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The Seamstress
by [?]

“Dear child, I do wish you would ever think to get any thing for yourself,” said Mrs. Ames. “I cannot consent to use up all your earnings, as I have done lately, and all Ellen’s too; you must have a new dress this spring, and that bonnet of yours is not decent any longer.”

“O, no, mother! I have made over my blue calico, and you would be surprised to see how well it looks; and my best frock, when it is washed and darned, will answer some time longer. And then Mrs. Grant has given me a ribbon, and when my bonnet is whitened and trimmed it will look very well. And so,” she added, “I brought you some wine this afternoon; you know the doctor says you need wine.”

“Dear child, I want to see you take some comfort of your money yourself.”

“Well, I do take comfort of it, mother. It is more comfort to be able to help you than to wear all the finest dresses in the world.”

* * * * *

Two months from this dialogue found our little family still more straitened and perplexed. Mrs. Ames had been confined all the time with sickness, and the greater part of Ellen’s time and strength was occupied with attending to her.

Very little sewing could the poor girl now do, in the broken intervals that remained to her; and the wages of Mary were not only used as fast as earned, but she anticipated two months in advance.

Mrs. Ames had been better for a day or two, and had been sitting up, exerting all her strength to finish a set of shirts which had been sent in to make. “The money for them will just pay our rent,” sighed she; “and if we can do a little more this week—-“

“Dear mother, you are so tired,” said Ellen; “do lie down, and not worry any more till I come back.”

Ellen went out, and passed on till she came to the door of an elegant house, whose damask and muslin window curtains indicated a fashionable residence.

Mrs. Elmore was sitting in her splendidly-furnished parlor, and around her lay various fancy articles which two young girls were busily unrolling. “What a lovely pink scarf!” said one, throwing it over her shoulders and skipping before a mirror; while the other exclaimed, “Do look at these pocket handkerchiefs, mother! what elegant lace!”

“Well, girls,” said Mrs. Elmore, “these handkerchiefs are a shameful piece of extravagance. I wonder you will insist on having such things.”

“La, mamma, every body has such now; Laura Seymour has half a dozen that cost more than these, and her father is no richer than ours.”

“Well,” said Mrs. Elmore, “rich or not rich, it seems to make very little odds; we do not seem to have half as much money to spare as we did when we lived in the little house in Spring Street. What with new furnishing the house, and getting every thing you boys and girls say you must have, we are poorer, if any thing, than we were then.”

“Ma’am, here is Mrs. Ames’s girl come with some sewing,” said the servant.

“Show her in,” said Mrs. Elmore.

Ellen entered timidly, and handed her bundle of work to Mrs. Elmore, who forthwith proceeded to a minute scrutiny of the articles; for she prided herself on being very particular as to her sewing. But, though the work had been executed by feeble hands and aching eyes, even Mrs. Elmore could detect no fault in it.

“Well, it is very prettily done,” said she. “What does your mother charge?”

Ellen handed a neatly-folded bill which she had drawn for her mother. “I must say, I think your mother’s prices are very high,” said Mrs. Elmore, examining her nearly empty purse; “every thing is getting so dear that one hardly knows how to live.” Ellen looked at the fancy articles, and glanced around the room with an air of innocent astonishment. “Ah,” said Mrs. Elmore, “I dare say it seems to you as if persons in our situation had no need of economy; but, for my part, I feel the need of it more and more every day.” As she spoke she handed Ellen the three dollars, which, though it was not a quarter the price of one of the handkerchiefs, was all that she and her sick mother could claim in the world.