Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Sixpenny Calico
by [?]

One day a new scholar appeared in school, and as usual was the mark of public gaze. She was gentle and modest-looking, and never ventured to lift her eyes from her books. At recess, to the inquiries, “Who is she?” “What’s her name?” nobody could satisfactorily answer. None of us ever saw or heard of her before.

“I know she’s not much,” said one of the girls.

“Poorly off,” said I.

“Do you see her dress? Why, I believe it is nothing but a sixpenny calico.”

“Poor thing, she must be cold.”

“I can’t imagine how a person can wear calico in winter,” said another, whose rich plaid was the admiration of the school.

“I must say I like to see a person dressed according to the season,” remarked another; “that is, if people can afford it,” she added, in a manner plainly enough indicating that her father could.

Such was recess talk. None of us went to take the stranger by the hand and welcome her as the companion of our studies and our play. We stood aloof, and stared at her with cold and unfeeling curiosity. The teacher called her Abby. When she first came to her place for recitation, she took a seat beside the rich plaid. The plaid drew haughtily away, as if the sixpenny calico might dim the beauty of its colours. A slight colour flushed Abby’s cheek, but her quiet remained the same. It was some time before she ventured on the play-ground, and then it was only to stand aside, and look on, for we were slow in asking her to join us.

On one occasion we had a harder arithmetic lesson than usual, completely baffling our small brains. Upon comparing notes at recess, none of us had mastered it.

“I’ll ask Abby of her success,” said one of my intimate associates.

“It is quite unlikely she has,” I replied; “do stay here; besides, what if she has?”

“I will go,” she answered.

Away she went, and as it appeared, Abby and she were the only members of the class ready for recitation. Abby had been more successful than the rest of us, and kindly helped my friend to scale the difficulties of the lesson.

“Shall we ask Abby to join the sleigh-ride?” asked one of the girls, who was getting a subscription for a famous New Year’s ride.

“Judging from her dress,” I said, “if she goes, we must give her the ride.”

“But how will it do to leave her out?” they asked.

“She does not of course expect to be asked to ride with us,” I said; “she is evidently of a poor family.”

As a sort of leader in school, my words were influential, and poor Abby was left out. How often did I contrast my white hands and warm gloves with the purple fingers and cheap mittens of my neighbour Abby. How miserable I should be with such working hands and no gloves.

By-and-by I took to patronizing her. “She is really a very nice creature, and ought to join us more in our plays,” we said. So we used to make her “one of us” in the play-ground. In fact, I began to thaw towards her very considerably. There was something in Abby which called out our respect.

One Saturday afternoon, as I was looking out of the window, wishing for something to do, my mother asked me to join her in a little walk. On went my new cloak, warm furs, and pink hat, and in a trice I was ready. We went first to the stores, where I was very glad to be met by several acquaintances in my handsome winter dress. At last I found my mother turning off into less frequented thoroughfares.

“Where, mother,” I asked, “in this vulgar part of the town?”

“Not vulgar, my dear,” she said. “A very respectable and industrious part of our population live here.”

“Not fashionable, certainly,” I added.

“And not vulgar because not fashionable, by any means,” she said; for you may be sure my false and often foolish notions were not gained from her. She stopped before a humble-looking house, and entered the front door.