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A Bright Idea
by [?]

“No answer to my advertisement, mamma, and I must sit with idle hands for another day,” said Clara with a despondent sigh, as the postman passed the door.

“You needn’t do that, child, when I’m suffering for a new cap, and no one can suit me so well as you, if you have the spirits to do it,” answered her mother from the sofa, where she spent most of her time bewailing her hard lot.

“Plenty of spirits, mamma, and what is still more necessary, plenty of materials; so I’ll toss you up ‘a love of a cap’ before you know it.”

And putting her own disappointment out of sight, pretty Clara fell to work with such good-will that even poor, fretful Mrs. Barlow cheered up in spite of herself.

“What a mercy it is that when everything else is swept away in this dreadful failure I still have you, dear, and no dishonest banker can rob me of my best treasure,” she said fondly, as she watched her daughter with tearful eyes.

“No one shall part us, mamma; and if I can only get something to do we can be independent and happy in spite of our losses; for now the first shock and worry is over, I find a curious sort of excitement in being poor and having to work for my living. I was so tired of pleasure and idleness I really quite long to work at something, if I could only find it.”

But though Clara spoke cheerfully, she had a heavy heart; for during the month which had followed the discovery that they were nearly penniless, she had been through a great deal for a tenderly nurtured girl of three-and-twenty. Leaving a luxurious home for two plainly furnished rooms, and trying to sustain her mother with hopeful plans, had kept her busy for a time; but now she had nothing to do but wait for replies to her modest advertisements as governess, copyist, or reader.

“I do wish I’d been taught a trade, mamma, or some useful art by which I could earn our bread now. Rich people ought to remember that money takes to itself wings, and so prepare their children to face poverty bravely. If half the sums spent on my music and dress had been used in giving me a single handicraft, what a blessing it would be to us now!” she said, thoughtfully, as she sewed with rapid fingers, unconsciously displaying the delicate skill of one to whom dress was an art and a pleasure.

“If you were not so proud we might accept Cousin John’s offer and be quite comfortable,” returned her mother, in a reproachful tone.

“No; we should soon feel that we were a burden, and that would be worse than living on bread and water. Let us try to help ourselves first, and then, if we fail, we cannot be accused of indolence. I know papa would wish it, so please let me try.”

“As you like; I shall not be a burden to any one long.” And Mrs. Barlow looked about for her handkerchief.

But Clara prevented the impending shower by skilfully turning the poor lady’s thoughts to the new cap which was ready to try on.

“Isn’t it pretty? Just the soft effect that is so becoming to your dear, pale face. Take a good look at it, and tell me whether you’ll have pale pink bows or lavender.”

“It is very nice, child; you always suit me, you’ve such charming taste. I’ll have lavender, for though it’s not so becoming as pink, it is more appropriate to our fallen fortunes,” answered her mother, smiling in spite of herself, as she studied effects in the mirror.

“No, let us have it pink, for I want my pretty mother to look her best, though no one sees her but me, and I’m so glad to know that I can make caps well if I can’t do anything else,” said Clara, rummaging in a box for the desired shade.