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Anna Dickinson: The Girl Orator
by [?]

A very well-known lawyer of Philadelphia was sitting in his private office one morning when word was brought in to him that a young lady wished to see him. The office-boy had never seen her before, and she had not given her name, but she was very firm in her intention not to be refused an interview.

“Show her in,” said the lawyer, pushing back his chair with a bored expression and a resolution to send the stranger away at short notice if she was not a client. What was his surprise when a very young girl, still wearing short dresses, was ushered in, and stood before him with such an earnest expression in her bright eyes that she instantly attracted him. Motioning her to take a seat, he asked her errand.

“I wish some copying to do,” was the reply, in such a musical voice that the lawyer became still more interested.

“Do you intend to do it yourself?” he asked.

She bowed assent. “Yes,” she said. “We are in need of money and I must help. I write a clear hand.”

So pleased was he with her manner and her quiet words, “We are in need of money and I must help,” as well as touched by her self-reliance at an age when girls are generally amusing themselves, that he gave her some copying which he had intended to have done in the office. With a grateful glance from her brilliant dark eyes, she thanked him, and, promising to bring the work back as soon as possible, she left the office.

As the door closed behind her the lawyer opened a drawer and took from it a little faded photograph of a young girl with dark eyes and curly hair, looked at it long and sadly, then replaced it in the drawer and went on with his work.

On the following day, when the office-boy announced “the young lady with the copying,” she was summoned to his office at once and given a hearty hand-clasp.

“I am glad to see you again,” the lawyer said. “I had a daughter you remind me of strongly. She died when she was twelve years old. Be seated, please, and tell me a little about yourself. You are very young to be doing such work as this. Is your father living, and why are you not in school?”

Compelled by his kindly interest, the young girl talked as freely with him as if he were an old friend. Her name, she said, was Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, and she was born in Philadelphia, thirteen years before, on the 28th of October. Her father, John Dickinson, and her mother, who had been Mary Edmundson before her marriage, were both persons who were interested in the vital questions of the day, and Anna had been brought up in an atmosphere of refinement and of high principles. All this her new friend learned by a series of friendly questions, and Anna, having begun her story, continued with a degree of frankness which was little less than surprising, after so short an acquaintance. Her father had been a merchant, and had died when she was two years old, leaving practically no income for the mother to live on and bring up her five children. Both mother and father were Quakers, she said, and she was evidently very proud of her father, for her eyes flashed as she said: “He was a wonderful man! Of course, I can’t remember it, but mother has told me that the last night of his life, when he was very sick, he went to an anti-slavery meeting and made a remarkably fine speech. Yes, father was wonderful.”

“And your mother?” queried her new friend.

Tears dimmed the young girl’s eyes. “There aren’t any words to express mother,” she said. “That is why I am trying to work at night, or at least part of the reason,” she added, with frank honesty. “We take boarders and mother teaches in a private school, too, but even that doesn’t give enough money for six of us to live on, and she is so pale and tired all the time.” She added, with a toss of her curly head: “And I must have money to buy books, too, but helping mother is more important.”