick, if you don't eat something more than
you do. So come now; treat yourself to a herring, or to a penny's
worth of this sweet butter. You'll feel all the better for it, and
do more than enough work to pay the cost twice over."
Mrs. Gaston's appetite was tempted. The hard fresh butter looked
inviting to her eyes, and she stooped over and smelled it half
"I believe you are right, Mrs. Grubb," she said. "You may give me a
couple of cents' worth of this nice butter."
An ounce of butter was carefully weighed out, and given to the
"Isn't there something else, now, that you want?" said the smiling
shopkeeper, leaning her elbows upon the counter, and looking
encouragingly into the face of Mrs. Gaston.
"I've indulged myself, and I shall not feel right, unless I indulge
the children a little also," was the reply; "so weigh me two cents'
worth of your smoked beef. They all like it very much."
The smoked beef was soon ready, and then the mother hurried home to
After the morning meal tad been prepared, Mrs. Gaston sat down and
ate her bread and butter, tasting a little of the children's meat,
and drinking her coffee with a keen relish. She felt braced up on
rising from the table, and, but for the illness of Ella, would have
felt an unusual degree of cheerfulness.
Henry attended the common school of the district, and, soon after
breakfast, prepared himself to go. As he was leaving, his mother
told him to call at Doctor R--'s, and ask him if he would be kind
enough to stop and see Ella. She then seated herself once more
beside her little work-table. The two foreparts of the jacket had
been finished, except the button-holes; and the sleeves were ready
to put in as soon as the body of the garment was ready for them. As
the button-holes tried the sight of Mrs. Gaston severely, she chose
that part of the day, when her eyes were fresh, to work them. The
jacket was double-breasted, and there were five holes to be worked
on each side. She had nearly completed one-half of them, when Doctor
R--came in. He looked serious upon examining his patient. Said she
was very ill, and required immediate attention.
"But you don't think it the scarlet fever, doctor?" the mother said,
in a low, alarmed voice.
"Your child is very sick, madam; and, to tell you the truth, her
symptoms resemble too closely those of the fever you have named,"
was the undisguised reply.
"Surely, my cup is full and running over!" sobbed Mrs. Gaston,
clasping her hands together as this sudden announcement broke down,
for a moment, her self-control, while the tears gushed from her
Doctor R--was a man of true feeling. He had attended, in two or
three cases of illness, the children of Mrs. Gaston, and had
observed that she was a woman who had become, from some cause,
greatly reduced in circumstances. His sympathies were strongly
awakened at seeing her emotion, and he said, in a kind but firm
"A mother, the safety of whose child depends upon her calm and
intelligent performance of duty, should never lose her
"I know that, doctor," the mother answered, rallying herself with a
strong effort. "But I was over-tried already, and your sudden
confirmation of my worst fears completely broke me down."
"In any event, however," the doctor replied, "you must not permit
yourself to forget that your child is in the hands of Him who
regards its good in a far higher sense than you can possibly. He
never permits sickness of any kind without a good end."
"I know that, doctor, but I have a mother's heart. I love my
children, and the thought of losing them touches me to the quick."
"And yet you know that, in passing from this to another state of
existence, their condition must be bettered beyond comparison."
"Oh, yes. Beyond comparison!" replied the mother, half abstractedly,
but with touching pathos. "And yet, doctor, I cannot spare them.
They are every thing to me."
"Do not suffer yourself to indulge needless alarm. I will leave you
medicine now, and call again to-morrow. If she should be decidedly
worse, send for me toward evening."
After the doctor went away, Mrs. Gaston gave the medicine he had
left, as directed, and then forced herself from the bedside, and
resumed her work. By the time the button-holes of the garment she
was engaged upon were all completed, and the back and shoulder seams
sewed up, it was time to see about something for dinner. She put
aside the jacket, and went to the bed. Ella lay as if asleep. Her
face was flushed, and her skin dry and hot. The mother looked upon
her for a few moments with a yearning heart; then, turning away, she
took from a closet her bonnet and shawl, and a little basket.
Passing quickly down-stairs, after telling Emma to keep very still
and be a good girl until she came back, she took her way toward the
market-house. At a butcher's she obtained, for three cents, some
bones, and then at one of the stalls bought a few herbs, a head of
cabbage, and three turnips; the whole at a cost of sixpence.
With these she returned home, renewed her fire, and, after preparing
the bones and vegetables she had procured, put them into an iron pot
with some water, and hung this upon the crane. She then sat down
again to her work.
At twelve o'clock Henry came in from school, and brought up an
armful of wood, and some water, and then, by direction of his
mother, saw that the fire was kept burning briskly. At one, Mrs.
Gaston laid by her work again, and set the table for dinner. Henry
went for a loaf of bread while she was doing this, and upon his
return found all ready. The meal, palatable to all, was a well-made
soup; the mother and her two children ate of it with keen appetites.
When it was over, Henry went away again to school and Mrs. Gaston,
after administering to Ella another dose of medicine, sat down once
more to her work. One sleeve remained to be sewed in, when the
garment would only require to have the collar put on, and be pressed
off. This occupied her until late in the afternoon.
"Thirty cents for all that!" she sighed to herself, as she laid the
finished garment upon the bed. "Too bad! Too bad! How can a widow
and three children subsist on twenty cents a day?"
A deep moan from Ella caused her to look at her child more intently
than she had done for half an hour. She was alarmed to find that her
face had become like scarlet, and was considerably swollen. On
speaking to her, she seemed quite stupid, and answered incoherently,
frequently putting her hand to her throat, as if in pain there. This
confirmed the mother's worst fears for her child, especially as she
was in a raging fever. Soon after, Henry came in from school, and
she dispatched him for Doctor R--, who returned with the boy. He
seemed uneasy at the manner in which the symptoms were developing
themselves. A long and silent examination ended in his asking for a
basin. He bled her freely, as there appeared to be much visceral
congestion, and an active inflammation of the tonsils, larynx, and
air passages, with a most violent fever. After this she lay very
still, and seemed much relieved. But, half an hour after the doctor
had left, the fever rallied again, with burning intensity. Her face
swelled rapidly, and the soreness of her throat increased. About
nine o'clock the doctor came in again, and upon examining the
child's throat, found it black and deeply ulcerated.
"What do you think of her, doctor?" asked the poor mother, eagerly.
"I think her very ill, madam--and, I regret to say, dangerously so."
"Is it scarlet fever, doctor?"
"It is, madam. A very bad case of it. But do not give way to
feelings of despondency. I have seen worse cases recover."
More active medicines than any that had yet been administered were
given by the doctor, who again retired, with but little hope of
seeing his patient alive in the morning.
From the time Mrs. Gaston finished the garment upon which she had
been working, she had not even unrolled the other roundabout, and it
was now nine o'clock at night. A sense of her destitute condition,
and of the pressing necessity there was for her to let every minute
leave behind some visible impression, made her, after Henry and Emma
were in bed, leave the side of her sick child, though with painful
reluctance, and resume her toil. But, ever and anon, as Ella moaned,
or tossed restlessly upon her pillow, would the mother lay by her
work, and go and stand beside her in silent anguish of spirit, or
inquire where she suffered pain, or what she could do to relieve
Thus passed the hours until twelve, one, and two o'clock, the mother
feeling that her child was too sick for her to seek repose, and yet,
as she could do nothing to relieve her sufferings, she could not sit
idly by and look upon her. For fifteen or twenty minutes at a time
she would ply her needle, and then get up and bend over the bed for
a minute or two. A thought of duty would again call her back to her
position by the work-table, where she would again devote herself to
her task, in spite of an aching head, and a reluctant, over-wearied
body. Thus she continued until near daylight, when there was an
apparent subsidence of Ella's most painful symptoms. The child
ceased to moan and throw herself about, and finally sunk into
slumber. In some relief of mind, Mrs. Gaston laid down beside her
upon the bed, and, in a little while was fast asleep. When she
awoke, the sun had been up some time, and was shining brightly into
the room. Quickly rising, her first glance was toward her sick
child. She could scarcely suppress a cry of agony, as she perceived
that her face and neck had swollen so as to appear puffed up, while
her skin was covered with livid spots. An examination of the chest
and stomach showed that these spots were extending themselves over
her whole body. Besides these signs of danger, the breathing of the
child was more like gasping, as she lay with her mouth half opened.
The mother laid her hand upon her arm, and spoke to her. But she did
not seem to hear the voice.
"Ella, dear! how do you feel this morning?" repeated Mrs. Gaston in
louder and more earnest tones.
But the child heeded her not. She was already past consciousness! At
an early hour Doctor R--came in. The moment he looked at his patient
his countenance fell. Still, he proceeded to examine her carefully.
But every symptom was alarming, and indicated a speedy fatal
termination, this was especially the case with the upper part of the
throat, which was black. Nothing deeper could be seen, as the
tonsils were so swollen as to threaten suffocation.
"Is there any hope, doctor?" asked Mrs. Gaston, eagerly, laying her
hand upon his arm as he turned from the bed.
"There is always hope where there is life, madam," he replied,
abstractedly; and then in a thoughtful mood took two or three turns
across the narrow apartment.
"I will come again in an hour," he at length said, "and see if there
is any change. I would rather not give her any more medicine for the
present. Let her remain perfectly quiet."
True to his promise, Doctor R--entered the room just an hour from
the time he left it. The scene that met his eye moved his heart
deeply, all used as he was to the daily exhibition of misery in its
many distressing forms. The child was dead! He was prepared for
that--but not for the abandoned grief to which the mother gave way.
The chords of feeling had been drawn in her heart too tightly. Mind
and body were both out of tune, and discordant. In suffering, in
abject want and destitution, her heart still clung to her children,
and threw around them a sphere of intenser affection, as all that
was external grew darker, colder, and more dreary. They were her
jewels, and she could not part with them. They were hidden away in
her heart of hearts so deeply, that not a single one of them could
be taken without leaving it lacerated and bleeding.
When the doctor entered, he found her lying upon the bed, with the
body of her child hugged tightly to her bosom. Little Emma had crept
away into a corner of the room, and looked frightened. Henry was
crouching in a chair, with the tears running down his cheeks in
"You are too late, doctor," said the mother, in a tone so calm, so
clear, and yet to his ear so thrilling, that he started, and felt a
chill pass through his frame. There was something in the sound of
that voice in ill accordance with the scene.
As she spoke, she glanced at the physician with bright, tearless
eyes for a moment; and then, turning away her head, she laid her
cheek against that of the corpse, and drew the lifeless body with
trembling eagerness to her heart.
"This is all vain, my dear madam!" urged Dr. R--, approaching the
bedside, and laying his hand upon her. "Come! Be a woman. To bear is
to conquer our fate. No sorrow of yours can call back the happy
spirit of your child. And, surely, you would not call her back, if
you could, to live over the days of anguish and pain that were meted
out to her?"
"I cannot give up my child, doctor. Oh, I cannot give up my child!
It will break my heart!" she replied, her voice rising and trembling
more and more at each sentence, until it gave way, and the hot tears
came raining over her face, and falling upon the insensible cheek of
"'The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away,' Mrs. Gaston. Can you
not look up, even in this sore affliction, and say, 'Blessed be the
name of the Lord?' It is your only hope. An arm of flesh cannot
support you now. You must look to the Strong for strength."
As Doctor R--thus urged her to reason and duty, the tears of the
bereaved mother gradually ceased to flow. She grew calmer, and
regained, in some degree, her self-possession. As she did so, she
slowly disengaged her arm from the body of her child, placed its
head, as carefully as if it had been asleep, upon the pillow, and
then arose, and stood with her hands tightly clasped across her
"I am but a weak woman, doctor, and you must bear with me," said
she, in a changed voice. "I used to have fortitude; but I feel that
I am breaking fast. I am not what I was."
The last two sentences were spoken in a tone so sad and mournful,
that the doctor could scarcely keep back the tears.
"You have friends here, I suppose," he remarked, "who will be with
you on this afflicting occasion?"
"I have no friends," she replied, in the same sad voice. "I and my
children are alone in this hard world. Would to heaven we were all
with Ella!" Her tears again gushed forth and flowed freely.
"Then I must send some one who will assist you in your present
need," said Dr. R--; and turning away he left the room, and, getting
into his chaise, rode off at a brisk pace. In about a quarter of an
hour, he returned with a woman who took charge of the body of the
child, and performed for it the last sad offices that the dead
Upon close inquiry, he ascertained from Mrs. Gaston that she was in
a state of extreme destitution; that so far from having the means to
bury her dead child, she was nearly without food to give to her
living ones. To meet this pressing need, he went to a few benevolent
friends, and procured money sufficient to inter the corpse, and
about ten dollars over. This he gave to her after the funeral, at
which there were only three mourners, the mother and her two
LIZZY GLENN AROUSES THE INTEREST OF A STRANGER.
BERLAPS was leaning over his counter late in the afternoon of the
second day from that on which the person calling herself Lizzy Glenn
had applied for and obtained work, when a young man entered and
asked for some article of dress. While the tailor was still engaged
in waiting upon him, the young woman came in, carrying a small
bundle in her hand. Her vail was drawn over her face as she entered;
but was thrown partly aside as she retired to the back part of the
store, where she stood awaiting the leisure of the man from whom she
had obtained work. As she passed him, the customer turned and looked
at her earnestly for a moment or two, and then asked in a whisper--
"Who is that?"
"Only one of our sewing-girls," replied Berlaps, indifferently.
"What is her name?"
"I forget. She's a girl to whom we gave out work day before
This paused the man to look at her more attentively. The young
woman, becoming conscious that she was an object of close scrutiny
by a stranger, turned partly away, so that her face could not be
"There is something singularly familiar about her," mused the young
man as he left the store. "Who can she be? I have certainly seen her
"Ah, good-afternoon, Perkins!" said a familiar voice, while a
friendly hand was laid upon his arm. "You seem to be in a browner
mood than usual!"
"I am a little thoughtful, or abstracted, just as you please,"
replied the individual addressed.
"Are you, indeed? May I ask the reason?"
"The reason hardly seems to be a sufficient one--and, therefore, I
will not jeopardize your good opinion of me by mentioning it."
"O, very well! I am content to have my friends conceal from me their
The two young men then walked on arm and arm for some distance. They
seemed to be walking more for the sake of a little conversation than
for any thing else, for they went slowly, and after winding about
among the labyrinthine streets for ten or twenty minutes, took their
way back again.
"There she is again, as I live!" Perkins exclaimed, half pausing, as
the young woman he had seen at the tailor's passed quickly by them
on their turning a corner.
"You've noticed her before, then?" remarked the friend, whose name
"I saw her a little while ago in a clothing store; and her
appearance instantly arrested my attention. Do you know who she is?"
"I do not. But I'd give something to know. You saw her in a clothing
"Yes. In the shop of that close-fisted Berlaps. She is one of his
seamstresses--a new one, by the way--to whom he has just given work.
So he informed me."
"Indeed! She must be in great extremity to work for his pay. It is
only the next remove, I am told, from actual starvation."
"But tell me what you know of her, Milford. She seems to have
attracted your notice, as well as mine."
"I know nothing of her whatever," replied the young man, "except
that I have met her five or six times during the last two weeks,
upon the Warren Bridge, on her way to Charlestown. Something in her
appearance arrested my attention the first time I saw her. But I
have never been able to catch more than a glimpse of her face. Her
vail is usually drawn."
"Who can she visit in Charlestown?"
"No one, I have good reason to think."
"I had once the curiosity to follow her as far as I deemed it
prudent and courteous. She kept on entirely through the town--at
least through the thickly settled portion of it. Her step was too
quick for the step of one who was merely going to pay a friendly
"You have had, if I understand you, at least a glimpse of her
"Yes. Once, in passing her, her vail was half drawn aside, as if to
get a freer draught of air."
"And her face?"
"Was thin and pale."
"So I should call it. Not pretty--not a mere doll's face--but
intellectually beautiful; yet full of softness. In fact, the face of
a woman with a mind and heart. But sorrow had touched her--and pain.
And, above all, the marks of crushed affection were too plainly
visible upon her young countenance. All this could be seen at the
single glance I obtained, before her vail was drawn hurriedly down."
"Strange that she should seek so to hide her face from every eye.
Can it be that she is some one we have known, who has fallen so
"No, I think not," replied Milford. "I am certain that I have never
seen her before. Her face is a strange one to me. At least, the
glance I had revealed no familiar feature."
"Well, I, for one, am resolved to know more about her," remarked
Perkins, as the two friends paused before separating. "Since she has
awakened so sudden, and yet so strong an interest in my mind, I
should feel that I was not doing right if I made no effort to learn
something of her true position in our city, where, I am much
inclined to think, she is a stranger."
The young men, after a few more words, separated, Perkins getting
into an "hourly" and going oyer to Charlestown to see a man on some
business who could not be at his house until late in the day. The
transaction of this business took more time than he had expected,
and it was nearly an hour after nightfall before he returned to
Boston. After passing the "draw," as he crossed the old bridge, he
perceived by the light of a lamp, some distance ahead, a female
figure hurrying on with rapid steps.
"It's the strange girl I saw at Berlaps', as I live!" he mentally
ejaculated, quickening his pace. "I must see where she hides herself
The night was very dark, and the form of the stranger, as she
hurried forward, was soon buried in obscurity. In a little while,
she emerged into the little circle of light that diffused itself
around the lamp that stood at the termination of the bridge, and in
the next moment was again invisible. Perkins now pressed forward,
and was soon clear of the bridge, and moving along the dark, lonely
avenue that led up to the more busy part of the city. He had
advanced here but a few paces, when a faint scream caused him to
bound onward at full speed. In a moment after, he came to the corner
of a narrow, dark street, down which he perceived two forms
hurrying; one, a female, evidently struggling against the superior
force of the other.
His warning cry, and the sound of his rapidly advancing footsteps,
caused the man to relax his hold, when the female figure glided away
with wind-like fleetness. The man hesitated an instant; but, before
Perkins reached the spot where he stood, ran off in an opposite
direction to that taken by the woman.
Here was an adventure calculated to give to the mind of Perkins a
new and keener interest in the young seamstress. He paused but a
moment, and then ran at the height of his speed in the direction the
female form, which he had good reason to believe was (sic) her's,
had taken. But she was nowhere to be seen. Either she had sought a
shelter in one of the houses, or had hurried forward with a
fleetness that carried her far beyond his reach.
Thoughtful and uneasy in mind, he could hardly tell why, he sought
his lodgings; and, retiring at once to his chamber, seated himself
by a table upon which were books and papers, and soon became lost in
sad memories of the past that strongly linked themselves, why he
could not tell, for they had no visible connection, with the
present. For a long time he sat in this abstract mood, his hand
shading his face from the light. At last he arose slowly and went to
a drawer, from which he took a small morocco case, and, returning
with it to the table, seated himself again near the lamp. He opened
the case, and let the light fall strongly upon the miniature of a
most beautiful female. Her light brown hair, that fell in rich and
glossy ringlets to her neck, relieved tastefully her broad white
forehead, and the gentle roundness of her pure cheeks, that were
just tinged with the flush of health and beauty. But these took not
away from the instant attraction of her dark hazel eyes, that beamed
tenderly upon the gazer's face. Perkins bent for many minutes over
this sweet image; then pressing it to his lips, he murmured, as he
leaned back, and lifted his eyes to the ceiling--
"Where, where in the spirit-land dost thou dwell, dear angel? In
what dark and undiscovered cave of the ocean rests, in dreamless
sleep, thy beautiful but unconscious body? Snatched from me in the
bloom of youth, when fresh flowers blossomed in thy young heart to
bless me with their fragrance, how hast thou left me in loneliness
and desolation of spirit! And yet thou seemest near to me, and, of
late, nearer and dearer than ever. Oh, that I could hear thy real
voice, even if spoken to the ear of my spirit, and see once more thy
real face, were it only a spiritual presence!"
The young man then fell into a dreamy (sic) stat of mind, in which
we will leave him for the present.
SOME OF THE TROUBLES OF A NEEDLEWOMAN.--A FRIEND IN NEED.
THE prompt assistance rendered, by Dr. R--to Mrs. Gaston came just
in time. It enabled her to pay her month's rent, due for several
days, to settle the amount owed to Mrs. Grubb, and lay in more wood
for the coming winter. This consumed all her money, and left her
once more dependent upon the meagre reward of her hard labor to
supply food and clothing for herself and her two remaining children.
From a state of almost complete paralysis of mind, consequent upon
the death of Ella, her necessities aroused her. On the second day
after the child had been taken, she again resumed her suspended
toil. The sight of the unfinished garment which had been laid aside
after bending over it nearly the whole night previous to the morning
upon which Ella died, awakened a fresh emotion of grief in her
bosom. As this gradually subsided, she applied herself with patient
assiduity to her task, which was not finished before twelve o'clock
that night, when she laid herself down with little Emma in her arms,
and soon lost all care and trouble in profound sleep.
Hasty pudding and molasses composed the morning meal for all. After
breakfast, Mrs. Gaston took the two jackets, which had been out now
five days to the shop.
"Why, bless me, Mrs. Gaston, I thought you had run off with them
jackets!" was Michael's coarse salutation as she came in. The poor,
heart-oppressed seamstress could not trust herself to reply, but
laid her work upon the counter in silence. Berlaps, seeing her, came
"These kind of doings will never answer, madam!" he said angrily. "I
could have sold both jackets ten times over, if they'd been here
three days ago, as by rights they ought to have been. I can't give
you work, if you are not, more punctual. You needn't think to get
along at our tack, unless you plug it in a little faster than all
this comes to."
"I'll try and do better after this," said Mrs. Gaston, faintly.
"You'll have to, let me tell you, or we'll cry 'quits.' All my women
must have nimble fingers."
"These jackets are not much to brag of," broke in Michael, as he
tossed them aside. "I think we had better not trust her with any
more cloth roundabouts. She has botched the button-holes awfully;
and the jackets are not more than half pressed. Just look how she
has held on the back seam of this one, and drawn the edges of the
lappels until they set seven ways for Sunday! They're murdered
outright, and ought to be hung, with a basin under them to catch the
"What was she to have for them?" asked Berlaps.
"Thirty cents a-piece, I believe," replied the salesman.
"Don't give her but a quarter, then. I'm not going to pay full price
to have my work botched up after that style!" And, so saying,
Berlaps turned away and walked back to his desk.
Lizzy Glenn, as she had called herself, entered at the moments and
heard the remark of the tailor. She glided. noiselessly by Mrs.
Gaston, and stood further down the store, with both her body and
face turned partly from her, where she waited patiently for the
interview between her and Michael to terminate.
The poor, heart-crushed creature did not offer the slightest
remonstrance to this act of cruel oppression, but took the half
dollar thrown her by Michael for the two jackets with an air of meek
resignation. She half turned to go away after doing so, but a
thought of her two remaining children caused her to hesitate.
"Have'n't you some more trowsers to give out?" she asked, turning
again toward Michael.
The sound of her voice reached the ear of the young female who had
just entered, causing her to start, and look for an instant toward
the speaker. But she slowly resumed her former position with a sigh,
after satisfying herself by a single glance at the woman, whose
voice had fallen upon her ear with a strange familiarity.
"We haven't any more ready, ma'am, just now."
"What have you to give out? Any thing?"
"Yes. Here are some unbleached cotton shirts, at seven cents. You
can have some of them, if you choose."
"I will take half a dozen," said Mrs. Gaston in a desponding tone.
"Any thing is better than nothing."
"Well, Miss Lizzy Glenn," said Michael, with repulsive familiarity,
as Mrs. Gaston turned from the counter and left the store, "what can
I do for you this morning?"
The young seamstress made no reply, but laid her bundle upon the
counter and unrolled it. It contained three fine shirts, with linen
bosoms and collars, very neatly made.
"Very well done, Lizzy," said Michael, approvingly, as he inspected
the two rows of stitching on the bosoms and other parts of the
garments that required to be sewed neatly.
"Have you any more ready?" she asked, shrinking back as she spoke,
with a feeling of disgust, from the bold, familiar attendant.
"Have you any more fine shirts for Lizzy Glenn?" called Michael,
back to Berlaps, in a loud voice.
"I don't know. How has she made them?"
"Then let her have some more, and pay her for those just brought
"That's your sorts!" responded Michael, as he took seventy-five
cents from the drawer and threw the money upon the counter. "Good
work, good pay, and prompt at that. Will you take three more?"
"I will," was the somewhat haughty and dignified reply, intended to
repulse the low-bred fellow's offensive familiarity.
"Highty-tighty!" broke in Michael, in an undertone, meant only for
the maiden's ear. "Tip-top airs don't pass for much in these 'ere
parts. Do you know that, Miss Lizzy Glenn, or whatever your name may
be? We're all on the same level here. Girls that make slop shirts
and trowsers haven't much cause to stand on their dignity. Ha! ha!"
The seamstress turned away quickly, and walked back to the desk
where Berlaps stood writing.
"Be kind enough, sir, if you please, to hand me three more of your
fine shirts," she said, in a firm, but respectful tone.
Berlaps understood the reason of this application to him, and it
caused him to call out to his salesman something after this homely
"Why, in thunder, Michael, don't you let the girls that come to the
store, alone? Give Lizzy three shirts, and be done with your
confounded tom-fooleries! The store is no place for them."
The young woman remained quietly beside the desk of Berlaps until
Michael came up and handed her the shirts. She then walked quickly
toward the door, but did not reach it before Michael, who had glided
along behind one of the counters.
"You're a fool! And don't know which side your bread's buttered," he
said, with a half leer, half scowl.
She neither paused nor replied, but, stepping quickly out, walked
hurriedly away. Young Perkins, before alluded to, entered at the
moment, and heard Michael's grossly insulting language.
"Is that the way to talk to a lady, Michael?" he asked, looking at
him somewhat sternly.
"But you don't call her a lady, I hope, Mr. Perkins?" the salesman
retorted, seeming, however, a little confused as he spoke.
"Do you know any thing to the contrary?" the young man asked, still
looking Michael in the face.
"I can't say that I know much about her, any way, either good or
"Then why did you use such language as I heard just now?"
"Oh, well! Never mind, Mr. Perkins," said Michael, his whole manner
changing as a new idea arose in his thoughts; "if she's your game,
I'll lie low and shut my eyes."
This bold assurance of the fellow at first confounded Perkins, and
then made him very indignant.
"Remember, sir," said he, in a resolute voice, and with a determined
expression on his face, "that I never suffer any one to trifle with
me in that style, much less a fellow like you; so govern yourself,
hereafter, accordingly. As to this young lady, whom you have just
insulted, I give you fair warning now, that another such an act will
bring with it merited punishment."
Perkins then turned from the somewhat crestfallen salesman, and
walked back to where Berlaps was standing at his desk.
"Do you know any thing about that young woman I just now saw leave
here, Mr. Berlaps?" he asked.
"I do not, Mr. Perkins," was the respectful answer. "She is a
stranger, who came in some days ago for work."
"What is her name?"
"Lizzy Glenn, I believe."
"Where does she live?"
"Somewhere at the north end. Michael; there, knows."
"Get from him her street and number for me, if you please."
Berlaps asked Michael for the street and number where she lived,
which the fellow took good care to give wrong. Perkins made a
memorandum of the name and residence, as furnished, in his
note-book, and, bowing to the man of shears, departed.
With her half-dozen shirts at seven cents, Mrs. Gaston returned
home, feeling as if she must give up the struggle. The loss of Ella,
after having striven so long and so hard for the sake of her
children, made her feel more discouraged than she had ever yet felt.
It seemed to her as if even Heaven had ceased to regard her--or that
she was one doomed to be the sport of cruel and malignant powers.
She had been home for only a short time, when Dr. R--came in. After
inquiring about her health, and if the children were still free from
any symptoms of the terrible disease that had carried off their
sister, he said--
"I've been thinking about you a good deal in the last day or two,
Mrs. Gaston, and have now called to have some talk with you. You
work for the stores, I believe?"
"What kind of work do you do?"
"Here are some common shirts, which I have just brought home."
"Well, how much do you get for them?"
"Seven cents, sir."
"_Seven cents_! How many of them can you make in a day?"
"Two are as many as I shall be able to get through with, and attend
to my children; and even then I must work half the night. If I had
nothing to do but sit down and sew all the while, I might make three
"Shameful! Shameful! And is that the price paid for such work?"
"It is all I get."
"At this rate, then, you can only make fourteen cents a day?"
"That is all, sir. And, even on the best of work, I can never get
beyond a quarter of a dollar a day."
"How in the world, then, have you managed to keep yourself and three
children from actual want?"
"I have not been able, doctor," she replied, with some bitterness.
"We have wanted almost every thing."
"So I should suppose. What rent do you pay for this poor place?"
"Three dollars a month."
"What! seventy-five cents a week! and not able to earn upon an
average more than a dollar a week?"
"Yes, sir. But I had better work through the summer, and sometimes
earned two dollars, and even a little more, in a week."
The doctor paused some time and then said--
"Well, Mrs. Gaston, it's no use for you to struggle on at this rate,
even with your two remaining children. You cannot keep a home for
them, and cover their nakedness from the cold. Now let me advise
"I am ready to hear any thing, doctor."
"What I would propose, in the first place--and that, in fact, is
what has brought me in this morning--is that you put Henry out to a
trade. He is young, it is true; but necessity, you know, knows no
law. He will be just as well off, and better, too, under the care of
a good master than he can be with you. And, then, such an
arrangement will greatly relieve you. The care of little Emma will
be light in comparison to what you have had to endure."
"You are no doubt right, doctor," the poor woman said, while the
tears came to her eyes as she glanced toward Henry, who, for want of
a pair of shoes, was compelled to stay home from school. "But I
cannot bear the thought of parting with him. He is a delicate child,
and only ten years old this winter. He is too young to go from home
and have a master."
"He is young, I know, Mrs. Gaston. But, then, it is vain to think of
being able to keep him with you. It is a cruel necessity, I know.
But it cannot be avoided."
"Perhaps not. But, even if I should consent to put him out, I know
of no one who would take him. And, above all, I dread the
consequences of vicious association in a city like this."
"That matter, I think, can all be arranged to your satisfaction. I
saw a man yesterday from Lexington, who asked me if I knew any one
who had a lad ten or twelve-years old, and who would like to get him
a good place. I thought of you at once. He said a friend of his
there, who carried on the hatting business, wanted a boy. I inquired
his character and standing, and learned that they were good. Now, I
think this an excellent chance for you. I have already mentioned
your little boy to the man, and promised to speak to you on the
"But think, doctor," said Mrs. Gaston, in a trembling voice, "Henry
is but ten. To put a child out for eleven years is a long, long
"I know it is, madam. But he has to live the eleven years somewhere,
and I am sure he will be as comfortable in this place as you can
make him; and, indeed, even more so."
"In some respects he may, no doubt. But a child like him is never
happy away from his mother."
"But suppose it is out of his mother's power to get him food and
"True--true, doctor. It is a hard fate. But I feel that I have only
one way before me--that of submission."
And submit she did, though with a most painful struggle. On the
following day, the friend of the hatter called upon Mrs. Gaston, and
it was settled between them that little Henry should be called for
by the man who was to become his master on the morning of the next
day but one. The best that the mother could do for her son, about to
leave his home and go out among strangers, was to get him a pair of
shoes, upon which she paid forty cents, promising to settle the
balance in a couple of weeks. His thin, scanty clothes she mended
and washed clean--darned his old and much-worn stockings, and sewed
on the torn front of his seal-skin cap. With his little bundle of
clothes tied up, Henry sat awaiting on the morning of the day
appointed for the arrival of his master, his young heart sorrowful
at the thought of leaving his mother and sister. But he seemed to
feel that he was the subject of a stern necessity, and therefore
strove to act a manly part, and keep back the tears that were ready
to flow forth. Mrs. Gaston, after preparing her boy to pass from
under her roof and enter alone upon life's hard pilgrimage, sat down
to her work with an overburdened heart. At one moment she would
repent of what she had done, and half resolve to say "No," when the
man came for her child. But an unanswerable argument against this
were the coarse shirts in her hands, for which she was to receive
only _seven cents a-piece!_
At last a rough voice was heard below, and then a heavy foot upon
the stairs, every tread of which seemed to the mother to be upon her
heart. Little Henry arose and looked frightened as a man entered,
saying as he came in--
"Ah, yes! This is the place, I see. Well, ma'am, is your little boy
"He is, sir," replied Mrs. Gaston, almost inaudibly, rising and
handing the stranger a chair. "You see he is a very small boy, sir."
"Yes, so I see. But some small boys are worth a dozen large ones.
Come here, my little fellow! What is your name?"
The child went up to the man, telling him his name as he did so.
"That's a fine little fellow! Well, Henry! do you think you and I
can agree? Oh, yes. We'll get along together very well, I have no
doubt. I suppose, ma'am," he continued, addressing Mrs. Gaston,
"that the better way will be for him to stay this winter on trial.
If we like each other, you can come out to Lexington in the spring
and have him regularly bound."
"That will be as well, I suppose," the mother replied. Then, after a
pause, she said--
"How long will it be, Mr. Sharp, before I can see Henry?"
"I don't know, ma'am. How long before you think you can come out to
"Indeed, sir, I don't know that I shall be able to get out there
this winter. Couldn't you send him in sometimes?"
"Perhaps I will, about New Year's, and let him spend a few days with
"It is a good while to New Year's day, sir. He has never been from
home in his life."
"Oh no, ma'am. It's only a few weeks off. And I don't believe he'll
be homesick for a day."
"But _I_ shall, Mr. Sharp."
"Yes, sir. It is hard to let my child go, and not see him again
before New Year's day."
"But you must act the woman's part, Mrs. Gaston. We cannot get
through life without some sacrifice of feeling. My mother had to let
me go before I was even as old as your boy."
As Mr. Sharp said this, he arose, adding as he did so--
"Come, my little man. I see you are all ready."
Holding back her feelings with a strong effort, Mrs. Gaston took
hold of Henry's small, thin hand, bent over him, and kissed his fair
young cheek, murmuring in an under tone--
"God be with you, and keep you, my boy!"
Then, speaking aloud, she said--
"Be a good and obedient child, and Mr. Sharp will be kind to you,
and let you come home to see me at New Year's."
"Oh, yes. He shall come home then," said the man half indifferently,
as he moved toward the door.
Henry paused only to kiss his sister, and then followed after, with
his little bundle in his hand. As he was about descending the steps,
he turned a last look upon his mother. She saw that his eyes were
filled with tears. A moment more, and he was gone.
Little Emma had stood looking wonderingly on while this scene was
passing. Turning to her mother with a serious face, as the door
closed upon Henry, she said--
"Brother gone, mamma?
"Yes, dear! Brother is gone," sobbed the mother, taking the last
child that remained to her, and hugging it passionately to her
bosom. It was a long time before she could resume her work, and then
so deep was her feeling of desolation, that she could not keep back
from her eyelids the blinding tear-drops.
THE efforts made by Perkins to find the residence of the stranger
proved unavailing. Half suspecting that Michael had deceived him, he
returned to the shop of Mr. Berlaps, and asked the direction anew.
It was repeated precisely as at first given.