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Common People
by [?]

“ARE you going to call upon Mrs. Clayton and her daughters, Mrs. Marygold?” asked a neighbor, alluding to a family that had just moved into Sycamore Row.

“No, indeed, Mrs. Lemmington, that I am not. I don’t visit everybody.”

“I thought the Claytons were a very respectable family,” remarked Mrs. Lemmington.

“Respectable! Everybody is getting respectable now-a-days. If they are respectable, it is very lately that they have become so. What is Mr. Clayton, I wonder, but a school-master! It’s too bad that such people will come crowding themselves into genteel neighborhoods. The time was when to live in Sycamore Row was guarantee enough for any one–but, now, all kinds of people have come into it.”

“I have never met Mrs. Clayton,” remarked Mrs. Lemmington, “but I have been told that she is a most estimable woman, and that her daughters have been educated with great care. Indeed, they are represented as being highly accomplished girls.”

“Well, I don’t care what they are represented to be. I’m not going to keep company with a schoolmaster’s wife and daughters, that’s certain.”

“Is there anything disgraceful in keeping a school?”

“No, nor in making shoes, either. But, then, that’s no reason why I should keep company with my shoemaker’s wife, is it? Let common people associate together–that’s my doctrine.”

“But what do you mean by common people, Mrs. Marygold?”

“Why, I mean common people. Poor people. People who have not come of a respectable family. That’s what I mean.”

“I am not sure that I comprehend your explanation much better than I do your classification. If you mean, as you say, poor people, your objection will not apply with full force to the Claytons, for they are now in tolerably easy circumstances. As to the family of Mr. Clayton, I believe his father was a man of integrity, though not rich. And Mrs. Clayton’s family I know to be without reproach of any kind.”

“And yet they are common people for all that,” persevered Mrs. Marygold. “Wasn’t old Clayton a mere petty dealer in small wares. And wasn’t Mrs. Clayton’s father a mechanic?”

“Perhaps, if some of us were to go back for a generation or two, we might trace out an ancestor who held no higher place in society,” Mrs. Lemmington remarked, quietly. “I have no doubt but that I should.”

“I have no fears of that kind,” replied Mrs. Marygold, in an exulting tone. “I shall never blush when my pedigree is traced.”

“Nor I neither, I hope. Still, I should not wonder if some one of my ancestors had disgraced himself, for there are but few families that are not cursed with a spotted sheep. But I have nothing to do with that, and ask only to be judged by what I am–not by what my progenitors have been.”

“A standard that few will respect, let me tell you.”

“A standard that far the largest portion of society will regard as the true one, I hope,” replied Mrs. Lemmington. “But, surely, you do not intend refusing to call upon the Claytons for the reason you have assigned, Mrs. Marygold.”

“Certainly I do. They are nothing but common people, and therefore beneath me. I shall not stoop to associate with them.”

“I think that I will call upon them. In fact, my object in dropping in this morning was to see if you would not accompany me,” said Mrs. Lemmington.

“Indeed, I will not, and for the reasons I have given. They are only common people. You will be stooping.”

“No one stoops in doing a kind act. Mrs. Clayton is a stranger in the neighborhood, and is entitled to the courtesy of a call, if no more; and that I shall extend to her. If I find her to be uncongenial in her tastes, no intimate acquaintanceship need be formed. If she is congenial, I will add another to my list of valued friends. You and I, I find, estimate differently. I judge every individual by merit, you by family, or descent.”