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in a moment. No-with a little exertion-and I repeat that I am willing to do all in my power-there is time enough to provide the whole family with genteel and proper mourning suits. And as you must get them at last, it is certainly much better to have them at first, so as to appear handsomely at the funeral."
"Oh!" exclaimed Mrs. Parkinson, sighing," at such a time, what consequence can we possibly attach to our external appearance? How can we for a moment think of it?"
"To be sure, my dear friend," said Mrs. Bleden, kissing her, "you have had a very severe loss-very severe indeed. It is really quite irreparable; and I can sincerely sympathize in your feelings. Certainly every body ought to feel on these occasions; but you know it is impossible to devote every moment between this and the funeral to tears and sobs. One cannot be crying all the time-nobody ever does. And, as to the mourning, that is of course indispensable, and a thing that must be.
Mrs. Parkinson wept bitterly. "Indeed! indeed!" said she, "I cannot discuss it now."
"And if it is not settled to-night," resumed Mrs. Bleden, "there will be hardly time to-morrow to talk it over, and get the things, and send to the mantua-maker's and milliner's. You had better get it off your mind at once. Suppose you leave it entirely to me. I attended to all the mourning for the Greens, and the Weldons, and the Nortons. It is a business I am quite used to. I pique myself on being rather clever at it."
"I will then trust to your judgment," replied Mrs. Parkinson, anxious to get rid of the subject, and of the light frivolous prattle of her soi-disant dear friend. "Be kind, enough to undertake it, and procure for us whatever you think suitable— only let it not be too expensive."
"As to that," answered Mrs. Bleden, " crape is crape, and bombazine is bombazine; and as everybody likes to have these articles of good quality, nothing otherwise is now used for mourning. With regard to Frederick's black suit, Mr. Watson will send to take his measure, and there will be no further difficulty about it. Let me see-there must be bombazine for five dresses: that is, for yourself, three daughters, and Miss Fanny."
"Not for me," said Fanny, taking her handkerchief from her eyes. "I shal not have a bombazine,"
"My dear creature !" cried Mrs. Bleden; "not get a bombazine? You astonish me! What else can you possibly have? Black gingham or black chintz is only fit for wrappers; and black silk is no mourning at all."
"I shall wear do mourning," replied Fanny, with a deep sigh. "What,
"Not wear mourning!" ejaculated Mrs. Bleden.
no mourning at all! Not wear mourning for your own brother! Now you do indeed surprise me.'
Mrs. Parkinson and her daughters were also surprised; and they withdrew their handkerchiefs from their eyes, and gazed on Fanny, as if scarcely believing that they had understood her rightly.
"I have considered it well," resumed Miss Parkinson; "and I have come to a conclusion to make no change in my dress. In short, to wear no mourning, even for my brother-well as I have loved him, and deeply as I feel his loss."
"This is very strange,'
me, Miss Fanny," said Mrs. Bleden, "but have you no respect for his memory? He was certainly an excellent man.'
"Respect for his memory!" exclaimed Fanny, bursting into tears. "Yes! I indeed respect his memory! And were he still living, there is nothing on earth I would not cheerfully do for him, if I thought it would contribute to his happiness or comfort. But he is now in a land where all the forms and ceremonies of this world are of no avail; and where everything that speaks to the senses only, must appear like the mimic trappings of a theatre. With him all is now awful reality. To the decaying inhabitant of the narrow and gloomy grave, or to the disembodied spirit that has ascended to its Father in heaven, of what consequence is the colour that distinguishes the dress of those whose mourning is deep in the heart? What to him is the livery that fashion has assigned to grief, when he knows how intense is the feeling itself, in the sorrowing bosoms of the family that loved him so well."
"All this is very true," remarked Mrs. Bleden; "but still custom is everything, or fashion, as you are pleased to call it. You know you are not a quaker; and therefore I do not see how you can possibly venture to go without mourning on such an occasion as this. Surely you would not set the usages of the world at defiance."
"I would not," replied Fanny, "in things of minor importance; but on this subject I believe I can be firm."
"I hope," observed Mrs. Bleden, looking very serious, "there can be no reason to doubt Miss Fanny's affection for her brother?"
"Oh! no! no! no!" cried the two girls indignantly. "If you had only seen," said Isabella, "how she nursed my dear father in his illness-how she was with him day and night." "How much she always loved him," said Helen.
"My dear kind sister," said Mrs. Parkinson, taking the hand of Fanny, "I hope I shall never again see you distressed by such an intimation."
Mrs. Bleden reddened, looked down, and attentively examined the embroidered corners of her pocket handkerchief. There was a silence of a few moments, till Fanny, making an effort to speak with composure, proceeded to explain herself.
"My brother," said she, " has finished his mortal existence. No human power, no human love, can aid him or soothe him now; and we will endeavour to submit with resignation to the will of Omnipotence. I hope-I trust we shall be able to do so; but the shock is yet too recent, and we cannot at once subdue the feelings of nature. It is dreadful to see the lifeless remains of one we have long and dearly loved, removed from our sight for ever, and consigned to the darkness and loneliness of the grave. For my part, on this sad occasion, I feel an utter repugnance to the idea of becoming an object of curiosity to the spectators that gaze from the windows, and to the vulgar and noisy crowd that assembles about a burying-ground, when an interment is to take place. I cannot expose my tears, my deep affliction, to the comments of the multitude; and I cannot have my feelings outraged by perhaps overhearing their coarse remarks. I may be too fastidious-I may be wrong; but to be present at the funeral of my brother is an effort I cannot resolve to make. And, moreover-"
Here her voice for a few moments became inarticulate, and her sister and nieces sobbed audibly.
"And then," she continued, "I cannot stand beside that open grave-I cannot see the coffin let down into it, and the earth thrown upon the lid till it is covered up for ever. I cannot-indeed I cannot. In the seclusion of my own apart. ment, I shall, of course, know that all this is going on, and I shall suffer most acutely; but there will be no strangers to witness my sufferings. It is a dreadful custom, that of females attending the funerals of their nearest relatives. I wish it were entirely abolished, as it is in many parts of Europe."
"But you know" said Mrs. Bleden, "that it is almost
universal in some countries; and, 'When we are in Rome we must do as Rome does.'. Do you not think it is our duty to see our friends and relatives laid in the grave?"
"Not when we are assured," replied Fanny, "that the melancholy office can be properly performed without our presence or assistance. Duty requires of us no sacrifice by which neither the living nor the dead can be benefited."
She then rose and left the room, unable any longer to sustain a conversation so painful to her.
"Well, I am really astonished!" exclaimed Mrs. Bleden. "Not wear mourning for her brother! However, I suppose she thinks she has a right to do as she pleases. But, she may depend on it, people will talk."
Just then a servant came to inform Mrs. Bleden, that her husband was waiting for her in the parlour.
"Well, my dear Mrs. Parkinson," said she, as she rose to depart, we have not yet settled about the mourning. Of course, you are not going to adopt Miss Fanny's strange whim of wearing none at all."
"What she has said on the subject appears to me very just," replied Mrs. Parkinson.
"Aunt Fanny is always right," remarked one of the girls. "As to Miss Parkinson," resumed Mrs. Bleden, "she is well known to be independent in every sense of the word; and therefore she may do as she pleases-though she may rest assured that people will talk."
"What people?" asked Mrs. Parkinson.
Every body-all the world."
Mrs. Parkinson thought how very circumscribed was the world in which she and her family had lived since the date of their fallen fortunes.
"It is well known," pursued Mrs. Bleden, "that Miss Fanny is able to wear mourning if she chooses it. But you may rely on it, Mrs. Parkinson, that if you and your children do not appear in black, people will be ill-natured enough to say that it is, because you cannot afford it. Excuse my plain
"Afford it or not,
"They will say rightly, then," replied Mrs. Parkinson, with a sigh. "We certainly cannot afford it." "How you talk!" said Mrs. Bleden. every body has to wear mourning, and every body does, from the highest down to the lowest. Even my washerwoman put all her family (that is herself and her six children) into black when her husband died, notwithstanding that he was no great
loss for he was an idle, drunken Irishman, and beat them every day of his life."
"May I request," said Mrs. Parkinson, "that you will spare me on this subject to night. Indeed I can neither think nor talk about it."
"Well, then," replied Mrs Bleden, kissing her, "I will hope to find you better in the morning. I shall be with you immediately after breakfast."
She then took her leave; and Fanny, who had been weeping over the corpse of Mr. Parkinson, now returned to the apartment of her sister-in-law.
Released from the importunities of Mrs. Bleden, our heroine now mildly and sensibly reasoned with the family on the great inconvenience, and, as she believed, the unnecessary expense of furnishing themselves with suits of mourning in their present circumstances. The season was late in the autumn, and they had recently supplied themselves with their winter outfit, all of which would now be rendered useless if black must be substituted. Her arguments had so much effect, that Mrs, Parkinson, with the concurrence of her daughters, very nearly promised to give up all intention of making a general change in their dress. But they found it harder than they had supposed, to free themselves from the trammels of custom.
Mrs. Parkinson and Fanny passed a sleepless night, and the children "awoke to weep" at an early hour in the morning, They all met in tears at the breakfast table. Little was eaten, and the table was scarcely cleared, when Mrs. Bleden came in, followed by two shop-boys, one carrying two rolls of bombazine, and the other two boxes of Italian crape. Fanny had just left the room.
After the first salutations were over, Mrs. Bleden informed Mrs. Parkinson that she had breakfasted an hour earlier than usual, that she might allow herself more time to go out, and transact the business of the morning.
"My dear friend," said she, "Mrs. Goodprice has sent you at my request, two pieces of bombazine, that you may choose for yourself. One is more of a jet black than the other-but I think the blue black rather the finest. However, they are both of superb quality, and this season jet black is rather the most fashionable. I have been to Miss Lacings', the mantuamaker, who is famous for mourning. Bombazines, when made up by her, have an air and a style about them, such as you will never see if done by any one else. There is nothing more difficult than to make up mourning as it ought to be.—I have