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Fanny McDermot
by [?]

CHAPTER I.

“Then said she, “I am very dreary,
He will not come,” she said.
She wept. —”I am aweary, aweary,
Oh God, that I were dead!”

INVENTION need not be taxed for incidents fitted to touch the heart, nor need they be heightened with the dyes of romance. The daily life of our own cities abounds in events over which, if there be tears in heaven, surely the angels weep. It is not to draw tears, which flow too easily from susceptible young readers, that the following circumstances are related, but to set forth dangers to which many are exposed, and vices which steep the life God has given as a blessing, in dishonour, misery, and remorse.

A few years since, there lived on the east side of our city, where cheap and wretched residences abound, one Sara Hyat. Sara was a widow, not young, nor pretty, nor delicate, with none of the elements of romantic interest; but old, tall, angular, and coarse, with a face roughened by hardship, sharpened by time, and channeled by sorrow. Her voice was harsh, and her manner ungracious. There was one, and but one sign, and that a faint one, that she might once have partaken the weaknesses of her sex. She wore that hideous supplement to the hair which women call “a foretop,” and not being very exact in the adjustment of her cap, the juxtaposition of the foxy auburn exotic and the indigenous silver hairs set off this little lingering of vanity rather strikingly.

But as all is not gold that glitters, and beauty is but skin deep, and under a rough shell is often found excellent meat; so under Mrs. Hyat’s rough exterior, there were strong common sense, a spirit of rectitude, a good conscience, and affections that the rough usage of the world had not abated. These had attached her with devotion and self-sacrifice to one object after another, as the relations of life had changed, first binding her in loving duty to her parents and sisters, then to her husband and children, and finally, when, one after another, they had dropped into the grave, settling on the only one in whose veins a drop of her blood ran, a little orphan grandniece.

“A sweeter thing they could not light upon.” Go with us up a crazy staircase, at the extremity of Houston Street. If you chance to look in at the door of the rooms you pass, you will see,—it being Sunday,—an entire Irish family, father, mother, half-a-dozen children, more or less, with a due allowance of cousins, all plump, rosy, and thriving (in the teeth of the physical laws) on plenty of heterogeneous food, and superfluity of dirt. On entering Mrs. Hyat’s rooms, you are in another country; the tenants are obviously Americans: it is so orderly, quiet, and cleanly, and rather anti-social. There are only an old woman and a little girl; the bud of springtime, and the seared leaf of autumn. The only dirt in the room (you almost wonder the old woman tolerates it there) is in two flower-pots in the window, whence a white jessamine, and a tea-rose diffuse their sweet odours.

A table is decently spread for the mongrel meal that our people call supper, which blends the substantial food of dinner, with the aromatic tea, and its sweet accompaniments of pastry, cake, or preserves. The tea-kettle is hissing on the stove, and a pie is warming there. The old woman sits in her rocking-chair, weaving backwards and forwards, reading a time-discoloured letter, while a little girl (the only thing in harmony with the rose and jessamine in the window), laying aside a tract she is reading, says, “Aunt Sara, don’t you know every word in that letter by heart? I do.”